A funny thing happened on my way to writing this week’s Sabbath Moment.
I walked out of a Subway eatery, sandwich in hand. The sun’s warmth heaven-sent and calming. Creedence in my ear buds (“Who’ll Stop the Rain”). And a wave of unprovoked delight. So, in a gas station parking lot in Erlanger, Kentucky, I start to balter. (It’s my stay sane word.)
To balter is to dance without particular skill or grace, but with extreme joy. Often performed by teenagers at parties, but can be enjoyed by a person of any age… say a middle-aged white guy. (“Hey, that is some sweet baltering you’re doing!”)
I’m aware that people at the gas pumps are mystified, prompting the requisite quiz in my head requiring justification. Which begs the question; Why should baltering ever need justification?
Going through his five-year-old son’s backpack, a father found a picture of a little boy standing under a rainbow crying. His first thought was, “Oh God, my son is having some serious problems.”
When he asked his son about the picture, the little boy told his father that he had been playing at school, and he saw a rainbow. “Dad,” the little boy said, “the rainbow was so beautiful it made me cry.”
The child is awestruck, arrested by beauty. Why? Because he has no restrictor plate in his soul.
This all reminds me of a recent conversation still with me. A friend tells me, “I look forward to that moment when I will wake up, and I’m no longer afraid. How old do you have to be? Have you had that morning yet?”
Truth is, I do understand. When we are no longer afraid…
To try. To fail. To fall down. To get up again.
To live messy. To embrace. To love. To care.
To say I’m sorry. To say I forgive you.
To be kind. To be gentle with our self.
To be big-hearted. To balter without justification.
I tell my friend, “No, I haven’t had that morning yet… my choices are still tinged with some unnamed apprehension…”
No longer afraid to balter… Let us be this alive…
This feels counterintuitive in a world with unsettling news, with real world danger and suffering. And I understand the temptation to step away, as if I can keep life’s vicissitudes from pummeling me.
But here’s the deal: The invitation is not escape, but immersion. To take delight in the goodness and beauty of living. (Or, if you prefer, apaixonante, Portuguese for passion inducing.) And then, to let that delight, and light, spill to the world around us.
In The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell wrote, “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done… you are fierce with reality.”
Florida was 85 when she wrote those words.
Parker Palmer talks about reading them and thinking, “I knew she was speaking directly to me.”
Palmer goes on, “At age 43, I was succeeding and failing as a husband and a father on a daily basis, had done battle with the evils of racism as a community organizer while ignoring the cocoon of white privilege that protected me from them, was alternately laid low and energized by the rejections I received en route to becoming a writer, and had drowned and then surfaced from my first deep-sea dive into clinical depression. I was, in short, a reasonably normal person: a complex and conflicted soul who yearned to be whole. I wanted a life of personal fulfillment that served others well — a life of love of self and others — and I knew that getting there would require me to be ‘fierce with reality.’ But I devoutly wished for an easier path than the one Scott-Maxwell recommends! At age 43, I didn’t have the courage required to ‘truly possess all [I had] been and done.’”
Scott-Maxwell got it right: there are no short cuts to wholeness.
Palmer continues, “The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we’ve shown ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say to ourselves and to the world at large, ‘I am all of the above.’ If we can’t embrace the whole of who we are — embrace it with transformative love — we’ll imprison the creative energies hidden in our own shadows and flee from the world’s complex mix of shadow and light.”
No longer afraid… Let us be this alive…
This takes me back to baltering. In our minds we say Amen, or “sign me up.” And yet, there’s a gnawing sense that to live fierce with reality, we must get it right, as if some heavenly committee is grading us.
The Hebrew word that we translate as holy in English is, qudosh, (kedusha) is often defined as “set apart” but which would be more accurately translated as life intensity. To be holy in the Hebrew context is to be fully alive, not sedate and restrained. Perhaps this translation misunderstanding has led to the loss of vitality and “life intensity” in the life of faith today. The holy life should be intently dynamic, ever changing, and ever realizing. The concept that holiness is restrained, controlled, has made the holy life unattractive to those in the world who are seeking life at its fullest because all they see is closed and stuffy lives filled with “don’t” and “can’t”, instead of celebrate, delight and revel. Live as richly and as passionately as possible; that’s as close to the meaning of holy as you can get.
To be holy, baltering is recommended. I’m just sayin…
This week I was in Cincinnati with Faith Community Nurses, a wonderful gathering from around the country, healers and restorers of every kind.
Back on Vashon, autumn’s parade is enchanting. Murals with subdued dyes (pumpkin and mustard and ginger), interrupted with splashes of scarlet. There is something about wonder and awe that lessens the weight of worry. So, I stop, say and prayer (“Thank you”), and pay homage.
Quote for your week…
To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all being, the divine margin in all attainment; prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. Rabbi Abraham Heschel
1—My new book This Is The Life, is available. Check it out. Join me each week for new video reminders and invitations about mindfulness, grace and the power of the present. We’ll be on Facebook and Instagram. Pass the word.
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Today’s photo credit — Nantahala National Forest, NC… Karen Kluever… Thank you Karen… keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Thank you for the reminder of Fika. I was a high school exchange student in Sweden. The Swedes really savor Fika moments! Virginia
–Terry, Thanks so much for sending Sabbath Moment. It’s my Monday highlight. Blessings to you. Jill
–Terry, Every Monday when I open my Sabbath Moment you make my day! Thank you! Kim
–Dear Terry, Please send me the reflection questions for Sabbath Moment. I volunteer at a Family Homeless Shelter and do a weekly group for the parents. I think they would enjoy reflecting in this way. Thanks so much for your weekly inspiration. Stephanie
–Good morning Terry, I am savoring a cup of delicious morning coffee whilst sitting in golden silence in my miniature space (an apartment) as I read my Sabbath Moment. These are my “Thin Space” moments indeed that provoke a deep unspeakable gratitude. The kind that wells up from the deepest most sacred spaces of my soul. Every time I read anything you’ve written, the thought rises up for me that I wish we were neighboring friends so we could enjoy savoring a conversation of deep thought and share our perspective over a cup of something warm. So with that, I felt prompted to reach out to you here and tell you how very much I appreciate you and what you share with me, with the many. Thank you for being one of the many who are walking me home. In Gratitude, Tricia
–Love it!! We have a charming, quirky little coffee shop in Parker, CO called Fika… With the most delicious coffee and engaging baristas…I go out of my way to stop there if I’m anywhere close (I live 2.5 hours away). They have a sign in the shop explaining Fika and just walking into that space… It’s more than the coffee. Fern
–Thank you, Terry! I savor my coffee with you every Monday and look forward to our time together–always looking to hear a movie to watch or way to look at life. I must say I was sad to hear and didn’t know Amtrak would stop serving meals… My favorite part along with seeing the landscapes was the shared meals in the dinner with strangers. I just love “open table” restaurants too where you find yourself sitting with the most interesting people dining. So sad it is gone. Also, thank you for talking about depression and bringing it in the open. Sometimes I think people (myself) are afraid to talk about the struggle. It’s hard to kick ourselves into doing the things that help (going outside, walking, volunteering, music, dancing) unless we say it out loud to someone. Thank you, Terry! I look forward to coffee with you next week.
–I do appreciate the uplifting message you send each week. Some weeks, it just keeps me sane… Julie
POEMS AND PRAYERS
May I live this day
compassionate of heart,
clear in word,
gracious in awareness,
courageous in thought,
generous in love.
Geese appear high over us, pass, and the sky closes.
Abandon, as in love or sleep, holds them to their way,
clear in the ancient faith.
What we need is here,
And we pray,
not for new earth or heaven,
but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear.
What we need is here.
God bless the path on which you go
God bless the earth beneath your feet
God bless your destination.
God be a smooth way before you
A guiding star above you
A keen eye behind you
This day, this night, and forever.
God be with you whatever you pass
Jesus be with you whatever you climb
Spirit be with you wherever you stay.
God be with you at each stop and each sea
At each lying down and each rising up
In the trough of the waves, on the crest of the billows.
Each step of the journey you take.
Celtic Blessings, Prayers for Everyday Life (Ray Simpson, Loyola Press)