It is Easter. The sun is shining. And I had a good day.
I walked and read and wrote and gardened. Had a long talk with a friend (phone), answered email from SM readers, fed the birds, talked with Fred and Ethel (our Mallard visitors), checked in with my Father (in Michigan’s UP where it is snowing), attended Trinity Episcopal Church (via computer) with my friend Bishop Martin Townsend, and enjoyed wine on the patio.
Oh yes, and chatted with my sheep congregation on my walk. They didn’t care about either the news, or my bank account. That did my heart good.
I was buoyed, reading this; “Yesterday I had a good morning. Once again when I recollect myself, I again find the same simple demands of God: gentleness, humility, charity, interior simplicity; nothing else is asked of me. And suddenly I saw clearly why these virtues are demanded, because through them the soul becomes inhabitable for God and for one’s neighbor in an intimate and permanent way. Hardness and pride repel, complexity disquiets. But humility and gentleness welcome, and simplicity reassures.” (Raissa Maritain’s journal entry from the early 1900s)
Here’s the deal: spirituality is not about a lottery ticket to the next life, but a front-row-center ticket to this one. Which is easier to preach than to practice in times like these. This from a reader, “I can’t wait to get past this quarantine. There’s no way we can sustain this.”
And I defer to Pope Francis for the response, “Take care of the now for the sake of tomorrow.”
How do we do that? Our values, those at our core (gentleness, humility, charity, interior simplicity) tether us.
Count me in. I want to take care of now, reinforcing, nourishing and replenishing that core.
So, join me on the patio. The coffee is on.
“Interruptions” can indeed bring pain, irritation, discomfort. Some of it imagined (toilet paper). Some of it very real (no job, lost loved ones, health care gone, health care workers strained, “attending” a funeral on zoom). None of that can be diminished.
Even so, our invitation doesn’t change. In Parker Palmer’s words, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
So. What is next?
Mother Teresa was asked where she found her strength, her focus, her fuel. The fuel, she explained, is prayer. “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” To be replenished is to be reminded of what is true, of the values that tether us. This is not just someone saying, “you’ll be okay.” But to know, at our core, that we are home and we are safe.
Now we have something to draw on. Which means we have something to give. This sanctuary is not just for solace, but also indispensable as deterrent. In other words, we build immunity; to not be as easily susceptible to fear, or to being at the mercy of every threat. We can do this because there are two gentle hands of grace that hold us, no matter what.
Let us honor that capacity (inner core), fueled by sufficiency and not scarcity.
One. Honor our capacity for mindfulness. To embrace now, and the sacrament of the present moment.
There is a scene in the movie Shawshank Redemption, when Andy locks himself in the warden’s office, puts a record on the turntable and sets the prison intercom microphone near the speaker. The music pervades and suffuses the entire prison. Red, the narrator, says, “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”
Or as Rumi says it, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground, there are a thousand ways to go home again.”
Let us take care of the now. “Don’t miss the opportunities you have to sit down, without having to worry or think about doing anything. Lay down your burdens, your worries, and your projects. Just sit and feel that you are alive. Sit with your son, your daughter, your partner, your friend. That’s enough to be happy.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Two. Honor our capacity for humility.
“All the truly transformed people I have ever met are characterized by what I would call radical humility,” Richard Rohr writes. “They are deeply convinced that they are drawing from another source; they are simply an instrument. Their genius is not their own; it is borrowed. They end up doing generative and expansive things precisely because they do not take first or final responsibility for their gift; they don’t worry too much about their failures, nor do they need to promote themselves. Their life is not their own, yet at some level they know that it has been given to them as a sacred trust.”
This has been a good time for pondering. Which works out, as pondering is a life-giving avocation of mine.
I remember different times in my life, when I was on the road to accomplishment, or success, which meant becoming “somebody”. There have been so many races that consumed me; to be ahead (which always meant busy), to find perfection, to be in control, be liked or to be loved, to collect trinkets that provoke envy. These were races (ways to see life) that did not nourish or honor the values at my core. And did not trust the gentle hands of grace.
There was, however, a side effect; I became cynical, played a victim, nursed regret and felt undone by comparison.
Now, as I “recollect myself”, and take care of now, keep putting oil in the lamp and rest in the gentle hands of grace, I can say, “Thank you, but I don’t need that race anymore.”
I’m enjoying participating in our eCourse, The Power of Pause. It is available for no fee. Please join us.
A blessed Easter to you all.
Quote for your week… I was learning to trust what I could not set in language, keep, control or hold. I would say that I was learning to surrender. To stop warring with myself, to stop needing to be right, to come to terms with shifts and change, to sit on a hill and count my blessings. Beth Kephart
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–I’m going to follow the theme of this course and not rush to complete the sessions, but rather take my sweet time and revisit them several times and reflect on the content of each. Bill
— Hi Terry, Thank you for this Holy Week/Passover message. One of the hardest things about this pandemic is being separated physically from the Community of Faith because we cannot attend worship services in our usual places. I find the greatest comfort comes from those who remind us that The Word is not the service and that we can live it where we are, whenever we want. Your message brings this home and I felt the comfort from your words. Love, Carolyne
— These past days I have had many duckling moments because I have nothing better to do. This thought has made me sad because there is nothing better than these moments. I hope I don’t go back to normal. Moe
— I texted a friend recently and said that as sad as it is not to come together as a faith community, for the first time I feel that I can actually connect to my faith through the quiet of my heart. Not being so active and always doing – to set up, turn up, be continually available I now see as a blessing. When I have tried to say no, to catch my breath in the past to active engagement I have not been heard, now I don’t even need to ask. I thought my busyness energized me, and in some ways it certainly did, but now I’m re-thinking that concept, because I’m feeling relaxed – it’s a bit odd, but I’m liking where this is going.
— Hi, I am Lisa and I live in the Mohave Desert in Southern California. I think this post is all by God’s perfect timing. I am used to working 13 hour days 5 days a week, and then using the weekend to do all the household chores that I can’t get to over the workweek. Now with the virus happening, my work week is about 4 hours a day and the rest of the time I find I am alone to decide how to spend it. While it hasn’t been a bad thing, it has taken some getting used to. I went from being around hundreds of people a day to 2. It is making me look at what makes me valuable. I am unable to do what I used to do to feel valuable but at the same time, I didn’t have time for enrichment, creativity, play. I am having to look at life differently. Again, I am not feeling this is a bad thing… I don’t feel punished or depressed. I feel… uncertain and apprehensive. What if there is nothing else about me that is of value? I don’t really believe that but the thought enters at times. I definitely suffer from exhaustion. I am afraid of boredom. I have plenty to do. What if my creativity time doesn’t fulfill me? What if I find that nobody misses me? What if I find another part of me that I will have to give up when the virus is over and life resumes?
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Through me course wide rivers and in me rise tall mountains. And beyond the thickets of my agitation and confusion there stretch the wide plains of my peace and surrender. All landscapes are within me. And there is room for everything. Etty Hillesum
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
God, we ask that all who are affected by this virus be held in your loving care. In this time of uncertainty, help us to know what is ours to do. We know you did not cause this suffering but that you are with us in it and through it. Help us to recognize your presence in acts of kindness, in moments of silence, and in the beauty of the created world. Grant peace and protection to all of humanity for their well-being and for the benefit of the earth. Amen.
(Center for Action and Contemplation)