When our eyes are open
We prefer life in a box. Which is not completely accurate. But we do want something manageable. And we do want to know what’s in the box. No surprises please. Preferably what we ordered (or at least choose to believe). A kind of “certainty” to calm our nerves, even as we mentally clutch.
On my walk this morning, I again talk with my new congregation, the sheep. “It’s Palm Sunday,” I tell them. “You know, Holy Week.” But they give me the look reminding me that for them, every week is a Holy Week, so my enthusiasm doesn’t register. Unsure of their faith, I tell them that Passover begins sundown on Wednesday. And then I remember the part about the lamb in the Passover story and decide to stick with Holy Week.
I explain that Holy Week is a big deal, our “so this is what it’s all about” week. We wait all year for this week. And this year, I tell them, it reminds us of our yearning for normal. (Thinking as I say the words, “but there’s nothing normal about this year. And this definitely wasn’t the ‘box’ we ordered.”)
My favorite story, The Road to Emmaus, happens at the end of Holy Week, and is about coming face to face with a reality we didn’t order, and yet, being transformed forever.
“When we are willing to be transformed, we stop wasting time theorizing, projecting, denying, or avoiding our own ego resistance.” Richard Rohr writes. In other words, we let go of those boxes of “certainty” that are meant to protect us.
I like the way my good friend Ed Kilbourne tells the story.
One day Jesus was walking along the shoulder of a highway with his thumb out — hitchhiking. And it wasn’t because of a lack of transportation. I think Jesus may have been up to something.
A couple in a pickup truck pulled over and offered him a ride. He climbed in. Since they didn’t know him, they went right back to the conversation they were having before they stopped. This gave Jesus his chance. To pay attention, to listen in. And they were talking about it. About what had happened in the city they had just left. A local hero, a man who had been welcomed to town with all kinds of excitement, a big parade even, just days earlier, had been killed. Executed. He was caught in some kind of political religious crossfire. This hero was dead. And these two travelers were sad and confused.
I can just imagine those two now, talking away, Jesus leaning against the passenger window looking out at the countryside, trying not to smile, as he listened in. Because they were talking about him. To my way of thinking, Jesus just plain blew his chance at the biggest ‘tah-dah!’ in history. As they rode along in the pick-up, the couple were talking about him. They thought he was dead. They’d lost all hope. But Jesus didn’t let on. No ‘tah-dah’. They didn’t recognize him. Figure that one out.
I think it’s important. He did give them clues as they rode along but he didn’t tell them. He let them go on with their questions and their grief. It wasn’t until later, in fact, it wasn’t until that night at supper, while they were waiting for the waitress to get back with their orders, that Jesus reached into the little basket in the middle of the table.
It wasn’t until he took a package of crackers and tore it open. It wasn’t until he took bread and broke it, and handed them each a piece, that they looked at him and said, ‘Oh, my God!’ And he was. All along. It was him all along.
And, you know, it’s been that way ever since. No ‘tah-dah’. No ‘Supergod’. No magical mystical Being that suddenly appears on the scene to divert the course of history and make every ending a happy one. No hands to stop the bullets, no one with superpowers to defeat disease and death. No x-ray vision to see through ignorance or despair.
We make our way down the road, thinking we’re alone. But then, time after time, it has happened. It will happen again. The Moment. The coming of the Light, the dawn.
And just as it was that night long ago sitting around that table at the end of the road, there is a clear awareness, a history changing revelation. A revelation that changes your history. The eyes of your eyes open. And you recognize him. You know. Yes. And a voice comes from somewhere in you, “Oh, my God.” And as he was that night with those two, he is still and always, in this and every moment, God. With us.
(Ed always tells this story guitar in hand. And since I can’t sing, or play guitar, I tell it my way, sitting on the patio with a glass of wine in hand.)
So. Here’s the deal: The holy is not confined or restricted to what we call normal.
My eyes are open to the sacrament of the present moment, knowing that the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy.
My eyes are open to the sacred; in compassionate gestures and hospitality and small heroes and big virtual hugs.
My eyes are open to the deep river running in each of us.
My eyes are open to hope found in clarity with no need for arrogance, cruelty, fighting, or paranoia.
My eyes are open to the invitation to give up the control that I clutched.
I can freely admit that the boxes we put life in (our expectations and our ways to manage) are inadequate.
So, I tell the sheep that having your world shaken isn’t a bad thing. Scary, yes. But transformation is closer than we know. (Of course, when I say it, I channel Carson on Downton Abbey, perfectly gracious and unflappable.)
I like Richard Rohr’s take, “We do not have to figure it all out, straighten it all out, or even do it perfectly by ourselves. We do not have to be God. It is an enormous weight off our backs. All we have to do is participate! After this epiphany, things like praise, gratitude, and compassion come naturally—like breath. True spirituality is not taught; it is caught once our sails have been unfurled to the Spirit. Henceforth our very motivation and momentum for the journey toward holiness and wholeness is immense gratitude for already having it!”
On Tuesday, a Webinar with Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal “Creating Sacred Space; a Holy Week Gathering.” Please join us. Reserve your spot today.
Bill Withers died this week. I’m playing, “Lean on me.” The tears fall. And that does my heart good.
I’m loving the comments and photos from those in the eCourse, Power of Pause. Join us, it is still available for any who wish to join us. There is no fee.
Prayers for those ill with the virus and for family members. Stay safe and healthy.
A blessed Easter week to my Christian friends. To my Jewish friends, a blessed Passover. To my friends of other traditions (named or unnamed), savor the gift of today.
Quote for your week…
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone; we find it with another. If a man (or woman) is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit.” Thomas Merton
Notes: Resources, tool and practices.
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
— Hi, Terry; Loved the Virtual Choir! Because that is what we all are; a choir of virtual earthly angels meeting as God’s chosen ones; meeting with God’s grateful goodness and mercy; the best of ourselves carved from Creation’s Heavenly space. I think we need to remind each other that it is not over until it is over, and it is never over. The road winds on and we walk with the light of love showing us the way. Our time becomes all time. Godspeed always, Sky Ann
— Hi Terry, Susan sent me your Sabbath moment. It made the tears roll. Thank you. You have a wonderful outlook and way with words. Sending love and hugs, Gretchen
–Terry, I loved your homily to the sheep! And Rumi’s Guest House.And Kerry Webber’s prayer. Thanks so much. Take care of yourself. Love, Deanna
— I read your words from yesterday and they brought peace to my heart. Thank you Terry. Susan
— I read this yesterday but did not comment. Today at work they sent us home until further notice. For whatever reason I thought about this post. I thought about you talking to those sheep and how in the midst of everything they were a source of calm and peace. Ha! The thought of you talking to those sheep put a smile on my face. Sharon
— Just this morning on my walk I took pause to watch two ducks in a pond swimming side by side. Thank you for “This Is The Life” eCourse and the Sabbath Moments. Helps me to breathe deep. Carolyn
— Thanks for this morning’s Sabbath Moment, Terry. As one of your Canadian friends, I have been watching and listening to the effect of Covid -19 on your country, and am disturbed by the rates of infection and disturbed by the continued political harangue on both sides. Perhaps all of us just need to go outside and look at little lambs. Thanks again. Mike
–Thought you might enjoy a small chuckle this morning…
She is doing fine.
Named all her pillows Wilson.
Jan, Blessings on your day.
— Thank you so much Terry! That was beautiful! I esp liked your conversation with your sheep! May peace prevail within your heart and family, Janine
— I am glad I am not the only one who talks to sheep and lambs and find their passive listening uplifting at this time.!! Helena
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
Oh do you have time
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.
Prayer in a Time of Anxiety
It seems that I return to you most easily when I need comfort, O God.
Hello… here I am again, knowing that you are waiting for me with love and warming light.
In the shadow of your wings I find respite and relief that feeds my innermost self and renews my soul. Day and night, you are my refuge.
These uncertain days of news conferences and quarantines tempt me to assume the worst for my loved ones, myself and my community. “Pandemic” is a frightening word, and I can easily feel confused or helpless to respond. Now I am relying on you to lead and guide me, to put my anxiety in its place. Help me see it as a human response that keeps me conscious of the seriousness of this moment, but do not let it overwhelm my spirit. Buoyed by your love, I choose each day to let peace reign in me. Breathing deeply of your calm, I repeat, again and again, “You are here.”
Good and gracious Companion, my family and friends need tranquility and assurance. Help me to offer them your tenderness. Those in my community who are suffering need care. Help me to be generous and to keep contact with the forgotten. Our world calls for cooperation among national leaders, scientists, health care providers, and all who are instrumental in overcoming this crisis. May my prayers and support be with them all.
I have come back to you, and I will return, knowing that your open arms will never fail. God of hope, may your love blanket the earth, as you teach us to live more generously today than yesterday. May my anxiety be transformed into love.
Bless you, Terry! For the Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, and John Legend! Yes, we all need somebody to lean on! And I did not know that Mary Oliver, and it is a wonderful and very timely poem for us. No choice now; our lives must and will change. We pray for the positive; we pray for our world; we pray for each other. Sky Ann