On my walk this morning, a conversation with the geese. We stand on a hoarfrost landscape, our temperature here just a wee bit above freezing. I’m sporting my stocking hat and scarf, but the geese seemed unfazed.
“I have a new book coming out in the new year,” I tell them. “Stand Still: Finding balance when the world turns upside down. And I’m hoping for some advice. Because you all seem to do that pretty well; be still. What are the secrets? And if I’m honest, how does balance help keep the craziness of the world from fueling fear and anger?”
This I know about the geese. They are never in a hurry to answer my questions, so I tell them a story.
A Nigerian woman, a physician at a teaching hospital in the United States, attended a Gordon MacDonald lecture. After, she approached Gordon, to offer kind words of affirmation. She introduced herself using an American name.
“If I may ask,” Gordon inquired, “what’s your African name?”
The woman pronounced her name, several syllables long, with a musical sound to it.
“And what does your name mean?” Gordon asked.
She answered, “It means ‘Child who takes the anger away.'”
When he inquired about its origin, she told him the story.
“My parents had been forbidden by their parents to marry. But they loved each other so much that they defied the family opinions and married anyway. For several years they were ostracized from both their families. Then my mother became pregnant with me. After my birth, and when the grandparents held me in their arms for the first time, the walls of hostility came down. I became the one who swept the anger away. And that’s the name my mother and father gave me.”
This story tugs at two heart reminders.
One, the permission to stand still (to pay attention), to remember what tethers you (don’t ever forget the “name you’ve been given”).
And two, that which tethers you is the fuel that spills wholeheartedness and empathy and compassion into the world around you. It makes the difference.
Garrison Keillor once reflected on the church of his youth: “We had a surplus of scholars, and a deficit of peacemakers.” I would argue that is a ratio, which needs to be reworked. Or maybe this story is more personal than that. Because the bottom line is that I would like to be known as a person who sweeps anger away. Being a reconciler sounds like a pretty good way to live.
Well, here’s the good news; every single one of us have been endowed and equipped, because every single one of us has been given the name, peacemaker.
Too good to be true? I can relate.
So, I settle for less. Because, “That can’t be me,” I tell myself.
Which begs the question; in this churning and uncertain environment, from where do we draw our identity, and our character?
This is from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, “So; chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength and discipline. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”
I like the paradigm shift. We are not mandated to design or create or assemble the wardrobe.
Only that we inhabit the wardrobe we’ve been given.
Yes… that we live into the name we’ve been given.
You see I was inculcated in a world that required willpower. To be whatever I should be, I needed to muster enough faith or rectitude.
Which is fine, save for the fact that our identity or wellbeing is not dependent upon earning or justifying. It’s about being true to who we are.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite images, from a magazine ad sponsored by the Humane Society, looking for homes for homeless pets. A photo of a puppy and kitten—looking up at you from the page—catches your eye and your heart. But it’s the affirmation on the top of the ad that sticks, “It’s who owns them that makes them important.”
Be true to who you are…
Yes… Child who takes the anger away.
Yes… Embrace this new life of love.
Yes… Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you.
So here’s my question: What would happen if we lived as if these are true? Can we hear that today?
No, this is not easy in a broken world. And when worry gets the best of me, I want someone or something to make it right, to create a safe place where worry has no jurisdiction.
Here’s why this matters. When I am anxious (unsettled, disheartened), I revert to a zero-sum view of the world. I assume (and live as if) resources—including compassion, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, trust and generosity—are finite. And in a zero-sum world, life is short, and the dominant and powerful seem to win.
So, you get what you can. And if I don’t know you, you are my enemy… or at the very least, someone to be mistrusted.
Here’s the deal: When my emotional compass is catawampus. I need the healing balm from stories that ground and sustain and empower and transform.
In a world viewing strength as unsympathetic toughness, we need Tion Medon’s counsel to Obi wan kanobi on Utapau (for Star Wars aficionados). “There is no war here unless you brought it with you.”
And the walls of hostility came down. When the bigger picture matters, that in this Advent season, we find strength and hope in the vulnerability, tenderness and open heartedness of a mother and her baby in a manger.
On this second Sunday of Advent, the Peace candle is lit. Peace and blessings to all.
On Wednesday I celebrate my birthday. I’ll be sixty-seven. Which I’m told is the new fifty-five.
And headed to Phoenix this week to be with the folks at the Franciscan Renewal Center.
Quote for your week…
Those who hurt, are angry and have nothing left to give, they are my meeting place with God. Dorothy Day
SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD
Today’s Photo Credit: “Terry, all are welcome at the sunset table here on Manasota Key, Florida,” Ed Kilbourne… Thank you Ed… Keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
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Dec 10 – 12 Men’s Retreat, Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, AZ
–Dear Terry, I loved your question so much I wrote it in my journal and intend to ask it of myself each day this Advent. So much better than “What did I accomplish today?” So, yesterday it was my four year old granddaughter smearing avocado on her face because she had heard it would make her “glow”. Not only did that warrant a smile, but a huge laugh as well. Thank you so much for your inspirations – grateful for you! Blessings to you on this rainy morning. Sheilah (on Bainbridge Island)
–Terry, I receive your Sabbath Moment weekly and always make time to read through it and listen to the music. It has been a balm to my soul and I thank you for providing such thoughtful insights to include music to touch one’s soul. It is healing at a time when healing is needed. Ann
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Love rescue me
Come forth and speak to me
Raise me up and don’t let me fall
No man is my enemy
My own hands imprison me
Love rescue me
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
God of us all,
Thank you for the gift of Mary in my life.
I rely on her to intercede for me with her son,
and to guide me, especially in my family.
Help me to learn the grace of humility,
and give me the courage to say “yes” to you
without always knowing where it will lead.
Release me from the fears that grip me,
the pride and stubbornness
that keep me from you and others.
Let me turn to Mary, so human,
for an example of how I might live my own life
more freely, more loving and more aware of you.