In the town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, there is a church named Lagniappe (“lan-yap”). It is an old Creole word that means “something extra”.
Pastor Jean Larroux explains, “Down here if you go into a seafood shop and order a pound of shrimp and they put in an extra handful, that’s the lagniappe. It’s something you can’t pay for. Something for nothing. Something for free.”
In an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Jean began this church, in his words, with people “primed for grace.” Accustomed to teaching church people how to celebrate, Jean was surprised to find himself in a community of people who already knew. Even in the middle of their hardship.
Here’s the good part.
This celebration (fullness and wholeness of life from lagniappe) is not predicated on life as we expect it.
The party doesn’t start when our fear is gone.
The party doesn’t start when our beliefs are unadulterated.
The party doesn’t start when doubt has been appeased.
The party doesn’t start when our circumstances make it feasible.
And this I know; if we wait for all that, we miss the gift of grace—the sacrament of the present moment—every time.
The Celtic church gives us a word for such grace moments (doorways). They called them thin places. “A thin place is anywhere our hearts are opened,” writes Marcus Borg. “They are places where the boundary between the two levels becomes very soft, porous, permeable. Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts, and we behold (the ‘ahaah of The Divine’) all around us and in us.”
I’ve written about lagniappe over the years. And truth be told, I can’t get enough…
And Lagniappe for me, is the gift of Christmas. (Maybe you already took your tree down, but yes, it is still Christmas. Today will be day 9 of the 12 days.)
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace, and truth.” (The Gospel of John)
During December I had a good number of conversations with people about burnout, the name we give to emotional exhaustion, cynicism and feeling ineffective (spiritual dehydration—the absence of fullness of life). And, in a world inundated with the need to outdo or outrun, it is no surprise that we wonder if grace is too good to be true. And because of that, we forget to give ourselves the permission to be the recipient of grace’s gift. Because here’s the deal: grace is WD40 for the soul.
Of course, thinking about writing a Sabbath Moment for the new year, I wondered about naming my resolutions. Okay, if I’m honest, I carried a wee bit of stress, as if an assignment was due. Because instead of making my resolutions this past week, I read books and rested and walked and talked with the geese.
I was grateful for this from Tish Harrison Warren, “The point of resolutions shouldn’t be to add another task to our busy lives or another brick on the crushing and cruel burden to ‘do better.’ The point is that renewal is always possible, and with a large dollop of grace we can freely try new things; we can continue to grow and change.”
So. When someone asks about my resolutions, I’ll tell them, “I’ll be finding ways to practice (and spill) lagniappe.” We live in a world that needs it…
Lagniappe necessitates a paradigm shift. Without it, we stay stuck in our head. We like to say that we teach or preach grace. Which makes grace something to comprehend, like the answer to a test question.
And we miss the party, the fundamental reality that grace lights up our day, and our world. Regardless of whether we fathom it.
We miss the wakefulness that grace bestows, fueled by two simple words; Thank you.
We miss the power of lagniappe. The something extra? The joy in the ordinary, in dollops of gentleness, kindness, connection, empathy, compassion, generosity, wonder and healing.
Ordinariness opens us up to our humanity (and to our connection), now absorbed in moments of grace. Instead of needing to fix or analyze, we absorb and invest; we notice, and listen, and feel, and love.
We are safe, at home in our skin. An antidote to (in the words of Seneca) “that tossing to and fro of the mind, that can nowhere find rest.”
We are primed for grace. And lagniappe, grace, always spills.
Yes, I’m still mourning the Michigan football game. But hats off to TCU (and to Georgia, thanks for beating Ohio State… sorry, had to get that off my chest).
Speaking of gifts of grace… This week we said goodbye to three lives that spilled their light in our world.
Pelé (officially Edson Arantes do Nascimento) the Brazilian soccer god in the late 1970s made me love to watch soccer. His effusive joy. Or as Nelson Mandela once said: “To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man in full.”
And former Pope Benedict XVI died. I read this from Clemens Sedmak, “Pope Benedict was a beloved and revered teacher, and his former students thought the world of him — as a theologian, but also as a gentle human being. They liked to call Pope Benedict (who was an avid piano player) ‘the Mozart of theology.’ I was personally deeply impressed by Pope Benedict’s theological brilliance combined with his deep faith and humility.”
Barbara Walters found so many stories from people around our globe, and brought them into our living room. She said, “It would be nice to feel that we are a better world, a world of more compassion and a world of more humanity, and to believe in the basic goodness of man.” Rest in Peace Barbara.
Quote for your week… Be the hand of a hopeful stranger, Little scared but you’re strong enough. Be the light in the dark of this danger, ‘Till the sun comes up.’ Sara Barielles, A Safe Place to Land, Amidst The Chaos.
Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry! Ready for the new year… Maui, Hawaii.” Anastasia Flanagan… Thank you Anastasia… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
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.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365
Upcoming Events — Florida friends, join us… Venice UCC Church, Saturday, January 28 — Soft Hearts from Hard Places
Letters that do my heart good…
–My Grandson Rives (age 3.5) was asked to be a shepherd in the Christmas pageant and he turned to his dad and said “but daddy I don’t want to be a shepherd. I want to be Rives.” Merry Christmas! Becky
–Terry, I’ve been reading and sharing parts of your weekly Sabbath Moments for years. I look forward to Mondays because you are there. I’m 82 and a caregiver for my loving husband—your advice is very helpful for life. I compile a prayer page for our church’s monthly newsletter and have used your prayers many times. Bless you, Terry. Sandy
–Thank you, Terry Hershey, for including our amaryllis and noting in the comments. Your daily capsule is something we look forward to seeing five days a week. Thank you. Kent
–Good morning Terry, Thank you for your ever uplifting messages of positivity, grace, forgiveness, joy and love. This particular sabbath moment spoke deeply to my heart. John O’Donohue’s message touched the heart strings and then some. Keep shining your Light! Blessings to you and yours for a richly abundant Christmas and New Year filled with good health and love. Maria
–Terry, Thank you for a year of stories, songs, poems and prayers. Thank you for the reminder to pause, rest, reflect and spend time in nature. This year I learned the power of pause to heal. I struggled with an extended illness and after much resistance, recognized that for a while, I needed to rest more, and allow my body to heal. I am so grateful to be feeling well again. I am so grateful for your weekday posts that encouraged me to reflect and ponder. I wish you a Christmas celebration filled with joy, peace and some quiet pauses to ponder and rest. Paulette
POEMS AND PRAYERS
May we be fully present to those we love this Christmas as we share and build precious memories together, beautiful, wonder filled moments blessed with love, joy and peace, tender moments to be cherished and treasured now and always. This wholesome, loving and fully, undivided attention, this beautiful gift of presence is the greatest gift we can ever bestow upon, or receive from those we love.
Mary Anne Byrne
(Thank you Mary Anne… thought we carry into this new year.)
Let us go forth from here, blessed and renewed
in the Spirit of Shalom
in the Spirit of Integrity
in the Spirit of Illumination
in the Spirit of Transformation
with hopes lifted heavenward
with hearts loving the earth
in the name of our creating, liberating, nurturing God.
Many times today I will cross over a threshold.
I hope to catch a few of those times.
I need to remember that my life is, in fact,
a continuous series of thresholds:
from one moment to the next,
from one thought to the next,
from one action to the next.
Help me appreciate how awesome this is.
How many are the chances to be really alive…
to be aware of the enormous dimension
we live within.
On the threshold the entire past and the endless
future rush to meet one another.
They take hold of each other and laugh.
They are so happy to discover themselves
in the awareness of a human creature.
On the threshold the present breaks all
It is a convergence, a fellowship
with all time and space.
We find You there.
And we are found by You there.
Help me cross into the present moment —
into wonder, into Your grace:
that “now-place,” where we all are unfolding
as Your life moment by moment.
Let me live on the threshold as threshold.