One my walk this morning, there is a slight lifting of the Spring air so I can smell the earth and the blossoms on the wild cherry trees, and I take possession of my life. (A shout out to May Sarton.)
And yet. I still confess to a gnawing guilt. There is an implied selfishness and myopia by being absorbed with beauty and wonder and petite-miracles-wandering.
But there is a wonderful irony here. This path literally takes me away from self-centeredness, and toward connection, groundedness and gratitude… which is being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without. I love David Whyte’s take that “Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness.”
So, we remember the movie Joe versus the volcano, and the prayer Joe utters, “Dear God, whose name I do not know—thank you for my life. I forgot how Big… thank you.”
This has been on my mind quite a bit, of late. In a world that feels upside down, where shutting down emotionally is both tempting, and not surprising.
The good news is that gratitude expands our world, and allows us to look out, beyond our anxiety or angst, to a world where we can create space, sanctuaries for mercy and compassion and gentleness and empathy. And tenderness.
Gratitude is a portal for an alternative orthodoxy, allowing us to quietly and firmly pay attention to the things that fundamentally matter.
Gratitude lets us take possession of our heart.
Gratitude reminds us that we are wholeheartedly human. Because gratitude naturally repairs the tears and lacerations in our spirit.
I do know this: Anxiety or angst makes our world smaller and harsher and crueler.
Without restoration that comes with a thankful and tender heart, we give way to fear, judgment and exhaustion. This much is true: Fear and judgment never serve us.
We’re back to the practice of self-care – soul care. We choose to say how the story ends. We are not victims. We are powerful contributors even when we feel weak or all alone or at the mercy of.
It’s all about where we tether our well-being.
In a national magazine, an ad for the Humane Society minced no words. Above an adorable puppy and kitten, the ad read, “It’s who owns them that makes them important.”
Our wellbeing, is about who or what, owns us. And here’s the good news; when we do lose our way, our authentic self has not vanished. It’s just been unembraced, and demoted.
So, this story from Brennan Manning does my heart good.
A woman came to see a priest and she said, “Would you come and pray with my daddy? He’s dying of cancer and he wants to die at home.”
The priest went to the house and, when he walked into the man’s room, he saw the man lying on the bed with an empty chair beside the bed. The priest asked the man if someone had been visiting.
The man replied, “Oh, let me tell you about that chair. I’ve never told anyone about this–not even my daughter. I hope you don’t think I am weird, but all my life I have never known how to pray. I’ve read books on prayer, heard talks on prayer, but nothing ever worked. Then, a friend told me that prayer was like a conversation with Jesus. He suggested that I put a chair in front of me, imagine Jesus sitting in the chair, and talk to him. Since that day, I’ve never had any difficulty praying. I hope you don’t think I am off-the-wall.”
The priest assured the man that there was nothing weird about praying to Jesus sitting in a chair.
The priest anointed the man and left.
Two days later, the daughter called to say that her father had just died.
The priest asked, “Did he die peacefully?”
She replied, “I left him at 2:00 this afternoon. He had a smile on his face when I walked out the door. He even told me one of his corny jokes. When I returned at 3:30, he was dead. One curious thing, though—his head was resting not on the bed, but on an empty chair beside his bed.”
To this man, Jesus was an intimate friend, and so he died with his friend.
All changes, all growth, all improvements in the quality of our lives flow out of our vision of God. And when our vision of God is one of a God of relentless tenderness, we ultimately become tender ourselves.
(The Wittenburg Door, Oct–Nov 1986)
Even so. I can be easily derailed. And I fall back under the spell of angst. And that unnerves me.
But even there, I’m invited to participate in this life. To bring all that I am (without letting the unsettled parts dictate) to the table of this moment. To invest my whole heart. What Barbara Kingsolver calls a conspiracy with life.
My friend Phil Volker used to say that it takes one kind of hope to show up for life, and another kind to partake. I don’t think we are supposed to be casual observers here with our precious time.
This can be transformative. Embraced by a God of relentless tenderness, gratitude empowers us to spill the incarnation. And embracing beauty allows us to practice the sacrament of the present moment. And that which we have buried—mercy, gentleness, kindheartedness, tenderness—comes to life. Let us never forget that.
So here’s the deal: to partake is to throw myself into the game of life wholeheartedly. Which means that I choose to foster and nurture, to mend and reconcile, to feed and tend, to proclaim and celebrate, to heal and advocate.
I have a new phone. So, you may call me now. Well, you could call me before, but I can answer now. I’ll just need my son to teach me how to use it.
It’s been an interesting week of walks, almost every day seeing (and at times chatting with) the coyotes. They are looking for food, and seem undeterred by my presence. Of course, the geese aren’t at all happy. It’s a wee bit stressful, with hunters on the prowl. So, they weren’t in the mood for my homily.
I would have told them that today is Holy Humor Sunday. My kind of Sunday.
A Sunday school teacher asked the children just before she dismissed them to go to church, “And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?” Annie replied, “Because people are sleeping.” You go, Annie.
Quote for our week…
Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The Grace of God is glue. Eugene O’Neill
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Today’s Photo Credit: “Let’s call this Sabbath Moment Beach,” Ed Kilbourne, Manasota Key, FL… Thank you Ed… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
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Letters that do my heart good…
–I am learning and becoming so much more of the true self I was created to be since I met you and start each day with Sabbath Moment. I’m sure you’ve heard this by Peter Mayer who wrote and performs such a healing song called, “Japanese Bowl.” Thank you from the heart, Jane
–Good Morning Terry, Thanks for putting my thought out there with your comment about maybe it’s better to just savor the moment instead of getting a souvenir. I have thought that, as I take a picture with my phone… wouldn’t it be better to savor the moment? So now, I think it’s time to be still with that thought, and I remember to take in the moment. Like I felt yesterday, feeling the warmth of the sun through the windows on a cool Spring day in Cincinnati with frost warnings overnight, and savor The Light. I appreciate your work, thank you so much. Pat
–Dear Terry, I ordered 3 books “Standing Still” one for me and the other two for my sisters Anita & Karen. I knew they would love it and thought it would be a great book to read during Lent. Well they did love it & Karen went on to order 6 more so she could share with her friends. She says everyone in the world should read it! Thought you’d get a kick out of that story. Hope it goes well getting a new phone, they are a blessing & a curse. Have a great day and thank you for lifting us up in this very upside down world. Paula
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
Grace – it’s not just the words we say before a meal,
it’s not just the name of a loved one or friend,
it’s so much more and begging to be understood.
It’s a gift from God, a promise to take to heart
and to share with anyone and everyone we meet.
We are, after all, broken vessels needing to be filled
and what better way to fill those cracks and holes
than with God’s grace, God’s promise for our lives.
Our imperfections might be of our own making
but they serve a purpose, after all, like open doors
to welcome in the resurrected one who offers us
His peace, unlike any peace the world could give.
April 22, 2022
Silenced by the Eternal
This morning a walk on the beach—
a little boy with plumber’s butt
is having discourse with shells and sand
fleas. His mom, belly over red bikini,
calls to his dad, “Come and see what
he’s doing. Come and see.”
Tonight, a Halloween party—”Sue
has Alzheimer’s,” John says sweetly.
to dance, though. We’ve still got
the moves.” Indeed, they have.
Her salsa swing has sureness
and sweet rhythm, so different
from her awkward walk
back to the table.
The bartender pours
with two hands, slinging limes
and wisecracks. Jokes
older than the hills.
Now, an old man, gold
chain around neck,
on well-worn chest, pulls
Dance me to the End of Love.
I study God as I walk
through the portals
of my life—my heart
by fleet glimpses
of the eternal. For some, it is sunsets
or Schubert. For me, humans.
Sometimes even “thank You” won’t
cut it. For there are no
words. Only silence.
those of a mother,
calling “come, come and see.”