|“Holiday plans are a little catawampus,” I tell the sheep.|
“What are holiday plans,” one asks.
“When you have a whole lot up in the air, you try to make plans,” I explain.
“Do you have any plans,” another asks.
“Well, not really. But it sounds a whole lot better if you make something up when you are asked.”
“So, what people think is more important than having plans?”
“Yes, something like that.”
It’s not easy to give up hankering for plans. I’ve been spending time going through my Father’s paperwork, telling stories with those who knew him. And saying thank you to all who wrote and emailed wishes and prayers. It means the world. And, come Thanksgiving (or sooner), I’ll savor Pumpkin pie for breakfast, and then for as long as it lasts. I will avoid Black Friday swarms (easier this year because most of it is online).
I heard one woman tell a friend, “I’m just hoping for a week of self-care. Is that too much to ask? I’m just not that good at it.” I smile, because nothing says self-care like consternation and giving yourself grief for missing the mark. Here’s the deal: We have forgotten how to be gentle with ourselves.
Where was I?
Oh yes, plans.
I can tell you that I have made a list. Well, it’s not a long list. But it works for me.
During this Thanksgiving and Advent Season, I want to tend to my heart. Which means that there is a place I will choose to visit from time to time; a place called Enough. You know, that place where the heart finally slows, where gratitude spills, where we can touch the root of inner wisdom (a taproot some call the soul), where we are not afraid or adversarial, where we do not need to shy away from sorrow or disappointment, where grace is alive.
Parker Palmer writes, “Sanctuary is wherever I find safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer. It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm: it’s about spiritual survival. Today, seeking sanctuary is no more optional for me than church attendance was as a child. We live in a culture of violence. Even if we’re not at daily risk of physical injury or death, as are so many in the gun-obsessed U.S., our culture relentlessly assaults our souls with noise, frenzy, consumerism, tribalism, homophobia, racism, and more. It’s common to become desensitized to these assaults. We ‘normalize’ them in order to get on with our daily lives, disregarding our need for sanctuary as we do. But at times something happens that makes us hypersensitive to all that threatens our souls.”
Okay. Here’s my list: Savor simple pleasures. What Rudolph Otto referred to as, “Mysterium Tremendum.” Translated, it means “the bare mystery of simply being.”
It is no surprise that Jesus begins all his parables this way; with a seed, lilies, a camel, wheat, a pearl, a candle. He obviously wanted us to look closely at this world, not some other one. It is here and now, all around us in the most ordinary things, that we find the Kingdom (which he reminded us, “is here”), and that we are in the divine presence.
Being fully alive is a sensual fiesta. Being alive in this world–squarely in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this day. Irenaeus got it right a long time ago. “The Glory of God is man (or woman) fully alive.”
So, I’ve been doing just that. Staying put, travel wise. But walking and savoring the cathedrals of trees near my house. Enjoying the birds, and tending to my heart. This afternoon, going through a stack of stories and quotes, like soul food, a heart tonic that is good for whatever ails you… Here are a few, in no particular order… Enjoy.
Not too long ago, I was walking with a friend who told me that each of her Zoom recovery meetings starts with a prayer called “Just for Today.” She told me that the prayer goes something like this:
Just for today, my thoughts will be on those who love me
Just for today, my thoughts are on my recovery
Just for today, my thoughts are on my blessings
Just for today, my thoughts are on one thing I’m grateful for
(Thank you Maria Shriver)
Father William McNamara’s definition of contemplation as “a long loving look at the real” became transformative for me. The world, my own issues and hurts, all my goals and desires gradually dissolved and fell into proper perspective. God became obvious and ever present. I understood what Merton meant when he said, “The gate of heaven is everywhere.” (Thank you Richard Rohr)
The most visible creators I know of are those artists
whose medium is life itself,
the ones who express the inexpressible
–without brush, hammer, clay, or guitar.
They neither paint nor sculpt–
their medium is being.
Whatever their presence touches, has increased life.
They see and don’t have to draw.
They are the artists of being alive.
When you feel yourself breaking down, may you break open instead. May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding, and leads you to freedom. Elizabeth Lesser
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” Kitty O’Meara
Oh yes. And this was awesome. From November 18 to 21, as darkness fell, looking up into the night sky, using the waxing crescent moon, we could visually locate the planets Jupiter and Saturn (not realizing that they were headed for their once-in-20-years great conjunction on the December 21 solstice). Jupiter is the brighter of these two worlds, outshining Saturn by 12 times. And here’s the fun part; this Jupiter-Saturn conjunction was the closest Jupiter-Saturn conjunction since July 16, 1623. And I got to see it. That makes me smile real big.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving. Tell someone close to you that you love them, that they matter, that you are glad they are in your life.
Quote for the week…
This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
Cause everything is holy now
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Today’s photo credit — Montezuma’s Castle Arizona. Living through pain and loss is difficult (like a tree growing through the rocks). Life and beauty survives! May God give you Peace. Paz y Bien, Margie Camacho… thank you Margie… Keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Dear Terry, I read your emails when my soul needs soothing, and even though that truly is all the time, often I don’t want to read. So I skip to music or videos you offer. So, I missed your words about your father’s death. Many did not and for this I am glad. Let me add my encouragement and affirmation, beloved child of God. This is a poem by Howard Thurman I include with the way too many sympathy cards I am sending these days.
Know peace, Jackie
— I’m so sorry for the loss of your Dad, Terry. He mattered. You matter. Thank you for lighting up my weeks all these years. Peace, Scott
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
‘Man is born broken,’ wrote Eugene O’Neil. ‘He lives by mending. The grace of God is the glue!’ Which is a nice way of saying that living is the healing. Vulnerability is not a weakness. It is a strength.
Very few of us are tough enough to be soft. Meryl Shain
I share with you the agony of your grief,
The anguish of your heart finds echo in my own.
I know I cannot enter all you feel
Nor bear with you the burden of your pain;
I can but offer what my love does give:
The strength of caring,
The warmth of one who seeks to understand
The silent storm-swept
barrenness of so great a loss.
This I do in quiet ways,
That on your lonely path
You may not walk alone.
Howard Thurman 1953
Meditations of the Heart
His religion was in wood,
and out of a stiff
but obedient tree branch
he made something holy,
yet practical, like a chair.
His cathedral was a shed,
and instead of vespers
or psalms being chanted,
there echoed the hungry blade
biting through the bark.
His disciple was this boy,
and how he learned
to worship the strength
of red oak and cedar
by sweeping up the sawdust.
March 15, 1995
(From SM reader Michael, poem to honor his father, and reminded me of my father. Thank you.)