“Granma said when you come on something good, first thing to do is share it with whoever you can find; that way, the good spreads out where no telling it will go. Which is right.” (The Education of Little Tree)
On my walk this morning I cried listening to Bridge Over Troubled Water, sung by brave men and women from the UK’s National Health Service, in honor of the Llandudno’s Venu Cymru (now a temporary coronavirus hospital renamed Ysbyty Enfys, Welsh for Rainbow Hospital, a symbol for hope). With our world on tilt, they sang from their heart, spilling good.
Later, I read this from Isak Denison, “Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”
Yes. Spilling good brings clarity, maybe especially in times of uncertainty.
Because sometimes, life can feel too big. Too precarious. Times that break us, undo us. Times when the labels we give our limitations, make our anxiety or fear feel bigger than life itself. And sometimes (if I’m honest), I’ve got nothing to give.
But I’m a storyteller, and I take consolation in stories about our human capacity for recovery and renewal.
Let me tell you about Chris Orwig. In a tent, at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California, one moment changed everything. A bachelor party; and he was camping with a group of friends. When first invited, Chris said no. He relented when told that the first night would be “car camping.” “I can do that,” Chris told himself.
You see, through his entire his body, Chris experienced consistent pain. Walking was never easy. Climbing a mountain, impossible.
When his physical limitations (the debilitating pain) began in his early 20s, various medical experts had no answers. “I couldn’t do most of the things I enjoyed doing.” With that realization, Chris hit bottom. “I was completely broken. I was cracked. I was undone. Because I defined myself by what I could and couldn’t do.”
His first reaction when invited to climb a mountain? “Here’s another thing I can’t do.”
To Chris, life had become impassable. This story fits so many conversations I have during this time.
Have you ever felt that way? Here’s the good news; you never know where you will find or receive or take hold of hope.
“My Father gave me a camera,” Chris tells the story.
“Okay,” his father was saying, “so you can’t surf anymore, but you can still take pictures of something you love.”
And the camera becomes Chris’ passport to explore. To not wallow.
“It did something to me.”
Meaning that instead of more pain focusing on the pain, the camera transports him into the larger world.
He recalls a day when he saw a palm tree, an ordinary California palm tree. Except that this palm tree was growing from a street gutter, against all odds, stretching for the light. That, he tells himself, is what I want to be; fully alive in a world no longer defined by the label of what I lack.
With camera in hand, Chris says, “my healing began.” Because there is beauty to behold, and all art requires a fight.
The camera is the invitation. And a reminder of our capacity; our enoughness. To embrace the sacrament of the present moment.
Back in the tent on that first morning, Chris wakes in the dark and alone. He thinks, “They will climb the mountain today, I will be left behind.”
There is a gap in the tent. He can see the stars, and watches as the dawn delivers daylight, and soon, the vista of mountains. What he hears from his friends he does not expect, “Let’s go Chris. You’re coming with us.”
They have fashioned a contraption with a lawn chair on poles using duct tape. On the way up the mountain, they would pass by other hikers, and he would wave, referring to himself as the Pharaoh of the John Muir Trail. It takes courage to pray for a miracle. It takes more courage to receive that miracle in the form of a lawn chair.
When I focus on what is missing, I do not see my capacity of enoughness, inside. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s reminder, “It takes three things to create a sense of significant being: God, a soul, and a moment. And the three are always present.”
Meaning that the ordinary moments of every day (even those that confuse us, unnerve us, or break our hearts) are hiding places of the holy. Where the sacred is alive and well. Where hope grows.
John O’Donohue does my heart good. “Despite all the darkness, human hope is based on the instinct that at the deepest level of reality some intimate kindness holds sway. This is the heart of blessing. To believe in blessing is to believe that our being here, our very presence in the world, is itself the first gift, the primal blessing. As Rilke says: Hier zu sein ist so viel — to be here is immense.”
Anxiety and vulnerability are real, yes. But the answer is not to chase vulnerability away. It’s the opposite. My vulnerability is the signal that I am human, with the capacity to be stretched, to give my heart, to be broken, to cry with those who break, to spill good. And I don’t ever want to lose that.
Today Maria Shriver wrote, “I know that when you feel deeply valued, deeply loved, deeply seen, deeply understood, and deeply heard, then you are able to move through the world completely differently. When you feel that way, you intrinsically desire for everyone else to feel that way as well. You will do whatever you can to make it possible for others, one person at a time.”
Our TV buffet is boundless. And I enjoy seeing what friends find binge worthy. I’ve enjoyed Grantchester and Broadchurch (British TV). Which means that there’s a vicar in the cast. And at some time during the episode, a well-placed and indispensable homily, offering illumination for tough times. On my walk and in the mood, I tell my congregation, the sheep, “Today I’m your vicar.”
“Where’s your collar?” their look wondered.
“I’ll bring it next time,” I tell them. “But are you ready for my homily?”
“We have nowhere to go,” they told me. “But just so you know, we prefer the Vicar of Dibley.”
“Fair enough,” I tell them.
The garden is profligate, burgeoning and an invitation to savor the sacred. I think I’ll sit a spell. I’d be grateful if you joined me.
Quote for your week…
“Change will only come about when each of us takes up the daily struggle ourselves to be more forgiving, compassionate, loving, and above all joyful in the knowledge that, by some miracle of grace, we can change as those around us can change too.” Mairead Corrigan Maguire
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Thank you for that one Terry, so true that now is the time to seek nature and what it holds for us, watch the wildlife, the flowers, the waters, our forests, the mountains, the beautiful sunrises, sunsets. Even the very short time that they are there, it is one of the things that can be unbelievable to experience, again thank you for today’s SM, it is RIGHT ON. Dale
–Good Evening Terry, I hope this finds you in your garden, savoring. I am looking out at my simple garden sipping a glass of shiraz and grateful. It is cold here and the hawthorne trees in my front yard are waiting for heat so they can burst forth with their last shout of green glory. And of course my tulips are bragging because they announced spring as the first colourful heralds of the season. Anyway, I am thinking of what beautiful words you might use to describe the unfolding season and because I read your words daily, the presence they bring DO celebrate “presence” and I am grateful for the inspiration, reminder and gift. I love how you spill your light. Thank you. Pleasant evening. Linda
–Thank you for your always inspiring WORDS! I finished reading “SOUL Gardening” yesterday and I have already sent it to my wonderful friend, Barbara, who lives on Bainbridge Island. She is going to love it! I could not stop thinking about her while reading it. I am sure you are about to have another person added to your flock. Thank you for all that you do. Linda
–Dear Terry, Loved today’s writing. I so love to hear about your conversations with your sheep and the beauty of your garden. That beauty is reflected in the writing that you do and the stories you share. You brighten my day. Thank you for the belated Mother’s Day wishes. Please tell Ann that she is in my prayers as she is suffering through the separation from her husband as he journeys home to God. May his journey be peaceful and her journey be blessed by God. Kathleen
–Dear Terry, Thank you so much for SM and all the creative and spiritual pieces of it. I love how you quote my favorite people Mary Oliver and John O’Donohue. Your stories are wonderful and of course, I’m a gardener and love to see the garden through your eyes. I share so much with my friends and in my ministry. Your music selections are priceless and lead me to new favorites like Carrie Newcomer. Boy her songs are great for now, like Sanctuary. So here is a small donation to say thank you, stay safe and healthy. We are in this together. Spread the light to yourself as you do for so many. Kathy
–I read today’s Sabbath Moment which I really could relate to. Then scrolling down I saw your request for photos and it reminded me of how much joy my iris are giving me right now. They’re like a reminder from God to me that we’ll get through this pandemic. I pick a couple to put in a vase in my kitchen so I can enjoy them when I’m inside. An added bonus is when the one bloom wilts there’s another bud that will open up: a reminder to me that life goes on after loss. Terry
–Terry, so loved the story from one of your readers about porch sitting. I too am a porch sitter. Bless you for all you do, can’t imagine life without sabbath moment Carol
POEMS AND PRAYERS
You mustn’t be frightened
if a sadness
rises in front of you,
larger than any you have ever seen;
if an anxiety
like light and cloud-shadows,
moves over your hands and over
everything you do.
You must realize that something is
happening to you,
that life has not forgotten you,
that it holds you in its hand
and will not let you fall.
Rainer Maria Rilke
by Sarah Kay
When I am inside writing,
all I can think about is how I should be outside living.
When I am outside living,
all I can do is notice all there is to write about.
When I read about love, I think I should be out loving.
When I love, I think I need to read more.
I am stumbling in pursuit of grace,
I hunt patience with a vengeance.
On the mornings when my brother’s tired muscles
held to the pillow, my father used to tell him,
For every moment you aren’t playing basketball,
someone else is on the court practicing.
I spend most of my time wondering
if I should be somewhere else.
So I have learned to shape the words thank you
with my first breath each morning, my last breath every night.
When the last breath comes, at least I will know I was thankful
for all the places I was so sure I was not supposed to be.
All those places I made it to,
all the loves I held, all the words I wrote.
And even if it is just for one moment,
I will be exactly where I am supposed to be.
Kay, S. (2014). The Paradox.
I do not know when we can gather together again in worship, Lord.
So, for now I just ask that:
When I sing along in my kitchen to each song on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life Album, that it be counted as praise. (Happy 70thBirthday, SW!)
And that when I read the news and my heart tightens in my chest, may it be counted as a Kyrie.
And that when my eyes brighten in a smile behind my mask as I thank the cashier may it be counted as passing the peace.
And that when I water my plants and wash my dishes and take a shower may it be counted as remembering my baptism.
And that when the tears come and my shoulders shake and my breathing falters, may it be counted as prayer.
And that when I stumble upon a Tabitha Brown video and hear her grace and love of you may it be counted as a hearing a homily.
And that as I sit at that table in my apartment, and eat one more homemade meal, slowly, joyfully, with nothing else demanding my time or attention, may it be counted as communion.