Stay alive to this life
Sometimes air travel feels like a microcosm of our world’s heaviness and uncertainty. In other words, a place where we wonder what possibly may go awry.
When I used to fly frequently, I remember times, let’s say, “on edge.”
There’s a chunk of hours in a confined space, in seats designed for the undernourished. I’m just sayin’.
On one trip, across the aisle sit three women, one holding an infant. I catch myself saying a silent prayer, “Please!” It was a short prayer.
The young woman reaches over and hands me a small plastic bag. “Hope this makes your flight easier,” she says to me. In the bag, a small notebook and pen and munchies and chocolate and earplugs. And a note, “Hello! My name is Levi! I am 5 months old and very excited to meet my baby cousin! I’ll try to be on my best behavior, but I apologize in advance if I get scared or my ears hurt. My mom and grandma are more nervous than I am, so they made this goodie bag for you! Hope you have a great flight!”
Thank you, Levi. You did my heart good.
And this today from Parker Palmer, “As I work with people wiser and braver than I to push back on hard realities such as these, I’m learning (again) how life-giving it is to stay in touch with realities of another sort. Here are a few examples from my weekend…The sunshine on the back step where I drank my early morning coffee… The wildflowers in the ditches along the back roads, the cherry soda I had in a small town—first one since I was a kid—and the tragicomic parade of passersby who came there seeking life, just like me, the gaggle of pre-school kids cavorting in a nearby park, crazy miniature human beings whose antics warm my heart, the waxing gibbous moon that rose in the eastern sky last night. Every time I focus awareness on these small, ordinary blessings of my small, ordinary life, I say to myself, ‘This, Too, Is Real.’ It’s a mantra that helps me remember that ‘reality’ is a vast and infinitely varied assemblage that includes much to be angry about, much to be mourned, and much to be celebrated. I will be of more use to others if I keep trying to see it steady and see it whole… When it comes to celebration, this famous e.e. cummings poem is one of my all-time favorites, and this is one of my favorite lines: “i who have died am alive again today”. Let’s do all we can to stay alive to life—and let’s live our lives that others may live. This, too, is real…”
Levi’s note (and gift bag) is such an invitation: in this time of division and suspicion and discord, let us remember that “this too is real” and we can stay alive to life. To live unafraid of vulnerability. To embrace the sacred in the present.
I confess. These days it is easy to be lulled into shut down or numb mode, fueled by apprehension or fear. Each week someone tells me they’ve started a news fast, and I get it.
So, it is no surprise that we, more often than not, can live asleep. Without knowing it, we are emotionally and spiritually de-hydrated.
Let’s just say, Levi softened my heart.
Staying alive to life. Glennon Doyle Melton’s reminder, “I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. I explain that now, when someone asks me why I cry so often, I say, ‘For the same reason I laugh so often–because I’m paying attention.’”
Staying alive to life. It is what I learned talking with the sheep.
When I lived on Vashon Island, every morning I walked a few miles around Fisher Pond. Not far from my house, I passed a neighbor’s field, home to a flock of sheep. One day, when Covid brought life as we knew it to a standstill, I stopped and talked with them. Two of the mamas had new twins. Yes, they were adorable. That morning, it felt like church, so I gave them a little homily. Not too long. Seven minutes or so. I told them that some days I don’t want to read the news. At least not until after lunch. I told them our world convulses with uncertainty and anxiety. I told them that people are on the edge (money, jobs, bills, family members sick or dying), and you may never know the whole story. I told them I don’t know what to write for Sabbath Moment; I have trouble finding the words. They stared, seeming to listen to me, but with a passive gaze.
And yet… here’s what I do know: They did my heart good. I watched the little ones cuddling and nestling and sheltering up to their mamas, so very glad to be alive. I continued my walk carrying these gifts from my morning congregation, living vicariously and wholeheartedly through their joy, and very glad to be alive.
Here’s my prayer: I want to be awake, in this life, in this moment, the very one I am living today. Precarious? Indeed. Which is why this life is so much more precious.
There is power in words. We used to talk about the need to free up time. Now, there’s a paradigm shift; we can embrace time as a sacred gift.
I’ll tell you what replenished me today. The sheep didn’t ask about my bank account or bills not getting paid, or when and if I would work (travel) again. Or, about when life would go back to normal. And as we learned, waiting for “normal,” the sacred is still alive and well. And the ordinary is the hiding place of the holy.
Where we learn that there is nothing ordinary about the gift of the ordinary.
Rediscovering wonder takes root in the soil of the simple sentence, “I never noticed that before.” I am welcoming, inviting life in, not allowing internal censors and judges to scrutinize, making certain that this moment passes muster. In moments of amazement, we render our internal scorekeeper mute. There is a good deal of conjecture about who merits this streak of luck and why. Some people get all the moments of astonishment. Or perhaps, they’ve allowed themselves to see.
Either way, these moments—let’s call them Levi’s gift bag—sustain us. They create a fabric in our soul which absorbs daily miracles.
Does our world still need voices for justice and inclusion and equality and empathy and healing? Voices for “good trouble” (borrowing from John Lewis) in a world where inequality too often wins? Amen and yes, indeed. But here’s the deal: we bring these voices to the table, moment, encounter, when we are awake.
I do miss my conversations with the geese. Waiting for their return to our neck of the woods. I’ve got some stories to tell.
This week, pause, look for moments that remind you of the sacred in the ordinary. Mental snapshots to make you stop. To breathe. To say thank you.
On my walk this morning, I savored the quiet in the firs and cedars, save for the coyote family pups howling (praying) their thanks for the meal mom brought home.
Quote for our week…
You never know what you’re going to encounter en route. (So, now) I don’t miss a thing. I touch everything. Andy Merrifield
Thank you for making space for me and for Sabbath Moment. Your support means the world. Let us continue to find places where our souls and spirits can be nourished and refueled. Please pass the word about Monday Sabbath Moment. And, now join me for Daily Sabbath Moment (Tuesday – Friday).
Your donations do indeed make a difference. Thank you.
Please check out the store for new books — Stand Still: finding balance when the world turns upside down. (Also available kindle and audible.)
The Gift of Enough.
This is the Life.
Today’s Photo Credit: Thanks to Bill Taylor, friend and now retired United Methodist clergy. Smiling, because I find his photos to be the best kind of homily… Thank you Bill (Katy, TX)… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
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UPCOMING EVENTS —
August 12 – 14 — Mary and Joseph Center, Rancho Palos Verdes CA, Soul Gardening: Sacrament of the Present Moment.
October 3 – 5 — Hinton Retreat Center, Hayesville, NC, Life in the Garden
NEW Book – Stand Still: finding balance when the world turns upside down
NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — Reset on making a difference (telling the story of my father)
Join us every Wednesday… Audio Sabbath Moment
Letters that do my heart good…
–Hello Terry, Thanks for all you do with your Sabbath Moment. Perhaps you may never really know what you do and that is OK. I appreciate the concepts of which you write, especially the concepts of “walking each other home” and “living in the shelter of each other”. Your reflections really help us along on the journey. Today when I was looking at my flower bed here on Vancouver Island I noticed how the flowers all grow together so harmoniously. The Dusty Rose right now is particularly beautiful. Your aid and inspiration in this journey remind me of a story. A guy dies and finds himself at the Pearly Gates. Surprisingly there is an application form to fill out before he can enter heaven. He dutifully fills it out and St. Peter looks it over. St. Peter sees that the fellow was a good church goer, clean living and very generous. St. Peter says, “Well, this is looking very good. We just have one more question and that is ‘Who have you brought with you?’ The fellow says, “No one. I just came here on my own.” St. Peter looks downcast and says, “Oh. That’s too bad”. Terry, if there is such a question at the Pearly Gates when you arrive, just show St. Peter your e-mail distribution list! Thanks for bringing us with you, through the blessings and the challenges of this life. We are celebrating Canada Day today. I hope you have a nice day on the 4th! Love and prayers, Peace and joy, Donna
–Hello Pastor Terry, Peace be with you. I have been reading the new book
Standing Still that you sent to me. It has been very helpful. I have learned to be more still and appreciate more Sacraments of the Present Moments in my life. I usually read it near bedtime at night. I hope you have an enjoyable 4th of July weekend! Gratefully, Mary
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
“i thank You God for most this amazing”
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
E. E. Cummings
It was like a church to me.
I entered it on soft foot,
Breath held like a cap in hand.
It was quiet.
What God was there made himself felt,
Not listened to, in clean colours
That brought a moistening of the eye,
In movement of the wind over grass.
There were no prayers said. But stillness
Of the hearts passions – that was praise
Enough; and the mind’s cession
Of its kingdom. I walked on,
Simple and poor, while the air crumbled
And broke on me generously as bread.