On today’s walk, the rain is unremitting. The sky is gray and cinched down at the corners. But the evergreens along the way, vivid and alive. It is quiet, and I walk with a smile, exploring and enjoying the acreage of forests, and pathways, near and around the golf course where I now live.
I walk by (literally, through) a gaggle of Geese. They never seem to mind the rain, and pay little attention to the daily walker.
Here, the Canada Geese are an everyday (and year-round) presence. As so many local gaggles have decided that migration is not worth the effort. With the proliferation of lawns, golf courses, and parks, a reliable (and spoiling) habitat makes year-round stays just the ticket. Not that everyone who lives here is happy about that. Let’s just say that there are plenty who call them “nuisances” (for eating grass and “decorating” lawns).
I tell them I’d like to get to know them first, you know, before I dislike them. I’m not sure they understand my humor.
So, I tell them about the 12 Days of Christmas. The twelve days (the ones we sing about in that ubiquitous and vexing carol) that began yesterday, the day after Christmas (Boxing Day or St. Stephen’s Day) and ends on January 6 (The Feast of the Epiphany).
And I tell them how 2020 is coming to close, and how there’s too much to unpack, so much that has been mentally unnerving, and how so many lives have been hurt, and how sometimes, I don’t have the words. I tell them I’m tired in my spirit, and that’s never easy to admit.
And then I tell them that they remind me of why the Christmas season is so powerful. What theologian Walter Brueggemann called “the scandal of particularity.”
“God is in a vulnerable newborn baby in a feeding trough,” Richard Rohr writes. “We need to see the mystery of incarnation in one ordinary concrete moment, and struggle with, fight, resist, and fall in love with it there. What is true in one particular place finally universalizes and ends up being true everywhere.”
Pablo Coehlo’s reminder that, “It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.” Yes. The ordinary is the hiding place for the holy..
So. Let’s stop here. The first invitation of this scandal of particularity is to give up our moral price tags about emotions (labeling them negative and positive). Here’s the deal: Even rawness or unpleasant or the uninvited or taxing can be a birthplace for the sacred, and the holy. It is a reminder of what we forget that is already alive and well inside of us.
Sue Monk Kidd writes the story about her daughter, coming home from school in early December, telling her mother she got one of the great parts in the Nativity Play.
“What part did you get?”
“I’m the Star of Bethlehem!” the daughter says proudly.
“Well, what will you do?” Sue asks.
“I just stand there and shine.”
The little girl gets it. At some point, from the Star of Bethlehem to adulthood, we obstruct the light inside—with restrictor plates, with fear, with a need for perfectionism, with prejudice.
I’m not sure why we’re given to this temptation or yearning to control or orchestrate or bring closure. Bottom line, we forget that this moment, as unraveled as it may be, is a fertile breeding ground to pay attention to, and to savor, the present. To be open, available and curious. To see our connection to those around us, in the same human family, and to embrace empathy. To be unafraid of a willingness to learn and grow and change. To no longer be afraid of sad or lonely.
Because the ordinary is indeed the hiding place for the holy.
Our eyes open. And now, the ordinary becomes a place where light is spilled, and where very simple gestures make a profound difference.
In the Holocaust Museum there is a story about an exchange in a concentration camp on the Day of Liberation (1945). The prisoners still alive in concentration camps, were being set free. A young American Lieutenant, extraordinarily moved by the bleak and foreboding nature of the setting, asked one prisoner to show him the camp.. As they approached a building, the lieutenant opened a door for the young woman, and she collapsed in tears. Certain he had offended, he did his best to comfort her. After some time, she told him, “I am weeping because it is the first time in years that someone has done anything kind for me. Thank you.”
To put a spin on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “the whole of life lies in seeing the world sacramentally.” This is not sheer sentimentality. When we live sacramentally, there is a “price” to pay… when we are connected. The Christian mystical tradition describes the relationship with God in terms of growing toward union. “This encounter with the divine may be characterized by feelings of desire, arousal, passion, and union” in prayer. (Janet Ruffing) My oh my… And well… truth be told, I do feel more alive and alert, as if “the rust had been knocked off my nerves. The armor of self dissolves, ego relaxes its grip, and I am simply there, on the breeze of the moment.”
So. Today I put down my to-do lists. Today, I let nature be my teacher. Trees with stories to tell. I let my mind rest. I’m settled in my living room. A fire in the fireplace (propane in this house), a good book for company (this year’s pile The Overstory: A Novel, by Richard Powers; Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, by Mark Charles; Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything, Viktor Frankl and The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. by Isabel Wilkerson.
A blessed New Year to you all…
and a dram to warm the piper…
Here’s a dram to warm the hall
Here’s a dram to raise the rafters
And here’s long life to you all.
Quote for your week…
“If your eyes are blinded with your worries, you cannot see the beauty of the sunset.” Jiddu Krishnamurti
SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD
Today’s Photo Credit: “Thanks for the quote in Sabbath Moments we look forward to each post; you give an oasis to us and many; this was sunset a couple days ago here at the 9E Ranch; know you have an open invitation,” Kent and Joan Bohls… Thank you Kent and Joan… Keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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)
In the mailbag…
–Dear Terry, Your moving announcement brought tears to my eyes. Surely you must be grieving that which you are leaving, for your writing has been so grounded in the land on which you live. So I say a special prayer for your well-being as you settle into a new place. This pandemic continues to challenge us all, and I thank you for the Moments shared with others. All things, small or large, can indeed be embraced as part of a creation in which we garden in all we do. May my words nurture as yours do; may our poetry and photography, our art and music, be touches of the holy, sustaining and repairing all that is broken. Shalom, Terry, shalom. God’s blessings, Jackie
POEMS AND PRAYERS
If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person. Thomas Merton
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.
My wish for you
Is that you continue
To be who and how you are
To astonish a mean world
With your acts of kindness
To allow humor to lighten the burden
Of your tender heart
In a society dark with cruelty
To let the people hear the grandeur
Of God in the peals of your laughter
To let your eloquence
Elevate the people to heights
They had only imagined