On my way to church this morning, in Hayesville, NC, we passed by an open field on Chatuge Lake, a flock of geese relaxing, waiting for their own service to begin. I smiled, wondering if maybe I should stop and tell a few stories.
Our theme at this weekend’s retreat: Finding sanctuary. Which is really not so much a task, as the permission to embrace our DNA wiring to be replenished. The gift of enough.
And that part resonates with all of us: the gift of enough.
We’re on the same page there. Except that the next thing you know, we are tempted to make an assignment out of it, as if there will be a test.
It reminds me of an out-of-the-box take on the Sermon on the Mount: And Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
And Simon Peter said, “Do we have to write this down? Are we going to be tested on this?”
In the end, we focus on the endeavor of pausing (the gift of enough), instead of… well… just pausing. (Or in the words of Guillaume Apollinaire, “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness, and just be happy.”)
I heard a great story about an older man who stopped at a church in the late afternoon, ever day after work. The man would sit in the back pew. For a good bit of time, sitting still and silent, looking straight ahead. After time had passed, the man would get up and leave. The parish curate was quite puzzled by this regular visitor. One day he decided to ask. “I’m wondering sir, why you come here. You have no prayer book. You have no Bible. You carry no Rosary. Your lips do not move while you sit. You are clearly not praying. So, what is it?”
The man answered the curate, “Well, I come here every afternoon, usually after a long and tiring day. I stop here to pray. So, I just sit here and look at Him, and while I’m sitting here, He just looks at me.”
Yes indeed. The gift of enough. You see, it’s paradigm shift time.
Have you read The Little Prince?
If I have told you these details about the asteroid, and made a note of its number for you, it is on account of the grown-ups and their ways. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?”
Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?”
Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.
If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all.
You would have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $ 20,000.”
Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”
The paradigm shift is our permission to change the questions about how we “weigh and measure”.
During her three-month visit to Jerusalem, Natalie Goldberg writes about her Israeli landlady, a woman in her fifties. The woman called a repairman to fix her broken TV. It took the repairman four visits to fix the screen.
“But you knew even before he came the first time what was wrong,” Natalie told her. “He could have brought the correct tube and fixed it immediately.”
The landlady looked at her in astonishment. “Yes, but then we couldn’t have had a relationship, sat and drunk tea and discussed the progress of the repairs. “
Of course, Goldberg writes, the goal was not to fix the machine but to have a relationship.
How do we measure? I do know this: if my measurements are predicated on public opinion or achievement at the expense of removing myself from this present moment, then I am missing the gifts of life… the gift of enough.
There is the cartoon about the two monks sitting in meditation. The older monk is responding to a question from the novice monk. “Nothing happens next. This is it.”
Wait a minute. That’s the best you’ve got? That’s not going to be easy… you know, the letting go of all the mental stuff we insisted we needed for our tomorrows (along with all the stuff we continue to haul with us from our yesterdays).
My shorthand for that “stuff” is KOSA—Keeping Old Shit Alive. I’m good at it. And if that language is unfamiliar to you, welcome to my world.
When I lived in Southern California, I spent three days every month at a Benedictine Monastery out in the high desert. It was my periodic trek to a place where I could slow down long enough to pay attention. Truth is, I wanted to learn how to be alone with myself and like it, because I wasn’t very good at that And, I wanted to learn how to be alone with God and like it, because I wasn’t very good at that, either.
On one visit, a friend asked one of the monks, “What exactly do you guys do here?”
“We pray.” The monk replied simply.
“No, I mean really. What do you do?”
“It is enough just to pray,” the monk told my friend.
There’s a novel thought. I can choose to end my day with this prayer, “It is enough.” Here’s what I am learning in my own life and spirit; When I strive only to achieve or win or impress (“never enough” echoing in my mind), I always miss something vital.
Is the world still broken? Are there places we need to pay attention, care, make peace, restore, reconcile? Yes, absolutely. Of course. And we are able to do so, to spill light, in those places from a place of enough, and not from a place of stewing and disquiet.
Had a good weekend with my new friends at Good Shepherd Episcopal in Hayesville, NC. Many are Sabbath Moment readers, so they knew of my move off Vashon Island, and, as a going away gift this morning after church, gave me three hand knit sheep. For “when you miss preaching to the sheep”. That did my heart good.
Tomorrow I’ll be with the folk at Hinton Retreat Center talking about creating Sanctuary Gardens.
Quote for your week…
I want to know if joy, curiosity, struggle, and compassion bubble up in a person’s life. I’m interested in being fully alive. Alan Jones
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Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, Enjoying Sabbath Moments. The Red Barn is on the Illinois Michigan Canal Trail, beside the Illinois River heading west towards Morris, IL. Keep the inspiration coming! Thanks.” Joe Durepos… Thank you Joe… Keep sending your photos… send to email@example.com
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Join Me… Upcoming Events… (Because of space limitations, please call and reserve a spot)
Aug 27 – 29 Mary & Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Sept 10 – 12 Senior Moment Retreat. Whispering Winds Catholic Conference Center, San Diego, CA
In the mailbag…
–Terry, Godspeed on your trip! Put off the Anchorite idea for awhile. We need your wisdom coming in a steady stream. Hope your health is good for those things you do. I played golf today at Discovery Bay in Port Townsend and thought of you. My cart partner shared her burdens unexpectedly and I was grateful for the opportunity to accompany her with a listening heart. Aging is such an exercise in humility! Your daily reflections help keep the spirits up and the heart in a loving place! Vicki
POEMS AND PRAYERS
We teach children how to measure
and how to weigh.
We fail to teach them how to revere,
how to sense wonder and awe.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel
Of course I am jealous
We bless the earth with each step we take.
And the firmament too needs our touch:
someday your tenderness
will read it.
Look how the birds climb some invisible staircase
and lay their hands upon Him.
Of course I am jealous,
When I too cannot do that.
The seas waited long to sing. Not until we leaped out laughing
was their birth of us
“Tell me about your heart,” my every word says.
Speak to me as if we both lay wounded
in a field and are gazing
as our spirits
St. Francis of Assisi
Blessed are You, O Lord our God,
Wellspring of all that is.
You are the sea on which we float,
You are the wind that fills our sails,
You are the storm that buffets us,
You are the calm that brings us peace.
Open our ears to hear Your word,
Open our eyes to see Your beauty,
Open our hearts to be warmed by Your love.
Free us from our lonely prisons of fear and selfishness,
And make us over, day by day, into bearers of Your peace.