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The gift of simple pleasures

My friend Tim Hansel wrote a book on parenting. He asked his young sons, “Boys, how do you know Dad loves you?”
He figured that they would say, “Daaaad, remember when you took us to Disneyland, like for 10 days!” They didn’t say that, so he knew he wasted all that money.
He figured they’d say, “Daaad, remember Christmas and you bought us all that great stuff!”
They didn’t say that.
They said, “Dad, we know you love us, when you wrestle with us.”
He remembered two times. He had come home, hungry, tired, late, and he didn’t care. But these urchins were yanking on his pant leg. “So, I rolled with them on the floor. Toward the kitchen.” He said, “Just to get them out of my way.”
And then it hit him. In the middle of that very ordinary, boring, mundane experience, real life was happening. Unfeigned joy, love, intimacy, connection, grace, whole-heartedness—the really good stuff—all woven into the untidy and the commonplace.
“But,” Tim laments, “I missed it. Because I was only tuned in to Disneyland and Christmas.”
There is nothing wrong with Disneyland or Christmas. But they have meaning, only because we find the sacred in the wrestling times.
My confession is this… One of these days I need to give up my expectations for control (you know, hoping to orchestrate a tidier or “more meaningful” life). Let’s just say it’s on my list.
Or maybe, just maybe, along with Tim, it’s time for a paradigm shift.
Reading the Bible, God is real in small gifts and simple pleasures. God is present in the commonplace, the weak, the flawed, the compromised. The profane is not the antithesis of the sacred, but the bearer of it.

It’s Joseph Campbell’s reminder, “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”
In other words, it’s easy to look for love in all the wrong places.
From his sons, Tim learned that grace plays by different rules.
Grace, it turns out, cannot be managed.
Grace takes us by surprise, when—for whatever reason—our defenses are relaxed. And there it takes root. Because when we see differently, we value differently.
In wrestling time is born connection and kindness and compassion and inclusion.
In wrestling time, we find miracles where we didn’t know they existed.
And gratefully, the miracle always spills into the world around us.

Many years ago, I am sitting on the bench in front of Bob’s Bakery with my son Zach (Bob’s is our island Saturday morning gathering spot). (Zach was less than ten.) We’re having Cinnamon Twists. They are decadently yummy, and make me forget my need to be useful. The bench is made from a trunk of an old downed tree, it’s seat now worn from years of time and use.
Zach and I watch the Vashon traffic–“traffic” in a poetic license sort of way–go by.
The breeze is gentle and the sun warm on our skin. And Zach, his mouth full of half a Twist, says, “Dad, this is the life.”
Small gifts and simple pleasures indeed. Thank you Zach… I’m still smiling.

We are so bent on removing ourselves from the mundane (and certainly anything messy), that we miss miracles.
Not surprisingly, once we see it, we do our best to turn it into a project: five steps to creating wrestling times. We do not rest in the solace that God is present, having nothing to do with our faith, or our effort to invest the moment with meaning.
So. We have a choice. We can live life as a gift to be embraced and explored and savored. Or, we can take the typical western worldview—treat everything like a test to be completed (and hopefully aced).
Here’s the deal; there is freedom in the gift of wrestling times.
I don’t need to craft the moment, I can live it.
I don’t need to read into the moment, I can receive it.
I don’t need to find control over the moment, I can let it be.
I don’t need to orchestrate closure in the moment, I can pay it forward.

I like Rev. Robin Ringland’s take…
“What is required to make a place holy?
The ordinary becoming extraordinary,
The common interrupted for a moment
that we wish would last forever,
God coming into our forest, decorating our trees,
Inviting us to remove our shoes.”

Speaking of taking shoes off. The calendar says spring, but it’s summer here in the PNW. You know sunny and 70. (For those of you from most other states, that is for us, warm weather. Or, as my friends in Arizona call it, “Sweater weather.”)
And last week 14-year-old Dev Shah correctly spelled “Psammophile” to win the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee. (In case you’re curious, a psammophile is an organism that lives in sandy areas.) Oh, and on his way to the final he correctly spelled words bathypitotmeter, schistorrhachis and rommack. He also correctly answered a question, saying that a magician would be most likely to practice legerdemain. I tip my hat.
And speaking of stewing when closure evades me, deer ate all the flowers and fruit buds on our Raspberry shrubs. Ah yes… gardening is not for the faint at heart and may be hazardous to your emotional wellbeing.

Quote for our week…
“Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Mary Oliver


Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, I had the opportunity to travel to Scandinavia with the group that included Mark Thallander and Sheri Kelley. We spoke of you often and fondly. Mark took this picture of the sunset as we sailed through Skagerrak, between Copenhagen and Oslo. It was wonderful to slow down, relax and watch this beautiful sunset on such calm waters. Blessings to you!” Lisa Lejeune… Thank you Lisa (and Mark)… Thank you to all, keep sending your photos… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Thank you Terry for your quick reply; most appreciated. I been racking my brain trying to remember the name of the TV show where I first heard and saw. It was back in the 80’s and called New Morning Show (I think). Your message was as inspiring then as it is today! Thank you for the information and for sharing your story with so many! Kindly, Maria
–Hi Terry, Your words uplift me each morning, and many of your phrases end up in my daily journal. God bless you for the spirit you live and breathe for all of us. My husband has been in the hospital and is recovering at home. He has always been the dog walker, not another job I wanted to add to my list. But as he recuperates, I have been up and taking our sweet dog Jessie for a walk each morning around what we call “the pond”. Those in Houston understand retaining ponds, lake-like created structures to deal with rain run-off. A wonderful donor added to ours a walking path, fountain, fish pond, benches, and a lovely sanctuary for walking each day. This was a picture of God’s awakening of a new day this week. I am finding so much beauty and peace in these morning walks that I never wanted. How blessed am I! Thank you for who you are and for all you do! Vicki
–Last year deer ate all the yucca buds before they bloomed. This year I am spraying them with deer repellent to hopefully avoid that. They haven’t eaten my roses but maybe mine aren’t fancy enough for their taste. And I agree about humor and have made it my aim to try to make someone laugh when I’m out and about. Just yesterday I asked a man in a riding cart if he wanted to race. He did laugh. I realized early on during the pandemic that laughter is the best medicine and sometimes the only medicine. Now I have to get back to adding to my Sit Down Comedy Routine. Terry
–Terry, You and Fr Richard Rohr have life “in common”. God IS Love! Thanks for Sabbath moments. John


Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Ah, where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafing heroes of folk song, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars. Have they vanished along with footpaths, with grasslands and clearings, with nature? They are gazing at God’s windows. –Milan Kundera

The Things We Say When We Have Nothing to Say
If I was to ask you a question about where you came from,
and you were to ask me did I mean nativity or ethnicity or
nationality or religious background, and I said no,
I meant
What story, what amazement, what joy, what ocean…
Would you be speechless? I don’t think so.
I think you would wait a moment to clear away
all the orthodox answers, and then
you would say something like
I am from people who dance when they are sad,
or I come from music I cannot run from,
Or I came through a broken door and it took me a long time
to stop trying to shatter it or repair it or inflict it on my kids.
You would say something like that, I think,
if I asked gently
and we had the time to let all the other answers trundle past
Like the things we say
when we actually have nothing to say.
Brian Doyle

Lord, the air smells good…
Lord, the air smells good today,
straight from the mysteries
within the inner courts of God.
A grace like new clothes thrown
across the garden, free medicine for everybody.
The trees in their prayer, the birds in praise,
the first blue violets kneeling.
Whatever came from Being is caught up in being,
drunkenly forgetting the way back.

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