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The gift of wonder

Today I sit, mulling Sabbath Moment topics, but easily sidetracked when I look out and see the red-winged blackbird serenely balanced on the very tip of a cattail flower spike, at the edge of the pond. This does my heart good, but now my mind is off writing topics, happily meandering, remembering all the pauses on my morning walk, to marvel at (and giggle) at the gifts of new spring blooms, the dew on the leaves, the sunlight through the cedar trees, and the dandelion pappus (puffballs) an exquisite parachute, ready to disperse seeds to the sky carrying wishes. And my mind, now enjoying the dawdling, takes me to last night’s amazing waxing crescent moon, sharing the evening sky canvas with the Big Dipper. And my recall goes to the many times as a young boy in southern Michigan, standing outside, marveling at the night sky.
And it hits me, it is no wonder the craziness of the world can too easily derail us, knowing that somewhere between childhood and maturity, we lose sight of wonder.

So. Our prayer this week will be Rabbi Chaim Stern’s affirmation, “Days pass and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing; let there be moments when Your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness, and exclaim in wonder: How filled with awe is this place, and we did not know it!” (From the Mishkan T’filah, “A Prayer for Shabbat”)

Here’s the deal: spirituality is not about a lottery ticket to the next life, but a front-row-center ticket to this one. Which is easier to preach than to practice in times like these. I love Pope Francis’ invitation, “Take care of the now for the sake of tomorrow.”
What I know is this. The gift of wonder grounds us to the present moment, and our values, those at our core (gentleness, humility, charity, interior simplicity) are tethered there.
Which means that there is a place I will need (and choose) to visit from time to time; a place called Enough. You know, that place where the heart finally slows, where wonder is relished, where gratitude spills, where we can touch the root of inner wisdom (a taproot some call the soul), where we are not afraid or adversarial, where we do not need to shy away from sorrow or disappointment, where grace is alive.

One. Let us not lose sight of wonder.
It fuels our capacity for mindfulness, embracing now (the sacrament of the present moment).
There is a scene in the movie Shawshank Redemption, when Andy locks himself in the warden’s office, puts a record on the turntable and sets the prison intercom microphone near the speaker. The music pervades and suffuses the entire prison. Red, the narrator, says, “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”
Or as Rumi says it, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground, there are a thousand ways to go home again.”

And two. The gift of wonder fuels our awareness to connection to something bigger than ourselves, which honors our capacity for humility.
“All the truly transformed people I have ever met are characterized by what I would call radical humility,” Richard Rohr writes. “They are deeply convinced that they are drawing from another source; they are simply an instrument. Their genius is not their own; it is borrowed. They end up doing generative and expansive things precisely because they do not take first or final responsibility for their gift; they don’t worry too much about their failures, nor do they need to promote themselves. Their life is not their own, yet at some level they know that it has been given to them as a sacred trust.”
Yes, I am in favor of mulling and pondering. Which works out, as pondering is a life-giving avocation of mine.
I remember different times in my life, when I was on the road to accomplishment, or success, which meant becoming “somebody”. There have been so many races that consumed me; to be ahead (which always meant busy), to find perfection, to be in control, be liked or to be loved, to collect trinkets that provoke envy. These were races (ways to see life) that did not nourish or honor the values at my core. And did not trust the gentle hands of grace.
There was, however, a side effect; I became cynical, played a victim, nursed regret and felt undone by comparison. Now, as I “recollect myself”, and take care of now, and rest in the gentle hands of grace, I can say, “Thank you, but I don’t need that race anymore.”
Yes, the news is bracing and mind-numbing. And we want to shut down, but shifting gears, we can let the child in us rediscover wonder, find the power in living in the present moment and embrace the sacred even in the pain. Now, we care because we are connected. And that, makes a difference.

You know I love golf. And this time of year we are glued to the Masters Tournament. Congrats to Scottie.
This week I’ll be in Connecticut. You can join me at Temple Shalom in Greenwich, or Sunday morning service at North Greenwich Congregational Church.

Quote for our week…
“One could say that the whole of life lies in seeing.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


Today’s Photo Credit: “Good morning Terry. I took this at dusk the other day. It’s in Box Springs Georgia. (Love my town’s name) As my mom always said, ‘God is in His Heaven.’ Thanks for bringing the light!” Kate Wilson… Thank you Kate… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Thank you, Terry, for reminding me of this. For many years I have kept a note pad beside my bed and one of this first things I ever wrote on it was the need of a touch. For a hand, a hug or to just sit close to someone. Because in that way I was touching God. I’m an introvert, and quite content in being  alone, but sometimes, sometimes a physical reminder of God’s presence is so healing.  Sue
–Happy Ordination Anniversary. That’s so great that you have been making a Difference in people’s lives for so long, and I wish you many more years! (For selfish reasons, because I love your work) keep shining! Peace and love from Indiana. Rose
–Wow! Your emails always bring a smile to my face and make myself feel warm. Congratulations on 45 years of ministry I presume you’ve been encouraging and inspiring people your entire life with or without the paperwork to support it! Enjoy your day. We do live in a glorious world. Hallelujah, hallelujah sincerely, Natalie
–Happy Anniversary, What a gift you are to humanity! Love, Mary
–Blessings, dear Terry, for this 45th anniversary of Ordination, and the 90th anniversary of the birth of your beloved dad! Your Sabbath Moment reflections are a blessing to all who read them. Savor the day, the sacrament of the present moment! Carol
–I love your stories, Terry, but I have to go along with the reader that said they love your music and poetry. I would never think to pick up a book of poetry, but I definitely read the ones you provide.  They are always so inspiring.  Keep up the good work and hugs, hugs, hugs. Blessings,  Ann


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
Mary Oliver

May the angels of light
glisten for us this day
May the sparks of God’s beauty
dance in the eyes of those we love.
May the universe
be on fire with Presence for us this day.
May the new sun’s rising
grace us with gratitude.
Let Earth’s greenness shine
and its water breathe with Spirit.
Let heaven’s winds stir the soil of our soul
and fresh awakenings rise within us.
May the mighty angels of light
glisten in all things this day.
May they summon us to reverence,
may they call us to life.
-John Philip Newell
Praying with the Earth

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