The power to say yes

New to both the town and the church, Ellen wanted to be involved, to give of herself, to share her gifts.  As it happened, the parish needed a new tapestry for one of the smaller chapels.
And as a seamstress, Ellen considered this a perfect opportunity.
She worked diligently, using colorful and delicate fabric, recreating a well-known rendition of Mary the Mother of Jesus.  Others who had seen it were effusive, affirming that what she had created was beautiful.
When the day for the unveiling arrives, Ellen presents her gift with an understandable sense of gratification and fulfillment.  The answer from the church committee is unexpected and brief, “We can’t use this.”
(Because the tapestry was inappropriate or distasteful?  No.)
“The dimensions of the tapestry,” they tell her in a very measured tone, “are not quite correct.”
As Ellen tells me her story, I want to laugh out loud, until I realize that she is serious.  And I can feel my exasperation with small mindedness.  “You’re kidding,” I say. Then, “I’m sorry. That must have felt crazy.”
“At first, I was completely deflated,” she tells me. “But some time passed and then it occurred to me; I’m going to be okay. Do you know why? Because I didn’t make the tapestry for them.”

Yes, life can squeeze us.
Yes, circumstances can be unfair.
Yes, people can be cruel and without mercy.
And yes, the “system” can be crippling.
I can assure you that in her situation, I could have found a way to nurse a grudge.  But here’s the deal: If we don’t learn Ellen’s lesson, in the end we become encumbered, because we will cede our identity and our power — which means that we give up our ability… to choose, to create sanctuaries, to be intentional, to be generous, to be big-hearted, to be empathetic, to be compassionate, to forgive and to be willing to grow and to change.

“We live like ill-taught piano students,” Robert Capon reminded us. “We are so afraid of the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine,” we sang passionately as children.
“Let your light shine,” Jesus said.
Jesus never said, “Make the light. Or even, be good at light shining. Or, join the light shining committee at your church.” He said, Let, meaning allow, meaning get out of the way, because the light is already in you.
Yet for whatever reason, we don’t think of ourselves as shine the light material.
Perhaps, but I do know this; when we give in to anger or victimhood or resentment or the assumption that I’m shining the light to win someone’s approval, we put a bushel over the light. And that never works out so well… Meaning that we are no longer in our own skin, literally giving over our identity to something unrecognizable.

I write Sabbath Moment to stay sane emotionally and spiritually. And, to be a place for refueling for the SM community. I am honored you are a part of that community. When I started, in 2004, there was never any uneasiness about being (or not being) “political.” Times have changed, the partisan divide is arresting, and it befuddles me. Let me clear the air. This week some SM readers corrected me (with the best intention, there is no doubt) about my confession that I shed tears looking at photos of children being taken away from parents, telling me “it’s too bad you cried for fake photos.”  My confession, reading those emails, I cried again. Because I didn’t realize that now, with the subject of compassion, you need to take sides.  My friends, there is enough crippling stuff in the world. Tears are never partisan. And we’re on this journey together. It is my prayer that we are not paralyzed by antagonism.
I remembered Ellen’s story. And I realized that I wasn’t crying to please or impress anyone. I was crying because I want to connect with the core in me, with the light that shines (or to understand the reason I put a bushel over it), and to embrace the certainty and savor the gladness that comes when we recognize, honor, and respect the image of God in everyone. No exceptions.

Today… how do we learn what Ellen learned?
For starters… Vulnerability is okay. Welcome it. It is a place from which we speak the truth. Don’t be afraid.
There have been times this year when I have wrestled with exasperation.  And I have felt empty, in a place where it is easy to believe the whole world is colored by gloom. But when we are given over to fear, we cannot rest, or absorb, or create, or take delight.  And it is easy to forget Ellen’s poignant wisdom; that tapestry making is about living the moment–this moment–wholehearted, and without need for approval.
We have the power to do the right thing. The power to be an example of grace, not judgement. Of empathy, not intolerance. Of compassion, not meanness. Of hope, not fear.
“Never allow a person to tell you No, who doesn’t have the power to say Yes.”
Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Here’s the other part of the story; I love this… what started as an obstacle (impediment or hindrance), literally becomes a place from which her world (and mine) is transformed.
Let’s face it: more often than not, we resist and even resent obstacles.  We no longer see the tapestry, but only that which diminishes and belittles and shames.  We can feel overwhelmed and it is easy to be jaded. It is so easy to quit.  But what if beautiful tapestries are born in these very places where we are ready, literally, to give up?

So. Where do we find this reservoir that gives us the courage and strength and spirit to move forward?  I can tell you that overcoming obstacles is not the goal.  As if we must “defeat” someone or something.  Lord help us.
Ellen’s story is not about who “won” or “lost.”  It is about being at home in your skin and living from your heart.  Knowing that each day we are able to continue to weave the tapestry of our lives… with a purity of spirit and intention.
Let us be that place of affirmation.

“If it ain’t inside of you, it can’t come out of your horn,” Charlie Parker said. Every one of us needs the permission to feed (or fill) the reservoir that is already there.

It is easy to be afraid. Not hearing the music while nursing our fear of missing the right notes.  And fear becomes a taskmaster.  It hits me that the tapestries I create are no longer about what is in my heart, but about who I need to please or impress or even amaze… or just irritate…
Meaning that it’s not just choosing to create the tapestry, it’s that we choose to give up being afraid… of not being enough, of not measuring up, of being judged as insufficient.

This past week, summer solstice, our longest day. I hope you savored every moment.
This weekend, the Vashon Island Garden Tour, exquisite gardens to wander and relish and point… and envy.
I’m on the patio tonight, enjoying a wee dram, watching the birds, and letting the gift of ordinary days wash over me.

Quotes for your week…
Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.  Emily Dickinson

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.  Ambrose Redmoon

Friends… Once a year, in November and December, we do a pledge drive. Your gifts make this ministry possible. Please know I am grateful. I’m posting this now, just in case you didn’t want to wait until the end of the year to make a donation, or to become a Sustaining Partner. There’s a wonderful eCourse gifted to all Partners… Check it out… give today…


POEMS AND PRAYERS

 

Just Showed Up for My Life
Spending my time sleep walking
​​​​​​​Moving my mouth but not saying a thing
​​​​​​​Hoping the changes would take by working their way from the outside in
​​​​​​​I was in love with an idea
​​​​​​​Preoccupied with how a life should appear
​​​​​​​Spending my time at the surface repairing the holes in the shiny veneer
​​​​​​​There are so many ways to hide
​​​​​​​There are so many ways not to feel
​​​​​​​There are so many ways to deny what is real
​​​​​​​And I just showed up for my own life
​​​​​​​And I’m standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright
​​​​​​​I’m going to live my life inspired
​​​​​​​Look for the holy in the common place
​​​​​​​Open the windows and feel all that’s honest and real until I’m truly amazed
​​​​​​​I’m going to feel all my emotions
​​​​​​​I’m going to look you in the eyes
​​​​​​​I’m going to listen and hear until it’s finally clear and it changes our lives
​​​​​​​There are so many ways to hide
​​​​​​​There are so many ways not to feel
​​​​​​​There are so many ways to deny what is real
​​​​​​​And I just showed up for my own life
​​​​​​​And I’m standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright
​​​​​​​Oh the glory of God is man fully alive
​​​​​​​Oh the glory of God is man fully alive
​​​​​​​There are so many ways to hide
​​​​​​​There are so many ways not to feel
​​​​​​​There are so many ways to deny what is real
​​​​​​​And I just showed up for my own life
​​​​​​​And I’m standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright
​​​​​​​By Sara Groves and Joel Hanson         

Let this be our prayer for the world…
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Amen.
Rabbi Harold Kushner


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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