“Oh the land of the cloudless day,” Willie sings. The music is cranked up, of course, to the level that makes your heart swell.
And I smile big, thinking how I prefer my life and my stories that way; with cloudless endings. Can you relate?
You know, stories with a beginning, a middle and an end tied up neatly with twine, and sealed with a kiss. The ones we tell with great satisfaction, lessons drawn out like fresh honey from the hive.
But the truth is that most stories are larger, and we are invited to make our homes right amid the mystery.
And when things don’t fit, it can trigger exasperation (“I didn’t sign up for this”).
And in our spirit, a blinking light, reminding us that our emotional fuel level is low.
On my walk, I ask the sheep about stories without endings. That doesn’t seem to register. So, I ask, “You guys have this thing—living the present—down, with no anxiety. What’s up with that?”
The answer came in their unruffled demeanor, “It helps to distinguish between big world and small world.”
That does my heart good. Yes. Too often, with “big world” (especially looking for that cloudless day), the news feels unnerving, in your face and stoked with anger. No wonder we feel as if our control is demoted. No wonder we ask, how can I make a difference in this broken world if the story is still befuddling and unfolding?
That’s just it; we make a difference in the “small world”.
The small world is the place where we stand. Today. With questions, inconvenience, pain, messy stories and all.
The small world is where we care, where we give a damn. Where we hug (even virtually) and give and try and love and fall down and get up and repent and cry and embrace and challenge and reconcile and heal. And make sure we tell those not doing so good, “We’ve got you.”
The small world that we touch, and begin to heal.
Have you read Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, by Douglas Wood? The children’s book tells an imaginary story of how the world came to be so fragmented when it is meant to be whole, and how we might put it back together again.
In a far-away land that “is somehow not so far away,” one night a truth falls from the stars. And as it falls, it breaks into two pieces–one piece blazes off through the sky and the other falls straight to the ground.
One day a “truth” falls from the sky and breaks. One day a man stumbles upon the gravity-drawn truth, and finds carved on it the words, “You are loved.”
It makes him feel good, so he keeps it and shares it with the people in his tribe. The thing sparkles and makes the people who have it feel warm and happy. It becomes their most prized possession, and they call it “The Truth.” Those who have the truth grow afraid of those who don’t have it, who are different than they are. And those who don’t have it covet it. Soon people are fighting wars over the small truth, trying to capture it for themselves.
A little girl who is troubled by the growing violence, greed, and destruction in her once peaceful world goes on a journey-through the Mountains of Imagining, the River of Wondering Why, and the Forest of Finding Out–to speak with Old Turtle, the wise counselor. Old Turtle tells her that the Truth is broken and missing a piece, a piece that shot off in the night sky so long ago. Together they search for it, and when they find it the little girl puts the jagged piece in her pocket and returns to her people. She tries to explain, but no one will listen or understand. Finally, a raven flies the broken truth to the top of a tower where the other piece had been ensconced for safety, and the rejoined pieces shine their full message: “You are loved / and so are they.” And the people begin to comprehend. And the earth begins to heal.
However, the story doesn’t end here. There’s no neat bow. But there is an invitation to “find freedom, aliveness, and power,” in Eve Ensler’s words, “not from what contains, locates, or protects us, but from what dissolves, reveals, and expands us.”
And here’s the deal: Now, we can live out the story—our story—with new self-compassionate eyes.
Old Turtle offers a paradigm shift, to reclaim the self and hydrate our soul.
Pull up a chair. Pour yourself a cup of coffee.
“There is a paradoxical urgency at this time in history to slowing down,” poet Kim Rosen writes, “focusing on what matters, looking into each other’s eyes and speaking the truth.”
One. We live grounded in sufficiency and grace.
Before we arrive or solve, we can simply be. Instead of seeking to abruptly pass through a threshold, we can pause. And in so doing, we learn, and know what we now carry. John Philip Newell’s reminder, “Do we know that within each one of us is the unspeakably beautiful beat of the Sacred? Do we know that we can honor that Sacredness in one another and in everything that has being? And do we know that this combination—growing in awareness that we are bearers of Presence, along with a faithful commitment to honor that Presence in one another and in the earth—holds the key to transformation in our world?”
Two. We spill this light using “small world” skills. Small world, the world we touch. Skills like compassion, empathy, understanding, and recognition of the other. The very skills that change lives one heart and one mind at a time.
No one said it would be easy. Lord have mercy… Where’s the uncloudy day?
And yet, “Spirituality means waking up.” (Anthony de Mello reminded us.) Waking up is about bringing myself, this self, to this moment. It is about presence and awareness (mindfulness) even during uncertainty and impermanence.
Reminds me of a cartoon. Two men walking to the top of a sacred mountain to talk with a great guru. “Life is like a river,” says the guru.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” say the men. They begin to choke the guru.
“Okay, okay,” says the guru. “Life is not like a river.”
Borrowing from Yogi Berra, “the future ain’t what is used to be.” And when we’re hardwired to arrive, it’s not easy to embrace the gift of enough, today. But the invitation is there, just the same.
I’m grateful for my garden. And there’s no “arrival” here. It’s story wonderfully alive and unfolding. The invitation to notice colors, textures, the expansiveness of minutes, and the transient moods and thoughts that do your heart good.
At the feeder all day, a Goldfinch reunion.
Quote for your week…
The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in a time of crisis. Thurgood Marshall
Notes: Resources, tool and practices to keep us replenished and nourished. We are grateful for those who joined us for the Power of Pause eCourse. So, we added another eCourse at no cost: Sacred Necessities.
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Ahem, with love……. Hallelujah=Handel. Ode to Joy=Beethoven. Ron
Indeed… thank you… still smiling…
–Hello Terry, I just wanted to thank you for the gift of being you and sharing yourself with all of us.I facilitate two women Bible Studies and we are meeting through Zoom on Wednesday mornings. I know that the course you are offering will be so very good for their hearts and souls. These are crazy, scary times and I feel we must turn to, look to and hold onto the Presence of God that is all encompassing each one of us. Last we week read Pope Francis “Lumen Fidei, Light of Faith” you Terry are a Light of Faith, keep shining your light on this world. Peace and joy, Gerry
–Terry, A delayed response but off the charts great recent Sabbath moment!! My spirituality has actually increased with all the online spiritual offerings. I’ve been able to virtually go to mass every day at St. Monica. Plus a ton of Alanon meetings. I’ve even had to reduce my time on people making outreach calls to me. Plus I’ve been creative. I’m sending out Daily gratitude statements and have three episodes recorded of my dorky cooking show. Trying to be a light to others like you are to countless people. Thank you Terry you’re a religious rockstar God bless you and your family!
–This current situation has been a blessing for me. I’ve been needing a respite from the daily doings for a very long time. I’m less distracted by shopping, more intent on morning coffee and prayers, questioning my future path ( I’m 70) and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve started painting again, reading and doing more gardening. Much more. You see, my story is the continuation story of the others that came before me and a connection for those coming after. Maybe, being the connection is enough. Sarah
–Hi Terry, I would like to sign up but am still working on the first. Can I postpone the second a few weeks? Betsy
Sign up anytime… it will be there.
–Dear brother, Terry, This is such a precious and inspirational reflection to savor in serenity, silence, and stillness. Thank you, dear brother, for your vision of “I see you!” This view of life in these present circumstances is a treasure to behold. Larry
–I don’t have sheep to hear me but, have less than one acre, with gardens, throughout and I talk to the birds. And I have been sending card to many of my friends from our church. Many are isolated with no family close by. I am currently on house arrest due to fact I have Lupus and Asthma. During these months I have stopped and paused and thank God for all he gave us. And my husband has learned to grocery shop!! Celia
–Thanks so much Terry. I’m the Vocations Director in San Bernardino Diocese and I really loved our prayer day with you! I think it was just a couple of weeks before The “shutdown”. I really enjoyed your presence with us and have been looking forward to more so I’m taking this eCourse. Anyway blessings on you and your wonderful energy. Take it easy hear the birds and keep helping people so beautifully!!! Peace n hope Sarah
–Dear Terry, I cannot help but recall Jesus walking on the water. Peter sees him. (Sawa Bona) and Jesus tells him who he is with reassurance (Sikona) It is increasingly difficult these days to believe that we can take that first step without sinking, and like Peter, we will sink until that inner core recognizes that we are not alone. Indeed “I Am” is here. See it and truly believe it . Thanks again for being part of my pause each Monday morning. Jim
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing upset you.
God alone is unchanging.
With patience all things are possible.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.
St. Teresa of Avila
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
Mary Oliver, Thirst
Thank you for all the places you have given us to nourish our prayer.
The churches, chapels, and shrines that lift our minds and hearts to you with their vastness or coziness, their ornateness or simplicity, their silence or song.
Thank you for that holy-place-of-who-we-are where we meet you dwelling within our very selves.
Thank you for your marvelous creation–for its beauty and mystery, its power and fragility, its immensity and teeny-weeniness, its diversity and interconnectedness.
And finally, thank you for the gift of daily life, those times of routine and interruptions, ambiguity and clarity, choosings and surrenderings, teachings and learnings, the expected and the surprising.
And please, Beloved Author of All, give us the grace to find you present in the whole of our lives.