“I talk to people about you, just so you know,” I tell my congregation, the sheep. “I tell them that you all are the picture of serenity and contentment.”
There is no affect in their faces. And I thought they’d be happy with this. Or at least impressed.
A young one asks, “What’s serenity?”
“Being glad to be here. Like resting in gladness.”
“What else is there?” his look told me. I smile, knowing all too well our human proclivity: It’s okay to be content, but are we content enough? After all, we might be missing out.
Do you know the story of Rabbi Eizik, son of Rabbi Yekel of Cracow? After many years of hardship and poverty, he dreamed someone bade him look for a treasure in Prague, under the bridge that leads to the king’s palace. When the dream recurred a third time, Rabbi Eizik prepared for the journey and set out for Prague. But the bridge was guarded day and night and he did not dare to start digging. Nevertheless he went to the bridge every morning and kept walking around it until evening. Finally the captain of the guards, who had been watching him, asked in a kindly way whether he was looking for something or waiting for somebody. Rabbi Eizik told him of the dream that had brought him here from a faraway country.
The captain laughed: “And so to please the dream, you poor fellow wore out your shoes to come here! As for having faith in dreams, if I had, I should have set out when a dream once told me to go to Cracow and dig for treasure under the stove in the room of a Jew–Eizik, son of Yekel! I can just imagine what it would be like, how I should have to try every house over there, where one half of the Jews are named Eizik and the other Yekel!” And he laughed again.
Rabbi Eizik bowed, traveled home, dug up the treasure from under the stove in his house, and built the House of Prayer, which is called “Reb Eizik Reb Yekel’s Shul.”
Martin Buber sums up the story this way, “There is something that can only be found in one place. It is a great treasure, which may be called the fulfillment of existence. The place where this treasure can be found is the place on which one stands.”
Yes. And especially in a world where the news cycle and its uncertainty shakes the ground we stand on.
The great treasure of being present.
The great treasure of being glad to be alive.
The great treasure of heartfelt joy. To be here. Now. This is good news.
And some stories should just be left alone. But, I’m a preacher, and have a hard time knowing when to stop…
You see. I love this story. I concur 100%. And it does my heart good. And yet. Why the inner unrest? Is it our preoccupation with distraction?
It is as if we believe that we live from some kind of deficiency. As if we’re not where we “should be”, or even wish to be.
And inside, (this is my confession), I rage against…
–my fragile nature and inelegant humanity,
–my inability to savor the very ordinary (and yes, messy) moments,
–my feeling “at the mercy of” circumstances,
–my not “achieving” wholeness (like it’s a game to win).
This isn’t new… Several hundred years ago Pascal wrote, “By means of a diversion we can avoid our own company 24 hours a day.” But it’s not just diversion. It’s a kind of itch. A relentless hankering, and pursuit of something always elusive. As if life is always just beyond where we are NOW. (Say, under a bridge in Prague. Or, when life gets back to “normal”.)
Alfred E Neuman nailed it when he said, “Most of us don’t know what we want in life, but we’re sure we haven’t got it.”
Jackson Browne talked about this “pursuit.” He wrote in an early song about “the first time I went on my own, when the roads were as many as the places I had dreamed of, and my friends and I were one.” Yet in a later song called “Running on Empty,” he concludes, “I look around for the friends that I used to turn to, to pull me through; looking into their eyes, I see them running, too.”
In other words, I’m all for living the present moment. Just not this one. And yet, the great treasure of a fulfilled life, is in the ground where I stand (and walk, work, live and love).
We would love to practice Rabbi Eizik’s wisdom, but there is no simple list here. Again, from Martin Buber, “Where is the dwelling of God?” This was the question with which the Rabbi of Kotzk surprised a number of learned men who happened to be visiting him. They laughed at him: “What a thing to ask! Is not the whole world full of His glory?”
Then he answered his own question: “God dwells wherever man lets Him in.”
“This is the ultimate purpose: to let God in. But we can let God in only where we really stand, where we live, where we live a true life. If we maintain holy intercourse with the little world entrusted to us, if we help the holy spiritual substance to accomplish itself in that section of Creation in which we are living, then we are establishing, in this our place, a dwelling for the Divine Presence.”
I tell the sheep that my garden is my teacher. There I find treasures, moments of serenity (resting in gladness), when snapshots, vistas, colors, fragrance makes the world stand still. My urgency fades. This is the value in making rituals (containers where we are available to grace). I’m with May Sarton on this; I spend the first part of the morning wandering and looking for miracles.
Here’s the paradigm shift. With our cognitive or cerebral approach, we still see the treasure (of being present) as something to acquire. And, we miss that it is alive and well, inside us. There is sufficiency even when the well feels dry.
When we see only scarcity, we let anger or blame have its way. We feel raw and at the mercy of. “Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart,” wrote Thomas Merton. “It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves.”
So. Today, let us dig for that treasure “at home”… to pause, and in gratitude savor gladness. To let that treasure spill to those around us, in listening, standing with, empathy, kindness and inclusion.
Speaking of doing your heart good. Check out the Ubi Caritas YouTube below.
Here in the PNW, we’re having a cooler summer than normal. No complaints. Apologies for Sabbath Moment friends in parts of the country (and world) where thermometers read triple digits.
Tonight, potatoes, peas and lettuce from the garden. Not a bad treasure indeed.
Quote for your week… In the light of eternity, we’re here for a very short time, really. We’re here for one thing, ultimately: to learn how to love, because God is love. Love is our origin, love is our ground, and love is our destiny. James Finley
NEW. Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Tuesday through Friday. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.
Coming soon; a new book. The Gift of Enough–a journal for the present moment (Franciscan Media). Stay tuned. And I will be making another eCourse available at no cost – This Is The Life. There will be Zoom gatherings involved. Info to come next week.
August 1. Zoom Webinar — This Is The Life. Information
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Terry, You have spoiled your readers with the Daily dose. It’s so wonderful to have it during these times. Blessings Cynthia
–Terry, Thank you for the story of the song calling us home. We all have a song. Mine is The Song of Silence! Very Grateful, Steve
–I have always been someone who is amazed, particularly by nature. I also have been someone who felt rather alone in my amazement, because no one I knew seemed to feel the same level of excitement at the sights, sounds, smells as I did. I thought that others, even my family, probably thought I was weird. Thank you for your words, which allow me to accept the value of who I am more, even when others may not. Foggy morning on Cape Cod.
–Terry, Thank you so much for your words of comfort especially during this time of deep unrest in the world. I will miss seeing you at Shrine Mont’s Fall Camp this year and look forward to the event in 2021. I love being a virtual gardener and farmer, your photographs bring great joy. I pray for your health and your ministry. Stay well. May God’s Love, Mercy and Grace be with you Always, Betty
–Terry, Thank you! You have a way of writing exactly what I need to hear on a particular day. Our retirement building is now quarantined because of a staff member with an active case of the virus. This means we’re confined to our apartments. I am so grateful to have a little balcony with plants and a view. And now I’ll think happily of the Carters and their wonderful example as I sit there. Thank you!! Anne
–Kindness is another rippling cornerstone to practice. And It’s inclusive! Shauna
–Once again my Monday complete with your sabbath moment. Great story of the song Jews would listen for as they hid. How nice an entire town could come together don’t know why we can’t come together today. Praying for safety and peace. Raedene (ZOOM gatherings and a new book!!!!!!!!! You are home to a lot of us out here.)
–Two of my most cherished referred to in today’s Sabbath Moment: butterflies and Merton! I can reflect on them all morning as I begin a new week. Pam
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
What I’ve learned.
To take a look at little things
and see the blessings that they bring.
They are alive in all our lives
but missed by our distracted eyes.
Now, I have the time to stop and stare.
Take a break from constant care.
Appreciate the cows and sheep
As under boughs, they stand or sleep.
Crunch through wood’s gold, leaf strewn floors,
as squirrels stow nuts in winter’s store.
Be transfixed as day folds into night,
a kaleidoscope of pure delight.
Bewitched as wind makes nature dance
In a twisting, twirling spellbound trance.
Give ears to the morning chorus choir,
as nature’s majesty conspires,
to show a life not full of care,
where there’s always time to stop and stare.
The first rule is simply this:
Live this life and do whatever is done, in a spirit of thanksgiving.
Abandon attempts to achieve security, they are futile,
Give up the search for wealth, it is demeaning,
Quit the search for salvation it is selfish,
And come to comfortable rest in the certainty
That those who participate in this life
With an attitude of thanksgiving will receive its full promise.
Always we begin again: The Benedictine Way of living