“Do you have any stories for people who feel like the world is upside down? For those of us carrying grief?” A reader asked.
The answer is yes.
For starters, I’m glad she asked. You see, I probably wouldn’t have. When life gets sticky for me, I shut down… I can manage, thank you very much. Even though (truth be told) I really can’t.
Each week I receive several notes and emails from readers with stories about real hurt and adversity. Stories about people we love and people we lose, about life’s expectations and what happens when reality bumps into the muck and mire. I’m grateful to receive the notes, and the stories tug at me.
And the question for every one of us—in a season of grief and uncertainty, “What now?”
I am writing this as I get ready to walk down and watch the sunset from the beach on Manasota Key, Florida, with our friends Ed and Kathleen. When you watch the sunset here (in mid-winter), it’s a good place to let the dust from busy and noise and distraction settle. It took us an extra day to get here (with flight cancellations), but gratefully delays and interruptions cannot undo life’s gifts.
Okay, where was I going, before being sidetracked by the beach… Oh yes, stories when life feels upside down…
“Years ago I had the experience of sitting around in a living room with a bunch of people and singing and playing. And it was like a spiritual experience. It was wonderful,” Emmylou Harris says, on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band CD, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. “Over the years of making records we’ve all gotten a little too technical and too hung up on getting things perfect. We’ve lost the living room. The living room has gone out of the music. Today, we got it back.”
Most of us can relate… you know, the itch (or burden) to make things perfect. The enigma weight from needing to keep score. And the question lingers, “Did we do it right?”
Gratefully, we resonate with the return to the sanctuary of the “living room,” that place of replenishment, where we can listen to our heart, regain our soul, hear the voice of grace… and let the music (the gift of the present moment) spill.
Count me in. How about you?
And yet, there’s a part of us that wants to ask, “So; what exactly do we need to do, to get the living room back?” It is our knee jerk response, from a western mentality which finds solace in the five steps that allows for some resolution.
Here’s the deal: Where there is a place to be seen, to be heard, to be valued, sanctuary is real, and healing happens.
Healing happens when we allow ourselves to feel, fully and wholly without a need to defend, justify or explain.
Healing happens when we allow ourselves to receive love, compassion and kindness without suspicion.
Healing happens when we find life without being afraid.
Healing happens when we are free to embrace an extraordinary core of strength and courage that resides inside of us… and without even realizing it, let it spill to those around us.
St. Bartholomew’s reminder is apropos, “Many of us spend our whole lives running from feelings with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are, beyond the pain.”
The last thing we need is someone pretending there is no pain, or it doesn’t hurt. The good news is that when we don’t have words, we can offer the gift of our self.
And that’s when the healing begins.
When a young girl returned home from school in tears, her Mother worried, and asked, “Sweetheart, what happened?”
“It was awful,” the girl told her Mother. “My best friend’s cat died. And she was very, very sad. And I don’t think I’m a good best friend, because I didn’t know the right words to say, to try to help her.”
“What did you do?” the mother asked.
“I just held her hand and cried with her all day.”
When we have the least answers, we are most needed. Let’s make presence and attention our new currency.
I’m remembering a scene from West Wing. The episode when Josh is navigating Post Traumatic Stress, and life (internally and literally) for him, is on edge.
Leo tells Josh this story; “This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.
“A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
“Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
“Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'”
Presence and attention, our new currency. Instead of a need to keep score.
Grace walks into our lives like this. It doesn’t always come in big ways or obvious miracles. Sometimes it’s just someone acknowledging our pain. It isn’t always a complete removal from the pit. Sometimes it’s just someone coming into the pit and spending some time with us or seeing that we need some sort of help and getting it without us asking.
Like it or not, no one of us is on this journey alone.
This morning we gathered in a friend’s home for church. Singing, prayers and Eucharist. Well, five of us. A part of the reading for Holy Communion;
We are those who have each other at this table,
And we are those who have family often too far away.
We are friends loving each other in the way of God’s love.
We look for light in darkness,
Epiphanies in uncertainty,
Holding each other in this sacred time of joyful communion in Christ.
(Thank you Don Wilson)
A few more days of vacation, and then back to the PNW. Savor your days my friends.
Quote for our week…
When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri Nouwen
SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD
Today’s Photo Credit: “Good Morning Terry, Thank you for SM! I always enjoy your thought provoking words. This week I’ll sit and honor a part of me. Even a part of me I’m ashamed of in hopes of better understanding myself. I will be praying for you and your ministry. So sorry we missed you when you came to Virginia. We have family in Seattle and maybe during a visit we will bump into you! Who knows! This picture is of sunset after a day of snow. God’s artwork is so beautiful! We live in Port Haywood, Virginia on a Horn Harbor which enters into the Chesapeake Bay. Pax et Bonum!” Rick Churray… Thank you Rick… Keep sending your photos… send to email@example.com
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)
–Hi Terry, I don’t read you every Monday, but lately, I have. Thanks for another wonderful email and for the speedy delivery of the books I ordered, too. Instead of resolutions, I try to pick a word to guide me each year. For 2021, it was wonder (in all its definitions, including awe). In 2020, it was learn, and that certainly served me well in a year that sent us all back to school, even as schools and everything else shut down. I haven’t yet settled on a word for 2022. Acceptance and connection have been on my mind, so it was great to see echoes of those in what you shared. And now “wholehearted” is in the mix, too. Have a good week! And thank you. Julie
–Dear Terry, You always bring such inner warmth to the heart and soul. Even now as I know you are settling in under the quiet solitude of snowfall, May your hearth be as warm as your heart that glows with “Sabbath Rest” restored. Thank you for your goodness and for sharing your prayers and promises of blessings. Father Larry ofm
POEMS AND PRAYERS
To be a Child Once Again
And in the sea our true selves
will unfold and we will be one before God,
and the sea will touch our hearts,
and our souls will be filled with gladness,
like that of a child.
And once again, we shall be free.
We Look With Uncertainty
We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.