“In every religious tradition there is a practice of devotion and a practice of transformation . . .Thich Nhat Hanh in Living Buddha, Living Christ
Devotion means trusting more in ourselves and in the path we follow. Transformation means to practice the things this path imposes on us.”
Last week we travelled to the funeral of a friend who lived for 99 dynamic, gratitude-filled years.
During the service, the leader spoke about how Jessie made notes in her Bible beside meaningful passages.
“This is the day that God has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”Psalm 118:24
Beside that psalm, she had written, “I do! I do! I do!”
And she did.
Jessie had learned to persevere and find gratitude through the hardest times, including the loss of a spouse when she was a young mother of four children and, later, the death of one of those children.
Almost ten years ago when she turned 90, I wrote this poem to rejoice and be glad in a friend. It was inspired by this Hafiz quote.
“I am the hole in a flute that God’s breath moves through.”Hafiz
The wind blows, tentative at first
Gentle lullabies for new life
“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”
Inkwells in school desks
Hopscotch and hide-and-seek.
The breath wafts, bright youthful notes
Transcending the Great Depression
“We Sure Got Hard Times Now”
Sweets a treasured treat.
The wind gusts, stronger and unbending
Rising above war years all too real
“Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye”
Silk stockings painted on
Evenings by the radio.
The breath carries, steady and assured
Young wife and mother in her home
“Teach Your Children”
Hands on feverish foreheads
Love disguised as irritation.
The wind slows, a sombre requiem
The loss of those far too young
“Paint It Black”
I heard the news
Hugs shared through hurt.
The breath renews, harmonious and healing
The first laugh after the pain
“A Brand New Day”
Looking to the future.
The breath moves, celebrating and dancing
Life not defined by age
“Never Grow Old”
The breath of God.
Last week one of my favourite bloggers, Roughwighting, wrote about adding an eighth day to the week: Wonder Day.
Her Wonder Day would not be for work, worry, doing or wanting. It would be for walking, dancing, holding hands, contemplating and enjoying the sweetness of life.
This week I’m wonder walking in London, England. As I walk and bump up against history on every block, I wonder and learn. As I meet new people, fall into the magic of West End theatre productions and expand my knowledge of British ales, I appreciate how “wonder” full the city is.
If a full Wonder Day is out of reach, even a Wonder Moment pivots a day from ordinary to holy.
What in your environment right now makes you wonder about it?
What in your environment right now make you think, How wonder-full?
Enjoy an ordinary, holy Wonder Moment.
On Tuesdays when I work in downtown Ottawa, Canada, I get out of my office at noon and go for a walk.
Ottawa is a beautiful city for a walk. I pass the tremendous Parliament Buildings that never fail to awe me with the power of their structures and the peace and freedom they represent.
I stroll down by the Rideau Canal locks and along the Ottawa River.
I walk by green parks and look up at rugged rock cliffs.
No matter what’s happening in life, the sights of my noon-hour walk lighten my spirits, re-place events into proper perspective and bring me joy.
Everything in life might not be perfect, but I can smile regardless.
The bicycle path where I walk along the Ottawa River flooded last year in the mighty spring flood. The concrete developed potholes that repair crews later patched. Someone who enjoys a touch of whimsy added a smiley face to one of those potholes.
Even though we occasionally get flooded, even though we need to get patched up from time to time, we can smile and know that all shall be well for moving forward again.
All is well.
On the third Sunday of Advent we lit the JOY candle at our church.
This year a woman who I greatly admire lit the candle, and she spoke about what JOY means to her. Shirley talked about the many JOYous times her family—now grown—spent together in their back yard and down by the Ottawa River. The husband she’s been married to for 67 years brings her much JOY. She told us how much JOY she derives from volunteering and from the work she does with the church.
Then it came time to talk about her sister.
Shirley’s sister had passed away in mid-December and the celebration of her life had been held a few days before. Tears came to my friend’s eyes and she took a moment to collect herself.
I thought, “She’s crying during a talk about JOY!”
As she went on to talk about their close relationship and the smiles and laughs the sisters shared over many years, tears did not seem incongruous at all. Deep down at the heart of the grief over the loss of her sister was JOY. Happy memories.
I thought, “She’s en-JOYing her grief.” Actively choosing to see the JOY below the surface during a difficult time. Injecting JOY into the moment.
En-JOY 2018. May you choose to let the JOY that is at the heart of any sorrow bubble up.
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
. . . When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.”
—Kahlil Gibran On Joy and Sorrow
From the Charter for Compassion Facebook page:
We feel the influence of the United States of America here in Canada. When “sleeping with an elephant,” as former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau put it, we cannot help but feel the effects. Sometimes the association challenges us—the past year has been eyebrow-raising to say the least—but most often we celebrate the gifts of the mighty nation. Like this week, for example. Even though our Canadian Thanksgiving is long past, this week we sense the American time of gratitude. Knowing that our friends to the south are taking time to be thankful reminds us to seek it out ourselves.
We practised a “heart of the matter” form of gratitude in our house during the period within our kitchen renovation when the sink had no running water. Inconvenient, right? You betcha. But when we walked the ten feet to one of the FOUR bathrooms in our house to turn on a tap to access CLEAN, ACCESSIBLE water effortlessly, we said to ourselves, “We didn’t have to walk for miles with a bucket to fetch water that might or might not be potable.” Gratitude for the ease with which we accessed a substance so vital to survival made the inconvenience of doing dishes in a small sink something to celebrate, not resent.
Gratitude brings joy, for sure, but the real gift of gratitude is its bridge to perseverance, its ability to help you go far in celebration instead of resentment. It places you in a Now that allows you to make it to the next Now, and the next, and the next . . .
Now, America, fair and softly, thank you. Now, now, now . . .