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Category Archives: Sabbath

Tewksbury Road

There is something about walking in nature that stimulates all the senses. I come alive in those walks and feel energized. We walked the North Saskatchewan River Valley two years ago during Autumn. The leaves turned colour. Over time, I smelled rich decay as Nature continued in her life-cycle.

Nature celebrates her Sabbath. It is a time of renewal emerging from what was alive. She never wastes.

John Masefield described a pastoral scene I imagined in a multi-sensory way. There is a universality in these scenes that touches the spirit.

It is good to be out on the road, and going one knows not where,

Going through meadow and village, one knows not whither or why;

Through the grey light drift of the dust, in the keen cool rush of the air,

Under the flying white clouds, and the broad blue lift of the sky.

And to halt at the chattering brook, in a tall green fern at the brink

Where the harebell grows, and the gorse, and the foxgloves purple and white;

Where the shifty-eyed delicate deer troop down to the brook to drink

When the stars are mellow and large at the coming on of the night.

O, to feel the beat of the rain, and the homely smell of the earth,

Is a tune for the blood to jig to, and joy past power of words;

And the blessed green comely meadows are all a-ripple with mirth

At the noise of the lambs at play and the dear wild cry of the birds.

Fire

Judy Brown wrote this poem and it is a gentle reminder of spaces in our lives that softly breath passion back into living. In these spaces, we lightly lay com-passion, integrating it in life and rekindling  passion.

Sabbath is an ongoing event. It is the daily pauses taken to be thankful and momentarily rest. It is meditation and prayer, listening not for certainty and answers, but more likely questions serving as life’s fuel. It is being in Nature and seeing ourselves as a small part of the larger whole.

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.

A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

For Courage

John O’Donohue wrote this lovely poem about the need for quiet spaces where we rekindle the love and joy we find in living life. I attended and presented at a small leadership symposium today. Although it was an invigorating two days, my brain is a bit like mush.

I think I will close my eyes, gather a little kindling around my heart, and seek to create a new spark to light my way.

Close your eyes.
Gather all the kindling
About your heart.
To create one spark.
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark.
Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive
To urge you toward higher ground
Where your imagination
Will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!

Awareness Knowing Itself

I just met Danna Faulds poetry. I used this poem as it has a sabbath quality to it. The words suggest stillness and non-reaching that mesh together. The real me is living inside stillness and non-reaching. Letting go affords  opportunities to locate myself in the effortless that emerges.

Settle in the here and now.
Reach down into the center
where the world is not spinning
and drink this holy peace.

Feel relief flood into every
cell. Nothing to do. Nothing
to be but what you are already.
Nothing to receive but what
flows effortlessly from the
mystery into form.

Nothing to run from or run
toward. Just this breath,
awareness knowing itself as
embodiment. Just this breath,
awareness waking up to truth.

This is what you shall do

This is not a poem, but Walt Whitman used poetic language and deep meditative thought it qualifies. He used  language in ways that are politically incorrect today, but provided considerable insight into what it might mean to be a servant-leader and live in the world that way.

I become part of the world and it is embodied in me in such remarkable ways as I learn from the world. I think that is the counsel that this passage provides for me and asks of me.

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons with the young and the mother of families, read these leaves in the open air every season in every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…”

Men Say They Know Many Things

Henry David Thoreau wrote this poem at a time he could not have foreseen where we are with the thousands of appliances. He thought it was only a thousand appliances. There are times I get lost in them and forget they are separate from me and only tools that enable a particular job. At the same, I realize used wisely they advance life and the tasks involved.

The arts and sciences blend together, but I would take it a step further and suggest that the spiritual and the sciences are not separate from each other. When I take time and see life through a lens that allows me to understand what is at hand, I can make wiser decisions and feel that wind blow.

Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings, —
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.

Otherwise

There are always otherwises in life we can never know, because they have not happened and perhaps never will. In many ways, I am grateful for not having experienced the otherwises that might replace getting out of bed on two strong legs or eating my cereal, breakfast bar, and banana each morning. Or, drinking tea as part who I am.

Jane Kenyon wrote about things we take for granted because they are ingrained in who we are and we pay little attention to them. They are the ordinary things that in many ways are extraordinary.

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Praying

Mary Oliver writes in uncomplicated ways. It is not simple, but there are elements of simplicity linked to complexity. Her poem Praying is an example of this simplexity. Praying is an entreaty or asks for something and suggests creating space for responses. There is a simplicity in the way prayer unfolds. It happens anywhere, anytime, and with few words. The complex part is being quiet and discerning the answers. This requires quiet spaces that we have to craft out of the busyness of modern lives and days.

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.

Inviting Silence

Until yesterday, I had not heard of Gunilla Norris and her poetry. Parker Palmer sent a Facebook message with this beautiful poem embedded. It is a long poem, but is worth whiling and lingering over. Parker Palmer writes about the need for silence in life. This allows us turn inward and listen as our soul speaks to us.

As I move forward in the dissertation process, several things stood out in this poem. Sharing silence as a political act reminded me of how the polis consists of persons where exchanging anything suggests we act politically. In the early writing stages, I argue that teaching is a series of ongoing political actions as we choose the way we teach and what we teach.

Thich Nhat Hanh suggested we find the extraordinary in the ordinary. It is in the lives of each person that the extraordinary potentially emerges. It is in a thoughtful pedagogy that this can emerge in our self, our children, and their children. It is Sabbath’s silence we find space.

Within each of us there is a silence

–a silence as vast as a universe.

We are afraid of it…and we long for it.

When we experience that silence, we remember

who we are: creatures of the stars, created

from the cooling of this plant, created

from dust and gas, created

from the elements, created

from time and space…created

from silence.

The experience of silence is now so rare

that we must cultivate it and treasure it.

That is especially true for shared silence.

Sharing silence is, in fact, a political act.

When we can stand aside from the usual and

perceive the fundamental, change begins to happen.

Our lives align with deeper values

and the lives of others are touched and influenced.

Silence brings us to back to basics, to our senses,

to our selves. It locates us. Without that return

we can go so far away from our true natures

that we end up, quite literally, beside ourselves.

We live blindly and act thoughtlessly.

We endanger the delicate balance which sustains

our lives, our communities, and our planet.

Each of can make a difference.

Politicians and visionaries will not return us

to the sacredness of life.

That will be done by ordinary men and women

who together or alone can say,

“Remember to breathe, remember to feel,

remember to care,

let us do this for our children and ourselves

and our children’s children.

Let us practice for life’s sake.”

The Journey

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. When I open a book, I am often drawn to her writing. There is something in the simplicity that is profound. She peels away layers in ways that help me see the world quite differently.

Father Richard Rohr comments that we live the first half of life in busyness and, if we are lucky, the second half is one where we slow the pace, contemplate, and find wisdom which helps us grow into the life we are.

Quite often, the voices which distract and the barriers on the road are ones I create. It takes time, patience, and support to find the light seeping through clouds. The stars’ make the journey hopeful, that I can go deeper into the life.

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations–

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice,

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

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