Now is our time to be alive. It will not come again. This is our last chance to savor nature and all of its wonder, to spend time with loved ones, to do good, to spread joy. This is it. This is our opportunity.
In the movie, Michael, an angel comes to Earth to influence the course of events. He, apparently, smells of cookies. But there is a scene, after ‘battle’ (he’s that kind of angel), when he is savoring the day. He is soaking it in, just enjoying being corporeal, waltzing with the breeze.
If only we could hold on to that wonder, awe, and appreciation, live in the moment, truly appreciate all we’ve been given here. What a fine world that would be.
People have always told stories. Plopped down on this earth with so much beyond our understanding, we struggle to make sense of things, to find cohesion and purpose, and to fit. We long for meaning outside of our circumstance and kinship beyond our borders.
Stories help. They comfort and guide us, inspire and warn, and make us feel less alone. Others feel the way you feel. And, at the root of story, is a turning away from ourselves toward something greater.
My book GERTIE, THE DARLING DUCK OF WWII, was just released. It tells the non-fiction story of a time during WWII when things were bleak, hopes worn raw, when a little duck built her nest on a high pole above a foul river. A hopeless place, really, for keeping the ducklings alive. Yet, the city of Milwaukee rallied around this little duck and saved her brood. Stories about Gertie’s struggles captured the attention of the entire world, comforted soldiers overseas, and gave everyone a glimpse of a better day. Stories about Gertie shared the front page with stories about Hitler, kamikaze pilots, and concentration camps.
For me, Gertie’s story will always be an embodiment of Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” To me, her story feels like a message of hope in the darkest of times, a prayer and response.
At heart, most stories are a prayer—a way of reaching for something more, a hope, a yearning, a plea. Stories help connect us and give us peeks behind the curtain.
Have you been somewhere new recently? Maybe somewhere where everyone knows each other but you? Was there someone there who made you feel welcome?
When we remember what it feels like to be an outsider, we realize how powerful a warm welcome is. How generous the welcomer was to look outside of their usual orbit to notice a stranger and invite them in. A smile is the first step.
For today, consider this lovely poem on smiles and consider who you might welcome. How lucky you are to be in the position to welcome another!
In The Adventure of Tom Sawyer, Tom and Huck attend their own funeral, overhearing all the nice things the town members had to say about them, the kinds of things they rarely heard in life.
As the service proceeded, the clergyman drew such pictures of the graces, the winning ways, and the rare promise of the lost lads that every soul there, thinking he recognized these pictures, felt a pang in remembering that he had persistently blinded himself to them always before, and had as persistently seen only faults and flaws in the poor boys. The minister related many a touching incident in the lives of the departed, too, which illustrated their sweet, generous natures, and the people could easily see, now, how noble and beautiful those episodes were, and remembered with grief that at the time they occurred they had seemed rank rascalities, well deserving of the cowhide. The congregation became more and more moved, as the pathetic tale went on, till at last the whole company broke down and joined the weeping mourners in a chorus of anguished sobs, the preacher himself giving way to his feelings, and crying in the pulpit.
There was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody noticed; a moment later the church door creaked; the minister raised his streaming eyes above his handkerchief, and stood transfixed! First one and then another pair of eyes followed the minister’s, and then almost with one impulse the congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came marching up the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next, and Huck, a ruin of drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear! They had been hid in the unused gallery listening to their own funeral sermon!
Aunt Polly, Mary, and the Harpers threw themselves upon their restored ones, smothered them with kisses and poured out thanksgivings, while poor Huck stood abashed and uncomfortable, not knowing exactly what to do or where to hide from so many unwelcoming eyes. He wavered, and started to slink away, but Tom seized him and said:
“Aunt Polly, it ain’t fair. Somebody’s got to be glad to see Huck.”
“And so they shall. I’m glad to see him, poor motherless thing!” And the loving attentions Aunt Polly lavished upon him were the one thing capable of making him more uncomfortable than he was before.
Suddenly the minister shouted at the top of his voice: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow — Sing! — and put your hearts in it!”
And they did. Old Hundred swelled up with a triumphant burst, and while it shook the rafters Tom Sawyer the Pirate looked around upon the envying juveniles about him and confessed in his heart that this was the proudest moment of his life.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
I wonder why we save the kind words for funerals. Eulogies, literally translated ‘good words’, are maybe needed even more before our loved ones pass, at a time when relationships can be mended and people thanked. Before opportunities are lost. When the ripple effects from the kindness can travel far and wide.
What kinds of things get in the way of saying the kind words now? Fear, stubbornness, pride, anger? What if we could lay these all down now, before our opportunity to be heard is gone?
Before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27.)
Today, as we celebrate Easter, remember his words and his sacrifice. For a lovely story and song in the Easter spirit, go here:
Grace is upon us Open your heart It is done
Grace is upon us Open your heart This is love,
The Lord is here This is love
Come to the highest point of the mountain At the earliest possible moment
With appreciation to MovedByLove.com, consider this beautiful parable of a saint:
The story of the Holy Shadow Osho
There once lived a saint so good that the angels came from heaven to see how a man could be so godly. This saint went about his daily life diffusing virtue as the stars diffuse light and the flowers scent, without being aware of it. His day could be summed up by two words — he gave, he forgave — yet these words never passed his lips. They were expressed in his ready smile, his kindness, forbearance, and charity.
The angels said to God, “Lord, grant him the gift of miracles.”
God replied, “Ask what it is that he wishes.”
They said to the saint, “Would you like the touch of your hands to heal the sick?”
“No,” answered the saint. “I would rather God do that.”
“Would you like to convert guilty souls and bring back wandering hearts to the right path?”
“No, that is the angels’ mission. It is not for me to convert.”
“Would you like to become a model of patience, attracting men by the luster of your virtues, and thus glorifying God?”
“No,” replied the saint. “If men should be attracted to me, they would become estranged from God.” “What is it that you desire, then?” asked the angels.
“What can I wish for?” asked the saint smiling. “That God gives me his grace; with that would I not have everything?”
The angels said, “You must ask for a miracle, or one will be forced upon you.”
“Very well,” said the saint. “That I may do a great deal of good without ever knowing it.”
The angels were perplexed. They took counsel and resolved upon the following plan: every time the saint’s shadow fell behind him or to either side, so that he could not see it, it would have the power to cure disease, soothe pain, and comfort sorrow.
When the saint walked along, his shadow, thrown on the ground on either side or behind him, made arid paths green, caused withered plants to bloom, gave clear water to dried-up brooks, fresh color to pale children, and joy to unhappy men and women.
The saint simply went about his daily life diffusing virtue as the stars diffuse light and the flowers scent, without being aware of it. The people, respecting his humility, followed him silently, never speaking to him about his miracles. Soon they even forgot his name, and called him “The Holy Shadow.”
This is the ultimate: one has to become the holy shadow, just a shadow of God. This is the greatest revolution that can happen to a human being: the transfer of the center. You are no longer your own center; God becomes your center. You live like his shadow. You are not powerful, because you don’t have any center to be powerful. You are not virtuous; you don’t have any center to be virtuous. You are not even religious; you don’t have any center to be religious. You are simply not, a tremendous emptiness, with no barriers and blocks, so the divine can flow through you unhindered, uninterpreted, untouched — so the divine can flow through you as he is, not as you would like him to be. He does not pass through your center — there is none. The center is lost.
This is the meaning of this sutra: that finally you have to sacrifice your center so you cannot think in terms of the ego again, you cannot utter “I,” to annihilate yourself utterly, to erase yourself utterly. Nothing belongs to you; on the contrary, you belong to God. You become a holy shadow.
Spring can be sneaky. Just when you feel that winter will last forever, a pop of green will peak out of the snow, or a leafless tree will bud, or a bird will sing, and you will remember the colorful, fragrant, joyful days of spring.
Inside every winter heart, a vibrant spring lies just waiting to bloom again.
In all the din, what is one voice more? Why bother speaking up? No one seems to listen to each other anymore anyway.
But inside you is a well spring, and you’re fueled by truth and an honest desire to help others. Your opinion matters.
Consider these words from Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Who are you to speak up?
You are a child of God. Let God’s light shine on a dark world through your words.
Spring is my favorite season. The birdsong, the colors, the blooms, jasmine-filled breezes. All of it. Yes, please.
We have yet more rain here in Cali, but even so, the birds are singing their hearts out. And the buds are forming, and the bulbs are up. And the hills are so beautifully green. And somewhere close, the bears are stirring.
Enjoy this spring poem by Mary Oliver.
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring
down the mountain.
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring
I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:
how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge
to sharpen her claws against
of the trees.
my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
all day I think of her—
her white teeth,
her perfect love.
Mary Oliver, House of Light
Spring is also all of this —the wild, the fecundity, the passion, the thirst, and the quenching of thirst. The one question: how to love this world. Life’s yes. This, please.
Sometimes our eyes and hearts are focussed so far in the distance, that we fail to see what is right in front of us. The people we spend our days with, the beauty surrounding us, the opportunities we have to make a difference. When we zoom in to the detail, the richness of the particular moment can be astounding and surprising. What a beautiful, remarkable world we live in. So full of complexity. Each person we see is as full of contradictions and surprises as we are ourselves. Each living or created thing we see is so full of detail.
Long-term goals are great, but what a shame if we don’t appreciate each step along the way. We may work side by side with someone but barely know their name let alone what their hopes and dreams are. We may be so busy moving forward that we are blind to the heartache of even the people we live with. It is easy to speed through life with eyes averted like people descending in an elevator focussed only on the floor numbers.
Today take time today to enjoy the journey, the mysteries unfolding all around you, the people who share your path, and all the beautiful and startling things right here, right now.
Like, for example, who can not stop and be amazed at this little beagle shaking its jowls, its great ears flopping to the beat, its sturdy paws holding on in front but shifting with its wagging tail in back, the gorgeous landscape behind it? What a fascinating little miracle, right here. Just this.