Dr. Cindy Rigby was one of my theology professors at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and one of my most significant influences during my years there as a student. On a number of occasions, I remember her saying something really wise about play, rest, and renewal, and I still think about it from time to time. I’m going to paraphrase her here so this isn’t an exact quote, but it’s close to her point. She said,
“So often we think about play, rest, renewal, and Sabbath as recreation, time away from the rat race… an extended period of time when we leave that rat race behind so we can rest up and then re-enter it again a bit more rejuvenated. But… what if play, rest, renewal, and Sabbath can be re-creation? So that they create us in new ways and actually change us? So that we don’t re-enter the same way? What if they change the rat race itself?”
That’s really wise. I want this re-creation. I imagine we all do.
There are times when we step away from typical rhythms and we are re-created in a way… with new hopes, and new commitments toward better rhythms, and new priorities (or actually this could be is a return toward…) the priorities that have been there all along but not tended to as well as they could be.
I had a chance to spend some time in Austin, Texas over the long weekend, and it was a joy-filled respite. It was also warm and absolutely gorgeous. I’d love to share some of my photography from my time there.
Let’s have some wonderment today for the Mantis Shrimp.
Last night, over dinner with some students, the topic of mantis shrimp came up, and there were a lot of fun facts shared at the table. Did you know that mantis shrimp can see a myriad of colors we can’t even comprehend? Did you know that they punch with such velocity that it’s equivalent to if we could just throw a baseball into orbit? Did you know that this punch makes surrounding water boil because it briefly becomes as hot as the sun? What?
What on earth is this wild creature?
This video describes the mantis shrimp as the “Swiss Army Knife of the Marine World.” Very fitting.
In a commencement address, environmentalist Paul Hawken said,
“Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars came out only once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night, and we watch television.”
— I learned of this quote by reading Mary McKibben Dana’s newsletter, The Blue Room.
Life is filled with suffering, but it is is also filled with many wonders, such as the blue sky, the sunshine, and the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, anytime.
This is the very first paragraph in his book, Being Peace.
He continues with these words,
If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we can’t share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace. Do we need to make a special effort to enjoy the beauty of the blue sky? Do we have to practice to be able to enjoy it? No, we just enjoy it. Each second, each minute of our lives can be like this.
Do we have to make a special effort to enjoy the blue sky?
Truthfully, yes, sometimes. There are days when it may really be an effort. Perhaps today is a day like that.
We may be struggling with ongoing feelings of sadness and anxiety. We may be grieving. We are certainly grappling with difficulties in the news cycle. This ignites loss, pain, and fears.
Sometimes, it probably does take a special effort — or at least, a special intention — to enjoy the blue sky. Or the sunshine. Or the eyes of a baby.
But we really can choose the intention to enjoy these too.
Thich Nhat Hanh does not teach people to put their heads in the sand. His primary teaching is that love is understanding — that if we want to love others and ourselves, we have to listen and understand one another’s suffering. This is so important.
And alongside that suffering, we can marvel at the joys and the beauty too. “Suffering is not enough,” he says. Joys and beauty can come alongside these pains.
Thich Nhat Hanh says, if we can enjoy and smile at these, we can embody peace — peace that will be made available to the suffering we and others carry.
So today, I put that wonderful intention in the world — That we might enjoy the sky also.
Over the weekend, I enjoyed the occasion to witness a spontaneous moment of personal sharing and gratitude.
Michigan Nones and Dones met over Zoom, and we celebrated our 6th birthday. As we often say, Michigan Nones and Dones is “a community for people who are spiritually curious and institutionally suspicious.” This community has been meeting for six years to experience care and explore spirituality through a community of friendships in Southeast Michigan. Participants include those who are religiously unaffiliated (the Nones), those who have left established forms of institutional churches (the Dones), and those who remain connected to particular faith traditions but seek new, emerging visions for their expression. After six years, even though those words are in our group title, a lot of those particulars have fallen away, and we’re just a community of people who support each other’s growth and celebrate our connection together.
The spontaneous moment I witnessed involved a round of wishing Michigan Nones and Dones a Happy Birthday as if it was the guest of honor, sitting at a kitchen table. What would we tell it collectively? What gratitudes would we share?
It was so lovely.
And so I pass that along to you today, but with your own communities. If you could imagine that community taking up a seat at your table, how might you wish it well? What a gratitudes would you share?