Saturday, September 19, 2020

"let us pause in life's pleasures..."

"let us pause
in life's pleasures
and count its many tears;
while we all sup sorrow
with the poor..."

This James Taylor and YoYo Ma recording of Bob Dylan's "Hard Times," speaks to me on so many levels today. We are all being asked to pause from life's pleasure. We are being asked to sup sorrow with the poor -- to understand the isolation and uncertainty that they face, while we who have so much, move past with dry eyes and light hearts. I just love it.

One has to sit with the poor, to understand the depth of their hunger. And it is a hunger. A hunger that goes beyond the need for basic food, shelter, warmth and a sense of belonging. It is a hunger for peace. A hunger for freedom from worry and doubt. A hunger for a sense of one's self, that feels worthy of kindness, respect, dignity.

These are "hard times" for so many. Those of us who live in secure housing, and are blessed to have enough money to stock a pantry - have little idea of what it is like to watch your paycheck-to-paycheck resources dwindle - while the days of quarantine, and suspended work, turns into weeks. As our empathy for others increases, it might seem hard to stay awake to our collective spiritual reality.

My friend, Nancy, shared a story with me from her trip to the the grocery store early this morning:

“My husband and I ventured out to our neighborhood grocery store early today. When we first walked in, the atmosphere was so solemn. It was very busy, but No one was talking. It was almost zombie like.

I tried to make eye contact with other shoppers so as to greet them and give them a smile. But for the first 5 or 10 minutes, no one would even look at me.

Then the Father said, “love them”. So as I moved thru the aisles from there forward, and as I came to another shopper, I first thanked God for His dear child, and felt God’s love for that dear one.

The atmosphere quickly changed. I began hearing people greeting people they knew. Shoppers returned my smile. A lady who [we know] said, "Hi," and asked how I was. And when we got in line to check out, a gentleman who lives on our block came up behind us, and we had a wonderful opportunity to catch up."
I loved this story -- so much. It might have been hypnotic to walk into that grocery store. It might have easily felt like it all made sense in the context of this global crisis. "Why of course people are afraid, defensive, moving through their days with the weight of an unknown threat hanging like a storm in the air."

But no. Nancy did what Mary Baker Eddy encourages us to do in her textbook on spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

“Beholding the infinite tasks of truth,
we pause, — wait on God.

Then we push onward, until boundless thought
walks enraptured, and conception unconfined
is winged to reach the divine glory."
It is all in that pause. We can become so zombie-like ourselves. Just pushing through the hypnotic fog of despair and "well, this is just how it is for a while..."

But Nancy didn't do that. She paused. She waited on God. And to wait on God, is very different than waiting for God. Both are required. And Nancy did both. She waited for God to take hold of her thoughts, and direct her heart. But she also waited on God -- serving His purpose with the attention of the most skilled waitstaff, in the most posh restaurant. She was alert, awake, ready. And the effect of that alertness was deeply felt.

Which brings me to another point taken from this story. Nancy's willingness to pause and question what she was experiencing.  The tasks we face seem infinite.  How do we reach a global community? But the infinite tasks are not ours, but the tasks of truth -- and Truth has infinite resources for addressing them.

Nancy's willingness to pause, reminds me of another experience.  One that a friend shared some years ago during a Wednesday evening testimony meeting. She said that she had woken one morning feeling a bit "off." She decided to push through it, and go for a run. But somewhere along the trail, she started feeling worse.

She decided to take a moment to pray for herself and sat down on a log. It came to her that, even though she was up and running, she was not fully awake. In fact, if she could feel anything but the full presence of God, she was actually still asleep -- she was sleep-walking, or in this case sleep-running. She realized she needed to fully wake up. She claimed her right to be more fully alert to God's power and presence -- and soon she was feeling completely well.

This has been such a powerful example for me. Each morning -- and throughout the day -- I claim that I am fully awake, alert, and conscious of the Truth about everyone and everything. If I am seeing, accepting, feeling something that is inconsistent with my right to know the fullness of God's presence and power, I am sleepwalking and I need to wake up.

I can do this dozens of times a day. And I do. This is what Nancy did this morning in the grocery store. She experienced something that didn't align with her clear sense of God's omnipotent love. She paused, waited on God. Then she "pushed onward until boundless thought walked [through that store] enraptured" with love for God's beloved community.

If we are feeling unsettled by what we are seeing in the grocery store, hearing on the news, or experiencing in our communities -- or our bodies, we can pause, ask God to help us wake up more fully -- and then walk enraptured with love for our neighbor.

Thank you Nancy, for refusing to sleep-shop.  Thank you for sharing your story, and for being willing to pause...

offered with Love,


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