Sunday, June 27, 2010

Found Blessings



Today, I stood up at the front of St. Paul's United church and delivered the Sunday service message.   As I stood up there, I felt grounded and centred, mostly due to the loving support of my friends and family, some of whom were there sitting in the pews smiling up at me throughout it all.  I absolutely LOVED looking up to the balcony and seeing my son looking down on me smiling.  He knows now that his Momma has her strength back.    My daughter left for summer camp yesterday so she wasn't there but I know she was thinking of me and I her. 

The whole process has been spiritually enhancing beyond my expectations.  It allowed me to travel beyond the line on my horizon to a place I have never visited.  I have "lived" outside of my comfort zone for over a week trying to "get it right......."  and it wasn't until 2 o'clock this morning when I found myself standing in my kitchen practising reading the last version I had just completed with enough energy to light up the street!  

I could write a whole blog post on the process... and how it was intertwined with a whole bunch of other "happenings" that have occured over the past two weeks.....work, home and play stuff.  What a TRIP!  Life has a way of pulling you back up onto your feet in the heat of adversity and kissing you with affirmation and love from the most interesting places.  It has been a week of good energy.  Good strong life affirming energy on all levels.  

I have so much I want to write about....... however that will wait........ for now I want to post my sermon to share.   

PS.......to everyone who has emailed me, checked on me, phoned me, and sent me their kind wishes and prayers....... thank you, thank you.  Know that you were all with me today.  I felt your presence strongly.  I really did.  I sure wasn't up there alone. 

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Found Blessings.

This morning, I would like to begin by reading a blessing written by John O'Donohue.   It's from his book, Bless the Space Between Us.  For the past couple of months I have read it aloud to myself every morning.  It has given me strength and focus to start a new day.  Today,  share it with you......

I arise today
Blessed by all things,
Wings of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch
Eternity of soul, 
Urgency of thought
Miracle of health,
Embrace of God.

May I live this day

Compassionate of heart,
Clear in word, 
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought, 
Generous in love.........

God’s abundance.  How do you define that?  It seems like such an easy concept to explain doesn’t it?  Personally, I found it was almost too big to harness. There are SO many paths one can journey on to seek out the meaning….. meandering paths of thought FULL ideas.  

As I prepared what I wanted to share with you today, I searched for it through many angles…from a theoretical perspective as well as one that was faith based ….. I looked at it through the lens of a Mom as well as the other roles I am in my life.  I looked at it through the eyes of a writer too.  And I have to admit, that the more I thought about it,  the more I wrote about Abundance.  Then I would lose myself in the harvesting of treasures AND would write MORE.   

It kind of overwhelmed me.  Which actually made me laugh because I found myself overwhelmed by abundance.  A little ironic don’t you think?   I probably have enough written down for a book!  Who knows?  Maybe I’m onto something.  

But that’s for another day.  Today, I humbly stand up here, as a human being who has been given the gift of spiritual learning through the process of reflection and contemplation, through many discussions with friends and family…..inside spiritually quiet times when I was able to see all of the “found blessings” that make my cup runneth over. Daily.  It’s been a beautifully challenging experience.  I feel richer for it.  

Throughout most of internal travels however, I was missing the key ingredient because I was being too fancy with my brain and it was making me too wordy. Too much thinking, the people in my life say …. I think too much. 

Yesterday, I took a trip to a place tucked into the woods near Norton.  Smith’s Falls.  It was beautiful.  The walk through the woods filled me with a sense of peace.  When I reached my destination…. At the bottom of this resplendent waterfalls, I sat down on a rock and looked up to the top of the gorge where the sun filtered through the pine and sparkling on the tumbling water rushing down the rocks in a formation of its own making. Automatically, I found my breath.  I slowed down, mind and body and let abundance find me.  In a matter of moments….. connected to nature and God’s beauty…..



I realized that….

Abundance is the collection of bountiful feelings we experience when connecting with nature and with others in a way that provides us with the nutritious gift of grace.

It’s about learning how to open your senses to a new awareness that no matter what may be happening in your life, or what you are observing God provides these gifts as blessings.  Bread for the journey is bountiful.  It is up to us to share the fullness of our hearts.  

It’s about recognizing all that we have to give and receive is more than enough and then some!  Just like the story of the fishes and the loaves.  There were twelve full baskets left over!  We have much to give……and then some.  

Jean Vanier, who lives his values and beliefs every day through the L’Arche community where he resides, wrote an amazing thought provoking book called Becoming Human…… In it he explains….  "When we tell stories, we touch hearts. If we talk about theories and speak about ideas, the mind may assimilate them but the heart remains untouched. It is the story of a specific person that is the way to the heart."  I firmly believe he’s onto something!   This is the gift of abundance.

Heart stories……. Connecting….. feeling loved, significant, humbled, affirmed, forgiven, listened to…….. Think about how you feel when someone really and truly listens to you…. From their heart.  Is that not abundance?  Think about how you feel when you are able to put aside all the busy demands, the list of TO DO’s….. when You are able to give your full attention to someone in need…… to listen.  From your heart. What a learning gift.  A simple human gift, which opens our eyes to the faces of God.  

As a counsellor and facilitator, I have been blessed with the opportunity to connect with many hearts.  I’m a storykeeper.  As a person who loves to write and to interact with others, I am a storyteller.  Both sides of the coin.  I can’t tell you how many times I have met with someone in their home, in my office, in the hospital, in a coffee shop and was left feeling enriched beyond words.  As a human being, I too have been blessed with many people in my life who listen to my stories too, and the same feeling abounds.  We share.  We tune into abundance and we are changed forever.  


Not long ago, I had the privilege of sitting in a hospital room with a young man who was dying of Crohn's disease. I was shocked at how skeletal he was.... how unbelievably sick he had been since I had first met him a few years back. His energy was very low. His lips parched and dry because he was receiving all his nutrients and food through a tube in his stomach. He was too weak to digest it any other way. In the hospital for 4 months at the time of our meeting, he had suffered through 3 painful surgeries and admitted that he didn't know if he had the strength to go through another..... another had been scheduled.

At first, I didn't know if he could physically handle my visit, but I was there to help him get some extra money by applying for a disability pension.  He needed the money and greeted me with as much energy as he could conjure up.
This man was a preacher.   Before he fell too ill, he’d led a parish church in a rural area in Northern New Brunswick.  Despite the constant pain and ill health,  his faith was still very much intact.

He spoke of the kindness of the hospital staff......how they arranged for a private room for him even though he didn't necessarily qualify. He lit up when he talked about his best friend, who had been visiting when I arrived and praying quietly with him....how they had studied together to be preachers....how they used to go fishing together. He talked about how blessed he was to have three children and how heartbreaking it was for him to realize that he probably wouldn’t  be around to see them grow up to be adults. He pointed out the flowers that arrived in the middle of a snowstorm the day before (a little miracle he called it.) He smiled broadly. 

He then lamented on how much he missed the ulimate freedom of going for a drive into the country all by himself. And as he reflected....as this man with such poor health, and with no money reflected....he told me how rich he was in so many ways.

2 hours later, I left his hospital room far richer too than I had been when I arrived. I left with the sound of rural parish church bell ringing inside.  A heart connection. They never fade. 

Father Henri Nouwen who also lived in a L’Arche Community wrote about the diversity of people comparing us to mosaic stones. Each one of us is represented by a tiny piece of colour, beautiful on its own, but much more revealing of the face of God when seen as a design together. 

Our community lives and breathes suffering and struggle. It lives and breathes love and compassion. It displays the faces of humanity, shaded by the lined scars of adversity....and a longing for connection and validation between human beings.  Community, he writes, is "where humility and glory touch." And to me, that is where prosperity dwells. You see it abundantly in the welfare office where I worked for many years. Out in the margins I saw, heard, felt and was deeply moved by humility and glory touching.  

A couple of summers ago, I was inspired to write a story poem about a scene I witnessed  in the alley by the Community Kitchen as I sat in my car.   I was the only one who saw it unfold.  I listened with my EYES and I knew in an instant I was richer for the experience.  

A scene from an alley 
Under puddle grey skies they emerge,
in large numbers
filing out through the heavy metal door
lighting up in unison --
An after dinner toke on a full stomach.
The best tasting cigarette of the day
besides the first one with morning coffee.
But sometimes there's no sweet aromatic coffee.
It's made from grains of yesterday
Bitter tar-like substance from the bottom of an urn.  
Sometimes morning begins
starring at the underbelly of a bridge
in backbreaking pain,
where no coffee is brewing
where the only smoke is a discarded butt. 
Sometimes morning begins in
a sock stinking room shared by 10 damp strangers
Shivering under an unknown blanket,
worn and used by others prickly and unwelcoming transience.
Coffee there is weakly tepid
Served in a stained unfamiliar mug. 

At first glance, I see
Weather worn faces seemingly the same
Dazed, angry, bone weary aged.
Empty discards in oversized pants from Sally Ann
in threadbare shirts, wrinkled from sleep
tattered, torn faded colour 
Surrendered souls
Who have seen the bottom of a bottle of cheap whiskey many times
Who have felt the biting winter winds many times
and know it feels the same as the hard slap from the back of a hand.
They've felt them both and know they are the same. 
Strangers lost in a fog of mental illness, no luck, abuse and a lifelong hangover.
Numbed on the bare boned skinned knee open wound existence. 
But tonight,
as they emerge and converge for an after dinner smoke
Gathering in an puddle filled alley
hidden by a brick building,
where the shelter and the kitchen
make it a meaningful destination,
I look again and see some familiar faces.
People who have visited me in my office.
Human beings I have seen around town.
The man with the marionette monkey
who makes it dance for money every Saturday at the market.
The woman who collects bottles and cans from the dumpster behind my office building
The mom and her two kids whom I've shared a coffee chat with in her home.
The guy who sleeps on the bench in the park downtown
A few whose names I don't know,
but have seen in the lobby of the welfare office
.Many I don't recognize.
Many are lost in a schizophrenic fog.
Some gather together to talk, while others stay within themselves
lost in the periphery of the marginalized.
Marginalized by the marginalized.
Our society breathes hierarchy like dragon's breath
 
One small statured man walks gingerly and awkward
trying to pretend he isn't completely drunk
Another with a shaved head whose eyes dart in paranoia paces.
And another, and another............same look.......same space....
 
Sober --stark, real, cold, wet reality. Who wants sober? 
I change the lens I am using in a blink
I change my gaze and what do I see… 
Right in the middle of this ragamuffin group?
Is a little boy
about 4 years old
with a red ballcap
and red crocs on his feet
glides by on his scooter.
Whoosh............his colourful presence
captivates.
Like a taste of watermelon on a hot day. 
In and out he sails,
splashing through the grey sky puddles
twisting and turning his scooter
past the sad adult faces too hurt to pay attention
Oblivious to his joy
He oblivious (maybe) to their sorrow.
 
The scooter skids and the little boy yelps.
All eyes turn to him.
His mother, incapacitated by a full leg cast lurches forward
Her maternal response stymied by immobility.
Her face shows concern.  Love.  Fear. Her boy needs her. 
Out of the blue…….
A found blessing friendly face intervenes.
He tends to the little boy,
then with a twinkle of dare, he playfully takes the scooter
and turns the scene into a circus romp. 
He's a smiling clown makes the little boy laugh from his belly
His scraped knee forgotton as he watches this man balance on a wee scooter…
Those worn out adults on the sidelines, thirsty for relief begin to cheer on the clown.
Set in the midst of grey puddle despair
A community of smiles grin the grace of abundance.
 
It left me wondering if Jesus was close by taking it all in.
I think He was.
He always is, isn’t he? 
Out in the margins, where true prosperity dwells,
Where humility and glory touch?
Jesus is there taking it all in.
 
The Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”   This includes both sides of the coin……. having the chance to spill out a slice of your story to someone who is listening with their whole being and being the receiver of a human story as you listen with your whole being.  Human stories.  Heart connections.  As the extension of God’s love, we have it to give and then some.  And when we do, our whole community prospers.  

This week, I hope you have a chance to see abundance from a new angle…. And to feel the fullness of its discovery.  May you listen and be listened to as you share a slice of your stories.  From the heart, where treasures dwells.  May you find the blessing of discovery gazing into the eyes of another face of God in your life.  

11 comments:

Barbara said...

WOW! Just checking in with you. You delivered the message at church! I would have loved to be there for that.

Love ya.

awareness said...

Layla, it would've been BEAUTIFUL to have seen your smiling face there today. Do you know you and I have been blog friends for over 4 years now?? Amazing how time escapes us.

Brother David said...

It was good to be there with you - (you know what I mean):)

Canadian Sentinel said...

I was thinking "WOW"! as well... awesome post! :)

Somebody's really got her mojo back... :)

dana said...

David... it was good to have you there in spirit and support. I sent you a "thought hello" as I walked up the steps to begin.

CS...thank you. the process was intense but I feel very good about the end result.... I will be in touch, I promise.

Susan Deborah said...

Dear Storykeeper and storyteller, wonder if a day will come when I can sit down and hear your stories. I promise to be a good listener.

I am glad it went on well. Shall have to reread the sermon to store it with the crevices of my soul.

Blessings dear Dana.

Joy always,
Susan

Canadian Sentinel said...

Hmm... intense process...

Love to hear about this process...

Tammy said...

Thanks, Dana, Maureen, Andrea, & Frank, etc.! It was an awesome, humbling, & rewarding experience, reading the scriptures, taken, from.: The Gospel Of Luke.: 12:16-21., for the first time, on sunday, june 27 TH., 2010! Tammy Eva Coughlan, & Dean Jones! XOXO. St. Paul's United Church. 224 York Street. Fredericton, New Brunswick./NB. Canada. St. Paul's United Church's website', & E-Mail'.: http://www.stpaulsunited.ca. E-Mail.: stpaulsunitedchurch@aibn.nb.ca.

Anonymous said...

Awesome!!!!!!!!

Tammy Eva Coughlan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark said...

You did an awesome job with this writing. Abundance is hard for many to grasp because of a limited view of what abundance means to them. Others are overwhelmed by the thought of abundance as you were while preparing this speech. I think we become overwhelmed because of our own self imposed limits. To awaken is to know that we are limitless beings and that we can handle all of the abundance and that we are worthy of all of the abundance. Beautiful thoughts, thank-you for sharing with us. We are better for having read your words.