When I first settled in the country after many years of striving, I had amazing thoughts about the landscape, the trees, the stars, and the beautiful sunsets. Now they have become my thoughts. When I first began keeping the Sabbath with my family, I had amazing feelings about our love and communion with God and one another. Now love and communion have become my very self. I see the pattern: Amazing…ordinary…amazing. Innocence…experience…innocence.
When we have no peace within we will try to enforce peace without. This can never work. You cannot give what you do not have. Peace in the world will only arise from peace within. Only authentic inner peace will encourage others to find their own inner peace. If you want peace in the world it must always begin with you, in your relationships and in your way of life. Peace begins at home. You must be peace in order to promote peace. There is no way to peace; peace is the way.
The Transfiguration is a glimpse of God’s glory breaking forth,…of the heart of reality shining like the sun,…of the divine at the heart of matter…
Here’s how it goes:
Seeing everything as it is in its deepest reality, then being transformed into who you are in God’s eyes,…then living accordingly.
That’s the process.
And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.
(Read Matthew 13:54-58)
How many of us while growing up internalize the limitations set for us by the people around us? (“Girls” or “fat kids” or “our people” of whatever kind “can’t do that.”) For me, the false limitation was that “poor people like us” couldn’t achieve certain things. That was completely false.
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
False limitations set by others or by ourselves are exactly that…false. There are real limitations in life, but rarely are they the same ones imposed on us by others. If Jesus had believed his hometown people and had not moved beyond their mindset, he would never have fulfilled God’s will for his life.
Every life has a purpose deeper than the ones set for it, or denied it, by the ambient culture. Step back today and look at the familiar assumptions about yourself that you’ve always held to be regrettably true. Some of them could be completely false and keep you from achieving your deepest purpose, according to God’s will.
He likes kindness, food, play, and rest; he performs tasks eagerly when they are demanded; he is loyal to his family and always tries to please them, and he is their self-appointed protector; he would give his life to save us; he likes the smell-walk, fulfilling his senses in nature; he has no regard for televisions or computers; he is not distracted with complexities of thought and he holds no grudges; he is completely present in each moment. I can’t help but think God sent him to us as a messenger, placing him in our care, and we in his. If our home was a monastery, he would be the simplest of lay-brothers, in the happy and humble service of all. I know now why Saint Francis of Assisi loved animals so much.
Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana
When I was a child, my father often took me for long evening walks along the shore of a lake that was near our home. The two of us would quietly walk along the shore for hours, exploring the shallows for interesting shells and the small fish that swam there. Sometimes there was a strong wind and the white-capped waves would crash over the larger rocks and make a rhythmic sound that would echo in my head as I went to sleep that night. My father always found tiny rocks that were colorful and different from the rest. He would say, “Isn’t that pretty?” and would slip the special treasures into his pockets. We always brought them home for mother to admire. Then, I would reverently clean them and keep them beside my bed so I could remember the lake.
Being near that body of water gave us a sense of connection to something larger than ourselves and our lives there, and it brought us closer to one another. My father would often sit on a rock and quietly look out over the waves at the setting sun, and he would be completely at peace; completely himself. There was always a slight smile of satisfaction on his lips as he watched me play on the shore, and his eyes always smiled at me with a twinkle of complete confidence and joy. I learned more from him in those moments than I ever learned from books, or teachers, or any wisdom figures since then. On those walks by the shore at sunset, I learned how to be still and quiet, how to have reverence for nature, how to be at peace with myself and to know I am loved.
My father and mother at Lake Pontchartrain 1948. Long before me.
Now, when life gets turbulent, I sit quietly and close my eyes and remember my father sitting calmly on the shore of the lake at sunset with the warm breeze blowing through his hair, that slight smile of satisfaction on his lips, and the twinkle of love in his eyes. Then, I find my center again.
Post script: In 2013, after having been away from my hometown for many years, I visited my family there again. One afternoon, I took my young son to the same shoreline I used to visit so often with my father. I sat there on a large rock and watched my son explore the shoreline. I felt the breeze on my face and understood exactly what my father knew all those years ago.
Evan on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain 2013
Keeping the Sabbath (our weekly day of resting in God) has kept our family, over the years, from drifting into dissolution and distraction. We return once a week to the Love that grounds our love for one another in truth and freedom, lest we forget and become lost.
(July 2017) As this Sabbath evening descends on our home, I am assured that God’s kindness extends beyond the reaches of space and time. I live in a body that is passing away, but love is eternal, and love has become my life. There isn’t anything else, really.
There is something eternal in a loving relationship. It takes place in space and time, but it also transcends them. True love originates in the eternal and returns to it. That is why death has no purchase over love. Love is stronger than death. To know the love of this quality is the greatest gift.