“One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.” - Gilbert K. Chesterton
Oh, it can be so delicious to feel like we’ve reached a peak. We all love those mountaintop experiences — the satisfaction of completing the climb, the breadth of our view from the top, maybe a sense of being above it all…
But it’s true — from a lofty vantage, the rest of the world can look pretty small. And if we start thinking that the best place to be is elevated way up high, it’s really easy to become perpetually frustrated and dissatisfied with most of life. Because 99.9% of it isn’t spent sitting on a pinnacle above the clouds. A whole lot of life happens in the valleys.
This is a great thing, because these valleys are fertile. These valleys are rich, places of adventure and experience, alive with animals and vegetation, beautiful with mossy hillocks and ferns and flowing rivers.
I love a mountaintop as much as the next guy. But it’s no less a blessing when my path leads into a deep shadowy river valley. Can’t wait to see you Saturday at 6:00 pm. Join us at 5:30 for wine & cheese & community! XO, Rev. Drew
Do you remember that old children’s song? “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. I guess she’ll die.” The original supposition, that she will die from swallowing a fly, is pretty silly. But the old lady in the song proceeds to swallow larger and larger animals to catch the ones before — a spider, then a bird, a cat, etc… on up to a horse, at which point, “she died, of course.”
I woke up with this maddening ditty in my head about a week ago, and it threatened to haunt me until I figured out its message. What I’ve come up with is that it’s about our human tendency to react and overcompensate and escalate. I don’t think I’m the only one who does this. Most people I know are pretty good at adding emotional energy and psychological turmoil to just about everything.
Something happens, something that maybe in and of itself doesn’t have to be a big deal. And because most of us are natural shit-stirrers, before we know what’s hit us or what we’re really up against, we can spin out into all sorts of what-if scenarios and imaginings and need-to-do lists and ultimatums.
Sometimes we do this because we’re hooked on the paradigm of “something’s wrong,” so we’re always on the lookout for what we need to do, to fix, to change, to heal. Other times we do it because it’s feels like an exciting way to engage. It feels really alive if we’ve always got some crisis brewing.
We also do it with positive things, stuff we’re enthusiastic about. Projects, ideas, plans — we can inflate anything into something that demands constant energy and attention and time to keep afloat. And the more dramatic we make it, the more important and meaningful it appears. And the bigger we blow it up, the more people we stir up in it, the more connected we feel.
I get it. Because I do it. But it's freaking exhausting! I’m reminded of this wisdom from Henri Nouwen, “A life without a lonely place, that is, without a quiet center, becomes destructive.”
Even if we’re escalating in order to connect… Even if we’re enthusing because we’re truly deeply inspired… Even if we’re really aiming to transform and heal our lives and the world… We can self-destruct if we don’t keep the peace at the center of it all. We serve ourselves and we serve each other when we learn to bring ourselves back to quiet and stillness, to a non-reactive remembrance that all is well right here and right now.
Our quiet center is a place of choice and possibility and power. We don’t have to know why we swallowed that fly, and we don’t have to do anything about it. We can simply choose — not because something’s wrong or something’s needed — but just because we choose.
We all want to do our best, to be our best selves, to live our best lives. And most of us have high expectations of what that means and looks like.
Sometimes these high expectations are right on — we can be inspired to greatness, to big dreams, to bold juicy engagement with life. But we get ourselves all hung up and bent out of shape and self-critical and weird when we start thinking that our “highest” only includes select parts of our being -- when we fall into the common habit of dividing ourselves into holy & profane, enlightened & un-evolved, spirit & ego, good & bad.
The Truth is that every last bit of us — even the parts that hurt, even the parts that are scared and act small, even the parts that can be mean — every aspect and quality and trait of us is an essential component of our “best.” Our BEST is our ALL.
My commitment is that each and every one of us feels empowered enough to stand before the world and say something like: "I accept this lifetime achievement award on behalf of all of me!" And furthermore, "On behalf of all of me, I accept the challenges and opportunities of the rest of my life."
I can't wait to see you this Saturday for our celebration service at 6:00 pm. Join us early at 5:30 for refreshments, community, and cheer. XOX, Drew
Whatever we’ve believed about ourselves and the world, whatever we think we know about ourselves and the world, whatever we’ve managed to figure-out and understand… that’s great.
It’s gotten us where it’s gotten us.
And where it’s gotten us is no small potatoes! We should be proud of how far we’ve come, our persistence and commitment, all that we’ve achieved so far.
AND we can expand beyond this. We’re not meant to stop here. Our individual hearts and our collective soul are calling us into greater being, greater cooperation and connectedness, more joy and love and harmony and creativity. From now until forever — we need never stop living and growing.
All our beliefs, everything we know and understand — these are great launching-off points. From here, if we allow ourselves, we can spring effortlessly into wonder, not-knowing, and mystery. And wonder, not-knowing, and mystery are where the next steps of our journey must lead. Wonder, not-knowing, and mystery contain everything new, possibilities beyond what we’ve already experienced, possibilities beyond what we’ve even begun to imagine.
So let us respect and celebrate our journey so far — but not let it define the journey to be.
Let us honor all that we’ve learned about what supports our being and makes us happy, and what doesn’t — and know that what we’ve known and believed is never the final word on anything. A new word, a new story, a new song can be born in every breath.
We can stand and walk and dance on the foundation of all that we’ve known and believed so far. And we can refuse to allow this foundation to become walls and ceiling and tomb.
Let’s claim 2016 as a year to grow outside all the boxes in which we’ve been inclined to confine ourselves: our boxes of identity and relationship, our boxes of what the world is and life is and people are, our boxes of what has been and what can be.
My wish for each and every one of us is joyful discovery, graceful transformation, breathtaking wonder, and utterly blissful peace and love. Happy New Year, my friends.
With Love, Drew