The sky is grey with heavy clouds this morning. The wind chimes on the deck ring with the cold breezes blowing in. There’s no dripping happening today. Winter is not ready to let go. Yesterday was just another tease in a long spring of teases – just when we think the weather’s gonna break – just when we think the snow is on its way out – another snow storm.
When I complain to Lynn about the cold during our morning chat she tells me its minus 23 in Winnipeg. She’s there studying for a 20 day stint of ministry training. Minus 30 with the windchill. The Maritimes just had a wicked snowstorm – radio’s reporting freezing rain for them today.
Maybe the weather’s not so bad here today.
The Dalai Lama teaches that when we feel down about our circumstances, it can be helpful to remember those who are worse off. Feeling compassion for other’s circumstances helps me feel better. Isn’t that kind of self serving?
My dad would put it this way. Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself he would tell me to “buck up”. My generation says it this way “suck it up”. Or how about “life sucks – and then you die” for a philosophical stance?
Whatever gets me out of bed and out on the sapline.
When I try to hurry on the snowshoes I start tripping up. So I slow down.
It’s why I practice Tai Chi. The art of this ancient form of discipline is to pay close attention to each movement. The slower I go, the more I am able to be aware of the placement of hands, feet, butt, head and shoulders, knees and toes. The art of it comes when – not only are the fingers of my hand in proper position – but my focus is on the whole and not the parts. After ten years of practice I have a glimpse of what it is to be in the flow of the one movement instead of the 118 individual moves.
I am surprised when I get to the first pail on the sapline that the sap has indeed been flowing. There’s a good two inches of clear maple water in the pail. I unhook the pail and dump the sap into the plastic tub. It doesn’t look like much in this larger container. “Every bit counts” I repeat the old adage. On to the next.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. While each of us contributes our “part” in community – we struggle to keep our focus on the good of the whole. It is a tough practice. My questions revolve around “Have I done enough?”, “Has my contribution been valued?”, “Who has done more and who has done less?”, and so on. If I begin to feel that my contribution has not been valued than I can start asking “Who are you to question what I give?”, and other such “pecking order” type questions.
“Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” says the Jesus dude about offerings.
If I start comparing and questioning the parts, I can get caught in a spiral of “never enough” thinking. If I keep my eye on the whole of what God is doing with the sum total of the community’s contributions – it leads me in another direction. I wonder.
Lifting the lid on each pail is like unwrapping a gift. Sometimes there’s a little. I dump it in the bucket and I give thanks. Sometimes more. I dump it in the bucket and I give thanks. I wonder what’s in the next pail.
Ayuna reminds me that when I start feeling that I have Mastered something – it is a sign of getting stuck. Just when I think that I’m really good at “this ministry thing” is the time to wake up and wonder. The feeling of Mastery is an illusion. The need to be the Master of my domain is a seduction. What can I truly control? Do I have any clue about what’s around the next corner? When I start believing that “I know” is when I leave the path of growth and get stuck. I wonder.
My brother arrived last night. There is no one on this planet who I have spent more time with. There is no one on the planet who has shared a life more like my own. And yet, do I really have a clue what it is like to be him? I wonder.
Yesterday I drilled holes in some trees and the holes were dry. I check them again today. Still dry. I apologize again for the wound I’ve left in their hide. While I might claim that “I” am in the process of making Maple Syrup – am I? Am i making the sap flow? While I might claim that “I” am in the process of growing a church community – am I? I wonder.
“Who is in control?” is a troubling question these days in the churchworld. The institutional answers we once used to maintain a sense of “control” are becoming less and less useful. There is much turmoil and so – much conflict – over the question of Mastering survival and Mastering growth. The need for Mastery can leave little room for the Mystery.
Ayuna tells me of her trip to Bali where the culture revolves around daily offerings. Everyone, from humblest to noblest participates in the daily ritual of going to the Temple. They go – not to get what they need – a blessing, inspiration, brownie points. They go to make an offering – to give thanks – acknowledging that which is greater than the sum of all their efforts.
The bucket is getting really heavy now as I carry it from tree to tree. It’s making the going slower and it’s throwing me off balance – threatening to spill all I’ve gathered. There’s four more buckets up a steep incline towards the cliff. I drop the bucket in the snow and decide to bring the pails to the bucket instead of bringing the bucket to the pails. The colder weather has created a bit of a crust on the snowtop so I think I can also leave my snowshoes behind and do this little jog up the hill without the trouble of snowshoes. I wonder?
Wrong! Every third step I’m up to my knees and pulling that leg out of the deep uses up the energy I was trying to save by leaving the snowshoes behind. Hmmmm, what’s that old adage about shortcuts? I wonder.
Then I think that I don’t need to bring each of the four pails back and forth, I’ll take the first ¼ full pail up to the others and fill one pail so I only need to make one trip back to the bucket. The second pail dumps in and I have ½ a pail of sap now. I climb up the tricky steep last bit to the double tree growing from one trunk where I’ve got two more pails….
Both pails are full of sap! So now I have to make three trips from the furthest point back to the bucket! I sure have the Maple Syrup thing Mastered don’t i? I wonder…
Just when I think I’ve got this church ministry thing all figured out – is exactly the time to step sideways and wonder. I can make all the right moves but if my balance is off – I fall on my ass.
Jesus said it like this: “The farmer plants the seeds – but does she grow the crop?”
When I finish the circle I’ve got more than twenty litres of sap. I’m surprised how it’s all added up – the little and the more.
Back on the deck with a scotch and a cranberry tea chaser the sky has cleared and the stars begin to appear. The sun and the moon are constants and I’m pretty sure I can predict their movements – but the stars – the stars are so distant and yet they shine a path. Each one shining into a cell of my being and so together are greater – like me – than the sum of the universes parts.
I – well – y’know.