One spring day in 1949 a man strolled through our lazy Seattle neighborhood, leading a black and white pinto pony. I left my little heart on 50th St. in West Seattle that day. “Hey, kids, you want to ride my pony?” Duh. We ran into the house and wore Mom down with begging. After all, for just $5 she would have a swell portrait of us.
I remember that day as the happiest of my childhood- not the details- I didn’t know until recently that my sister had wanted to wear the chaps, but she let me instead. It’s the experience of ecstasy I remember. It’s there on my face, bursting through the dimples.
I also remember sitting on the floor in front of the book case at age seven and a half, ecstatic at my re-discovery of a book, If Jesus Came To My House. It portrayed a child leading Jesus by the hand through the house and neighborhood, pointing out the most special people, places and toys. I remember feeling so close to Jesus as I read, and the yearning for him to come to my house and stay. The seeds of mysticism planted. A remodled house now, an evolved image of Jesus; nevertheless, the same yearning.
Jesus arrived at my house the day the black and white pinto pony came, and every time since then, when I watch toddlers play, and my cat chase her tail. This old shaker song ,“Simple Gifts” was written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett. It says it all.
‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
“I have often stated that there is a power in the soul that touches neither time nor flesh. It flows out of the spirit and remains in the spirit, and is totally and utterly spiritual. In this power God is as totally verdant and flourishing in all joy and in all honor as he is in himself….In the power God is unceasingly glowing and burning with all his wealth, with all his sweetness, and with all his bliss.” Meister Eckhart
This morning I landed on “Thomas and Friends” while surfing channels to escape the rigors of surgical rehab. Thomas was winding through a mountain pass when thick fog set in, robbing the little engine of all visual perspective. Immediately I stepped into panic mode. What if the tracks are shattered? What if something is on the tracks? What if another train has switched over onto Thomas’ track? The dense fog slithered around me and took control as surely as if the situation were real. “STOP, THOMAS!” I ALMOST YELLED. Then…Oh. It’s just a cartoon, Rita. But fear had touched me on a primal level.
The fog of fear moves in when we least expect it, and like a photo shop tool, distorts who we really are. God’s power in the depths of the soul is so abundant, that we fear it will overtake us. But who are we, if not “sparks of the divine” (Meister Eckhart)? We fear that God’s power will stun others with its light and they will withdraw in their discomfort, leaving us alone. But we can’t name the fear that way. Instead, we camouflage it by convincing ourselves that we are nothing. We are sinful and proud wretches. Fear is very effective in preserving that illusion. And we remain safe from the risks inherent in the choice to grow.
We don’t trust that God’s power is enough to carry us through and beyond the fog. We don’t trust that the power of God in us has eyes to see when we lose our sight. May we develop the ability to see and accept the power of God in us, and the courage to let it spill out in spontaneous acts of unconditional love.