Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thursday's Reflection: What's In Your Boat?

Recently, we visited the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida, and a bonus in the gorgeous gardens full of palms and orchids and bromeliads, a term my gardener husband taught me, was an exhibit of Chihuly glass sculptures. Looking through the lushness one could spot a blast of color.  Always a wow of a surprise. 

Perhaps my favorite surprise was a rowboat full of glass balls of every color.  Chihuly once said there isn't a color he doesn't love, and I tend to agree with him, but in this case the exuberance of color is not what remains. It's the fullness.

How full is your boat? What fills your boat?

A few weeks ago the Gospel lesson was from the first chapter of Mark, which includes the story of Jesus recruiting fishermen to follow him. They left their boats "immediately" to follow him. The sermon focused on the word "immediately" and asked the congregation to consider circumstances in which we would respond "immediately." Fire, a lost child, a crash of some sort--all dire situations in which time is of the essence with a need to do something right now without thinking. Situations in which instinct takes over. 

In reading the lesson again later I discovered that the word "immediately" was used six more times in the chapter. As a writer, I try to be aware of when I use a word too often. Most likely I would not use the same descriptive word over and over again in a few short lines. There must be a reason for the repetition, a call for reflection.  Dani Shapiro in her book Still Writing, The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life says repeated words are clues and suggests, "When you discover them, slow down. In fact, stop. Become willing to press against the bruise--it's there anyway--and see what it yields." p. 113

I am someone who often needs to think about how to respond to an opportunity, a conversation that perhaps has upset me, an out of the ordinary experience. I believe in PAUSE. Stepping back, taking time out, building in time for reflection, practicing silence. Often that is just what is needed, but, as with everything, there is a shadow side to that light. What have I missed because I have not responded in the moment, because I have not been spontaneous and said, "Yes" immediately?

Here's another aspect of pausing: Is it possible that when we take time for quiet time, we prepare ourselves for the moments when an immediate response of the heart is required? I think a fruit of ongoing spiritual practice in which we become aware of the movement of Spirit in and around us is the ability to be in the moment and to know, to really know, what we are called to do and how we are to act. Immediately.

That leads me back to the boat full of balls of various sizes and colors. The preacher of the day also challenged us to get out of the boat. How easy is it to get out of the boat and respond immediately when the boat is full to the brim, overfull, and what thoughts might there be about what is left in the boat? How easy is it to climb over all that stuff? How reluctant are we to leave it all behind, whatever IT is. What is actually in the boat? Regrets, judgements, painful memories and old stories that no longer serve us well? Relationships that are more harmful than graceful or habits and routines that limit us  rather than restore us?

This is the time, my friends, to examine what's in the boat and do some bailing. If not now, when?

That is not what I thought about when I first saw the boat of Chihuly balls, however. What I first thought about was the boatload of blessings in my life. A blessing is not a limitation and need not inhibit our ability to get out of the boat immediately. Not if we are awake. 

In fact, like blessings, the glass balls are just as beautiful when they are allowed to float and move freely. 

An Invitation
What's in your boat and are you able to move freely and openly when called upon? I would love to know.



  1. Loved that sermon - this is such a nice continuation of that, Mom. And the Chilhuly! How gorgeous. It might be time to go visit the sun at MIA to "warm up" in this winter!

  2. Thanks, Kate. I never expected to think about a sermon when visiting a botanical gardens. Just shows the power of that sermon and how connections can happen at any time.


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