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From the Pastor – October 2021

THE GIFT

 

What if everything is a GIFT???

 

BOTH the things we like, that are enjoyable and pleasing to us, that we might call ‘good,’

 

AND the things we don’t like, that are hard and painful and unpleasant, that we might call ‘bad.’

 

There was once a couple- two souls very different and quite complementary- deeply committed to loving one another and their three daughters. The woman was suffering with worsening back pain, and was anxious to see her new doctor, after waiting through the summer to move into a new home, in a new city, in a new state.

Monday finally came, and the doctor was wonderful, listening and examining carefully. He ordered an MRI for the following day, Tuesday. The couple was eager for the results, considering countless possibilities, and preparing themselves for whatever therapy, or treatment, or even surgery, might lie ahead to heal the back pain.

The following morning, Wednesday, the doctor’s office called and asked if they could come into the office that afternoon.

‘Yes, of course!’

Then panic. Everything began to swirl. Reality blurred. Hearts pounded harder and faster than seemed humanly possible. Everything was happening so fast, and seemed to be accelerating even faster.

‘This can’t be good,’ they worried together.

In the doctor’s office that afternoon, frozen in fear, bracing for the blow they knew was coming, the doctor, with the greatest directness and compassion and urgency he could muster, uttered the words:

‘I’m sorry to tell you this. It’s cancer. And it looks like it’s metastatic, spreading from somewhere, throughout your body. You need to go home, tell your daughters, pack a bag, and head straight to the hospital.’

What happened after that is hard for the couple to remember, but they do recall finding themselves, after the initial week in the hospital and weeks of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, at a blood cancer symposium where the keynote speaker was one of the most renowned blood cancer doctors in the country, who would later become the woman’s transplant doctor. Each participant was given a slip of paper and a pen and asked to write the one word they would use to describe their experience with cancer.

You can probably imagine many of the responses. What you might not imagine is the word the man wrote down. The couple themselves were surprised to read the four letters scrawled on his slip of paper: G I F T.

It had only been a few short weeks since the couple had their entire lives turned upside down, altered forever, no chance of ever returning to what was, or even of living out the life they dreamed of.

That first week in the hospital, in the midst of the swirling chaos, the couple found a calm center, a place of Love, from where they consciously decided, together, to share their new journey with anyone who wanted- the ugly parts, the beautiful parts, the joys, the struggles, the fears, the hopes, the healings, the sufferings, and the Love- ALL of it. For it ALL was a GIFT.

 

And so we receive the Gift- the 3 steps to living Life as a Gift:

 

Receptivity

Step one is to receive everything as a gift. We can begin by receiving each breath as a gift. Then each bodily sensation, receiving as a gift. Each thought, each emotion, receive as a gift. Every person, every relationship, every interaction, every circumstance. Receive it all as a gift.

 

Gratitude

Step two is to say THANK YOU! As we receive all that we experience as a gift, we can practice gratitude. We can practice thanking God, thanking the Universe, for all that is.

 

Generosity

Step three is to share the gift. We don’t impose, or force, the gift of our lived experience on anyone. But we freely, and generously, and lovingly offer all that we are, all that we have, all that we’re becoming, in service to God, the Universe, for the greatest benefit of all!

Born in Shiraz, a contemporary of Chaucer in England, lived a beloved poet of Persia, a Sufi master named Hafiz, thought to have written an estimated 5,000 poems. Only 500-700 have survived, and many are included in a book called ‘The Gift.’ Once such poem, entitled ‘To Build a Swing,’ goes like this:

 

You carry

All the ingredients

To turn your life into a nightmare–

Don’t mix them!

 

You have all the genius

To build a swing in your backyard

For God.

 

That sounds

Like a hell of a lot more fun.

Let’s start laughing, drawing blueprints,

Gathering our talented friends.

 

I will help you

With my divine lyre and drum.

 

Hafiz

Will sing a thousand words

You can take into your hands,

Like golden saws,

Silver hammers,

 

Polished teakwood,

Strong silk rope.

 

You carry all the ingredients

To turn your existence into joy,

 

Mix them, mix

Them!

 

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