Yesterday I posted a quotation by Jean Vanier on Face Book. If you are not “there” (on Face Book) but rather “here” – this is it: “When I discover that I am accepted and loved as a person, with my strengths and weaknesses, when I discover that I carry within myself a secret, the secret of my uniqueness, then I can begin to open up to others and respect their secret. Each human being, however small or weak, has something to bring to humanity. As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each other's stories, things begin to change. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgment and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart.”
Last night I was doing a little internet surfing for a meditation to use next Wednesday when I will lead a short worship service at Peter Sanborn Place, an assisted living facility in Reading. I chose a passage that talks about our individual gifts, and am grateful to an Episcopal priest, Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade for his insights. In the closing words to his meditation he says “…are you a gifted person? Yes, absolutely. Where you come from is a gift. Who you are is a gift, what you long to be are all gifts given you by God.” He speaks of each one of us as being as unique as snowflakes. He also talks of us having gifts in the time, place and relationships around us, and points out that while others may have better gifts (of painting as an example) than you do, it is you who is in any particular time or place, in relationship with whatever or whoever you are painting, who is fully using that gift.
I had a chance this week to spend three days in Maine, largely in the Boothbay Harbor area. On our drive there we stopped at the Coastal Botanical Gardens. You might want to look up its website here: http://www.mainegardens.org/. As we toured a small portion of this lovely estate, I was of course drawn in to picture taking – and saw the uniqueness, the giftedness, of the plants and creatures there. I am posting only a few of the photos I took here to demonstrate this thought – and will post a more complete “album” on Face Book. The butterfly weed is my icon on this giftedness. I looked up the word weed in Wikipedia – and I love what it says: “The term weed is used in a variety of senses, generally centering around a plant that is not desired within a certain context. The term weed is a subjective one…” What I really love is the comment about subjectivity! Don’t you think God might object to calling the butterfly “plant” a weed? Not only might He object, the monarch butterflies surely would as well!! I remember a Ranger meadow walk last summer in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park where we looked at milkweed, or butterfly weed plants and learned about these plants. They are the plants that provide nourishment to monarch butterflies who are attracted to the flowers’ nectar and who then feed on the plant in their larval stage. The Ranger told us the plant is perfect for Monarchs’ breeding because the plants – and hence the butterlies – have a yucky taste so no other critter eats the plant, the caterpillar or the chrysallis! Talk about being uniquely gifted…
On another front my friend Wendy Miller put up a blog post on Face Book recently about her colorfulness (she is!) and her swirly style (it’s true). Her post reminded me of an exercise I came across and shared with her several years ago on shapes. The ones we were to choose among were a square, a circle, a swirl, an equilateral triangle, and a cross (two lines intersecting at 90 degree angles at mid-point). The exercise invites you to rank the five different shapes, and out of that identifies for you a) where you think you are, b) your inherent gift, c) where you really are, d) your past process or challenge, and d) your outgrown process or shadow. I need to go back and do the exercise again some time to see if any but the “where I really am” has changed…I am confident that has not! (If you are interested in the exercise let me know and I can email it to you.) I am, ta da…., a square which is noted as the universal symbol of stability, solidity, the mark of person who is deeply secure both internally and externally. Squares are high producers; associated with alignment of word and action and are marked by accountability and authenticity. True confessions – I am a doer, and am authentic; what you see is what you get (I think this, authenticity, was key to my success in Newton as Parish Visitor). My friend Wendy on the other hand is a spiral. The spiral is the symbol associated with growth and development, marked by a high need for change and variety. Spirals have a high capacity to do multiple tasks at the same time. So you might wonder, what happens when a square, rooted in stability and security encounters a spiral (better described perhaps as a whirling dervish!)? It’s magic – there is learning and growth and appreciation for the different gifts that are brought to a relationship, and a lot of giggles too! “...as we begin to listen to each other's stories...We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgment and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart.”
As you move through this day and those that follow, I would propose that you give thought to YOUR gifts, to the ways in which you are unique in all the world, and to the ways you might share those gifts with others – in this time, this place, and in those relationships with those around you. Happy gifting! :-)