June 2010


I am trying to pay better attention!  You know, it isn’t very easy!  There is so much going on all the time inside our heads and all around us.  It isn’t easy to pay attention and remain focused on any one thing for very long. 

      As you may remember, I wrote last month about a week I had that was full of things lost and found.  Unfortunately, it is too often only when such repetitions happen to me that I finally notice.  God has to be pretty persistent with me in order to get me to pay attention.  I am doing a little better though.  This week I encountered the word “wholehearted” twice within two days from different sources.  One was a paragraph in a blog by my friend, Doug Wysockey-Johnson, who is the executive director of Lumunos (formerly known as Faith at Work).  The other was a radio broadcast of a recording of Maria Von Trapp, made back in the 1950’s, for Edward R. Murrow’s “This I Believe” series.

      Maria von Trapp (made famous in the movie “Sound of Music”) spoke of the daily habit she and her husband shared for reading the Bible together and attempting to put it into practice.  She remembered the day they read the passage about “becoming as little children”.  Of course they knew it did not mean to shrink in size, but they wondered what quality of childlikeness Jesus was uplifting.  They came to the conclusion it was “wholeheartedness.”


      “What struck us most was the discovery that a child has no past, and no future. It only lives in the present moment but, this, wholeheartedly. Just by watching our babies, we found if they ate, they ate; if they slept, they slept; if they played, they played. And whatever they did, they did with their whole heart, with their whole little being.

      Not so, a grownup. While he’s doing one thing, he’s worrying about the past: Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I say that? Or about the future: And how will it go next month, next year? What am I going to do if this and this should happen? Slowly it dawned on us that only a childlike soul can fulfill the first and foremost commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with a whole heart and with a whole soul and with a whole mind.” Because the grownup has forgotten how to be wholehearted about anything; while he does one thing, he cares already about another.”


      Just in case I didn’t absorb that message (which was certainly intended for me!), God sent it a second time in Doug’s blog.  He was writing about fatigue and exhaustion, which characterize so many of us.  I expected him to preach a little sermon about self-care, about taking breaks, vacations, and keeping the Sabbath.  But I was wrong, he was writing about “wholeheartedness”!  Doug quotes the poet David Whyte:


      “The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest, so says the poet David Whyte. No, sometimes the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.  In his highly recommended book Crossing the Unknown Sea:  Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, Whyte recounts these words spoken to him by a trusted friend at a time of real work exhaustion: ‘You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life.  You are only half there, and half here will kill you after a while.’ (Crossing the Unknown Sea, p. 132).”


      I understand him to be saying that half-heartedness is exhausting and deadly (to the soul if not to the body).  This is a spiritual challenge, at least for me!  I think God was inviting me to see that my attention and my heart are both often fragmented.  We might call it multi-tasking and congratulate ourselves on our productivity.  But it is unhealthy in so many ways.  The Buddhist practice of “mindfulness” addresses this same destructive proclivity.  It is a call to be present, to be fully present, to the moment, to the task at hand, to the person right in front of us.  It means paying full attention.  Perhaps if I bring my whole mind and my whole heart to bear on just one thing at a time, as much as I can, perhaps God may be able to heal the fractures in my life and make me more whole.  May it be so.


Rest vs Wholeheart

I am not sure if I followed this, but I just pinned a prayer slip to that old rugged wooden cross inside of Iona Abbey for you.  On it I wrote, or scribbled, For Rob Williimas - Rest.    The congregation prays for all these prayer requests once a week on a certain day which I think is Wed.  I'm hoping to go to the service tonight.  It took landing on Iona to finally get me to remember friends and check emails, Facebook etc.  I will have to think about rest and whole heartedness.

Mary Oliver's Poem on Paying Attention!

Look and See


This morning, at waterside, a sparrow flew
to a water rock and landed, by error, on the back
of an eider duck; lightly it fluttered off, amused.
The duck, too, was not provoked, but, you might say, was


This afternoon a gull sailing over
our house was casually scratching
its stomach of white feathers with one
pink foot as it flew.


Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us, if we
only look, and see.


~ Mary Oliver ~


(Why I Wake Early)