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On Sauntering vs. Walking: When is enough enough

The homework came in. The feedback I got from the assignment centered on a theme that basically said, ‘We used to be that, but now we’re only this.” Today I invite you on a stroll, a saunter, into who we are as a community from the perspective of someone who has been around you since only January 25th of this year. There is, of course, two sides to the story. One is sort of like the reading in Deuteronomy (Walk in God’s ways) and the other is like the reading in Psalms (We are wonderfully made). The Deuteronomy reading is about doing something. The reading in Psalms is about being grateful for what we already are. The first reading is a walk toward a destination. The second, is a saunter and a celebration of where we are.

I have found that to get to a destination as a community, while it may seem best to simply march ahead, I’ve found that it is best to start with a saunter. I have coached basketball for ten years. The first three years I did a common sense march ahead type approach. I focused on what we needed to do. I found where we were lacking and I frequently pointed it out. And in the first three years my team’s combined record was 3 wins 45 loses. Then in the fourth year, I decided to saunter. I decided to go less on the Deuteronomy and more on the Psalms. I started by pointing out where my team was right. And I quickly saw that I saw more and more of what was right. I realized that every time a team runs down the floor, there is something simultaneously going on that’s right and wrong. I started looking for what was right. And the more I pointed it out the more they kept doing what was right. From that season on, in the next seven years of coaching, we won 75% of our games and along with 2 championships.

Today, instead of the warnings of Deuteronomy “…you shall perish; you shall not live long” if we don’t do x, y, and z. I want to start with grace—a message that we are fearfully and wonderfully made as we are right now.

Buckwalter at mile 1.6

So let’s start with a story from something that happened just the other day. As I tell it, think about if or how this story relates to our recent history here at UCC in say the last couple years.

The other day I was running on Buckwalter. I was wired up. I had a watch keeping track of my pulse, my phone keeping track of my mile pace by the second. I had headphones on Youtube playing some interview of Jimmy Carter. And I’m just knocking it out. Getting stuff done. Plus, my pace was a little faster than usual. I was feeling pretty good about the workout. Then exactly 1.62 miles into the run, a sharp knife stabbing pain hit my left calf. I stopped. I knew I’d have to walk back. I texted a complaint to my wife who wrote back, “Enjoy the walk.” That instantly framed it differently for me.

I started walking back. More than that I started to saunter. I unplugged from my digital world and became present in what was going on around me. I even started taking pictures. It was as if I were seeing this familiar pace for the first time. I realized that I could tell you my mile time average, my pulse, the elevation change, but I couldn’t tell you much about the scenery. My wife had re-framed the run. I mean I could have focused on how it’d probably take a month for my left calf to heal and how that ruined my workout. I could keep thinking of the good old days when just 10 years ago I used to run 13 miles at an average pace that is a 1:15 faster than what I do today at only four miles. I could just keep focusing on how I’m not enough. But in truth, that walk or saunter back home was probably better for my overall health, than another hurried run multitasking my way through space and time. Even with a blown out calf muscle, by slowing down and looking around, I realized that there were still many things to celebrate. I had all these beautiful views, a family to walk home to, birds sounds, cows in the field, and by the way I could still walk and I can still see. Life is pretty good. But I wouldn’t have been aware of any of that unless I had sauntered. Sometimes we may need to slow down and saunter a bit and take in the beauty around us. And it may be more important that just an ‘Oh, that’d be nice to do a little more sauntering.” Sauntering may be more than a cute and quaint little thing. It may be vital. It may be something we need to intentionally develop as a lifesaving discipline.

Thoreau & the Origin of Sauntering

One of my favorite essays in literature is by Henry David Thoreau. It’s entitled ‘Walking.’ Henry David Thoreau might be called one of our foremost experts on the art of walking. Thoreau’s walking might be better called sauntering. The word saunter may come from a Middle English word santren—which is to muse. Or it may come from what Thoreau described in his essay, as someone on their way to the Holy Land. ‘A la Saint[e] Terre’ with the first part of the word Saunt—Santo, Saint, and the latter part of the word coming from Terra, tierra, land. It was said of those on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, ‘There goes a Saint[e] Terrer, a saunterer, a holy lander.’ Thoreau saw walking as an act of worship—a component of spirituality. Maybe even a spiritual discipline.

Two types of walking

Today we will look at the art of walking as a guide to being more fully awake, which is to say to develop a rich inner spiritual life. I think we find that there are really two types of walking—one type of walking gets you from point A to point B. The other type of walking is about savoring the moment as you go. It’s like the difference between eating food for mere calories in order to supply the body with energy (mac and cheese or roman noodles) vs. eating to savor the flavor, the aroma, and to bask in the ambiance and culture of fine cuisine (a cheese suflate with garlic seared Brussel spouts). This analogy breaks down because cheese suflaes served in ambiance cost more than roman in front of the TV. But the kind of walking Thoreau writes about is free. It is everywhere. It takes no special prep. But it does take a certain mindset to fully indulge it.

Other ways to view the two types of walking

In individuals, as well as communities, there are always two currents flowing simultaneously through a life of faith. One we’ll call the Psalms side and the other we’ll call the Deuteronomy side. One is Praise and the other is Push. Buddha might sum it up by saying one side is about Being and the other is about Doing. A recent book I finished entitled, Peak Performance would label it Stress and Rest. Pastor Anne may call it Formation and Action. Or she might call it Saunter or Hike.

The saunter and the hike are really two systems that work inside of humanity. In the sauntering system, everything around us is enough just as it is—we are enough. In the hiking system we are not enough—we have not arrived. We still must march toward a destination.

Sauntering takes training—it’s not natural

But in the sauntering system there is no destination. Where you are is good enough. For a bunch of task doers, To Do list checkers, who do so much, sauntering is not as natural as hiking. It’s more natural to be always moving toward some destination. As a teacher once said at a meeting while the principal was explaining why we should do something, she raised her hand and said, “We’re all hoop dancers. Just give us the hoop and we’ll do it.” It’s the way many people live their whole lives.

I’m good enough/I’m not good enough

The sauntering and the hiking are both totally intertwined and inform each other. We’ll call one system, “I’m enough.” We’ll call the other system, “I’m not enough.” And the funny thing is we need both to be fully awake. If we exclusively believe we are enough then we don’t push, we don’t grow, and we can become soft and entitled. But if we exclusively believe ‘I’m not enough” then we suffer from a lack of confidence—and that’s serious because as the old legendary football coach Joe Pa’ said, “Confidence is the key to every door.’ So if we are only of the mentality “I’m not enough’ we won’t be able to open doors. So it’s tricky to dance with both at the same time. Today we’re going to talk about how this concept of “I’m enough and I’m not enough” may apply to us as a community of faith.

Why is enough important?

One of the dangers of not reflectively sauntering—trendiness

One of the dangers of not sauntering enough is that we can tend to rush and lose sight of what is really important. Without reflective contemplation become trendy. Being washed back and forth in a tide of whatever is the latest. Duet. 30:17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them.

Jimmy Carter isn’t trendy

When we look at people from the Admiration Series we discover that many aren’t trendy. They are the ones who actually set the trends. For instance, when we look at Jimmy Carter’s life, it’s easy to see that trends don’t affect him. He lives in the same house he did in the 1950s. He teaches Sunday school in the same church he’s always gone to. So what if the world doesn’t give two figs about Sunday School. Jimmy Carter does. And he is committed to it. And I suspect this busy man, maybe one of the busiest men of our time, stays committed to his principles over time, because he saunters. When he was asked once in an interview after his book about turning 90, what has been the best period of your life. He paused and thought. And then he said, “Right now.” Saunters know high-flying presidencies are not any more of a significant than chapping onions in the kitchen in Plains Georgia with his wife Roselyn. Saunterers know how to see what’s significant in the moment. A saunterer knows that whatever is right in front of us is just as much a miracle as anything else. As Whitman once said, “The earth, that is enough.”

Saunterers know purpose and are moved by conditions

I knew a teacher once, who wanted to teach somewhere else because our school has had a lot of turn over in the administration. I was like who cares who shows up in that office. I know my goals are to be the teachers I had when I was young. Does not matter who shows up in that office spot, I know why I’m showing up. Non-saunterers think that if all the elements of the universe converged in just the right place, then suddenly they’ll be happy. Trouble is the universe never does that. The universe is messy. Sunterers can see perfection in the imperfection. They find a joy that transcends whether everything aligns perfectly to their idea of what reality should be.

PBIS: Education hardly saunters

Sauntering is a skill that gets developed over time. One of my real problems with the whole field of education is how little sauntering is involved. It is a task-oriented, to-do list checking enterprise that doesn’t do a lot of deep reflection. I runs after trends, because it doesn’t develop its own sauntering core. They want pre-fabricated character building curriculum without the teacher first committing to his or her own character building. It’s just easier to not think and keep doing.

It takes one to save a marriage.

To revitalize this church and to motivate—we must be motivated ourselves. And purpose helps motivation. If we know why, we can figure out the how. But if we start with the how, and the why is fuzzy, then we become robotic and we go through the motions. Sauntering is about getting in connection with self.

The Christian Concept of Grace

But first, why is it even important to talk about the psychology of “I’m enough / I’m not enough”? This I’m enough as I am right now, is perhaps the central message of Christianity. Buddhism may offer us meditation and the middle way as a path to enlightenment. Islam offers us community based religious practices that lead to wholeness. Many indigenous religions offer a connection to the land that guides people into a greater connectedness with everything and thus makes people whole. Christianity offers us insight into grace—undeserved, unearned, unconditional love. So much of the world says, You do X and you will earn favor. We see a bit of that in Deuteronomy. In other words, We are not enough. Christianity says, you don’t have to do anything other that be, to receive God’s favor. We are enough. We see that in the reading in Psalms.

Enough is relevant because of meritocracy

Why is Christianity’s message still relevant? We live in a brutal meritocracy. In our culture people are largely judged according to how they measure up on the economic spectrum. More money. More respect. Less money. Less respect. That is not how Jesus did it. Look who he hanged out with. The poor. The prostitutes. The sick. The ones who were lowest on the economic totem pole. It’s because Jesus wasn’t into the meritocracy. He was into forwarding grace—unconditional love. His love was for people just as they were at that moment. The notion of ‘I’m enough’ just as I am, is a pretty radical concept in a meritocracy such as ours.

Perception shapes reality

Plus, ‘I’m enough’ is a pretty radical concept because if there is anything I’m convinced of after doing my Master’s thesis on this topic, it’s that self-perception shapes reality. Our perception of who we are as individuals and who we are as a community are important, because that perception actually shapes who we are.

Transformational moments were moments of grace—I was enough: Father Marty /

Coach Moore

But those are all heady reasons why ‘I’m enough’ is important. When I look at my life, the pivotal moments were always shaped by grace—by someone who made me feel like I was enough as I was. When I arrived at the monastery in Mexico, long hair, dirty jeans, crappy car, no Spanish skills at all, and he said, “Here’s your room, Stay as long as you want, Supper is at 6:00” it was like someone believed in me when there wasn’t one shred of evidence that I was someone who could help their community. In fact, the facts were stacked up against me. I couldn’t even speak Spanish, what could I possibly offer a Spanish speaking community. But he just said, “Here’s your room, stay as long as you want, supper is at 6:00.” That is grace. That is what the kingdom of god is like. I was enough just as I was—long hair and all.

I’ve felt it too, when my Cross country coach believed against factual evidence that I was a good runner. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. And that belief carried me into a scholarship, a debt-free college exit, and the ability to travel, where I ended up in Mexico, learned Spanish and became a Spanish teacher, because someone said, “You’re enough” You’re not enough right now, but I know you are enough.

But it started with a feeling that I was not enough. Maybe if this community thinks that it is not enough, it’s just an opportunity for grace. If we really are ok as we are, we can go forward from here.

This community: I say you’re enough you say you’re not enough: we’re both right.

As for this community, I have a unique perspective on who we are. You see when I look at this community I can only see it for what it is right now. I have no other way I can see it. And I will tell you, you are enough! You are an amazing community. I’ll share some details in a second, but I noticed that through your responses to my homework, many of you see this community through the lens of what it used to be compared to what it is today. And we are left feeling that we are not enough. Funny thing is, when I say ‘We’re enough’ and you say ‘We’re not enough,’ We’re both right.

Examples of FEELING grace:

Now, about my perspective that says we’re enough as we are. We are enough. What I’ve seen in the last six months here is grace. I had done nothing to earn a spot to share my experience in your service. You just took that risk. You forwarded me a trust that I had not earned. So I felt grace.

Jim France I’d say you’re off to a good start

And it is a feeling based thing. We can make intellectual acknowledgments that ‘We’re enough’ but it doesn’t have much power if we don’t feel it. Here I have felt it. Like the other day, I shared with Jim France, that I didn’t feel like I was doing enough. He said, “You’re trying to get to know people, I’d say you’re off to a good start.” That grace. That’s ‘you’re enough.

Your intentions are great & God looks at the heart

I see so many in the Admiration Series who wonder how can we apply the life examples of others to our community and bring the community to this church or bring this church to the community. These intentions alone are a beautiful thing. But I’ve also seen them in motion, I saw it at the soup kitchen the other day where so many came and volunteered. That’s beautiful. From your homework, it was obvious that so many want to do good in this community. Don’t get ahead and say, “Well intentions aren’t enough. We have to do something.” I get it. That’s true. But do you know you have a beautiful heart. Do you know that God looks at our hearts. I bet he smiles when he see’s this community’s heart!

Beer and Theology: the Schwerins

I see the grace, the kingdom, the psalms, the saunter, the I’m enough when I go to Beer and Theology and an older man shares his experiences and harshly criticizes the church, and Michelle and Chris Schwerin listen with a look of acceptance of him. The look they have isn’t of mere tolerance. It’s of appreciation. There’s a big difference between those two concepts.

Ok, maybe that look comes from the beer…or maybe it comes from the fact that they are just people who are open to the world. And That’s enough.

Nan and curiosity

I see the grace. I see kingdom. I see the psalms, I see the side of ‘I’m enough’ when Nan comes to our Admiration Series and has researched the person and knows more than I do about that person, but let’s me go on. Adding here and there and actually the whole idea behind this message today with her insight about sauntering. When I go to the library to look up info in section 921 and the book is gone, my first thought is, “Nan beat me to it.” Whether or not that’s true, it doesn’t really matter, because she definitely likes to learn new things. If we are going to saunter today, then Curiosity and a desire to learn is enough.’

Not closed off to the community—chior, voting, AA, Zen meditation etc.

I see this community offering space for Zen meditation classes. AA sessions. This is not a place that is locked up. It’s a place that is opening it’s doors to the community. In fact, the first time I’ve been to church was with my son’s spring concert for Lincoln Elementary. I’ve voted in this place long before I ever got involved here. The rummage sale. Just saying, this is a place that is literally open to the community. In the saunter this morning—I hope you feel the side of ‘you’re enough as you are right now.’ Oh, I know we have to push forward and do more. But do you feel that you have good intentions and good actions?!

Jay and the best expression of you’re enough

Lastly, the you are enough as you are at this moment. I thought I saw your core values at work the other day. So many of you reported that you like the people and values of this church. I saw those values other day at a council meeting. Jay led a devotional, which by the way was pretty revolutionary about what he was talking about as a paradigm for interpreting the Bible. But that wasn’t it. It was something he said later that struck me so deeply. He started saying something with the words, “My husband…” I don’t remember what he said after that. But I remember how people responded or didn’t respond to those words. Here, at UCC those words were just as normal as me starting a sentence with, “My wife…” The fact that this little moment that will not recorded in Jim’s minutes for the meeting, told me more about this community, than all the hymns, sermons, and readings I’ve heard in this church. It was in that little moment when you weren’t trying to be or do anything—that you showed the most grace. You showed acceptance. That is the kind of acceptance I want. If the white supremists accept me because I’m white, well, that is not what I want. Because I know it is a conditional acceptance. I could have just as easily been born black. Just so happens I’m white. And because of that you are accepting me? No thanks! But when you are accepting a man brought up in the Jewish tradition with some overtones of Mormonism and he has a husband and you just accept him a Jesus unconditionally accepts and loves us ,man, whatever that is, sign me up. I’m in.

I think the path forward may start there. What are we truly passionate about. I see many of you answered that you are here for two reasons the people and the values. I can say that what we are today in terms of people and values—you are enough. At the same time we have an upstairs we hope to fill. But before we fill it again, let’s look inward. Let’s not come from a place of scarcity. “Oh, only if we had more people.” We have something to offer this community as we are right now.

“We praise you for we are fearfully and wonderfully made.” If you do not hear (or take the time to saunter), you may be led astray.” Jesus always comes up beside us where we are and say’s “Hey, you’re enough. You are loved just as you are.” As we are fill with grace, so now we can go out and fill those rooms upstairs.

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