I Approve This Moment

October 30, 2016 — Jennifer Comeau


Let me begin by telling you a little story. It starts back when I was a buck-toothed, stringy-haired, eager-to-please eleven year old in 6th grade. My sister, Elaine, who was a year older, was making her Confirmation. One of the presents she received was this book mark.

For some reason, the message caught my attention with its wisdom deeper than my own:

I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.

The message on the back says: “May 2, 1977. To commemorate your full adult commitment to the church as you are confirmed, and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God love you, Elaine. Mr & Mrs Stepien.” (We kids referred to them as the Holly Roller neighbors.)

Well, soon I found myself borrowing that bookmark from my sister’s nightstand. It never seemed to make its way back. Okay, really? I just kinda stole it. It lured me in. (And yes, decades later I confessed, to a bewildered and completely unconcerned Elaine.)

For me, its message held a resonance that has remained all my life. I‘ve turned to it again and again, for it has become like a set of guideposts for how to live.

I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.

It’s similar to the command Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount, isn’t it? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12 NCV). But this seems to me less general, and more urgent. There is a time component to it. The time is NOW. You won’t be in this exact place, with these people, or in this circumstance ever, ever again. It seems to invite or require or even demand something of us, doesn’t it? But sometimes I forget. Sometimes we forget.

I sure wish there was time travel so we could have do-overs, don’t you? There is a house in Kennebunk whose owner displays signs on his lawn, have you seen it? One of his recent messages: “Interested in time travel? Meet here last Wednesday at 7PM.”

Barring any time travel, what do we do when we forget? I have found it helpful at these times to return to Chemistry Lab. Yep. That’s right. Chem Lab from High School. Remember? When we mixed HCL acid with sodium hydroxide and watched it go pooorrrhh in all its heated exothermic reactivity. We were learning the scientific principles – of curiosity, experimentation, and observation.

Applying the principle of observation, at times is necessary. We must become observers of our own lives. Then, we can notice, on a moment by moment basis — what enlivens or erodes the potentiality for is happening RIGHT NOW?

Equally important, perhaps is to remember, as Anne so beautifully read in Acts¹, “God CREATED the world, …and He is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being… ‘We are his offspring.’”

We’ve heard it before: WE have the Divine within us. WE are Creators too, imbued with the God-Spark of limitless love and compassion.

And Jesus was a Creator. I’ve gotten curious to imagine, as we all might, how did Jesus “pass through his world”? When wandering along a dusty pathway or through a village lined with ancient olive trees, how did Jesus approach each moment? I wonder: did he spend time wringing his hands and worrying obsessively over the disastrous state of affairs of the world? Did he spend time plugging into the fear-mongering that some in his day ranted about or intoned?

Or rather, did he cultivate a fierce sort of discernment, so that the focus of his energies, his thoughts and attentions were ONLY on what he wanted to create in the world? Did he have a kind of singular honing system for The Good, The True and The Beautiful, like that of carrier pigeons, who against all logic, return again and again to their center — their home roost?

Jarrad Hewett, author of Love, Life, God: The Journey of Creation, asserts something I’ve found to be a helpful tool. He says, “The moment you notice you are REACTING, you are not CREATING.”

So when I observe myself reacting – like becoming irritated at a driver who is on my tail, or when I observe myself reacting – like when I begin to yell at the TV during a debate or a Patriot’s Game, AND –when am awake enough to remember — “The moment I am REACTING, I am not CREATING” — I choose to lighten up and pull over so the driver behind me can pass, with my blessings. I choose to shut off the TV in lieu of an activity that enlivens me instead.

But there is such an allure to the drama that our culture perpetuates. Violent movies, sensational news, reality tv shows with families shouting at each other – we are like sleepwalkers in a mind-altering vortex that we feel both repelled by and yet attracted to. Because it is the water we are swimming in, I fear we are not even aware how toxic it is. But surely Jesus was aware. Do we, perhaps like Jesus, need to cultivate a fierce sort of discernment in each moment of our lives?

Friends, who is telling you that you must tear down the “other side”; who is compelling you to feel a wicked delight when someone “gets their comeuppance”; whose instructions are you listening to? And if you asked your heart in a moment still and true – what would you learn? What would we learn?

These are the questions I’ve been holding for a while because all I know is that the more I observe, the more I realize how much this mindless reactivity erodes my soul.
Borrowing for a moment from the part during our recent slate of political ads when a candidate appears on screen and says, “My name is so and so, and I approve this message” – one day, I began to seek an antidote to the negativity I and all of us are bombarded with.

I tweaked it, changing the word “message” to the word, “moment”. And then I began to ask myself, “Right here, right now, am I able to say, ‘My name is Jennifer Comeau and I approve this moment?’” My friends and I started posting pictures of moments we approved of on facebook, with the hashtag #approvethismoment.

Do I approve this moment? Believe me, during times when I’ve asked myself that question – including countless times in the days preceding this sermon – and realized the answer is NO, an uncomfortable tension lingered. In contrast, when I found the answer was YES, I felt uplifted, empowered, and eager to create more of the same.

Let’s ALL experiment right now to feel the power in the words. Let’s say it to ourselves or out loud – you decide. Just insert your own name. See how it feels. Hang on a minute: this of course, assumes one really important thing: You DO approve this moment!

Ready: My name is ______ and I approve this moment!

Did you feel it? The power? The power that comes from the conscious intention to enliven rather than to erode WHAT IS NOW?

Well, I know, YOU’RE all HIGH FLYERS here. I suspect many of you are already creating MOMENTS you approve of. Lots of them. Like Bob & Carol Sherman, for instance, who decided they would celebrate their 50 years of wedded bliss with a capital-M-Moment each and every month for the twelve months of their 50th year. Each an experience with people whom they love — from venturing to New York to see a play, or flying to Texas to visit grandchildren, or taking family and friends to The Samoset Golf Resort. I imagine Bob & Carol are creating moments they approve of.

Then there are what I’d call Ordinary moments suffused with connection to Mother Earth and her beauty, like when Heather and Erv Davis carefully place stone atop stone to create a Cairn that honors the landscape within which their home resides.

Or moments infused with artistry, like when Michelle plays an impromptu communion instrumental that deepens the sacredness for all of us; Moments when the painting Eileen has so generously labored over and beautifully created for a church fundraiser is revealed.

Then there are moments associated with what I might call a Mighty Purpose. Like when Eve McPheeters finds the energy and effort to organize our monthly Saco Meals Program year after year. Or when Caryn Firebaugh walks with sore feet mile after mile on behalf of her desire to end breast cancer. Or when Anita tirelessly attends Humane Society Board meetings and strategy discussions, or so gracefully endures the brutal hostility of those with an opposing view two years ago during The Bear Campaign.

And in spite of ourselves, amidst these moments worth approving, again– there are times we forget. John Forssen wrote a beautiful poem for today, and I am honored to read it. He writes:

Sometimes We Forget

Creation….such a beautiful idea,
but sometimes, in its midst,
we forget who we are.
life is simply too big,
and again and again
we forget.Despair can set in
where there should be sunshine
or, perhaps, we’re only a little grumpy.
The car won’t start,
the kids are bickering,
the news is always bad,
war and starvation everywhere,
late for work, bills to pay…
life simply overflows.
Seems like there’s no place
to stand, no time to rest.
So, of course, and who could blame us,
sometimes we forget.As far as we know
or, at least, it’s what we’ve been told
we are the objects of God’s love,
the center of his attention,
the masterpiece of his creation.
Is that something we could forget?
Could anyone forget
something that stretches that far
beyond the imagination?
Or, could it be
that we simply haven’t looked
closely enough?Fashioned in God’s image,
we are more than a passive creation.
We, too, are creators.
Like the God we call our father or mother,
we, too, have the power to love,
to be compassionate,
to offer peace to the world and,
at the bottom of it all.
to make a joyful
noise. Let us never
forget who we
really are.

Okay, let me slow down, and invite you to come in close here as I conclude, because, as I sat writing this in my Barnette, I had just read Heather Cyr’s fb post marking the 5th anniversary of Alec’s death. The one where she writes, “…As I think about the last 5 years, my heart overflows with gratitude… I am thankful for the love and light that enter my life each and every day. I am so, so lucky. So lucky to have this beautiful perspective on life…to know what really matters.”

And so, in the end, what I want to say is that each and every moment is a) precious, because it will never to be returned to us; and b) each and every moment is of our own creation. As Annie Dillard writes, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

My wish for us all is to pass through this world remembering what the oak tree and the eagle know; what the river and the wind reveal: the only time there is, is now. The power each of has is NOW. May we, with God’s grace, awaken, rise, and create only moments worthy of God’s approval; worthy of our own. Amen

¹ Isa. 40:25-31; Acts 17:24-29