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Reflections from Rev. Emily Gage

What Does It Mean To Be a Community of Abundance?

It’s been an odd fall this year, and as I look out my window, late into the season, most of the trees on our block are still full of green leaves. Only one tree, down on the corner, is on its own calendar, and it is radiant and bursting with reds and yellows and oranges. Its abundance is glorious. My eyes and spirit want to drink in its sheer gloriousness.

I am always struck this time of year at how the leaves seems to cry out to us, “Notice me!” right now, just before they fall and die. Sometimes it is at these precise moments where the fullness of life is juxtaposed with loss that abundance is most vivid. And that can be true no matter the degree of importance. I thought of abundance as I watched a deciding playoff baseball game the other night--one that our team won, but through long, hard, work, through nail biting moment after nail biting moment, when it could have gone either way. Because it was so hard won, because loss seemed so close (and so familiar), the abundance of the win seemed even sweeter. I felt an abundance and incredible gratitude at the end of a person’s life recently, someone who touched so many with her love and joy and compassion and wisdom, even amidst all my tears of great sadness.

What does it mean to be a people of abundance? I think in part that it means opening ourselves up to all that life has to offer; both the joys and the challenges, since we can’t fully experience one without fully experiencing the other. I think, in part, it also means shifting our perspective on occasion. These days, it is easy for things happening in the world to bring me into a place of sadness and worry and discouragement. I realized this week that I can spend my time focusing on that sadness and worry and discouragement OR I could spend my time focusing on the abundance of gifts in my life.

Someone shared a Winona LaDuke quote with me which helped me understand this in a new way: “One of our people in the Native community said the difference between white people and Indians is that Indian people know they are oppressed but don’t feel powerless. White people don’t feel oppressed, but feel powerless. Deconstruct that disempowerment. Part of the mythology that they’ve been teaching you is that you have no power. Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul. It is what your ancestors, your old people gave you. Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.” Power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul.

I think, too, when we are reminded of that power in our spirit, of that sense of abundance, it can motivate us even more deeply in working to shape the world towards our vision.

Sometimes, in considering what it means to be a people of abundance, we might be led towards choices about what is most important in our lives. One of my favorite children’s books about abundance is Byrd Baylor’s The Table Where Rich People Sit. In the book, a young girl questions her parents’ choices about their lifestyle; the parents clearly value the beauty of the outdoors over all else, while their daughter is not so sure. At one point she says, “‘I bet you could make more money working in a building somewhere in town.’ ‘Remember our number one rule,’ he says, ‘we have to see the sky.’” Our number one rule: we have to see the sky.

What is your number one rule? Where do you find the most abundance? I invite you to ponder these questions this month, and to find abundance all around you.