July 12th, 2020 Sunday Service Message: Lessons from the Turtle – “The Gift of the Mountain”

Embrace the Possibilities

In the sixth of her series of talks based on Steve Goodier’s Lessons from the Turtle1, Rev. Joanne continues the story of the spiritual unfoldment of Turtle by telling us The Gift of the Mountain. 

Still upside down on his back, Turtle continues his conversation with Owl by recalling the lessons he has learned so far.  He reminds us about the Gift of the Accident, which is a lesson in our ability to make choices in life.  Then he tells us about the Gift of the Tree, which reminds us of our self worth and to honor ourselves.  Turtle continues by recalling the Gift of the Cloud, which teaches us the power of Affirmation.  And finally he shows his understanding about the Gift of the Butterfly, which is a lesson about living in the now moment.

Having shown Owl that he has been listening, and understands the lessons he has been teaching him, Turtle finally asks Owl to help him right himself.  Owl explains that he would do so if he could, but that “we” must be patient.  Turtle gets cross with Owl and says, “who is this we you are referring to, is there anyone else here on their back besides me?”  Owl seems to ignore the gibe and says, “well, as long as we’re here, we might as well have another lesson.”

Pointing to a mountain, Owl asks Turtle to consider what a mountain represents.  Looking at what Owl is pointing to, Turtle says, “that’s not a mountain, I know a mountain.  It’s a steep obstacle in my path that I must walk around.”  Owl tells Turtle that the Gift of the Mountain is the lesson of goals.  Instead of going around a mountain, we must work toward reaching the summit, which is achieved by taking one small step at a time.

Trying to understand this new information, somewhat confused Turtle asks Owl, “If the Lesson of the Cloud was that if we repeat affirmations, our dreams will come true, then why do we need goals?”

Owl replies, “Clouds give us something to work toward.  Climbing a mountain brings us closer to the clouds, our goals.  We reach our dreams by believing and acting on our affirmations, and we act by taking one step at a time.”

“I see,” said Turtle, “so small steps pursued daily will achieve the grandest of results.”

Using the previous weeks’ lessons to support and illuminate the lesson of goals given by the gift of the Mountain, Rev. Joanne makes a personal distinction between working toward goals and living with an intention.  She explains that each step we take are our intentions that will eventually lead to a place we want to be.  How do we know if we are living ‘intentionally?’  By daily asking oneself, Am I doing what is mine to do?  Am I following the Divine Wisdom and Guidance that is within me?

We can find answers to these questions in the quiet time of prayer and meditation.  Everyone experiences these things differently.  Some people do receive insights in real time during the actual process of praying or meditating.  An answer may “flash” into their mind.  For others, myself included, such immediate insights are rare or entirely absent.  For me, insights come later, sometimes much later, as a byproduct of the process.  The realizations that I have experienced are not a flash of lightning, but more like the gradual illumination received during sunrise.

Rev. Joanne gives an example of an intention she holds in her own life – to raise the consciousness of love within herself and others so that she can create a world that works for all.  This intention is not of the type that can be measured, such as an intention to lose weight, increase income, or complete an advanced degree.  Yet, both share a common trait.  Rev. Joanne explains that the great insight she has received from “living on her back” like Turtle, as we all have to some extent during our current global climate of Covid-19 and political unrest, is that remaining “intentional” does not require that we need to be able to see all the way up to the top of the mountain to live a purposeful life, only that we need to be able to navigate the terrain immediately in front of us.

The Gift of the Mountain is that we only need (and in fact only can) take one step at a time to move toward our goals.  While that is certainly true, having a longer view beyond our immediate circumstances is useful in helping us to decide what our next step should be.  If we are climbing the mountain of life and the conditions are dark, foggy, or obscured by bad weather, it may be that are view is only able to direct our next step.  But our metaphorical mountains are not always so challenging.  When we have the ability to look further ahead, we are better able to avoid fallen trees and large boulders, or sheer cliffs and dangerous animals.  When that clearer view is available, we should certainly look forward and plan accordingly.

Reminding us of the Gift of the Butterfly, the lesson of living in the now moment, Rev. Joanne asks us to consider what living in the goo of Covid-19 (like the goo of a caterpillar in its cocoon) combined with the Gift of the Mountain, the lesson of goals, can teach us about being patient and doing what we can in this moment to live intentionally.  We can always return to our self-reflection taken in prayer in meditation.

Patience is a virtue, it is said.  But patience is not an excuse for procrastination.  Even when living within unpleasant conditions beyond our control, there is always something we can do to make the world a little better than we found it yesterday: common courtesy, especially to our immediate family who we are probably spending a lot more time with at the moment; a friendly smile to a stranger; being a less aggressive driver; saying thank you more often; breathing to calm oneself before reacting in anger; leaving more than a 15% tip for good service; calling your parents or grandparents just to say hello. 

Everyone experiences obstacles on their road in life.  Aside from our current shared experience of global conditions, we all still have our individual paths to navigate.  What are we to make of the personal obstacles we encounter?  Is it Divine Spirit telling us that we should turn back because this is not the path we are meant to be on?  Or are the obstacles something that simply happen and are challenges for us to overcome?  When we ask ourselves this question, and have done the spiritual discernment to arrive at an answer, we may discover that, yes, we should pursue a different path.  But when we decide that this thing, whatever it may be, is still mine to do we will discover that in overcoming the obstacles we will finally find our way to the top of the mountain and in the process be strengthened and uplifted, finding possibilities we never knew existed.

I am ready for new challenges and new possibilities.  Are you?  Let’s all get there, one step at a time. 


Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Psalm 25:4

Spiritual Practice:

This week, consider the areas of your life that you have decided to transform.  You have created denials/affirmations.  You have focused on being present.  What is one small step, however small, you can take each day to support you in demonstrating your intention?

Greg Skuderin

1Goodier, Steve, Lessons of the Turtle, Living Right Side Up, Life Support System Pub Inc, 2002.