This page is about Terry Hershey's blog called Sabbath Moment.  I have dedicated it to this for those of you to enjoy!  This man is a great inspirational writer of faith, hope, courage, and strength to me!  I hope you find the same inside!  Enjoy!  You can find more at: www.Terryhershey.com.

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Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

Bridges to build

April 29th 2019

 

 

Two brothers, living on adjoining farms, fell into conflict. In forty years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, providing mutual support and assistance whenever needed, it is their first rift. But it doesn't take much, does it? (“I have no idea what happened, but I know it wasn’t me.”) 
A conflict that begins with a small misunderstanding can grow into a major fracture. 
Weeks (spilling into months) of hostile silence follow the exchange of bitter and spiteful words between the brothers. One morning there is a knock on the older brother's door. Opening the door, the older brother encounters a man with a carpenter's toolbox, eager to do odd jobs around the farm. After thinking for a quick moment, the brother says, "Yes, I do have a job for you." Pointing toward the creek separating the two farms, the elder brother says, "Last week there was a meadow between our two farms until my brother bulldozed his way to the river levee, leaving this creek to divide our land. I want to go him one better. I want you to build an eight-foot fence between our properties. I won't need to see him or his farm anymore."
The carpenter responds, "I think I understand the situation. Provide me the wood, the nails and a post-hole digger, and I'll get started." 
The older brother has errands, so after readying the supplies, he leaves for the day. All day, the carpenter measures, saws, planes and builds. 
At just about sunset, the farmer returns home to see the carpenter completing his task. The farmer's jaw drops, for the carpenter has not built a fence at all. Instead, he has created a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other. It is a fine piece of work, complete with handrails, but not at all what the older brother had asked for. Imagine the older brother's surprise when he sees his younger brother standing on the bridge, his hands outstretched as he says, "You are quite a fellow to build this bridge, after all I've said and done. I'm amazed. Thank you." 
The two brothers meet one another in the middle, embracing in a spirit of reconciliation. Turning, they see the carpenter hoisting his toolbox on his shoulder. 
"No, wait!" says the older brother. "I have many other projects for you." 
"I'd be glad to stay," the carpenter responds, "but I have many more bridges to build."

This story hits me at my core. It’s easy to be derailed, to fall off the wagon of well-being. And to give way to anger, division, bitterness, playing a victim, depression. And they become our narrative. All the above, have this in common; Scotoma… Selective blindness. We see what we want to see. With scotoma, we wall (or fence) off tenderness and grace and inclusion and healing and reconciliation.
So. What in us sees only a fence (or a wall) instead of a bridge? Is it that we need to guard or clutch something? There is something about a fence that makes us feel secure; as if we are in control.
Charlie Brown and Lucy are leaning against a wall.
"If I were in charge of the world, I'd change everything!" Lucy says.
"That would not be easy... where would you start?" Charlie Brown asks.
"I'd start with you!" Lucy tells him.

I know that the walls I build on the outside are reflections or mirrors of walls on the inside. Why? Because I am not at home in my own skin. Both brothers in the story needed that journey “home”.  With walls, I live from a place of fear. Fear from a self that is too small. And we project this smallness onto others, and to the world around us. Smallness becomes an impediment… of distrust or shame or bullying or intolerance or self-reproach.
What does it take to build a bridge where there is none? 
​​​​​​​A bridge to those parts of our self, untethered and flailing.
​​​​​​​A bridge to people in our lives where wounds fester and dishearten.
We begin here: Inside of us, each one of us carries the carpenter's tools.
Each one of us can dismantle the message of shame or disgrace or humiliation.
Each one of us can tell others the truth, which is our truth... meaning that we return people to themselves and to the truth of themselves, that we are--in fact--brothers (or sisters).

Here's the deal: Love (or worth, or value, or forgiveness, or reconciliation, or meaning) is not something you produce or achieve or acquire. It is not something that you even have. Love is something that has you. 
You do not have the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don't possess these things; you surrender to them. And maybe, that surrender begins with an unforeseen journey across a bridge. Across a creek that had separated and divided. As long as we cling, we cannot make this journey. If we cannot let go--of our need for certitude or control or resentment or vindictiveness--we cannot find our way back. 

​​​​​​​Robert Benson talks about Sunday School teacher Hazelyn McComas ("a kind and gentle woman, a teacher, a woman of prayer, a woman whose spirit bears witness to her having spent a life seeking for glimpses of and listening for whispers of God within the ancient prayer of the Chosen People"). There is always a kid in the class who considers it his charge to trap the teacher. Benson remembers one occasion when the teacher was challenged about the veracity of the Faith. "I remember that she drew a breath and straightened up a bit, as though she wanted to be firm and clear, but not harsh and critical. (She said,) 'This is what I believe: We were with God in the beginning. I do not understand that exactly--what we looked like, what we did all day, how we got along, any of it. Then we were sent here. And I am not sure that I understand that very well, either. And I believe that we are going home to God someday, and what that will be like is as much a mystery to me as any of the rest of it. But I believe those things are true and that what we have here on earth in between is a longing--for the God that we have known and for the God that we are going home to.'"
Yes Ms. McComas... Love is not something you have. Love is something that has you.

Speaking of bridges, St. Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), whose feast we celebrate, received a vision of Jesus Christ as a bridge reaching from heaven to earth, forever joining “humanity with the greatness of the Godhead.”
​​​​​​​I spent a good weekend with a group of men from Trinity Ecumenical Church (Hardy, VA). We enjoyed our days at Shrine Mont Conference Center, in the shadow of the Allegheny Mountains.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, "you owe me." Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky. Hafiz of Shiraz

Poems and
Prayers

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ​​​​​​​

To Say Nothing But Thank You 
​​​​​​​All day I try to say nothing but thank you,
​​​​​​​breathe the syllables in and out with every step I
​​​​​​​take through the rooms of my house and outside into
​​​​​​​a profusion of shaggy-headed dandelions in the garden
​​​​​​​where the tulips’ black stamens shake in their crimson cups. 
​​​​​​​I am saying thank you, yes, to this burgeoning spring
​​​​​​​and to the cold wind of its changes. Gratitude comes easy
​​​​​​​after a hot shower, when loosened muscles work,
​​​​​​​when eyes and mind begin to clear and even unruly
​​​​​​​hair combs into place. 
​​​​​​​Dialogue with the invisible can go on every minute,
​​​​​​​and with surprising gaiety I am saying thank you as I
​​​​​​​remember who I am, a woman learning to praise
​​​​​​​something as small as dandelion petals floating on the
​​​​​​​steaming surface of this bowl of vegetable soup,
​​​​​​​my happy, savoring tongue.
Jean​​​​​​​ne Lohmann 
​​​​​​​
We seek your presence, O God,
not because we have managed to see clearly
or been true in all things this day,
not because we have succeeded in loving
or in reverencing those around us,
but because we want to see with clarity,
because we long to be true,
because we desire to love as we have been loved.
Renew our inner sight,
make fresh our longings to be true
and grant us the grace of loving this night
that we may end this day as we had hoped to live it,
that we may end this day restored
to our deepest yearnings,
that we may end this day as we intend
to live tomorrow,
as we intend to live tomorrow.
John Philip Newell

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Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

Tough enough to be soft

April 22nd 2019

 

 

In January, near a sign that read, “Prayer only No visit. No phone,” I sat and prayed, in Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.
​​​​​​​Watching the inferno this past week, my heart hurt. Sometimes we don't have words.
​​​​​​​I can tell you that I don’t like it when I feel how fragile life can be. Even when I’m not sure what’s been lost, in my gut the scales tip, and I know it matters.

So, what do we do when the unimaginable happens? When the cornerstones and anchors (places or people where we tether ourselves) are devastated? When in our vulnerability, we feel completely "at the mercy of"? 
​​​​​​​A part of me needs to figure it all out. And a part of me wants to close my eyes and heart, and move on, assuming that some wounds will never heal. 

Can our vulnerability shape the very building blocks that make healing possible?
Our strength and resilience does not come from a show of force or bravado, but in the freedom to be tough enough to be soft.  When we do not hide our woundedness, we are prophets of steadfastness, justice, compassion and mercy. When we find the wherewithal to stand in the middle of it all, even without words, the healing begins.
​​​​​​​We must let go of our hasty urge for a cheery spin. It’s important to see the devastation. To not run away. To feel undone.
​​​​​​​Because here’s the deal: You can be broken, or you can be broken open. Broken open, you understand the depths, and you see an invitation (albeit dimly), to be wholehearted and to care. And you know; at any given moment we have the power to say… this is not how the story is going to end.

I write this on Easter Sunday, when a crucifixion did not say how the story would end. Richard Rohr writes, “Brothers and sisters, if we don’t believe that every crucifixion—war, poverty, torture, hunger—can somehow be redeemed, who of us would not be angry, cynical, hopeless? No wonder Western culture seems so skeptical today. It all doesn’t mean anything, it’s not going anywhere, because we weren’t given a wider and cosmic vision of Jesus’ resurrection. Easter is not just the final chapter of Jesus’ life, but the final chapter of history. Death does not have the last word.”

After the Notre-Dame fire, here’s what I know…
​​​​​​​There is power in thin places.
​​​​​​​The Celtic church had a word for moments of transformation. They called them thin places. "A thin place is anywhere our hearts are opened," writes Marcus Borg. "They are places where the boundary between the two levels becomes very soft, porous, permeable. Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts and we behold (the "ahaah of The Divine") all around us and in us."​​​​​​​

When you walk into Notre-Dame, you stand, silent and gratefully humble. But not by constraint. (I smile when I see the sign asking for quiet.) When I’m there (or in other cathedrals) I feel stunned into reverent silence. It is palpable. And the good news? Thin places are not owned by or proprietary to cathedrals or church sites or a particular faith group. I relish the way silence and awe resonate across lines of religion, ethnicity and age. “I don’t believe in God,” said one man, “but something real is here.” (17th-century poet George Herbert described church bells as heard “beyond the stars”.)

Do you notice how when we lose our bearing, we give way to forgetting, cynicism, noise, chaos and division? Well, awe resets the scales. My stuff, the stuff (and weight) I carry is now in context. Not merely that I am small (which I assuredly am in this universe), but the literal smallness of what derails me (worry, ego, disquiet, fear) is apparent, and now takes a backseat to wonder and gratitude.
​​​​​​​In awe, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know”. And not be at the mercy of uncertainty. To find calm, even in uncertainty, and flames. To set down the weight.
​​​​​​​In the presence of beauty time slows. It is literally, the sacrament of the present moment. "We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul," John O'Donahue reminds us. You see, awe is fueled by beauty, and beauty holds our broken world together.

In other words, the Cathédrale is more than a tourist occasion for marveling. This sacrament of the present moment invites me to be a participant, welcoming my heart and soul to live smack dab in the middle of life. I am so grateful for Teilhard de Chardin’s reminder about the beauty in the divine which runs through all matter and life. Including life on edge.
​​​​​​​And count on it; beauty (“divine diaphany”) spills into our lives and into the lives of those we touch, through acts of goodness and kindness and generosity and healing. 

This is good news, because in the presence of beauty, what has disconnected us dissolves. And as the story goes forward, it is we. “We’re All Parisians Now.”

​​​​​​​And yet. While we crave completion, rebuilding is a given, because we are never finished. Or, put it this way; there will always be scaffolding.
​​​​​​​My Father was a stone mason. I learned the trade. And am proud of that. Standing in Notre-Dame, admiring the stone work, it gives you a different perspective. Did you know that the construction, beginning in 1160 took almost 200 years? Which meant that there were stone masons who were born, spent their lives working on the cathedral, and died before it was ever “complete”? Even so... their passion and beauty spill to this day.

Our world is still a broken place. Today in the news; “Terror in Sri Lanka: Easter Sunday bomb blasts kill more than 200 people at churches, hotels.” And yesterday, the 20th anniversary of the killing at Columbine High School.
​​​​​​​One of my favorite rituals during Holy Week is lighting the Paschal candle, and seeing that light in a darkened church. A reminder also that paschal in Hebrew is pesaḥ, meaning the passing over.
​​​​​​​There is power in the flame.
​​​​​​​Let’s keep spilling that light, shall we?

Quote for your week… 
It is hope that helps us keep the faith, despite the evidence, knowing that only in doing so has the evidence any chance of changing. William Sloane Coffin 

 

Poems and Prayers

The focused energy of angelic love makes these places havens for healing, portals to heaven. The Cathedral of Notre Dame is one such place, filled with love and light that travels on angels’ wings into the hearts of all who enter and finds its way around the world. Those same angels are there now, and their love lives in the hearts of all who ever entered. Notre Dame will stand, even through this. Some things cannot be consumed, even by fireKanika Jelks


​​​​​​​Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
​​​​​​​So, friends, every day do something
​​​​​​​that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
​​​​​​​Love the world. Work for nothing.
​​​​​​​Take all that you have and be poor.
​​​​​​​Love someone who does not deserve it.
​​​​​​​Denounce the government and embrace
​​​​​​​the flag. Hope to live in that free
​​​​​​​republic for which it stands.
​​​​​​​Give your approval to all you cannot
​​​​​​​understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
​​​​​​​has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
​​​​​​​Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
​​​​​​​Say that your main crop is the forest
​​​​​​​that you did not plant,
​​​​​​​that you will not live to harvest.
​​​​​​​Say that the leaves are harvested
​​​​​​​when they have rotted into the mold.
​​​​​​​Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
​​​​​​​that will build under the trees
​​​​​​​every thousand years.
​​​​​​​Listen to carrion – put your ear
​​​​​​​close, and hear the faint chattering
​​​​​​​of the songs that are to come.
​​​​​​​Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
​​​​​​​Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
​​​​​​​though you have considered all the facts.
​​​​​​​So long as women do not go cheap
​​​​​​​for power, please women more than men.
​​​​​​​Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
​​​​​​​a woman satisfied to bear a child?
​​​​​​​Will this disturb the sleep
​​​​​​​of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
​​​​​​​Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
​​​​​​​in her lap. Swear allegiance
​​​​​​​to what is nighest your thoughts.
​​​​​​​As soon as the generals and the politicos
​​​​​​​can predict the motions of your mind,
​​​​​​​lose it. Leave it as a sign
​​​​​​​to mark the false trail, the way
​​​​​​​you didn’t go. Be like the fox
​​​​​​​who makes more tracks than necessary,
​​​​​​​some in the wrong direction.
​​​​​​​Practice resurrection.
​​​​​​​Wendell Berry
​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.
(For it is fed by the holy melting wax,
which the mother bee brought forth
​​​​​​​to make this precious candle.)
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!
May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all humanity,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

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Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

Absorbed in moments of grace

April 15th 2019

In the town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, there is a church named Lagniappe ("lan-yap"). It is an old Creole word that means “something extra”. 
​​​​​​​Pastor Jean Larroux explains, "Down here if you go into a seafood shop and order a pound of shrimp and they put in an extra handful, that's the lagniappe. It's something you can't pay for. Something for nothing. Something for free." 
In an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Jean began this church, in his words, with people "primed for grace." Accustomed to teaching church people how to celebrate, Jean was surprised to find himself in a community of people who already knew. Even in the middle of their hardship. 

Here's the good part.
​​​​​​​This celebration (fullness of life from lagniappe) is not predicated on life as we expect it.
The party doesn't start when our fear is gone.
The party doesn't start when our beliefs are unadulterated.
​​​​​​​The party doesn’t start when doubt has been appeased.
The party doesn't start when our circumstances make it feasible.
​​​​​​​This I know; if we wait for all that, we miss the resurrection every time.

I've written about Lagniappe a couple of times in Sabbath Moment over the years. Truth be told, I can't get enough... Because Lagniappe is what Easter is all about. When I was a kid Easter was about believing the right things (even when I wasn't sure), and saying the right things (it helped to speak loudly), and pointing fingers at those who didn't see it the way I did. And then after church we hunted eggs and ate enough chocolate to make even our Baptist parents pray for Happy Hour. 

Last week I talked about burnout, and the big three symptoms of emotional exhaustion, cynicism and feeling ineffective. So, it is no surprise that we live in a world (inundated with the need to outdo or outrun) where grace is suspect.  

​​​​​​​Did you know that the Greek translation of the Gospel of Mark (the first gospel written) stops in the middle of a sentence? It's not so neat and tidy as we want to make it, and ends oddly, like a Game of Thrones cliff hanger, leaving us wanting more. But maybe that's good. We get hung up on our need for control and a future we can predict.  I appreciate Rev. Brian Hiortdahl's take. He says, "It's scary to think that God is alive and able to do things so far beyond our prediction and beyond our control. The future is wide open. We can participate in it, but we're not in charge, and we are a people who like to be in charge of stuff. We like to predict. We like to figure out when the economy is going to get better and plan for it. Resurrection just blows all of that away."

Lagniappe necessitates a paradigm shift. Without it, we stay stuck in our head. We like to say that we teach or preach grace. Which makes grace something to comprehend, like the answer to a test question.
​​​​​​​And we miss the party, the fundamental reality that grace lights up our day, and our world. Regardless of whether we fathom it.
​​​​​​​We miss the wakefulness that grace bestows, fueled by two simple words, Thank you.
​​​​​​​We miss the power of Lagniappe. The something extra? The joy in the ordinary, in dollops of gentleness, kindness, connection, empathy, compassion, generosity, wonder and healing.
​​​​​​​Ordinariness opens us up to our humanity, now absorbed in moments of grace. Instead of needing to fix or analyze, we absorb and invest; we notice and listen and feel and love. We are safe, at home in our skin. An antidote to what we spoke of last week, (in the words of Seneca) “that tossing to and fro of the mind, that can nowhere find rest.”

And here’s the deal: Lagniappe, grace, always spills.                                

We are primed for grace.
It means that the party has been staged on our behalf. While Christians celebrate Easter, our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Passover and the Seder meal.  What is assuredly true is that both stories remind us that nothing--absolutely nothing--can separate us from God's relentless pursuit to set us free.   
“Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how Adonai freed you from it with a mighty hand.” Book of Exodus   
So. Life may be uncertain, but the party is on. 
And there is only one requirement--bring who you are.
This is not about who you are supposed to be.
Or who you should be.
This is not about the denial of pain and suffering.
Or the denial of grief and loss and hardship.
Or even the denial of death.
It is about what the people of Bay Saint Louis knew. If there's a party, jump in with both feet. Jean says, "they take every drop of juice out of the lemon that they can get, and they love it." 

In other words, they live whole-hearted. Because grace imbues courage. "I want to separate courage and bravery,” Brené Brown writes. “Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language, it's from the Latin word cor, meaning heart, and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart... and wholehearted folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others. Because as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last is, they had connection--this was the hard part--as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were." 

When someone asks what you are doing this week, tell them, “I’m practicing Lagniappe.”

​​​​​​​I can tell you that lagniappe is alive and well in my garden. I’m the good kind of tired, every day shuttling wheelbarrows from the mountain of moodoo, to eager garden beds.
​​​​​​​On Saturday I celebrated my 40th anniversary of ordination. The years have taught me that ministry is not about being right. But being real.
Golf’s Holy Grail ended today. The Masters. If you are addicted to golf as I am… Oh. My. Goodness.
​​​​​​​Speaking of a healthy garden, April 22 is Earth Day, and it’s time to channel the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi in caring for creation. It matters.
​​​​​​​A blessed Holy Week to everyone.       

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​Be the hand of a hopeful stranger, Little scared but you’re strong enough. Be the light in the dark of this danger, ‘Till the sun comes up.’  Sara Barielles, A Safe Place to Land, Amidst The Chaos.

​​​​​​​Note: Jean Larroux story from Sin Boldly, Cathleen Falsani

Poems and Prayers

This is my living faith , an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound,
​walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Terry Tempest Williams


God’s Grandeur
​​​​​​​The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
​​​​​​​    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
​​​​​​​    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
​​​​​​​Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
​​​​​​​Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
​​​​​​​    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
​​​​​​​    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
​​​​​​​Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
​​​​​​​And for all this, nature is never spent;
​​​​​​​    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
​​​​​​​And though the last lights off the black West went
​​​​​​​    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
​​​​​​​Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
​​​​​​​    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
​​​​​​​Gerard Manley Hopkins

For Equilibrium, a Blessing:
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what's said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.
​​​​​​​John O'Donohue​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

This is the life 

April 8th 2019

 

 

Many years ago, I am sitting on the bench in front of Bob’s Bakery with my son Zach (Bob’s is our island Saturday morning gathering spot). We’re having Cinnamon Twists. They are decadently yummy, and make me forget my need to be useful. The bench is made from a trunk of an old downed tree, it’s seat now worn from years of time and use.
​​​​​​​Zach and I watch the Vashon traffic–“traffic” in a poetic license sort of way–go by.
​​​​​​​The breeze is gentle and the sun warm on our skin. And Zach, his mouth full of half a Twist, says, “Dad, this is the life.”

Some stories we need to tell and retell, a reminder to push the reset button. Zach’s wisdom came to mind reading the Washington Post this week, “From moms to medical doctors, burnout is everywhere these days” (by Jenny Rough).
​​​​​​​Apparently, it’s going around, and you probably know someone plagued by it. This is no surprise in our 24-hour news barrage, social media FOMO (fear of missing out) world.
​​​​​​​“Having a good time. Wish I was here.” Postcards from the Edge

The big three symptoms? Emotional exhaustion, cynicism and feeling ineffective. So yes, I’ve known burnout. And I’ll be darned if we don’t work to alleviate it with more distraction. In the words of TS Elliot, we are “Distracted from distractions by distractions.”
​​​​​​​Like a pastor’s conference I attended, on Personal Renewal. An agenda crammed to the gills (6 am to 10 pm, I do not exaggerate), and at the end of the week we sat glassy eyed and lifeless, hoping for some reprieve from this weight of good intentions.

But Terry, you’ve got to concede that there is immense gratification making a check mark on the list. Maybe if I’m on top of things, (we tell ourselves, going full Marie Kondo), the stress will evaporate.
​​​​​​​However, this isn’t about tidiness or schedule, it’s about messages with toxic stickum that we internalize. (Don’t disappoint, what will they think, perfection is the goal, achieve…) The messages take root, and we become willfully blind to the way they diminish us.

And here’s the wonderful irony. With every question about managing life, or finding balance, there is a knee jerk temptation to offer solutions–which always means adding something else to the to-do-list. In the end, it’s like the book, 99 Ways to Simplify My Life… because, apparently, one way is not enough. So it’s relentless. I found another book about the “Balance diet,” (you know, getting my life in order) but after one week on the Balance diet, I start to wonder how I’m doing, as if there’s a test. And if I fail, am I required to attend a workshop on Remedial Balanced Living? And I start to wonder about the benefit of the “balanced life” if I’m always looking over my shoulder, to see who’s impressed.
​​​​​​​Ahhhh… the holy trinity of our culture: bigger, faster and more beautiful, all shaming slow living, and all implying that we should be living a different life, and not the one we are living now.
​​​​​​​In the end, we live divided. And a divided life is a wounded life, and the soul keeps calling us to heal the wound. If we ignore that call, we find ourselves trying to numb our pain with an anesthetic of choice, be it overwork, consumerism, mindless media noise, substance abuse, or maybe a pastor’s conference on renewal.

The cultural gauntlet has been thrown down. Success is the only goal. We admire people who have “made it.”
​​​​​​​Mother Teresa apparently didn’t get the memo. Think of it, she could have advertised the “fastest growing leper ministry.” 
​​​​​​​I see it now. What Jesus needed was a “Spin doctor.” Someone to talk with the press, to translate what he really meant when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “What Jesus meant was…”

Don’t we all get the nudge daily? Asked, “How are you? Are you keeping busy?” Inside we flinch, because it’s another way of asking, “Are you somebody?”
​​​​​​​An organization recently asked for my bio, which is as good a hook as any, to hang our hat of value. I’ll admit to you that it gave me pause. Which takes me back to standing in front of the “success library” in a local bookstore, asking, what is missing? This is all a very toxic and dangerous sort of stew, and can only be dispelled by looking at the way dusk settles on the garden pond and Fred and Ethel, our Mallard tenants. As the garden absorbs the light of dusk, all the other stuff that clutters my mind, recedes. And I wonder, how do I put Zach’s delight with a Cinnamon Twist on a resume? 

Here’s the deal: If I can stop the noise, then the fragrance of the garden after a spring rain, the joy of my son, and the quickening of the morning air, all tell me that I am living this life. This moment. This conversation. This event. And no longer need to focus on what is down the road, with its potential for some greater payoff. 

If you need a list, you can borrow from Mary Oliver. Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
​​​​​​​In the meantime, my patio chairs are out now. Let’s spend the afternoon. Let’s crank up Van Morrison or Roy Orbison, and let the afternoon light recede into the Fir trees. As the sun reaches the horizon, we feel the earth itself breathe in relief. We are absorbed in moments of grace. We find ourselves lost in (the words of Rabbi Abraham Heschel) “radical amazement.”
​​​​​​​This brings us back to the Sacrament of the Blessed Present. And to Sabbath. That’s when we allow the dust to settle. We allow the murky water to clear. And we make space for wonder and curiosity and gentleness and tenderness and compassion and empathy and awe. And healing.
​​​​​​​Our greetings to one another can be an invitation to "pause," even for a moment. This week, instead of the expected, "How are you doing?" someone asked me, "Have you tasted the breeze yet today?" It still makes me smile.

Every Spring solstice, my mood is upgraded. The sun beckons me. Let's just call it medication to prevent burnout. It’s garden time, to wander and tidy and dream. And your heart knows; this is the life. Grounded. Here. Now.
​​​​​​​Our new word for the week; Allemansrätten, the Swedish right to roam the countryside, guaranteed by their constitution. Not bad.
​​​​​​​It’s National Book Week. This week for me, Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan and A Time to Live by Robert Raines.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​Each day I am reborn. Each day I must begin again. For the past eighty years I have started each day in the same manner. It is not a mechanical routine but something essential to my daily life. I go to the piano, and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach. I cannot think of doing otherwise. It is a sort of benediction on the house. But that is not its only meaning for me. It is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being a part. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being. The music is never the same for me, never. Each day is something new, fantastic, unbelievable. --Pablo Casals (at age 93)

Poems and Prayers

Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Ah, where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafing heroes of folk song, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars. Have they vanished along with footpaths, with grasslands and clearings, with nature? ​​​​​​​They are gazing at God's windows. ​​​​​​​Milan Kundera​​​​​​​


Dark Sweetness
​​​​​​​The ground turns green. A drum begins.
​​​​​​​Commentaries on the heart arrive in seven volumes.
​​​​​​​The pen puts its head down.
​​​​​​​to give a dark sweetness to the page.
​​​​​​​Planets go wherever they want,
​​​​​​​Venus sways near the North Star.
​​​​​​​The moon holds on to Leo.
​​​​​​​The host who has no self is here.
​​​​​​​We look into each other’s eyes.
​​​​​​​A child is still a child
​​​​​​​even after it has learned the alphabet
​​​​​​​Solomon lifts his morning cup to the mountains.
​​​​​​​Sit down in his pavilion
​​​​​​​and don’t listen to bickering.
​​​​​​​Be silent as we absorb the spring.
​​​​​​​Rumi

Prayer cannot bring water to parched land, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city, but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart and rebuild a weakened will.
In this spirit, let us pray:
For health and healing,
for labor and rest,
for the ever-renewed beauty of earth and sky,
for thoughts of truth and justice which stir us from our ease and move us to acts of goodness,
and for the contemplation of life which fills us with hope that what is good and lovely cannot perish.
Amen.
The New Union Prayer Book    

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Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

Leave my littleness behind

April 1st 2019

 

 

Stories take care of us. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other's memories. (Thank you, Barry Lopez.)
​​​​​​​And yet. There are some days when we replay only stories that encourage us to live small. And when we live small, we live reactive. Diminished. Trapped. Afraid.
​​​​​​​Last week in Anaheim, CA, I read the audience a story that I needed to hear. I know, because while reading it, I wept. (My best sermons happen when I need to hear them.)

Jean Houston writes, "When I was about fourteen I was seized by enormous waves of grief over my parents' breakup. I had read somewhere that running would help dispel anguish, so I began to run to school every day down Park Avenue in New York City. I was a great big overgrown girl (5 feet eleven by the age of eleven) and one day I ran into a rather frail old gentleman in his seventies and knocked the wind out of him. He laughed as I helped him to his feet and asked me in French-accented speech, ‘Are you planning to run like that for the rest of your life?’
‘I will go with you,’ he informed me.
And thereafter, for about a year or so, the old gentleman and I would meet and walk together often several times a week in Central Park. 
He had a long French name but asked me to call him by the first part of it, which was ‘Mr. Tayer’ as far as I could make out. The walks were magical and full of delight. Not only did Mr. Tayer seem to have absolutely no self-consciousness, but he was always being seized by wonder and astonishment over the simplest things. He was constantly and literally falling into love. I remember one time when he suddenly fell on his knees, his long Gallic nose raking the ground, and exclaimed to me, ‘Jeanne, look at the caterpillar. Ahhhh!’ I joined him on the ground to see what had evoked so profound a response that he was seized by the essence of caterpillar. ‘How beautiful it is,’ he remarked, ‘this little green being with its wonderful funny little feet. Exquisite! Little furry body, little green feet on the road to metamorphosis.’ 
He then regarded me with equal delight. ‘Jeanne, can you feel yourself to be a caterpillar?’
‘Oh yes.’ I replied with the baleful knowing of a gangly, pimply faced teenager.
‘Then think of your own metamorphosis.’ he suggested. ‘What will you be when you become a butterfly, une papillon, eh? What is the butterfly of Jeanne?’ (What a great question for a fourteen-year-old girl!) 
His long, gothic, comic-tragic face would nod with wonder. Old Mr.Tayer was truly diaphanous to every moment and being with him was like being in attendance at God's own party, a continuous celebration of life and its mysteries. But mostly Mr. Tayer was so full of vital sap and juice that he seemed to flow with everything.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Mr. Tayer was the way that he would suddenly look at you. He looked at you with wonder and astonishment joined to unconditional love joined to a whimsical regarding of you as the cluttered house that hides the holy one. I felt myself primed to the depths by such seeing. I felt evolutionary forces wake up in me by such seeing, every cell and thought and potential palpably changed. I was yeasted, greened, awakened by such seeing, and the defeats and denigrations of adolescence redeemed. 
I would go home and tell my mother, who was a little skeptical about my walking with an old man in the park so often, ‘Mother, I was with my old man again, and when I am with him, I leave my littleness behind.’
(Jean did not find out until years after his death that Mr. Tayer was Teilhard de Chardin.) 

I have often wondered if it was my simplicity and innocence that allowed the fullness of Teilhard’s being to be revealed. To me he was never the great priest-paleontologist Pere Teilhard. He was old Mr. Tayer. Why did he always come and walk with me every Tuesday and Thursday, even though I’m sure he had better things to do? Was it that in seeing me so completely, he himself could be completely seen at a time when his writings, his work, were proscribed by the Church, when he was not permitted to teach, or even to talk about his ideas? As I later found out, he was undergoing at that time the most excruciating agony that there is—the agony of utter disempowerment and psychological crucifixion. And yet to me he was always so present—whimsical, engaging, empowering. How could that be?
​​​​​​​I think it was because Teilhard had what few Church officials did—the power and grace of the Love that passes all understanding. He could write about love being the evolutionary force, the Omega point, that lures the world and ourselves into becoming, because he experienced that love in a piece of rock, in the wag of a dog’s tail, in the eyes of a child.
​​​​​​​Years later, while addressing some Jesuits, a very old Jesuit came up to me.  He was a friend of Teilhard’s—and he told me how Teilhard used to talk of his encounters in the Park with a girl called Jeanne.”

I confess that I have always assumed I could outrun the messages of smallness that have looped through my psyche. (And that my inability to outrun, was simply another indictment against me. Lord have mercy.)
​​​​​​​But here’s the deal: when any message invites the words “I am not enough”, we are practicing selective hearing. Meaning that we forget the power of the real story, that we are indeed, the “cluttered house that hides the holy one”.
​​​​​​​So, today is a good day to pause, create space, and be bathed in a story of grace. There is power here. Let it sink in.

I spent this weekend with the good people at First Congregational Church in Guilford, CT. This faith community dates to 1643, when a few devout members of the Puritan Reform Party chose to settle.
​​​​​​​My friend Jeff and I found places off the beaten path to walk and explore, including Hammonasset Beach State Park.
​​​​​​​I fly home tomorrow, where my garden awaits, with a daffodil greeting committee, and an early spring pageant of Red Current, Aubrietia, Forsythia and Magnolia. 

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​Recovering the sacred is remembering something we've forgotten, something we may have hidden from ourselves. It is about uncovering and discovering the innate wholeness in ourselves and in the world. --Dr. Naomi Rachel Remen

Note: Mr. Tayer from Jean Houston, Godseed: The Journey of Christ

Poems and Prayers

Gratitude dances though the open windows of our hearts.
We cannot force it. We cannot create it. And we can certainly close our windows to keep it out. But we can also keep them open
and be ready for the joy when it comes. 
​​​​​​​Lew Smedes​​​​​​​

 

The dawn of Glory has come spreading its light
​​​​​​​and the bird of my soul bursts with song
​​​​​​​In the radiant sun the dust of my body settles
​​​​​​​and the Beloved comes to sit at my side.
​​​​​​​Touched by His grace my forlorn heart 
​​​​​​​stirs joyously and begins to dance.
​​​​​​​The one whose back has been bent
​​​​​​​by the journey springs back to life.
​​​​​​​The heart is the light of the word
​​​​​​​and the soul its brilliance.
​​​​​​​One sets the beat for the other to dance.
​​​​​​​Rumi

We need to carve time for dwelling in the quiet places, 
to discover our own inner landscape 
and the landscape of God. 
We must also pay attention 
in the 'cracks' of our life 
to see the 'gracelets,' 
the moments of meaning in the mundane.
​​​​​​​Celeste Snowber, Embodied Prayer

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Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

The Power of Presence

March 24th 2019

 

I spent this weekend with 39 thousand of my closest friends, in Anaheim California, at the Religious Education Congress. I have been a speaker there for over 30 years.
​​​​​​​This year, my topic; Permission to be me in a FOMO (fear of missing out) world.
​​​​​​​Borrowing from Kathleen Norris, “We want life to have meaning, and want to be fulfilled, and it is hard to accept that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we would like to be.”

I told stories, and listened to lots of stories, and it helped me remember the power of presence. Because presence does not distinguish. Or judge. Presence just is. And more than ever in our world, we need it.

In Losing Moses on the Freeway, Chris Hedges writes about his father.  “But what struck me about him most,” Chris writes, “as I grew older, is that he did not have to embrace difference.  Charming, good looking, endowed with an infectious sense of humor, it would have been easier to go along.  He could have simply been ‘nice.’  He could have avoided the confrontations that tore him apart.  But he understood the message of the gospel, although I suspect his actions were less intellectual than instinctual.  I asked him once when I was a teenager what he said to bereaved families when he went to the farmhouses after the funerals of loved ones.  Surely, I thought, even my father with his close proximity to disease and death and grief would have some wisdom to impart.
‘Mostly,’ he answered, ‘I make the coffee.’
It was his presence, more than anything he could say, which mattered.”
​​​​​​​
That’s it?
Yes, that’s it.
​​​​​​​We do find a way to complicate things, no doubt about that, by turning whatever he did (or had, or offered) into a program on “presence.”  You know, with a sure-fire title like “Discovering the Five Steps to Presence.”  Or requiring “advanced presence certification.”  Churches, to be sure, would oblige the formation of a “presence committee.”
​​​​​​​But here’s the deal: presence is not a skill set.  Presence is what spills from one at home in their own skin.  Or at the very least, one who has given up the need to impress or fix or please or jump hoops for laurels.

It reminded me of Irvin Yalom’s story about a friend’s final days in her horrible fight with cancer, and the news that her surgeon informed her, “he had nothing more to offer.”  “What is wrong with doctors?” she said.  “Why don’t they understand the importance of sheer presence?  Why can’t they realize that the very moment they have nothing else to offer is the moment they are most needed?” (From Momma and the Meaning of Life)

So, yes. Presence does not distinguish. Or judge. Presence just is.
Or mostly… just makes the coffee.
​​​​​​​This sounds simple.  But it is hardly easy.  Because presence is what happens even in the midst of life disagreeable, circumstances unfriendly, and grief all-encompassing.
​​​​​​​I do know this: presence is surely not easy in a world where we have to be “on.”  Or in a world that worships at the altar of the superlative.
​​​​​​​So, it is not surprising that we walk (or race) by these moments… to be present.  Or when presence is offered to us.  After all, there are so many ways to be derailed-be it distractions, diversions, multi-tasking or interruptions (or all the good work we’re doing on the presence committee).
​​​​​​​Even so.  Presence sees no boundaries.  Because presence recognizes no walls.

Hedges writes that his father (while a pastor and chaplain at Colgate University) started a gay and lesbian support group under his own name because the group was unable to go public, for fear of repercussion.  He talked about his father’s “ministry,” and how it was predicated on knowing what it meant to be “an outsider… he knew the awful cost of being different, the intolerance and hatred it bred, the way it leads us to deny the humanity of others, perhaps because of our own hidden differences, our fear that we too will be thrust aside by the crowd.”
​​​​​​​This story resonated with me.  And I realize why presence is so powerful and inviting.  Because every one of us knows what it is like to be on the “outside.”

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Thank you Henri Nouwen.

I confess that when I’m down, I’m susceptible to an internal grilling, “Does my life even make a difference?” And I have found that this question messes with me only when I assume that something is missing from my life (you know, FOMO, fear of missing out). Or that I need to prove something to someone. It doesn’t help that we live in a culture that assumes “enough is never enough.” (Only insuring that we will respond to the question with an even more frenzied lifestyle.)
In those moments, I’ll turn on the coffee pot, and remember Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ wisdom that “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.”
We offer coffee, and we make space…
We make space to see.
We make space to be seen.
We make space to give wholeheartedly.
We make space to welcome.
We make space to offer comfort or reprieve or hope.
We make space to be sanctuary in a world of disquiet, disruption and misgiving. 

Did you see the super moon at the Spring Equinox this past week? Mercy it did my heart good.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo F.Buscaglia

POEMS AND PRAYERS

​​​​​​​How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving
​​​​​​​and tolerant of the weak and strong. 
​​​​​​​Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. 
George Washington Carver

This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us. 
No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
​​​​​​​With its black smokestacks. 
No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather. 
No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make. 
That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.
Gregory Orr
​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Lord, make us instruments of your peace. 
​​​​​​​Help us to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion. 
Help us to remove the venom from our judgements. 
Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters. 
You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world: 
where there is shouting, let us practice listening; 
where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony; 
where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity; 
where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity; 
where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety; 
where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions; 
where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust; 
where there is hostility, let us bring respect; 
where there is falsehood, let us bring truth. 
Amen.
​​​​​​​Pope Francis
​​​​​​​(Adapting St. Francis prayer)

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Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

Letting Go and Gratitude

March 17th 2019

 

 

An important and hurried and stressed businessman visits a Zen master, seeking guidance. (It seems that these days, to look important, you have to appear hurried and stressed.) The Zen master sits down, invites the businessman to sit, and pours the visitor a cup of tea. But even after the tea fills the cup, the Zen master continues to pour, allowing the tea to spill, now running over the entire table.
The businessman is taken aback, “Stop! Please stop pouring the tea! Can’t you see the cup is full, and obviously can’t hold any more.”
​​​​​​​The Zen master replies simply, “Yes. So, it is with you. And you will not be able to receive any guidance, unless you make some empty space first.”

I can relate to the businessman.
​​​​​​​There is something alluring about filling empty space. And something very unnerving about being asked to empty (or let go of) whatever I’ve stockpiled to fill that space.
​​​​​​​But I do know this. When there is no empty space, I pay the price. 
I am full. Stuffed. Numb. Literally; numb. And when my senses are numbed by the noise of overload and worry, I am impoverished. Think kryptonite for sanity.
​​​​​​​Gratefully, in the business world there are conversations about making “white space”. Space essential to nourish innovation and imagination. Space to pause and reflect, let your mind wander, or just breathe deeply.

It is too easy to make this only about speed. Yes, we move too fast. Yes, our calendars are crammed, and our lives are hectic and chockablock. But this is about our emotional and spiritual space, where we come face-to-face with the “addictive element” of being too full. I readily grumble about exhaustion. And yet…
​​​​​​​…my world of obligations fills with the need to fix or impress others;
​​​​​​​…my spirit–unnerved by life’s uncertainties–becomes a magnet for (and is weighed down by) fear;
​​​​​​​…my sense of self and identity attaches itself to pain or loss or unrealized expectations.
​​​​​​​Meaning? This pattern obviously takes care of something.

Two traveling monks reached a river where they met an attractive young woman waiting to cross. Wary of the current, she asked if they would be willing to carry her. One of the monks hesitated, but the other promptly picked her up into his arms, transported her across the river, and put her down, safely on the other bank. She thanked him and went on her way.
As the monks walked toward the monastery, one brooded, stewing in the toxic elixir of self-righteousness and envy. After an hour, unable to hold his silence, he spoke. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked her up in your arms, held her very close and carried her!”
“Brother,” the second monk replied, “That is all true. But on the other side of the river I set her down. It sounds to me as if you are still carrying her.”

This is a story about how we can be (every single one of us) owned or possessed by the things we carry. We live with an absorbed willful blindness, seeing only what we want to see, and our spirit is tied up into knots. 
Remember when we called it baggage? Or tapes? (It doesn’t quite translate in a MP3 world, does it?) Regardless of the name we give it, we are prevented from being free. (Or, at the very least compelled to buy every self-help book that promised some kind of relief promising a version of an enviable life.)

Our spirit is like the teacup. Overflowing. And all we wanted was guidance. We just didn’t expect that it would involve making space. “You need me to let go of what?”
​​​​​​​Let go of say… multi-tasking or distraction. Like the little boy said, “Momma, momma, listen, but this time, with your eyes!”
​​​​​​​Let’s admit that there is a fusion or muddle. Meaning that there is stuff we carry that brings delight. And, there are a few things that bring regret. Maybe that’s the weight: an expectation that I am to be somebody other than who I am today. That my value is conditional; all about some need to measure up or pass muster. Can it be true that I am loved, or am somebody, only because I keep the rules, or play the role, or worry about what others think?
If that is the case, then this weight (just like the first monk carried) means that I am no longer free… 
​​​​​​​To risk, or to try. 
To live unbridled. 
To give. 
To show mercy. 
​​​​​​​To right wrongs.
To celebrate. 
To savor. 
To love.

In her book Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser talks about our need to “practice death”; the process of letting go of whatever enslaves us. Like the worried monk, there are times when I carry a life that does not even belong to me. We need to take a breath or two, in order to clear our minds of emotional storm clouds.
​​​​​​​I no longer need to clutch.   
​​​​​​​I no longer need to be a warrior doing battle, as if my identity is dependent upon only being strong.
​​​​​​​I choose to quit trying to be perfect or always right or unflawed or impressive or in a pell-mell hurry.
​​​​​​​If it is toxic to my spirit, I choose to say, “let it die.”
​​​​​​​I choose to empty some of the tea, learning the dance between letting go and gratitude.

Here is the power of making space. Within that space, we are able to see, and to receive. Even if that means receiving sadness or loss or grief or the death of expectations. You know: by now I expected to be _________ (fill in the blank).  And when we receive, our lives are fueled by gratitude.   
​​​​​​​Yes, I know. We want a list of “how to.” But let us not make letting go another obligation. Lord have mercy.
​​​​​​​Let us begin simply. I will stop, if only for a minute. I will take time to breathe. With each breath, I will empty a little from my cup. With each breath, I will say thank you, and not close all the windows of my heart.

Our hearts break this week for our New Zealand friends affected by mindboggling violence. There is a prayer below, from Muslim brothers and sisters.
​​​​​​​Tonight, I raise a glass with you on St. Paddy’s. “May you have warm words on a cold evening, A full moon on a dark night, And the road downhill all the way to your door.”
​​​​​​​This week I’ll be headed down to Anaheim for the Religious Education Congress. I hope to see some of you there. Stop by for a hug. I know that I need one.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​One of the ways to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that we have an address but cannot be found there. Henri Nouwen   ​​​​​​​

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Salam alaikum, Inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun (from God we come and to Him we return). Our thoughts and duas (prayers) are with you and all Muslims in New Zealand at this most difficult time. May Allah (God) grant the deceased paradise, ease the pain of their families and friends, and help the community deal with this terrible tragedy. Amen. 
Prayer from our friends at ING
​​​​​​​(Islamic Network in the Bay Area).

Guard Your Heart
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​She takes the bird into her hands
​​​​​​​and brings it near
​​​​​​​to hold it in her crossed arms
​​​​​​​her fingers tight together
​​​​​​​as if it would slip away.
​​​​​​​She hugs it to her
​​​​​​​as if holding could revive it
​​​​​​​as if she could protect it
​​​​​​​from every kind of harm.
​​​​​​​She looks into the distance
​​​​​​​and all her energy
​​​​​​​sinks into the heart, beating,
​​​​​​​warmth to warmth, as if
​​​​​​​it could fly again.
Andrew Rudd

May today there be peace within.    
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.  
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.    
May you be confident knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.    
It is there for each and every one of us.  
​​​​​​​St. Theresa’s Prayer ​​​​​

grace.jpg

Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

Heavy dose of grace

March 11th, 2019

 

 

A woman called her priest. “My Daddy is dying, would you come and pray with my daddy?” She asked.
​​​​​​​“Yes,” he told her.
​​​​​​​With the man, the priest noticed a chair pushed tight to the head of the bed.
​​​​​​​“Has someone been visiting you?” he asked.
​​​​​​​The man answered, awkward, “I don’t know how to pray. And truth is, I don’t like to pray that much. But every afternoon Jesus comes and sits in the chair, and I talk with him.”
​​​​​​​The priest assured the man it was okay to talk with Jesus sitting in the chair. He anointed the man, and prayed, and left.
​​​​​​​Three days later, the daughter called the priest, “My daddy died.”
​​​​​​​“Did he die peacefully?”
​​​​​​​“Yes, he did. I went in at one, and gave him some water, and he tried to tell me a joke. I went back in at three, and he was gone. But it’s very odd. His head wasn’t lying on the bed. His head was lying on the empty chair beside the bed.”

This man knew there were gentle hands, to hold him no matter what.
​​​​​​​There is power in that knowing.
​​​​​​​There is grounding in that knowing.
​​​​​​​Because the knowing isn’t wedded to a script or code or dogma.
​​​​​​​That’s the power; this has nothing to do with performance or piety.

Last week I talked about my upbringing, and God as no different than alcoholic father, and how grace can scare us silly. I carry the shame still.
​​​​​​​So, reading Paul Tillich in seminary was water for a parched soul.
“Sometime at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, ‘You are accepted. You are accepted;’ accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know.
Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later.
Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much.
Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything.
Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. If that happens to us, we experience grace.” 

This is not easy, as it means letting go of ego control; of my script and my dogma.
​​​​​​​And grace is not easy in a world given to cynicism, envy, willful blindness, striving and dispiritedness. ​​​​​​​Much of it fueled by the boatload of emails each week to remind me I need a different life than the one I’m currently living (and, my favorite part, "retire as a multi-millionaire").
​​​​​​​Not that we need emails for that kind of grief. The tapes are in our own heads.
​​​​​​​People tell me their stories, fearing their life isn’t as it should be. And I say, "Be gentle with yourself." We don't cut ourselves much slack, do we? It makes me wonder whether we trust our own capacity for goodness.
​​​​​​​Deep down I know that people tell me their story because there's a shortage (or an absence) of mercy in their lives. They don't need answers or advice… or script or dogma. They--as do we all--need a heavy dose of grace. And gentle hands to hold us, no matter what.

I am a certified M*A*S*H* junkie. In a memorable episode, there is a wounded bombardier who thinks he is Jesus. 
​​​​​​​The camp is mixed. Some say he's crazy, most say he's doing an act to get discharged from the Army.
One person in camp believes him. Radar O'Reilly.
It's time for the man's release. Radar walks out to the jeep where the man sits. "Excuse me, Jesus, sir. Could you bless my friend?"
"Yes," the man replies.
And Radar pulls his Teddy Bear from behind his back. Jesus blesses the bear.
"Excuse me, Jesus, sir. Could you bless me?"
"Yes, Radar."
Radar steps back in deference. "Thank you. And my name. It's not Radar, sir. It's Walter."

What is Radar asking for? Many say that to "be blessed" is to be granted God's favor and protection. To be safe even in the darkest time. (And just for the record, this is not a game rigged in the favor of people with more faith. Blessing never plays favorites. Never.) Other definitions include the bringing of welcome pleasure or relief. Another, to be consecrated.
Regardless of the definition, there is good news in all of this.  We live in a world where we are deluged--daily--by the need to achieve, or pursue; where we are rewarded by consuming and having more, or by being "somebody." So, we create layers between what is, and what should be. Bottom line? We do not feel at home.
To be blessed, is to know that place of no striving.
To be blessed, is to know that place of rest and dignity.
To be blessed, is to know that I am loved by a gracious Creator, and that I can own and celebrate my identity--this identity--knowing that it, and it alone, is enough. To feel at home. 

“And Lord, it took me back to somethin'
​​​​​​​That I'd lost somewhere, somehow along the way”
​​​​​​​Kris Kristofferson

My friend, Rabbi Ted Falcon, frames our journey, writing, “The Book of Exodus chronicled an ancient history in which our People journeyed from enslavement toward freedom… Individually, we might experience ourselves enslaved by busy schedules and the demands of others. But the deepest enslavement results from our experience of estrangement from our own Essence, our ability to know the more profound Truth of our own Being. Our truest freedom awakens with our awareness of the greater I AM behind our ordinary awareness. Awakening to our more expanded Identity allows us to know the sacred essence we each carry, and allows us to express the truths of that Identity in our daily lives. To bless, of course, is to embrace the essential beauty and goodness of the remarkable people with whom we share our lives. To bless is to awaken to the incredible expressions of Life all around us. As we become more awake, we bring blessing wherever we are.”

When someone asks, “What are your plans this week?” Tell them, “I’ll be bringing blessing to those who need it most. Would you like some?”

I hope you paused on International Women’s Day and raised a glass to the powerful, courageous and brave woman in your life and world, and told them, “thank you”.
​​​​​​​I’m in Arlington, WA this week, with the good people at Immaculate Conception. Join me if you’re in the area. My spring schedule is below. Take a look. I’d be honored to see you at an event.
​​​​​​​Yes, it snowed again this past week on Vashon. And yes, of course, I still worked in the garden.
​​​​​​​Our new eCourse begins this week. It’s not too late to join us.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​The baby was staring intently at other people, and as soon as he recognized a human face, no matter whose it was, he would respond with absolute delight. I realized that this is how God looks at us, staring into our face in order to be delighted, I suspect that only God, and well-loved infants, can see this way. Even when we try to run away from our troubles, as Jacob did, God will find us, and bless us, even when we feel most alone, unsure if we'll survive the night. God will find a way to let us know that [God] is with us in this place, wherever we are, however far we think we've run. Kathleen Norris

NEW eCourse -- Sacred Necessities: gifts for living with passion, purpose, heart and grace . March 11 - April 1. 

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 ​​​​​​​We're all just walking each other home. -Ram Dass 


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Join me this Spring... 
​​​​​​​March 11 – 13 Immaculate Conception Church, Arlington, WA
​​​​​​​March 22 – 24 Religious Education Congress, Anaheim, CA
​​​​​​​March 29 – 31 First Congregational Church, Guilford, CT
​​​​​​​April 5 – Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, AZ
​​​​​​​April 6 – Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, AZ
​​​​​​​April 26 – 28 – Trinity Ecumenical Parish, Shrine Mont Retreat, VA
​​​​​​​May 18 – St. Brenden Church, San Francisco, CA

Misc. in the mailbag... ​​​​
-- Terry, I don't always get to read Your Sabbath Moments when you send them out so I am playing catch up. I just read this one and I loved your line that said, "We can't just pray we must be the prayer".  I'm going to try and remember that and use it. Thank you for your Sabbath Moments I love reading them and I share the quotes you add at the end of each weekly emails. I also share your posts on Facebook. Thank you and God bless you, Pat
--Terry Hershey, you and Richard Rohr are on the same wavelength this morning. Love what you both have to say!! Karin
​​​​​​​--I appreciate your devotionals and your encouragement, Terry Hershey! I need it as a minister and a citizen right now. Tonya
​​​​​​​--Terry, Just viewed your trailer on “awe.” I have come to believe that awe is God touching our lives. Nelson​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​--Thank you for the comparison to the alcoholic abusive father. Took me so many wasted years to find a relationship with THE Father because of mine. Still hard to remember how loving and open THE Father is and I still have to forgive mine over and over. I'm saving your post and reading it again and again. Marian
​​​​​​​--Thank you Terry. This may have been one of your best SM ever. So many of us going thru so much in every area of life, almost nowhere to turn to just “be”--to be brother and sister on the swing, rather than whatever label we’ve been assigned (we’re stupid, we’re not enough, we can do better, etc) which then must follow the assigned rules, or else. “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” I need to go back to what I know to be true. Back to basics. Before we fall into or under those labels, back to when we were on that swing. And we have to find others to share that swing with. And remember we’re all broken, and that’s ok too. “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in." Wow, so much said today! Thanks, Terry! Jackie
​​​​​​​--Thank you Terry for eloquently expressing my sadness at the vote at General Conference. I feel pushed out of the church I've grown up in, and while I said I would ‘uphold it with my prayers, my gifts and my service’, I’m not sure if that will be true going forward. God is not about exclusion; at least not the one I worship. Julie
​​​​​​​--You are a blessing and a spark in the darkness Terry. Darlene​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​--Best news in SM this morning... tiny blooms coming... Hope!!! As for “outsiders” of course you know about “women” in any organized tradition! Wonder what “justice” and “truth” really look like in The Big Plan! Brenda
​​​​​​​--Sigh. Of course this is just what I needed this morning. Confirms how I feel and makes me think... You always make me think. Jennie
​​​​​​​--Christianity is at a crossroad. We are experiencing deep divisions in faith and spirituality. We are at a time much like the period of time that Jesus lived, with political and religious questioning. He came to show them and us a better way. Somehow we lost His message of inclusion, Grace, mercy, light and love. We opted for keeping rules, fear, hate, and dogma. We are losing The Church. Selma

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Poems and Prayers

 ​​​​​​​Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
​​​​​​​you still believe it to be a beautiful place.
​​​​​​​Kurt Vonnegut 

 

​​​​​​​The dawn of Glory
​​​​​​​has come spreading its light
and the bird of my soul bursts with song
In the radiant sun the dust of my body settles
and the Beloved comes to sit at my side.
Touched by His grace my forlorn heart 
stirs joyously and begins to dance.
The one whose back has been bent
by the journey springs back to life.
The heart is the light of the word
and the soul its brilliance.
One sets the beat for the other to dance.
Rumi

The Prayer of Echoing 
​​​​​​​Cherished Word of Life, stand on the mountainside of my heart. 
​​​​​​​Speak your words of love to me. 
​​​​​​​As your message awakens and reverberates within my being, 
​​​​​​​transform me into an ever more caring person. 
​​​​​​​Awaken an awareness of your guiding presence 
​​​​​​​so I express your love like a canyon’s echo in every part of my life. 
​​​​​​​Abundant peace,
​​​​​​​Joyce Rupp 

lean in flowers.jpg

Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

Lean in Toward the Light

March 4th 2019

 

 

“You’re a minister? Well, what do you believe?” Some church people like to ask me. They can’t help themselves.
Okay, here you go.
God has a heart for those who are left out, forgotten, and excluded.
God's grace is bigger than anything which distances and separates and wounds us.
​​​​​​​You are God's beloved child, and God's love for you is unconditional.

This week my beliefs mattered, because when I see acts of exclusion, or acts that disparage inclusion, I feel it, viscerally.
You see, I was raised in a church scared silly about grace. The God I was taught to worship and obey and fear, was no different than an alcoholic father. You walked on pins and needles to avoid fury. And expected punishment (which was always called a form of love).
In your heart, you prayed for a smile.
And when your alcoholic parent smiles, you still cower, because in your heart you know it will not last. And you know when the smile thaws, it will be your fault. You see, shame leaves a stain on your spirit.
And with that kind of God, it is no surprise that we need people on the outside, so we can point and label and condemn, and make ourselves feel better.

This week, let’s change the narrative.
A grandmother takes her granddaughter to the park.
On the swing set, two children already happily swinging. A boy and a girl. The girl, gregarious, says to the grandmother, “Hi lady. What are we? Can you guess?”
The woman looked at the two children, and recognized from skin tone and features, they appeared Asian. So, she said, “Well, I don’t know. But I think you’re from Thailand? Are you Thai?” “No,” the little said shaking her head.
“Are you Vietnamese?” “No,” and another shake of the head. The woman tried two more countries, each receiving a No and shake of the head.
The little girl, now a little impatient, says, “No lady, what are we?”
“I guess I just don’t know. What are you?”
“We’re brother and sister,” the little girl said with a very big smile.
Yes.

When our narrative begins with grace and sufficiency, it births compassion, inclusion and connectedness.
​​​​​​​Here’s the deal; God’s grace is always bigger than (and never confined by) any dogma we use to comprehend it. 

Here’s another thing I believe: I’m grateful for Bruce, who often saves my emotional bacon. When I’m disheartened, I crank up Springsteen's This Little Light of Mine (there’s a link below).
To remember that the reservoir is already inside. Buried maybe. Dispirited, maybe. But still the light.
To remember that we don’t create the light. We just get to shine it.
Sadly, when we spend our energy making rules about light shining, we mistrust, and hide behind labels every time.

The little girl on the swing is my Sankofa.  In previous Sabbath Moments, I’ve talked about Sankofa (from the Akan language of Ghana), associated with the proverb, "Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,"  which translates "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten." 
I need to go back to what I know to be true.
Whenever I am tempted to label and dismiss. Or live from fear. Or dismiss of my own bravery or beauty. Or hide behind dogma, I need the reminder that we are, all of us in this world, broken. And the grace of God is the glue. We will go a long way toward healing if we see vulnerability as our common bond. We are, all of us, held and sustained by God's grace.

What makes us not see? Or forget?
Put simply, we’re not in our right mind.
I appreciated Michael Gerson’s candor (in a sermon delivered at Washington National Cathedral on Feb. 17, entitled, “I was hospitalized for depression. Faith helped me remember how to live”).
“I know that—when I’m in my right mind—I choose hope.
That phrase—in my right mind—is harsh. No one would use it in a clinical setting. But it fits my experience exactly.
In my right mind, I know I have friends who will not forsake me.
In my right mind, I know that chemistry need not be destiny.
In my right mind, I know that weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Yes. And amen. And in my right mind, I know that sanctuary is a place of grace that sustains emotional and spiritual nourishment.
In my right mind, I make choices to nurture my better angels… tolerance, inclusion, generosity, restoration, open-mindedness and redemption.
In my right mind, I know that we are sisters and brothers, and “every kindness large or slight, shifts the balance toward the light” (thank you Carrie Newcomer, there’s link below).

Beliefs are well and good, but they only matter face to face. Gratefully, there is no special skill required, only your heart.
My good friend Ryan Canaday (a pastor at St. Luke’s UMC, Highlands Ranch, CO) wrote on FB after the United Methodist’s voted to enforce exclusionary language. “And Jesus wept... To my LGBTQ brothers and sisters--I still see you. I still love you. I still stand with you. And I’m so glad God’s love is bigger and greater and more expansive than any religion or organization or denomination.”

What do I believe? This week, I choose to be a weaver instead of a ripper. David Brooks heartens us, “We are born into relationships, and the measure of our life is in the quality of our relationships. We precedes me… We are all completely equal, regardless of where society ranks us. ‘I am broken; I need others to survive’…
When we stereotype, abuse, impugn motives and lie about each other, we’ve ripped the social fabric and encouraged more ugliness. When we love across boundaries, listen patiently, see deeply and make someone feel known, we’ve woven it and reinforced generosity… Every time you assault and stereotype a person, you’ve ripped the social fabric. Every time you see that person deeply and make him or her feel known, you’ve woven it.”

It is Ash Wednesday this week, the beginning of Lent for those of us in sacramental traditions. If you’re looking for something to give up, try this, “fast from hurting words and say kind words.”  If you're looking for an opportunity for contemplation and reflection, join me in my eCourse Sacred Necessities, beginning March 11.
It’s still very cold for so many of you. I feel bad (just a little), but need to report that in my garden, bulb shoots are now above the snow cover, "plotting the resurrection". 

Quote for your week…
It’s funny isn’t it?
That you can preach a
judgmental and vengeful and angry God
and nobody will mind.
But you start preaching a God that is too accepting,
too loving, too forgiving, too merciful, too kind…
And you are in trouble.
Bishop Gene Robinson

NEW eCourse -- Sacred Necessities: gifts for living with passion, purpose, heart and grace . 
March 11 - April 1. Learn more. Sign up today. 

Join me on Facebook. Every Monday, Sabbath Moment. Share with your friends. Every day, a quote to nourish and pamper your soul.

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 ​​​​​​​W e're all just walking ea ch other home. -Ram Dass 



Donation = Love...  Help make Sabbath Moment possible.
Inspiration, nourishment and encouragement...   
I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.​​​​​​
If you wish to offer a gift, 
(By check: PO Box 2301, Vashon, WA 98070)

eCourse... Sacred Necessities: gifts for living with passion, purpose, heart and grace. This eCourse is for people who love life.  And, for people who wish to love life, but who are temporarily stymied.

Misc. in the mailbag... ​​​​
--Dear Terry, I am writing to see if I might buy this course for a friend. I have their email and wondered if you provide this facility. With kind wishes, Louise
Yes Louise, we do indeed. Thank you.
--Thank you for all the Sabbath Moments that have lightened my days. It is a smile from God to me!! In His love. Katie
--Please pray for my denomination and other faith communities who are struggling with how to listen to God and to act out of that hearing. We UMC have once again chosen to be exclusive. I pray for the day that will change but also for all those vulnerable because they live authentically and that can be difficult if not dangerous. Bless Judy
--Hello to Fred and Ethel!!  Love the humor of them posting about the snow on their FB page. I am taken back to us standing at your kitchen window watching them last June.  Thank you again for that short sweet visit!  Sharon
--Had to share this with my friends, you never disappoint me with your entries, but this was really really good today. Candy
--Love this post. Key words: healing balm for the soul. Fueled by grace. Yes. Need more. Thank you for your sentiments. Pat
--Terry -- Thank you so much for your SM -- it always seems to help me decide about how I'm going to go through each day.
--Thanks Terry, for this beautiful message about shame scripts and recovery. “You must give up the life you planned,” Joseph Campbell reminds us, “in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” Well done. Charles
--I had just finished saying this early morning that today was going to be a good day!  It was a really good SM as I could just relate with the whole thing and especially the little child who was abused that hit home hard and the big fisherman who was going to adopt him and he was going to be safe now! T
--As I can attest, scotoma is often accompanied by tunnel vision. I sometimes rely on your thoughts and words to help balance my thoughts and words. Today's one of those days. Thank you, Terry. peace, Mack
--Dear Terry, just woke up to find this notice about the forthcoming series, which I am looking forward to. I've always been a positive person but since my daughter's death in October, I find myself "gasping" for breath and trying to go forward with my life. Thank you for your enlightening Sabbath Moment which is so inspiring.  May God continue to bless you. Rita

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Poems and Prayers

It’s funny isn’t it?
That you can preach a
judgement and vengeful and angry God and nobody will mind.
But you start preaching a God that is too accepting,
too loving, too forgiving, too merciful, too kind…
And you are in trouble.
Bishop Gene Robinson

 

​​​​​​​Famous
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,   
which knew it would inherit the earth   
before anybody said so.   
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds   
watching him from the birdhouse.   
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.   
The idea you carry close to your bosom   
is famous to your bosom.   
The boot is famous to the earth,   
more famous than the dress shoe, 
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it   
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   
I want to be famous to shuffling men   
who smile while crossing streets,   
sticky children in grocery lines,   
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   
but because it never forgot what it could do.
Naomi Shihab Nye 

The more you become a connoisseur of gratitude,
the less you are a victim of resentment,
depression, and despair.
Gratitude will act as an elixir that will gradually dissolve the hard shell of your ego
-- your need to possess and control --
and transform you into a generous being.
The sense of gratitude produces true spiritual alchemy,
makes us magnanimous --
large souled.
Sam Keen

something beautiful.jpg

Terry Hershey Sabbath Moment

Let it Begin With Me

Feb 25th 2019

 

 

The flood was several weeks ago, and I stopped by to see how things were going and went into Sykes' grocery store (Ellen Gilchrist tells her story, just after Katrina). The proprietor told me about filling the sandbags, who all was there and who came to help and we discussed how resilient men and women are.  Then she turned around.  "Oh, look at this," she said.  A great mountain of a man was coming in the door.  A beautiful tanned man with white hair leading or being led by two small children. The proprietor told me that the smallest one had been abused so badly he had to be in a full body cast for six months. 
"That's their foster father," she said. "He's got them now and they're okay."
They were beautiful children. They came into the store and got some candy and went to the back to find life preservers, as they were going out on a boat for a Sunday outing.
"Hold me," the small child said, as soon as he saw me looking at him.  I picked him up in my arms and held him there.  
"We're getting to adopt them in February," the big fisherman said. "It's all set."
"Oh, that's great," the proprietor said, and for a moment I had a sense of sharing the community of Pass Manchac, a fishing village where people know each other and are involved in each other's lives and stories.
Gilchrist continues, "I am haunted by these events.  For many miles down the road, I was filled with a sense of elation.  The story of mankind is not written in the occasional crazy parent who will harm his own child.  The story of mankind is the big fisherman who comes along and sets things right... the physicians and surgeons and nurses in some emergency room who are working the night shift and are there when the broken child arrives and put him back together and the fisherman who gathers the child into his life and goes to work to love him and the proprietor who cleans up the store after the flood and sells a slightly mildewed tablet at half price to write this on."

He's got them now, and they're okay.
I wish that were always so.  But we know that it is not the case.  Life can be unkind and cruel.  And it is easy to only see, and pay attention, to the stories that don't "work out." 
We need stories like the big fisherman. Healing balm stories, that go straight to the heart and feed the soul.
​​​​​​​But, I’m replaying conversations I had this week with people about real life vicissitudes. About being overwhelmed and on edge. Stories to make our heart hurt. These are not stories to compare, as if one or the other is worse. There is no scale of sorrow.  In each case, the person needed a listening ear, and a dose of unvarnished grace. And, maybe, the arms of a big fisherman.

I love the story of the big fisherman because it is an invitation to heal my scotoma. Scotoma is a form of selective blindness. It means that we see only what we want to see. And scotoma is no respecter of persons. Bottom line; we live stuck with a pre-determined script. About others. And about ourselves.
Scotoma makes me unable to see a Creator who loves me, approves of me and expects the best from me (to borrow a Walt Whitman phrase). And healing happens when I remember that shame (feeling unworthy or unwanted or discarded) does not need to be the final word. 
I heal my scotoma about others and the world around me, knowing that when I hear stories I have a choice. (No, I do not close my eyes to the pain or the suffering. Nor should we ever.)  I have a choice about seeing a deeper or more profound reality underneath the pain and the suffering.  A story about brokenness, yes.  But more importantly, where is the story about compassion and hope and redemption? And can that restoration and renewal begin with me? 
I believe the answer is yes.

Asked about what looks like a distinct lack of compassion in human society, the Dalai Lama said: "Perhaps we just pay less attention to compassion and caring; we reinforce it less.  Whereas in some sense, we fully embrace hostility and anger as an emotional state, fueling and reinforcing it.  If we were to give the same amount of energy, attention, and reinforcement to compassion and caring, they would definitely be stronger." 

Ready for a simple scotoma test? Check out any FedEx truck (or their company logo). Got it? What do you see? I see FedEx in purple and orange. Okay. Look again. This time, pretend you cannot read. This time, you will see an arrow. Clearly, between the E and X. This is interesting, because studies done with illiterate persons show that they see the arrow first, every time.
We see what we want to see. So. How do my blinders come off?
It has something to do with letting go.
When we do let go—of the need to be in control, or the need to be a victim, or the need to carry antagonism and resentment—we learn that we can be grateful for ordinary gifts of grace. Kind words, gentle touch, listening ear, mildewed tablets.

And here’s the deal: when we live grateful, fueled by grace we are empowered to live not from fear, to not hold back. Wholehearted, we can invest into each moment with care, empathy, watchfulness and humanity.
And this grace always spills to those around us.
In his book Finding God in Unexpected Places, Philip Yancey talks about a South African woman named Joanna, who began a prison ministry that radically transformed one of her country's most violent prisons. When Yancey asked her how she did it, she said: "Well, of course, Philip, God was already present in the prison. I just had to make Him visible."   
Scotoma healed. 

If God is present, there are no unsacred moments... including you and me, flooded stores, mildewed paper, broken children and big generous fishermen. So, let us write new stories about God's light.
There are times when we are the wounded child. And there are times when we are invited to create a safe haven for someone who needs compassion, hope and healing.

Fred and Ethel, our Mallard pair, have returned to the garden pond. They are early this year; no doubt posting on their FB page about the snow.
I spent a good deal of the day with chainsaw and loppers, clearing downed trees from snowpalooza.
Tonight, the Oscars. I didn't dress up, in case you were wondering. Accepting the award for supporting actress, Regina King wrote SM for me, “I’m an example of what it looks like when support and love are poured into someone.” And to her Mother, “Thanks for reminding me that God has always been leaning in my direction.”

Quote for your week…
Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.  St. John of the Cross 

Donation = Love...  Help make Sabbath Moment possible.
Inspiration, nourishment and encouragement...   
I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.​​​​​​
(By check: PO Box 2301, Vashon, WA 98070)

eCourse... Sacred Necessities: gifts for living with passion, purpose, heart and grace. This eCourse is for people who love life.  And, for people who wish to love life, but who are temporarily stymied.
Misc. in the mailbag... ​​​​
--Good Evening.  Thank you for respecting my decision to "unsubscribe."  I have enjoyed receiving Sabbath Moment and have shared parts of it with others.  Nevertheless, I have decided that I need to focus on other aspects of my life at present. Thank you. Maria
--Hi Terry, I hope this finds you well. It’s going to be warmer here today.. maybe 55. We’ve not had any real snow this year.  My Lenten roses are already blooming. Daffodils are up also. Thanks for today’s Sabbath Moment. Be well my friend Catherine
--I always hear your voice when I read, "Here's the deal". And I picture you on the stage of the RE Congress  Anaheim Convention Center listing your parenthetical phrases for reminders of how the message applies to all of us, reaches all of us where we are. I haven't been able to attend the RE Congress in a few years, and you are who I miss the most. You hugged me once (I know you hug a lot of people) as I told you I was a cancer survivor and it was ok to say " congratulations!" instead of "I'm so sorry!"! I treasure that moment.  I'm so grateful that you have found the vocation of your heart, and that we all get a share in the graces of your vocation. Carol
--I love my Terry Hershey library and cannot wait to show and share. I want to use your book Sanctuary, so we can better prepare for Easter and our Lord's Resurrection. I want people in Natchez, MS to come to know you and have you "spill your light" on more people. Blessings and gratitude, Leigh
--Terry, I have been touched by the ultimate in LOVE. My first grandchild, Anna Lynn born Feb 4, 2019.  Jim 
--Terry, I so very much look forward to your Sabbath Moments each week. They are super encouraging. Thanks for being human and vulnerable with us. I received this story from a friend this morning. A long time ago when I was a college freshman I was on the verge of taking my life when an upper classmate who sensed I was hurting reached out to me and cared. He told me that God loved me. I didn’t believe him at first because I had grown up in a very legalistic church and observed all the negative backbiting there. But I watch his life and care for me even though I had rejected his words. That won me back from death to faith. I served 30 years as an Army Chaplain, being there on the front lines with men and women who put their lives on the line for our country. I am so very thankful for Dave Peterson who befriended me and was used by God to save my life. I thank you for using your gifts of encouragement to touch so many of us each week. Some day I would love to visit you and share a glass of wine with you and visit your beautiful gardens. Paul
--Sorry to hear about your garden, but thankful you could turn this into a positive reflection on life in today’s Sabbath Moment. Perhaps you can have retreats at your home where you invite people to bring a trowel and a new plant and help you rebuild your garden. See you next month at RE Congress! God bless you! Joe 
--“I’m not real certain what happiness looks like, except that it seems to describe someone other than me." Whooo-ee, Terry, that hit home. And yet I continue to believe happiness is there for me in every moment. Faith. Surrender. My life lessons. Thank you for putting words to these feelings. It really does help. In light, Kay

 

Poems and Prayers

To Come Home To Yourself 
May all that is unforgiven in you be released
May your fears yield their deepest tranquilities
May all that is unlived in you blossom into a future
Graced with love
John O'Donohue

My Mother's Hands
She comes and visits me during the week
Brings coffee
She smiles her smile and gives me a hug
I hug back
Words that are shared 
With an open heart
For years mended 
That were torn apart
And always there’s a prayer
I hold her hands…
There’s simple warmth to it all
Feelings hence gone by
But I try
And stay present
I see how similar our hands are
And that one finger 
She slammed in the car
I played with her hands
I remember 
In church as a little boy
Something like a toy
To keep my mind at ease
A mommy please!
A peace of mind!
A quiet love
Her hands at ease…
These are my hands too
This is where I come from
A love stayed true
A memory of ages past
I had forgotten…
A fast 
From memory
So old, rusty, and rotten 
Where it has sat undisturbed 
For many a year
Living in fear
Yet has come to light
As I hold her hands in mine
And here I find…
A quiet place
Just for a moment…
​​​​​​​Tobach Nigh

God, help me to slow down;
To move calmly;
To look kindly;
To find space;
So that there is room for You and for others
In my life.
​​​​​​​Amen.
Marcus Braybrooke

miracles.jpg

Let's not miss the miracles

Feb 18th 2019

 

 

My friend Tim Hansel wrote a book on parenting. He asked his young sons, "Boys, how do you know Dad loves you?"
He figured that they would say, "Daaaad, remember when you took us to Disney world, like for 10 days!" They didn't say that, so he knew he wasted all that money.
He figured they'd say, "Daaad, remember Christmas and you bought us all that great stuff!"
They didn't say that.
They said, "Dad, we know you love us, when you wrestle with us."
He remembered two times. He had come home, hungry, tired, late, and he didn't care. But these urchins were yanking on his pant leg. "So, I rolled with them on the floor. Toward the kitchen." He said, "Just to get them out of my way."
And then it hit him. In the middle of that very ordinary, boring, mundane experience, real life was happening. Unfeigned joy, love, intimacy, connection, grace, wholeheartedness—the really good stuff—all woven into the untidy and the commonplace.
"But," Tim laments, "I missed it. Because I was only tuned in to Disney world and Christmas."
There is nothing wrong with Disney world or Christmas. But they have meaning, only because we find the sacred in the wrestling times.

My confession is this… One of these days I need to give up my expectations for control (you know, hoping to orchestrate a tidier life). Let’s just say it’s on my list.
Or maybe, along with Tim, it’s time for a paradigm shift.

Reading the Bible, God is real in small gifts and simple pleasures. God is present in the commonplace, the weak, the flawed, the compromised. The profane is not the antithesis of the sacred, but the bearer of it.
We are so bent on removing ourselves from the mundane (and certainly anything messy), that we miss miracles.
Not surprisingly, once we see it, we do our best to turn it into a project: five steps to creating wrestling times. We do not rest in the solace that God is present, having nothing to do with our faith, or our effort to invest the moment with meaning.
So. We have a choice. We can live life as a gift to be embraced and explored and savored. Or, we can take the typical western worldview—treat everything like a test to be completed (and hopefully aced).

Here’s the deal; there is freedom in the gift of wrestling times. 
I don't need to craft the moment, I can live it.
I don't need to read-into the moment, I can receive it.
I don't need to find control over the moment, I can let it be.
I don't need to orchestrate closure in the moment, I can pay it forward.
It's Joseph Campbell’s reminder, “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”
In other words, it’s easy to look for love in all the wrong places.

From his sons, Tim learned that grace plays by different rules.
Grace, it turns out, cannot be managed.
Grace takes us by surprise, when—for whatever reason—our defenses are relaxed. And there it takes root. Because when we see differently, we value differently. In wrestling time is born connection and kindness and compassion and inclusion. And, we find miracles where we didn’t know they existed. And the miracle always spills into the world around us.
Henri Nouwen talks about time spent at l’Arche, a home for mentally handicapped adults.  “While the needs of the world clamor for our attention, hundreds of capable, intelligent men and women spend their time, often all of their time, feeding broken people, helping them walk, just being with them, and giving them the small comfort of a loving word, a gentle touch, or an encouraging smile. To anyone trying to succeed in our society, which is oriented toward efficiency and control, these people are wasting their time. What they do is highly inefficient, unsuccessful, and even useless.”
Wrestling times indeed.

I can tell you that my need for control is born from self-protection, doing my damnedest to appear stronger (more buoyant, clever, nonplussed) than I am, keeping the crucible of self-doubt at bay.
But no matter how hard you try, the storms of life will knock it out of you. Speaking of storms. I wasn’t expecting what hit us… snowed in for 8 days.
Well, storms build character. An inspirational ditty recited by Northerners and Mid-Westerners, justly proud of their hardiness.
Fair enough. But I can assure you that in this neck of the woods, storms spawn panic-stricken gloom. (Maybe I’ve lost my Michigan childhood savvy.)
In the lessons learned department, it always helps to have the right tools. Doesn’t matter about strategy, or desire, or willpower. Snow tires or chains outperform luck every time. And this is true about storms… there is a significant spike in random acts of kindness, because differences don’t matter anymore. It is enough that people need help.
Most of the damage is in my garden. Still over a foot of snow cover here, frozen now, so don’t know yet what I will find. Most every shrub is bent to the ground. Arbors and trees bent and broken. It’s a visible lesson; gardening is not for the faint at heart and may be hazardous to your emotional wellbeing.

So. Let’s get back to wrestling time, and miracles of grace. Where do we find those in the storms?
The first Noble Truth of Buddhism tells us that life is filled with suffering. So much for tidy. Or for my wish to eliminate disappointment. ​​​​​​​The (very old) Sanskrit word for suffering is Dukkha. (It can mean stress, anxiety or dissatisfaction.)
​​​​​​​The contrast is Sukha, which can translate happiness (which throws me because I’m not real certain what happiness looks like, except that it seems to describe someone other than me).  So, let's call it notice the miracles time.
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​What is helpful to know is that these words date to a time when humans traveled by horse or ox drawn carts, and the words were literally used to mean, “having a bad or good axle.”
​​​​​​​​​​​Okay, I love this. (Plus, I’m good at mixing metaphors.)
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Yes, there will be ruts—life storms can be precarious and unsafe—but the axle (not the ruts) determines the ride. Yes.
And the good axle? God is present in the commonplace—wrestling times—in the weak, the flawed, the untidy.

Here on Vashon, we’re still at least week away from snow melt, which is very rare for this time of year. (In my 30 years living here, this is a first.) I can’t wait to begin the work of restoration and nurturing in the garden. It helps that I believe wholeheartedness is available only to those who have known broken-heartedness. (Ah yes, the lunacy and loveliness of love, tenderness and compassion. What if it doesn't work out? But what if it does?)
In the meantime, there’s plenty of wood for the fireplace. A bottle of Rioja at the ready. And I’m finishing a new eCourse; Sacred Necessities. I’d love it if you join me. If the timing doesn’t fit for you, no worries, it's not a race, and you’ll have the year to complete it.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. Ernest Hemingway

Notes to readers...
NEW eCourse -- Sacred Necessities: gifts for living with passion, purpose, heart and grace . 
March 11 - April 1. Learn more. Sign up today. 

Join me on Facebook. Every Monday, Sabbath Moment. Share with your friends. And, this is new; every weekday, a quote to nourish and pamper your soul.

Poems and Prayers

To Come Home To Yourself 
May all that is unforgiven in you
Be released.
May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquilities.
May all that is unlived in you
Blossom into a future
Graced with love.
John O'Donohue

 

The Unbroken
There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.
Rashani Rea

Gracious God,  
when the struggles of life hem me in on every side,  
open me to the freedom of your presence  
that can help me see beyond every restriction, every limit that binds me.
O God, give me the wisdom to see the subtle ways people can be enslaved and the courage to speak for those who have no voice.  
I ask this for the sake of your love.  
O God, when we wake to yet another day of wonder and joy in the beauty of your creation,  
give us the heart to keep our needs simple, our desires soft, our wills pliable,  
so that we never participate in the exploitation of the earth, which is the work of your hands.
​​​​​​​Amen. 

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Listen to you heart

Feb 4th 2019

I spent this past week tasting wine in Languedoc-Roussillon, in southern France.
It’s not a bad way to spend a week. And, I did a lot of walking, giving me a good deal of time for cogitation and pondering. I needed it, wrestling with questions that seem more prescient than ever.
Now that I’m supposed to be grown up, what do I want to be?
Where will I unearth my passion, and why is it so often buried?
And is there a secret to staying attentive and replenished?

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going,” Thomas Merton prayed candidly. “I do not see the road ahead of me.”

"In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we experience the loss of soul. Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves." (Thank you Gabrielle Roth)

So, speaking of stories. In the village of Trouillas, we find Domaine Treloar. We met Jonathan, the owner and winemaker. He is affable and welcoming.
Jonathan and his wife Rachael started the winery in 2006. Jonathan is British. And we ask him how he ended up in a remote village in southern France.
“Well,” he said simply, “on 9/11, I saw the first plane hit the tower.”
Jonathan and Rachael lived in NYC within 500m of the Twin Towers, as he worked downtown in the financial district.
“After that,” he tells us, “my whole world was upside down. So, it seemed a good opportunity to ask myself what I wanted to do. This was not just about career. It was about passion and the permission to rethink our life and provided the catalyst to make our dream a reality.”

I love it when we ask one another about following our passion. And yet, why is there always the tempting follow up question about how to make it successful? Which is inevitably tied to income. “You can live on that?” I’ve been asked.
I loved Jonathan’s answer, “My philosophy (about wine making) is not the most profitable. But the pleasure payoff works for me.”

I get profuse (and unsolicited) email advice about my retirement fund and what I will need to live contentedly. None ask me to step back and see investment as a much bigger picture. And none invite me to dance or sing or tell stories.
So, back to wine making. Jonathan and others tell us that passion for good wine means we pay attention to the terroir. Paying attention is always rooted in care. Meaning that we don’t force or alter vineyards to produce grapes they are not suited for.
And care brings dead soil back to life. In the same way the soil dies when it is not cared for, our lifeless spirit gives way to a lesser self; selfish, tribal, judgmental, grumbling and belittling.
With care and passion (as we dance and sing and are enchanted by stories), we invest our heart, spilling empathy, creativity and watchfulness.
With care and passion, we create a healthy terroir for all that is alive inside; generosity, inclusion, charity, open-mindedness and redemption.

(Henri) Nouwen said that all his life two voices competed inside him.  One encouraged him to succeed and achieve, while the other called him simply to rest in the comfort that he was "the beloved" of God.  Only in the last decade of his life did he truly listen to that second voice.  (Philip Yancey)

“This part of your life is not about being a reporter,” the abbot once told Thomas Merton. “It’s about listening to your heart.”
“Vocation,” Merton wrote, “does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be.”
So, here’s the deal; from that voice (nourished by wonder, open arms and generosity of spirit), we get to say how the story ends. We get to say where the next chapter takes us.

How does this shift happen? Do we need a personal 9/11?
This much we know; listening to your heart is not an off the shelf program for enlightenment or success. Nor is it merely a healthy dose of willpower absorbed from a motivational course on being a Productivity Powerhouse.

It is not the earthquake
That controls the advent of a different life.
But storms of generosity
And visions of incandescent souls.
Boris Pasternak

And here’s the secret: A “wise and loving father” sat down with each of his almost-teenage sons, and used the word “sanctuary” to assure them that they would always be welcomed, no matter what they had done. He spoke of future mistakes and actions his sons might regret and their fear of the consequences. He went on to say, “When that happens, please... come to me and say only “sanctuary”, and I will know. You can sit there in the silence, and I will keep you sheltered by a love that will never let you go, no matter what you did. We will get through it together. I want you to know this now and to count on it when you feel despondent, like a failure and want to run away. I will be your Sanctuary—till you can carry on.”  (The Compassion Connection, Catherine T. Nerney)
My cynical side takes exception, and I too easily shut everyone else out. Even so, there is, in the words of Parker Palmer, a “safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer. It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm—it’s about spiritual survival and the capacity to carry on.”

I am home, on Vashon Island. The good news is that we haven’t dealt with the freezing that threatened so many of you. Although it is snowing as I write this. For us, unusual.
Spring is at least in shouting range, and we see our lavender diviners of hope, Iris Reticulata.
Another Super Bowl is history. An event we watch for the ads.
I’ll be walking and pondering. And dancing and singing and telling stories. And (with Diane Ackerman) “I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace.”

Quote for your week…
The plain fact is that the planet does not need 
more successful people.
But it does desperately needs
more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, 
and lovers of every kind.
David Orr

Coming in March, a new eCourse, Sacred Necessities: gifts for living with passion, purpose, heart and grace. Stay tuned. ​​​​​​​

Poems and
Prayers

The Gift
slipping on my shoes,
boiling water,
toasting bread,
buttering the sky,
That should be enough contact
With God in one day
To make everyone “crazy.”
Hafiz

​​​​​​​

I will not die an unlived life. 
I will not die an unlived life. 
I will not live in fear 
of falling or catching fire. 
I choose to inhabit my days, 
to allow my living to open me, 
to make me less afraid, 
more accessible, 
to loosen my heart 
until it becomes a wing, 
a torch, a promise. 
I choose to risk my significance; 
to live so that which came to me as seed 
goes to the next as blossom 
and that which came to me as blossom, 
goes on as fruit. 
​​​​​​​Dawna Markova 

My Lord God, 
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, 
and the fact that I think 
that I am following your will 
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you 
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire 
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything 
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this 
you will lead me by the right road 
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always 
though I may seem to be lost 
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, 
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Amen.
Thomas Merton

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Honor Sanctuary Space

Jan 28th 2019

Every day after school, the son of a well-known Rabbi would enter his house, place his backpack on the dining room table, leave the house through the back door and head into the woods behind the house.
At first, the Rabbi gave little thought to his son's ritual. Until it continued, for days, and then for weeks. Every day, out into the woods for almost a half hour. The Rabbi grew concerned.
"My son," he asked one day. "I notice that every day you leave our home to spend time in the woods. What is it you are doing there?"
"Oh papa," the son replied. "There is no need to worry. I go into the woods to pray. It is in the woods that I can talk to God."
"Oh," the Rabbi said, clearly relieved. "But you should know, as the son of a Rabbi, that God is the same everywhere."
"Yes, papa. I know that God is the same everywhere. But, I am not."

This little boy knew, instinctively, that there are two spaces in our lives. And both are important. In the first space, we generate activity, productivity, accomplishment and achievement (and yes, busyness, worry and a wee bit of stress). In this space we carry our calendars, our smart phones, our iPads, and our to-do lists.
But there is a second space. In this space we find sanctuary, quiet, reflection, contemplation, and meditation. In this space is born prayer, music, poetry, friendship, amazement, awe, wonder, renewal, and if we are lucky, unrepentant napping.

“God is the same everywhere. But, I am not.” Today, I am grateful for the wisdom of a Rabbi's young son. Because there are times when I lose my way. When I am untethered and not at home in my own skin. I am easily riled, disconnected and wearied. And when that happens, I crave affirmation that I assume will be found solely from that first space. In other words, I measure my identity in output and proficiency. It’s just that affirmation is not likely in a "we-want-it-now," "are-you-keeping-busy," "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately," "are-you-somebody," "super-size-that-please" world.

It's not just about being drained. It’s almost like a paralysis. I am not present. I can't absorb beauty. I go through the motions, as if I have lost touch with all the good stuff: gladness, wonder, grace, compassion, hope and passion.  

The boy’s wisdom reminds us that sanctuary or Sabbath space is an invitation to recover what has been lost in the bustle. An invitation to hit the reset button. An invitation to come home. Joseph Campbell’s reminder that we must "have a room, or a certain hour (or so) a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don't know what you owe anybody, you don't know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be… if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."

Here’s the deal: I believe that every one of us has such a space. We just didn't know what to call it. So, it’s easy to disregard, or pay little attention to it. Your sanctuary space doesn't have to be the woods, like the Rabbi’s son. It can be in your garden, your car (while commuting), coffee on a porch swing, walking your dog, lounging in an Adirondack on your back deck, strolling a park, parked in your favorite chair at Starbucks, counting clouds, weeding your garden, savoring poetry…
No matter, there is power in sanctuary space.

Last week’s Sabbath Moment, Married to Amazement, honoring Mary Oliver, touched on the power of poetry as sanctuary space. In Mary’s words, “Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”
As GK Chesterton reminded us, “I don't deny that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die. I only say it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.”

But wait a minute Terry. Productivity—the capability to create and build and produce—is hardly negative. We need to produce, don’t we? Yes indeed. And I can tell you that I love my work. And I love being creative. However, my identity and wellbeing can’t depend upon it. It’s all in the paradigm we carry. If I attach my value and worth to productivity, I will be wedded to restlessness and anxiety. My identity becomes a consumer sport and my endeavors are easily fueled by scarcity. No matter how much I do, there is never enough. And I wonder why I feel untethered?
Without sanctuary, the productivity space provokes a compulsion to fill. And our emotional life looks like our garage. Floor to ceiling with boxes that we are convinced are indispensable, though we have no memory why we warehoused them. Maybe we just enjoy the time spent shuffling them around.

When we honor sanctuary space, we say yes to sufficiency. We say yes to enough. In other words, our value is not predicated on what we achieve in the first space. Take to heart William Sloane Coffin’s reminder that “God's love doesn't seek value, it creates value.  It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value.  Our value is a gift, not an achievement.” 
I am whole, filled with grace and sufficiency. And from that wholeness spills tenderness, tenacity and compassion. 
Tell me about your sanctuary space. Tell me where you are refueled.

This week I’m in the Languedoc-Roussillon, the region of southern France stretching from Provence to the Pyrenees. I can assure you that "C'est le pays du vent", is true, as the locals will tell you, "It's the land of wind". In the north, not so much sun, and the wind-chill is below freezing.  
I’m on my annual wine trip, with friends Rev. Bill McNabb and Rev. Dick Wing. In addition to wineries, we are surrounded by history, and we visit reminders of the Cathar people, including the fortified city of Carcassonne. Catholic theologians debated (with themselves) for centuries whether Cathars were Christian heretics, or whether they were Christians at all. They were slaughtered, at Cistercian abbot Arnaud Amaury’s command, “Kill them all. God will know his own”. We need history, to remember our capacity for mercilessness, in God's name. Lord help us.
Today I’m in Port-Vendres, on the Mediterranean, not far from the Spanish border. This morning, I walk the village, drinking from a fountain of rest and delight.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.  Wayne Muller

Coming in March, a new eCourse, Sacred Necessities: gifts for living with passion purpose, heart and grace. Stay tuned. ​​​​​​​

POEMS AND PRAYERS

The Gift
slipping on my shoes,
boiling water,
toasting bread,
buttering the sky,
That should be enough contact
With God in one day
To make everyone “crazy.”
Hafiz

Gift
A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.
Czesław Miłosz

Dear Jesus,
Help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being
so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of yours.
John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

amazement baby.jpg

Married to Amazement

Jan 21st 2019

This week, a saint died. Mary Oliver, the patron saint of paying compassionate attention. Her poetry is the art of bearing witness to our world. She invited us to put our lips to the sacred present in the ordinary. She reminded us that life is not about playing the right notes. It is about recovering the questions that allow us to hear the music. And about the inevitable, Oliver wrote,
“When it's over, I want to say all my life  
I was a bride married to amazement.”
And I say, count me in.
We are wired to be replenished and nourished. And Mary’s poetry blesses me, walking with me through my internal struggles, filling my heart with uncontainable gratitude.

“There is a paradoxical urgency at this time in history to slowing down,” poet Kim Rosen writes, “focusing on what matters, looking into each other’s eyes and speaking the truth.”
Okay. I’ll start. Fear, shame and exhaustion no longer serve me. They diminish me. And when I give them credence, amazement and gratitude languish. I’m not sure why I bought their narrative for so long. If it was security I needed, they fabricated entirely the opposite.

I’m not talking about a program to add to our life. This is an invitation to reclaim a self, that has been lost or buried in the debris of frenzied upside-down world.
This is why I love Mary Oliver’s poetry…
“...and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.” 
Mary Oliver (The Journey)

To reclaim the self and hydrate our soul, requires a paradigm shift. After all, we’re not wired to live this way, self-compassionate.
Thomas Merton, well-known Trappist monk and activist, tells about a revelation he had while sitting alone in the woods with his Coleman lantern. He is confronted with the fact that Coleman has constructed its lantern with a pragmatic intention over and above the simple provision of light. The packing box declares that the lantern, "stretches days to give more hours of fun." 
Merton asks rhetorically, "Can't I just be in the woods without any special reason?"
He goes on to say that, in fact, "We are not having fun, we are not 'having' anything, we are not 'stretching our days,' and if we had fun, it would not be measured by hours. Though as a matter of fact that is what fun seems to be: a state of diffuse excitation that can be measured by the clock and 'stretched by an appliance.'"
This story makes me smile real big. And perhaps Merton is on to something here. The possibilities are limitless: Fun-inducing appliances, coupled with an industry which helps us justify our time. Our pockets filled with gadgets designed to do just that. Don't tell Apple or Microsoft or Google that you heard it here first.

What is it about our insidious need to assign value to every act or expenditure of time? As in, "Did you get anything done this morning?" Or, upon returning from any vacation, or even a sanctuary at a retreat center, we are quizzed, "How was it? What did you do?" Lord have mercy. And we lump anything not of value into that great compost bin contrived to amass our wasted time.
But it's deeper than all of that, isn't it? It seems that our perception of what is "real" (and of value) is distorted.
Real becomes anything "of use." In other words, that which has market value, or is of pragmatic significance. The afternoon then, can no longer be "just" celebrated. It has to be "used judiciously." Which takes some mental gymnastics when these are our instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. (Mary Oliver)

A father is concerned about his son’s education at the new public school. They are a “back woods” family, far away from civilization and without any formal education. Still, the father wonders about this new school and its curriculum. “What will they learn you?” he asks his son, “Will they learn you why the river makes that singing sound when the moon is right?”

My dear friend Fr. Lee Jaster found a love of gardening later in life. He told me, “One day I went to my garden to walk and pray. But I was so enamored with it all I couldn’t focus on prayer. The fragrance of the lilies… I felt horribly guilty, until it hit me that this infatuation was my prayer.”
In other words, will they learn you, in the words of Thomas Merton that “Life is this simple. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through us all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story. It is true. If we abandon ourselves to God, forget ourselves, we see it.”
I’ve been asked, too often, what I believe. My favorite variation is any inquiry about my doctrinal statement. This begins a volley of theological catch phrases, which become de facto passwords for many religious organizations. It’s the way we tell who's in and who’s out.
Here’s the odd part; I’m not asked about what nourishes my soul. Or for stories about what amazes me, warms my blood, makes my heart soft, sends gooseflesh up my arms, makes me want to dance, makes me love life, or laugh and cry at the same time. I’ve been asked about what is appropriate, but never about what is important.

Here’s the deal: once you've tasted and married amazement, you get the sense that the medicine is itself blessedly fatal, so instead of fighting it with some stern and dour sounding work-ethic-inner-voice, we might just as well plop down on a garden bench and squander a few minutes (or even a day) and give this sacrament of the present vaccine a whirl.
There is a time, perhaps dusk on the back deck, cheered by the finches as they vie for seed and ambushed by a spiced pungency from indistinct winter blooms of the evergreen shrub Sarcococca, conjuring memories of Grandmother’s kitchen and hugs that don’t quit—when, for reasons not yet fully realized, you start to take back what has been disowned. And maybe, just maybe, you start to slowly embrace what is there, rather than to pine away for tomorrow.

It is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day. A day to celebrate spilling the light, remembering his reassurance, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I learned a new word this week. Fika (fee-ka), Swedish, meaning a moment to slow down and enjoy the good things in life.
And I read a lot of poetry that feeds my soul. RIP Mary Oliver.

Quotes for your week…
I was running past the high: hurrying past the very transcendent moments I was seeking. John Jerome

A shout out to Maria Popova, for her comments on Mary Oliver in Brainpickings

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Sabbath Poems
I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.
Wendall Berry

​​​​​​​
Mornings at Blackwater
For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.
And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.
What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.
So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.
​​​​​​​Mary Oliver

For love in a time of conflict
When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.
When no true word can be said, or heard,
And you mirror each other in the script of hurt,
When even the silence has become raw and torn,
May you hear again an echo of your first music.
When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root,
May your souls come to kiss.
Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Towards the gateway to spring.
A Book of Blessings, John O’Donohue

love with living.jpg

In Love With Living

January 14th 2019

 

In 1995 Volkswagen ran an ad. The ad conjured up what it felt like to drive their car. Taking it around fast curves. Or over rocky desert roads. It felt liberating and precarious and unbound. What I do remember best are the words at the end of the ad. Simply this: "Drivers wanted."

Perhaps it is age, perhaps life circumstance; either, for me it’s been a “come to Jesus” internal dialogue about what kind of life I choose to live. There have been too many times in my life when I haven’t trusted my yes.
“I no longer ask, ‘What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to hang on to?” Parker Palmer writes, “Instead I ask, “What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to give myself to?’”
Drivers wanted.
Or maybe I can start slow, say an emotional Uber?

It is so easy to be buried by hurry, disappointment, antagonism, exhaustion from a deafening news cycle, apathy, excess of caution, or even the need to maintain a good reputation. And I know whatever is buried fuels fear, and blinds us to what is available inside. And fear, Hafiz reminds us, is always the smallest room in the house. I would like to see us in better living conditions.

Responsible for my life, it is time to step up. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux’s reminder that “everyone has to drink from his own well.”
So, where do I tether my identity? Where do I hydrate?  A dehydrated soul or spirit takes a toll. How is my well replenished? Knowing that when I pause to drink deeply from this well, I am enriched and transformed.
“Why do we have all these feelings, dreams and hopes if we don't ever use them? That's where Shirley Valentine disappoints. She got lost in all this unused life. I've fallen in love with the idea of living.” (From the Movie, Shirley Valentine)

Here’s the deal: People who are at home in their own skin stand out. They live fully, gladly, and from a whole heart, unafraid of what may be precarious. And their light spills to the world around them. I have an idea: Let’s not carry around an unused life, as if my life is a savings bond to be withdrawn only when mandatory.

Don Juan de Marco is a wonderful movie about a young man who believes he is Don Juan. Literally. A psychiatrist is given the job of curing him of his delusion, to bring him back to reality. But the psychiatrist is intrigued by the boy's story and the boy's infectious passion of life. The psychiatrist wonders about his own life, with its obligations, and a nagging sense of disenchantment. The boy senses this. One day he says to the doctor, "You need me for a transfusion. It is only in my world that you can breathe."
Yes.  Sign me up for some of that.  
Especially in a world where we don't breathe all that well. 

This falling in love with the idea of living will not be comfortable to anyone risk-averse.
It reminds me of the man who has fallen off a cliff, but manages to grab onto a weak vine. He looks up and cries out for help. Suddenly, a deep, booming voice from the sky says gently to him. 'It is alright, my son. I am here and will never let harm befall you. Just let go of the vine and fall into my arms. I will catch you.' The surprised man thinks about this for a moment, looks down at the ground thousands of feet below, then up to the ledge above him, clears his throat, and asks, 'Um… is there anybody else up there?'"

What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to give myself to?
Your invitation: Give yourself to practices that open the heart and rekindle the spirit (amazement, sanctuary, grace, simplicity, resilience, kindness, friendship). And remember, these are not plug-ins to add to our life, they are measures of the well from which we hydrate.
Theory is for people with too much time on their hands and a heavy dose of puritan guilt, leaving them with the notion that it is better to play the right notes than to hear the music.
We think of living a good life as some kind of western birthright. Such thinking becomes toxic when it is fueled by four thousand advertisements every single day telling us what to buy, or more realistically, what to feel guilty about, as if somehow, we missed the boat to success. It is a cultural full court press about what it means to be human, and we live in perpetual consternation over completing some list of expectations, always wondering if we measure up. In our fixation to find the remedies, we miss… the small gifts of life, the serendipitous gifts of grace, the presence of the holy, and the gentle does of the sacred reflected in our everyday, and extraordinarily ordinary world.

These practices (sacred necessities) allow us to embrace this day, this life, in all its fullness, with its disparities, its quirkiness, its demands, its unfairness, and its wondrous serendipities. These necessities are sacred because they do not lodge themselves on the surface of life. They enter into it, giving the ordinary flavor, fullness, richness and power. And invites wholeheartedness in those around us.
It’s all about rewriting the codes. We’ve been wired this way for so long, it’s hard to stop. Just learning to say, “I’ve fallen in love with living,” without a grimace or need for further explanation takes fortitude and resolve usually not found in our species.
Either way, I say that it is time to give the judges and scorekeepers a day off.

The Seattle Viaduct (our north south corridor along the waterfront, opened in 1954) closed down Friday night. This is a big deal. To be replaced with a tunnel (under the city, already built). It’ll be a bit crazy here for a month. So, I decide to commute to a Seattle garden on Saturday. I’m on the pre-dawn ferry. Rainier commands the vista. It is arresting. Imperial. Majestic. With Rainier, adjectives always seem meager.
Regardless, this moment stops me. And invites me to fall in love with living. The sky begins its scroll of color. Blue gives way to bands of fire orange. Whatever else is on the mental worry plate can wait. But when it’s time, I’ll be ready.

Quote for your day…
If we want to be happy at all, I think, we have to acknowledge that the circumstances, which encourage us in our love of this existence, are essential. We are part of what is sacred. That is our main defense against craziness, our solace, the source of our best politics, and our only chance at paradise.  William Kittredge

Poems and Prayers

To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. 
 ​​​​​Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

You Reading This, Be Ready
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
what can anyone give you greater than now, 
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around? 
William Stafford

Whatever happens to me in life,
I must believe that somewhere,
In the mess or madness of it all
There is a sacred potential-
A possibility for wondrous redemption
In the embracing of all that is.
Edwina Gateley, A Mystical Heart 

dare to be human.jpg

Dare to be Human

Jan 7th 2019

 

“Do you want a part in the Christmas nativity play?” James’ grade school teacher asked him.
“Of course,” he answered.
"You get to be Joseph," the teacher told him.
James was proud, what with his friends having to be sheep and cows and such. "What are my lines?" he asked his teacher.
"You don't have any," the teacher answered.
“But what do I do?”
"You just stand there," the teacher said, "and make sure Mary doesn't look bad."
Have you been to a grade school nativity play? What does Joseph do? Other than stand at attention until his balance starts to give out...
After the play all the adults patted James on the head and said, "You were such a marvelous Joseph!"
"And I was so proud," he recalls. And then it occurs to him, "Wait a minute. If I'm such a great Joseph, how come I never once talked with Mary? If I'm such a great Joseph, how come I never once picked up the baby Jesus and sang him a song? If I'm such a great Joseph, how come I never offered coffee to the shepherds? I was only a great Joseph because I did what everyone said I should do. I was great because I was frozen." 

I understand what that feels like. It’s just that when I live frozen, I lose Terry, and I live small (all the while, patted on the head). And I don’t like what it does to me. And I don’t like how it affects the people I love.
There is already plenty of angst each New Year. One email assured me this is my year to “create a new and more marketable self”. Who knew?
I’ll stick with Fred Rogers (Mr. Roger's Neighborhood) affirmation that we live fueled by grace and graciousness. When we do, it touches deeper needs in others, and we literally "love someone into existence.”  Yes. And here’s the deal; that "someone" you love into existence, may be yourself.   

This gift begins with a paradigm shift. GK Chesteron’s observation. “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul; and a new nose, new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”
So, I check out one of Chesterton's own “new soul” stories. Chesterton (1874-1936) writes about his youth as "nightmare years"—at Slade School in London—where his outlook on life turned dark and despondent.  He remarked later that (after those years) what remained of religion was the "one thin thread of thanks."  A thin line with two strands: wonder and gratitude.
Frederick Buechner picks up the story, "It was at this time also that he met Frances Blogg, whom, after a long engagement, he married in 1901.  During the engagement, Frances' sister Gertrude was killed in a bicycle accident, and Frances was so prostrated with grief that directly after the funeral she went to Italy to recover.  At the funeral, all the flowers were white except for the ones that Chesterton sent, which were brilliant scarlet and orange and accompanied by a card that read, "He that maketh His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire."
While Frances was in Italy, he also wrote her a remarkable letter that further reveals the near euphoria that followed in the wake of the Slade year's nightmare.  "I do not think there is anyone who takes quite such a fierce pleasure in things being themselves as I do.  The startling wetness of water excites and intoxicates me; the fieriness of fire, the steeliness of steel, the unutterable muddiness of mud."   

Here's why I love this story.
One. Chesterton chose scarlet flowers, for no apparent reason that we know of, save that he was definitely not frozen. (Proving David Whyte’s affirmation that “inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born.”)  
And two. The intensity of his passion for all things (fueled by his intoxication with wonder and gratitude) gave no heed whatsoever to public opinion. 
Grace is alive. Spill your light. Hope is real. Let us love one another into existence.

Living life unabashed is one thing. Sadly, we live in a culture that wishes to capture "it," or tame it, or make it manageable (hoping that it comes with instructions).
As to resolutions that beckon? I'm partial to Parker Palmer's take, that instead of resolutions we ought to follow Rilke's famous advice about "living the questions," and carry into the New Year a few wonderings...
What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
How can I open myself to the beauty of nature, and human nature?
Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?
How can I let go of my need for fixed answers, in favor of aliveness?

Living these questions will stretch us. There is no doubt. And the enticement of being frozen reappears. And to be honest, too often it's not authenticity (aliveness) I want.  It's certainty (or security) that I'm after. 

This week on my friend Charlie Hedges’ podcast, The Next Chapter, he asked me about New Year resolutions, and why we’re so addicted to prescription or destination resolutions.
I tell this story. The CFO of a large company was greatly admired for his energy and drive.  But he suffered from one embarrassing weakness: each time he entered the CEO’s office to make his weekly report, he would wet his pants!  The CEO was less than pleased and urged the CFO to see a specialist at once, at company expense. “Let’s get this fixed!”
After a week goes by, they are in the office together, and sure enough, the CFO’s pants were again wet!  "I thought you took care of this?” the CEO bellows. “We paid a lot of money for this.” “It is resolved,” the CFO answers, smiling. “I saw a psychologist, and all is well, because I don’t feel embarrassed anymore.”

I have a suggestion; instead of marketable, let’s make 2019 a year where we dare to be human. And maybe, just maybe... it's not about the “correct” way to live. Maybe it's about the freedom to give scarlet flowers.
Do we dare?

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany (Feast of the Three Kings), so the Christmas tree will come down this week. But not today, as I’m in Vancouver, BC. Tomorrow working with the good teachers and staff at St. Augustine’s. 
Looking back on best of 2018 for me. Favorite book, The Soul of America, Jon Meacham. Favorite movie, Roma. Favorite plant, David Austin Rose Heritage. Favorite wine, Pesquera Ribera del Duero. Favorite music, Little Patch of Sky, Larry Murante. Favorite TV show, Kominsky Method. Favorite feel good song, Tennessee Whiskey, Chris Stapleton.
​​​​​​​My prayer for each day of 2019, from John O'Donohue, "May I live this day compassionate of heart, clear in word, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought, generous in love." ​​​​​​​Join me.

Quote for your week…
If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person. Thomas Merton

Note: Nativity story adapted from James Dittes, The Male Predicament

 ​​​​​​​ POEMS AND PRAYERS

You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera,
and grace before the play and pantomime,
and grace before I open a book,
and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing,
boxing, walking, playing, dancing
and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
GK Chesterton

My Granddaughter’s Eyes 
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The note of one violin (humanity) causes
a second violin (God) to resonate.
—Sanford Drob. Kabbalistic Visions 
This is where I find You,
tonight
God,
—my granddaughter’s eyes.
She has 
not yet learned
to turn away
from naked love,
to shut her eyes
from deepest meeting.
She has not yet learned
to shut
You
             out.
So she stays,
eyes wide,
   unblinking,
       trusting,
          open.
My granddaughter’s eyes—
I weep      
in the meeting
with You.
​​​​​​​Jennifer (Jinks) Hoffmann        

        

​​​​​​​May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy
And may God bless you
With enough foolishness
To believe that you can
Make a difference in the world,
So that you can do
What others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
To all our children and the poor.
Amen
St Francis Blessing

2019 newyaer.jpg

My New Year Wish

Dec 31st 2018

 

The husband knew he could not adequately care for his wife, now in the final stages of Alzheimer's. He found a compassionate facility and visited her every day. At noon for lunch. 
Not 11:59. 
Not 12:01. 
Noon. Every day.
Until the day of a minor accident when he found himself in an Emergency Room, his arm being stitched by a nurse as the clock approached the noon hour.
"I need to leave," he said ill at ease.
"Hold on," she told him, "we're not finished here."
"But I must visit my wife at noon," he said.
"Well," she told him gently, "today you can be a little late."
The man told the nurse the story of his wife and of the facility where she lives and how when he visits she does not even recognize him, does not know who he is. The nurse patted his hand and said, "That's okay hon. You can relax. If she doesn't even recognize you, there is no harm in being late this one day."
"No," the man insisted. "I need to go. I need to be there at noon. I know she doesn't recognize me.  But I need to be there because I still recognize her."

I have a New Year wish for 2019.  
I want us to live more consciously and compassionately.
Let me rephrase; I want to live more consciously and compassionately.
And I have been remiss. So, I need to return to those places where I am grounded.
Words are easy, and frames are pretty. But choices. Well, that takes chutzpah.
When we are not grounded (depleted or lose our way) we need awareness and replenishment. And let’s remember that living compassionately goes both ways, for others and for our self. Care of every kind begins with self-care.
The Hebrew word for rested, vyenafesh, can mean rest; or ensouled, breath, as in to catch one's breath, sweet fragrance, passion, and inner being of man. A nefesh can also mean a living being—to live consciously. In the context of Sabbath replenishment, God ensouled this day when He rested. Rest is what it means to be grounded.

In a recent conference on the "Spirit of Place," a Native American noted that, "The salmon do not only return to the stream to spawn.They also return to respond to the prayers and hopes of the people who love them."  (And yes, more than a few conferees snickered and scoffed.)
Or, to put a spin on Teilhard de Chardin, "the whole of life lies in seeing the world sacramentally.” And this is not sheer sentimentality.  When we do live sacramentally, there is a "price" to pay; because we are connected—consciously and compassionately—to this place and to each another.
Wishes find their footing in ritual. Or, what we call “traditions” this time of year. So this is more than just repetitious behavior. There is something fundamental, vital and palpable.

Here’s the deal: Rituals remind us to pay attention. They can be places where we are able to receive. And places from which we give; wholeheartedness, joy, compassion, sorrow, kindness, grace, forgiveness, gladness.  “I need to be there,” he said… because this matters.

Speaking of traditions. Did you know that years ago (actually decades ago), we would have celebrated Christmas Eve by bringing in a huge freshly cut log for the hearth.  The family would have sprinkled the trunk with oil, salt, and mulled wine, and recited some prayers before lighting it (kindled from the remains of the previous year's Yule fire, which we would have kept in the home throughout the entire year).  We would have known—in our hearts—that the log would protect the house from lightening and the evil powers of the devil.  
You see, we would believe that the Yule log symbolized the light returning to conquer the darkness.  (Not unlike the salmon, returning to the prayers and hopes of the people who love them.)
And according to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from our own land, or given as a gift.  It must never have been purchased.  The log would burn through the night—an evening, by the way, filled with dancing and reverie and merriment (that's my favorite part)—then allowed to smolder for 12 days (The 12 Days of Christmas) before being ceremonially extinguished. The story gets even better; in the 1600s, in England, strapping young men willing to haul heavy Yule logs were compensated with free beer. Amen.

We don't have great Yule logs anymore do we?   
And it's a pity, isn't it? 
We call it progress.  We no longer need logs for heat.  Great hearths were replaced by cast iron stoves, which gave way to central heat and suburban houses with fireplaces showcasing gas logs and instant ambiance.  We do, however, still have a "Yule Log."  But now, it is a pastry, decorated with sugared holly leaves, roses and meringue mushrooms.  

The Christian mystical tradition describes prayer as an encounter with God “characterized by feelings of desire, arousal, passion, and union.” (Janet Ruffing) 
My oh my... "desire, arousal and passion."
Which makes me wonder… Do I want the real Yule log fire, or will the gas-log suffice? It seems in lieu of large feelings—sorrow, fury, joy—I chose their junior counterparts; anxiety, irritation and excitement. (Mary Karr)
So, yes, I tell myself, I want large feelings. (Not to be confused with buying a "newer and better gas log.") 

There are still vestiges of Christmas in the living room with Christmas music in the air. We are, after all, still in the middle of the 12 Days of Christmas. The twelve days (the ones we sing about in that ubiquitous and vexing carol) that begin the day after Christmas (Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day) and end on January 6 (The Feast of the Epiphany).  The coffee table is strewn with devoured books. This month, Educated by Tara Westover, Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King (the life of Fred Rogers) and Leadership by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Near my pond, there's a downed Fir tree. It lived upright for about 100 years, and then one night, a few years ago, it surrendered to a perfect storm. For whatever reason, I tear up, only to remind myself that I usually don't cry in the woods, but there's no one who will see, so I let the tears fall, a good cleansing at the end of a long year. Truth be told, I feel more alive and alert, as if “the rust had been knocked off my nerves. The armor of self dissolves, ego relaxes its grip, and I am simply there, on the breeze of the moment.”
I haven't the heart to cut this great tree for firewood. But then maybe it would make next year's perfect Yule Log. 

Quote for your week…
Of God's love we can say two things: it is poured out universally for everyone from the Pope to the loneliest wino on the planet and secondly, God's love doesn't seek value, it creates value.  It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value.  Our value is a gift, not an achievement. 
William Sloane Coffin

POEMS AND PRAYERS ​​​​​​​ 

When first snow begins to fall
I stop what I’m doing—
dishes, e-mail, prayers—
And heed its call.
I fall, too.
Contemplation spins open on the hinge of an instant.
And I know in my bones:
the unchanging and the changing are inseparable.
Can this be what mystics experience?
Does it matter?
When the fresh snowflakes carry their own melting and evaporation in every molecule, why not notice—and celebrate—my own potential for transformation?
Is this not how fate first turns towards destiny?
Heeding the invitation to witness.
Here.
Now.
Falling.
Steven Crandell

May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy
And may God bless you
With enough foolishness
To believe that you can
Make a difference in the world,
So that you can do
What others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
To all our children and the poor.
Amen
St Francis Blessing

​​​​​​​​​​​​A People Place 
If this is not a place where tears are understood,
Where do I go to cry?
If this is not a place where my spirits can take wing,
Where do I go to fly?
If this is not a place where my questions can be asked,
Where do I go to seek?
If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard,
Where do I go to speak?
If this is not a place where you’ll accept me as I am,
Where can I go to be?
If this is not a place where I can try to learn and grow,
Where can I be just me?
William Crocker

a child is born.jpg

Unto Us a Child is Born

Dec 23rd 2018

Some headlines give you whiplash.
​​​​​​​“Heart Left Behind on Southwest Flight.” 
Oh my, that doesn’t sound good.
​​​​​​​It seems that a Southwest flight was forced to turn around after a human heart (meant for donation) was accidentally left on board.
​​​​​​​The heart arrived this past Sunday at Sea-Tac Airport, where it was due to be unloaded. But it wasn't until after the pilot departed for Dallas, that the airline realized a "life-critical cargo shipment" was still onboard.
​​​​​​​The story ends positive. Despite the delay, the heart reached its donor on time.
​​​​​​​Here’s what I know: It’s not always easy for our heart to find its home.
​​​​​​​I’m glad this heart did.

Home, that “safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer,” Parker Palmer writes. “It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm—it’s about spiritual survival and the capacity to carry on.”

Invited to guest preach at another parish, Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor asked the priest, "What do you want me to talk about?"
"Come tell us what is saving your life now," he told her.
Taylor writes, "I did not have to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves." (From An Altar in the World)

There was plenty of disquieting, even scary news this week. The kind that makes me want to just sit, look out at my garden, eat lots of dark chocolate and listen to Otis Redding real loud (with a wee dram in hand).
​​​​​​​But, before you know it, the news becomes our only paradigm.
​​​​​​​Christmas is a reminder about a different paradigm.
​​​​​​​God invites us to know true holiness, where we find our home, in the vulnerable simplicity of a baby.
​​​​​​​Mindfulness is always easier with a story. And my good friend Bishop Martin Townsend tells this one, about flying from Washington DC, on a very chilly Autumn morning.
​​​​​​​Riding the shuttle bus from the satellite parking lot to the terminal is hardly an occasion for revelation. And typical for very early on a Monday morning, the atmosphere and mood on these twelve-minute junkets is neither warm, nor friendly. More like bordering on grim stoicism. After two stops, a young woman boards, hampered by far too many bags, while carrying an infant. You can tell she feels apologetic and blameable.
​​​​​​​And yet. The mood thaws, people on the bus smile, and talk to the baby (who is two months old). “Hello there. Look at your smile. Look at how pretty you are.” Travel stress melts a little, and the mother smiles at the people in her new shuttle-bus-community.
​​​​​​​The conversation spills, people on the bus now talking with one another.  I was about to bring out pictures of my grandchildren.
​​​​​​​At the terminal, the “community” helps with the young woman’s bags.
​​​​​​​The journey only took minutes, but our universe on that bus was transformed by the vulnerability of a baby, overcoming the veneer of indifference, anxiety, sophistication and tension that we too often wear in public places. (And perhaps even at church coffee hour?)

Here’s the deal: In a stable in Bethlehem, God became that baby on the bus.
​​​​​​​We think of ourselves as plenty clever and bright, able to figure things out or straighten things up. And yet. Martin writes, “Rather than by intimidation and force, God chose to win us by becoming totally vulnerable. We are completely free to maintain our clenched grip on the stainless-steel hand rail, of course, steadying ourselves, eyes unswerving from their protective watch over our baggage as the bus sways and bumps along. Or our glance can be diverted. We can choose to talk to a stranger and smile back at a baby. There is something unassailably believable about the affection of a child; there is no love that is warmer… There is no guile.
​​​​​​​God chose to come among us as a vulnerable child, so he could speak more clearly to our own hearts where we are most vulnerable. That child is speaking God’s truth… The stable is the sign of God’s desire to be born in the stables of our own hearts, not into our inn-like self-sufficiency, nor into our quest for palace-like opulence and power. In making his entrance through the mire of a stable, God showed us that flesh and blood, dirt, sweat, and tears, fear and shattered dreams, are good enough for him. That is where he will start.”

And the heart, finds its home.

The Celtic church had a word for moments of transformation. They called them thin places. "A thin place is anywhere our hearts are opened,"  writes Marcus Borg. "They are places where the boundary between the two levels becomes very soft, porous, permeable. Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts and we behold (the "ahaah of The Divine")... all around us and in us."
​​​​​​​In the vulnerability, the message is loud and clear. A reminder about what is saving our life today. So. Here’s my gift list…
​​​​​​​One, to yourself, remember what matters. Listen to the heart.
​​​​​​​Two, to yourself and for everyone you care about, make sure you hydrate your soul.
​​​​​​​Three, to your friends and family and the world you touch, let your light spill.
​​​​​​​
This past week I walked in a windstorm, gusts up to 40 or so, the rain sideways, and I picture myself on the epic Lewis and Clark expedition (1805-1806). Slogging, toiling, schlepping and making history.  Well, at least the first three miles of it. Even so, the melodrama felt invigorating.
​​​​​​​If you have the right clothing and accessories, people say, no worries. And I think to myself, in my now water-logged non-waterproof coat, they are correct. I need the right clothing. So, after the walk, I put on my pajamas and climb into bed.
​​​​​​​Did you see the full moon on solstice night? Named the Cold Moon, it was full, calm and bright. I guess in some places, people enjoyed meteor showers.
​​​​​​​Speaking of light, our days are now getting longer. This is great news for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) sufferers. (Meaning anyone who lives near Seattle.) 
​​​​​​​In my garden sanctuary, I am an anglophile, comfortable in English style gardens. And I love my English roses. This past week David Austin (the 'Godfather of the English Rose') died at aged 92. RIP David.
​​​​​​​A blessed Christmas and HolyDay Season to each and every one of you. Although there is still one more thing to wrap: your arms around someone grieving a loss this Christmas.

I’ll give Martin the last word, “Let us remember the first words of Christmas, ‘Do not be afraid.’ The angels have our number. They skip right over our pretensions of self-sufficiency; they pay no attention to the comforts of our denominational and political biases. They go straight to the mucky, drafty stables of our fears and thwarted hopes.  Beneath Bethlehem’s star—in the airport shuttle buses that are our life—are met the hopes and fears of all the years.”

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​There is a LIGHT in this world. A healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometime lose sight of this force when there is suffering, and too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways. Richard Attenborough

Love is what's in the room 
with you at Christmas 
if you stop opening presents 
and listen. 
Quote attributed to a 7-year-old boy

POEMS AND PRAYERS ​​​​​​​ 

Thresholds
Many times today I will cross over a threshold.
I hope to catch a few of those times.
I need to remember that my life is, in fact,
a continuous series of thresholds:
from one moment to the next,
from one thought to the next,
from one action to the next.
Help me appreciate how awesome this is.
How many are the chances to be really alive…
to be aware of the enormous dimension
we live within.
On the threshold the entire past and the endless
future rush to meet one another.
They take hold of each other and laugh.
They are so happy to discover themselves
in the awareness of a human creature.
On the threshold the present breaks all
boundaries.
It is a convergence, a fellowship
with all time and space.
We find You there.
And we are found by You there.
Help me cross into the present moment —
into wonder, into Your grace:
that “now-place,” where we all are unfolding
as Your life moment by moment.
Let me live on the threshold as threshold.
Gunilla Norris

The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
​​​​​​​Howard Thurman

vulnerability.jpg

The Gift of Vulnerability

Dec 17th 2018

Sherry Turkle visited a Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History with her teenage daughter.
​​​​​​​At the entrance of the show stood a cage with two grand Galapagos turtles. Magnificent creatures from a fantasy world.  
​​​​​​​Feeling sorry for the turtles, and completely unmoved by the wonder of their presence, Turkle's daughter remarked that the museum could "just as well have used robots." Other children in line agreed, to their parent's dismay.
Intrigued, Turkle returned again and again to interview visitors to the exhibit and found that for most children "aliveness doesn't seem worth the trouble and seems to have no intrinsic value." Moreover, if a realistic robotic turtle was used, the children didn't think people needed to be told that it wasn't real, or alive. (From Sherry's book Distracted)
Yes, I shake my head in bemusement.
But I get it. And it's not just children. Using a robot (or living robotic) is easier. And not just for Galapagos turtles. I have done the same thing with my own emotional and spiritual life. And with my heart.
Why? That’s simple, because it works.
​​​​​​​And, it's a good way to protect myself. You know, to live guarded from the “pinpricks and caresses of the real world”.   

This story about the turtles resonates, because after last week’s Sabbath Moment (Loving costs a lot, but not loving always costs more), I had conversations with friends—old and new—about fear or disquiet. More specifically, about the uncertainty that comes with being real, living wholehearted, living authentic and true to our self, being at home in our own skin.
​​​​​​​The conversations invite me to dig deep, and to be honest about what I see inside. (I have a hunch that honesty may have been the beneficial surprise gift attached to my 64th BD last week.) So, here we go…                             

Will you be my friend? 
There are so many reasons why you never should: 
Often I'm too serious, seldom predictably the same, 
Sometimes cold and distant, probably I'll always change. 
I bluster and brag, seek attention like a child. 
I brood and pout, my anger can be wild, 
    But I will make you laugh 
    And love you quite a bit 
    And be near when you're afraid.
I shake a little almost every day 
Because I'm more frightened than the strangers ever know 
And if at times I show my trembling side 
(The anxious, fearful part I hide) 
I wonder, 
    Will you be my friend?
James Kavanaugh 

Here's the deal: To love at all (anything in life) is to be vulnerable. I get it. I do.
What troubles me, is that when I feel unnerved or unsettled or afraid, I become wary of the very gifts—thoughts, feelings, desires, passions, yearnings, creative impulses, callings—that God put inside of me. 
So, as I protect myself, I hide these gifts.
Or, I decide that robotics is better.
​​​​​​​It reminds me of the dean's speech, at the school where Patch Adams studied medicine, "We're going to train the humanity out of you and make you something better. We're going to make you doctors."

Wow. Because I don't believe that living vulnerable is a safe place, I live guarded by default. It's as if I see these desires (these gifts)—bubbling up and combustible and unstinting—as an indictment of weakness, and therefore no place God can live.
​​​​​​​Well, my friends, that belief is just plain wrong.
​​​​​​​I heard Brian McClaren talk about the Genesis creation story.  Genesis says that God created and called it good. Notice this: God did not call it perfect. Meaning what? Meaning that if it were perfect, we would merely be a maintenance crew. Instead, we are very active co-creators, involved in the process... the ongoing and unfolding of God's presence in this world. Yes.
As co-creators we are invited to approach life with open arms. To live vulnerable. Or, in the words of Alan Jones, I want to know if joy, curiosity, struggle and compassion bubble up in a person's life. I'm interested in being fully alive. 
And I say Amen.
​​​​​​​So, tell me, where does joy, curiosity, struggle and compassion bubble up in your life? (And let’s not put our “bubbling up” through the paces of “not enough” or “I’ll do better next time”.)

I am keenly aware of the scrimmage in my spirit about sharing or confessing too much. Harkening back to the warning we received in seminary, “Don’t be too personal with your parishioners.” Lord have mercy.
​​​​​​​As it happens, the season of Advent is an invitation to be personal, to be authentic. Because Advent, is predicated on vulnerability… “Unto us, a child is born.”

The Hebrew word that we translate as holy is qadosh, often defined as "set apart," but which could be accurately translated as "life intensity."  I was raised in a tradition that frowned on passion or any form of a passionate life, preferring all things sedate or impassive. (After all, passion may invite vulnerability.)
​​​​​​​Preferring sedate is unfortunate, because a holy life is intently dynamic, ever evolving, a rich and passionate life (even if quite untidy and cluttered) to celebrate and savor and nurture and contribute and dance and heal and reconcile.     

The Turkle story is honest about our inclination about what we will trade for comfort. Real for plastic. Vulnerability for control. Untidiness for order.
​​​​​​​This is not about what we are able to tolerate. It is an invitation to embrace the gifts and the power we have, to choose to bring our whole self… our uncertain and fractured and vulnerable whole self to this sacred moment. Our fragility doesn’t diminish our capacity. In fact, it magnifies it. A good reminder that we are still loved by an extraordinarily compassionate and benevolent and grace-overflowing Creator, even though we are often afraid. 
​​​​​​​So, let this Advent be an invitation to return to the truthfulness of who we are, and what it means to embrace passion, to live fully alive. To not shy away from emotions, knowing that the gifts of tears and laughter are wrapped with same bow.

It is December, so the garden is savoring dormancy. (A good lesson for us all. Just sayin.)
​​​​​​​Here on Vashon, we had our first winter storm this weekend, which means high winds, downed trees and scattered limbs. And no power for a day.
​​​​​​​Speaking of life bubbling up, this afternoon in our Vashon Theater,It’s a Wonderful Life , George Bailey’s (Jimmy Stewart) invitation to allow God’s gifts to bubble up. I love the line his guardian angel asks, “Is he sick?” “No, worse. He’s discouraged.”
​​​​​​​Tonight, I am in my living room, looking out the French doors. There is a fire in the fireplace. And candles are lit. The Bloodgood Maple tree conceded its leaves in November and forms a silhouette against the sky. The bluestone patio is darker from the sheen of rain, which continues to fall softly. The stone now a deeper, almost melancholy blue. It is dusk, with sky colors that call for reflection, sitting and absorbing. And so, I give myself fully to this moment.
​​​​​​​I not sure if all my fears are abated. But I know this, they are not nearly as important as they were earlier today. 

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you. But I believe in music the way some people believe in fairy tales. August Rush (the movie)   

​​​POEMS AND PRAYERS

Will you be my friend?
A friend who far beyond the feebleness of any vow or tie
Will touch the secret place where I am really I,
To know the pain of lips that plead and eyes that weep,
Who will not run away when you find me in the street
Alone and lying mangled by my quota of defeats
But will stop and stay – to tell me of another day
When I was beautiful.
James Kavenaugh   

​​​​​​​Gaudete
​​​​​​​Because Christmas is almost here
Because dancing fits so well with music
Because inside baby clothes are miracles.
Gaudete
Because some people love you
Because of chocolate
Because pain does not last forever
Because Santa Claus is coming.
Gaudete
Because of laughter
Because there really are angels
Because your fingers fit your hands
Because forgiveness is yours for the asking
Because of children
Because of parents.
Gaudete
Because the blind see.
And the lame walk.
Gaudete
Because lepers are clean
And the deaf hear.
Gaudete
Because the dead will live again
And there is good news for the poor.
Gaudete
Because of Christmas
Because of Jesus
You rejoice.


​​​​​​​“Gaudete,” which is the Latin word for “rejoice,” is the Third Sunday in Advent.
​​​​​​​Brad Reynolds, S.J., a photographer and artist in residence at Gonzaga University, Spokane, Wash

Falling In Love With God
​​​​​​​Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you
out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you
with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
​​​​​​​Pedro Arrupe, SJ 

becoming real.jpg

The Cost of Becoming Real

Dec10th 2018

Loving costs a lot, but not loving always costs more. 

"Does it hurt?" the Rabbit asked the Skin Horse (about "becoming real").
"Oh yes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "Sometimes it hurts a lot. But when you are real, you don't mind being hurt."
"​​​Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," the Rabbit asked, "or bit by bit?" 
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." (The Velveteen Rabbit) 

Craig and Irene Morrison, in their late 80s, are the heart and soul of Still Mine, a lovely film with great North Atlantic scenery. Living outside the village of St. Martins in New Brunswick, Canada, they are keenly aware that after spending 61 years together and raising seven children, their time is running out.
​​​​​​​Trouble begins when Craig decides it is time for them to downsize, to abandon the sprawling farmhouse in which they raised their children. To something more suitable for Irene, whose Alzheimer's is getting worse.
​​​​​​​Craig announces his intentions of building the new home himself--only to be met with bewilderment. And his children doing their best to stop him. "Isn't it time for a retirement home?" he is asked.
​​​​​​​Unfortunately, in the years since Craig built his previous home, regulations have proliferated, as has the willingness of government officials to enforce them. So, when one particularly dogged bureaucrat gets wind of Craig's project, he does everything in his power to shut it down. 
​​​​​​​From generations of shipbuilders, Craig knows wood; and he knows his wife, so he doesn't need anyone else telling him how to do things.
​​​​​​​This tough-mindedness also adds emotion and power to the film's best scene, in which Craig runs his hand over a large pine dining table, worn and scratched after years of use and abuse.
​​​​​​​"Do you remember when I built our dining room table?" he says to Irene.
"It was on the saw horses for so many years I'd given up. My Father helped me mill the boards. It didn't help when Ruth spilled ink. I wasn't that upset; you were table proud back then. A very nice piece of carpentry. First few years, every nick that table absorbed, I took it personally, it's all I could see. Scratch from a skate blade, a ghost of handwriting pressed through a single piece of paper. 
​​​​​​​There were a lot of times I regretted not making the table out of oak. But as the years went by and the scars added up, the imperfection turned that table into something else. Because that's the thing about pine; it holds a lot of memories."
​​​​​​​As he talks, his hand continues to touch the table surface, his face now part tenderness, part pride, part gentleness hewn from stories and memories.

What a strange web we weave.  We hate (well, let’s just say we are downright uncomfortable with) our "brokenness."  Our woundedness.  Our imperfections. You know, those parts of our self (just like that pine table) that are flawed, skewed, damaged, beat up, wearing the marks of a full life... that feel not quite "together." 

I guess if we 'fess up, "woundedness" is the curse of ordinary folk. For the rest of us (the educated and mature and enlightened), we can "get a handle" on this, "figure it out" or somehow "rise above."  Lord knows there are plenty of people who offer us solutions and secrets and illumination.  (For a small donation, of course.)
​​​​​​​But what if?   
​​​​​​​What if weakness, woundedness, brokenness is not a "fixable problem,"  
​​​​​​​but an opportunity for grace,
​​​​​​​and love,
​​​​​​​and passion,
​​​​​​​and ministry?

We're inundated in a world where everyone wants the quick fix, or the "key," or the five steps, so it’s a good day when you realize that arrival isn't everything.  We live in a world that shows deference, and gives better press, to whatever is strong (or dominant, or powerful, or influential).  (I don't remember, was there ever a TV show called "The Lifestyles of the Poor in Spirit?") 
​​​​​​​And yet. Irvin Yalom reminds us, “Only the wounded healer can truly heal.”

In our modern lexicon, "wounded healer" is some kind of an oxymoron.  And yet. What if it is enough to give this self... to give a call when someone is lonely, or buy a dinner when someone needs a friend, or stick by someone when they're down, or celebrate with someone when they're up, or become a haven for someone when they feel disenfranchised.
​​​​​​​We too easily assume that woundedness labels us. (I’ve heard people say pejoratively, “You know, they’re very wounded.”)
​​​​​​​The problem is this; whatever we label, we dismiss. And we don’t welcome the gift or find value in the wound.
​​​​​​​So, this is a paradigm shift. The wound is real, but it is not an impairment.

Let’s be clear: we’re not playing make-believe or posturing for pity. We are taking a necessary pause. To embrace this sacrament. This part of my life scarred by becoming real (our woundedness). Where gratitude wells up and invites tears of wholehearted gladness. Where gratitude allows me to enter into a life where I wholeheartedly get loose and shabby in the joints.
​​​​​​​Yes. I can tell you that this week I needed to hold my own wounds gently as a sacrament. Knowing that in the holding there is healing, and the permission to spill redemption to those around me.

Many of us live under the illusion that some "expert" has created a life to "die for," or to be emulated.  Well, if that's the case, knock yourself out, but just remember that there's no one to complain to when you find out that, in the end, you—yes, you, the flawed and broken you—can be a pretty trustworthy guide on this expedition we call life.
​​​​​​​Here's the deal: When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

I found solace watching George HW Bush’s funeral. A reminder of the difference between resume virtues, and eulogy virtues. His were the later… Kind. Gentle. Courageous. Principled. Gentlemanly. Dignified.
​​​​​​​I had my Beatles birthday (“will you still love me when I’m 64”). Thank you for all the well wishes. Sailed Florida's intercoastal waterway on The Promise, my friend Ed’s boat. Savored sunset on Mansota Key. As the sun settles into the Gulf, a sliver of a crescent moon, restful above the western horizon on a layer of charcoal clouds, spills a pathway of frosty light on the water to the shore. I raise a glass to the sacrament of the present. Our fire log, on the sand, the sound of the waves, serenade and feed us.

Quote for your week… 
​​​​​​​Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not "How can we hide our wounds?" So, we don't have to be embarrassed, but "How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?" Henri Nouwen

 ​​​​​​POEMS AND PRAYERS

Listen to your life. See if for the fathomless mystery that it is.
In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness…
because in the last analysis all moments
are key moments and life itself is grace.
​​​​​​​Frederick Buechner​​​

You Reading This, Be Ready
​​​​​​​Starting here, what do you want to remember?
​​​​​​​How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This
interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you
​​​​​​​turn around?
​​​​​​​William Stafford

​​​​​​​Blessing from Archbishop Desmond Tutu…
​​​​​​​Dear Child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disappeared.
You are precious, with a preciousness that is totally quite immeasurable. And God wants you to be like God. Filled with life and goodness and laughter—and joy…
​​​​​​​God, who is forever pouring out God’s whole being from all eternity, wants you to flourish.
​​​​​​​God wants you to be filled with joy and excitement and ever longing to be able to find what is so beautiful in God’s creation: the compassion of so many, the caring, the sharing.
And God says, Please, my child, help me. Help me to spread love and laughter and joy and compassion.
And you know what, my child? As you do this—hey, presto—you discover joy. Joy, which you had not sought, comes as the gift, as almost the reward for this non-self-regarding caring for others.
​​​​​​​The Book of Joy

This I Believe: Love 1. Hate 0.

Dec 2nd 2018

Ninety-three-year-old Magalia resident Margaret Newsum feared for her life, watching the Paradise fire bearing down. She was quite immobile, still recovering from a broken back, and she stood in front of her house, waiting to die. Then she saw, out of the smoke, Dane Ray Cummings (her garbage truck driver) come into view, "in his giant green monster" (her words), racing to check on the people along his normal route.
​​​​​​​Margaret was his last "stop". “I probably went to 45 or 50 people to see if I could help,” Dane said.
​​​​​​​Dane told Margaret, “You’re not staying. You’ve got to get out of here.”  Letting someone ride in his truck violated company policy and could cost him his job, but now, that wasn’t important, and he gently helped her climb in.
​​​​​​​As they raced to safety through the flames (again, her words), "It was like we were entering the bowels of Hell.” During the five-hour ride to safety, Newsum and Cummings shared details about their lives… beating cancer three times, surviving a horrific car accident and about a stint as a backup singer.
​​​​​​​“I wish I’d known her when she was younger,” he told the local TV station. “I would’ve married her, you know what I mean? It was the best conversation I’ve had in a truck ever.”
​​​​​​​Margaret had no family nearby, and had nowhere to go, so is staying with Cummings' childhood best friend, Brian Harrison (a mechanic at North Valley Waste Management where Cummings works), and that’s not changing any time soon. "I have felt so welcome in this house," Newsum told ‘Today.’ "Things may not work in the way you want, but you have to have faith, and get good friends. They're such wonderful people."
​​​​​​​Margaret’s words to Dane, “You are the most wonderful creature that God produced."
​​​​​​​This I believe: Love 1 - Hate 0.

Where I grew up, belief was fundamental and compulsory. In fact, the proper belief was pivotal depending on where you wanted to spend eternity. So, I was accustomed to cross-examination. “What do you believe?” The question focused on belief which required acceptable words declaring a religious creed. (For those without this family or religious history, I’m sparing you the un-winnable, never-ending arguments about the Trinity. Lord have mercy.)

It’s curious that I still get quizzed when I travel, in venues where I speak. Especially when people can’t place me. Are you one of us?
“You’re not even Catholic, are you?” a parishioner challenged me. “So, what could you possibly have to teach me?”
“Well, with all due respect Ma’am,” I thought to myself. “You could use some more roughage in your diet.” (Wondering... Why is it that people who claim to know God best, laugh the least?)

The man accused in the brutal killings of 11 people in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh (October 27) was taken to the hospital to be treated for the injuries he suffered in a gunfight as he was apprehended by police.
​​​​​​​In the emergency room when he arrived, he was shouting, “I want to kill all the Jews,” according to the hospital’s president.
​​​​​​​If he only knew then about the identity of the team tasked with keeping him alive: At least three of the doctors and nurses who cared for Robert Bowers at the Allegheny General Hospital were Jewish, according to President Jeffrey K. Cohen.
​​​​​​​“We’re here to take care of sick people,” Cohen, who is a member of the congregation where the massacre happened, said. “We’re not here to judge you. We’re not here to ask ’Do you have insurance?’ or ’Do you not have insurance?’ We’re here to take care of people that need our help.”
​​​​​​​This I believe; Love 2. Hate 0.

“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised, or fixed, or saved,” Parker Palmer writes. “It simply wants to be witnessed--to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is. When we make the kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.”
​​​​​​​These resources are far deeper than we imagine. There is a light inside. Yes, we forget. So, it is no surprise that we are easily adrift and untethered, at the mercy of life's tides and storms.

During his time with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, at his residence in exile in India in 2015, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote, “Our human nature has been distorted… I mean, we are actually quite remarkable creatures. In our religions I am created in the image of God. I am a God carrier. It’s fantastic. I have to be growing in godlikeness, in caring for the other. I know that each time I have acted compassionately, I have experienced a joy in me that I find in nothing else. When we practice a generosity of spirit, we are in many ways practicing all the other pillars of joy. In generosity, there is a wider perspective, in which we see our connection to all others. There is a humility that recognizes our place in the world and acknowledges that at another time we could be the one in need, whether that need is material, emotional, or spiritual. There is a sense of humor and an ability to laugh at ourselves so that we do not take ourselves too seriously. There is an acceptance of life, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is. There is a forgiveness of others and a release of what otherwise might have been. There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire to help those who are in need. And from this comes a generosity that is ‘wise selfish,’ a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves. As the Dalai Lama put it, 'In fact, taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life.'” (The Book of Joy)

So, you can ask me what I believe. I’d be more than happy to discuss the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed over beers or wine (your choice). But I’d rather shift the focus. Let’s begin here. As you go through your day, what are the questions you ask?
​​​​​​​Try these…
​​​​​​​Do I speak and write truthfully?
​​​​​​​Am I authentic with the people I love?
​​​​​​​Am I compassionate with those I do not know?
​​​​​​​Do I hear the cries of the vulnerable and the helpless?
​​​​​​​Do I live knowing that I am a "God carrier"?
​​​​​​Is there meaning in my life beyond money and success?​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Is my heart open to love today, and willing to risk vulnerability?
​​​​​​​Am I willing to be wrong, to learn and to grow and to try again?

I must confess that I’m not sure if I would steer my garbage truck into harm’s way to help someone vulnerable. But that won’t stop me today, from being on the lookout for burning buildings and people who need a ride.  

Blessed Advent for my Christian brothers and sisters and blessed Hanukkah for my Jewish brothers and sisters. It’s doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that Advent invites us to radical hospitality, the son of God born to refugees, in a barn. 

​​​​​​​​​​​​I’m in Florida through my birthday. December 8th, so sun is on my list. Yes (for my Catholic readers), the 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Don't ask...
​​​​​​​This afternoon, Let Heaven and Nature Sing, University of Tampa Chamber Singers. Let the Christmas music begin.

​​​​​​​RIP George Herbert Walker Bush, a kind and gentle man of character. We honor your service to the United States.

Quotes for your week…
​​​​​​​When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. Jimi Hendrix

The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. Carlos Santana

​​​ ​​​​​​​Note from Terry... Just a heads up. If you have not yet received an email inviting you to donate to Sabbath Moment, it's on its way this week. If you have already received an email, no more surprises for you. And thank you, because your gifts make this ministry possible. If you do not wish to receive donation emails, there will be a link to unsubscribe. You will still receive Sabbath Moment... it will always be free.  

POEMS AND PRAYERS ​​​​​​​  ​​​

The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles
that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.
​​​​​​​Harold Goddard

Thanksgiving
I am surprised sometimes
by the suddenness of November:
beauty abruptly shed
to a common nakedness–
grasses deadened
by hoarfrost,
persistent memories
of people I’ve lost.
It is left to those of us
dressed in the hard
barky skin of experience
to insist on a decorum
that rises to the greatness
of a true Thanksgiving.
This is not a game
against a badly scheduled team,
an uneven match on an uneven pitch.
This is Life.
This is Life.
This is Life.
Not politely mumbled phrases,
murmured with a practiced and meticulous earnestness.
Thanksgiving was born a breech-birth,
a screaming appreciation for being alive–
for not being one of the many
who didn’t make it–
who couldn’t moil through
another hardscrabble year
on tubers and scarce fowl.
Thanksgiving is for being you.
There are no thanks without you.
You are the power of hopeful promise;
you are the balky soil turning upon itself;
you are bursting forth in your experience.
You are not the person next to you–
not an image or an expectation.
You are the infinite and eternal you–
blessed, and loved, and consoled
by the utter commonness
and community of our souls.
We cry and we’re held.
We love and we hold.
We are the harvest of God,
constantly renewed,
constantly awakened
to a new thanksgiving.
​​​​​​​John Fitzsimmons

God of autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been. We, too have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurities and risk. Help us to let go when we need to do so.​​​​​​​
God of fallen leaves, lying in coloured patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our own growth, may we learn from them.
God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power filled presence. May we gain strength from this.
​​​​​​​Amen.

gratitude_thumb[6].jpg

Stories and Gratitude

 

Nov 26th 2018

 

A businessman walks the airport concourse, on his way to baggage claim. His flight is late in arriving, and his mood is melancholy. This is the end of a long business trip; his energy spent and his emotions raw. If not for the late arrival, he'd head to the local pub for a nightcap. 
​​​​​​​On the flight, he reads a book about business and realizing success. About how to make your life really matter. He liked its emotional and motivational intensity, and made a mental list of his own life priorities and goals. And all the places he had fallen short. And where and how he needed to improve.
​​​​​​​He picked up his suitcase and knew that if he was lucky, and the timing worked with the airport parking shuttle, he'd be home by nine. He would be there in time to say good night to his daughter Leila. He smiled and quickened his steps. 
It had been a longstanding ritual; after each of his business trips, he would bring his daughter a gift, some token of his trip, some reminder that he thought of her. Or, more truthfully, some way to make up for the fact that he was gone. 
​​​​​​​During his layover (in a sprawling Texas airport), he stopped in one of the souvenir shops (designed for forgetful or bored or guilt-ridden travelers), and picked up a t-shirt with a picture of a funny looking armadillo.  
​​​​​​​"What size is right for a six-year-old girl?" he asked the clerk. 
​​​​​​​"Is that all you're buying?” She shrugged and said. “Credit or cash?"  
​​​​​​​Just a few minutes before nine, the businessman pulled his car into his driveway. He dropped his suitcase at the door, kissed his wife and headed for his daughter's room. 
​​​​​​​"Daddy," she said, "We waited up. Mom said it was okay. We're so glad to see you. We made a space. Come sit here with T-Bear and me, and let us hug you." 
​​​​​​​He leaned over, gave his daughter a kiss, and lifted the gift shop sack onto the bed. "I brought you something." 
​​​​​​​"That's okay Daddy." She said. "Tonight T-Bear and I don't need anything. We just want you to sit here with us, and tell us a story. All we want, is one good story." 
​​​​​​​He hugged his daughter and kissed T-bear on the head, not altogether sure about the protocol for kissing teddy bears. He was quiet for a good deal of time, enjoying the warmth of his daughter as she leaned against his chest, the reassurance of her cadenced breathing and the sweet fragrance of her hair and shampoo.  
​​​​​​​He forgot about the book he read on the plane. 
​​​​​​​He forgot about the list he made to maximize success. 
​​​​​​​He forgot about the expectations and goals that awaited him on his office desk. 
​​​​​​​He rested.  
​​​​​​​And he knew: this moment alone matters. 
​​​​​​​This sacred moment. 
​​​​​​​"I missed you and T-Bear," he said. And then he began, "Okay. I have just the story. Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a princess. She looked a lot like you."  
​​​​​​​"Oh Daddy," Leila said, "I think this is going to be a good story." 

"I would ask you to remember only this one thing, the stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves. One day you will be good storytellers. Never forget these obligations." (Thank you Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel)

Yes. The stories people tell.
Because here's the deal: there is power in stories that ground us, that tell us who we are. From that grounded place grows hope and gratitude and courage and resilience and compassion and kindheartedness. Stories that can be too easily battered by the undercurrent of the non-essential.

​​​​​​​​​​​​In Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad story Alone, Frog goes to an island to be alone. This makes Toad very sad, and he sets about to make things right, to fix things, to cheer Frog up. He makes a lunch and hitches a ride with a turtle to Frog's island.
"Toad slipped off the turtle. With a splash, he fell into the river.
Frog pulled Toad up onto the island. Toad looked into the basket.
The sandwiches were wet. The pitcher of iced tea was empty.
'Our lunch is spoiled,' said Toad. 'I made it for you Frog so that you would be happy.'
'But Toad,' said Frog, 'I am happy. I am very happy. This morning when I woke up I felt good because the sun was shining. I felt good because I was a Frog. And I felt good because I have you for a friend. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to think about how fine everything is.'"  (Frog and Toad are Friends)

​​​​​​​​​​My week began with unrealistic expectations, and better than decent odds for some kind of disappointment.
But I learned from my buddies Frog and Toad. Because the stories that ground us, connect us. We are not on this journey alone.
So, this week I let go of my agenda. 
And I rested. I experienced Sabbath. And I felt nourished by gratitude.
And here's the very best part; I didn't even try to figure out how it happened.

I don't have any great tools to give you. Except this one: Meister Eckert's advice, "If you can only learn one prayer, make it this one: Thank you."
Not a bad place to start.
Gratitude did not take away any of the difficult decisions or conundrums of my week. But it sure kept me from looking in my rear-view mirror. Gratitude allowed me to live this life, and not the one I always figure that I'll trade this one in for.
Gratitude allowed me to invest in what I could see, hear, taste, touch and smell in the moment.
Gratitude allowed me to partake in the joys of the everyday, to see the sacred in the very, very ordinary.
​​​​​​​Gratitude gave me the story that kept me grounded this week. And I'm richer for it.

Have you said Thank You this week?
Lord knows I'm the last person to be giving assignments, but even though Thanksgiving is past, and leftovers consumed, there is always in invitation for gratitude.
This week I have been working in the sun. And I am grateful for the sunrise over Tampa Bay, watching the clouds change color from oyster to periwinkle to azure, and the way the shadows form swirls of licorice on the water.
I am grateful for the grace and touch and blessed reassurance from a friend.
I am grateful for people who (really) believe in me, even when I am certain I can't be that lucky.
I am grateful for the rainbow I savored the morning after Thanksgiving, an affirmation and blessing on a world that aches for healing.
​​​​​​​I am not at all grateful for the thumping Ohio State gave the University of Michigan. Lord have mercy.
​​​​​​​However, this afternoon I am grateful for Wat Mongkolratanaram, Tampa's Thai Buddhist Temple Sunday market, where the fragrance of papaya and G uiteow mingles seamlessly with the comforting breeze from salt water and the reassuring intentional stillness of people at prayer.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​Our true home is in the present moment. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. Peace is all around us--in the world and in nature--and within us; in our bodies and our spirits. Thich Nhat Hanh​​​​​​​ 
​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Note from Terry... This coming week, you will receive an email inviting you to donate to Sabbath Moment. Your gifts make this ministry possible. If you do not wish to receive donation emails, there will be a link to unsubscribe. You will still receive Sabbath Moment... it will always be free.  

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Our true home is in the present moment. The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment.
Peace is all around us–in the world and in nature–and within us;
in our bodies and our spirits.  Thich Nhat Hanh

The Peace of Wild Things
​​​​​​​When despair for the world grows in me
​​​​​​​and I wake in the night at the least sound
​​​​​​​in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
​​​​​​​I go and lie down where the wood drake
​​​​​​​rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
​​​​​​​I come into the peace of wild things
​​​​​​​who do not tax their lives with forethought
​​​​​​​of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
​​​​​​​And I feel above me the day-blind stars
​​​​​​​waiting with their light. For a time
​​​​​​​I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
​​​​​​​Wendell Berry

Gracious God,
​​​​​​​Thank you for the gift of today.
​​​​​​​Refresh me, invite me,
​​​​​​​To discover Your presence in each person
​​​​​​​That I meet and every event encountered.
​​​​​​​Teach me when to speak and when to listen
​​​​​​​When to ponder and when to share.
​​​​​​​In moments of challenge and decision
​​​​​​​Attune my heart to the whisperings
​​​​​​​Of Your Wisdom.
​​​​​​​As I undertake ordinary and unnoticed
​​​​​​​Tasks, gift me with simple joy.
​​​​​​​When the day goes well, may I rejoice!
​​​​​​​When it grows difficult
​​​​​​​Surprise me with new possibilities.
​​​​​​​When life is overwhelming
​​​​​​​Call me to Sabbath Moments
​​​​​​​To restore Your Peace and Harmony.
​​​​​​​May my living today
​​​​​​​Reveal your goodness.
​​​​​​​Amen.
​​​​​​​Blessing by Pat Bergen, CSJ

Waking Up

 

Nov 12th 2018

 

There was a farmer who had a lot of fields, and he kept all the birds and creatures away from his crops with traps and fences. He was very successful.
​​​​​​​But he was also very lonely.
​​​​​​​So, one day, he stood in the middle of his fields to welcome the animals. He stayed there from dawn until dusk, with his arms outstretched, calling to them. But, not a single animal came.
​​​​​​​Not a single creature appeared.
​​​​​​​They were terrified, you see, of the farmer's new Scarecrow.

The Doctor is a movie about surgeon Jack McKee (William Hurt); the story of an aloof, self-centered heart surgeon who treats his patients like numbers on a list. Then he gets sick himself—cancer—and is not prepared for the paradigm shift. And his sickness (and vulnerability) gives him the opportunity to change his life. The story of the farmer is from the movie, and is about that paradigm shift.

I admit it. I like my fields orderly. I like my world tidy. Free from commotion and disruption and creatures. Life feels understandable or manageable that way. And there is an artifice of control.
​​​​​​​See (I somehow assure myself), my world is in place.
​​​​​​​My script is in place.
​​​​​​​This yearning for control (or grasp) has a special import in today’s binary world, where we live by the paradigm that the other (you know, anyone we call them) is considered an enemy, and to be feared. So, our approach to each encounter ends up skeptical at best, and adversarial at worst.

Like the farmer, we feel threatened. (By uncertainty.) Although, that's not quite the right word; more like undefended or vulnerable. 
​​​​​​​Meaning that if I do expand my world, open my fields, invite “them” (or any other) into this world, I (and my heart) am exposed to touch. To connection. To kindness. To empathy. To wounds. To love. To untidiness. To generosity. To loss. To bounty. To the unknown.
​​​​​​​Because these creatures--whatever or whoever they represent--may not handle me or my world with care. My confession is that deep down, maybe I don't really want intimacy. Maybe I just want security.

I saw A Star is Born this week (in one of those theaters reclined in a cushy chair, with a glass of fine wine). The story of two people (Jackson and Ally) trying to find their way. Jackson, feeling at the mercy of the “creatures”. His “scarecrow” stance affecting his relationships and his wellbeing. I feel it at my core when Ally sings,  
​​​​​​​"Tell me something, boy
Aren't you tired tryin' to fill that void?
Or do you need more?
Ain't it hard keeping it so hardcore?"

The 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist tells the story of Dian Fossey, courageous field biologist, as she managed to befriend a tribe of gorillas. Dian had gone to Africa in footsteps of mentor, George Schaller, a renowned primate biologist who had returned from the wilds with more intimate and compelling information about gorilla life than any scientist before.
​​​​​​​When his colleagues asked how he could learn such remarkable detail about the tribal structure, family life, and habits of gorillas, he attributed it to one simple thing: he never carried a gun.
​​​​​​​You see, all previous generations of explorers and scientists entered that territory with one assumption: the gorillas were dangerous. So, the scientists came with an aggressive spirit, large rifles in hand.
​​​​​​​The gorillas could sense the danger, and kept distance. What a surprise.

And yes, I do enter many (okay, most) of my relationships well-armed. (Just in case.) And I wonder why guardedness takes root in my spirit.
​​​​​​​I like that Fossey always moved slowly, gently, and above all, respectfully toward these creatures. Sometimes sitting still, hour after hour. 
​​​​​​​“Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough,” George Washington Carver reminded us.

It's as if we want them both. You know, I want my field free of creatures (who knows what they will do). And I want the creatures to be my friend (but why are they so suspicious of me?). It's a tug of war between the unknown (the mystery) and the need to be held very tight and told, "You are okay now."

In The Doctor, McKee is telling his friend June--fellow cancer patient--about his difficulty connecting with his wife; living a life full of misunderstanding, apprehension and wariness. And how it constricts his heart.
​​​​​​​How he no longer wants "an empty field."  
​​​​​​​He wants company.
​​​​​​​"I've kept her out here for years," he says with his hand and arm raised and outstretched. "And I don't want that anymore. But I don't know how to get my arm down."
​​​​​​​June writes a letter to Jack (delivered after her death), with the story of the scarecrow. And closes with this invitation: just let down your arms, and we'll all come to you. 

What is it we are keeping out?
​​​​​​​Tell me again...
​​​​​​​Just let your arms down. 
So. I stand in my field welcoming all.
​​​​​​​Waiting to see if someone comes. 

In a recent blog Maria Shriver posted, "In the spirit of fall, I've been thinking about the idea of falling into every part of life. So many of us hold ourselves back from really letting go and falling in. We are scared that if we fall in fully we will get hurt or be disappointed. We are terrified that there will be nothing there to catch us. There is always a chance of that but I've come to believe that standing back is far scarier than falling in. Standing back and being aware of it makes us feel stuck, makes us feel afraid, makes us feel less than. When we let ourselves fall in, we fall into our courage. We fall into our strength. We fall into our power and our worth. We fall into ourselves and our joy and meaning."

Tell me again...
​​​​​​​Just let your arms down.

“You become freer to be yourself,” Poet Kim Rosen writes, “not because you finally found a place where you are protected from feeling what you don't want to feel, but because you welcomed those unwanted feelings and lived to tell the tale.  Maybe your idealized image of yourself didn't survive, but you did.” 

I’m in Florida for a few days, spending time in Tampa Bay and in Manasota Key. The sunset vibrant, a stratified sky canyon, layered with shades of lilac and paprika.
​​​​​​​The news out of California is heart breaking. Surgical nurse Nichole Jolly, who turned 34 on Friday, spent her birthday helping evacuate the patients from Paradise’s only hospital.  “People were making sure no one was left behind,” she said. “Strangers helping strangers. We might be a divided country, but it didn’t matter that day. Black, white, Democrat, Republican; none of that mattered. People just helped one another, and it was amazing to see.”
​​​​​​​For our brothers and sisters in harm’s way in California, we pray to the Lord.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​They knew about the possibility of this new heart... yet I feel I haven't even scratched the surface of such a heart in myself. Why not? If not now, when? What's stopping me? What absurd little gods on pedestals am I feeding and worshiping? What voice in the night haven't I listened to, and what will I have to leave behind--and what might I find--if I set off into such terrifying freedom with only that voice for company. Gail Godwin

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Let someone love you just the way you are–as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all the parts of you that are broken, out of fear that someone else is incapable of loving what is less than perfect, is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering a broken window and illuminating a dark room. ​​​​​​​Marc Hack​​​​​​​

​​​​​​To the Soldier, To the Veteran
​​​​​​​These things I do not know:
​​​​​​​The sound of a bullet.
The power of a blast.
The blood of a comrade.
The depth of your wound.
The terror at midnight.
The dread at dawn.
Your fear or your pain.
​​​​​​​These things I know:
​​​​​​​The sound of your honor.
The power of your courage.
The blood of your wound.
The depth of your strength.
The terror that binds you.
The dread that remains.
Your dignity and your valor.
​​​​​​​For these things I pray:
​​​​​​​The sound of your laughter.
The power of your voice.
The blood of your yearning.
The depth of your healing.
The joy that frees you.
The hope that remains.
Your wholeness and your love.
© 2011 Alden Solovy, To Bend Light 

Deep within our being where truth and peace yearn to reign over chaos and confusion; we pause to listen
In the midst of our daily activities and the many thing to do that haunt our calendars; we pause to listen
Among the people who come into our lives–our loved ones, our friend, our colleagues and companions, even our enemies; we pause to listen
As we move into the heart of prayer and hear the call to be more in union with you; we pause to listen
When we feel empty, distraught, frustrated, and lost; when we wonder in what direction we are to go; we pause to listen.
God, give us ears to hear You as we listen for Your voice
in calm and in the wind
in busyness and in boredom
in certainty and in doubt
in noise and in silence
in this day to pause with you and others on the journey.
Accept our gratitude for the many times you have sought us
and have invited us to recognize you
in the home of our true self.
Amen.
Sisters of Charity, Cincinnati

letting arms down.jpg

Just Let Down Your Arms

Nov 5th...2018

Today, I’m in Wilmette, IL. Where we gathered with family and friends to remember Robert Boehm, who died too young on September 13. I stand alongside Rabbi Andy Bossov. We cry and laugh and tell stories.

Reminded about the fragility and precariousness of life, I raise my voice to the sky, “Again?” (As with the synagogue shooting last week and the Tallahassee shooting this week, I come face to face with my paucity of words.)
​​​​​​​I also confess to a kneejerk (in part a need to wear my pastor’s hat), required to explain or rationalize life’s interruptions and cruelties. Something about the need to provide answers. We want to make sense of it somehow.
​​​​​​​But here’s the deal: It’s not what we expect from life, it’s what life expects from us. Even face to face with death or loss or sorrow. ​​​​​​​I assumed that being strong (and therefore safe) is about being impervious and invulnerable.  Well, that is simply wrong.
​​​​​​​It’s okay to hurt. Let me rephrase. We lose our humanity when we can’t hurt, when we can’t choose empathy. 

So, what does it mean to honor and befriend life’s fragility and woundedness?
​​​​​​​I told the group gathered today, the story about the young girl who returned home from school in tears. Her Mother worried, asked, "Sweetheart, what happened?"
"It was awful," the girl told her Mother. "My best friend's cat died. And she was very, very sad. And I don't think I'm a good best friend, because I didn't know the right words to say, to try to help her."
"What did you do?" the mother asked.
"I just held her hand and cried with her all day."
Yes.
I have an idea. Let’s make attention our new currency.
​​​​​​​Because no one of us is on the journey alone.

We can learn from Día de los Muertos (the first two days of November, what in our church we call All Saints and All Souls Day.)
​​​​​​​Whereas Halloween is a night of mischief and scary stuff, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Yes, the theme is death, but to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, revelers don funky makeup and costumes, hold parades and parties, sing and dance, and make offerings to lost loved ones. ​​​​​​​The rituals include an altar, or ofrenda , built in private homes and cemeteries. These aren’t altars for worshipping; rather, they’re meant to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living. As such, they’re loaded; with water to quench thirst after the long journey, favorite food, family photos, and a candle for each dead relative. If one of the spirits is a child, you might find small toys on the altar.

Above all, this is a feast for the senses. I’m reminded of that as I read to the group what Holly (Bob’s wife) wrote, “The deep quiet of early morning, listening to music with his entire body, mind and spirit, listening to the birds while sitting on the balcony, sipping tea, eating berries, ice cream, chocolate, lobster; a sip of craft beer, the diverse beauty of trees and flowers, listening to a thunderstorm and maybe more than anything--immersing himself in ideas, feelings, and experiences through reading. Touch was Bob’s primary love language and he melted into relaxation from even the most gentle touch.”
​​​​​​​Thank you Holly. That’ll preach.

I was sick with a cold this past week, so spent time sleeping and recovering and irritated with my own vulnerability. But grateful for the pause. Someone once wrote about the Power of Pause. I’m thinking I may need to read it, and maybe even practice it. We shall see. ​​​​​​​Let’s just remember that it’s not about stopping for the sake of stopping. It is about what we allow ourselves to see, savor, honor and embrace.

Here’s the good news. When we pause, we are no longer afraid of the woundedness (it is not a threat to wholeness). And in embracing our wounds, they become (as Richard Rohr reminds us) sacred wounds. For grace is alive and well.
​​​​​​​From these places—sacred wounds—we speak truth, we do not need to pretend or excuse. We offer hope, we extend hands and hearts of compassion and kindness. We see our connection with the lives of others around us, especially those broken or grieving or lost.
​​​​​​​We see that they need a hand to hold. They need a voice.  They need a sanctuary.
​​​​​​​So, we stand in places of death and loss, and we find grace there.
​​​​​​​My friends, let us not abdicate our role as places of sanctuary and benevolence and healing and hope. We spill the light.

When we require closure, or live defensive and fearful, we miss grace every time. Which is why I love stories about places where Grace shows up. Have you seen Les Choristes (The Chorus)? It is set in WWII. The boys are orphans (fated to Fond de l'Etang), and forgotten by society. It is a school for lost causes and the boys live up to their label. It is not surprising given an egotistical headmaster who believes that troubled boys need severity in discipline.   
​​​​​​​Mathieu: You see evil everywhere.
​​​​​​​Chabert: Here? Yes.
​​​​​​​(Believing the label given us is easy, and something every one of us is prone to do. For we see what we want to see, in others and in ourselves.)
​​​​​​​Clement Mathieu is a composer who had given up on music. "Rock bottom," he told himself.
​​​​​​​The boys and their new prefect had no future. Until he found a way to reach them.
​​​​​​​Underneath the label, locked inside is a treasure. For Mathieu, it is his love of music. And it became the key to unlock the boys' hearts. They form a chorus (les choristes). "I had sworn never to touch my music again. Never say never," Mathieu discovers. "Nothing is ever truly lost."
​​​​​​​In the music, each one of them hears the voice of Grace.
​​​​​​​Because of grace, from a place of woundedness (and sorrow) is born hope and healing and reconciliation and mercy and kindness and generosity of spirit.

Our photo is from Sabbath Moment friend Brian McKernan, taken in Budapest this past week. It is a memorial to Jewish men and women (about 20,000) who (in 1944 - 1945) were taken to the shores of the Danube and told to remove their shoes.  They were shot and their bodies were thrown into the river and swept away. This monument was placed in 2005 as a memorial.
​​​​​​​This last week we lost Father Thomas Keating. Known for Centering Prayer, a method of silent prayer that allows one to rest in the presence of God. “Silence is God’s first language. Everything else is a poor translation,” he reminded us.
​​​​​​​On Tuesday, we vote. Use your voice.

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri Nouwen

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Shall I scream into the ether?
Shall I wail against the walls of ignorance?
Shall I throw the pieces of my broken heart into the crowd?
Yes, I shall.
But know this:
I WILL NOT,
Stop my voice against silent acceptance.
Stop loving.
Stop fighting for justice.
Stop staying silent.
Shalom! Shalom! Shalom.
​​​​​​​SM friend Iris Brewster

Every minute someone leaves this world behind. 
We are all in “the line” without knowing it.
We never know how many people are before us.
We can not move to the back of the line.
We can not step out of the line.
We can not avoid the line.
​​​​​​​So while we wait in line –
​​​​​​​Make moments count.
Make priorities.
Make the time.
Make your gifts known.
Make a nobody feel like a somebody.
Make your voice heard.
Make the small things big.
Make someone smile.
Make the change.
Make love.
Make up.
Make peace.
Make sure to tell your people they are loved.
Make sure to have no regrets.
​​​​​​​Make sure you are ready.
​​​​​​​Joe Becigneul

Do not be daunted
by the enormity
of the world’s grief.
​​​​​​​Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated
to complete the work,
but neither are you free
to abandon it.
​​​​​​​The Talmud

kindness.jpg

Kindness is Still Alive

Oct 28th 2018

 

It is pumpkin time. And our leaf theatre amazes and soothes and mesmerizes and charms. It has been our best October ever.
​​​​​​​And yet, our emotional earth shakes. Again. The news—the mail bombs, the hate crime in Louisville, the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting—unnerves. I am sad. I am heartbroken. I can’t pretend otherwise.
​​​​​​​So. What do we do when the ground is on tilt? When, needing safety, we are met with uncertainty, anxiety, doubt, sadness and suspicion?

This week I learned a new word. Quanked. Perfect. Our world is emotionally quanked. It means “overpowered by fatigue.” (A Glossary of Words Used in the County of Wiltshire, by Dartnell and Goddard, 1893.) Fatigue from the barrage. The onslaught.
​​​​​​​So. What do we do when our world is quanked? Where do we find our strength and courage?
​​​​​​​I’m not sure why, but I confess I spent time reading comments on social media. Mostly because I’m curious about what stokes our billion-dollar anger industry. But it doesn’t help my heart. I’m speechless. But that’s just it, I’m never speechless.
​​​​​​​Which means this gets my attention.

Here’s what I know to be true. When the world tilts, it’s easy to spiral. To be at the mercy. And the news becomes the narrative for our emotional well-being and determines our motivation to say yes or no. To choose.
​​​​​​​You see, when the world shakes, it can rattle our identity (I tend to live fearful and tight to the chest), and how we choose (it is easy not to trust, and I forgot the power of goodness). I forget the fundamental truth that we are people on this journey together.

Here’s the deal: No one of us can make it alone.
​​​​​​​No one of us.
​​​​​​​So, even in the darkness, we can be a place of light.
​​​​​​​I take heart when people stand up and say, “We get to say how the story ends.”

A headline this week; Mexicans shower the caravan with kindness — and tarps, tortillas and medicine.
​​​​​​​Outside her family’s hardware store, Coqui Cortez, 57, set up a table to feed migrants (what we are calling the caravan) lemon tea and stew, using meat from her son’s butcher shop. Down the street, her daughter was handing out fruit.
​​​​​​​“My family has been very blessed,” Cortez said. “And we know that we are all brothers. What God gives us, we should share.​​​​ But we do it with a lot of love.”
​​​​​​​For decades, because of poverty and violence, people have hiked the back roads and ridden trains heading north.
​​​​​​​“Today it’s them. Tomorrow it could be us,” said Lesbia Cinco Ley, 70, who was volunteering with the Catholic church in town to distribute food.
​​​​​​​So, get this. Town officials in Pijijiapan began readying for the caravan’s arrival, holding meetings to strategize how to attend to the migrants. Before dawn on Thursday, Cinco Ley and several others began cooking, on a mission to prepare giant vats of ham and eggs and 14,000 sandwiches. Between the municipality, churches and private citizens, town officials estimated Pijijiapan had spent nearly $8,000 for one day’s worth of food. “This is a poor town, but we still did all this,” said Guadalupe Rodriguez, 48, a city councilwoman.
​​​​​​​(Adapted from Washington Post article, Joshua Partlow)
​​​​​​​“And the law of kindness is on her tongue.” The Book of Proverbs
​​​​​​​Thank you Lesbia and Coqui.

The world tilts. And when it does, there are still brothers and sisters to feed.
​​​​​​​Is this topic tense? Yes. Complicated? Yes. Politicized? Yes. And yet, not one of those is big enough to keep us from being human and sources of love. ​​​​​​​Because you never know. Next time, it could be me. It could be you.

“Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills.” Tolstoy wrote at the end of his life in his forgotten correspondence with Gandhi about human nature and why we hurt each other, as the global tensions that would soon erupt into World War I were building.
​​​​​​​How? I have an idea. Let’s start one meal at a time.
​​​​​​​“For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
​​​​​​​Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
​​​​​​​Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Gospel of Matthew)

On a rainy Saturday night, in April 1945, a train pulled into Horni Briza’s train station. Stationmaster Antonin Pavlicek was appalled by the conditions of those on board. After prolonged arguments with the Nazi officer in charge of the train, Pavlicek managed to organize an astonishing humanitarian effort the next day by the local townspeople, who brought food, drink – and even baby clothes when they heard the cries of newborns – to the train wagons.
​​​​​​​His first instinct, shock.
​​​​​​​His second, kindness.
​​​​​​​When Mr. Pavlicek saw how grateful the prisoners were for this small kindness and realized what terrible condition they were in, he had an idea. It has been by sheer chance that their train had stopped in Horni Briza but –as a devout Catholic—he wanted to do what was morally right. So, at 6:30 the following morning, Sunday, 22 April, instead of going to mass he paid a visit to Josef Zoubek, the director of the kaolin factory, and Antonin Wirth, the landlord of the Tovarni Hostinec, the local inn. He asked the two men how quickly they could prepare a large quantity of food to be given to the prisoners.
​​​​​​​Of course, the SS Unterscharfuhrer was resistant, who saw “no point in feeding those destined to die.” After more negotiation, an agreement was struck that a canteen would be made available at the town’s expense to serve one hot meal to the half-starved women. The prisoner’s plight quickly spread.
​​​​​​​Ten-year-old Jaroslav Lang said, “To begin with we didn’t even know there were prisoners on the train…we ran home to our mother and asked for some bread to give them. She was very afraid but still she gave us a little something.” Everyone was living on coupons at the time because of the shortages, but they gave up their own rations for those on the train. (Adapted from Born Survivors, Wendy Holden)

No one of us can make it alone.
​​​​​​​When life is on tilt, where do our marching orders come from?
Start here: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

​​​​​​​Fear says, “I’ll make you safe.”
​​​​​​​But love says, “You are safe.”

Yesterday I voted. And I’m honored to be a citizen of this country.
​​​​​​​Today I raked leaves. Looking for new ways to name colors I see, violaceous, Bordeaux ink, magenta, salmon and periwinkle.
​​​​​​​“Do you have a lot of fall work in your garden?” someone asked me. “Yes,” I said. “I do. I wander and savor and smile.”

Quote for your week:
​​​​​​​For our brothers and sisters at the Tree of Life Synagogue we say this Kaddish (Mourners) Prayer (English translation):
​​​​​​​Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name in the world which God created, according to plan. May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, to which we say: Amen.
​​​​​​​Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.
​​​​​​​Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise, and comfort. To which we say: Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel. To which we say: Amen.
May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace us and to all Israel. To which we say: Amen.

POEMS AND PRAYERS

The world is violent and mercurial — it will have its way with you.
We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share:
being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend.
We live in a perpetually burning building,
and what we must save from it, all the time, is love. Tennessee Williams

​​​​​​​

Mindful
Every Day
​​​​​​​I see or hear
something
that more or less
​​​​​​​kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
​​​​​​​in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen,
​​​​​​​to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over
​​​​​​​in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
​​​​​​​the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab
​​​​​​​the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
​​​​​​​but grow wise
with such teachings
as these—
the untrimmable light
​​​​​​​of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
​​​​​​​out of grass?
Mary Oliver

 

In the busyness of this day
​​​​​​​Grant me a stillness of seeing, O God.
​​​​​​​In the conflicting voices of my heart
​​​​​​​Grant me a calmness of hearing
​​​​​​​Let my seeing and hearing
​​​​​​​My words and my actions
​​​​​​​Be rooted in a silent certainty of your presence
​​​​​​​Let my passions for life
​​​​​​​And the longings for justice that stir within me
​​​​​​​Be grounded in the experience of your stillness
​​​​​​​Let my life be rooted in the ground of your peace O God,
​​​​​​​Let me be rooted in the depths of your peace.
Amen.
Celtic Benediction, J. Philip Newell​​​​​​

everybody hurts.jpg

Everybody hurts

Oct 21st 2018

“I’ve lost my way.” One man confesses to his friend. “And it’s not good, because I don’t know how much more I can take.”
“I understand,” his friend says.
“I don’t know what is next, but I think I’m close to the bottom.”
​​​​​​​“Well,” his friend tells him. “I can tell you this with all my heart. I have been to the bottom. And I’m glad to report, that the bottom is solid.”

This week I had conversations with friends in the Sabbath Moment community whose worlds have been rocked. Derailed. So, in good form I put on my Pastor hat, and hope to find the right words. But too often, my Pastor hat disconnects me from my own brokenness. You see if I’m honest, I am where they are. And I need to speak from that place, to be honest about and embrace that brokenness. What James Hollis calls an appointment with our own soul.
​​​​​​​We are invited to make our wounds into sacred wounds. If we cannot, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter. This much is true; if we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children. (Thank you Richard Rohr.)

Toward the end of Leonard Bernstein’s musical work entitled Mass, there is a scene in which the priest is richly dressed in magnificent vestments. He is lifted up by the crowd. He is carrying a splendid glass chalice in his hands. Suddenly the human pyramid collapses and the priest comes tumbling down.
The priest’s vestments are ripped off and the glass chalice falls to the ground, shattering into tiny pieces.
As the priest walks slowly through the debris of his former glory, barefoot and wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, he hears children’s voices singing off stage, Laude. Laude. Laude. Praise! Praise! Praise!
His eyes, transformed by God’s grace, suddenly notice the broken chalice. He looks at it for a long, long time. And then, haltingly he says, “I never realized that broken glass could shine so brightly.”

Things do not always go the way we plan. Not that we don’t try. Somehow, well made plans make us feel better. More presentable. Even acceptable.
​​​​​​​Then life happens. And life turns left.
Things–plans, dreams, relationships–can, and do, break.
Sometimes even shatter.
And hearts can be broken.
Not long ago, I spent some time with a group of people weighed down by broken things. They invited me to sit, to listen, and if I had any, to offer some insight.
On went my Pastor’s hat. I had the right things to say. And I wanted to put the chalice back together.
But here’s the deal: since when are tidiness and the presence of the sacred one in the same?
​​​​​​​In the end, I realized that I could only invite anyone to the epiphany of the priest in Bernstein’s Mass. That if we have eyes to see, there are no unsacred moments. And that God is alive and well in all things.
Even in the broken glass. 
Or, in the words of Van Morrison, “Whenever God shines His light.” 

In one of her visions of Jesus, Julian of Norwich (1342–1416) realizes that Jesus is a “handsome mixture.” His face speaks of a knowledge of life’s delight and a knowledge of life’s pain. It is not a face that is naïve to the world’s sufferings or to the personal experience of sorrow. Nor is it a face that is so overwhelmed by sorrow that it loses its openness and wonder.  It is a soul that has experienced the heights and the depths of human life.  A handsome mixture is the capacity to look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and its beauty.  To glimpse a way forward.
​​​​​​​Yes please. A handsome mixture. Well acquainted with sorrow, growing in intimacy with disappearance, yet ever-determined to put the song back in the world.  This is hard. Very hard. And the growing pains are acute. And oh, the terrible things I see.  Things that try to crush and silence my song.  (Thank you SM friend, Phoebe Dishman.)
​​​​​​​I take heart, knowing that we can be ever broken, and ever restored. A handsome mixture, clear-eyed and sturdy to serve. It heals our heart.  Etty Hillesum (1914–1943, a young Jewish woman who died at Auschwitz) shared this intimate glimpse in one of her journals, “I know that this too is part of life, and somewhere there is something inside me that will never desert me again.”  We learn to trust the inherent goodness of reality.

This week SM friend Cathy gave me a new word. Sisu. Derived from sisus (from Finland), meaning “interior” and “guts;” in other words, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery and resilience. At the core of sisu is the idea that in each of us there is more strength than meets the eye. Whatever one calls it, I believe we each possess this deep down in our souls and when we reach in for it, that is pure grace.
​​​​​​​I’ve been to the bottom, and am happy to report the bottom is solid.

Our knee jerk is to go cerebral. If only it all made sense.  So, teach us, please. Give us the script.
​​​​​​​It’s just that when we bring God into the collusion, saying that God sends us the burden because [God] knows that we are strong enough to handle it, we have it all wrong. Fate, not God, sends us the problem. When we try to deal with it, we find out that we are not strong. We discover that we are weak; we get tired, we get angry, overwhelmed… But when we reach the limits of our own strength and courage, something unexpected happens. We find reinforcement coming from a source outside of ourselves. And in the knowledge, that we are not alone, that God is on our side, we manage to go on… (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner) And you discover people around you, and God beside you, and strength within you to help you survive.

I came upon a doctor who appeared in quite poor health. I said, “There’s nothing that I can do for you that you can’t do for yourself.”
​​​​​​​He said, “Oh yes you can. Just hold my hand. I think that that would help.”
​​​​​​​So, I sat with him a while, then asked him how he felt.
​​​​​​​He said, “I think I’m cured.” (Thank you Conor Oberst.)

Thank God, I have friends. They carry the weight and the freight. They hold my hand. And I trust them.  That’s a big deal. Because I learned early in my life, not to trust. This isn’t a cathartic therapy session. But it’s important to fess up from time to time. To know what our trigger points are… It’s all a part of that handsome mixture.

I’m in Oakland with the good people at Piedmont Community Church. If you want to watch my sermon from this morning, you can visit their link. Tonight, a gathering to talk about creating sacred spaces. And then, as is my custom here in Piedmont, sharing exceptional wine with my good friend Rev. Bill McNabb.

                                                                                             POEMS AND PRAYERS

Oh the comfort, the inexplicable comfort of feeling safe with a person
–having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together;
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
Dina Craik (1859)

 

Kindness
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
​​​​​​​Naomi Shihab Nye    

Be generous in prosperity,
​​​​​​​and thankful in adversity.
​​​​​​​Be fair in thy judgment,
​​​​​​​and guarded in thy speech.
​​​​​​​Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness,
​​​​​​​and a home to the stranger.
​​​​​​​Be eyes to the blind,
​​​​​​​and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring.
​​​​​​​Be a breath of life to the body of humankind,
​​​​​​​a dew to the soil of the human heart,
​​​​​​​and a fruit upon the tree of humility.
​​​​​​​Amen.

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Take care of one another

October 14, 2018

This past week, I watched real-time TV images of devastation. Houses and businesses and lives and dreams, decimated. All the while, in awe of the absolute power and unpredictability of nature.
​​​​​​​And it hits me that we are, every single one of us, one storm away from wreckage. No matter how prepared. We are at the mercy. And in that place, invited to humility.

I’m reading The Good Neighbor; The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. And take comfort by something his mother would tell him during times of disaster. “Look for the helpers. You can always find people who are helping.”
​​​​​​​You see, it is in our humility that we find the strength and the power to take care of one another.

Bob works as a pediatric nurse with terminally ill children.  One of his “patients,” is a little girl named Emily.  Emily loved playing with Bob when he visited her room.  She felt safe and they become fast friends.  Occasionally, Emily would talk about the time when “Chucky Lee” was “going to come.”  Bob assumed she was speaking of a friend, or family member.  So, one day he asked her.
Emily told Bob, “Chucky Lee comes to see me sometimes.”  And then paused and added, “Chucky Lee is death.  Someday Chucky Lee will come and take me away.”
Bob knew that Emily needed to personify death into a character she could understand.  It made perfect sense.
“Are you frightened?” he asked.
“Yes, very much.  Mostly he comes at night.”
Bob was moved by her clarity and innocence.  And he wanted to protect her, to shield her from such sorrow.  “At night, when you feel Chucky Lee coming, is there anything you can do to feel better?”
“Oh, yes,” Emily replied brightly, “You have to sing Jingle Bells and other love songs!”
After that Bob asked specifically about her nights.
“Well,” she told him, using a conspiratorial whisper, “Last night, I had to sing Jingle Bells three times, very, very loud.”
Indeed Emily.  Very, very loud…
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
We can all learn from Emily.
Although, to be honest, I’d rather a life exempt from the visits of Chucky Lee.  Whether it is heartache, fragility, vulnerability, breakability, weakness or disillusionment. Each of them, in their own way, a small death.

I recently talked to a friend.  As paramedics worked over the body of a young man dying from an overdose, my friend held the young man’s 21-year-old friend tightly, as he sobbed in her arms, hyperventilating.  She didn’t know quite what to say, but whispered over and over, “breathe with me, breathe in the spirit, and breathe out the junk.”  She told me, “I cleaned up the blood-stained carpet left by the paramedics. It was my prayer of servitude I guess.  It is an unusual feeling, cleaning up the blood of someone who is dying, but there is a profound sense of devotion to what is sacred here.  It’s not just about the bloody and messy, but about the fragility of life, and how life doesn’t unfold neatly and how I have so much to learn in trusting that truth.”
​​​​​​​Yes. It is in our humility that we find the strength and the power to take care of one another.
​​​​​​​
Here’s the deal:
Sometimes we need to hold someone tight, even if we don’t know what to say.
Sometimes we need to let ourselves be held tightly, even if we don’t believe what is whispered in our ear.
Sometimes we need to walk the dog, fill the bird-feeders, talk with a friend, or find a meal for a storm victim.
Sometimes we must be very still, for an afternoon, and use our stillness as a prayer, a silent song to the heavens.
And sometimes, we need to sing Jingle Bells and other love songs very, very loud.

Not that music always has its intended result.  Several years ago Zach and I are tooling down a Vashon country road, Matisyahu’s One Day blasting (what is heartfelt music, if not loud?), and me singing along with unabashed gusto.
“Dad,” Zach says, “Shhhh.  You know these feel good songs, the ones where you can almost taste the sadness?  Well, the way I listen to them is to become like an Indian doing mediation.  And Dad, when you sing along, you mess up my mantra.”
Ohhhh.  Okay.  Thank you son.  I know I can’t carry a tune.  I just never knew I could mess up someone’s mantra.
I do know what he means though.  About the almost taste the sadness part.  Music has a power that enables it to find its way into the crevices of our soul.

So, where do we find and spill the music of healing and redemption? Music that gives hope to people around us.
Small headlines, even about big quandaries, more often than not, escape our notice. I wish it were not so. But we live in a world where bombardment wins our attention. Gratefully, I saw this. “Puerto Rican volunteers from San Juan are serving Hurricane victims in North Carolina, a unique story called Operation Pay It Forward.” Yes, I am smiling. Yes, it does my heart good. Yes, these are stories that keep my hope alive.
​​​​​​​Notice the verbs. Serve. Pay (engaged, all in).
​​​​​​​The group is called, appropriately, Operation Blessing.  Their why? The delegation knows all too well how it feels to be left reeling after a hurricane. So, ​​​​​​​let’s be clear. Just because our music of kindness is under the radar (or not even sung in tune) doesn’t mean it doesn’t change the world.

Pete Seeger believed in the power of music.  It was his “weapon,” and he sang and lived his life in support of peace, and of international disarmament, and of civil rights, and of environmental causes.  And he paid a price for his beliefs, and for his music.  In protesting war, members of his singing group, The Weavers, were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.  In The Power of Song, the documentary about Seeger’s life, he talks openly about death threats he received.  One man in particular, followed Seeger’s concerts, making his intentions clear.  Pete’s wife Toshi finally suggested that Pete simply talk with the man.  On one occasion, before a concert, back stage, the stalker and Pete spent time in a room alone.
“What happened?” Seeger was asked.
“Well, we talked.  And then we sang together… Where have all the flowers gone?  And then we cried together.  And then the man told me, ‘Thank you.  I now feel clean.'” (I added the Seeger video below.)
​​​​​​​
I get too easily cynical.  And I will admit that some part of me doesn’t want to believe stories that have peaceful endings.
But in my heart I know that only light can push the darkness away.
Light.  And very, very loud renditions of love songs.
​​​​​​​We can do that. From sanctuary, we make a difference. In our humility, we can make choices to be Operation Blessing. So, this week, let us pay it forward, singing jingle bells with fellow travelers, who need a hand to hold.
​​​​​​​
This year, here on Vashon Island, our leaves have given us a magical Midwestern Autumn, with clear days and crisp blue skies. A tree palate of mustard golds and yellows, flushed and ruddy reds, from Bloodgood Maple to Liquidambar styraciflua (sweet gum). Lord have mercy, it is good.

Quotes for your week…
​​​​​​​Music can change the world
because it can change people.
Bono, U2

This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender.
The motto emblazoned on Pete Seeger’s banjo
​​​​​​​
Note: Chucky Lee story adapted from Wayne Muller’s book, How then shall we live?​​​​​​​

POEMS AND PRAYERS

 

We Shake with Joy
We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.
Mary Oliver

The Autumn

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,

And turn your eyes around,

Where waving woods and waters wild

Do hymn an autumn sound.

The summer sun is faint on them —

The summer flowers depart —

Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,

Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,

May yet be in your mind;

And how you heard the green woods sing

Beneath the freshening wind.

Though the same wind now blows around,

You would its blast recall;

For every breath that stirs the trees,

Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth

That flesh and dust impart:

We cannot bear its visitings,

When change is on the heart.

Gay words and jests may make us smile,

When Sorrow is asleep;

But other things must make us smile,

When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, —

Their presence may be o’er;

The dearest voice that meets our ear,

That tone may come no more!

Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,

Which once refresh’d our mind,

Shall come — as, on those sighing woods,

The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind — view not the woods;

Look out o’er vale and hill-

In spring, the sky encircled them —

The sky is round them still.

Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —

Come change — and human fate!

Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,

Can ne’er be desolate.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Blessing
We are all great rivers flowing to their end.
Swirling inside us is the silt of ages and creatures and lands
and rain that has fallen for millions of years.
All this makes us cloudy with mud,
unable to see God.
As we struggle for clarity and the open sky,
the Lord keeps saying the same thing:
Come to me now and be blessed,
Come.
Hafiz (1320 – 1389)

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Enter at Your Own Risk

Oct 7th 2018

We walked along the shore of Lake Michigan, on the campus of Northwestern University, our backdrop the straight-edge line of a powder-blue horizon toward the east, and the Chicago skyline to the south. My friend and I had nowhere to go, and weren’t in a hurry to get there. It seemed a good day for a long and restful nothing. At the entrance to an inviting tree-dotted and grassed area, a prominently placed sign greets all who walk into this place of respite, rest and sanctuary with the unusual and curious caution: “Enter at your own risk.”
The sign stopped me.  Literally.  I did a double take.  And I laughed.  And of course, I took a picture (with my new phone — after all, what’s the point of having a new phone if you don’t take photos and post them for public envy).  And then it made me sad… and made me wonder, “What’s the point?”
Okay.  At one level, I get the “risk” part. Everything now in our world is tainted with the fear of liability (or affronting). After all, someone may get hurt. (Although it doesn’t read well on your medical report,” Injuries sustained while savoring the day.”)

Risk becomes a double-edged sword.  However, I believe that in our fear-induced world, our energy is given to casting a watchful eye to the danger always lurking (or the enemies always at bay).  And we live in a world tense and on edge.
So. “Watch out!”
You could be ridiculed, frightened, attacked, alarmed, injured, or worse, sued. And our life is now predicated on limiting liability.  I know what that feels like. I mean viscerally. Emotionally. And spiritually. You know, when you are tempted to either bow out, or to go back to your corner and then come out fighting.
Isn’t it interesting what happens when we choose (or live by) that particular choice of words?
When I use the lens (or perspective) –enter with caution– I instinctively see (perceive, view) my experience in a narrower or more restrictive framework.  In other words, I live this moment anticipating fear.

But it’s not just about caution.  Yes, I do understand that there are times when caution is called for.  What troubles me is that more often than not, I trade in my freedom or imagination or choice or intention or unabashed delight or even my contentment, because I am certain I may offend… or that I don’t deserve it, or that I haven’t earned it, or that I have colored outside the lines, and must pay the price.  (Like the faithful band of “believers” in the movie Babette’s Feast who, when offered an extraordinarily generous gift of the feast-of-a-lifetime, make the decision to “taste” the wine, but not “enjoy it.”)
I don’t want to live my life in fear.
We quote Thoreau, longingly, “I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  Which all sounds admirable and dauntless.  But what does it mean?  I’m wresting with this… Perhaps, that is where the sign “Enter at your own risk” should be–any place we choose to live deliberately.
Because to live deliberately is risky.
And some caution is warranted.
But here’s the deal: To really care, grieve, love, begin again, give birth to passion, open your heart, accept loss, be overcome by beauty, sustain friendship, sit in stillness, wrestle with prayer and faith, to speak the truth, and offer sanctuary to joy, sadness or injustice, requires a heart willing to accept the risk and be broken. To be broken wide open.  

It’s interesting to me that I found this sign in a place of sanctuary.  That is the flip side of the coin.  And the truth is; they may be right.  The truth is that if I do enter a place of sanctuary, if I do practice Sabbath, or if I do honor stillness, or if I do give up my diversions to be at home in my own skin, or if I do choose the courage to be fully present, to let my soul catch up with my body, it may not be easy.  It may, in fact, be risky.
Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? “Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” Erica Jong

Sanctuary is replenishing. But it is so much more than that. Because we need to remember what is being replenished. There is in every one of us the imago dei (the image of God).
“Our unique divine DNA, an inner destiny as it were, an absolute core that knows the truth about you, a true believer tucked away in the cellar of your being, an imago Dei that begs to be allowed, to be fulfilled, and to show itself. This is your True Self or soul. Paradoxically, immense humility, not arrogance, characterizes the True Self. You simultaneously know you are a son or daughter of God, but you also know that you didn’t earn it and you are not worthy of it. You know it’s entirely a gift. All you can do is thank Somebody Else, occasionally weep with joy, and kneel without any hesitation. The single and true purpose of mature religion is to lead you to ever new experiences of your True Self. If religion does not do this, it is junk religion. Every sacrament, every Bible story, every church service, every sermon, every hymn, every bit of priesthood, ministry, or liturgy is for one purpose: to allow you to experience your True Self—who you are in God and who God is in you—and to live a generous and just life from that Infinite Source.” (Thank you Richard Rohr)

So. Blessed are you who know deep in your bones that you are good. And beautiful. And beloved. And sacred. And worthy. And believed. And held. And capable of healing beyond your wildest imagination.
Without sanctuary, we are unmoored from the true self at our core. And we give way to a veneer that is injurious. When we are unmoored…
…from compassion and benevolence, we give way to dismissive pettiness.
…from empathy and humanity, we give way to cruelty.
…from our capacity to give and serve, we give way to self-centeredness.
…from responsibility and ownership, we give way to blame and victimhood.

This is the great irony.  “Enter at your risk” need not mean, “shut down your heart”… or restrict your life or your passion or your sorrow or your joy.  It is the opposite: enter at your own risk, precisely because your heart is fully engaged, fully present, fully alive. So, take heart. Change percolates from individuals who enter.
I wish I could tell you that I have given up all my fear.
I have not.
Not yet.
But I do have a picture of that sign.  Just to remind me… maybe today I will take the risk and open my heart.

I spent a weekend off the grid. I should do this more often.

Quote for your week…
Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is. Will Rogers 

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Blessed are you…
blessed are you who are raging.
blessed are you who are mourning.
blessed are you who feel numb.
blessed are you who feel sick. and tired. and sick and tired.
blessed are you who refuse to turn away.
blessed are you who need to turn away.
blessed are you who keep breathing deep.
blessed are you who are tending to your own needs.
blessed are you who are tending to the needs of another.
blessed are you who have been calling.
blessed are you who have been organizing.
blessed are you who have been testifying.
blessed are you who have been hearing.
blessed are you who have been resisting.
blessed are you who feel broken open beyond repair.
blessed are you who are raw beyond words.
blessed are you who are working hotlines and crisis care centers and bearing witness to the forces of violence and trauma unleashed and unloosed.
blessed are you who are marching.
blessed are you who are weeping.
blessed are you who preach and know that divinity resides in despised, abused, violated flesh.
blessed are you who know deep in your bones that you are good. and beautiful. and beloved. and sacred. and worthy. and believed. and held. and capable of healing beyond your wildest imagination.
blessed are you who remind others they are good. and beautiful. and beloved. and sacred. and worthy. and believed. and held. and capable of healing beyond their wildest imagination.
blessed are we when we dare to dream of a world without sexual violence, without white supremacy, without misogyny, without police brutality, without anti-trans and anti-queer violence.
blessed are we when we stay tender.
blessed are we when we stay fierce.
blessed are we when we dare to imagine repair, and transformation.
blessed are we when we labor together to make it so.
Rev. Anna Blaedel​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

I offer you peace.
I offer you love.
I offer you friendship.
I see beauty.
I hear your need.
I feel your feelings.
My wisdom flows from the Highest Source.
I salute the Source in you.
Let us work together for unity and love.
Gandhi’s Prayer for Peace

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Repairing the world

Sep 30th 2019

 

Some days, we wake up in a world that is not a friend of grace. At least, it doesn’t feel so.
This past Thursday put a spotlight on what we know to be true, we live in very broken world. I’ve had many conversations from different parts of the country. All have been tainted with pain. And it hurts my heart.
Talking with a friend in the grocery, we shook our heads as if to say, “Where do we find sanity and sanctuary? And where do we find hope?” “It helps when I distinguish between big world and small world,” he said to me.
With that, a light bulb came on. You see, with big world, news is in your face and stoked with anger. No wonder we feel as if our control is demoted. And we ask, how can I make a difference in a broken world?
Well that’s just it, we make a difference in the small world. The small world is the place where we stand. Today. Where we care and give a damn. And hug and give and try and love and fall down and get up and repent and cry and embrace and challenge and reconcile and heal.

Jeffrey Rubin tells the story about a young man who found a wallet on the street. It belonged to a city police officer. He found the precinct and returned the wallet that he found.
The detective was grateful and surprised. “Thank you,” he said to the young man. “Here’s forty dollars.”
The young man replied, “Thanks, but if I wanted the money, I would have kept the wallet.”
Makes me smile. Yes. Making a difference in the small world with compassion free of ulterior motive and straight from the heart. The path we walk (the choices we make), is not arbitrary, or because we mentally assent to a certain creed. It is guided by and fueled by an identity that is grounded in and spills from sufficiency, and not scarcity. Sufficiency is that place where Grace is received and given freely.  Sufficiency where we remember Jesus’ words to each of us, “You are the light of the world.” He didn’t ask us to make the light. Just shine it.
When I live from scarcity, I lose my mooring. I’m driven by “not enough.” I clutch, and I blame.
When I live from sufficiency, I am not compensating for what is missing, the world does not make me hate, I trust my heart, and any assumed scarcity (of kindness and compassion) does not get to say how the story ends.

But how? And where do we begin in a broken world?
There is a well-known story concerning a Rabbi who came across the prophet Elijah, and asked him: “Tell me—when will the Messiah come?”
Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.”
“Where is he?” asked the Rabbi.
“He’s sitting at the gates of the city,” said Elijah.
“But how will I know which one is he?”
The Prophet replied, “He is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and bind them up again, but he unbinds only one at a time and binds them up again, saying to himself, ‘Perhaps I shall be needed; if so, I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.’”
In his book The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen adds, “What I find impressive in this story are these two things: first, the faithful tending of one’s own woundedness and second, the willingness to move to the aid of other people and to make the fruits of our own woundedness available to others.”

I’ve known about the story of the wounded healer for many years.  I first read it in seminary.  I understood it cerebrally.  Now, I get it, in my gut.  I just don’t like those wounded (flawed, broken) parts of me.
But I do know what it is to be wounded.  Though I do my very best to hide it.  I see nothing good there. But what if?  What if brokenness is not a “fixable problem,” but an opportunity for grace and love and ministry?
Many of us live under the illusion that one of these “experts” has created a life to die for, to be emulated.  If that’s the case, knock yourself out, but just remember that there’s no one to complain to when you find out that, in the end, you—the flawed and broken you—can be a pretty trustworthy guide on this expedition we call life.
Nouwen writes, “Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?”  When we do, we are Tikkun Olam, repairers of the world.

This week I read Gracie; Love is Blind, about the power of shining light in our small world even in our woundedness. Gracie is a Petite Basset. And Gracie is blind. “Life doesn’t always go as planned and love doesn’t always make sense,” Patsy Swendson writes. “I was to be profoundly blessed to witness Gracie as she would take control of rooms full of patients or in private visits with warriors returning from combat missing arms, legs or eyes. She commanded these moments and filled them with nonjudgmental love and warmth. I am certain that Gracie was put on this earth to help alleviate pain, if only for a moment. To know that you are loved unconditionally, completely and wholly, can allow you to take the first step toward learning to be who you are despite what has happened to you… she offered light in places where people needed it the most… Gracie has been a heart healer from the first moment I saw her.”

So where do we begin in our broken world? In our small world? Rear Admiral Thornton Miller Chief was the Chaplain at Normandy in WWII. Someone asked him, “Up and down the beach, with the shells going everywhere, why did you do that?”
“Because I’m a minister.”
“But didn’t you ask if they were Catholic or Protestant or Jew?”
“If you’re a minister, the only question you ask is, ‘Can I help you?'” 

Here’s the deal: We are all wounded healers (where our wounds cease to be a source of shame and become a source of healing). No, this is not a strategy.  This is a fact.  It spills from those parts of our life that have been broken open, from those parts of us flawed and imperfect. So. What if this is not about accepting imperfection as some kind of divine teaching moment? What if the gift is in the inimitability of our humanity? When we embrace what is already inside, we live from the power of sufficiency.

I love the autumn garden. The plants accept fragility, as if unafraid of the temporal and the broken. They have only this moment, days with golden light. Absent now is the manic pace of a spring garden. And the plants shine without striving.
I am addicted to golf, so spent this morning watching the Ryder Cup, a team event, US against Europe. Europe won convincingly, and it showcased the power of being a team. And the joy in celebration.

Quotes for your week…
I need something to believe in
Breathe in, sanctuary in the
Easy silence that you make for me.
The Dixie Chicks

Notes: 1. A variation of this story appears in a discussion in the Talmud–Sanhedrin 98a

Our eCourse Sanctuary begins this week… there is still time to join us.  Here’s the information you need.

POEMS AND PRAYERS

The great mystery of God’s love is that we are not asked to live as if we are not hurting, as if we are not broken.
In fact, we are invited to recognize our brokenness as a brokenness
in which we can come in touch with the unique way that God loves us.
The great invitation is to live your brokenness under the blessing.
I cannot take people’s brokenness away and people cannot take my brokenness away.
But how do you live in your brokenness?
Do you live your brokenness under the blessing or under the curse?
Henri Nouwen

 

What I see, from the airplane
Off to the west
​​​​​​​I see Mount St. Helens
​​​​​​​her crown rising
sitting on a​​​​​ textured
​​​​​​​and layered cloud cover.
A blanket of fleece.
​​​​​​​The sun glistens
​​​​​​​glints
​​​​​​​off a snow face
now ​​​​​​​wearing the scars
​​​​​​​and visible evidence
​​​​​​​of damage.
​​​​​​​A history, a past, a story.
​​​​​​​Volatile
​​​​​​​and heartrending.
​​​​​​​A world altered forever
​​​​​​​Now identified, known
​​​​​​​and celebrated
​​​​​​​for its disfigurement.
​​​​​​​No different than our own lives,
​​​​​​​waiting for the sun to touch
​​​​​​​whatever wounded us.
Terry Hershey

 

Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love.
Amen.
​​​​​​​Henri Nouwen

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Embrace our brokenness

Sep 23rd 2018

 

 

Two men visiting Hong Kong, noticed the ubiquity of street vendors, all pushing their carts along, pell-mell, in and out of traffic.  Attempting to gain the attention of any potential customer, they would shout repeatedly, “Sale! Sale!  Good items for sale!”
So numerous were these vendors that the men found it difficult to avoid their aggressive sales pitches.  It was then that they noticed a lone vendor, different from the others. This man stayed to himself, and slowly and quietly pushed his cart along the sidewalk.  Intrigued, they stopped the vendor to ask him about his wares, “What are you selling?”
“Selling?  Oh, I’m not selling anything.”  With that, he reached into his cart, picked up the pieces of a toy that had been broken. “You see, I buy broken things. Joy always comes in the mending.”

I like this story.  Because there is a part of me that feels broken.  And mending, well, that sounds very good to me.  But I believe, in my mind (if I’m honest), that I am exchanging the word mending with the word, fixing.
I know you can relate, too.  Every single one of us is familiar with brokenness.  Or at least, we sense it, but don’t know quite how to name it. You know, when it feels as if life is on “tilt.” What William James calls our “torn-to-pieces-hood.”
At a commencement speech at Harvard, Professor Kimberley Patton told the students, “Even if a broken heart does not lie in your past or present, it awaits you in your future, at some place, at some time when you will almost certainly be unprepared. But in myth, in ritual, and in theology, the broken heart is not a regrettable symptom of derailment but is rather the starting point of anything that matters.” 

The news reminds us we live in a broken world… with broken bodies, broken relationships and broken spirits.
–When we feel stuck or without passion, we are broken.
–When we betray our own heart, we are broken.
–When our dreams are derailed by ridicule, we are broken.
–When we live only to “fit in,” and censor our own voice, we are broken.
–When we are enamored by diversion and avoid our own company, we are broken.
–When we believe that we are only the sum total of our achievements, we are broken.
–When we give in to the relentless fear of failure, insecurity, and the reluctance to ask questions that might reveal we do not “know everything,” we are broken.
Sometimes we feel it.  Sometimes we don’t.  Even so, it takes a toll. 

This weekend I spent time with the good people at St. Bridget Catholic Community in River Falls, WI. Enjoying beautiful Midwestern autumn air, we talked about Sanctuary, the times and spaces in our life that make deposits toward replenishment and renewal and healing. And we talked about bunkum, the stuff that gets in the way, the withdrawals that take a toll. 

​​​I was raised on “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (from The Psalms) But the “translation” (in my church) was crystal clear: God loves the broken, only if it is in the process of being tidied or cleaned up or renovated.
In our culture, the concept of brokenness wreaks havoc with the picture in our mind of an unspoiled life.  And we frantically try to fix it, or dismiss it or hide it.  Blemished beauty has no place here.
So.  What do we do with our brokenness?  Henri Nouwen suggests that we need to “embrace it.”  Because we are beloved of God, we have to dare to embrace it, to befriend our own brokenness and to really look at it. “Yes, I am hurting. Yes, I am wounded. Yes, it is painful. And… I don’t have to be afraid.”

Conceptually, I get it.
But how do I invite my brokenness into my life?
How do I embrace it (or, as Mary Oliver says, “row toward the embattlement”)?
This, is certain:  Embracing the brokenness that affects us all may not carry us toward safety, but most surely toward salvation.
This morning, on my flight home, I watched Won’t you be my neighbor. And I cried, the good kind that happens whenever I witness kindness and grace. “What changes the world,” Mr. Rogers says, “the only thing that can ever change the world is when somebody gets the idea that love can abound. And can be shared.”

Well… as they say in the Wizard of Oz, “This isn’t Kansas anymore.”  We’re no longer in Sunday School.  And the spirit of God is no nesting dove.  Where God’s spirit is, there is in all probability, chaos.  We need to understand that about the spirit in our lives.  Sometimes the chaos is called to order as it was in the beginning… other times our need for complacency erupts into chaotic confusion (just like Pentecost), unraveling everything.
It’s not easy, because I have orchestrated my world–all my ducks so carefully and neatly in a row. And then… life happens.
Here’s the deal: when we acknowledge the broken places, there is an open space, a place for gestation and receptivity (what the Japanese call “hollowness” to the divine).  
–These are the times (albeit “nonproductive”) when new things are hatching and being born in the darkness… if only we do not panic.
–These are the times when we will learn compassion (what in Buddhism is called bodhicitta, the awakened heart).
–These are the times when the unbearably wounded will themselves emerge as healers and leaders.
–These are the times when we know that there is a place from which we can truly and wholeheartedly, give of ourselves.

In his book Mortal Lessons, physician Richard Selzer describes a scene in a hospital room after he had performed surgery on a young woman’s face:
I stand by the bed where the young woman lies… her face, postoperative… her mouth twisted in palsy… clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, one of the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be that way from now on. I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut this little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to be in a world all their own in the evening lamplight… isolated from me… private.   Who are they? I ask myself… he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously.
The young woman speaks.
“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”
She nods and is silent.
But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says, “it’s kind of cute.”
All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with the divine. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers… to show her that their kiss still works.

Here in my garden, it is autumn.  The petals from spent blooms are scattered over shrubs and plants and lawn.  As if a kind of offering.  It is unnerving almost, this unconditional and unstinting nature of the garden.  Regardless of conditions, “rowing toward embattlement,” the roses continue to flower and reach for the sun.

Quote for your week…

Life did not intend for us to be inviolable. Instead we are to be transformed into the blood and sinews of the world. To this end and purpose we can turn, in love, without fear, without ambivalence, letting the ducks break rank when they must, letting them fly where they will, into the air, into emptiness, into the breast of God, whose mighty and broken heartbeat joins with our own until the end of our separate lives, when the sound will become one, when we will see that all our ideas of self and emptiness and God were not enough. Kimberley Patton

POEMS AND PRAYERS

The great mystery of God’s love is that we are not asked to live as if we are not hurting, as if we are not broken.

In fact, we are invited to recognize our brokenness as a brokenness in which we can come in touch with the unique way that God loves us.

The great invitation is to live your brokenness under the blessing.

I cannot take people’s brokenness away and people cannot take my brokenness away.
But how do you live in your brokenness?
Do you live your brokenness under the blessing or under the curse?
Henri Nouwen (Lecture at Scarritt-Bennett Center) ​​​​​​

 

When The Roses Speak (flowers on my desk)
​​​​​​​As long as we are able to be extravagant,
​​​​​​​we will be hugely and damply extravagant.
​​​​​​​Then we will drop foil by foil to the ground.
​​​​​​​This is our unalterable task, and we do it joyfully.
​​​​​​​And they went on. “Listen, the heart-shackles
​​​​​​​are not, as you think,
​​​​​​​death, illness, pain, unrequited hope,
​​​​​​​not loneliness,
​​​​​​​but lassitude, rue, vainglory,
​​​​​​​fear,
​​​​​​​anxiety,
​​​​​​​selfishness.
​​​​​​​Their fragrance all the while rising
​​​​​​​from their blind bodies, making me
​​​​​​​spin with joy.
​​​​​Mary Oliver, Devotions 

In order to be truthful.
W​​​​​​​e must do more than speak the truth.
​​​​​​​We must also hear truth.
​​​​​​​We must also receive truth.
​​​​​​​We must also act upon truth.
​​​​​​​We must also search for truth.
​​​​​​​The difficult truth.
​​​​​​​Within us and around us.
​​​​​​​We must devote ourselves to truth.
​​​​​​​Otherwise we are dishonest
And our lives are mistaken.
God grant us the strength and the courage
To be truthful.
Amen
​​​​​​​Michael Leunig. @1991

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Let us taste this life

Sep16th 2018

 

 

“I hate people. I hate life. I hate the world.” Lucy is apoplectic.
“I thought you had inner peace,” Charlie Brown says to her.
“I do,” Lucy responds. “But I have a lot of outer obnoxiousness.”
Speaking of life’s fretfulness, I don’t know where to begin this week.
Our friends in the Carolinas are deluged. “We’re looking for missing women and children,” one rescuer shouts from his boat.
We relived images and memories from the 17th anniversary of 9/11.
A friend tells me about loved ones that died in Puerto Rico, from Maria, hoping that they are not invisible to us.
“I’m Catholic,” writes one SM reader, “But these abuse stories. I’m angry and don’t know now.”

When life turns left, I can tell you that my urge is to ignore and pretend. And maybe hide until outer obnoxiousness passes. I wish it weren’t so. But it is the truth.
Friday, I spent a day with people who work in senior care in the Seattle area. In my book, these people are heroes. My topic, Reclaiming the CareGiver Within. It’s easy in the hubbub (even the hubbub of good things) to lose our sense of self. Or to lose touch with what is authentic and grounds us. Why does this matter? Because care of any kind is not just a skill set. It is grounded in authenticity. When you care, you bring who you are, in empathy, listening, kindheartedness, benevolence. It spills from you.
So. Where do we go for sustenance? Our cognitive knee-jerk doesn’t help. You know, that surefire list to solve or fix, and run from life’s fretfulness.

But what if? What if peace (restoration, groundedness and renewal) can only be found, or embraced, or internalized, in the specific, the mundane, the daily and the particular? Where we are invited to give in to the sacred, in the moment. Even in the messy, the disheartening and the uncertain.
Here’s the deal: Our soul cannot thrive without nutrients. It becomes anemic or withered or weak. We experience a loss of creativity, joy, presence, listening, vibrancy. And an absence of peace.
Which begs the question: what or who is feeding that part of my soul that nurtures peace and well-being? Where is that place which doesn’t require performance or manipulation or retribution?

My mind goes to a moment when Zach was six. We are taking a break, sitting on the bench in front of Bob’s Bakery (Bob’s is our Island morning gathering spot). We’re having Cinnamon Twists. They are decadently yummy, and make me forget my need to be useful. The bench is made from a trunk of an old downed log, it’s seat now worn from years of time and use. Zach and I watch the Vashon traffic–“traffic” in a poetic license sort of way–go by. And Zach, his mouth full of half a Twist, says, “Dad, this is the life.”

Where do we go for sustenance?
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it,” Ashley Smith writes. “Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”

Really? That’s your advice Terry?
I do know this… when we stop the noise, we make (allow) space to practice the sacrament of the present. I am here. To see. To listen. To touch. To give. To heal.
A seminary student body participated in a day of recollection and reflection. As the Seminary President introduced the guest retreat leader—on a beautiful Saturday morning in spring—he apologized to the seminarians, “I’m very sorry for the distraction and the noise.”  This Saturday—on the seminary grounds sports field—happened to be youth soccer day.  It seems that the President had forgotten to arrange for the local youth soccer program to play their games elsewhere on the day of the retreat.  Which meant hundreds of children on the seminary grounds, and the sounds of play and laughter could easily be heard, echoing and reverberating inside the lecture hall. But when the retreat leader stood up to begin his first talk of the day, he said, “I think it’s wonderful that the children are here with us this morning. I will not have done my job, if you aren’t able to have a good retreat while you see and hear the sights and sounds of children playing on our soccer fields today.” It sounds good, doesn’t it?
I’m just not sure how easy it is to practice.

I received a call this week about a job.  Would I be willing to give a motivational talk to a group of professionals?  The woman explained, “Our people are very busy.  Their life can be crazy.  They juggle and multi-task.  So, your pause message sounds just right,” she tells me.
“Thank you,” I tell her.
“But,” she asks (and this is always the caveat), “How do we actually practice it?  The pause part?”
That is the issue, though, isn’t it?   Life tilts and turns left when we least expect it. And we want someone to give us the answers. Someone to balance it all.
We want someone to give us the “how.”
And, on a day when we expect inspiration, reassurance and motivation, we are told that it is enough to take delight in the play and laughter—the noise—of children, and the savoring of a Cinnamon Twist.
Excuse me?  Am I hearing you correctly?
Living intentionally and fully alive—from a place of groundedness and internal peace—is not a technique.  There is no list.  But if we demand one, chances are, we pass life by—the exquisite, the messy, the enchanting, wondrous delightful, untidy—on our way to some place we think we ought to be.
There is meaning—consequence, value, and import—only when what we believe or practice touches this moment.  In other words, it’s the small stuff that does really matter.  Belief is all well and good.  But there has to be skin on it—something we touch, see, hear, taste and smell.

So. Today, let us practice the sacrament of the blessed present. Before we decipher life, let us see life. ​​​​​​​Before we wish for another life, let us feel this life. ​​​​​​​Before we give in to “if only”, let us hear this moment. ​​​​​​​Before we succumb to “someday”, let us inhale this day. ​​​​​​​Before we trade in this life, for the life we should have, let us taste this life. ​​​​​​​We make the choice to be open, available, curious, willing to be surprised by joy. To know there is power in the word “enough”. We carry this capacity to honor the present into every encounter and relationship. Meaning that we honor the dignity that is reflected by God’s goodness and grace, a place to include, invite mercy, encourage, heal, reconcile, repair, say thank you, pray, celebrate, restore, refuel. ​​​​​​​

It is almost autumn. The garden begins to give up its need to be impeccable. The plants are lax and carefree… absent of tension.
So, I walk and enjoy. And then spend time cleaning the gutters. Yes, I have a list.
Speaking of sustenance, join me for a Webinar, Creating Space for Grace in your life, September 19th. If you can’t join us, sign up and you’ll get the replay. And we’ll be offering the eCourse Finding Sanctuary, beginning October 2.
Enjoy the letters below. Many SM reader sending links to blogs and articles, all nutrients to nourish our spirit.

Quote for your week…
Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Mary Oliver

POEMS AND PRAYERS ​​​

Let us go forth from here,
​​​​​​​blessed and renewed
​​​​​​​in the Spirit of Shalom
​​​​​​​in the Spirit of  Integrity
​​​​​​​in the Spirit of Illumination
​​​​​​​in the Spirit of Transformation
​​​​​​​with hopes lifted heavenward
​​​​​​​with hearts loving the earth
​​​​​​​in the name of our creating,
​​​​​​​liberating, nurturing God.
​​​​​​​Amen 

Don’t Hesitate
​​​​​​​If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.
​​​​​​​There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.
​​​​​​​We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed.
​​​​​​​Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back,
​​​​​​​that something happens better than all the riches or power in the world.
​​​​​​​It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins.
​​​​​​​Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty.
​​​​​​​Joy is not made to be a crumb.
​​​​​​​Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose

Hold on to what is good
even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life
even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand
even when I have gone away from you.
Pueblo Prayer

terry and friends.jpg

Today, I can make a difference

Sep 9th 2018

It is blueberry pancake Sunday. In the kitchen, the young mother works under a deadline and a promise; today before church, blueberry pancakes for her two sons, their favorite breakfast in the whole wide world.
The two boys, aged 5 and 7, are fighting. Rolling on the floor, taking swings at one another over who would get the first pancake.
The mother is stressed and at the end of her rope. So, the fighting proves the final straw. She sees an opportunity for a moral lesson. “Boys,” she shouts. “Sit down! Now, if Jesus were here, he would give the first pancake to his brother.”
Well. That shuts them up.
Then the older brother says to the younger, “I have a great idea. Today, you be Jesus.”

I’m still smiling big.
And I wonder. What if today is the day to make a difference in our world?
“I believe in person to person,” Mother Teresa said. “Every person is Christ to me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is the one person in the world at that moment.”

A still-plucky Sister Mary Antona Ebo of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary — the first black nun to march — didn’t think she was martyr material, but felt it was time to “put up or shut up.”
On March 7, 1965, Alabama state troopers and local police — some on horseback — used billy clubs, bullwhips and tear gas to bludgeon and bloody about 600 civil rights activists who had started a march of 50 miles from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.
News of that “Bloody Sunday” attack at the Edmund Pettus Bridge was broadcast into homes across the country and would be a turning point in the civil rights struggle. After the attack, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. issued a call for church leaders around the country to come to Selma. Sister Antona Ebo was working at St. Mary’s Infirmary, then a hospital for African-Americans in St. Louis, when news of the brutality in Selma reached her.
“If I didn’t have this habit on, if I wasn’t working,” she told her co-workers at the infirmary, “I’d be in Selma.”
“God called my bluff,” Ebo would later tell a reporter.
Ebo’s supervisor, Sister Eugene Smith, asked her whether, as an African-American nun, she would be part of a 50-member delegation — made up of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.
On the morning of Wednesday, March 10, the group flew to Selma. They were promptly taken to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church — a civil rights landmark.
Ebo later realized that inside the chapel, politician and civil rights leader the Rev. Andrew Young had referred to her when he asked “the people to stand and acknowledge that one of the great moral forces of the world was now entering the church.”
“I didn’t even know that that was me,” Ebo says now with a chuckle.
Sister Mary Antona Ebo died last November, at the age of 93.

In 2013, I was honored to walk the Edmund Pettis Bridge and to stand with heroes, including Sr. Mary and John Lewis. It’s not my practice to put personal photos in Sabbath Moment. But this is my way of thanking Sr. Mary for stepping up. We are on the bridge alongside Peggy Wallace Kennedy (daughter of George Wallace) and Donzaleigh Avis Abernathy (daughter of Ralph Abernathy).

This week I watched The 15:17 to Paris, the real life heroism of three men, friends since grade school, who thwarted a terrorist attack. “If something happened, would you know what to do? Would you do it?”
But let us never forget that heroism is grounded in ordinary and extraordinary acts of humanity.
Which takes my mind to my favorite story to tell an audience.
A little boy was having nightmares. The kind that require a momma’s reassurance. (Dads, at least from my own experience, are typically not wired for nightmare duty.) So, to his momma’s room the boy went, “Momma, momma, I’m having nightmares.”
“It’s okay honey,” she told him, “here’s what I want you to do. Go back to your room, kneel down by your bed, pray to Jesus and he’ll fix it.”
Back to his room, the boy knelt by his bed, prayed to Jesus, hopped back in bed, and… more nightmares. All mommas know this story. Back and forth to momma’s room, throughout the night.
On the sixth visit, “Momma, I know, I know, I’m going to go back to my room. I’m going to kneel down by my bed and pray to Jesus and he’ll fix it. But before I do that, can I just lay in bed with you and have you hold me?”
“Sure honey, why?”
“Because sometimes I need Jesus with skin on it.”

The little boy knew the secret. Life is to be found in the embrace. In the presence of the other. In the touch, we can be present. As our southern kin might say, “That’ll preach.” Yes… that’ll preach regardless of your faith or creed. That’ll preach even if you are not a member of any particular faith group. That’ll preach even if you don’t believe. Because in the touch, we can be present. It is the little things that make a difference.
Confession; there’s a part of me that still cannot believe I can make that difference. But gratefully, I know what it is like to have others be Jesus in skin for me. So, whatever I do, is just spillage from the gifts I have already received.
I’m not trying to recruit you. Or even make you feel like you need to add something else to your life. Just the permission to slow down, long enough to recognize that Jesus in skin lives in you, and in those around us.

So here’s the deal: we may never walk Selma. We may never give sermons to masses. We will however, come daily face to face with unkindness or cruelty or discouragement or mercilessness. This is not an assignment or a test. Just an invitation to remember that there are hands to hold. There are hearts to encourage. There are people disconnected and afraid. Be a sanctuary. Offer grace. Spill your light.

Autumn is at our doorstep. I know it’s early. But you can smell it in the air.
And the Bodacious sweet corn is ripe. Of course, I need to go to my friend Phil Volker’s to get it. Raccoons ate all my corn this year.
And we celebrate a day to honor St. Arnold of Soissons. The patron saint of beer. No, it’s not a typo. As abbot in Oudenburg, Arnold brewed beer, as essential in medieval life as water. He encouraged local peasants to drink beer, instead of water, due to its “gift of health.” During the process of brewing, the water was boiled and thus, unknown to all, freed of pathogens, making the beer safer to drink.
Football season is here. My Seahawks had a tough go in Denver.
I did have a great treat today, lunch with Paul and Cheryl Palmer, visiting from So. Cal. I married them 35 years ago. My oh my. Keep spilling your light you two.
It is Rosh Hashanah. For our Jewish brothers and sisters, ‘L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem’ (‘May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year’).

Quote for your week…
“When I come in that door, I’m covered with blood sometimes, and they hug me. They love me, they take care of me, they treat me as a real human being. And then they feed me, and they massage me, and they give me adjustments. These are my people. This is my place. This is where I come to be with God.” A New York firefighter, about the volunteers who worked tirelessly in St. Paul’s chapel. St. Paul’s is the place-adjacent to the World Trade Center-where firefighters and rescue workers ate and slept in the days and weeks that followed the 9/11 tragedy at the World Trade Center.

Note: Ebo story, thanks to Lilly Fowler, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

POEMS AND PRAYERS

The problem with beautiful Catholic imagery is that we can easily convince ourselves we see God when we do not see God.
No one has seen God, so we have to content ourselves with seeing Him in others.
And the most contented people I know are those who have success in this. Fr. Myron McCormick

The Swan  
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
​​​​​​​And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
​​​​​​​A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
​​​​​​​Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
​​​​​​​And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
​​​​​​​And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
​​​​​​​And have you changed your life?
​​​​​​​Mary Oliver 

Lord’s Prayer
​​​​​​​Our Father in Heaven, Creator of the Universe and all Life on Earth
​​​​​​​Grant that we recognise the gifts you have given us and keep your name holy always in our hearts and in our communities.
​​​​​​​Let your Kingdom grow here on Earth as we do your will; as we love and respect your Creation, your truth and all your people.
​​​​​​​Let us ‘act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with you, our God’.
​​​​​​​We ask you for our daily bread; for all our needs.
​​​​​​​Move us to share with the millions who starve, and have less that they need for a dignified human life.
​​​​​​​Forgive us for blindness, for willful ignorance, for the selfishness and greed that lead us to exploit the Earth’s resources for our luxury and comfort.
​​​​​​​Forgive us for thus degrading agricultural land, contaminating land and water supplies.
​​​​​​​Forgive us for our contribution towards global warming and climate chaos that are further endangering the lives of the poorest people and places on Earth.
​​​​​​​Help us to understand and forgive people who feel violence is the only effective method of resolving problems of greed, abuse or injustice.
​​​​​​​Lead us, Lord, to see through the temptations of the world to ‘have it all’, cost what it may to those already in the greatest need.
​​​​​​​Deliver us from blindness and hardened hearts, from excuses, and lack of understanding others’ suffering and the causes for hatred that are all around us.
​​​​​​​The Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are yours, Almighty Creator;
​​​​​​​Give us the grace to reflect your Kingdom everyday of our lives in this world.
​​​​​​​Amen.
​​​​​​​Monica Evans

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Open Heart

Sep 2nd 2018

 

 

I spent last Wednesday with an animated group of teachers—St. Augustine’s in Vancouver, BC. Their retreat, before a new school year. Our topic, an invitation to create sanctuary, allowing us to honor habits that sustain our wellbeing.
We began the day going around a circle, each sharing memories from the summer. There were weddings and funerals and trips and reunions and adventures and celebrations in Parisian pubs after the World Cup victory.

“I have a heart condition,” one young teacher began her turn. “And every year I get an MRI for assessment. Because I never know what the news will be, my temptation is caution and apprehension. Because of my condition, and afraid of the worst, I have always kept my physical activity to a minimum. Although I’ll admit that the excuse does come in handy, ‘I’d love to help out, but I have a heart condition.’” We laughed. “This year, after a clear MRI, my doctors told me that I needed more activity. Outdoors. Nothing strenuous. But still. Anyway, my summer was very different than normal. I biked and hiked and enjoyed the sky and water and the air. I loved being outdoors.”

Well, I have a confession.
I have lived most of my emotional and spiritual life with a heart condition.
Because I have lived cautious and afraid, holding back my heart because of what it might cost, or require of me. Or fearing (running from) my brokenness, not believing that an open and broken heart is an invitation to live my days giving, creating, embracing, connecting, savoring and celebrating.

On NPR’s This American Life, Ira Glass interviewed a young woman, a singer with a Riverdance troupe.  She told how one day, the troupe collectively decided to purchase a batch of lottery tickets.  The plan (buoyed by sheer conviction and blind faith) seemed simple enough.  Such a large purchase would increase their odds of winning, and with the considerable prize money, they could share the proceeds.
After winning (a foreclosure in their minds), they had determined they would quit Riverdance, and use the money to do whatever it was they really wanted to do: go back to school, buy a house, seek a new vocation, etc.  Behind each of their wishes, you could read the longing for a change at a new direction in their lives.
On the evening the lottery winner(s) was to be announced, the troupe danced their “final” performance.  The singer described how a kind of ecstasy swept up the entire troupe, as they danced and sang wholehearted and unabashed.  In their hearts, all the performers knew this would be their winning night, the night they would be released from the repetitiousness of their lives.  All of them knew as well, as they danced and sang, that they were giving, creating, living and celebrating their best performance ever.  Afterward, the audience, understandably, went wild.  Something truly amazing had taken place.
The drawing was held.  Not one troupe ticket held the winning number. They did not win the lottery.  To a person, they couldn’t believe that their intention–or confidence–had failed them.
And yet.
Look at what happened.  Their performance provided a container–a liturgy or sacred space–for some awakening of that which lay dormant in their souls.  In fact, the troupe, literally, transcended the dance itself.  They were engaged.  They were totally alive, and present.  And, as it turns out, they did receive what they wished for.
In other words, once the troupe gave up the need to force a great performance, they simply danced with an open heart.

During our teacher’s retreat, we made a list of all the gifts born in sanctuary… vulnerability, empathy, inclusion, compassion, presence, authenticity and the permission to be grounded.
Looking at their list, I made the observation that while we hunger for these gifts, it will take a toll, because every one of them invites us to live with and from our whole heart.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Thank you Leonard Cohen.

If only we have eyes to see. Or, perhaps, if only we can surrender expectations that, in the end, prevent us from seeing. Such as anticipated lottery winnings, I suppose… with the promise that life can be found “if only” or “when.”
Or in my case, having succumbed to some unnamed fear that keeps me from living an “unabashed life.” (“What would they think?”)
Our knee-jerk, of course, is to figure it all out, some sort of checklist for “living fully present.”  (There’s the rub.  Apparently it’s not authenticity I want.  It’s certainty—or security—that I’m after.)
However, like the dance troupe learned, we recognize that freedom happens only when we can let go. “Once you have grace,” wrote Thomas Merton, “you are free. Without it, you cannot help doing the things you know you should not do, and that you know you don’t really want to do.”
It reminds me of Henry Miller’s quote, “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely. We live at the edge of the miraculous.”  In other words, to make space for what is dormant in our soul.

There is a scene in the movie Shawshank Redemption, when Andy locks himself in the warden’s office, puts a record on the turntable and sets the prison intercom microphone near the speaker.   The music pervades and suffuses the entire prison.  Red, the narrator, says, “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”
I feel that way whenever I get a dose of the “music” of Mary Oliver…
“I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.”
Yes. And Amen. Because here’s the deal. Living from an open heart always takes us beyond our ego. We do not need to live defensive.  And what spills from an open heart? An invitation to live generous, benevolent, grateful, compassionate and kind.

We buried Aretha and John McCain this week. Two people unafraid of living wholehearted.
A restful Labor Day to all. Find a way to savor your day, living in the sacrament of the present moment.
I’m with friends new and old, creating a garden, and it reminds me of the dance troupe, and the permission to always find a time and a way, to dance with an open heart. 

Quotes for your week…
The only true gift is a portion of yourself. Ralph Waldo Emerson

POEMS AND PRAYERS

One had to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying. Morris West

Poetry: Tis a Fearful Thing
‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
to be,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.
Yehuda HaLevi (1075 – 1141)

God, let us be serious. 
face to face.
​​​​​​​heart to heart.
​​​​​​​let us be fully present.
​​​​​​​strongly present.
​​​​​​​deeply serious.
​​​​​​​the closest we may come
​​​​​​​to innocence.
​​​​​​​amen.
​​​​​​​Michael Leunig​​​​​​​

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The world needs healers

Aug 28th 2018

 

 

For one whole week, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I was without wifi. This is grim. I couldn’t even Google remedies for wifi withdrawal. I am not interested in TV, so was blissfully without the news. Except it’s like going to a detox facility. If you’re curious, after three days the twitching begins to dissipate.
But it made me wonder, as I flew back home this week. Why does the “news” frame the way I see the world? In other words, must I live reactive and internally combative? And a more somber question, in a cacophonous and discordant world, how can I make a difference at all?

On the flight home I watched The Rider. That helped. Once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, Brady Jandreau is warned that his competition days are over after a tragic riding accident. Now Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. Brady undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America. What is left after macho is gone?
We watch his daily routines, his attempts to fit into “normal” society, his late-night hangouts with his friends and his frustrations at having to figure out his second act. (Notice that “normal” is always code for what life “should” be.)
As Brady is transformed, we watch the power of his relationship with Lane, a rodeo friend and “big brother” who was left incapacitated after a rodeo accident. And the grounding that flourishes from Brady’s empathetic side. As it turns out, even tough guys can be healers.

Of course, we assume life proceeds better when we’re in control. And then life happens. Go figure. And you get hurt. “You just don’t think you’ll get hurt like that,” Brady says.
These are moments that reset emotional and spiritual gravity. Everything we believe is up in the air.  Because many of our beliefs are about things working smoothly, or in a particular way. And we wonder, is this who I want to be? Am I at the mercy of the way others see me?

Here’s the deal. We need these encounters. Necessary periods of catharsis and soul searching. Okay, maybe not to the extent of great pain. However, such moments do invite us to ask questions about things that truly matter. Giving up our dreams is not easy. But what if our dreams are not the only way to make the world a better place.

American poet, May Sarton was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“To be human,” she answered, simply.
To be human is about regaining what has been lost in the shuffle when life has been relegated to keeping score and making waves. Not every one of us wants to be famous; but every one of us wants to be human.  To be at home in our own skin.

I return to David Orr’s wisdom. “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane.”
As long as success is measured by keeping score, or being macho, or acting normal, we lose track of most everything that makes us human and therefore, glad to be alive…
…small gestures of kindness
…acts of inclusion or community to someone left out, or someone on the fringes
…extending a hand of healing or acceptance to someone who hurts
…reveling in the gifts of the senses and being present
…resting in a moment of gratitude
…sharing laughter, a smile, camaraderie, dancing or joy
…four wheeling with your son in the back woods of upper Michigan.

When one younger friend told me about a life conundrum, I asked (the same question Brady asked himself), “So what’s next?” She replied, “I’m just waiting for God to show me what he wants from me.”
Okay. But in the meantime, you know, until you have your life and self figured out and straightened out, I have a suggestion:  Live this day, with this self, without holding back. Today; savor, doubt, embrace, question, wrestle, give, risk, love, fall down, get up, accept your incomplete and fractured self, know that anything worth doing is worth doing badly, speak from your whole heart, and whenever you can, lavish excessive compassion and mercy and healing and hope and second chances and grace and restoration and kindness on anyone who crosses your path.  Who knows, we may love one another into existence.
Instead of living reactively, we can say yes. Yes, to kindness, bigheartedness and the permission to spill benevolence. We can exhibit real strength with sensitivity, empathy and forbearance.
I’m sure God won’t mind.

Speaking of strength…
Senator John McCain died this week. His life a reminder that public service with character, courage, integrity, honor and dignity is still possible.
“Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did,” Barack Obama wrote. “But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.”
“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again.” Senator McCain reminds us. “Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again.”

After Aretha’s death last week, Michael Eric Dyson wrote that, “(her) church got larger, her congregation composed of millions of people in search of spiritual direction beyond sanctuary doors… The preacher in me believed that hers was the best way to tell our story to people who might never enter a church but who were sorely in need of a dose of the Spirit.”  Amen.
“I never left the church,” Aretha said. “The church goes with me.”
I added Aretha singing amazing grace to the videos below. Lord have mercy, it takes me straight to heaven…

So, back to the original question; in the cacophony, how do we make a difference? And become a healer?
Here’s our invitation. “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” Thank you Kurt Vonnegut.

The late summer garden is vivid and enthusing. Black eyed Susan, English roses, Hydrangea, Sunflowers, Echinacea, Chrysanthemum and Anemone. I have wifi here, but I think I’ll forgo the news tonight and enjoy a good chat with the birds who wait for their turn at the bird bath and the feeder.

Quote for your week…
Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.Paul Hawken

POEMS AND PRAYERS

This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment,
experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen,
speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent,
cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create,
confront, confound, walk back,
walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.
Terry Tempest Williams    

Skeptic
I grew up in a northern town
Ground was flat for miles around
Everyone was Calvinist
Underwear was in a twist
Angry and obsessed with sin
Sunlight almost did us in
I was young and very pure
Until I was sweet sixteen
And then I read great literature
That said the world is sweet and green––
So live your life and seize the day
Before the flowers fade away.
And now I try to smell the roses
Which are God’s doing, one supposes.
Garrison Keillor

A Blessing of Solitude
May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for you own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that
you have a special destiny here,
that behind the facade of your life there is something
beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride,
and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.
John O’Donohue ​​​

loved.jpg

I value you. You are worthy.

Feb 10th 2019

Never underestimate the power of affirmation.
Every single one of us needs to hear these words, "I value you. You are worthy."
I needed it this week.

Hoosiers is a feel-good movie. Worth watching again and again. A David versus Goliath story about a small-town Indiana high-school basketball team that wins the state championship. (The story is loosely based on the Milan High School team that won the 1954 Indiana state championship.)
Gene Hackman plays coach Norman Dale. After being fired for egregious behavior in a previous coaching job, Dale is given a second chance in Hickory, a small Indiana town by his friend (and Hickory High School principle) Cletus.
Every time I watch the movie, there is a scene that unnerves me. In a good way.
Dennis Hopper plays "Shooter." He is, quite literally, the town drunk. The script for his life could be the lyrics of Springsteen's Glory Days. Basketball was, and is, his passion. But somewhere in his life, something tilted, and the bottle became larger than life itself. Now, Shooter is an embarrassment to his son Everett (a player on the Hickory basketball team), to the town, and to himself. While inebriated, Shooter makes scenes at games, giving the town a place to heap their moral umbrage. (What would we do I wonder, without a town drunk to make us feel better about ourselves?)
Due to health complications, Cletus is unable to continue as assistant coach. Needing an assistant, Coach Dale does the unthinkable. He drives to Shooter's cabin. It is tucked way back into the woods, hidden from view, shabby and unkempt. Shooter hears but cannot see Dale. 
"Who's there?" He calls out, standing in front of his cabin, firing off a shot from his shotgun in hand.
When life is too much, everything and everyone feels like a threat.
Coach Dale assures Shooter there is no threat.
Shooter lowers his weapon and invites the coach into his cabin.
In the dishevelment of his "domicile," you feel Shooter's shame.
Coach gets to the point.
"I want you to be my assistant coach."
"Me? You want me?" Shooter asks incredulous.
And it's all there. In Shooter's face, and in his demeanor. His heart is on display.
You don't mean me, do you?

And in that moment, I am Shooter. Whenever love or grace or mercy are on the table, it's easy to rifle through the litany in my mind: “Me? This me? Are you sure? Is this a hoax?”
Then coach Dale tells him the conditions; "wear a suit and tie and stay sober." It's the reality check. While Shooter is none too happy with the trade off, it's important to know that these conditions are not about heaping more shame; they are an affirmation by Coach Dale that there is a Shooter underneath, and much larger than, the drunk, the façade, the caricature and the fear.

I value you. You are worthy.
There is power when someone sees in us, what we do not see in ourselves. Namaste.
To love another person is to see the face of God. (Victor Hugo)

And here's the deal: Whatever the label or narrative of smallness we may carry, it is never the whole truth. Never. Never. Never.
Even so, our script or box, will always influence or persuade us, to play small.
Which is another way of saying... We begin to hide our own beauty.
And when we hide our own beauty, we bury (literally, entomb) our courage.
And when we bury our courage, we disconnect from faith and hope and love.
This is a story about seeing that beauty inside, and reclaiming a self that is easily buried. 

Here's the scary part. We can't really hear it unless we can say it to ourselves.
This I know for true; when we try to hear it, all of our well-honed defenses rise to the surface. “We've let others down. We've let ourselves down. We are not enough.”
This exchange between Dale and Shooter is not just about self-esteem. (Don't get me started. While important, we've gone overboard equating self-esteem with the elimination of negative experiences.  In little league now, everyone gets a trophy. Since when is losing so bad, especially if you gave the game your best shot?)

This Sabbath Moment is about wading into this life, living from sufficiency, and not scarcity.  “You must give up the life you planned,” Joseph Campbell reminds us, “in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”
And of course, it is easier said than done. But I didn’t say it is easy. Just that it is worth it.
Oh, the things we do from scarcity. Like Shooter, we arm ourselves. We live defended. We treat everyone as a combatant. We pretend. We dismiss. We live like victims.
My own knee-jerk is to quarrel and fight. As if I am cornered, my worth at stake, and I shut down and ready myself for emotional combat. Lord have mercy.

So. Where do we go from here?
Rabbi Abraham Heschel once said that we "greet the world not with the tools we have made but with the soul with which we are born; not like a hunter who seeks prey but like a lover to reciprocate love."
In other words: Put on your suit and tie, and join me in the game. Show up. Even in all of your insecurity; even in your ill-fitting suit.
"But I don't know if I can give up the bottle," Shooter admits. "It's been good to me."
I know.

It is enough to take the first step.
It is enough to take risks.
It is enough to contribute. Offer a hand. Affirm. And leave others better off than we found them.
It is enough to feel deeply. To get back up after falling down. To live wholehearted.
And when we do, we discover that this self, steeped in sufficiency (in value and worth), is alive and well.

I’m writing this in front of my fireplace. Outside we have 18 inches of snow, which for our neck of the woods is well, paralyzing. My Father, who lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, usually just shakes his head, but admits that this Snowpalooza counts. Much of the island is without power.
Even so, looking out on the hushed landscape through my window, it is spellbinding. As if taken back in time, a historic rendering, the color palate from footage shot with old black and white film.
Thursday night in our Vashon theater our spirits were lifted watching the concert celebrating Joni Mitchell’s 75th Birthday. Including Graham Nash singing Our House, which he wrote for her. Music is always good for whatever ails you.
And lest we forget, Happy Valentine's Day. 

Quote for your week…
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Pema Chodron

Notes to readers... Join me on Facebook. Every Monday, Sabbath Moment. Share with your friends. And, this is new; every weekday, a quote to nourish and pamper your soul.

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Coming in March, a new eCourse, Sacred Necessities: gifts for living with passion, purpose, heart and grace. Stay tuned. 

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 ​​​​​​​We're all just walking each other home. -Ram Dass 
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Misc. in the mailbag...​​​​
-- I get caught up in society’s opinion and forget my passion, my sanctuary, and then I read your message and am renewed, filled with gratitude for my life. Thank you once again for pulling me back from the edge and reminding me that the passion is out there, but my job is to find it. Blessings Julie
--I pray the story of the father offering "sanctuary" moves parents to do the same! Laura
--This past Saturday I had to travel, during the storms in California. On the return our flight was delayed. I saw a woman sitting alone in a wheelchair in front of an open door, wrapped in her rain jacket. Wondering if she was cold I began to talk with her. She was trying to get home after a 10 day cruise to Hawaii. During her journey she was caught in a downpour and was soaked from her feet to her knees. When I asked if she wanted a blanket, she told me no. This lovely lady had taken the cruise by herself to celebrate her 90th birthday. Now she was stuck in the San Jose airport for at least the next 5 hours. As we talked she shared one of her joyful memories from the cruise. She learned to play the ukulele along with 38 others. Then they got to play on stage for the people who learned to dance the hula. The joy radiated from her as she shared her story. We enjoyed a few minutes of happiness amid the tension of delayed flights. I left thinking, wow 90 years old, soaked to the skin, sitting alone for 5 more hours and not one complaint...only joy of having played! Her name is Margaret and I will carry her joy in my heart forever. Oh, I had a smile on my face for the rest of the trip home. It is about dancing, singing, enchanting stories, and finding comfort in each moment. Thanks Terry for the reminders. Denise
--Keep dancing and telling stories!  Thanks for sharing with us all. Big hug from a distance. I appreciate you. Jason
--Just a quick note to thank you for this beautiful SM. The tale of the wise and loving father conveying an open invitation to his children for sanctuary was especially poignant. With disturbing frequency, we are hearing stories of young adults whose suffering leads them to self-harm (self-medicating, addictive behaviors, physical self-damage). Some parents know, others don't. One family just lost this battle, and now lives with what one can reliably presume, alas, is agonizing grief. These are complicated, challenging times. Your story was a profound reminder that our job as care takers is to offer the protective umbrella of love -- without question, without exception. Thank you, and best wishes for a stunning, restoring springtime. Carolyn
--What a delightful story of personal passion and life’s calling! I love that we are ‘architects of peace’! Thank you, Terry! Wow, what a trip that you were blessed with, and what a blessing you were, while on it! Darlene
--​​​​​Terry, That's a very nice article and one which encapsulates the emotional side of our journey very well. Often we get bogged down with the practicalities of cash-flow, weather, administration and logistics but it's worth remembering that without the emotional core to drive us through the tough moments, without the vision of happiness and tranquility being the goal, we can get lost. I'll put a link to it on my FB page if you don't mind. Best regards, Jonathan Hesford & Rachel Treloar, Domaine Treloar 

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Poems and
Prayers

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity. Gilda Radner Wilder

​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.
William Martin

 

Slow my pace, Lord. 
Slow my life. Come sit by me at the well. I am exhausted. 
Give rest to my heart; bring calm to my feelings. Come, lead me to the mountain. I am empty. 
Give me these hours the leisure to be still that I savor the quiet of rolling hills, tasting the presence of the Divine. 
Bring me from the running of the day and the doing of the duties to the sitting in the evening to know the reward of being. 
Set aside the problems of mind; soothe the aches of the heart; give rest to the body that I hear the music of my being and know a quiet that allows the soaring of the soul. 
Be gentle, Teacher, teaching the truth of being. In gentleness, command: "Silence!" 
In stillness embrace my spirit and re-enkindle with love... and opening the embrace give freedom to the soul. 
Slow my pace, Spirit of Love, breathe into my being, Word... and with a mighty wind blow the incarnate word to the ends of the earth. 
Monsignor Bernard Powers

Better Angels.jpg

Our better angels

Aug 19th 2018

I’m in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with my Father, my son Zach, my brothers and their sons.  It’s an all boy vacation summit—10 of us—time to impart wisdom to the young men. Now we need to remember what we wanted to say.
In the meantime, we’ve spent a good deal of time four-wheeling, IDing plants and trees and birds, playing euchre, clearing paths, eating ice cream and telling tall tales from childhood. 
My dad and I sit on the porch of his hunting cabin, back in the woods. I tell him last year was my 45th high school reunion. “It was my 65th,” he tells me. And then, “I lost four friends just in the last few months.” And he recites their names, slowly.
Life has plenty of rough edges. So, a little wisdom for any one of us, leavened with kindness, never hurts.

Speaking of wisdom, watch Big Sonia. She is unabashed, “If I reach one heart, I will accomplish something.” 91-year-old Sonia Warshawski is a Holocaust-surviving, public speaking, gefilte fish-cooking grandmother and great-grandmother, who runs the tailor shop she’s owned for more than 30 years. The stories she tells about the Holocaust will chill you. But sporting her leopard print clothing, Big Sonia can be laugh-out-loud-funny. This is a portrait of the power of love to triumph over bigotry, and the power of truth-telling to heal us all. And to inspire each of us to want what we already hold. We see Sonia interact with family members, young students and prisoners and witness the spiritual impression that she makes. “I want to reach their hearts and take out the hate,” Sonia says.
And to those of us listening, she adds, “Don’t close your eyes when something is not right.”

The Chafetz Chaim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagin, leader in the Jewish world, 1838 – 1933) was asked about his impact and how he made a difference. He answered, “I set out to try to change the world, but I failed. So, I decided to scale back my efforts and only try to influence the Jewish community of Poland, but I failed there, too. So, I targeted the community in my hometown of Radin, but achieved no greater success. Then I gave all my effort to changing my own family, and failed at that as well. Finally, I decide to change myself, and that’s how I had such an impact on the Jewish world.”

I grew up in a church that taught me to believe. And to recite my beliefs (to have a creed). And to challenge anyone who had incorrect beliefs. Or if not challenge, at least pity them. And then I grew up. And it turns out that holding such blameless beliefs turns out to be the easy route. And I can tell you that I have too often used my belief system as a shield rather than an invitation.
In June 1859, Jean-François Gravelet (known as The Great Blondin) crossed Niagara Falls walking a tight rope. During his life, he repeated the feat several times, always with a different theatrical variation: blindfolded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying his manager, Harry Colcord on his back.
Not surprisingly, Blondin’s crossings drew crowds. About to cross pushing a wheelbarrow with a sack of cement, he asked a reporter standing with crowd. “Do you believe I can do this?” “Yes sir, after watching you, I believe you can do anything.” “Do you believe that instead of a sack of cement, I could put a man in this wheelbarrow, and wheel him safely to the other side?” “Oh, yes, Mr. Blondin, I certainly believe it.”
“Good,” said Blondin, “Get in.” 

Someday, every one of us will have a fight for our better angels. If we are open, I believe that our better angels will find us, and will always work to pull us toward the light. Hope is sustaining. Fear can be overcome. Even when life is upside down, we can make choices that inspire hope.
Yes, just words. I know. Even so. They are an invitation nonetheless.
Good. Let’s get in.

This is not just a look-on-the-bright-side sales pitch. This is a fundamental paradigm shift. “We are promoters of the culture of encounter,” Pope Francis reminds us. He practices what he preaches (he gets in), each encounter filled with compassion and power, a message of presence to those who are, or feel, marginalized and on the outside.

Which takes us to sanctuary. Yes, I know, I seem to beat that drum a good bit.
But you see, Sabbath (sanctuary, the permission to stop, wait) allows us to hear the voice of Grace saying simply, “You are accepted. Period. Deal with it.”
Paul Tillich elaborates, “You are accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not seek for anything. Do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.” If that happens to us, we experience grace. This means that I can live and choose and commit “from acceptance” and not “for acceptance.” I’m not in the business of needing to impress anyone or earn points. The sacred present begins now. This encounter. This moment. This conversation. Grace is the fuel that allows us to “get in” this life, to live from hope and for hope, to live with and from an open heart, even when life gets wobbly.

Here’s the deal: when I am inundated with internal and external hubbub, I forget about the heart I can bring to this day. The touch I can give to people around me who are tussling with bleakness. The gift of welcome I can offer people who are left out and diminished. The calling I have (to be Tikkun Olam, repairer of the world) to bring pardon and hope and love.
Get in indeed.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, a good friend of Sabbath Moment, reminds us, “We seek to remember that blessing comes in meeting the authentic call of the moment with greater compassion. There are always inner voices that focus on what is wrong in ourselves, in others, and in our world. There are always opportunities to act unkindly. But each moment offers us the opportunity to step into our freedom with greater awareness. The Way of One is a Way of deep compassion, healing, and forgiveness. It’s a choice we are challenged to make again and again.”
That authentic call of the moment sounds like Big Sonia, doesn’t it? “If I reach one heart, I will accomplish something.”
While here in Michigan, I read about Tim Hochstedler, affectionately known as “The Amish Uber guy.” Colon Michigan (the town where I grew up) hosts an annual Abbott Magic Festival every August, which triples the population of a community of about one thousand. Tim offered his horse and buggy for transportation and a little tour of the town. Five dollars a ride. (No app required.) Tim’s energetic gregariously friendly demeanor made him the perfect person. He said the money doesn’t matter as much as the opportunity to chat with people and share with them the area he proudly calls home. “My horse, now he’s a little hot, it’s warm today so when the Get-Together ends, he’s going to go home and get a shower, some food, turned loose in the pasture and have a good rest for the holy day.”

We’ll have a fish fry tonight, I’ll listen to my nephews tell stories and we’ll make new memories. I wish for each of them, as they learn to fight for their better angels, to be open. I wish for them to know that their better angels will find them, and will always work to pull them toward the light.

Quotes for your week…
It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.  Robert Hastings

Note: Big Sonia, a shout out to Nick Allen

POEMS AND PRAYERS

This is not how it’s supposed to be, I know. I keep an endless mental list of the things that need to be done. But when a grey day comes, when the horses stand over their hay as though there were all the time in the world to eat it, one of the things that needs to be done is to sit still. Verlyn Klinkenborg

Some Say You’re Lucky 
Some say you’re lucky
If nothing shatters it.
But then you wouldn’t
Understand poems or songs.
You’d never know
Beauty comes from loss.
It’s deep inside every person:
A tear tinier
Than a pearl or thorn.
It’s one of the places
Where the beloved is born.
Gregory Orr

 

We need to carve time
for dwelling in the quiet places,
to discover our own inner landscape
and the landscape of God.
We must also pay attention
in the ‘cracks’ of our life
to see the ‘gracelets,’
the moments of meaning in the mundane.
Celeste Snowber, Embodied Prayer

hungry heart.jpg

Everybody has a hungry heart

Aug 12th 2018

 

 

Today, I’m in New Mexico, in rare air, one and a half miles higher than my garden on Vashon Island. This morning I preached at United Church of Angel Fire.
Our text is from John’s Gospel. Our topic is bread and hunger. I’m a bread lover, so that part is easy. Give me a loaf of fresh baked French. There’s nothing like buying that daily loaf from our local baker. I always like to say, “Give us our daily bread.” And he always wonders if I’ve forgotten to take my medication. 

Hunger. Not only for food, but for connection and affirmation and anything to overcome fear or uncertainty. Much of our energy is given to being satiated.
​​​​​​​So, let’s start with good news. The psalmist assures us the Lord “fills the hungry with good things.”  And Jesus was clear, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled” (Luke’s Gospel). In John, Jesus says simply, “I am the bread of life.”
​​​​​​​“Okay,” grumbled many listening to Jesus, “we don’t get it.”
​​​​​​​“Our ancestors ate the manna, bread from heaven, in the wilderness,” they said.
​​​​​​​And Jesus responds: “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
​​​​​​​The crowd asks, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
​​​​​​​“I am the bread of life,” Jesus tells them.
​​​​​​​“We still don’t get it,” they said. 

Bread that gives life to this world. Now that’s something I want. I am hungry for hope, replenishment, healing, renewal, hugs, kindness, connection, meaning and wonder. However. We are susceptible to consuming that which leaves us feeling empty… distraction, a need for attention, social media likes, need to impress, need to be perfect, need to outrun our inadequacies… or the need for the correct theology.
​​​​​​​In the church of my childhood, we used this passage as an entitlement. Because we were right, and Jesus played only for our team. And if you were not on our team, that bread of life wasn’t available to you. There were haves and have nots.
​​​​​​​Of course, we missed the point.
​​​​​​​Jesus never asked for allegiance. He offered the gift freely. “Are you hungry?” he said, “I’ve got that covered.”
​​​​​​​Here’s the deal; regardless of the motivation or reason or condition of your hunger, there is always a place for you at God’s table. 

Do you know Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables? After being granted parole the convict Jean Valjean struggles to find work. He is filthy and ragged, rejected and forsaken by society but above all, hungry. But to his surprise he is graciously welcomed by an elderly bishop. The bishop gently invites him to dinner, and treats him as an honored guest. Jean Valjean is overcome by the grace of the bishop:
​​​​​​​“Monsieur…you are goodness itself. You don’t despise me. You take me into your home. You light candles for me. Even though I didn’t hide from you where I’ve been or the fact that I’m a poor cursed man.”
​​​​​​​The bishop was sitting next to him and he gently touched his hand. “You didn’t have to tell me who you were. This is not my house; it’s the house of Jesus Christ. That door does not ask who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has any pain. You are suffering, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And don’t thank me, don’t tell me I’m taking you into my home. No one is at home here except the man who is in need of a refuge. I’m telling you, who are passing through, you are more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is at your disposal. What do I need to know your name for? Besides, before you told me your name, you had one I knew.”
​​​​​​​(Jean Valjean) opened his eyes in amazement.
​​​​​​​“True? You knew what I was called?”
​​​​​​​“Yes,” replied the bishop. “You are called my brother.” 

You matter. You belong.  But grace is overwhelming and messy. I like Richard Rohr’s take in Immortal Diamond: “The goodness of God fills all the gaps of the universe, without discrimination or preference. God is the gratuity of absolutely everything… What else would God do? Basically, grace is God’s first name, and probably last too. Grace is what God does to keep all things he has made in love and alive—forever. Grace is God’s official job description. Grace is not something God gives. Grace is who God is.”
​​​​​​​And yet… there’s something in me that still doesn’t believe that Grace is enough. 

I told the group about my grandmother—Southern Baptist born and bred—who didn’t cotton to folks in her church who played the judgmental-eternal-damnation-card just to feel good about themselves, or for the sake of proving a point.  She understood that in her church’s “theology,” there were many kinds of people “on the outside.”  (Truth be told, in her church, “most” people were “on the outside.”) But my grandmother lived by an overriding imperative: “Anybody is welcome at my dinner table, no questions asked, no matter what.”
​​​​​​​In the latter years of her life, in the back yard of her home in northern Florida, my grandmother had a porch swing.  She liked to sit, and swing, and hum old church hymns, like Rock of Ages Cleft for Me.  I can still see her there, wearing a white scarf over her head, a concession to chemotherapy’s unrelenting march. When I visited her, as a young adult, she would always ask me to sit with her on the swing, for a spell.  She would pat my leg and call me “darlin’.”
As long as my grandmother lived—and in spite of her pain–there was always a place for me on the swing.  If I were asked to explain Grace, I would paint the picture of my grandmother’s swing.  There, I never had to deliberate or explain or worry regardless of the weight I carried.  The swing–my grandmother’s presence–existed without conditions. And I am here today, because of that swing.
​​​​​​​The good news? The sufficiency of that grace—bread of life—allows me to reclaim my soul for the purpose of loving and feeding a hungry world. Welcome to the table. 

This is the one year anniversary of the Charlottesville March. An event that underscored hate and bigotry, an absence of the bread of life. So yes, I want that bread of life. But I want to be a distributor of that bread, a spiller of the light. Let us be on the lookout for anyone left out. Anyone not invited to the table. 

This is one beautiful neck of the woods. Angel Fire is just east of Taos. Tucked away in the Sangre de Cristos mountains. A landscape of pine and aspen. A mile and a half above Vashon, when I hit a golf ball, it goes farther. That makes me happy.
​​​​​​​The United Church of Angel Fire is a community of people that believes in feeding the community, literally. It’s an honor to spend a few days with them. 

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​As long as the most important thing in your life is to keep finding your way, you’re going to live in mortal terror of losing it. Once you’re willing to be lost, though, you’ll be home free. Robert Capon

Note: Victor Hugo, Julie Rose’s 2008 translation for The Modern Library

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Mantra
If I had a mantra
it would be
“Don’t lose hope” or
“Hang onto wonder”.
I need that right now
so I should stitch myself
a shirt full of possibilities,
full of dreams,
full of happily ever afters.
I’d wear it everyday,
everywhere
till it was threadbare.
Then when Winter comes
I should knit a sweater
with yarns spun
from that hope
and wonder
I so dearly need.
4 August 2018
Terry Waggle

Lord,
please give me the strength,
the drive,
the patience,
the trust,
the diligence,
the courage,
the balance,
the spirit,
the daring,
the tenacity,
the grit,
the confidence,
the curiosity,
the willingness to try,
the determination,
the perseverance,
the self-control,
the heart,
the steadiness,
the endurance,
the staying power
– or whatever it takes
and whatever I need –
to make it through the challenges
I’ll meet today
and in the weeks ahead…
Amen.

Mr Rogers.jpg

Won't you be my neighbor?

Aug 5th 2018

 

 

Friday night I went to church. I usually don’t take Kleenex to church. Turns out I needed it.
The congregation of receptive and appreciative islanders gathered at the Vashon Theater.  Our opening hymn, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” brought smiles and evoked memories from years long ago.
Our minister? Mr. Rogers. His vestments, a sweater.
One thing is undeniable. We are, all of us, thirsty for kindness. Gentleness. Meekness. And compassion.
After, I walked out into the night air, my heart and soul gratifyingly full.

These days, something is taking a toll. And it is not helpful to pretend otherwise. And it is not surprising that we gathered there, undone by a twenty-four-hour-a-day pie fight and continued messages of fragmentation, thirsty for a time of healing from intolerance and small-mindedness.
“I wanted to remind people about the value of radical kindness,” said director Morgan Neville when asked about the film Won’t You Be My Neighbor. “Fred’s message, when I distill it, he talked about grace. It’s this idea that kindness is not a naive notion like believing in unicorns and rainbows or something. It’s like oxygen: It is vital, and needs to be nurtured.”
And I say, Amen.

Fred Rogers began his TV career, in his own words, with a desire to “help children through difficult modulations of life.”
And in 1969, sitting in front of Sen. John Pastore (the chairman of the subcommittee holding hearings about slashing PBS funding by 20 million dollars), Rogers didn’t get bogged down in budgetary minutia, but instead gave voice to his calling. “Could I tell you the words of one of the songs, which I feel is very important?” he asked. “This has to do with that good feeling of control which I feel that children need to know is there.” He then recited its words:
“What do you do with the mad that you feel? When you feel so mad you could bite. When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right. What do you do? Do you punch a bag? Do you pound some clay or some dough? Do you round up friends for a game of tag or see how fast you go? It’s great to be able to stop when you’ve planned the thing that’s wrong. And be able to do something else instead ― and think this song ― I can stop when I want to. Can stop when I wish. Can stop, stop, stop anytime … And what a good feeling to feel like this! And know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there’s something deep inside that helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a lady, and a boy can be someday a man.”
Pastore, who had never seen Rogers’ show, was visibly touched by the speech.
“I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy, and this is the first time I’ve had goose bumps for the last two days,” he said. “Looks like you just earned the $20 million.”

But these are not just questions for kids. Plan or pray as we wish, modulations of life get in the way. (Remembering a classic line from Mike Tyson, “Plans are good until you get punched in the mouth.”)
However, Mr. Rogers knew the power of sanctuary. You see, if you’ve got someone to help you (“Won’t you be my neighbor”) you learn that the “neighborhood” is a place that can take care of you when you are scared, and life is uncertain and you don’t know how to name what swirls inside.
This sanctuary is a place where love is at the root, Mr. Rogers said.
A place where we can practice the spiritual work of inclusion.
What made his show so very different, you realize that this sanctuary is a place where there is room for a lot of slow space.

So. Why did I need the Kleenex?  Like any child who watched Mr. Rogers on TV, this past Friday night I believe that he was talking just to me. That the relationship is real.
I sat in a large audience. But he saw me. And talked to my heart. Affirming the reality that the space between two people is holy ground. Where vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength.
And that it is okay to set down my armor just for a spell, and not run from the reality that I am okay even though I am deeply conflicted, fighting urges to be bitter or disheartened or resentful or incensed. Of course, I exacerbate the conflict by shaming myself because I should know better. All the while, I miss the beauty that is being covered up.
Fred Rogers did not shy away from such truths about himself, channeling his most vulnerable uncertainties through his puppet, Daniel.
You see, sanctuary is grounded in grace. This is not something we manufacture. Sanctuary can open my eyes to what I could not or would not see. What is easily buried in the mire of sadness, distrust and discouragement.
“Goodbye,” said the fox to the Little Prince. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Of course, we’re all growed up now, and stories like this are too good to be true.
As it turns out, Mr. Rogers is for real. An ordained minister, conservative Republican, who read the Bible every day, radiates empathy and kindness.
No… “He doesn’t wear a cape. He wears a cardigan.” Richard Stellar writes. “And he didn’t fly into my heart — he meekly walked into my life and the lives of millions of kids when we learned that there was strength in empathy and that being a good neighbor was the most powerful level of vigilante-ism that one can achieve.”
Blessed are the meek indeed…
Even so, I continue to marvel at the power of hatred, like toxic chemical attacks without connection to reason. When Rogers died in 2003, Fred Phelps, then the head of the Westboro Baptist Church, picketed his funeral, declaring that Rogers’s “syrupy teachings led millions astray. He was a wuss and he was an enabler of wusses.”

Last night, I joined a group of islanders to witness vows under a cloud dappled sky. In my belief system marriage is a sacrament. And an important social and communal ritual. And more than ever, a statement necessary in the face of cynicism and depletion. A sign that hope is still alive. So, another Kleenex moment. Open the spigot. Damn. But I don’t apologize. I am grateful to know my heart still works. In fact, I feel empowered, invited to choose to be a steward in a world where care matters, to create neighborhoods, to be on the lookout for anyone who is on the outside or left out, needing home or sanctuary.
A Wise Physician said, “The best medicine for humans is love.” Someone asked, “What if it doesn’t work?” He smiled and answered, “Increase the dose.”

Orca whales are sacred here in the PNW, in part because they awaken awe and gladness. I continue to follow the story of Tahlequah, visibly grieving, still carrying the corpse of her calf more than one week after it died. We grieve with her.

My summer garden is vibrant. Black eyed Susan. Japanese anemone. White Hydrangea. Effervescent sunflowers begin each morning facing east for sunrise. By late afternoon they turn toward the west for sundown.
And if I haven’t said so already, Go check out the Mr. Rogers movie.

Quote for your week…
Wherever you are, whatever you do, be in love. Rumi

POEMS AND PRAYERS

This is a special love song
for all the young people in the world,
here’s hoping someone kind
watches over each and every one,
because in every young face,
no matter how angry or sad,
lies the blossom of a pure heart,
not evil wrong or bad.
Misty River (Heather’s Song)  

No one lives outside the walls of this sacred place, existence.
The holy water, I need it upon my eyes: it is you, dear, you—each form.

What mother would lose her infant—and we are that to God,
never lost from [Her] gaze are we? Every cry of the heart
is attended by light’s own arms.

You cannot wander anywhere that will not aid you.
Anything you can touch—God brought it into
the classroom of your mind.

Differences exist, but not in the city of love.
Thus my vows and yours, I know they are the same…

The holy water my soul’s brow needs is unity.
Love opened my eye and I was cleansed
by the purity of each
form.
​​​​​Daniel Ladinsky (inspired by St. Francis of Assisi)

 

Let us be aware of the source of being That is common to us all
And to all living creatures.
Silence
​​​​​​​Let us be filled with the presence of the great compassion Towards ourselves and towards all living beings.
Silence
​​​​​​​Realising that we are all nourished
From the same source of life,
May we so live that others be not deprived
Of air, food, water, shelter, or the chance to live.
Silence
Amen.
​​​​​​​The Anglican Church, Aotearoa, New Zealand, Polynesia 

sustain2.jpg

What sustains you?

July 29th 2018

 

 

“I have never been lost,” Daniel Boone once said about exploring remote areas. “But I will admit to being confused for several weeks.”
That’ll preach. And I will admit to the same.

My confusion was exaggerated this past week (during our serious heat spell here in the PNW), when I flirted with serious heatstroke. My symptoms were confusion, agitation, slurred speech and disorientation. And embarrassment the next morning.
Yes, it unnerved me. But I’m okay now. And it did get my attention. It seems I ignored a cardinal rule: hydrate. As in, drink water. And then, drink more water.
I guess the same thing happens when we have moments of emotional heatstroke. We’ve ignored some essential tokens.

There is no doubt that I take my garden for granted, with its power to heal and sustain, where Sabbath and sanctuary tether and refuel the heart and spirit. My garden is a reminder that health—physical, spiritual or mental—is not a guaranteed destination. It requires attention and mindfulness. In other words, it is requisite to pay attention (an invitation to the sacrament of the present moment). Which makes me wonder, what does it take to “stay hydrated” emotionally and spiritually?

When the Shawnee and Chippewa (and other early people) went on hunts or vision quests or long journeys, each traveler would carry in a small rawhide pouch various tokens of spiritual power–perhaps a feather, a bit of fur, a claw, a carved root, a pinch of tobacco, a pebble or a shell. These were not simply magical charms; they were reminders of the energies that sustain all of life. By gathering these talismans into a medicine pouch, the hunter, traveler, or visionary seeker was recollecting the sources of healing and bounty and beauty.

I do know that if my pouch is filled with a need for control and answers, I can easily be seized with fear, panic, rage, despair, depression, exasperation and frustration. (You get the picture?) Let’s call it heatstroke of the heart.
But what if? What if the “tokens” in that pouch are not a magic wand to undo life, but instead, the power and the freedom to embrace the life we have been given and to create life for those around us. What if… wired to care, we see in this life, this day, even in the very muddle of the ordinary, even in the very chaos of the ordinary gone awry, the permission to experience a whiff of the holy? What if?

Which begs the question; what are the reminders that sustain, replenish, and nourish?
The world we live in places a premium on specific or correct answers, and every time we do, we too easily miss the invitation to be present. To see, to listen, to touch, to receive, to spill light.
It’s not that there’s a shortage of instructions with alluring sales pitches. In NYT Magazine this morning, I read an article about wellness, about a variety of products available from the legit to the bonkers, including (my favorite) a type of chocolate that will regulate your hormones and restore your sex life, and (not making this up) a Psychic Vampire Repellent, a “sprayable elixir” that uses “gem healing” to something something bad vibes… (I think I’ll stick with the pinch of tobacco and a feather.)

There’s a story about a teenage boy mysteriously losing weight. His doctor, stumped by the symptoms, huddled with several other caregivers to decide which medical tests to run. There was no shortage of assessments and opinions, and quarrels about who is correct.
Then a nurse asks the boy a simple question, “Are you hungry?” He nods.
You see, it turns out that the young teen had been homeless for some weeks and had eaten very little. Because of his condition, he had been understandably embarrassed to speak up, and was relieved someone had finally talked to him.
We can be so focused on a “cure,” that we miss the opportunity to be present, where we can make space for matters that hydrate and nurture health.

Many Christians say they believe in sacrament of the present, as they see the Presence of God in the Eucharist. However, Richard Rohr reminds us, “they don’t get that it is everywhere—which is the whole point! They don’t seem to know how to recognize the Presence of God when they leave the church, when they meet people who are of a different religion or race or sexual orientation or nationality. They cannot also trust that every person is created in the image of God. Jesus spent a great deal of his ministry trying to break down the false distinctions between ‘God’s here’ and ‘God’s not there.’ He dared to see God everywhere, even in sinners, in enemies, in failures, and in outsiders.”

Do you know the word Ubuntu? A Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity” often translated as “I am because we are,” and also “humanity towards others”, but is often used in a philosophical sense “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”
As chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Desmond Tutu used descriptive words to speak about Ubuntu intimately binding it within Christian principles of goodness. He describes the person true to Ubuntu as one who is “generous, hospitable, friendly, caring and compassionate.” He says it as a state in which one’s “humanity is caught up and inextricably bound up” in others. Tutu says of Ubuntu “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.”
The theology of Ubuntu is deeply embedded in African spirituality—a spirituality that is central to life and transforms all human relations. Ubuntu theology affirms the interaction and relationship among persons in which everyone’s humanness is recognized and affirmed. When we practice Ubuntu, we put down the ideological axes we grind.

But here’s the deal: that which sustains us (and sustains wellness) is not something we need to earn or acquire. Because it is in our DNA, and is available to be celebrated and to be shared.

Speaking of reminders that sustain… this past week we celebrated the feast of Mary Magdalene. Of course, from my Baptist upbringing, I remember stories about this prostitute and a woman of ill-repute.
However, Jesus did not see a problem to be solved or a disease to be cured. He did not see labels of temptress or seductress that easily relegated her to a state of irrelevance.
When Jesus looked at Mary, called Magdalene, he saw a tower: a beacon, a fortress, a lookout. (Her name in Hebrew “migdala,” means tower.) Mary stood out, she stood tall, a marker, a sign. And as such, she refuses to give in to despair, she tends to the wounded and the dead, she finds in that tomb nothing…nothing but promise, and she turns and lets that light spill.

It is in the 90s on my back patio today. Yes, I’m drinking more water than beer. Thanks for asking.
And no, I won’t be working in the garden today, at least not until after 7 p.m.
I will be thinking about the small rawhide pouch I will carry this week.

Quote for your week…
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong.  Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.  George Washington Carver

Notes: On Mary Magdalene, adapted from Natalia Imperatori-Lee (professor of religious studies at Manhattan College)
Shawnee story adapted from Scott Russell Sanders, Hunting for Hope

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either,
for solitude will also break you with its yearning.
You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth.
You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.
And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left,
or hurt, or death brushes near,
let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples
falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.
Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.  Louise Erdrich 

Maybe nothingness is to be without your presence,
without you moving, slicing the noon
like a blue flower, without you walking
​​​​​​​later through the fog and the cobbles,
​​​​​​​without the light you carry in your hand,
​​​​​​​golden, which maybe others will not see,
​​​​​​​which maybe no one knew was growing
​​​​​​​like the red beginnings of a rose.
​​​​​​​In short, without your presence: without your coming
​​​​​​​suddenly, incitingly, to know my life,
​​​​​​​gust of a rosebush, wheat of wind:
​​​​​​​since then I am because you are,
​​​​​​​since then you are, I am, we are,
​​​​​​​and through love I will be, you will be, we’ll be.
​​​​​​​Pablo Neruda 

Candle Against the Wind
​​​​​​​I know that I have life
​​​​​​​only insofar as I have love.
​​​​​​​I have not love
​​​​​​​except it comes from Thee.
​​​​​​​Help me, please, to carry
​​​​​​​this candle against the Wind.
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Wendell Berry

Show up.jpg

I will show up

July 22nd 2018

 

 

A father knocks on his son’s bedroom door. “Jaime,” he says, “wake up!”
“I don’t want to get up, Papa,” Jaime answers.
“You need to get up,” his father shouts, “you have to go to school.”
“I don’t want to go to school,” Jaime retorts.
“Why not?” asks his father. “Three reasons,” Jaime tells him. “First, because it’s so dull, second, the kids tease me, and third, I hate school.”
And his father says, “Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is your duty, second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the principal.”

Well, some days, I’m with Jamie. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to engage. I don’t want to connect. I don’t want to care. Call it some vague sense of torpor. And I don’t want a pep talk.
I just reread that paragraph. Mercy. Somebody forgot their cheerful pill this morning.
But here’s the deal; “Spirituality means waking up.” (Anthony de Mello reminds us.) Even though, waking up isn’t always cheerful. It is however, about bringing myself, this self, to this moment. It is about presence and awareness even in the midst of any obstacles.
It is no surprise to say that many (if not most) people go through life asleep. (Or hypnotized by their mobile device.) Meaning that they never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. But when you are nice and comfy in bed it’s irritating to be woken up. Let’s not pretend otherwise. So, we’re not saying it is easy, just that it is worth it. Because to wake up is to show up. And people who show up make a difference.

Speaking of showing up, this past week the world celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. Can you imagine how many times he wanted to quit (and “go back to sleep”)?
That’s the power. When he did show up, and began guiding South Africa through painstaking reconciliation, the structures of violence and repression and ancient hatreds that had so long stunted people’s lives and confined the human spirit began to recede. Let’s be clear. Showing up is neither a contest nor about winning or losing. As history shows the power of fear, we know there will be impediments. However. Because we have a better story to tell, we must show up.
In a speech to commemorate Mandela this week, President Obama said, “Madiba reminds us, ‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and, if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart.’ Love comes more naturally to the human heart; let’s remember that truth. Let’s see it as our North Star, let’s be joyful in our struggle to make that truth manifest here on Earth, so that, in a hundred years from now, future generations will look back and say, ‘They kept the march going. That’s why we live under new banners of freedom.’”

There is a story about the northern Natal tribes in South Africa. They greet one another each day, saying “Sawa Bona,” which means literally “I see you.” Their response is “Sikhona” which means “I am here.”  They are saying to one another, “until you see me I do not exist; and when you see me you bring me into existence. When you see me, I am fully present, I am here.”
Members of these tribes go about their day with personal validation from everyone they encounter–they are seen for who they are.
They are a community where everybody is a somebody, and the wholeness of each individual coalesces into the wholeness of the community.

This week I reread The Little Prince. It’s mandatory for emotional health every couple of years.
“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”
“I am a fox,” the fox said.
“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”
“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
“What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“You do not live here,” said the fox. “What is it that you are looking for?”
“I am looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”
“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”
“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower… I think that she has tamed me…”

Yes. Sawa Bona: I see you.  Sikhona: I am here.  I am present–mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  I am awake. This is the power of the better story we have to tell.
Let us remember. I bring a gift to this moment that only I can bring. And You bring a gift to this moment that only you can bring. And when we are seen (or “tamed”), we are safe. And compassion spills out of safe containers to flood our lives.

Because I am a vessel for compassion (although blemished), I will show up.
Because we are connected and not one of us is on the journey alone, and we need one another, I will show up.
Because compassion cannot be blotted out by partisan rancor, or small-minded hate, I will show up.
Because we get to say how the story ends, I will show up.
Exhaustion and exasperation will slow me down, but they cannot entomb the light.
Because (as Pope Francis reminds us) faith has real consequences in this world (we all live at the intersection of politics and religion and our faith impels us into the public square spilling compassion, caring, acceptance, and love), I will show up.

It’s so easy to be derailed by tensions, as if we need resolution or tidiness to move forward. Can we allow tensions to expand our hearts, and open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, with a capacity to create a community of kindred spirits kindling the courage we need to show up?

There’s a law of the universe that says, when you feel lousy, go to a parade. Lucky for me, yesterday we had parade on the island, at our annual Strawberry Festival. It’s an hour of idiosyncratic islanders, which includes a dozen members of The Old Tractor Club, our grocery store synchronized-cart-drill-team, and the ukulele club on the bed of a tricked out dump truck. The entire occasion was well attended by a spirit of good will.
Today I watched The Open Championship, golf’s grandest tournament on a spectacular Scottish stage.

Quotes for your week…
The world remains beset by so much human suffering, poverty and deprivation. It is in your hands to make a difference. Nelson Mandela

The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? Terry Tempest Williams

POEMS AND PRAYERS

You, the One from whom on different paths all of us have come. 
To whom on different paths all of us are going. 
​​​​​​​Make strong in our hearts what unites us.

​​​​​​​Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast   

Clearing
​​​​​​​Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.
​​​​​​​Martha Postlewaite

Why We Dance…
to dance is to pray;
to pray is to heal;
to heal is to give;
to give is to live;
to live is to dance.
Marijo Moore  

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Wired to care

July 15th 2018

 

 

I am claustrophobic. I am a parent. So, watching the rescue of the boys from the Tham Luang cave, in what was called an “impossible mission,” tugged at every corner of my heart. But this is a very, very good thing, because I’ve spent so much of my life building emotional defense systems I’m always grateful to discover new corners of my heart.
The world watched. Prayed. Hoped. And cheered.
I loved this excerpt from the Washington Post. Piyada Chermuen, 16, came from the same village in Myanmar as Adul Sam-on, the English-speaking boy able to communicate with the British divers. They lived in the same Christian church with 20 other refugees, most of whom were sent to Thailand by their parents, so they could go to school.
Adul, 14, one of the Wild Boars’ best players, speaks five languages.
“We were praying for him when the teacher ran in and said they had been found,” Piyada said. Outside her classroom, a string of photos of Adul hung like prayer flags. “Thank God. We cheered so loud.”

You see, great stories make space. Because great stories are not just about finding a moral, or an invitation to take sides. Except to take the side of life. And Wholeness. And Wellbeing.
This week Bruce Springsteen wrote, “I never believed that people come to my shows, or rock shows, to be told anything. But I do believe that they come to be reminded of things. To be reminded of who they are, at their most joyous, at their deepest, when life feels full. It’s a good place to get in touch with your heart and your spirit. To be amongst the crowd. And to be reminded of who we are and who we can be collectively. Music does those things pretty well sometimes, particularly these days, when some reminding of who we are and who we can be isn’t such a bad thing.”

With stories we can hit the reset button. In order to remember our way.
A reminder that we are designed to live with empathy, altruism and cooperation.
Because here’s the deal: Whenever we forget that we belong to one another, we lose our way. And we see only what we want to see. And we live afraid.
Whenever we forget that everyone is a child of God, who begins with unique divine DNA (“an imago Dei that begs to be allowed, to be fulfilled, and to show itself,” writes Richard Rohr), we lose sight that we are wired to care. Wired to give a damn. Wired to not let anyone fall through the cracks of distrust or hatred or suspicion.

We are wired to care… What does that look like?
​​​​​​​A family went out to restaurant for lunch. The waitress arrives, “What’ll you’ll have?” The husband gives his order, and then says, “And the wife will have…”
​​​​​​​The waitress turns to the five-year-old daughter, “And sugar, what’ll you have?”
​​​​​​​With a smile the little girl pipes up, “I’ll have a hot dog.” “Oh no she won’t,” interjects the dad. Turning to the waitress he says, “She’ll have meat loaf, mashed potatoes and milk.”
​​​​​​​Looking at the child with a smile, the waitress asks, “So, hon, what do you’ll want on that hot dog?” As the waitress leaves, the father sits stunned and silent.
​​​​​​​A few moments later the little girl, eyes still shining, says loudly, “Mom and Dad, Mom and Dad… that lady thinks I’m real.”

“It’s easy enough to see why so many people seem to be losing heart,” Jon Katz wrote. “Watching the news, I feel confused and powerless and sometimes, angry. The forces against what I perceive as good sometimes seem to be growing stronger by the day – greed, consumerism, racism, militarism, the corporate monster running lose, the fight for individualism. This was precisely the challenge St. Francis faced hundreds of years ago, in a time much darker than ours. He had to figure out his true self, what it meant to live a life that was generous and meaningful. He learned that the antidote to confusion, division and paralysis was a return to simplicity, one step at a time, one person at a time, one good thing at a time, the right-in-front-of-you idea of searching for the light and living with the darkness. His genius was that he saw what was hidden in plain sight. It was so simple it is almost impossible to see. The deeds you do may be the only sermon some people will ever hear, he wrote. ‘We have been called to heal wounds,’ Francis wrote, ‘to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.’”

There is a lot of talk today about “radical” politics on both sides. The word raises eyebrows and ire. And creates FB prattle. But did you know that radical comes from the Latin word radix, meaning “root”? In other words, to be “radical” is to cut to the root of the issue, to deal with causes, not just symptoms.
So. Back to St. Francis. He lived with the very radical idea to choose weakness instead of strength, vulnerability instead of righteousness, truth instead of practicality, honesty instead of influence.
We cannot change the world except as we have changed ourselves.
We can only give who we are and what we are.
We can’t just pray, we must be the prayer.
And again, Bruce. “There’s the beautiful quote by Dr. King that says the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. Now, there have been many, many days of recent when you could certainly have an argument over that. But I’ve lived long enough to see that in action and to put some faith in it. But I’ve also lived long enough to know, that arc doesn’t bend on its own. It needs all of us leaning on it, nudging it in the right direction, day after day. You’ve gotta keep, keep leaning. I think it’s important to believe in those words, and to carry yourself, and to act accordingly.”​​​​ 

Join me. Let’s be on the lookout this week. For places where we will not allow someone (even if that is our self) to fall through the cracks of distrust or hatred or suspicion. 

The World Cup Final this morning, early. Which generated an agreeable English sentence, “Pub open 8 am Sunday.”
France made it somewhat one-sided. Even still, an accomplishment for Croatia.
The Tour de France is on. I can only shake my head, because what they do is flabbergasting.
Serena lost at Wimbledon, but hats off… one year after giving birth, she played for moms everywhere. You go girl.
It is hot here in the PNW. I just watched Heal The World, the Michael Jackson Tribute with Child Prodigies (video below). And I cried and found new corners of my heart.
Now I’m off to the patio with a very cold beer. And to finish a good book, Susan Kohn’s The Opposite of Hate.

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now… Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is we were made for these times. Yes. Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner core – ’til whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or desperation thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take “everyone on Earth” to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale. One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do. There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for. This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful EarthClarissa Pinkola Estes

The Place Where We Are Right
​​​​​​​From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
​​​​​​​The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
​​​​​​​But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
Yehuda Amichai
​​​​​​​
More than Mundane
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​If the mundane is
​​​​​​​–all there is–
then I cannot ask the big questions.
The one about meaning or
What are we here for? or
Where do I go when I die?
If everything is sacred,
surprising,
then you are fine
the way you are,
I can do this strange dance
though it may not be how I planned it,
and I learned, everyday that
we become
a
discovery.
​​​​​​​Robin Heerens Lysne​​​​​​​

talk to me im human.jpg

Talk to me like I’m a human

July 8th 2018

 

 

The shot is true, a low laser, past an outstretched goalie, into the corner of the net.  After he scores, Mr. Parker performs a joy-unrestrained airborne jig, and bumps torsos with another teammate as the fans dance and cheer, GOOOOOOAL!

What makes this story so special?   Mr. Parker has only one leg.  The other was amputated during Liberia’s 14-year devastating civil war.
Mr. Parker’s stride-with metal crutches and arm braces-is a cross between a gallop and a hop, a motion that is both graceful and athletic.  It is extraordinary football (or soccer in our translation) to watch, because every player, including the goalie, is an amputee.
(This is not about sympathy.  In the land of the one-legged, the rules require that the one-armed man is the goalie. The goal is half as wide as a regulation net. But the goalie can’t leave the box and he can touch the ball only with his intact arm, not his stump.)
Here’s what impacted me.  The people watching no longer see defects.  “Now,” in the words of one of Mr. Parker’s teammates, “people talk to me like I am a human being.”    

I’m hooked watching the World Cup. (And I’m rooting for England.)
Anyway, it all made me think of Mr. Parker’s story. And of a day, some years back, while sitting in a pub expecting SportsCenter, when I watched an ESPN special on Liberian football.  (It’s not good form to cry at happy hour in any pub.  I don’t really know if that’s the rule, but somehow, I’ve internalized it.  So, I pretend I have an allergy.  Regardless, I can’t get the picture of Mr. Parker and his teammates out of my head.)
Mr. Parker likes the way strangers greet him on the street with shouts of “Big Player.”  Which is a lot better than a year ago, when they used to jeer and call him “Killer.”  Dennis Parker is not the only casualty of Liberia’s war.  There are thousands like him.  Amputees.  And after the war, they became the burden and blemish of Liberian society.  “A disabled man is useless here,” says one player.
Back then, people would see him–a beggar with one leg–and guess correctly that he had lost the other one fighting in Liberia’s civil war. In that conflict, boys were given an AK-47 assault rifle, and sugar-cane alcohol to make him brave enough to use it, and grew up thinking that the unspeakable was acceptable, in a world where boys and young men were routinely raped, robbed and murdered in a drugged-up frenzy.
Now, after the war (former President Taylor is now serving a 50-year sentence in The Hague for atrocities his men committed in neighboring Sierra Leone), the quandary is especially vexing when it comes to amputees. Deeply impoverished, Liberia offers no welfare for the disabled, who find the few jobs that do exist beyond their grasp. “They don’t even count you,” says one.
It’s worth pausing here. To remember that when we label someone, we dismiss them. Meaning, they don’t count. (We have scotoma, or selective blindness. Which we also apply to ourselves.)

Here’s the remarkable thing. In this world, the Amputee Football Federation of Liberia was born where hopelessness seemed the only option.  Enter the Rev. Robert Karloh, one of the soccer league founders, who believes the sport helps make men like Mr. Parker, and Liberia itself, whole again.  Unabashedly, the Reverend tells the men, “The amputation does not remove God’s purpose for you.”
I feel like I’m in church, because that sentence bears repeating. “The amputation does not remove God’s purpose for you.” And I say, Amen.
Amputee Football in Liberia is as much about reconciliation as it is about competition. Former fighters from enemy militias now wear the same uniform. Mixed among them are civilians who got caught in the shooting and slashing. Together they play, sing victory songs and share pairs of shoes, according to fellow amputees’ needs.  “This is the time for us to reconcile,” says Karloh, “It’s not time to look at the past.”

Here’s the deal: we are all broken. We are all, in some way, amputees.   
Somewhere. Somehow. And in some cases, it is self-inflicted… there are so many ways that we imprison ourselves, or at least are helplessly stalled. 
And there are too many—like Mr. Parker—who have experienced the capriciousness of life.  When life is not fair, and they (we) wear the scars.  Not only the scars, but also the heaviness of being backed into a corner. And that is where we are given a choice. Richard Rohr reminds us that “if we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter—because we will be wounded. All suffering is potentially redemptive, all wounds are potentially sacred wounds. It depends on what you do with them.”

Yes. Compassion, healing, reconciliation and empathy begin here, from sacred wounds. And yet, in our Western mindset, we exacerbate any conundrum by seeing life—including its wounds—as a problem to be solved.
Once we use the paradigm where we believe we cannot live with our brokenness, it will mean that we spend all of our energy trying to fix it.  Or make it right. And…
…we mistrust and apologize for unsettled emotions,
…we believe that life is something to overcome,
…we live stuck, focused only on what we fear.
I can tell you that in so doing, I’ve spent much of my life pretending to be someone I am not.

Lord knows we don’t enjoy vulnerability.  Security is a whole lot easier to swallow.  (And a whole lot easier to sell, by the way.)  To embrace THIS life, this broken life–fully and freely–requires the price tag of risk.  And that’s just too much to ask.  So. We bring God into the collusion.  You know, pray that He will make things better.  Smoother.
This is all connected–oddly enough–to Sabbath.  Did you know that Sabbath is fundamentally about liberation?  In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, the Jewish people are told to keep Sabbath as a reminder of being freed from slavery in Egypt.  Karl Barth said that what the human soul fears most is liberation.  Go figure. No wonder we are so conflicted about Sabbath.  Sabbath for us can be a time to break free from our burdens and responsibilities and everything that we may blame, and get our minds and hearts and spirits so far away from them that the child in us can come out to play, to wonder and delight in this day.  To see the Kingdom right in front of us.  Even with one leg.

Maybe it’s only about football.  But the trickle down to other parts of Mr. Parker’s life is evident.  He rents a room in a house (for $5 a month) on the outskirts of the city, where he lives with his girlfriend and four of his children.
He is no longer ashamed to ask his family for help.
And.  Mr. Parker no longer begs.

Now that… that is freedom.

It has been a lovely Pacific Northwest July day, doors open to the outside. Birds at the feeder, our choir.

Quote for your week:
Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place.
That’s where the light enters you.  Rumi 

Note: Story adapted from Michael M. Phillips. For photos, Chicago Tribune photographer Kuin Takahashi

POEMS AND PRAYERS

Blessings from Chaos
Blessed be the wounded heroines and limping heros!
​​​​​​​    Blessed be the chaotic storms that move us.
​​​​​​​Blessed be life’s wounds that stir us.
​​​​​​​Blessed be Ghandi, for peace out of violence.
​​​​​​​    Blessed be Franklin Roosevelt for leading us from a wheel chair.
​​​​​​​Blessed be Ann Frank, for a spacious heart
​​​​​​​that shared from confinement.
​​​​​​​    Blessed be Ruth, for loyalty out of exile.
​​​​​​​Blessed be Joan of Arc, whose spirit rose from the flames.
​​​​​​​    Blessed be Therese, a youth consumed by TB and love.
​​​​​​​Blessed be the grit in our lives that reveal the gold.
​​​​​​​    Blessed be the garbage in our lives that’s recycled.
​​​​​​​Blessed be our human storms that clear the air.
​​​​​​​Amen  

I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
​​​​​​​There I can find, as in old letters,
​​​​​​​the days of my life, already lived,
​​​​​​​and held like a legend, and understood.
​​​​​​​Then the knowing comes: I can open
​​​​​​​to another life that’s wide and timeless.
​​​​​​​So I am sometimes like a tree
​​​​​​​rustling over a gravesite
​​​​​​​and making real the dream
​​​​​​​of the one its living roots
​​​​​​​embrace:
​​​​​​​a dream once lost
​​​​​​​among sorrows and songs.
​​​​​​​Ranier Maria Rilke         

    

To honor the Feast Day celebrating American Independence, I was reminded of this old prayer for our country​..​​​​​​.


​​​​​​​Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage:
We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.
Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.
Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
​The Book of Common Prayer 

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Language of the heart

July 1st 2018

I was raised Baptist, which meant I went to Sunday School. Every Sunday. No exceptions. And in Sunday School, you absorbed Bible stories. The Tower of Babel story always captivated me, perfect for a child’s imagination with graphics of a grand edifice of wood—reaching into the clouds—populated with dozens of builders or workers playing out a scene of exaggerated chaos and exasperation. Our teachers warned that this photo demonstrates the consequences of pridefulness. (Which I assumed meant a life balancing on skyscraper beams while wearing costumes from the movie Ben-Hur.)
Thinking that mankind may be feeling too big for its britches, God said: “Come, let us go down and confound their speech.” And so, God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, so that they would not be able to return to each other, and they left off building the “city,” which was called Babel “because God there confounded the language of all the Earth.”  I’ll be the first to say that not speaking a common language may be more detrimental than the alternative.
So, consider this: what if the story is not just about the inability to communicate because of language barriers? What if even those who spoke the same language could no longer understand each other; that the breakdown was not just about words and sentences, but deeper.
​​​​​​​I believe this is a story about losing a shared language.
​​​​​​​A shared language of the heart.
​​​​​​​A shared language to community and a higher cause.
​​​​​​​It’s as if we do our best to obfuscate any shared language of the heart with judgment, prejudice, hatred, self-absorption and greed. But we do so to the diminishment of our heart and spirit.
​​​​​​​We need Mother Teresa’s reminder, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” 

Because we live in a world divided, it is too easy to forget. Our world is rocked with uncertainty, suspicion, fear, and in Annapolis this week, “simmering anger.”
​​​​​​​It’s not surprising we too often, don’t have words.
​​​​​​​“Today, we are speechless,” The Capital Gazette wrote this past week. “This page is intentionally left blank to commemorate victims of Thursday’s shootings at our office.”
Okay. So, let’s talk about the shared language of the heart and why it is we come untethered.
​​​​​​​Three years ago, I waited in a Seattle DMV to renew my driver’s license. We are always quick to grumble that we don’t have any free time. Well, stop by the DMV. You’ll be amazed how much “free time” you’ll be granted. I held ticket number R141 (R120 had just been summoned), and a good book kept me company.
My number is finally called. I stood at the counter.
Read line two, the clerk tells me.
AODFPO I tell her, guessing about two of them.
Good she says. And then; The shootings, they were something weren’t they?
(The San Bernardino shootings at the County Dept of Health Christmas party. Fourteen people were killed. Twenty-two seriously injured.)
I look up and realize she’s talking to me. Or maybe, like any of us when we are thunderstruck, we are just trying to find words. Or maybe, we just need someone to hear the words that we have.
Yes, I tell her. They were something.
How do you know? She goes on. I mean, I could just come to work one day. And then craziness. So how do you know?
Her comments could be rhetorical I tell myself. Or maybe she really does want someone to reassure her.
I look at the woman helping me, early 40s I am guessing. Is she a mother? Spouse? Friend? I wonder.
It’s easy to be afraid, she tells me.
Yes, I say, it is easy.
So, what can we do? What can we do?
I was going to say, I don’t know, because the truth is, I don’t know.
Except this. I know that on this ordinary day, when our world has been shaken and we know that chaos can be real, we do have this: A meeting place. On common ground. And I would say, on holy ground. And while we know that we can never be perfectly safe, we know that even there we can reassure one another and look into the eyes of one another, and remind one another that there are truths greater than fear.
What I told her was this, Well, I don’t know all the answers, but these kinds of conversation sure do help. Thank you for talking to me. Maybe it would be good for you to talk with your co-workers too. We’re better together. We need to remember that we belong to one another. 

But here’s the irony. Our journey to healing and wholeness (hope and courage and light) does not begin with bravado. It begins with vulnerability. It begins when we know that our hearts can and will break and that it is in the very breaking…
that we can get up…
that we can try again…
that we can choose to love instead of hate…
​​​​​​​I walked out of the office into a gray December day with a new driver’s license. And something else; an unexpected gift in my spirit. That on an ordinary day with two strangers, the light of restoration and resilience spills one conversation and one encounter at a time. Before I started my car, I sat. And said thank you to no one in particular. I realized that a stranger gave me a gift with her vulnerability. I know that whenever anything unnerving happens, we want to hide our brokenness and our vulnerability. Because we live in a world of bravado and swagger.
Which takes me to our need for sanctuary. Because the power of the sanctuary (the gift of nourishment and renewal) creates the space for wholeheartedness, which begins with vulnerability.
Henry David Thoreau talked about not wishing to live “too thickly” – barraged by noise or clamor or hype or panic.  Count me in. I know that whenever I am burdened with worry or disquiet or fear, I am tempted to shut down my heart, to not listen to my heart, to not speak from my heart, and to not offer sanctuary to those who need it. And I don’t want to live that way.
So, here’s the deal: Today, I do not wish for my heart to be calcified. Because when I give in to fear, I choose and act from cynicism and anger and resentment.
This week every one of us will walk, journey, show up for work, attend parties, strike up conversations, stand in line in the DMV… in precarious times. That is undeniable. And to pretend otherwise is silly.  But we get to say how the story ends. This week; Be open to the gift of conversation. Even if that conversation is presence without words. Be open to the spirit of comfort and inclusion and kind-heartedness.  

When the U.S. didn’t even qualify for the World Cup, I thought it would be better for my blood pressure. Not true. Watching these matches has been the best of drama in sport.
​​​​​​​Yesterday, a large group gathered at the Church of the Holy Spirit to remember Steve Self. An islander who left a mark by his presence of authenticity and grace. RIP Steve.
​​​​​​​And today, the Special Olympics U.S. Games opened here in Seattle, proudly with the mantra, “Choose to Include.” 

Quote for your week…
​​​​​​​I am a child of God who believes that we are all children of God and we are all part of each other. May we all know peace. Thich Nhat Hanh 

POEMS AND PRAYERS

So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all my brothers in Alabama
and all over America and over the world, I say to you, I love you.
I would rather die than hate you. And I’m foolish enou