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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose. (Apr 26 – 29)

Tuesday — My friend Phil Volker used to say that it takes one kind of hope to show up for life, and another kind to partake. In other words, we’re not wired to be casual observers here, with our precious time.
And yet… this is not easy when our world feels so heavy. But it is easy to be derailed. Or, give way to the weight of angst, when we see so much that belittles and diminishes life.
But even there, I am (we are) invited to participate. In this life.
To bring all that I am (without letting the unsettled parts dictate) to the table of this moment.
To invest my whole heart.
What Barbara Kingsolver calls a conspiracy with life.

So, this week, let’s talk about that invitation, shall we?
Kathleen Norris writes, “We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were.”
We begin here: It is what is directly around me—the birds chirping on the back deck and around the pond, the heavenly gift (scent and taste) of coffee, the sun peaking through the clouds, highlighting the tall fir trees outside my window, and yes, the pile stacked on my desk—that ends up grounding me in the world and in myself. When I feel derailed, or focused only on where I need to be, I rarely pay attention to the gifts in the present.
If I had my druthers, I’d put down my pen (yes, I still write with a pen), and wave a wand, or transport you (ala Star Trek) to my new garden. Well, it’s no longer on Vashon Island, but now a walk through the forest, which beams and smiles and glows and dances with spring blooms and flowers. 

“In everything which gives us the pure authentic feeling of beauty,” Simone Weil wrote, “there really is the presence of God. There is as it were, an incarnation of God in the world and it is indicated by beauty. The beautiful is the experimental proof that the incarnation is possible.”
And here’s the deal: Gratitude empowers us to spill the incarnation. Because beauty allows us to practice the sacrament of the present moment. And that which we have buried—mercy, gentleness, kindheartedness, tenderness and a soft heart—comes to life. Let us never forget that.

Wednesday — We are, every one of us, invited to participate in This Life.
To bring all that we are (without letting the unsettled parts dictate) to the table of this moment.
To invest, to care, to give, to contribute with our whole heart.
What Barbara Kingsolver calls a conspiracy with life.

What we easily forget, is that this investment requires (and is fueled by) self-care – soul care. We choose to say how the story ends. We are not victims. We are powerful contributors even when we feel weak or broken or all alone or at the mercy of.
It’s all about where we tether our well-being.

The two go together… Self-care and our capacity to invest (or make a difference). Think of one as the soil necessary for the other to grow and flourish.
So. Investment begins with the permission to be at home in our own skin. What I call the power of pause. Tell me what you did this week, to be at home in your own skin?

Some people take exception to my talk about the power of pause, living in the present moment, and the art of doing nothing. They don’t like the idea of “wasting time.” But there’s a difference between wasting time and just being bored: Wasting time really is intentional. You are, quite literally, spending time. On clouds, or lilies, or naps, or silence, or prayer, or providing a generous spirit, or coffee with friends (even if on Zoom), or listening to someone’s story, or caring for a flock of geese, or watching your cats fight it out for the best spot on the couch. Which means that you are not mortgaging your time or your life on any old distraction merely out of boredom.
When you do pause and pay attention, there is an internal recalibration. While nothing is “added” to your life, there is a new awareness of the light that is within. Let’s call it our new internal wealth account. As long as success is measured by keeping score, we lose track of most everything that makes us human and, therefore, glad to be alive. Now, free and able to spill well-being to the world immediately around us.

Thursday — When I see dark places in our world, it can overwhelm. So, I’m grateful for stories of people who are marinated in grace (a mixture of prayer, good vibes, blessings, compassion, kindness and hugs). What a gift. I have been a grateful recipient many times in my life.
It reminds me that we do indeed walk one another home, and that befriending our woundedness is not a solo act.
Albert Schweitzer’s wonderful reminder, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

This week we’re talking about that invitation to participate in This Life.
To bring all that we are (without letting the unsettled parts dictate) to the table of this moment.
To invest, to care, to give, to contribute with our whole heart.
And (this may not be easy) to give ourselves the permission to be cared for… to be marinated in grace.
This we know: Grace fuels gratitude. Our invitation to be here now. To live the sacrament of the present.

Thomas Merton’s reminder, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us–and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

What is the agenda of this invitation? I like to start with petite-miracle-wandering. The curiosity which brings us to beauty and wonder, without which we couldn’t bear up under pain or chaos.
“In everything which gives us the pure authentic feeling of beauty,” Simone Weil wrote, “there really is the presence of God. There is as it were, an incarnation of God in the world and it is indicated by beauty. The beautiful is the experimental proof that the incarnation is possible.”
“I’m ready to be inspired, she said & I said that’s not quite how it works, so instead we sat in the garden, breathing & watching the bees until she smiled quietly & said, I forget it’s that simple.” (Thank you Brian Andreas.)
I confess that Jim Harrison speaks my language, “Whenever life begins to crush me, I know I can count on Bandol (Rhone wine), garlic and Mozart.”

And the gratitude (in the sacrament of the present) empowers us to spill the incarnation. In the present, that which we have buried—mercy, gentleness, kindheartedness, tenderness and a soft heart—comes to life. Let us never forget that. By starting where we are, not where we wish we were…
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 decided to change myself, and that’s how I had such an impact on the Jewish world.”

And speaking of petite miracle wandering. New goslings on the pond. My Oh My…

Friday — To invest, to care, to give, to contribute with our whole heart.
This isn’t easy to do if we haven’t been given the permission to care for the well-being of our heart.
Yes. Self-care and the power of pause.

There are ways that this culture can lull you to sleep (okay, more like a kind of numbing), if you aren’t careful, and can’t occasionally stop just to look around. The irony is that it’s a sleepwalking induced and kindled by the notion that life is meant to be a kind of perpetual motion (to be arrived at somewhere else), as if life fully lived implies relentless activity.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.”
“Nothing? How do you get away with that?”

This morning, spent a good bit of time watching Irv and Dottie (our pond geese) and their three new goslings. And then, a Mallard pair swim into view, with their nine (count ‘em nine) new ducklings. Oh my. What a pageant.
And sometime during this pageant, it occurred to me that this is it.
This, as in this elusive essence we call life.
I tried to remember the Thoreau quote about going in the woods to drink from the very marrow of life, but I couldn’t quite come up with it and realized that it didn’t really matter anyway. I doubt that the geese or ducks would have been impressed.
If you are lucky, you grab hold of these moments when they come, for they are parcels of life undistilled. And you save the analysis for later on down the road.
You could, I suppose, stop and take a picture, maybe post it to Facebook, if you wanted to take the time to find your phone. Or chuckle at the need to confine the moment, push it aside and find a chair to watch the newcomers, listen to their “song”, and feel the gooseflesh reminding you that your heart is still intact.

“Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice of your universe. Each day enrapture me with your marvelous things without number. I do not ask to see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Lord, the Air Smells Good Today
Lord, the air smells good today,
straight from the mysteries
within the inner courts of God.
A grace like new clothes thrown
across the garden, free medicine for everybody.
The trees in their prayer, the birds in praise,
the first blue violets kneeling.
Whatever came from Being is caught up in being, drunkenly
forgetting the way back.
Rumi (13th Century)

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