Tuesday — This week, we’re talking about the invitation to dance. To savor this day. To taste the sacrament of the present, even with our uncertainty and the heaviness of our world.
We enjoyed the story of a Rabbi’s invitation and gentle reminder to a congregation, that regardless of our bewilderment or messiness, we are not lost. There is inside of each of us, a dancer.
What would it mean to live into that reality? Can you tell me the last time you were invited–given the permission, just like the members of the synagogue–to be vulnerable, curious, lighthearted, inquisitive, spontaneous, intuitive and playful? To be filled with wonderment and laughter? What would that look like? And if I invited you today, would you say yes?
I do confess that it affects me… the weight of the world.
And my morale can go low…
And this I do know; this weight (whether suffering or injustice or division) clouds and affects what, or how we see.
In John’s Gospel Jesus has died. Mary is despondent. She visits the grave, but Jesus is not there. I understand her anxiety or panic… I’ve lost something vital. I need it. Where did you put it?
At this, Mary turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
One word. Mary.
In saying her name, what freedom did Jesus give? We know that Mary has a connection with Jesus that is profound and life altering. But notice this: the power of the relationship—which Jesus triggers with a simple affirmation of her name, Mary—is no longer outside of herself.
Or of myself.
Mary, (Jesus is saying) that which you seek, is already here.
Already inside of you. (Yes… the dancer within.)
She hears the truth when she is stopped from her frenetic search.
Here’s my invitation to us all this Holy Week: Let us pause. And sit still long enough…
to hear that voice of grace,
to hear our name spoken…
to be present,
to be aware (to savor and to celebrate),
and to share (to spill light),
It is from this place—the dancer on the inside—that we can make choices… to work, create, relate, give and receive.
Wednesday — This week… the invitation to dance. To savor this day. To taste the sacrament of the present, even in our uncertainty and the heaviness of our world.
Even there, we’re invited to hear (embracing and living) the music that is inside each one of us. Not easy when we obsess when expectations about tidiness, or need for perfection, or need for “arrival,” or fear of disappointment get in the way.
Gerhard Frost tells the story of an important businessman who was accustomed to having his own way. One day, late for an appointment, he decided to take a short cut and found himself thoroughly lost. He asked a little girl—the first person he saw—for directions.
“Which way to Union Street?” he gruffly asked. “I don’t know,” the child responded, embarrassed. “Well then,” the man demanded, “How far to Highway 41?” “I don’t know that either.” the child answered. The man’s demeanor grew angrier as the girl continued to respond, “I don’t know.”
Finally, the man lost his temper and shouted, “You don’t know much do you!”
And she said, “No I don’t, but then I’m not lost.”
It’s not easy to be gentle with ourselves, is it? And maybe, just maybe, “lost” isn’t the end… but rather an invitation…
When James Finley was a young monk at the monastery of Gethsemane, he shared with Thomas Merton (who was his spiritual director) his frustration at his seemingly inept efforts to experience God’s presence. Merton responded: “How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.”
Not that we don’t need to continue to seek God, but by our own efforts alone we cannot achieve spiritual maturity. We must bring ourselves to the Light (to embrace whet is there…. that gift of enough), where God’s grace seasons us… into a sweet, flavorful ripeness. And the music spills…
The garden has been for me, that gift, to embrace the gift of enough in the present moment.
I once asked my analyst why I was in therapy. He told me it would make me a better gardener.
Gardening can be strong medicine—an elixir that nurtures and shapes the soul. For that reason, it is a tonic seldom taken straight with no ice.
Gardening has a way of seeping into your soul, and one day you find yourself, in the words of poet May Sarton in Plant Dreaming Deep, spending the first half hour of the morning “enjoying the air and watching for miracles.”
This week, let us be open to places where God’s grace seasons us.
And here’s a confession. That didn’t easily happen in a church. Perhaps because wearing the clergy label didn’t encourage the invitation to pause, or to receive. The garden became that kind of church for me.
Speaking of which, April 13 marks my 43rd year since ordination. And I am grateful for the Sabbath Moment community. (And, the geese. Although, I do miss the sheep.)
And it is also my Father’s Birthday. About a year ago we celebrated his memorial in Michigan. Rest in peace Dad…
Yes, my calendar says April, but as I write this, there are snow flurries. Yes, here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m thinking it’s from my Dad, a reminder to not forget Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Thursday — I’m a storyteller. And I love stories that keep my hope alive. Say, a Rabbi, who invites the congregation to dance. After, they sat, still intoxicated with the joy of dancing. And only then did the Rabbi speak, “I hope that I have provided all the answers to the questions you were asking.”
And I love that passion is not the tenure of a gifted few, but the reflection of living with a whole heart. Gratefully, the dance enables our best selves, gives voice to parts that we have buried, or forgotten, or hidden for shame.
Dance as the doorway to live out loud.
Dance as the invitation to live at home in our own skin.
Here’s the deal: Dance is not a skill set for the few, but an affirmation that life is remarkably precious. And an affirmation that this preciousness is at the core of every single one of us. When I embrace the dancer in me, I now see, notice, am empathetic to, and invite the dancer in you.
I don’t want to lose track of the dancer.
And numb, I am not really available for the people I love. Because I have no bandwidth for things that matter to the heart: gladness, desire, intention, compassion and wholehearted fire. Oh my…
Now I see what is easy to miss. Rabbi Abraham Heschel’s reminder, “(When I am not grounded) I believe that whatever I seek in miracles, the sacred, intervention of the divine is not in a place where I am now–in a place other than this moment. They have this in common: we don’t look at the world around us as places where God lives.”
So. In what ways can we live out what has been “kept in?”
In what ways do we embody our passion (at home in our own skin)?
In what ways can we live today, fully human, fully alive?
Gabrielle Roth reminds us that 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?
I love that the shaman didn’t ask, “When are you going to quit worrying?”
Yes. Here’s what I know: today, our world needs dancers. And borrowing from Hafiz, “The earth braces itself for the feet of a lover of God about to dance.”
Friday — This week, we’re invited to dance. And in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke (in Letters to a Young Poet), to be “patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart.”
Your see, the dance is the permission to be embraced by grace. And it is the message I needed to hear this holy week.
This story from Greg Boyle’s heartening book, The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness, is what my heart needed.
“Here’s the good news: the God we most deeply want IS the God we actually have, and the God we fear, is, in fact, the partial God we’ve settled for. God looks at us and is ecstatic. This God loves the sound of our voices and thinks that all of us are a magnificent work of art. ‘You’re here.’ God’s cheek resting on ours. God’s singular agenda item.
God is only interested in lavishing us with extravagant tenderness, and yet we are convinced that god is thinking we all could just do a better job…
Gloria’s bumper sticker on her car, I suppose, was a window to how she saw herself. It read, ‘You say I’m a bitch like it’s a bad thing.’ A tough cookie of a homegirl Gloria navigated more abuse, violence, and sheer abandonment in her lifetime than most. The first person she met at Homeboy was one of our senior staff, Mary Ellen Burton. Gloria marveled at her kindness: ‘She welcomed me like she was waiting for me.’…
Part of Gloria’s return to self came with an admission and a revelation. ‘When I walked through those doors, I didn’t have a heart,’ she told me. ‘I had a rock. I wanted to cover my pain instead of feel it. Now I can feel pain and it’s a beautiful thing.’ Once when she was working at Homeboy and close to the near wholeness of herself, she shared a dream she’d had the night before. She told me in her dream she’s dancing with God, and folks ‘more important… more valuable people, keep trying to cut in… and God won’t let them.’ She said this, and our eyes met like never before and they moistened. We sat in silence at an image of God so perfect.”
(Thank you Father Boyle)
A blessed Good Friday and Easter Sunday to all. Here’s to our dance…
Quote for our week…
I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being. –Hafiz
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
May the light of your soul bless your work
with love and warmth of heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring light and
to those who work with you
and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never exhaust you.
May it release wellsprings of refreshment,
inspiration, and excitement.
May you never become lost in bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find hope in your heart,
approaching your new day with dreams,
possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed,
sheltered, and protected.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you.
John O’ Donohue
Photo… “Dear Terry, The picture was taken on the beach north of Ventura called the Rincon. We like to take our dinner there and watch the sun go. It’s my Holy Place.” Marilyn Hodges