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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose. (Aug 23 – 26)

Tuesday — In our hearts, we are all dancers. Yes. Every single one of us.
Think of the dance this way: it is the part (the core) of us that responds to the music of life; abundant, freely and unrestrained. A life fueled by wholeheartedness.
Yes. When we bring our whole (unguarded) self to the moment, we live engaged, alert and present. We saw this in the Gillian Lynne story.
“You see,” the doctor told Gillian’s mother, “your daughter isn’t troubled. Your daughter is a dancer.”
Sadly, labels don’t let us see. Because labels create the antithesis to wholeheartedness. Labels confine and restrict.
(And in Sabbath Moment, we often circle back to this question: to what do we tether our identity? Our meaning and our value?)

So, I take two lessons from Gillian’s story. The first lesson today: the voice of Grace tells us that we are more than our labels.
I love the Gospel story about the Samaritan woman at the well. Long story short, here is a woman who carries a myriad of labels–she is a member of the wrong group, she is “less-than,” undesirable, a social outcast (not to mention she’d been married several times). And Jesus offers her everlasting water no questions asked. My take on his words to her: “You’ve lived on scarcity—labels that limit you—and I offer you sufficiency, in water that will never leave you thirsty again.”
I love preaching from this text. Which, of course means, that I’m preaching in order to remind myself to believe it (internalize it). To hear it, for myself. Just sayin’.

Here’s the deal: It’s not that we “choose” to dance, so much as we “choose” to give up being afraid (confined by labels).
We give up being afraid by responding to the love of the Beloved—the invitation to sufficiency or “everlasting water.”
We hear and taste and touch this love; and our dance is the interplay with that voice. Because now, our hearts are alive.
Let us start with the voice of grace.

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.
Mary Oliver

Wednesday — In our hearts, we are all dancers. Yes. Every single one of us.
Think of the dance this way: it is the part (the core) of us that responds to the music of life; abundant, freely and unrestrained. A life fueled by wholeheartedness.
“To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak.” Hopi Indian Saying

And yet. Life’s heaviness, does tend to gum things up. Sometimes we see it (acknowledge it). Sometimes we don’t.
Not that long ago, I read a news story that stopped me in my tracks. (Which is hardly abnormal these days.)
But this story made me pay attention, inviting questions about what really matters. Let’s be honest, in today’s din, that’s not easy to do.
After 30 years of preaching, the Rev. Howard-John Wesley stood in front of his congregation (Alexandria, VA) and admitted: “I am tired in my soul.”
“I feel so distant from God,” he continued. “One of the greatest mistakes of pastoring is to think that because you work for God, you’re close to God.”
“It’s time for a break,” he tells them.
It’s time for sanctuary. Time for healing.
We do get anxious and discombobulated. Or, just plain tired. So, this kind of honesty is liberating. Because every single one of us could use some healing.
(And thank you Rev. Wesley for your honesty and example.)

So. What’s the medicine?
Dance as healing.
Well, they didn’t teach me that in seminary.
What does this medicine look like?
It looks a lot like permission to embrace self-care. And to give than permission to those around us. A friend sent me this story. I’m not sure of its origin, but it sure did my heart good.
“Shout out to my Arabic teacher that looked at us yesterday mid-lesson and said, ‘I’m worried. You all look exhausted and depressed.’
And we were all like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re dead inside, you haven’t noticed?’
And he snapped shut the textbook, threw up his hands and said, ‘That’s not healthy. No more vocab. Time for dancing.’
And he taught us a dance from Iraq, and we danced instead of doing vocab. We didn’t stop dancing until he saw all of us laughing and was satisfied that we were all feeling better. It was perhaps the coolest, most kind-hearted thing I’ve ever seen a college instructor do.”
Dance as healing.
Dance as sanctuary. 

Thursday —

In our hearts, we are all dancers. Yes. Every single one of us.
Think of the dance this way: it is the part (the core) of us that responds to the music of life; abundant, freely and unrestrained. Music than can, in fact, return (restore) us to ourselves.

Alive Inside is an epiphanic film.
I always wanted to use the word epiphanic.
I watched it and let my tears run, and my delight dance.
Dan Cohen, a social worker in an East Coast nursing home, plays personally tailored music via iPod headsets for older residents diagnosed with dementia and other “imprisoning” disorders. The results are simple and striking. The residents awaken and come alive. They move, sing, and dance. They have episodic memory for events associated with the music. They smile and weep with joy. They seem in touch with themselves. Quite literally, they appear to be different people. I emphasize these two words because they stand in stark contrast to the sameness and depersonalization often imposed upon them, blinded by culture-driven presumptions of their dementia.
In the film we meet Henry Dreher. Henry, 94 at the time, had been spending his days sitting in his wheelchair with his head hanging down. We hear Dr. Oliver Sacks voice, “We first see Henry, insert, maybe depressed, unresponsive, almost unalive.”
And Dan puts headphones on Henry. The iPod plays one of Henry’s old favorites, Cab Calloway.
Dreher’s eyes open wide, his face lights up and he starts singing along with the music. After he says, “It gives me the feeling of love, romance, because right now the world needs to come into music, singing. You’ve got beautiful music here. Beautiful, oh, lovely.”
Watching this scene in my den, I stand and clap and grin from ear to ear. (And then look around, to see who was watching.)

The philosopher Kant reminded us that music is the quickening art. In other words, music brings something to life.
Yes. And that something may be our self.
We know what it’s like to lose our way. And there are times we have no idea how or why. But somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves to equate our missteps with our very identity. This is the work of shame.
Charlotte Kasl reminds us that “Shame is essentially the degree to which you mistake your labels for your identity. If you draw your labels into the core of yourself, you can no longer see the center.”
We buy the label. We buy the script. And we forget our song. Music unlocks the heart, and we are restored to our self.

On my late morning walk, fresh blackberries from the vine. Sun drenched and sweet. Encouraging (inviting) a wee dance. I think it’s the blackberry shuffle. Done with your eyes closed and a big smile on your face.

Life is short,
Break the rules,
Forgive quickly,
Kiss slowly,
Love truly,
Laugh uncontrollably,
And never regret anything that made you Smile.
Life may not be the party we hoped for,
but while we’re here we should
Dance….

Friday —

“We live life like ill-taught piano students. So inculcated with the flub that gets us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.” Robert Capon reminds us.
When life is heavy, somewhere along the way, it is easy to lose our way isn’t it? Somehow disconnected from our heart. And from who we are at our core.
I do get it. How easy it is to give way to (somehow enticed by) labels.
It is no wonder that we choose to live guarded and closed. And too often, afraid.
I do know this: I don’t hear this voice of Grace (or invitation to Dance) when my life is filled with noise and hurry, or when I’m out of breath and out of time or incessantly worried about public opinion (“What will they think?”) and the labels attached.

On Monday, we told the story of Gillian Lynne. “Your daughter is not troubled, your daughter is a dancer.”
This much is certain. Labels take us down toxic, injurious and detrimental pathways. When I give in (succumb) to any label, I give way to “selves” that are not healthy, true or constructive. Quite literally, to be a prisoner to a label.

I’m an unabashed fan of the TV series, Ted Lasso, in which an American football coach is exported to the U.K. to manage a British football team. One of my favorite scenes, Ted and the antagonist Rupert—the vindictive former owner of the team—place a significant wager on a game of darts. Taking his final turn at the board, Ted shares the following leadership lesson.
“Guys have underestimated me my entire life and for years I never understood why – it used to really bother me. Then one day I was driving my little boy to school, and I saw a quote by Walt Whitman, it was painted on the wall there and it said, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ I like that.” (Ted throws a dart, hits a triple twenty.)
“So, I get back in my car and I’m driving to work and all of a sudden it hits me – all them fellas that used to belittle me, not a single one of them was curious. You know, they thought they had everything all figured out, so they judged everything, and they judged everyone. And I realized that their underestimating me – who I was had nothing to do with it. Because if they were curious, they would’ve asked questions. Questions like, ‘Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?’” (Ted throws another dart, hits a triple twenty.)
“To which I would have answered, ‘Yes sir. Every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with my father from age ten until I was 16 when he passed away.’ Barbecue sauce.” (Ted throws a double bullseye to win the game.)
What you might not remember about this scene is its opening—when Rupert asks, “Do you like darts, Ted?” and Ted answers, “Oh, they’re okay.” This question and the corresponding answer leave Rupert to infer that Ted is a novice dart player even though Ted’s an expert. Rupert’s question is close-ended—one that has a limited number of responses. Most close-ended questions are based on assumptions we make (ahhh, labels again).
If Rupert were deeply curious about Ted (or Ted’s expertise), he would have asked a broader question that invited Ted to expand upon his experience playing darts. In fact, Ted suggested that very question at the scene’s close, “Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?”
Here’s the deal: Curiosity always allows us to see (to hear), to ask questions that go beyond any label that stands in the way of connection and wonder and gratitude.

(And just for the record, Whitman never said or wrote “Be curious, not judgmental.” It is one of ten or fifteen “quotes” often falsely attributed to Whitman. The internet is great at creating new Whitman quotes–creating a lot of stuff really. And yet, while Whitman certainly did not write “Be curious, not judgmental,” it still bears repeating as experience and inspiration.)

Another great day with my son Zach at a Seattle Mariner game. And we won, so I’m sure we bring them good luck.

For you shall go out in joy; and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  The Book of Isaiah

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
A Fourfold Unconventional Blessing
May God bless you with discontent with easy answers, half truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live from deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, abuse, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and to change their pain to joy.
May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.
If you have the courage to accept these blessings, then God will also bless you with:
–Happiness – because you will know that you have made life better for others.
–Inner peace – because you will have worked to secure an outer peace for others.
–Laughter – because your heart will be light.

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
A Fourfold Unconventional Blessing
May God bless you with discontent with easy answers, half truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live from deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, abuse, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and to change their pain to joy.
May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.
If you have the courage to accept these blessings, then God will also bless you with:
–Happiness – because you will know that you have made life better for others.
–Inner peace – because you will have worked to secure an outer peace for others.
–Laughter – because your heart will be light.
–Faithful friends – because they will recognize your worth as a person.
These blessings are yours – not for the asking, but for the giving – from One who wants to be your companion, our God, who lives and reigns, forever and ever. Amen.
Sister Ruth Fox, OSB

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