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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose. (Aug 9 – 12)

Tuesday — This week: reconnecting with our heart.
I want to sing a song that touches where we hurt, where we care, where we heal, where we give, where we reconcile and mend, where we make and are made whole.
And here’s the deal: That song is alive and well inside every single one of us.

Remembering when we’re tempted to shut down (which is too frequent)—to live cynical and angry or cautious and afraid—we do not (cannot) now bring our whole heart to the table, or to the moment, short-circuiting our capacity to spill empathy and compassion. And we do not see or embrace delight and wonder (gratitude) in the sacrament of the present.

For me, the bump in the road comes when I mentally turn this invitation (to reconnect with my heart and to spill light) into a duty (well, more like a burden), as if life—my spiritual and emotional well-being—is a project or an assignment to be graded. That’s never fun. And if being fully alive is about success or achievement or compensation, it is no wonder that I live cautious or afraid. I only sing the song that I think I should. (Ahh, should… there’s that word again.)
Apparently, I’ve swallowed the notion that it is not enough to be just Terry.
Tis’ true… sometimes we are not ourselves (or we lose sight). I overheard this entertaining (half) conversation one day waiting in my Toyota dealer. Eavesdropping being my favorite sport.
“Mom. Mom. Mom. Wait. You don’t sound right.”
“No Mom wait. Mom, are you on some kind of medication?”
I think this will be my new line when I talk to any friend or loved one. Just sayin’.
Bottom line… when I live afraid, I live restricted. And constrained.

Reconnecting with our heart… This week is about a paradigm shift. But here’s the good news: The song (light) is already there (inside), and it spills.
When we sing that song from the core of our human connection, we play a role in making a difference. “Human history is a history not only of cruelty,” Howard Zinn reminds us, “but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places–and there are so many–where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

I’ll give John O’Dononhue the last word. “There is a kindness that dwells deep down in things; it presides everywhere, often in the places we least expect. The world can be harsh and negative, but if we remain generous and patient, kindness inevitably reveals itself. Something deep in the human soul seems to depend on the presence of kindness; something instinctive in us expects it, and once we sense it we are able to trust and open ourselves.”

Wednesday — This week: reconnecting with our heart.
I want to sing a song that touches where we hurt, where we care, where we heal, where we give, where we reconcile and mend, where we make and are made whole.
And that song is alive and well inside every single one of us.
And yet… we live in a world where it is easy to disconnect, to not see what is alive and well inside.

“So, what kind of guy does this?” my friend ignores hello, and launches all of his telephone conversations mid-thought. It is my job to figure out where that is. So, I listen.
“Seriously,” he continues. “I’m on the first day of a week of retreat and solitude. At the moment I’m sitting on a beach. It’s unbelievably beautiful. And I’m only 3 feet from pelicans. Real pelicans. They are incredible. Just standing there. And yet, in the middle of all the beauty, all I want to do is check my email, surf the net or call someone. How long does it take to get over this?”
“A week,” I tell him.
“A week?” his disappointment is undisguised and unmitigated.
‘A week’ is apparently the wrong answer.
“Okay,” I concede, “For you, maybe a couple days.”
And I imagine the pelicans talking. “Nice day,” says one.
“Yep,” says another, “but what’s up with the stressed-out-middle-aged guy?”
The This my friend speaks of, Pascal alluded to several hundred years ago. It’s not new. Pascal wrote, “By means of a diversion we can avoid our own company 24 hours a day.”
And it’s not just diversion. It’s a kind of itch. A relentless hankering, and pursuit of something always elusive.
As if life is always just beyond where we are NOW.
Alfred E Neuman nailed it when he said, “Most of us don’t know what we want in life, but we’re sure we haven’t got it.”
Jackson Browne talked about this “pursuit.” He wrote in an early song about “the first time I went on my own, when the roads were as many as the places I had dreamed of, and my friends and I were one.” Yet in a later song called “Running on Empty,” he concludes, “I look around for the friends that I used to turn to, to pull me through; looking into their eyes, I see them running, too.”
I recognize that even knowing about the running and the distractions… even so, I live with an expectation that life should be a certain way.
I’m all for living the present moment.
Just not this one.
So, we’ve got ourselves into quite a little pickle.
We assume life requires arrival.
Like four-year old children on any family trip, “Are we there yet?”
Therefore, disruptions and uncertainty derail us.
We worry. What if, what we are looking for is not here?
And inside I rage against…
–my fragile nature and inelegant humanity,
–my inability to savor the ordinary moments,
–my feeling “at the mercy of” my circumstances,
–my not achieving wholeness.
So. This week, let’s keep telling stories about our invitation (and need) to change the conversation and our paradigm… the permission (and the gift) to be at home in our own skin…

I’ll give John Shelby Spong the final word…
“I do not think of God theistically, that is, as a being, supernatural in power, who dwells beyond the limits of my world. I rather experience God as the source of life willing me to live fully, the source of love calling me to love wastefully and to borrow a phrase from the theologian, Paul Tillich, as the Ground of being, calling me to be all that I can be.” 

Thursday — Reconnecting with my heart.
Why? Because it emboldens me to access—to draw on—what is at the core of human dignity (the light that is within). That at my core, I touch the capacity to grieve and to give, to tremble and to be courageous, to doubt and to be faithful…
to be uncomfortable and to love, to be watchful and to be generous…
to be fully human and fully alive… compassionate, patient, resilient, kind, unselfish, responsible, spirited, high-minded. To be a listening heart.

And it puts me smack dab in the middle of the present. The sacrament of the present moment.
Of course, I’m all for living in the present… although maybe just not this one…
And yet, the gift of being here now. Try this: Sometime this week, in the middle of a meeting or discussion say, “Everybody stop. This is it. Right now. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Amazing eh?”
People will look at you funny (or assume you are Canadian), and maybe measure you for a white jacket.
But that’s not a problem. When you are a little ’round the bend, you know you look good in white, especially on warm summer days.

In the 1984 film Tender Mercies, Robert Duvall plays Mac Sledge, a down-on-his-luck country songwriter who battles the bottle. He fights back with the help of a Rosa Lee, young widow who offers him room and board at her roadside Texas motel in exchange for handyman help. Grace and Mercy find a toehold in Mac’s life, and eventually both Mac and the widow’s young boy, Sonny, make the decision to be baptized. Driving home after the baptism, Sonny says to Mac: “Well, we done it Mac, we was baptized.”
Peering into the truck’s rearview mirror, Sonny studies himself for a moment. “Everybody said I’d feel like a changed person. Do you feel like a changed person?”
“Not yet,” replies Mac.
“You don’t look any different, Mac. Do you think I look any different?”
“Not yet,” answers Mac.
The truck is filled with their laughter. Something has happened, something wonderful, something life-changing, even though they’re not sure what or how.
Not yet.
But that’s okay.
Because here’s the deal: Life is not about where we arrive, it is about the direction we are going.
The question to us: Can we live with that tension?
Can we live in the not yet, and still embrace the moment?
Can we give up our need to arrive, and savor the journey (including the uncertainty) (and embracing the reconnection with our heart) without knowing the yet to come?

I am out on my patio tonight. Thunderstorms today gave everything a good drench and cleansing. Very rare here in the summer. So, I’ll sit a spell and savor our summer-dusk-light.

Friday —

I used to try not to cry on airplanes. It’s not kosher. And, it looks eccentric.
But when I watch movies or read books that tug at my heart, I cry. I used to be self-conscious about it. But not so much anymore. Truth is, these days I’m so glad any time that I’m connected with my heart and at home in my own skin.
Here’s the best part: I feel no need to tidy it up. Or even make sense of it.
Of course, my mind strays, and frets, say, wishing my anxiety wasn’t so high. (Another good reason to give myself grief.) This is no surprise, as we live in a world that puts a moral price tag on anxiety, and we’re drilled by church and culture to tidy it up, “Be strong. You’ll get over this, don’t worry.”
And when we see life as a self-help project or contest or assignment, we shy away from places where our heart is soft.
But here’s the real power. When I see with my heart, I pay attention.

Yes, reconnecting with my heart.
Life is about being conscious, welcoming what is already there. You see, in that soft heart (tenderness, humility, gentleness, kindness, empathy, connection) there is the gift of wholeness and sufficiency. The invitation is to sit still. And to listen, to the affirmation of the Holy One. And to say the only prayer you need to memorize, “Thank you”.
As my friends who walk the Camino de Santiago would say, “This is medicina pura.” If you were looking for transformation and I were your doctor I’d say, take two doses of gooseflesh.
Transformation is not about being made tidy. Or brand new. It is about honoring ways to live awake.
The Celtic church had a word for these 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.”
Here’s the deal: When we see with our heart, it’s no longer about protecting myself from life, but from letting (or allowing) more of life in. And, if we do–just for a moment–we may find ourselves (in the words of Henry Miller) living aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.
Aware (being awake) is a good verb here, because to live is to be conscious (versus cruise control). And fully conscious connects us with our heart, and our capability to love.
Cross-country flights are perfect for catching up on movies (and re-watching favorites). On one recent trip, I watched Late Night. A comedy about a late-night TV host. I love humor, because it can often help you hear the truth.
It’s a story about a woman going through a crisis of identity (a popular talk show host, played by Emma Thompson). She lived her life guarded (in other words, tidy), and is learning to connect with her heart. And her authentic self. Learning to let the uncertain and human parts out. “Be careful of showing who you are,” she is cautioned. “Once you turn it on, you can never turn it off again.” And I say, Amen.

Reconnecting with my heart.
Why? Because it emboldens me to access—to draw on—what is at the core of human dignity (the light that is within). That at my core, I touch the capacity to grieve and to give, to tremble and to be courageous, to doubt and to be faithful…
to be uncomfortable and to love, to be watchful and to be generous…
to be fully human and fully alive… compassionate, patient, resilient, kind, unselfish, responsible, spirited, high-minded. To be a listening heart.

Quote for your week…
Life is what happens when we are making other plans. John Lennon

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
I have a small grain of hope–
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.
I need more.
I break off a fragment
to send to you.
Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.
Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.
Only so, by division,
will hope increase,
like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source–
clumsy and earth-covered–
of grace

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
I have a small grain of hope–
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.
I need more.
I break off a fragment
to send to you.
Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.
Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.
Only so, by division,
will hope increase,
like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source–
clumsy and earth-covered–
of grace.
Denise Levertov

Photo… “I realized as I read sabbath moment that I am not the only one bumping along the road of life, looking for direction, cool relief, smooth sailing. There are so many obstacles along the way. Those that have gone before us have left us clues, ways to manage the bumps… nature is grand at this too… getting me to slow down to see the beauty in it all and find direction from the bumps. Thanks for the stories, they are like cairns signifying respect. These I encountered along the waters edge on Lake Michigan. Best,” Peggy Jackson… Thank you Peggy… I’m so very grateful for your photos, please send them to tdh@terryhershey.com

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