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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose. (Jan 11 – 14)

Tuesday — “We live like ill-taught piano students,” Robert Capon wrote. “We are so afraid of the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.” 
This week we’re talking about Robert’s paradigm shift; what happens when we embrace the music.
“Years ago, I had the experience of sitting around in a living room with a bunch of people and singing and playing. And it was like a spiritual experience. It was wonderful,” Emmylou Harris says, on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band CD, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. “Over the years of making records we’ve all gotten a little too technical and too hung up on getting things perfect. We’ve lost the living room. The living room has gone out of the music. Today, we got it back.”

And we resonate with the return to the sanctuary of the “living room,” that place of replenishment, where we can listen to our heart, regain our soul, hear the voice of grace… and let the music (the gift of the present moment) spill.

However… This is important to remember; embracing the music isn’t a project or “assignment” (which sends us back to the right notes again).

Did you see Mr. Holland’s Opus? About Glenn Holland’s lifetime of teaching music to a high school band. In one scene, he is giving a private lesson to Gertrude. She is playing clarinet, making noises that can only be described as other-worldly. He is clearly frustrated. As is she. Finally, Mr. Holland says, “Let me ask you a question. When you look in the mirror what do you like best about yourself?”
“My hair,” says Gertrude.
“Why?”
“Well, my father always says that it reminds him of the sunset.”
After a pause, Mr. Holland says, “Okay. Close your eyes this time. And play the sunset.”
And from her clarinet? Music. Sweet music.

The soil for embracing the music? Gratitude.
So. Sometime today; I invite you to set aside the manual, or the list, or the prescription.
–Pause… take a Sabbath Moment.
–Find the “living room” (the sanctuary where you feel the arms of connection and healing and peace).
–Close your eyes, say “thank you”, and play the sunset.

Mary Oliver describes such a moment this way, “…a seizure of happiness. Time seemed to vanish. Urgency vanished.” Because, in such a moment, we are, quite literally, in a State of Grace. In other words, what we experience here is not a means to anything else. We can just be. And from that place, music or light or tenderness or compassion or forgiveness or grieving or joy can spill.

Wednesday — “Years ago, I had the experience of sitting around in a living room with a bunch of people and singing and playing. And it was like a spiritual experience. It was wonderful,” Emmylou Harris says, on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band CD, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. “Over the years of making records we’ve all gotten a little too technical and too hung up on getting things perfect. We’ve lost the living room. The living room has gone out of the music. Today, we got it back.”

I’m always a bit befuddled by the stubborn temptation to keep score. Somehow fueled by “should”, it obstructs our capacity to embrace (to welcome, see, enjoy, savor) moments, encounters, exchanges that don’t “measure up”.
Lord have mercy…
Which is why I’ve always loved this story…
A group of adults stood by, watching a group of very young kids playing sandlot baseball. The kids used discarded boxes for bases, and a potpourri of equipment, and a very odd formula for deciding teams and scoring.
The air is filled with whopping and cavorting and unmitigated pleasure.
The adults, however, wanting to be helpful, decide to step in, you know, in order to give the kids instruction, tips and a clearer understanding of the way the game should be played.
And the adults wondered why some of the kids decided to quit playing, because the game wasn’t fun anymore.
Parker Palmer’s affirmation that “the human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is.”

Our good intentions for control don’t necessarily benefit us. So focused on the right notes, we miss the music.
Here’s the deal.
If I am focused only on evaluating, I cannot bask in the moment.
If I am measuring and weighing, I cannot marvel at little miracles.
If I am anticipating a payoff, I cannot give thanks for simple pleasures.
If I am feeling guilty about not hearing or living the music, I cannot luxuriate in the wonders of the day.

My friend Lee Jaster told me the story of going into his garden to pray. The fragrance undid him. He was smitten by an Asiatic lily, intoxicating, mesmerizing. He spent the next twenty minutes giddy as a kid, he told me. “I was so undone,” he lamented, “I forgot to pray.”
“And I felt chastised and guilty. Until it hit me. Being undone by the lily, and savoring its beauty was my prayer.”
Yes. And in that moment, my friend got the living room back.

Was there anything that made you giddy as a kid this week?
(As I write this I’m smiling because my friends from Georgia will say, watching their team beat Alabama for the college football championship. And I will say, watching the young quarterback let the tears flow after the game as he hugged his teammates and coaches, his joyfulness spilling, was a delight to share.)

Thursday — Have you watched the movie Les Miserables (Victor Hugo’s great novel of betrayal and redemption)?  There is a scene at the end of the movie version when Javert (the obsessive fanatic police inspector who has tracked Jean Valjean) has Jean at gunpoint, “It’s a pity,” he tells Jean, “the rules don’t allow me to be merciful.” 
It’s honest, to be sure. And tragic. But that’s what happens when our identity is owned by fear. 
We can be constricted by “rules”–be it creed, or public opinion, or fear of punishment, or simply the obligation to just fit in (the weight from ways of keeping score).  Regardless, we don’t listen to our heart. Which is another way of saying, we don’t allow for mercy. 
Instead, we double down on the weight of keeping score.
There is something comforting I suppose, being weighed and measured by the rules. Knowing somehow, we’ll come up short. Lord help us, as we continue to be somehow tethered to an identity predicated on “getting things perfect.”

“Years ago, I had the experience of sitting around in a living room with a bunch of people and singing and playing. And it was like a spiritual experience. It was wonderful,” Emmylou Harris says, on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band CD, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. “Over the years of making records we’ve all gotten a little too technical and too hung up on getting things perfect. We’ve lost the living room. The living room has gone out of the music. Today, we got it back.”

I am so very grateful for friends who can say, and do that for me. Places where mercy, kindness, compassion, humanity and healing are alive and well. This is a heartfelt reminder in the cacophony of the news and the hyperbole and the conflagration of embattled sides.
And there is something more profoundly at stake; “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

Compassion is born in the soil of vulnerability, humility and the awareness that we are all connected. Thich Nhat Hanh’s reminder that, “We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”

I have an idea… this weekend, call or text or zoom a friend. Tell them, “Thank you.” And then tell them, “I am here when you need me.”

Friday — When keeping score (needing control) is our paradigm, off we scurry, looking for answers, and then wondering why that route turns catawampus.
A young couple lost a child in a tragedy. They are disheartened to say the very least. They sit with their pastor. He explains carefully and extensively the Biblical overview of pain and suffering and God’s role and human responsibility. After an hour, he asks, “Would it be helpful if I explain it again?”
“No, thank you Pastor, we’ve already suffered enough.”
I’m with them.

‘Tis true. We are tempted to find answers or remedies that inspire and encourage. And then life happens.
Forrest Gump voiced it best for all of us. “Mama always said dying was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t.”
And maybe, we just need someone to sit with us… for a spell…

We know (in both our heart and our gut) that we should love one another; practice kindness and compassion. We just have a hard time factoring in the truth that love can only spill from a heart that has been softened and, in most cases, broken. Only we don’t see it as an asset or strength. (And we don’t hear the music that spills from those places.)
I was raised in a religion that distrusted soft. Soft was pejorative, derogatory or said in pity, “Bless their heart.”
It troubles me that our culture sees bravado as an acceptable trait to emulate.
A culture where it is too easy to be cruel and indifferent. More often than not, to people who have no voice. People in pain. People on the edges.
Because of that, it is no surprise that we put a moral price tag on brokenness. We deem it weakness, requiring a fix or repair. Or, see it as a test or contest (back to keeping score). “I sure messed up big time in grief recovery,” one participant told me back in the day when I led Beginning Again workshops.

I’m not talking about cheering people up for the sake of cheerfulness. The last thing we need is someone pretending there is no pain, or it doesn’t hurt. The good news is that when we don’t have words, we can offer the gift of our self.
And here’s the deal: that’s when the healing begins.

I just arrived back home in Port Ludlow, WA. The geese were gathered by the pond. It doesn’t get any better than that. And the sun was shining, doing its best to imitate Florida.
Speaking of shining… let us let our light spill today…

(Sorry it posted a little late today… technology still gets the best of me sometimes… or is it remembering to set it up in the queue? I forget… Savor your weekend…) 

Quote for our week…
The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through. –Parker Palmer

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Come darkness, come light
Come new star, shining bright
Come love to this world tonight
Alleluia
Come broken, come whole
Come wounded in your soul
Come anyway that you know
Alleluia
There’s a humble stable and a light within
There’s an angel hovering and three wise men
Today a baby’s born in Bethlehem
Alleluia
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Video – Come darkness, come light

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