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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose. (Jan 18 – 21)

Tuesday — This week… Our identity is not tied up with any need to perform or impress or demean others or distance ourself.
Being “somebody” (becoming whole and letting our authentic self breathe) is not about winning and losing. There’s something bigger here…
And here’s the good news. Instead of venting, we will give ourselves the permission to slowly unmask, and remove the glittering image we hide behind.
Instead of venting, we embrace ubuntu (I am because you are), and not only do we find redemption (and sanctuary and hope and mercy), but freely offer these gifts to those whose paths we cross.
Instead of venting, we can bring this self to this day. Unafraid. And without apology. No longer diminished by the broken places.
Instead of venting… we pause in the enoughness of this moment… and Grace meets us there.

Writer Victoria Loorz, co-founder of the “Wild Church Network,” believes religion’s true purpose is to restore our relationships with each other and the earth: The word religion, at its roots, means re, “again,” and ligios, “connection,” like ligaments. Religion is meant to offer us support to connect again what has been separated. Apparently we need constant reminders to continually reconnect with the fullness of life, the whole, the holy. What we’ve created is more like disligion: disconnection from people and species unlike us. When religion loses its purpose and colludes with the forces of separation instead, it becomes irrelevant and even irreverent. (Thank you Richard Rohr)

If we are stewards of this connection, then One (this is good news)… I don’t need to pretend to be someone that I am not.
I confess that (often) I learn more at the movies than I do from any Sunday homily.  If you are a Star Wars fan, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  The series storyline carries a recurring enactment of “unmasking.”  Padmé takes off her helmet to speak with the mortally wounded Cordé; Luke removes his storm-trooper helmet to introduce himself to Leia; Leia pulls off her bounty hunter mask to profess her love for Han; a dying Anakin pleads with Luke to remove his mask.  Sometimes it is as simple a matter as no longer needing a disguise.
However, on a deeper level, if masking represents the replacement of one identity with another, then unmasking marks the return to the genuine self. This self is enough. Yes.
And Two, I continue to honor ubuntu. “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.” (Bishop Desmond Tutu)
“Which is more important,” asked Big Panda. “The journey or the destination?”
“The company,” said Tiny Dragon.  (Thank you James Norbury) Meaning, your well-being matters to me.
Because we need one another.
No one of us is on this journey alone.
Let us together build sanctuaries of empathy and humility.  

Hope some of you get a glimpse of the Wolf Moon tonight.

Wednesday — Do you have any idea who I am?” The man, a passenger, apoplectic with flushed cheeks, literally pounding the counter, shouting at the airline agent.
Everyone in the departure lounge can hear, and is on edge. (Although, a few take out their phones poised for a YouTube worthy video.)
“This will not do,” he harangued. “Do you know who I am? Get your boss down here. I’m going to have your job and I’m going to have their job. Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?”
The young woman behind the counter didn’t flinch or shout back. Remarkable really. She was, indeed, a non-anxious presence. Instead, she got on the public address system and said, “Ladies and gentlemen in the departure lounge, I need your help. There’s a man at the counter who apparently doesn’t know who he is.”
Lord have mercy, I still laugh every time I remember the young attendant’s wisdom.
And I shake my head, because I know that in different ways, I have “pounded my share of counters.” Venting, because I give my identity over (become a prisoner to) an identity not my own. So, where did Terry go?

This is not surprising in a world where we are encouraged to look for our identity in all the wrong places—the human ego enamored by roles, titles, status, and concocted self-images. They are not objectively “real,” nor are they our true and deepest self. I hide the best me.
And in that light, Jesus’ caution makes sense. “Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it. Anyone who loses her life will find it.” (Matthew’s Gospel) Or, my favorite “translation”; “It’s time to come home.”

In Yearnings, Rabbi Irwin Kula explains, “This is the essential paradox of human life: We are always and inevitably incomplete, on the way, slipping and sliding, making mistakes. But the ancient voices insist that this is not failure; it is rather the necessary reflection of the paradox that we are. Paradox is the nature of be-ing human, of human being.”

It’s not easy to embrace, is it? But what if the reality of spirituality (of our spiritual journey, our spiritual “wholeness”, our meaning) finds a home even in this sense of incompleteness?
What if it is okay that we are still “unfinished?”
What if I am invited to embrace a new paradigm? The exquisite beauty in broken places. There is wholeness there.
Here’s the deal my friends: We have light to spill—mercy, kindness, forgiveness, healing—even (and especially) from our incomplete and broken self.

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, where God’s grace seasons us… into a sweet, flavorful ripeness.
This week… Be Gentle with Yourself. And let your light spill.

Thursday — I confess that I’ve spent a good deal of my life running from, or hiding, or explaining away my broken places. (Well, those areas of untidiness that I assumed were “broken”.) Plain and simple, I could not see the light in the darkness.
This is not surprising in a world where we are encouraged to look for our identity in all the wrong places—the human ego enamored by roles, titles, status, and concocted self-images. They are not objectively “real,” nor are they our true and deepest self. I hide the best me.
And in that light, Jesus’ caution makes sense. “Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it. Anyone who loses her life will find it.” (Matthew’s Gospel) Or, my favorite “translation”; “It’s time to come home.”
Yes… even if it means embracing (what I see as) my untidy self.

This today from my friend Charlie, after yesterday’s Daily Dose on unmasking. “Your Daily reminds me of a scene in the Netflix series Messiah. The messiah is in a hotel room when he is approached by a prostitute attempting to discredit his name and ministry. A man of very few words, her calls her out on this and softly challenges her motives. He proceeds to talk with her, about her shame and broken soul. After a bit of denial, she sees the truth. Her entire demeanor changes. It was then the messiah says, ‘There you are. You were hiding behind your mask. Now I see you!’”
Yes, there is exquisite beauty in broken places. There is wholeness there. If only we can see it.
Or as Julian of Norwich wrote, “Don’t you see? Your whole life is a prayer in My eyes.” 

It’s not easy to see beauty in fragmented or broken places…
In Florida recently, I was smitten by the bright red fruits on the Dwarf Royal Palm (or Christmas Palm). It was a new tree to me. And I can see why the main attraction would be the autumn and winter appearance of very showy clusters. So, it was a delight to see.
And then I learned this; most people don’t like these fruit clusters at all, because they make a terrible mess in their yard. So, they cut off the bloom before it fruits. I had a conversation with a landscaper, who told me how much of their business is keeping people’s landscape from being disordered and scruffy. My Oh My. 

So, I had a good long chat with the geese today, “You’re not the only ones,” I tell them as an encouragement. “You’re charming, enchanting, exotic and inspiring. And yet, a whole lot of people don’t like you at all (putting it mildly), because of the mess you make. I’m just sayin’. But I’m glad you’re my friends. And we’ll figure this out together.”

Many years ago, at the Gardens and Grace Conference in Baltimore, the Cathedral of the Incarnation had a lovely blue slate courtyard, surrounded by shrubs and trees. We were getting ready to hold an outdoor event there. The setting and marriage of deep green and slate blue (still wet from the evening rain) is calming. The patio is littered with yellow leaves dropped from the nearby trees. The leaves are scattered, random. And exquisite. The impression is playful and whimsical. I hear a noise, all too familiar, as a custodian carries out his assignment of blowing the leaves off the patio. After ten minutes, the patio is “clean,” and ready for use.
So. When he finished, and there was no one else around, I picked up a few handfuls of leaves and scattered them, onto the patio.
And my homily… how can we see beauty in fragmented or broken places.

Friday — It’s easy to hide behind (or feel stuck by, even diminished by) a label (and the mask we need to wear). I get it.
And it reminds me of all the times, over the years that I have heard, “I’m just a volunteer (or just a member, or catechist, or aid, or worker, or helper, or teacher, or employee, or friend or mother or fill in the blank).”
To each I say, No.
You see, “just a” creates a label and tells us what we are not. And when we label, we dismiss. (Regardless of the label. Dorothy Day once scoffed, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”)
Gratefully, our identity is not tied up with any need to perform or impress or demean others… or distance ourselves.
Being “somebody” (becoming whole and letting our authentic self breathe) is not about winning and losing. There’s something bigger here…

And when the label wins, we become encumbered, and we cede our identity and our power; which means that we give up our ability…
to choose,
to create sanctuaries,
to be intentional,
to be generous,
to be big-hearted,
to be empathetic,
to include those left out,
to be compassionate,
to forgive and to be willing to grow and to change.

Whenever I’m feeling low, I crank up Bruce Springsteen, singing “This little light of mine.” Oh my…
Jesus made it simple, “Let your light shine.”  Not, when you get your act together. Not, when you feel noble.  Not, when you find a specific vocation. Not, after you’ve chased all the gloom away.  Not, after you have the precise words to say.
Just let it shine—kindness, generosity, inclusion and compassion.
Because the light is already there.
Inside of you.
Now.  

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace.”
Teach me how to order my days
that with sure touch I may say the right word at the right time
and in the right way — lest I betray the spirit of peace.
Let me not be deceived by my own insecurity and weakness
which would make me hurt another as I try desperately to help myself.
Keep watch with me, O my Father, over the days of my life,
that with abiding enthusiasm I may be in such possession of myself
that each day I may offer to Thee the full, unhampered use of me
in all my parts as “an instrument of Thy Peace.”
Amen.
Howard Thurman

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