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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose. (July 26 – 29)

Tuesday — In our culture we believe, or mentally assent. We recite creeds.
What is certain is that we discourage vulnerability and the indiscriminate desire of the heart. Gratefully, love makes your soul crawl out of its hiding place. And the woman–who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, drying them with her hair–finds herself. She finds her equilibrium, her salvation, her healing and her wholeness—by falling in love. By “falling” into that place of absolute vulnerability, when all of our boundaries (of control or answers or theological and religious piety) melt away, and we see who we are, and who we can become, and who we have pretended to be all along. We see ourselves through the eyes of grace.
And, gratefully, we can see the world around us through those eyes now.

No, it’s not easy to embrace (be embraced by) a grace that is real. No surprise when we are or feel depleted. Time when we forget the permission to “be enough” (at home in our own skin).
Sometimes, we need stories to help us remember. And I can tell you that I smile real big remembering a time when grace (the eyes of grace) became real to me… when my soul could come out of its hiding place.
I was raised in a church that didn’t believe in dancing. (Come to think of it, they didn’t believe in anything that spawned pleasure of any kind, and though I can’t prove it, I think they were opposed to giggling as well.) As a teenager, church camps would have bonfires for the sole purpose of burning anything that came between us and God. (I wish I were making this up.) And one thing was certain: We knew God hated rock ‘n roll. The preacher told us so. With a puffy livid crimson face. I can still see it in my mind.
In High School, my favorite 45 (no, we had no ipod), was The Beatles, The Long and Winding Road (the A side). (I’m not sure how I acquired it, under my parents’ radar.) This I know; I used to play it over and over and over, and let the music carry me to some kind of bliss. And now, the preacher told me that my record was an occasion to sin. (This is an odd turn of phrase, since the music brought me such unconditional delight).
On a summer night, my vinyl-45-record burned in a bon fire, with many others, and we watched the smoke carry our sinful ways into the Michigan sky. I told this story a few times at various retreats.
Fast forward thirty-five years. I am speaking in the Anaheim Convention Center. Two friends walk up to the stage and present me with a slim cardboard mailing box. On the outside is written, Amazing Grace. On the inside, a 45-vinyl record, circa 1970, The Beatles, The Long and Winding Road.
I am certain of this: there was more grace in that gift than any sermon I have ever heard. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but I can’t see God unless there is skin attached. And because of grace, there is no substitute for the presence of one another.
So yes. Grace is my hope.
This week, let us welcome and offer moments (gifts) of grace.

Wednesday —

I know I’m not alone in feeling exhausted. Maybe drained is more accurate. (Not dissimilar to the toll the heat has taken in places around the States and in Europe.)
A reminder of the gift and the replenishing power in emotional and spiritual hydration. Finding safety and sanctuary. A place of rest.
And hope.
And grace.

And here’s what I’ve learned: the opposite of depletion (or depression or dejection) is not happiness, but delight. Enchantment when your heart smiles real big, and you are glad to be alive.
Grace fuels delight.
Grace is that which tumbles into our lives (when our defenses are relaxed), and we are spontaneously surprised by the goodness and beauty of living. C.S. Lewis called it “surprised by joy.”
And… one of the enemies of grace is the assumption that we have to weigh and measure it (you know, in some way earn it, or at least justify it somehow… and take the joy out of it).

Grace, gratefully, plays by different rules. Grace asks only than we open ourselves—create a place somewhere inside—in order to receive it.
There’s no balance sheet for any of this. It brings to mind John Ruskin’s reminder (back in 1853) than “the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance.”
I love the way Henri Nouwen pushes that envelope with grace… talking about his time spent at l’Arche, a home for mentally handicapped adults. “While the needs of the world clamor for our attention, hundreds of capable, intelligent men and women spend their time, often all of their time, feeding broken people, helping them walk, just being with them, and giving them the small comfort of a loving word, a gentle touch, or an encouraging smile. To anyone trying to succeed in our society, which is oriented toward efficiency and control, these people are wasting their time. What they do is highly inefficient, unsuccessful, and even useless.”
Now there’s a thought. We literally find the love of God—the fullness of God—in these “useless” moments.
Let’s look for such moments–the small comfort of a loving word, a gentle touch, or an encouraging smile this week.

Stay cool and hydrated my friends. The heat is now in our neck of the woods, so it’s off to the patio, in the shade, with a book and a suitcase of ice cubes… and maybe a beverage to put some of that ice in…

Thursday —

If we live in grace, we pay attention. But, as Simone Weil has pointed out, there is all the difference in the world between real attention, which has to do with waiting, emptying your mind, expectant and receptive, and a kind of misdirected muscular effort.
“If one says to one’s pupils: ‘Now you must pay attention,’ one sees them contracting their brows, holding their breath, stiffening their muscles. If after two minutes they are asked what they have been paying attention to, they cannot reply. They have been concentrating on nothing. They have not been paying attention. They have been contracting their muscles.”
So, it’s paradigm shift time.
And let’s begin here: we can’t change anything until we love it. We can’t love anything until we know it. And we can’t know anything until we embrace it.
We’re back to the invitation of the sacrament of the present moment. To be here now. 

In a culture that places a premium on control, grace seems, surely, like madness. Yes… random acts of madness.
Because I can tell you this: When I listen to the voice of grace, I relax. I give up my need for control. I pause to relish the notion. And I can tell you that when I do pause, I begin to hear the voice of grace around me.
And… Grace always fuels delight. Be here now indeed…
Grace is that which tumbles into our lives (when our defenses are relaxed), and we are spontaneously surprised by the goodness and beauty of living. C.S. Lewis called it “surprised by joy.”
In other words, we don’t need a primer on “how to find delight,” but the permission to pause, to experience, to give into, to give up control (our need to mange).
Lee Jaster, dear friend and minister, who found a love of gardening later in life told me, “There was a time, I went to the garden to walk and pray. But I was so enamored with it all, I couldn’t focus on prayer. The fragrance of the lilies… I felt horribly guilty, until it hit me that this infatuation was my prayer.”
Yes, a funny thing happened on the way to prayer.
He found the sacred.
He found grace.
And even better, grace found him.

Our quote for today… “Sabbath implies a willingness to be surprise by unexpected grace, to partake of those potent moments when creation renews itself, when what is finished inevitably recedes, and the sacred forces of healing astonish us with the unending promise of love and life.” E.L. Doctorow

Friday —

Grace fuels delight. And enchantment… you know, when your heart smiles real big (the gift of enough), and you are glad to be alive, even when the world around you feels uncertain and draining.
Sometimes we forget.
Sometimes delight is buried in exhaustion or depletion.
And sometimes we’re not sure if we merit grace, so we shut down.

So, I was grateful this week for this blessing from Kate Bowler.

A blessing for learning to delight again
(maybe today could be more than bearable. It could be beautiful.)
Blessed are you, the pragmatic,
You who have run the math and know what adds up—and what doesn’t.
You who have set it all down.
You who don’t hope or dream or plan anymore,
…because what’s the point?
Your world has shrunk.
Pain or grief or fear has sucked up every bit of oxygen from the room
and every ounce of delight has been squeezed from your hands.
Blessed, are you learning to live here,
in this unrecognizable, unnamable place.
Blessed are you who discover that even in the smallness,
our attention might be compressed even more.
You who pull out a magnifying glass
to discover, to notice, to taste, to smell
the small joys and simple pleasures that make a life worth living.
You who wear the fancy blouse because it makes you feel nice
long after you thought your body wasn’t worth decorating.
You who eat the over-the-top meal,
because that is what today can afford.
You, who make the memory, plan the trip,
and snap a picture because we know
that this one wild and precious life might cost us everything.
So why not make it not just bearable—but beautiful?
Amen.
(Thank you Kate Bowler)

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Never Give Up
No matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country
Is spent developing the mind
Instead of the heart
Be compassionate
Not just to your friends
But to everyone
Be compassionate
Work for peace
In your heart and in the world
Work for peace
And I say again
Never give up
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up
Dalai Lama 

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