Tuesday — “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman
What makes you come alive? The question itself, is a paradigm shift. That even in places of pain and anxiety and rawness and uncertainty, we have the capacity to spill light. We can be “Holy Shadows.” Living a life not beholden to the narrative of fear, anxiety, or performance.
Holy Shadow gives voice to all that is life giving; to dignity, to liberation and empowerment, to imagination and healing.
When we give ourselves the permission to be at home in our own skin, light spills. We don’t wait until we have our act together.
There is power here. Now. We make a difference; we create and become sanctuary, a place of presence, renewal, empathy, inclusion and compassion. “We are at our best when the strong do not exploit the weak.” (Jon Meacham)
So. Where do we begin?
Allow me the freedom from ego.
Allow me to see NOT competition, but community.
Allow me to let go of any need for supremacy.
Allow me to know that connection is the true power.
A man dies and finds himself at the Pearly Gates. Surprisingly there is an application form to fill out before he can enter heaven. He dutifully fills it out and St. Peter looks it over. St. Peter sees that the fellow was a good church goer, clean living and very generous. St. Peter says, “Well, this is looking very good. We just have one more question and that is ‘Who have you brought with you?’”
The fellow says, “No one. I just came here on my own.”
St. Peter looks downcast and says, “Oh. That’s too bad”. (Thank you Donna Hert)
Let us remember: No one of us is one this journey alone…
P.S. Speaking of coming alive, in response to the photo sent, I recalled this poem from Mary Oliver.
When I am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Quote for our 4th of July…
“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” Harry S. Truman
Dear God, during this time of reflection and celebration, let us find hope for our future. Show us the light of hope that lies ahead. Give us the eyes to see a beautiful future and the strength to create it. Amen.
Wednesday — This week, we’re talking about “the holy shadow”, the invitation and permission to spill light from an authentic and broken self, in a world that could use light. Love (care and courage) that spills from someone at home in their own skin is compassion with no need for arrogance or narcissism or prestige.
In our hearts we say, Yes. But even so, we still wonder, as we do with any dilemma in our broken world, where do we begin?
Of course, as long as there’s any temptation or need to “be in control” (have answers), we assume there must be an equation for this Holy Shadow life. So, all we need is the key. You know, instructions about “what we must do now.”
Too often prodded by the question, what do I lack that prevents me from living such a holy life?
Nothing crushes our joy like the unmitigated weight of some guilt laden recruitment ploy to “well-doing.”
I like the story about the young pastor who went to the church board, upset with the height of the rectory lawn. “Who’s going to mow my lawn?” he demanded.
“Well,” they told him, “the former pastor used to mow it himself.”
“But I already asked him, and he doesn’t want to do it anymore.”
Here’s the deal: I believe that every one of us casts a holy shadow.
What’s the secret?
Does there need to be one?
What if we look at the moment we are in, and ask…
Can we set aside the labels of us and them?
Where does grace rest and live here?
How does grace spill here?
What is life-giving in the grace that is alive and well here?
And I’ll be honest, too many times, I just don’t know. Or I let discouragement despair overtake me. But here’s the good news: grace makes space to know that the light still shines inside of me (even if under a bushel)… making space to learn, to grow, to admit when I’m wrong and need to change, and to embrace the fundamental truth that we are on this journey (this inclusive, compassionate and redemptive journey) together.
Perhaps (if we’re honest) any need for control just gets in the way.
I’ll give Kent Nerburn the last word, “Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance, and none can say while some fields will blossom and others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices in life no more easily made. And give. Give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than how is shared, and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace.”
Thursday — I believe that every one of us can cast a “holy shadow”… spilling grace, creating and making space for a world where redemption and mercy is possible.
And in a world where there is fear, we need holy shadows, as they repair and heal.
In a world where…
…there is anxiety and fear, we need holy shadows.
…people are marginalized and left out, we need holy shadows.
…people have forgotten that they are loved and cared for, we need holy shadows.
…people are overlooked excluded because of creed, we need holy shadows.
And yet, our own fear runs deep, doesn’t it? Whether our insecurity or disbelief or self-doubt, we are certain that we cannot make a difference (or be present, or be / offer a gift, or create a place of renewal and sanctuary) for any number of reasons (especially in this crazy world). You know… we are not skilled, or ready, or spiritual. Because whatever difference we can and do make, surely depends upon our having our act together, doesn’t it?
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
And Simon Peter said, “Do we have to write this down? Are we going to be tested on this?”
Okay… the next time you feel disqualified as a Holy Shadow candidate, just remember this:
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Noah was a drunk
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zacchaeus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer.. And
Lazarus, he was dead…
Be gentle with yourselves my friends… Spillage begins when we give ourselves the permission to be at home in our own skin.
I smiled big at this story from an old missionary friend. A family had spent their life ministering in a Korean village. It came time for them to return to the United States. At a farewell dinner, a young Korean girl presented—on behalf of the village—to the family, a bountiful bouquet of flowers, and said in broken English, “These flowers may fade and die, but you and your family will smell here forever.”
And this too I know: we have all received the gift of a holy shadow. And I would wager that the exchange or occasion was all-too-ordinary. And the person involved is more than likely, unaware. Maybe today is a good day to let them know. And say thank you.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer
Speaking of spilling light… today Jimmy and Rosalynn will be celebrating their 76th wedding anniversary. Theirs is the longest marriage in presidential history. They have known each other for almost 95 years. My Oh My…
Friday — “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman
What makes you come alive?
Gratefully, the question itself is a paradigm shift. That even in places of pain and anxiety and rawness and uncertainty, we have the capacity to spill light. We can be “Holy Shadows.”
Living a life not beholden to the narrative of fear, anxiety, or performance. Holy Shadow gives voice to all that is life giving; to dignity, to liberation and empowerment, to imagination and repairing and healing the small world where I live.
Yes. The power is not found in competition, but in connection. So, my heart is smiling big here, because I see that in the embrace of this self, there can be freedom from the ego’s constraint; of some kind of prerequisite for power or position or applause. A reminder of what is possible in a world where we know that despair or bitterness or cynicism cannot win. Why? Because our identity is not at stake here. The light within already tells us, assures us, who (and whose) we are.
Here is a wee bit from my reading this week; affirmations from holy shadows. I’ll give them the last word…
“Cultures of gratitude must also be cultures of reciprocity. Each person, human or no, is bound to every other in a reciprocal relationship. Just as all beings have a duty to me, I have a duty to them. If an animal gives its life to feed me, I am in turn bound to support its life. If I receive a stream’s gift of pure water, then I am responsible for returning a gift in kind. An integral part of a human’s education is to know those duties and how to perform them.” Thank you Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass.
“This Spirit is itself the foundational energy of the universe, the Ground of all Being. Union is not just pious rambling or pretty poetry, but the concrete work of God in loving us. Paul writes, ‘Now you in your togetherness are Christ’s Body’ (1 Corinthians 12:27). In our connectedness with this luminous web, this vibrational state of love, we are participating in the embodiment of God.
For Jesus, such teachings as forgiveness, healing, and justice are the clear evidence of such a shared life. When we do not see this happening, religion is ‘all in the head.’ Peacemaking, forgiveness, and reconciliation are not some kind of ticket to heaven later. They are the price of peoplehood—the signature of heaven—now.
We are essentially social beings, and I am only one part of the reflection of the great mystery of God. We are each of us simply one fingerprint or footprint of God. We are essentially connected with one another. The foundation for community has to come out of Reality and What Is. The best way we can do that in community is to repattern our lifestyles on what is. And the pattern of the universe is that we are one. It’s a benevolent universe, it’s radically okay, and God is on our side. We can be at rest. We don’t have to live competitively. We don’t have to climb or succeed because there’s nothing ‘up there’ that isn’t ‘right here.’” Thank you Richard Rohr.
“Lao Tzu said, ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ And so the journey of justice, mercy, and humility begins with one step, deliberately one step towards God, and one step towards our brothers and sisters. What I am seeing in new ways on this pilgrimage (the Camino) is how much we are connected, how we depend on the goodness and support of those we know and those that we don’t. We have met a number of pilgrims along the way and the one thing that we all seem to have in common is that we are on this journey for our own reasons. We are all going through something in one way or another. There seems to be little or no judgement on the Camino and that my friends, is beautiful. Many of us live with the fear of what others think, and it can limit what we do, and how we love. I will close this post with a thought from Pastor Terry Hershey who wrote, ‘When people ask me about my theology I only need one sentence: ‘I’d rather be excluded for who I include than included for who I exclude.’ Bom Caminho, Buen Camino,” Thank you Bob Mooney.
Let your light spill my friends…
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Lord of life and love.
We pray for the world
in all its brokenness.
May peace overcome war,
may love overcome hate,
may generosity overcome greed,
may gentleness overcome pride,
that the earth may be filled
with your glory, and peace.
Words by Jenny Child