Tuesday — This week, how do we make a difference?
It helps to remember than our work (labor, paid or volunteer) is our turf of responsibility, but that is only a part of our DNA. Because no matter where we labor or toil, our calling is to spill the light. (You know, the truthful and straightforward answer to the question, “What do you do?”)
And the good news? To spill the light, we don’t have to pass a test, or qualify, we have only to be willing.
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.
Just let it shine. Because the light is already there. Inside of you. Now.
I’m learning that when the light shines, we see places than have been without light. So, it helps to pay attention. Today, our country commemorated Juneteenth, the date in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told that they were free. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation occurred January 1, 1863. However, Texas ignored the proclamation, as did the ten other Confederate states. “This all indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the significance of Juneteenth. The fact that slaveholders extracted thirty additional months of uncompensated labor from people who had been bought, sold, and worked to exhaustion, like livestock, throughout their lives is cause for mourning, not celebration. In honoring Juneteenth, we should recognize a moral at the heart of that day in Galveston and in the entirety of American life: there is a vast chasm between the concept of freedom inscribed on paper and the reality of freedom in our lives. In that regard, Juneteenth exists as a counterpoint to the Fourth of July; the latter heralds the arrival of American ideals, the former stresses just how hard it has been to live up to them.” (Thank you Jelani Cobb)
I am embarrassed to say, I did not know this history. It was never taught in all my years of schooling. And that is indefensible. And I need to learn. And take to heart the words of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, who maintained that “nobody is free until everybody is free.”
I’m with Richard Rohr here, “So, let’s use the word emancipation to describe a deeper, bigger, and scarier level of freedom: inner, outer, personal, economic, structural, and spiritual. Surely this is the task of our entire lifetime.” Now we’re talking; emancipate to make a difference. The light will set us free…
Speaking of light… Summer solstice is life-giving here. My Oh My. Sixteen hours of daylight. That means more time to savor the garden, and the birds and the bees, and the geese and the ducks who call it home.
Quote for our week…
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Wednesday — This week I told the story about my father. A brick mason from southern Michigan. Let me rephrase, an awesome brick mason from southern Michigan.
And how as a young man I wrestled with finding my way in a world that measured success (or achievement or significance) by the title you carried, or the sentence attached to your job title that boasted your value.
And how easy it is in this kind of world, where too many people are now seen as “just a”… fill in the blank.
Gratefully with my Father, the light bulb came on.
Now, I never use the phrase “just a” anymore. About anyone.
What did my Father build? Houses.
What did my Father do? He made a difference.
Mr. Rogers tells the story about sitting in on one of Yo-Yo Ma’s master cello classes. “Now, Yo-Yo is one of the great appreciators of our world. It seems that people always walk taller after they’ve had an encounter with him. The only thing that’s larger than his talent is his heart. At any rate, during that master class one young man was struggling with the tone of a certain cello passage. He played it over and over and Yo-Yo listened with obvious interest. Finally, Yo-Yo said, ‘Nobody else can make the sound you make.’ That young man looked at Yo-Yo Ma and beamed. What a gift those words were not only to that cellist, but to everyone who was there. Nobody else can make the sound you make.
Well, nobody else can live the life you live. And even though no human being is perfect, we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to live in a redeeming way.”
What does it mean to welcome this truth about ourselves? To welcome it, grasp it, and to touch the angel’s hand that brings it. Given the sludge of the day (cares, worries, vitriol) it is understandable that we forget…
The music we can play, to offer hope.
The heart we have, to bring fully to this day.
The touch we have, to give to people around us comfort, when inundated with bleakness.
The gift of welcome we have, to offer sanctuary for people who are left out, disparaged and diminished.
Let your light spill my friends.
Thursday — On a podcast recently with my friend Charlie Hedges, he asked what I would say to those who believe we are falling apart.
Just a guess, but my initial silence wasn’t good for podcast airspace.
Then I tell him, “Actually, Grace is my only hope.”
Let’s begin here: Grace… You are a gift from God. (Yes, this little light of mine…)
There are days when that’s hard to fathom.
But here’s the deal: This is what grace invites… Participation and metanoia.
To be unafraid of dark places.
To be unafraid of an open heart.
To see that gift in others, even when it is buried.
To embrace the permission to try again. To let our light shine.
What does grace have to do with navigating our days?
Grace tells me that my well-being and value is a given. Without it, I will underestimate my capacity for spiritual hydration. I underestimate my immune system for fighting toxicity and hatred. When I lose sight of grace, I live embattled internally, so it’s no wonder I do battle externally and live fearful.
I love Carlos Santana’s reminder, “The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.”
So. Let us take this blessing into our day and week ahead…
a blessing for the kind of love that costs something
(It’s the best, worst kind)
Love can break your heart.
(I think it’s probably in the fine print.)
Blessed are you, whose ability to love
crosses differences and divides
that would keep others apart.
Whose love advocates for weakness and fragility.
Soft heartedness and “Are you okay?”
You who know that this kind of life-expanding love
will cost you something, maybe everything.
Blessed are you, whose heart has grown three sizes.
You who push through the fear of intimacy,
the fear of loss, the fear of all the unknowns
and love still.
Blessed are we, loving beyond our limits.
Loving when it doesn’t make sense.
Loving without any lifetime guarantees.
Loving when it might break our hearts.
That is, of course, the best thing about you:
Your great big heart.
(Thank you Kate Bowler)
Friday — I know than when we tether our identity (our value) to the appraisal of “I’m just a…” we’re seeing scarcity in place of sufficiency. We forget the gift of enough that lives inside. We forget the gift of presence than can spill in the work we do, the relationships we have, the choices we make. We forget Yo-Yo Ma’s wisdom, “Nobody else can make the sound you make.” (Or to rephrase the Gospel of Matthew, “Nobody else can spill the light you shine.”)
So. This week is our reminder that though no human being is perfect, we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to live (this day) in a redeeming way. To quite literally, care. What does it mean to welcome this truth about ourselves?
Or, maybe more important, why is it that we too easily forget?
I remember a conversation I once had about this with the sheep…
“I let my spirit get on edge,” I tell them. “There’s so much to do, my world is hungry for people to step up and embrace becoming bigger and better, including the discomfort that accompanies it, even if we don’t fully understand it yet. To give our hearts to creating a world, even if that is the small world around us; where sanctuary is real, where bigotry and hatred stop. A world that embraces the human, vulnerable, broken, passionate and redemptive self of anyone who crosses our path.”
“Did you practice that speech?” their look tells me. “That was pretty good. So, why are you still on edge?”
I smile. “You got any advice?
“Stay emotionally and spiritually hydrated.”
“And, a little joy and laughter wouldn’t hurt. You know it’s the superpower of resilience, and it’ll boost your immunity. Just because the world is overwhelmed, doesn’t mean you have to be. We need the light you spill.”
This makes me laugh. “This is why I like talking with you all.”
As I’m walking away, I hear one of the little ones say, “And don’t forget, more love and more stories wouldn’t hurt either.”
Nobody else can make the sound you make. So… what sustains and replenishes you?
Care of any kind (making a difference, spilling light)—compassion, generosity, communication, reconciliation, service, ministry, teaching, giving—begins with and is nourished by self-care. Or in the words of Charlie Parker, “If it ain’t in you it can’t come out of your horn.” Care begins with the power of pause. Care begins with the intentional choices we make about being present. About passion, grace, play, laughter and wholeheartedness. If we practice this power of pause, it spills into our relationships. And our work. And our music.
There is no doubt that I take my garden for granted, with its power to heal and sustain, where Sabbath and sanctuary tether and refuel the heart and spirit. It is a reminder that health—physical, spiritual or mental—is not a guaranteed destination. It requires attention and mindfulness. In other words, it is requisite to pay attention (an invitation to the sacrament of the present moment). Which makes me wonder, what does it take to “stay hydrated” emotionally and spiritually?
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Beloved Presence on my path of life,
thank you for the footprints left on my heart:
the soft and gentle ones that brought comfort,
the deep and lasting ones of enduring friendship,
the lightly passing ones conveying kindness,
the heavy ones causing necessary change,
and the impressionable footprints swept away by time.
Even though lost, forgotten, or not recognized,
these visitors have led me to live more fully
the innate goodness residing deep within me.
How grateful I am.
Photo… “Good morning Terry, I appreciated the quotation from Ashley Smith in today’s Sabbath Moment installment, ‘Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee…’ We have a huge false indigo bush in our front yard, and the bees are really drawn to it. I see them buzzing around, once in a while landing to get a taste. I thought you might appreciate these photos. Blessings,” Dick Hibbert, Burlington, Vermont…