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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose. (Mar 15 – 18)

Tuesday — When the world is heavy, when we struggle with helplessness or anger, it is easy to miss the little things. The world feels too big. And our view or perspective, is only the horizon, with too many possibilities.
So, what enables us to engage, or even care, to work for change or healing, and not simply close our eyes, or turn them away?
St. John of the Cross’ reminder was straightforward, “When you find no love, put love, and you will find love.”
And yes, we say amen to that.
And yet. I confess, that there’s a part of us that still assumes, some people are more wired for this than others. You know, the ones with the spiritual gift of compassion.

Do you remember as children, singing—right index finger raised—“this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine?”
From Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.”

Jesus used the verb “let”.
Is there a synonym for let?
Yes. Allow.
Okay, if we allow something, that means it’s already here. Inside. Now.
And yet, we read it as a command rather than an affirmation.
(And in our churches, we say, “if you’re going to shine light, first you have to take light shining classes.” And if you’re really lucky, “you can be on the light shining committee.” You know, we don’t want just anyone shining light…)

But here’s the deal. Jesus never said, “Create the light. Contrive the light. Design the light. Engineer the light.”
He said simply, “Let.” Meaning “allow.”
Meaning, the light is already there. Get out of the way…
In conversation or encounter or exchange… to spill light and compassion and kindness and empathy and heart…
This little light… ahhh yes, it’s the little things…

Wednesday — Jesus said, “Let your light shine.”
Let. As is, allow.
Which means that the light isn’t something we create, or add to (as some kind of improvement plan for) our life.
Allow means the light is already here.
So. Instead of light shining classes, let us give ourselves the gift of embracing the light that is alive and well inside (compassion, kindness, empathy, inclusion, hope). Granted, much of that light may be “under a bushel”, but it is still there, nonetheless.

This is the power: when we know that the light is here, now, we embrace (and are fueled by) the permission to be present. Yes. And now we are back to the sacrament of the present. The permission to be here. Now.
This is very good news in our upside-down world, because the sacrament of the present moment always focuses us on the small world, and not the big world.
This paradigm shift is so important… from big world to small world.
You see, the big world feels, often overwhelming and outside of our ability to change or affect change. You know, “we don’t have the skill set”. No wonder it is so easy to give up when we see only big world issues. “It’s not my problem, after all.” And the big world takes us away from this moment… and the people who are right in front of us…

When we know than the light is here, now, we embrace the permission to be present. Where we are grounded, we pause. We say thank you. We will see beauty in places we didn’t expect, and we are gifted with surprises of grace. We will see craziness and pain, yes, but now we have the permission to engage, instead of resign. To care. To spill light. Even in small ways…

As I’m writing this, the words of Peter Mayer promenade through my mind, making me smile real big…
When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now
Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done
Everything is Holy Now, Peter Mayer 

Thursday — My plate is full today, on my way to Anaheim to join friends at the Religious Education Congress. Reading through the stack on my desk, I was grateful to see this from Rev. Candace Chellew…
Living in the present: Learning how to be present
Being present requires that we become truly aware. We must not only notice the things going on at this very moment in our lives, we must learn to relish them — to use the power of the present moment. How do we become aware?
Tolle says if you realize you are not present — then you become present. Simply acknowledging that we are not present brings us fully into the present moment. Things begin to get clearer — sounds are sharper, colors are bolder. We may only stay in this moment for a few seconds, but with practice we can begin to be present for longer and longer periods of time.
Being present is never easy. We so easily get carried away in the things going on around us. We forget to notice the present because we’re thinking about what we did yesterday or 20 years ago and what we’re going to be doing in five minutes or 20 years from now. Being present means we let go of those concerns and focus on what is happening now.
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn suggests that we pay attention to “bells of mindfulness” that can bring us back to the present moment throughout our hectic days. When we pay attention to the “bell of mindfulness” calling us back to the present moment, Hahn says even things like driving can be spiritual practice: every time we see a red light, we are not very happy. The red light is a kind of enemy that prevents us from attaining our goal. But we can also see the red light as a bell of mindfulness, reminding us to return to the present moment.
So, the next time you’re stuck at a red light, Hahn recommends that you remain calm, pay attention to your breathing and smile while thinking or even saying aloud: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.”
In this way our irritation, which heralds our unconscious state, gives way to the joy of the present moment where we are alive, blessed and loved. The red light then “becomes a friend, helping us remember it is only in the present moment that we can live our lives…”
This is the power of being present. When we truly are living in the present moment there is not need for anger, irritation or unhappiness. The present moment does not know such emotions or problems — it only knows the joy and ease of being fully alive. Tolle suggests that we ask ourselves, in each moment: “Is there joy, ease and lightness in what I’m doing?”
As soon as we honor the present moment, he says, “all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love — even the most simple action.” (Thank you Rev. Candace)

I’ll be with good friends tonight, raising a pint on St. Paddy’s Day. 

Friday — In previous Sabbath Moments, I’ve talked about Sankofa (from the Akan language of Ghana), associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”
Yes. More than ever we need emotional and spiritual nourishment. Places of sanity and restoration.

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.  There is an important caveat. Sankofa is not just about looking on the bright side, or keeping our chin up. This is a necessary and fundamental paradigm shift, about the narrative we choose to believe. No, let me rephrase; not just believe.
The narrative we choose to honor. Choose to see. Choose to live by.
“For whatever is honored will be cultivated,” Plato reminded us. 

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Let us fall in love again
and scatter gold dust all over the world.
Let us become a new spring
and feel the breeze drift in the heaven’s scent.
Let us dress the earth in green,
and like the sap of a young tree
let the grace from within sustain us.
Let us carve gems out of our stony hearts
and let them light our path to Love.
The glance of Love is crystal clear
and we are blessed by its light.
Rumi

Photo… “Amazing sunset on Tuesday (Reno / Sparks Nevada) where we had a unique cloud formation called Kelvin-Helm Holtz clouds. They are formed when there is a lot of turbulent wind moving at different directions shearing the clouds and making these rotors, much like wave in an ocean, with similar properties. Thanks to Barbara Rainy for this awesome shot. (And to meteorologist KTVN Jeff Martinez),” Roxanna McKee… 

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