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A Place for Sanctuary. Daily Dose. (Mar 29 – April 1)

Tuesday — Will you be my friend?
There are so many reasons why you never should:
Often I’m too serious, seldom predictably the same,
Sometimes cold and distant, probably I’ll always change.
I bluster and brag, seek attention like a child.
I brood and pout, my anger can be wild,
But I will make you laugh
And love you quite a bit
And be near when you’re afraid.
I shake a little almost every day
Because I’m more frightened than the strangers ever know
And if at times I show my trembling side (the anxious, fearful part I hide)
I wonder, will you be my friend?
James Kavanaugh

There’s a part of me (of all of us), that is afraid of the healing power of grace.
Allowing the arms of grace to welcome us home, regardless of our bluster and our brag and our brood and our pout.
One of the readings for this fourth week of Lent is the wonderful story about the embrace of grace told in the Gospel of Luke. A young man leaves home in order to explore and experiment. And “find himself.”  It doesn’t turn out like he planned. He squanders his inheritance and his opportunity, and lives penniless. 
So, he decides to return–full of shame and regret–willing to be his father’s servant, as some kind of penance. And then this sentence; “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
His Father’s reaction? Wrath? Disappointment? Disapproval?
Hardly. Just the opposite. His father throws a party.  My Oh My… He calls for rings on his son’s fingers, shoes on his feet, and says: “Kill the fatted calf, and let us eat and be merry. My son was dead, and he’s alive, was lost, he’s found.” And they do indeed have the best of all parties, with music and dancing and gladness.

Even in our pain, our heart feels alive because grace feeds joy, and feeds the confidence to enter into our day with our whole heart with no need to hide or shut down or strike out at another from insecurity. Open now to healing and restitution, spilling empathy and compassion and kindness from the grace given us.
Today, let us honor places where we can speak these words—“this whisper test”—of welcome, “You are safe here. You are someone here. You are enough. You matter here.”

Wednesday — This week, we honor places where we can speak (and hear) these words (“the whisper test”) of welcome, “You are safe here. You are someone here. You are enough. You matter here.”
Of course, we make a mistake if we assume that we can orchestrate grace. And an even greater mistake if we assume we have to get dressed up for it. Like prom night. Or study for it, like preparing for some multiple choice test that has right and wrong answers.
I can relate to the young actress in the movie Jesus of Montreal. She has been asked to participate in the Passion Play (a play about the last days of Jesus’ life). Up to this point she has worked solely in ads for glamour magazines. She is disarmingly beautiful.
During the first rehearsal for the play, her lines feel forced. Stilted. Nervous.
Daniel (the actor who plays the role of Jesus, and who is directing the scene) looks in her eyes, and tells her, gently, “Make it real. Just talk to me.”
Her response, “That’s hard to do. I want to.” She is clearly embarrassed, “I want to, but I have no make-up. No costume.” 
That hits me where I live. Honestly? My costume is whatever “image” I need to “wear” in order to be judged, measured, evaluated, approved or accepted. To be appropriate, would be the better word. 

When I was a kid, my church taught me that Grace had a whole lot to do with giving up drinking and smoking and swearing and playing cards and dancing and women. Giving up dancing was easy since I wasn’t any good at it. And smoking burned my throat. And drinking a whole bottle of peppermint schnapps once on a dare, made me throw up. And women, well, they just perplexed me. (And yes, they still do.)
Long story short, by college, I didn’t drink or smoke or swear or play cards or dance or even think about women (okay, I’m lying about that part. I did a lot of thinking–and thought if I was lucky I’d find one woman versatile in all those trespasses–I was just scared to death to do anything about it). So, I wore the costume. I learned the lingo. But it had absolutely nothing to do with Grace. The game plan was simple: getting to heaven. Jesus was like some Travel-Agent-for-Eternity. And my costume? It was window dressing. My uniform for the divine-hall-monitor, my free pass. Anything to keep God from being less than thrilled.

Gratefully, grace finds a way to break down our defenses. Anne Lamott’s reminder “I do not understand the mystery of grace, only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
And it spills… we become places for sanity and hope for whispering words of hope and affirmation. Amen.

I’m in Green Valley, AZ for a few days. It rained most of today, so I played golf on an empty course, as the folk here don’t care for “Seattle weather”. Just sayin’. On the course, I saw Javelina (Tayassu tajacu also known as collared peccary, medium-sized animals that look similar to a wild boar). I told them they’d have to give me some grace, as now I prefer to stop and talk only with geese.

Thursday — Jean Houston told a story of being befriended by the extraordinary French Jesuit, paleontologist, and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. She’d literally run into him in Central Park when she was 14 years old; following their collision, the two became friends.  “It was extraordinary. Everything was sentient; everything was full of life. He looked at you as kind of a cluttered house that hid the Holy One—and you felt yourself looked at as if you were God in hiding, and you felt yourself so charged and greened with evolutionary possibilities.”

This journey of possibilities begins when we allow ourselves to fall into this grace. Yes… A cluttered house that hides the Holy One. True, there are many times when we may not see the Holy One in ourselves, but it shouldn’t keep us from singing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
In rebirth, we draw from the well of compassion. Beginning with self-compassion.
We wake up to the affirmation that “what lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

When grace is alive and well in our life, in our world, in our relationships, we honor places where we can speak (and hear) these words (“this whisper test”) of welcome, “You are safe here. You are someone here. You are enough. You matter here.”
And we find and embrace a new core to our own spiritual life,
a new sense of gratitude,
a new affirmation of stillness and silence and prayer,
a new appreciation for relationships and community,
a new sensitivity to the vulnerable and the needy,
a new understanding of our own capacity and enoughness,
a new realization that our God has always been too small.  

Here’s my favorite part; this freedom did not come from a sermon, or a doctrine, or an argument, or an explanation.  (I laugh, remembering my seminary days, when I spent an entire year in a course where I was required to “prove” the existence of God.  I was to accomplish this by writing a paper—50 pages or more—with a convincing argument.  Now, in retrospect, I realize that it would have been better to have simply read a poem.  Or perhaps, brought a bouquet of freshly picked flowers to class.)
I wish I had read St. Catherine of Siena;
“I won’t take no for an answer,
God began to say
to me
when He opened His arms each night
wanting us to
dance.”

Friday — This week we’ve been talking about my favorite theme: grace.
Anne Lamott notes that Grace is an “unseen sound that makes you look up.”
Or, stops you. Literally.
Right where you are. And doesn’t let you go.

Do I have simple instructions for embracing grace? No.
Do I have a story about grace to do our heart good? Always.
This from the movie Les Choristes (The Chorus). In 1949, Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot), a failed musician, arrives at Fond de l’Étang (“Bottom of the Pond”), a French boarding school for troubled boys, to work as a supervisor and teacher. At the gate, he sees a very young boy, Pépinot (Maxence Perrin), waiting for Saturday, when he says his father will pick him up. We later learn that his parents were killed in the Second World War during the Nazi occupation of France, but Pépinot does not know this.
It is WWII. The boys are orphans, fated to Fond de l’Etang, and forgotten by society. It is a school for lost causes and the boys live up to their label. It is not surprising given an egotistical headmaster who believes that troubled boys need severity in discipline.
Mathieu: You see evil everywhere.
Chabert (physical education teacher): Here? Yes.
This is important: Believing the label given us about anyone is easy, and something every one of us is prone to do. For we see what we want to see, in ourselves, and in those around us.

Clement Mathieu is a composer who had given up on music. “Rock bottom,” he told himself. In other words, the boys and their new prefect had no future. Until he found a way to reach them. Underneath the label, locked inside is a treasure.
For Mathieu, it is his love of music (music becomes a pathway for empathy, humor, compassion and the affirmation of dignity… a pathway for grace). And it becomes the key to unlock the boys’ hearts. They become a chorus (les choristes).
“I had sworn never to touch my music again. Never say never,” Mathieu discovers. “Nothing is ever truly lost.”
Anne Lamott again, “I do not understand the mystery of grace; only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
Here’s the deal: In the music, each one of them hears the voice of Grace.
Yes. And amen.
Listen for that music in your life and world today…
On my way back to the Pacific Northwest today. With stories for the geese.

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Created For Joy
I sometimes forget that
I was created for joy
My mind is too busy
My heart is too heavy
Heavy for me to remember
that I have been
called to dance
the sacred dance for life
I was created to smile
to love
to be lifted up
and lift others up
O sacred one
Untangle my feet
from all that ensnares
Free my soul
That we might
Dance
and that our dancing
might be contagious.
Hafiz

Photo…  “Dear Terry, Light spilling! 5:23pm west coast of Barbados. Note the pool of silver on the blue sea!” Shauna Haugen

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