skip to Main Content

Acts of gentle courage

When you ride any WA state ferry, you hear a safety announcement as we depart the dock. The line that makes me perk my ears and smile, “…passengers who may have special needs during an emergency, please let a crew member know.”
Well, that’s apropos for more than just ferry rides. By my way of thinking, an emergency is anytime trial and uncertainty invite the reset button. And it’s a good idea to let one another know about any special needs. To say them out loud. Say, clarity, grounding, spiritual hydration, replenishment, tenacity… and hope.

It’s been another unsettling week (the news feeling like a broken record) with more than enough pain and trauma to go around. And everything is up against the backdrop of the ongoing real pain and trauma playing out in Ukraine.
I recognize that some stories carry all the elements I do my best to avoid—vulnerability, violence, hatred, intolerance and sorrow (wondering in my heart if there is enough hope to someday fit the pieces back together). Stories that remind me how fragile life can be.
Fragility affects us all at our core. And most of the time, I confess that I don’t like being fragile. Because you never know when or where you might snap. (Say, on the stage at the Oscars, on national TV.)
It’s never easy to admit when we feel “at the mercy of”. When we want to run. To react. Or hit. Or hit back.

So. Where to begin? We all need stories that fortify us.
Stories for self-care, to refuel our better angels.
Stories to create sanctuaries of calm.
Stories about mercy and freedom from heartlessness.
And these must be our stories; stories we must own. If we don’t own the story, it owns us. And when we are disconnected from our best selves, we pummel one another. And you can count on this: dehumanizing and shaming never help. When it is our story, we choose. Pro-actively, bringing our whole self to this moment.

Do you know the Jewish phrase ahavat chinam? “If we were destroyed, and the world with us, due to baseless hatred, then we shall rebuild ourselves, and the world with us, with (ahavat chinam) love for no good reason. Better I should err on the side of love for no good reason, than I should err on the side of baseless hatred.” I need to absorb this. Because when I do see hate, I have difficulty believing that our hearts are vessels of love.
So today, I need the story of Kassie Temple.
During the Great Depression, Dorothy Day founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Moved by her story, in the mid-1970’s, Parker Palmer began volunteering occasionally on New York City’s Lower East Side. At Mary House, the Workers lived with the poorest of the poor, providing food, shelter, medical attention, and other forms of direct aid, as well as advocating and agitating for economic justice.
Kassie Temple was one of the workers at Mary House. A brilliant writer with a Ph.D., she could have been a professor. Instead, Kassie chose to share life with the poor, helping to keep hungry and homeless people from starving, dying of exposure to the elements, aiding people who have been brutalized (as well as engaging in political advocacy on their behalf).
Palmer writes, “I volunteered for a couple of days several times a year. Of course, every time I came back, a new wave of human misery had washed over the place. So one day I asked Kassie the question that had been vexing me: How do you keep doing this demanding work, day in and day out, when you know you’ll wake up tomorrow to problems that are as bad or worse than the ones you’re dealing with today?”
Kassie told me, “What you need to understand is this. Just because something’s impossible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”
I realize that my feelings of vulnerability—life’s uncertainty or cruelty or cheerlessness—is somehow tethered to this notion of scarcity and impossibility. So when faced with any “impossibility” or the need to love for no good reason or to stand against hatred and intolerance… in my mind or heart, I resort to, “It can’t be done. And we are screwed.”
Kassie’s story reminds me that throughout history, people, very ordinary people have taken exception to hopelessness and to exclusion. And to hate. And to violence.
Let me repeat… people, very ordinary people have taken exception to hopelessness and to exclusion. And to hate. And to violence.
Small gestures. Of kindness. And compassion. And hope.
Yes. And amen. Very ordinary people have taken on “the impossible” time and time again. Good news? This isn’t a ploy. It comes from who we are. It spills from the inside out. Because here’s the deal: This capacity—for love, compassion, kindness, truth, forgiveness, justice, restoration—is within. Every one of us. These are the weapons of the Spirit.
Nelson Mandela reminded us that “No one is born hating another person… People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Let’s digest that: We are hardwired to not hurt each other. Which means that if we hate, we have to dehumanize one another.
What I do know is that an act of gentle courage has my name on it.
Maybe even today.

Grace and mercy and sanctuary and justice are not always convenient. Go figure. There is no perfect time to stand up. Or to do soul searching. Or to say this is who we are. Or to call on our better angels.
“Not all of us can do great things.” Mother Teresa reminds us. “But we can do small things with great love.” And today, is my hour. To stand. To speak. To love.

Speaking of love and speaking of the Oscars, I’d rather be talking about Lady Gaga’s beautiful, sensitive, and moving accompaniment of Liza Minnelli on stage. The moment when Lady Gaga assured Minnelli “I’ve got you,” when she lost her place with the words. A moment of quiet gentle sanctuary, and grace.

I’m back in Port Ludlow, WA. Here the rain is falling. On my walk this morning, the geese give me that look, “You’re not in Arizona anymore.”

Quote for your week… Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. Frederick Buechner


Today’s Photo Credit:  Let’s call these Ukrainian flag Iris… “Happy Spring.” Dorothy Chaknova… Thank you Dorothy… Keep sending your photos… send to
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)
May 13 -15 Siena Retreat Center, Racine, WI (Creating Spaces for Self-Care)

NEW Book – Stand Still: finding balance when the world turns upside down
NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — All the little things
Join us every Wednesday… Audio Sabbath Moment

Letters that do my heart good…
–Hey Terry, Thank you for your Sabbath Moment writings. They are gift of fresh for my soul. I recently became a mom and am constantly singing sweet songs to my daughter Luna. I was singing This Little of Mine to her when I realized I don’t resonate with the lyrics anymore. “Don’t let satan blow it out.” That’s a lot of responsibility for us. So, I changed the lyrics and I thought you might enjoy them as they seem to be a similar message to what you often share.
Jesus gave me the light / I’m gonna let it shine / Fear cannot dim my light / I’m gonna let it shin / Share my light with the world, Kelsey
–Hi Terry! Received your wonderful book “Stand Still – finding Balance when your World turns Upside down” on Sat. Thanks for sending it so quickly. Am starting to read it, and get immersed in the calm spiritual thoughts of your writing. May God Bless you, Terry, as you spill the light in your travels! Arla
–Glorious morning to you Terry! The lovely picture of a sunset, sent by one of your followers reminded me of my friends sunset story; as told by Mary. ‘My daughter and I were coming out of Home Depot, and were greeted by an incredible, jaw-dropping sky. I mentioned it to my daughter, and she did one of her ‘there she goes again’ eye rolls. I really wondered why All the cars on the highway weren’t pulled over and gasping at it. And then I heard a gentle whisper in my ear, ‘Mary, I did it just for You’… Talk about being present, talk about grace… Keep spilling the light Terry! You blessed me on a daily basis. God’s blessings, Lori 


The Spiritual Canticle
Forever at his door
I gave my heart and soul.
My fortune too.
I’ve no flock any more,
No other work in view.
My occupation: love. It’s all I do.
John of the Cross

Prayer for God’s Love
We are loved
by an unending love.
We are embraced
by arms that find us
even when
we are hidden from ourselves.
We are touched
by fingers that soothe us
even when
we are too proud for soothing.
We are counseled
by voices that guided us
even when
we are too embittered to hear.
We are loved
by an ending love.
We are supported
by hands that uplift us
even in
the midst of a fall.
We are urged on by eyes that meet us
even when
we are too weak for meeting.
We are loved by an unending love.
Embraced, touched, soothed, and counseled…
ours are the arms, the fingers, the voices;
ours are the hands, the eyes, the smiles;
we are loved
by an unending love.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro

Meditation on Healing
When I panic, God, teach me patience.
When I fear, teach me faith.
When I doubt myself, teach me confidence.
When I despair, teach me hope.
When I lose perspective, show me the way—
back to love, back to life, back to You.
Rabbi Naomi Levy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top