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All the little things

It’s not easy to make choices when life feels upside down. Let me rephrase this: it’s not easy to feel grounded when the pain in our world feels too real. Visceral even. Even if we are miles away.

In other words, instead of struggling with helplessness or anger, where do we park our well-being. From where do we choose? And what do we honor?
What enables us to engage, or even care, to work for change or healing, and not simply turn our eyes away?
St. John of the Cross’ reminder was straightforward, “When you find no love, put love, and you will find love.”
I know, it sounds easier than it is. And yet. We feel this as a weight only when we see love as a way of keeping score, and we miss all the little things that make a difference.

This is one of my favorite stories about the power of the little things, and making a difference, from another time when life tipped upside down.
The flood was several weeks ago and I stopped by to see how things were going and went into Sykes’ grocery store (Ellen Gilchrist writes, just after Katrina, in her book Falling through space).  The proprietor told me about filling the sandbags, who all was there and who came to help and we discussed how resilient men and women are.  Then she turned around.  “Oh, look at this,” she said.  A great mountain of a man was coming in the door.  A beautiful tanned man with white hair leading or being led by two small children. The proprietor told me that the smallest one had been abused so badly he had to be in a full body cast for six months.
“That’s their foster father,” she said.  “He’s got them now and they’re okay.”
They were beautiful children.  They came in to the store and got some candy and went to the back to find life preservers as they were going out on a boat for a Sunday outing.
“Hold me,” the small child said, as soon as he saw me looking at him.  I picked him up in my arms and held him there.
“We’re getting to adopt them in February,” the big fisherman said. “It’s all set.”
“Oh, that’s great,” the proprietor said, and for a moment I had a sense of sharing the community of Pass Manchac, a fishing village where people know each other and are involved in each other’s lives and stories.
Gilchrist continues, “I am haunted by these events.  For many miles down the road, I was filled with a sense of elation.  The story of mankind is not written in the occasional crazy parent who will harm his own child.  The story of mankind is the big fisherman who comes along and sets things right… the physicians and surgeons and nurses in some emergency room who are working the night shift and are there when the broken child arrives and put him back together and the fisherman who gathers the child into his life and goes to work to love him and the proprietor who cleans up the store after the flood and sells a slightly mildewed tablet at half price to write this on.”
“He’s got them now, and they’re okay.” 

I wish that were always so.  But we know that it is not the case.  Life can be difficult and unkind. And very cruel.  And it is easy to only see, and pay attention, to the stories that don’t “work out.”
So, I need stories like the big fisherman. Stories that go straight to the heart.
Let us begin here: the story of the big fisherman is an invitation to a paradigm shift.  It is an invitation to heal my scotoma.
Scotoma means that we see want we want to see. It is a form of selective blindness.  And it is no respecter of persons.  It means that I am stuck in my categories or pre-determined script.
First, to heal my scotoma about myself, remembering that shame (from feeling unworthy or unwanted or discarded) does not need to be the final word. Scotoma makes me unable to see a Creator who loves me, approves of me and expects the best from me (to borrow a Walt Whitman phrase).
And, to heal my scotoma about others and the world around me. When I read the news (or hear a story), I have a choice.  No, I do not close my eyes to the pain or the suffering. (Nor should we ever.)
But I do have a choice about seeing a deeper or more profound reality underneath the pain and the suffering.  A story about brokenness and pain, yes.  But more importantly, where are the stories about compassion and hope and redemption? Stories about creating safe havens for love?
And can that story begin with me?
I believe the answer is yes.

Asked about what sometimes looks like a distinct lack of compassion in human society, the Dalai Lama issued this invitation: “Perhaps we just pay less attention to compassion and caring; we reinforce it less.  Whereas in some sense, we fully embrace hostility and anger as an emotional state, fueling and reinforcing it.  If we were to give the same amount of energy, attention, and reinforcement to compassion and caring, they would definitely be stronger.”

Gratefully, this invitation is not an assignment, so let’s not be anxious.
This invitation is an affirmation of the big fisherman inside every one of us. Indeed, “This little light of mine…”

A box arrived yesterday with my new book, Stand Still: finding balance when the world turns upside down. (Franciscan Media) It’s a book about my conversations with my congregation, the sheep. “In every unforeseen challenge there is an invitation to pause, re-evaluate the status quo, and welcome the change of heart that is knocking on your door. Transformative events will be hard. So, whatever love is in your heart… Nurture it. Develop it. Grow it. Spread it.”
Order one and tell a friend.
It is spring here, or at least the door is cracked open. The deep pink flower buds and blooms on the cherry trees. And daffodil shoots seeking the sun.

Quote for your week…
Every morning this week I found myself struggling to hold onto hope. I’ve struggled to hold onto my faith. I’ve struggled with my own anger, rage, despair, and helplessness. And yet, every time I turn on my TV, there is some story of someone who inspires me and lifts me up. Someone whose humanity takes my breath away.
Humanity—at its best and at its worst—is being played out in front of our very eyes. I believe that this moment is calling us all, no matter where we live, to be beacons of hope. To not lose faith. To carry on like the millions of Ukrainians who are walking for miles hoping to find safety, hoping to find refuge, hoping to not be afraid. Maria Shriver


Today’s Photo Credit: “Dear Terry, I was in Honolulu several years ago and listened to you speak at St. Augustine’s. I have followed you ever since. This photo was taken in Orlando at sunset. It looked like an angel’s silhouette announcing that the day is ended… God bless you,” Marguerite… Thank you Marguerite… Keep sending your photos… send to
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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.
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March 18 – 20 Religious Education Congress, Anaheim, CA
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NEW Book — Stand Still: finding balance when the world turns upside down
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Thank you for this Sabbath Moment this morning. I have been truly heartsick over the events in Ukraine. This morning, you jumped into the hole with me and when I freaked out, because we were both stuck in that hole, you said, “I’ve been here before, and I know the way out.” Tony
–Good morning Terry – more daffodils! Loved your picture this morning. Daffodils in spring always make me smile. In spite of our crazy cold/hot/cold here in Dallas, my daffodils have persisted. Reminds me of your Sabbath Moment, persists and makes my heart smile. Many thanks, Marge
–Dear Terry: Your precious words, you choice of poetry, and the music videos you shared this week (every week), but especially this week, gave me fuel for my day. Thank you, you make such a difference in my world. You are a soul spark. Peace and hope, Kim
–Dear Terry, Thank you so much for today for your love and insight, albeit it, the tears are still falling. I love your words about ‘presence’. In fact, I love more, but I’d have to quote your whole ‘Moment’ today. The Ukrainian soldiers giving back the sons touched me so much as I had been saying to my husband “The soldiers, on both sides, and the people don’t want to fight, or kill each other!”  What more proof do we need than what you described. So appreciating you today, Terry, Sarah

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.  George Washington Carver

Prayer for Ukraine
Holy One, Source of Strength,
War has begun, and innocent people are dying.
We ask Your protection for Ukraine and its citizens.
We pray for their safety and the security of the country,
and for the neighboring countries—Hungary, Poland, and Rumania, among others—
that have opened their borders to provide humanitarian corridors
and safe passage for all those who wish to evacuate.
We seek the comfort of believing that everything will be all right,
even in the face of insurmountable odds.
Quiet the fears that threaten to deafen us; grant us Shleimut—
the inner peace we so desperately seek. Help us remain calm and reach out to those in need.
May this horrific situation be diffused swiftly with minimal casualties.
Bless our world leaders with the ability to work together for the greater good,
and the wisdom to make wise decisions during this turbulent time.
Bless the people of all nations with the desire, strength and courage
to create a world based on justice and filled with peace.
May the words of Isaiah 2:4:
“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
neither shall they learn war anymore”
become true in our day– in this very hour.
Source of Goodness, shine Your healing light on us
and all those in the Ukraine we hold in our hearts.
Shelter us, shield us, show us the path to peace.
And let us say: Amen.
©Cantor Joanne Fink, 2022

The Thing Is
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you down like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
Ellen Bass
Poem copyright ©2002 

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