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At home in our own skin

One day the Buddha was sitting with his monks. A distraught farmer approached. “Monks, have you seen my cows?”
The Buddha said, “No we have not.”
The farmer continued, “I am distraught. I have only twelve cows, and now they are gone. How will I survive?”
The Buddha looked at him with compassion and said, “I’m sorry my friend, we have not seen them. You may want to look in the other direction.”
After the farmer had gone, the Buddha turned to his monks, looked at them deeply, smiled and said, “Dear ones, do you know how lucky you are? You don’t have any cows to lose.”
This is an easy story. Because I own no cows. I’ve owned a few cats and dogs. But if I’m honest, the things which clutter my heart and mind (and absorb my energy and focus and weigh me down) are much more encumbering than the farmer’s cows. Craving something I don’t have, that I think I need.
My need for closure (to tidy things up).
My need for answers (for security I’m guessing).
My need to be right (for others to be wrong, of course).
My need to be in a hurry or to be distracted.
My need to be noticed (to impress those around me, even those I don’t even know; fueled by my fear of failure or being a disappointment).
So. Like the farmer, I can live distraught (preoccupied, and dissatisfied with my ordinary days, and miss the exquisite gifts of grace).
Because here’s the deal: we can too easily pay attention to the wrong stuff.

Oliver Sacks lived bigger than life. Passionate, eccentric and engaged. As a doctor, (renowned neurologist), he treated patients who suffered, well, from just about everything (including unusual neurological disorders, and you may remember him from the movie, Awakenings).
On this, he insisted; when we see a patient, we must see their wholeness, their humanity and the spiritual within.
A nurse and nun, at one of the old age homes where Sacks did rounds put it more prosaically, “Everyone who reads his notes sees the patients differently, newly. Most consultant’s notes are cut and dried, aimed at the problem with no sense of the person… With (Dr. Sacks), the whole person becomes visible.”
Sometimes, it’s too easy not to see the whole person. Especially when we look in the mirror. And, if I don’t see wholeness, I’m tempted to, or shamed into, add something to my life, because I don’t believe what is already there, is enough.

I just finished a weekend with a group of men at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, AZ. We talked about the invitation to be at home in our own skin. Yes, the gift of enough. Not easy in a world where we can be enticed or lured by the need to conform, fit in or measure up, afraid we’re not where we “should” be.
I smiled really big this week when I read this Irish saying, “You don’t give a man a weapon until you’ve taught him how to dance.”
In other words, first things first. Or, in garden lingo, the soil necessary for wisdom, good choices, bigheartedness, generosity.
The word weapon can be disconcerting. But let’s reframe it, shall we?
Weapons are behaviors we use to control and react to life. It can be anything that gets in between me and the present moment.
This is not just a symptom to be cured, Sacks would remind us. A different kind of seeing (and learning) is summoned. What a wonderful irony. To learn power, leadership and influence, we must first become disarmed, vulnerable and whole; connected to our heart through mercy and kindness.

This is a good day to push the pause button. First things first. Let us Stop. Our Jewish heritage would say, Sabbath. It’s about where we tether our wellbeing. And hear this: Grace is the opposite of fear.
The Sabbath—the permission to stop, sit still, wait—allows us to hear the voice of Grace saying simply, “You are accepted. Period. Deal with it.”
On the seventh day, God rested.  God savored.
Savoring is rooted…  In Sabbath. In Enough. In Grace.
You know you are enough without any extra cows, right?
You know you are whole without the need for a weapon, right?
For six days we work, we build, we create, we control (and at times, we fret).  The seventh day we rest.  We stop.  We receive.  We savor.  Without savoring, we assume reality is only about what we create or produce (or fail to produce).  In other words, because of grace we are not driven to live another life, a different life.  We find wonder (or the kingdom of God) here; even without our cows.
Okay Terry. How do we see this wholeness in a world very broken and hurting?
When we see only “brokenness”, fear soaks up so much of our spirit and energy. And the more anxious we are, the more we need to buy and spend in the search for security and safety. The more “cows” we need. When I don’t see wholeness (even in brokenness), I am not free. I’m owned by my “cows”.
The Hebrew word for rested, vyenafesh, can mean rest, or ensouled, breath, to catch one’s breath, sweet fragrance, passion, and inner being of man. A nefesh can also mean a living being. In the context of Sabbath, God ensouled this day by resting. Just as dormancy ensouls a garden, downtime (pausing, Sabbath) ensouls my heart. And my life. To live whole, even in a broken world.

Today we light the third Advent Candle: Joy. Called the Shepherd’s Candle, as we remember to rejoice in Christ’s birth, like the shepherds on the first Christmas Eve. This is also called Gaudette Sunday from the Latin, to “rejoice in the Lord always.” (The letter to the Philippians)
I’m on my way home to the Pacific Northwest, hopefully taking a wee bit of Arizona sunshine with me. I couldn’t check it, so it has to be a carry-on. I’m content with that.

Quote for your week…
“You are accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not seek for anything. Do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.” If that happens to us, we experience grace.” Paul Tillich


Today’s Photo Credit:  “Good morning Terry… The celebration of the miraculous art of a sunset is an institution at Mallory Square on the island of Key West, Florida. The gathering of thousands each evening is accompanied by street musicians, mimes and jugglers. And a lucky few board picturesque sailboats and venture out to get a closer look.” Ed Kilbourne… Thank you Ed… Keep sending your photos… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Good morning Terry, I so appreciate the reality and balance your writings bring. Your words and stories walk in the ordinary while witnessing to the extraordinary, which is so like the great poets, including more contemporary Robert Frost, Wendell Berry, and Mary Oliver. This simple action of giving-in to the ordinary is the extraordinary threshold to God’s holiness and mystery. Luise and I are unlikely soul sisters with over a decade’s difference in age and nothing in common but our shared passion for wanting to understand the being within ourselves and with God. We both follow you but when something is really good, I will send it to her, so she doesn’t gloss over it. An ordinary “oops” turned into an extraordinary surprise providing the opportunity to thank you and give thanks for your daily devotion to God and your readers. That’s as good as it gets! No better way to start a day–for both of us! Peace be with you and Thank you! Gail
–Happy Birthday, Terry. I hope your round of golf went well and maybe you were gifted with a hole in one. I celebrated my 72nd in November and am constantly reminded by Sabbath Moments that every moment is a gift. Mahalo, Bill
–Good morning, Terry, and happy birthday to a wonderful man. Thinking of all of the lives and hearts you have touched, the healing and wholeness you have brought, I send back to you much peace, love and joy. And just to top off this day, maybe a hole-in-one or at least a birdie and a bunch of pars. And by this evening a wee bit of Scotland’s finest. Peace, my friend, Mick


It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals,
because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them because, in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. Anne Frank (Diary of Anne Frank)

Bring on the poets
to remind us of the weighty glory resident in the rose,
the caterpillar, the dog, and the grass.
Bring on musicians of the spirit
whose melodies touch both light and dark.
Bring on painters and writers and designers and architects
who ignite sparks of the soul.
But mostly, bring on the sun and the rain and the dawn and the dusk,
the night and the moon, shadowed by a hazy film of cloud.
And bring on love in a wife and a son and rich friends
who suffer from the same fatal disease but refuse to give in,
who redeem moments of time simply for rest
and joy and goose-bumpy love.
Eugene Peterson

O energy of grace, O fire of light
let my heart express its longing and its love
for you who are within and without
for the immersion in your essence and your vibrancy
for your flow in the very marrow of my soul
and in the music of my members and molecules.
O Christ, energy of love,
pilot me, indwell me, transfigure me
enlighten me, release me into your being.
Philip Roderick

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