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At home in our own skin

A young seminary student (studying to become a Rabbi) found himself distraught, and sought the advice of his mentor.
“Rabbi,” he said, “I try to pray and study. I give it my full attention. But I feel constrained and stuck. In the end I am in pain, and all I can do is cry. Is there a way out of my predicament?”
“I am wondering,” the Rabbi responded. “What makes you think that God is interested only in your study and your prayers? What if God is interested in your pain and your tears?”

We live in a world that is afraid of blemishes. Thank God, I’m just a surefire face cream away from perfection. (If only choosing from the 11,000 options didn’t create so much anxiety.)
Here’s the deal: For whatever reason, we are not comfortable in our own skin. So, we edit who we are. Which means that I am at odds with certain parts of me—the unkempt, the untidy, the wild dogs (“To become wise you must learn to listen to the wild dogs barking in your cellar.” Nietzsche). (And yes, it takes a good deal of energy to keep the wild dogs out of sight.) So (like the seminary student), it is not surprising that this internal scuffle spills over into our relationship with God.

Okay. Reset time.
Let us learn from Sally, Charlie Brown’s sister, who went to Summer camp. She was supposed to be gone a week. Peppermint Patty asked her why she returned home the day after she went. “They said if I went to camp it would be good for me. They said if I went to camp, I would find myself,” Sally told her. “Well, I got off the bus, and there I was. So, I came home.”

I know this: in the garden, I learned to be at home in my own skin.
The garden is my teacher.
In the garden we find ourselves knee-deep in the colors, smells, textures and emotions of the day. In other words, gardening is not some place that we arrive. It has to do with the direction we are doing. Which means that our garden doesn’t have to be complete, or without blemish. It doesn’t even have to be close. It just has to feel like it’s our own, our own little slice of paradise.
And if we’re lucky, while muttering and repairing, the garden’s surprises will rattle our persnickety cages. Surprises, the garden’s very music, always seem to infiltrate from outside the realm of our careful plans and exacting preparation.
Gardening is about seeing and serendipity, about celebration and connection, about the permission to waste time, and the about the joy of sitting still.
Times for letting the magic happen.
Times for embracing the gifts and grace of wonder.

What if being at home (or being present, or being authentic, or being unafraid of blemishes) is not about adding anything?
What if being at home is about making space and receiving?
What if being at home is about emptying, entering into, letting it be?
Which brings us to Autumn’s generous gifts…
I love that Autumn invites us to let go of the image of “unblemished”. To see the beauty and surprise, to feel the gooseflesh, in falling leaves and changing color and cloud pageants.

And, what if we don’t register on the justification meter, that meter of public opinion (or it is just some tape in our head) which proffers approval for accomplishment?
What if this is not about homework stars on my refrigerator?
Not easy in a world where anything less than perfect is suspect. One woman told me she had difficulty saying the rosary, because she wasn’t sure she said it with enough conviction. She was sure it (the imperfection) tainted her relationship with God. In the end we find ourselves in the predicament of the theology student.
And it is a predicament. The irony of course, is that the more I focus on what needs to be added (or changed or hidden or fixed), the less I am actually present.
So long as I buy into this notion that I am what I possess (or collect or perform or achieve), I don’t know what I want, but I am sure I haven’t got it.
The result? I seek more information, more speed, more stuff, more belief.
It reminds me of drivers who are lost… they drive faster.
It wouldn’t hurt to pause. And hear Jesus’ invitation, “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened. I will give you rest.”

I resonate with the insight of a woman named Angela, who said, “I did not recognize the sacraments in my life until I came to church with all my parts.”
I like that. This invitation to rest—to be present, to be loved—in this moment, is an invitation for all our parts. Even the not very pretty parts.
Did you know that there are Native American craftsmen who deliberately engineered errors into their pottery? The flaw is the point where the spirit enters the works and gives it life.
It hits me when my spirit is drained—from travel or working or giving, or all of the above—that some part of me doesn’t want to let on. Something about the obligation to stay strong, or to keep the wild dogs at bay (Lord only know where I struck that deal). Let me get this straight… in my books or my work, I invite people to places of vulnerability, but am afraid to embrace it when my own life is on tilt?

A man who took great pride in his lawn found himself with a large crop of dandelions. He tried every method he knew to get rid of them. Still, they plagued him. Finally, he wrote the department of agriculture. He enumerated all the things he had tried and closed his letter with the question: “What shall I do now?” In due course the reply came: “We suggest you learn to love them.”
(Thank you Anthony de Mello)

A happy October to all. Savor the colors.
And a reminder that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Grateful for all the charities and organizations that create places of healing and recovery.
And a shout-out to our Seattle Mariner baseball team. We missed the playoffs with a loss yesterday. Very sad. Zach and I were at the game, and sorry for the loss, but grateful for our team.

Quote for our week…
When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable. Madeleine L’Engle


Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, I woke up predawn to head to the coast and try to capture the setting Harvest Moon over the ocean. As the moon headed towards the horizon, I saw that a bank of clouds would obscure the moon as it approached the horizon. So, I captured what I could and gave thanks. The peace of this morning spread over me like a warm quilt for the whole day… grace! Blessings,” Madeleine Gallagher… Thank you Madeleine… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Bullseye truth as always Terry Hershey! Your words, reflections, quotes, guidance both encourage and challenge me with my intentional commitment to live with Awareness and Clarity daily, living fully alive inside myself praying the Prayer for Serenity while leaning into Jesus hourly regardless. Learning to experience, as you’ve written in your book, to “PAUSE: Learning to Do More By Doing Less!” Thank you brother! Jimmy
–Oh boy, was today’s SM timely…. I have mess and ‘less than perfect’ in overabundance at the moment!  Thanks for the inadvertent reminder to exhale and get out into the garden for some good medicine. Just back from exploring the magnificence of SE Oregon and Steens mountain. Talk about awe and wonder. Warmly, Mary
–I will read your Grandmother story each time you share it! It’s special! Today it occurred to me that if your Grandma sat swinging in her swing at the pace of today’s society, she and whoever sat with her might be sea[swing]sick. Today pace is too rapid for peace, for healing, even for speaking. Ever listen to the speed at which a weather forecaster talks? Then there’s the highway speed… often a killer. What’s the purpose? Patti
–“Growing in Grace and Gratitude” is the motto of my Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s, King George, VA. We strive to create an environment where these two qualities are the norm. Thank you for your view on these powerful moments. Carolyne


Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature.
Rachel Carson

O God of Creation, you have blessed us
with the changing of the seasons.
As we welcome the autumn months,
may the earlier setting of the sun
remind us to take time to rest.
May the brilliant colors of the leaves
remind us of the wonder of your creation.
May the steam of our breath in the cool air
remind us that it is you who give us the breath of life.
May the harvest from the fields remind us of the abundance we have been given and bounty we are to share with others.
May the dying of summer’s spirit remind us of your great promise that death is temporary and life is eternal.
We praise you for your goodness forever and ever.
Author Unknown

God of Grace,
you nurture us with a love deeper than any we know,
your will for us is always healing and salvation.
We Praise and thank you, O God.
God of love,
you enter into our lives, our pain, and our brokenness,
and embrace us with your healing hands wherever we are.
We praise and thank you, O God.
God of strength,
you fill us with your presence
and send us forth with love and healing
for all whom we meet.
We praise and thank you, O God.

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