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An awakened heart

Just for the record, “normal” has never been on my list of goals. Let alone an aspiration. Although, looking back, it would be easy to guess otherwise. I contorted myself to look the part. After all, what would they think? Honoring the status quo of other’s expectations was my normal. This much is certain; I wasn’t at home in my own skin. And I don’t want to live that way.  

This week, I see conversations about “returning to normal”. Some, yearning for normal. So, on my walk, I ask the sheep. “We’ve never left normal,” they tell me. “Very funny,” I say.
But I take their point. They are not waging any internal war.
“There’s no playbook,” one state official said. Fair enough. However, we do have a profound gift. And an opportunity for reassessment, renewal and replenishment, to embrace change and give space to our best selves. Or, will I “return” to my addictions of hurry, obsession, distraction; fueling my temptation to get ahead, leaving no empty space? When there is empty space it’s illuminating to see what is exposed.
Writing from the madness of the Holocaust, Victor Frankl reminded us that we don’t get to choose our difficulties, but we do have the freedom to select our responses.  

So, let me tell you a story. On NPR’s This American Life. Ira Glass interviews a young woman, a singer with a Riverdance troupe.  She told how one day, the troupe collectively decides to purchase a batch of lottery tickets.  The plan (buoyed by sheer conviction and blind faith) seemed simple enough.  Such a large purchase would increase their odds of winning, and with the considerable prize money, they could share the proceeds.
After winning (a foreclosure in their minds), they had determined they would quit Riverdance, and use the money to do whatever it was they really wanted to do: go back to school, buy a house, seek a new vocation, etc.  Behind each of their wishes, you could read the longing for a change at a new direction in their lives.
On the evening the lottery winner(s) was to be announced, the trope danced their “final” performance. The singer described how a kind of ecstasy swept up the entire troupe, as they danced and sang wholehearted and unabashed.  In their hearts, all the performers knew this would be their winning night, the night they would be released from the repetitiousness of their lives.  All of them knew as well, as they danced and sang, that they were giving, creating, living and celebrating their best performance ever.  Afterward, the audience, understandably, went wild.  Something truly amazing had taken place.
The drawing was held.  Not one troupe ticket held the winning number. They did not win the lottery.  To a person, they couldn’t believe that their intention–or confidence–had failed them.
And yet.
Look at what happened.  Their performance provided a container–a liturgy or sacred space–for some awakening of that which lay dormant in their souls.  In fact, the troupe, literally, transcended the dance itself.  They were engaged.  They were totally alive, and present.  And, as it turns out, they did receive what they wished for.
In other words, once the troupe gave up the need to force a great performance, they simply danced with an open and awakened heart, and emerged stronger.   

Today. Here’s the life I choose.
One. “Ar scáth a chéile a mhairimíd.” In the shadow of each other we live.
This Irish proverb is indispensable. This is about we, not me.  

(Let me pause, and say to those feeling their personal rights are being suffocated and “wish to express outrage” –a direct quote about needing to wear a mask.  When I read it, I confess that I shook my head and reread the scripture, “The fruit of the Spirit is outrage and blame and umbrage.” No, couldn’t find that part. And it’s not like I haven’t been outraged. I have, but never about my inconvenience to our communal well-being. And outrage is never good company for love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.)  

Today, let’s change our questions. In the shadow of one another, what can I do to make a safe place for you, where the fruit of the Spirit can grow? Can you think of someone for whom that is true or someone who, during this time, feels left out of that shadow (where the inequality is profoundly real)? Please reach out.  

Two. Who we are, now, is enough.
If only we have eyes to see. Or, perhaps, we can surrender expectations that, in the end, prevent us from seeing. Such as anticipated lottery winnings, I suppose, with the promise that life can be found “if only”, or “when we return to normal.” As the dance troupe learned, we recognize that freedom happens only when we can let go. “Once you have grace,” wrote Thomas Merton, “you are free. Without it, you cannot help doing the things you know you should not do, and that you know you don’t really want to do.”
And the gifts born in grace? Vulnerability, empathy, inclusion, compassion, presence and authenticity.   

When I let go of that script, I can let myself be arrested by beauty. Lee Jaster (friend and Episcopal priest) went into his garden to pray. The fragrance undid him. He was smitten by an Asiatic lily, intoxicating, mesmerizing. He spent the next twenty minutes giddy as a kid, he told me. “I was so undone,” he lamented, “I forgot to pray.”
“And I felt chastised and guilty. Until it hit me. Being undone by the lily, and savoring its beauty was my prayer.”
In Meister Eckhart’s words, “There is a huge silence inside each of us that beckons us into itself, and the recovery of our own silence can begin to teach us the language of heaven.”
Mizuta Masahide (17th century Japanese poet and samurai) spoke a truth that does my heart good, “My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.”   

Spirituality and growth begin here. In this moment. I am not a pawn or victim or puppet. I can embrace the sacrament of the present moment, in this conversation, this conundrum, this moment of grace, this relationship, this quarantined day. It could be why Jesus rocked the status quo when he told everyone that the kingdom of heaven is within. Now. Say what???  

We really don’t know
how deep and wise the heart’s well flows
until we do
John Paul Lederach  

Three. We can let our light spill, as healers, peacemakers and restorers. Let us heal with our words, with kindheartedness.
And here’s the deal; to spill light, we don’t even have to be good at it. This isn’t a contest. Or a test. It’s just something we’re made for.
I’ll give a 6-year-old the final word. She’s in art class, painting, her canvas a profusion of color, the subject not yet recognizable. Tactfully, the teacher asks, “What are you painting?”
“This is a picture of God,” the girl confidently tells the teacher.
“Well,” the teacher explains, “no one has ever seen God before.”
“Well,” the little girl replies, “they will when I get through.”  

This week is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a reminder to care for the planet we call home.
In the garden, tulips smile, bearded Iris are close to bloom, hyacinths cheerful and white bleeding hearts tender. Lord have mercy, it is good.

Quote for the week…
Everything—including love, hate, and suffering—needs food to continue. If suffering continues, it’s because we keep feeding our suffering. Thich Nhat Hanh  

Notes: Resources, tool and practices to keep us replenished and nourished. So many people have joined us for the Power of Pause eCourse. We are grateful. Because of that, this week we will be adding another eCourse at no cost: Sacred Necessities. Look for the email.
NEW. Join us in our eCourse Retreat. The Power of Pause. An opportunity to replenish. The retreat is available to anyone. No cost. Sign up today.
NEW. Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.
NEW. Sabbath Moment Reflections. If you would like the reflections and exercises for each Monday Sabbath Moment, for yourself or for a group, email me


Today’s photo credit — Hewel E’es in bloom, Tohono O’odham Nation, AZ/Mexico border, Regina “Gina” Siquieros … thank you Gina… keep sending your photos… send to

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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Terry, I am going very slowly through these lessons; I am way behind! Is that OK? My intent is to continue mining each lesson at a slow pace. Will these sessions remain open even if you have completed teaching/sharing them? Dianne
(Yes indeed Dianne. For the remainder of the year.)
Thank you so much for sharing your very special thoughts about Covid-19. Truly this is the first trial to involve every person on the planet. It made me determined to be someone counting my blessings. Not whining and complaining. Reading SM helps. Blessings. Cynthia
–Thank you, Terry-for your gentle, beautiful reminders to see the gift of this moment. It truly enriches my life and opens my heart. Thank you for all you do for so many. Sherry
–My heart is dancing today because I have been gifted time to fully embrace this eCourse in the sanctuary of my own home. I have enjoyed the words, wisdom, clips and reflections. You have ”won me over” to see the importance of pausing and appreciating with eyes wide open the simplest and most extraordinary in the ordinary moments–grace moments–especially now in an unsettled world that is trying desperately to heal herself, with deep gratitude. Julie
–Just wanted to let you know how much your blog and ecourse have meant to me during this pandemic. Your words, voice, spirit has been a balm. The world needs more people like you. I truly hope our paths will cross in person one day. It’s been a joy to share your messages with others. Keep writing. Andrea
–Thank you Terry! I feel the space in my lungs expand, my body let down, and I remember to let go. In peace and love, Janine
–Terry, This is incredible!!!  Thank you! This was my wake up mediation! Love you and look forward to joining you on the back porch with Fred, Ethel, and a glass of wine! Abby
–So good Terry. And so very helpful. Thanks so much for all that you put into these Sabbath Moments. They truly are restful and inspiring. You have a gift. Happy Easter brother. Edward

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It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
Wendell Berry

Isolated from
Insulated from
Isolated alone
But insulated in community
Draw on one another
   In strength
   With humor
   Blanketed in hope
Journey from desert to
   Fields of grain
We will
   Sip from the chalice of healing wine
   Savor sweet fruit
   Feast on broken bread
We are one
(c) Juliana Peter

Dear Jesus,
Help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being
so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of yours.
John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

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