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Better to light a candle

As a storeowner tacked a sign above his door, ‘Puppies for Sale,’ a little boy appeared and asked. “How much are you going to sell those puppies for?”
The storeowner replied “$50 each.”
The little boy reached into his pocket and pulled out some change. “I have $2.37, can I have a look at them?”
The storeowner smiled and whistled. Out of a kennel came Lady, followed by her five balls of four-legged fur. One puppy limped and lagged considerably. “What’s wrong with that little dog?” the boy asked.
The storeowner explained that the puppy was born without a hip socket, and the vet told him that the puppy would limp for the rest of its life. The little boy’s face lit, “That’s the puppy I want to buy!”
The storeowner replied, “No, you don’t. If you really want him, I’ll give him to you.” The little boy did not hide his annoyance. “I don’t want you to give him to me. He’s worth every penny. I would like to give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents every month until he’s paid for.”
Taken aback, the storeowner minced no words, “Young man, You really don’t want to buy this little puppy. This puppy is never going to be able to run, jump or play like other puppies!”
The boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg, to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a bulky metal brace. He looked up at the storeowner, “Well, I don’t run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands.” (For this story, thank you Dan Clark)

It doesn’t help our spirit that we see so much brokenness in our world every day, does it? Because of that, it’s not surprising that the broken and crippled parts in our own lives feel more apparent. Parts that sadden, discourage, infuriate, embarrass or even repulse us. We know they are there. Some are of our own making. Most are not. Even so, we do our best to wish or will or pray them away.
I was raised in a church that used the scripture, “Be ye perfect as God is perfect,” as a hammer meant to beat all the blemishes out of me. But wholeness is not perfection. Wholeness is embodying—living into—this moment, be it happy or sad, full or empty, running or limping.
Granted, there are flawed and weak parts that could change.
But we can’t change anything until we can love it.
We can’t love anything until we can know it.
We can’t know anything until we can embrace it.
And we touch wholeness at that place of vulnerability.
So. Here’s the deal: We have the ability to receive, to be loved, to know our value, only from a place of vulnerability. Because in our nakedness, our “crippledness,” our brokenness and our vulnerability we have no power, no leverage, nothing to bargain with. Our identity is not dependent upon becoming somebody, impressing somebody, or removing all imperfection. We can be, literally, Be, at home in our own skin, damaged hip socket and all.
Yes and amen. In this place, we are human. In this place, we are sons and daughters of God. In this place, we hear God speak our name. The very image of God is imbedded in this fragile nature, in its very breakability. Grace is real. It is in this vulnerability where we find and embrace and spill exquisite beauty—compassion, tenderheartedness, mercy, forgiveness, gentleness, openness, kindness, empathy, listening, understanding and hospitality. And the capacity to say, “Even in our brokenness, we get to say how the story ends.”

Yesterday we lit the second Advent candle. The candle of Peace.
But what’s the puppy story got to do with peace?
Let’s just say, the little boy honored the truth, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” (Thank you Eleanor Roosevelt)
And darkness is the antithesis of peace.
During Hannukah, our Jewish brothers and sister light the Menorah. And one of the candles, is used to light the other eight candles. This unique candle is called the shammash.
Here’s what the little boy knew, we can be the shammash.
The candle lighters in a dark and broken world. So, this week, the healing and restoring power of the candle lighting.
The power of someone who sees the broken places and does not run, but hugs and offers healing.
The power of someone who listens and understands.
The power of someone who creates safe places for grieving and healing.
The power of embracing that the candle inside of your own vulnerability and brokenness, is alive and well.

My confession is that I preach a good game, but too often try my best to hide broken places. And pretend, somehow, not seeing the light.
That’s why I am so grateful for those who can be shammash in my life.
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer

Re-reading this story this week helped me remember the power of shammash, not as an assignment, but honoring the gift that light spills simply by being present.
“Today was a Difficult Day,” said Pooh.
There was a pause.
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.
“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.
“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.
“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.” (A.A. Milne)

It’s a gray and rainy December in this neck of the woods. But the geese are back, and they don’t seem to mind. That cheered me up, so I chatted with them a wee bit today.
Let us remember: se are on this journey together my friends.
And thank you for the light you bring to this world.
Savor your holiday celebrations. And reach out to those who need a hug.

Quote for your week…
Hospitality is the fundamental virtue of the soil. It makes room. It shares. It neutralizes poisons. And so, it heals. This is what the soil teaches: If you want to be remembered, give yourself away. William Bryant Logan


Today’s Photo Credit: “On my morning walk here in Port Ludlow, WA. A great century old stump and root ball, turned up as an art piece, now a Jardinière for plants. And during the holiday season, arraying an ornament or two,” 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…
–Thank you, I hope you have a wonderful birthday Terry!  You have been encouraging me each day since I met you at Kanuga for the Gardens of Grace many years ago. I appreciate your frank way of describing the world. Pam
–I pray your day is full of love and wonder and awe! May you have help blowing out your candles and may your 70th trip around the sun be the best adventure ever to follow your wonder and curiosity. Recent studies have shown that we reach our peak of wisdom and what we have to offer the world in our 70’s! Go for it! God bless you richly! Shalom, Patti
–Happiest of birthdays to you! Thanks so much for the assist you give this 78 year old geezer on my journey into spirituality–your daily dose and sabbath moments are my prequel to Centering prayer each morning as I look out to the east and watch wonderful Arizona sunrises. May you have a great year ahead! Alanna
–Dear Terry: I’m certain under the icing is a delicious chocolate cake for Pooh and you! May you be surrounded by loved ones and friends as you celebrate another orbiting around the sun! Happy Birthing Day! May the year ahead be filled with meaning and the making of sweet memories. With best wishes, Elizabeth
–Thank you, Terry, for being such an integral part of my early morning prayer / quiet time. You never fail to inspire, challenge, console, and lift my spirits. Bless you, and the Happiest of Birthdays to you. I do hope it includes dark chocolate cake! Sheilah
–Terry; I so needed your Advent message this morning. I have begun the third year of my wife’s birth into eternity and this Advent / Christmas season it is really hurting, tears are flowing often. So I wait in her spiritual presence and receive the tears of a love shared. As I wait I prayer with gratitude for her new presence in my life and for folks like you, who have decorated my life. The blessings of all these seasons be upon you. Rene 


The Risk of Birth
This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honor & truth were trampled to scorn—
Yet here did the Savior make His home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn —
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
Madeleine L’Engle

I will light candles this Christmas.
Candles of joy, despite all the sadness.
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch.
Candles of courage where fear is ever present.
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days.
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens.
Candles of love to inspire all of my living.
Candles that will burn all the year long.
Howard Thurman

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