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Blessed embrace

It’s already long past departure time.  I’m standing near the gate, waiting for the inbound passengers to deplane. There’s nowhere to go, and the plane will depart when it departs. Even so, the passengers (including me) are beginning to huddle, as if our hovering will speed up the process. (And it doesn’t take much to make the air fretful and heavy.) We form a makeshift column, all of us wanting dibs on the precious above-seat-cargo-space.
Standing nearby, facing the now open jet-bridge-door, is a uniformed soldier. He stands with nervous energy, conveying a restless and eager air. He watches the door intently. In his right hand he holds a large poster board sign, now hanging down by his side, hand stenciled in magic marker, “Welcome Home!  I love you!”
Since he has been allowed to stand at the arrival gate (past airport security), it is evident that he is waiting for an “unaccompanied minor.” The passengers from the inbound flight spill from the doorway. She is the final passenger to deplane, accompanied by a flight attendant. Around her neck, a plastic packet hangs with her documents. She is, perhaps twelve or thirteen, although still childlike with two perfect braids. She scans the faces; sees her father, and her smile is radiant and luminous.
There is a moment. A pause. She drops her backpack and catapults into his wide-open arms. His hand-lettered sign has dropped from his hand to the floor, now immaterial, and as his daughter leans into his chest, he clutches her tightly and kisses her head. Those of us lucky enough to witness this scene know the healing power, and blessedness of this embrace.
No, we do not know their entire story. How long since their last visit? Why have they been separated? Has he been deployed and in “harm’s way”? And will he be returning to a war zone? Does she live in another state, unable to frequently visit her father?
But this we do know: Every single one of us in that departure lounge wished to be in that embrace. And you could feel our disquiet dissipate.
Here’s the deal: in that embrace, the little girl was at home.
In that embrace, both the girl and her father found replenishment and restoration.

I don’t remember the year I witnessed this hug, but it stays with me.
I do replay it in my mind, for emotional sustenance. And I love to tell the story at events. I can still see the look on the faces of the Father and Daughter.
The embrace resonates (and soothes) because in the cacophony of our world, it’s easy to lose our way. Derailed or distracted or disconnected, we forget where we park our well-being.
Which begs the question: When do you know that you’ve come home?
Even so. In all of us, there is a yearning. A hunger.
A need to know that we count.
That we are seen. That we matter.
So, we scan the “crowd” for that gaze. And the embrace that will follow.
The embrace that tells us someone knows us, and sees us, and is willing to open their arms wide no matter what.
It does my heart good to read Robert Capon’s reminder, “You can’t get away from a love that won’t let you go.”

And revitalization and restoration are the way we are wired. In our DNA.
And as we recognized it, embrace (and are embrace by it), we can begin to be that place of restoration for those around us.
It could be in another’s arms or hug, or in a kind word, or welcoming smile, or a memory, places of safety where we know we are seen.
It is taking me awhile, but I am learning the reality that true Grace does not waiver or diminish. Grace does not depend upon our response, performance, attitude, faith or checkered past. It just is. Why?  Because Grace heals not by taking shame away, but by removing the one thing our shame makes us fear the most: rejection.

I write this today in the village of La Ciotat, in Provence (France) near the Mediterranean. Not far from a wine region called Bandol. I’m smiling because it was a favorite region to one of my favorite writers, Jim Harrison. And I loved his book called, The Raw and the Cooked, where he frequently mentions his time in southern France, and his love of Bandol wine.
With regard to revitalization, Jim wrote often about how our soul can be “strained repeatedly through the cultures’ most soiled sheets,” something he called a “splendid mood wrench.” And to that point, he would ask, where do we go to find replenishment for our soul?

This past week I spent time visiting vineyards in Burgundy, where you hear sentences you have never heard before. Visiting Domaine de La Pousse d’Or, tasting in their cellar, Marilyn tells us, “There was wine made here in 1200.”
So, you pause. And soak it in.
Let’s just say that I am enjoying my time with my friends here in France.
And the subject of revitalization resonates here in our conversations. And it was a conversation with one of the winemakers, that triggered my memory of the airport story. We weren’t talking about hugs, but about “terroir”. And here, terroir is imperative. It is the soil, the dirt, the uniqueness of place, meaning, “wine with a sense of place.”
Yes. You belong here. You can be yourself here.
In Sabbath Moment I talk frequently about groundedness. The gift and permission to be here now. In other words, to embrace and be embraced by your terroir.
So, this week, in my mind, seeing that hug, I think, “terroir”.

So. Back to the hug in the story. What did that hug offer?
Rest, security with no need to prove.
And I can tell you that the hugs from so many of you from Sabbath Moment, makes a difference. Thank you.

For those in the US, enjoy the time change (or at least, remember it).
And I look forward to writing this week from Provence, about the subject of replenishment and restoration.

And if you want to watch the presentation The Gift of Enough from last week’s Religious Education Congress, you can find it here. Please pass it along.

We’ll soon be making my Power of Pause audio book available to all. Please enjoy the first few chapters here.

Quote for our week…
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo F. Buscaglia


Today’s Photo Credit: Glazed tiles, a local product, covers many of the church towers (steeples) here in Burgundy, France, dating back to the Middle Ages, referred to as toile vernisse by a new French friend, Marc… 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…
–Terry, Enjoyed watching your video from the Congress. As always you delivered your message with laughter and heart warming stories. You will love this. Your emails are coming to both of my email addresses. Not going to change a thing. Happy to receive them. Double the enjoyment like the Doublemint gum commercial. Have a great weekend. God Bless, Toni
–Thank you for sharing sacred time together. I am returning softer in heart because of your perspective. Thank you for your words, your stories and your vulnerability, reminders and new ideas to ponder. Blessed Lent to you and safe travels home. Lorraine
–I watched your presentation this afternoon. I was feeling pretty funky, but watching you was definitely a gift for me. It gave me the ability to complete my work for the day. Thank you, Terry. Can’t wait to see you again at Shrine Mont in October! Diana
–Your messages are always beautiful, inspirational and sometimes funny. Thank you for being you! Barbara
–Rev. Terry, My name is Travis. I live in Long Beach, CA, where I serve as a hospital chaplain. I want to let you know that during my journey of chaplaincy your Sabbath Moments have been incredibly inspiring and useful. I find that the invitations to be human resonate well in the vulnerable, interfaith waters that I navigate. I am incredibly indebted to you for providing the gentle inspiration I need to engage in the ministry I have been invited into. Most importantly, please accept my gratitude for the impact your daily writing has on my life and ministry.
–Terry, know you have a soft heart. We read your words, listen to your audios and feel the warmth, the caring love you share with each of us daily. God bless you, Terry. You have added so much to my life. You are in my daily prayers. Sending my love and gratitude. Elaine
–Dear Pastor Terry, Peace be with you. Thank you for sharing the link to the RE Congress. I enjoyed and was inspired by your presentation as well as the one from Fr. Gregory Boyle and Fr. Richard Leonard this morning. Gratefully, Mary 


May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.
Franciscan Prayer

Slow me down, Lord
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations
— of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
Wilferd Arlan Peterson

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