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Daily Dose (Jan 16 – 19)

Tuesday —

Yes, we are, all of us, builders. We are, all of us, about the business of building places and spaces for human dignity and inclusion, and kindness and compassion, and justice and hope. But some days, it doesn’t feel like it makes a difference at all. Maybe you can relate? And that’s not a fun weight to carry.
I remember a helpful conversation I had with my “former” congregation, the sheep, on my Vashon Island morning walk.
“Why do you look tired?” one asks.
“I let my spirit get on edge,” I tell them. “There’s so much to do, my world is hungry for people to step up and embrace becoming bigger and better, including the discomfort that accompanies it, even if we don’t fully understand it yet. To give our hearts to creating a world, even if that is the small world around us; where sanctuary is real, where racism and bigotry stops. A world that embraces the human, vulnerable, broken, passionate and redemptive self of anyone who crosses our path. You know, to make a difference.”
“Did you practice that speech?” their look tells me. “That was pretty good. So, why are you still on edge?”
I smile. “You got any advice?
“Stay emotionally and spiritually hydrated.”
“Fair enough.”
“And, a little joy and laughter wouldn’t hurt. You know it’s the superpower of resilience, and it’ll boost your immunity. Just because the world is overwhelmed, doesn’t mean you have to be.”
This makes me laugh. “This is why I like talking with you all.”
As I’m walking away, I hear one of the little ones say, “And don’t forget, more love and more stories wouldn’t hurt either.”

Invited to guest preach at another parish, Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor asked the priest, “What do you want me to talk about?”
“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” he told her.
Taylor writes, “I did not have to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves.” (From An Altar in the World)

And here’s the deal, and the very good news: from that replenished and grounded self, light does indeed spill. Little bits here, and little bits there. And change happens, one nail at a time.
I write this on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And here’s something I did not know: MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated by Congress as a national day of service. Meaning, Americans are encouraged to observe the holiday by making a positive impact on their community. Ah yes… one nail at a time…

Oh, and I loved learning this. One of the great orators in our recent history, King once struggled with giving speeches, and received a C in public speaking when he was training to become a minister at Crozer Theological Seminary. A good reminder to never let grades hold us back.

For those who are in the winter storm areas, please stay safe.

Wednesday —

A good reminder that sometimes we need stories more than food to stay alive. Stories to remind us what really matters, and allow us to see with our heart. So, do you know the story of Clara Barton?
When the Civil War started in 1861, Clara was a copyist for the US Patent Office in Washington, DC. Because of the war, it wasn’t long before troops poured into DC. Clara quickly realized that many of the soldiers were hurt and hungry. So, she gathered clothing, food, and bandages and brought them to the troops being housed in the not yet completed US Capitol Building. To Clara, they were “her boys.” In addition to gathering medical supplies, she read to the men, cooked for them, wrote letters for them, listened to their problems, and prayed with them. Soon, though, she realized that the place she was needed most was the battlefield itself.
This’ll make you shake your head; Clara had to convince Army powers to permit her to volunteer.
One night in 1862, after a particularly brutal battle in northern Virginia, she showed up at the field hospital around midnight with a wagonload of supplies. A surgeon working at the camp wrote: “I thought that night if heaven ever sent out an angel, she must be one—for her assistance was so timely.” She became known as the Angel of the Battlefield.
Something else to know about Clara; danger didn’t bother her. Her foes were internal. She wrote in her diaries: “I am depressed and feel dissatisfied with myself.” She struggled with the “thin black snakes” of sadness that threatened to close in around her. And her way out? To find another place to be engaged.
And in 1865, President Lincoln found Clara another problem to solve, inviting people to address her with names of missing prisoners of war. She and her team answered 63,000 letters and identified over 22,000 missing men.
She didn’t stop there. In 1881 Clara founded the American Red Cross.
(Story from The Book of Gutsy Women)

I take heart when I re-read the verbs above. What did Clara do with “the boys”?
She read to, cooked for, wrote letters for, listened to, and prayed with.
Yes… one nail at a time…
Not to keep score, but to let the light inside, spill… Why? Because “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” (Martin Luther King Jr.) 

Thursday —

Builders make a difference with very small, very ordinary gestures. One nail at a time… building encounters and places and spaces for human dignity and inclusion, and kindness and compassion, and justice and hope.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the boy said. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
(Story adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley, 1907 – 1977)
Enjoy this video version of the story. 

I do know this. The world (noise, distraction, news, dissonance) can overwhelm. And it affects how and what we see. And when we see only what hasn’t been done, or can’t be done, or the hurdles and blockages ahead, we miss the permission to toss a starfish back into the sea. We miss the smiles and the kind words and the hugs and the gracious gifts.
Edward Everett Hale’s reminder, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
Because “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
So. Let us be a blessing. Be a friend. Encourage someone. Take time to care. And let our words heal and not wound.

Friday —

There are plenty of occasions, when “experts in the law” (Pharisees) ask questions, in order to test Jesus. (You know, “do you have the correct answers?”)
There is something so tempting (and yes, seductive) about acing a test. Assuming that the key to knowledge is knowing the “right” answers. We think it will put us in a pecking order above those who don’t know the answers.
Because of this, we miss the bedrock of our faith, that this is not a test to pass. We miss the gift and permission to move from our head to our heart. And then from our heart, to our hands and to our feet.
One of my favorite encounters… “Teacher,” he asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
And Jesus replied: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Gospel of Luke)

I always love re-reading stories, and focusing on the verbs (on the choices). The Samaritan… saw, took pity, went, bandaged, poured oil, brought him, took care of, gave denarii… every single one, a small specific gesture and action.
So yes. And amen. This week, we’ve been talking about builders, who make a difference with very small, very ordinary gestures. Light spills there…
One nail at a time… building encounters and places and spaces for human dignity and inclusion, and kindness and compassion, and justice and hope.
Because “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” (Martin Luther King Jr.) 

Prayer for our week…
Ever present God,
you called us to be in relationship with one another
and promised to dwell wherever two or three are gathered.
In our community, we are many different people;
we come from many different places,
have many different cultures.
Open our hearts that we may be bold
in finding the riches of inclusion
and the treasures of diversity among us.
We pray in faith.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo… “Hi Terry, I find so much joy in your reflections. Thank you. My husband and I enjoy them together. I am looking forward to receiving your latest book. I’m attaching a picture of our Christmas Eve morning, Mt. Rainier from a friend’s home on Vashon Island. Blessings,” Mary Duffy

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