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Daily Dose (Jan 8 – 11)

Tuesday —

The week, the invitation and permission to return to, and be embraced by, the gentle arms and hands of grace.
We told the story of a Mary Oliver poem being read to a group of maltreated young Kenyan women, and the hope it gave. The invitation and blessing, to unlock their shame.
The poem honored them—it “sees” them.
The poem spoke the truth, reminding them that they matter (in their particularity, in their uncertain moment).
The poem reminded them of their value.
The poem offered sanctuary in the gentle arms and hands of grace.

Have you seen the documentary, War Dance?
The film centers on three children (Rose, a 13-year-old singer; Nancy, a 14-year-old dancer; and Dominic, a 14-year-old xylophone player). They are members of the Acholi ethnic group, living in the remote northern Uganda refugee camp under military protection from the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group that has been rebelling against the government for the past two decades.
In 2005, the camp’s primary school won its regional music competition and headed to Kampala to participate in the annual National Music Competition which included performing the Bwola, the dance of the Acholi.
Over the course of three months, the film’s creative team observes the three youngsters as they prepare for the event and gain their confidence enough to have them discuss the horrors they have experienced and express their individual fears, hopes, and dreams.
Nancy says, “When I dance my problems vanish. The camp is gone. I can feel the wind. I can feel the fresh air, I am free and I can feel my home. I feel proud to be an Acholi when I dance. You have to be fearless, like a warrior. In my heart, I am more than a child of war. I am talented. I am a musician. I am Acholi.”
Yes, and amen. The invitation and permission to return to and be embraced by, the gentle arms and hands of grace.

And in the smile real big department, we have a new resident here in the PNW, a brand-new Orca calf. He’s been given the name J60, and is believed to be the first offspring of 19-year-old J40 or “Suttles.” And he is believed to have been born on Christmas. Welcome little buddy.
(Why it matters? The newest calf is a male, according to researchers, and with six surviving female calves among the endangered killer whales, the recovery of the population “isn’t just theoretical, it’s happening now.” Thank you Donna Sandstrom.)

And no, it wasn’t easy to settle my nerves writing this while watching the University of Michigan and University of Washington National Championship football game. There will be more in tomorrow’s Sabbath Moment.

Wednesday —

The week, the invitation and permission to return to, and be embraced by, the gentle arms and hands of grace.
This is needed more than ever, in a world that often feels upside-down.
I say this often, but it bears repeating… This is not simply an assignment, or obligation. This is an invitation… that allows us to give, to share and to spill the grace that is alive and well in our own lives.
But first, we need to see it.
To be embraced by it.
For as we know, care of any kind, always begins with self-care. (We give water from a full well.)
We forget that don’t we? To be gentle with ourselves.

So, let us begin here: I think of the gentle arms and hands of grace as soul nourishment.
Soul nourishment resonates with me. I can tell people what to do, or how to think, but without this grounded internal resource, there is no incentive. There is no fuel.
Which takes me back to my garden: It’s the dirt that matters.
And soul nourishment and replenishment grows from the soil (the “dirt”) of grace… and affirmation and compassion. Yes, self-care.

To nourish and replenish my soul begins here: peace and gentleness to one’s self.
A good reminder about the power of self-care, and how that spills to the small world around us.
Okay, now I’m back in the garden, and it makes perfect sense. It is all about the dirt. You see, nutritious or nutritive soil creates and generates life. Toxic soil does not. Fertility is stifled, because the nutrients have been leached.
Grace: with the nutrients… a balm of generosity, a capacity to accommodate fragility, an open-heartedness, and a softness of spirit. What Eve Ensler called, “The daily subtle simple gathering of kindness.”
Let’s to that… shall we?

On the weather front, the drama is just getting started. Roaring wind and rain in this neck of the woods. We are not alone: Much of the U.S. is getting walloped by the weather. Dangerous blizzard conditions across the central and eastern US. And parts of the South are being pummeled with hail and heavy flooding. More than 40 million people are under severe storm threats today. Please stay safe, and please look out for those who may need help, and relief.

And yes… I did enjoy the College National Championship football game. Congrats to the Univ of Michigan, and hats off to the Univ of Washington.

Thursday —

I was raised in a religious tradition that mandated (and preferred) conversion to transformation, which punched my ticket for the afterlife. So, I was frequently asked what I would do if I died today. I was never once asked what I would do if I lived.
But what if conversion is about…
Living this life, today, with my whole heart?
Living this life, today, embraced by the hands and arms of grace?
I wish I had been given St. Catherine of Siena’s earlier in my life…
“I won’t take no for an answer,
God began to say
to me
when He opened His arms each night
wanting us to
dance.”
Yes… count me in…
A dance—empowered by grace—that unlocks the heart, and the extraordinary gift of being restored to our self.

A synagogue needed help. They were in dire straights, and morale was low. They called a famous Rabbi to help them sort it out, to offer them insights and give them all the answers to the questions they were asking. On the evening the Rabbi visited the church, every pew was full, the congregation rapt, eager for wisdom and anticipated resolution.
As the Rabbi stood silent, the audience squirmed, puzzled and a little unnerved.  Then the Rabbi began to sing, and to dance glad hearted and effervescent. The music filled the church, and the dancing Rabbi made his way up the aisle, where he invited parishioners to join him. It wasn’t long before every member of the congregation was dancing, and the church walls reverberated with the spirit of the dance. All evening they danced.
After, they sat, still intoxicated with the joy of dancing. And only then did the Rabbi speak, “I hope that I have provided all the answers to the questions you were asking.”
Before we figure life out, maybe we can just live it.
Before we seek to manage life, maybe we can just embrace it.
Before we seek to analyze life, maybe we can just savor the moments.
Before we seek to control life—nice and neat and tidy—maybe we can dance, embraced by the welcoming and healing and sustaining hands and arms of grace.

Friday —

If you ask me, “Where did you learn about—where were you embraced by—the gentle healing arms and hands of grace?” I would tell you the story of my Grandmother, Gladys Andrews.
My grandmother—Southern Baptist born and bred—didn’t cotton to folks in her church who played the judgmental-eternal-damnation-card just to feel good about themselves, or for the sake of proving a point. She understood that in her church’s “theology,” there were many kinds of people “on the outside.” (Truth be told, in her church, “most” people were “on the outside.”)
But my grandmother lived by an overriding imperative: “Anybody is welcome at my dinner table, no questions asked, no matter what.”
My grandmother understood the power of presence.
In the latter years of her life, in the back yard of her home in northern Florida, my grandmother had a porch swing. She liked to sit, and swing, and hum old church hymns, like Rock of Ages Cleft for Me. I can still see her there, wearing a white scarf over her head, a concession to chemotherapy’s unrelenting march. When I visited her, as a young adult, she would always ask me to sit with her on the swing, for a spell. She would pat my leg, and she called me “darlin’.”
As long as my grandmother lived—and in spite of her pain—there was always a place for me on the swing. If I were asked to explain Grace, I would paint the picture of my grandmother’s swing. There, I never had to deliberate or explain or worry regardless of the weight I carried. The swing—my grandmother’s presence—existed without conditions.

And I am here today, because of that swing.
I can “hear” the invitation of grace.
I can “hear my song”—and the dance (empowered by grace) that unlocks my heart, and the extraordinary gift of being restored to myself.
The arms and hands of grace, that…
…remind us we are beautiful, when we feel ugly.
…tell us we are whole, when we feel broken.
…give us the power to dance, even when we feel shattered.
…allow us to take a step, even when we feel stuck, or shut down.

I have used this photo once before in a Sabbath Moment… and realized the blessed gift of remembering the arms of grace, so decided one more time wouldn’t hurt (and my confession, it’s kinda nice to see pictures that remind us we were young once).

The artic chill is about to hit much of the US. As I write this, the snow is whipping (okay, maybe vigorously white-out dancing) in the wind. Even the geese are jittery. And the thermometer goes steadily down. Many of you are having the same. We shall bundle up and light a fire and read a book. Stay safe and warm, and let us reach out to those who may need a helping hand.

Prayer for our week…
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety –
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
Mary Oliver, “Why I Wake Early”

Photo… “Good morning and blessings to you both. Wishing you both a day of joy, peace, and connection with family and friends. I am so grateful for your presence and wisdom, Terry! Continued blessings to you!” Maria Perme (photo Lake Erie)… Thank you Maria… And I’m so grateful for your photos, please send them to tdh@terryhershey.com

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