An eleven-year-old girl lived with her grandmother. Labeled “different,” adjustment to school was not easy. Her mother was not a reliable presence. As if life is not tough enough, her father had been recently killed. She knew him only vaguely, and had not seen him in years.
Her school celebrated Día de Muertos (the Day of the Dead), building private altars honoring the deceased; using sugar skulls, marigolds, and their favorite foods and beverages; a time for visiting graves with these gifts.
“What does it mean,” the little girl asked a woman who volunteered at her school.
“It’s a three-day window of time when our ancestors who have died can come back. And we leave gifts for them.”
The girl paused, “You mean, like my Dad?”
“Yes,” answered the woman, “like your Dad.”
“I get to keep his wallet,” she said, her gladness unreserved. And then added, “I’m keeping the 60 dollars that was in it.” She paused, “Because he touched it.”
“Life is difficult,” Scott Peck’s Road Less Traveled begins. And even when we’ve finally gotten our “act together,” or risk love or passion or delight or compassion or caring of any kind, we can break or fracture in the hidden places of our heart.
So. What do we do?
This week we’re talking about the refueling and empowering necessity of blessings. Kindled by a story Henri Nouwen tells about his time with Janet (a quite handicapped but a wonderful friend), who wanted a blessing.
“Janet walked up to me and said, ‘I want to be blessed.’ She put her head against my chest and I spontaneously put my arms around her, held her, and looked right into her eyes and said, “Blessed are you, Janet. I want you to know that you are God’s beloved daughter. You are precious in God’s eyes. Your beautiful smile, your kindness to the people in your house, and all the good things you do show us what a beautiful human being you are. I know you feel a little low these days and that there is some sadness in your heart, but I want you to remember who you are: A very special person, deeply loved by God and all the people who are here with you.’”
Yes. We want that kind of blessing too.
“I’m keeping it,” said the little girl of her father’s wallet, “because he touched it.”
That’s the power. My translation? I’m keeping it… because he blessed it.
And yes, I know, our unfortunate reality makes both stories more imperative and heartfelt in a world where many are unable to physically touch, where isolation and loneliness for so many is profoundly real, and where some touch is hurtful and harmful.
And yet, let us never forget… we do not lose our capacity to care.
To make space.
To be present.
To bless and be blessed.
We will find ways.
Savor you celebration on this Fourth of July. Hugs those close to you. Raise a glass to blessing.
In our cacophonous and discombobulated world, blessings are indispensable and powerful.
Not to give advice or fix, but to be present.
The power of presence.
The power of touch.
This space is grace.
Because here, you are enough.
Which takes my mind to my favorite story to tell an audience.
A little boy was having nightmares. The kind that requires a momma’s reassurance. (Dads, at least from my own experience, are typically not wired for nightmare duty.)
So, to his momma’s room the boy went, “Momma, momma, I’m having nightmares.”
“It’s okay honey,” she told him, “here’s what I want you to do. Go back to your room, kneel down by your bed, pray to Jesus and he’ll fix it.”
Back to his room, the boy knelt by his bed, prayed to Jesus, hopped back in bed, and… more nightmares. All mommas know this story. Back and forth to momma’s room, throughout the night.
On the sixth visit, “Momma, I know, I know, I’m going to go back to my room. I’m going to kneel down by my bed and pray to Jesus and he’ll fix it. But before I do that, can I just lay in bed with you, and have you hold me?”
“Sure honey, why?”
“Because sometimes I need Jesus with skin on it.”
I will write Sabbath Moment for my own sanity. And because we need places to replenish. And heal. And rebuild.
And to be blessed.
I will fight for sanctuary for the broken and the lonely.
I choose to be a voice for compassion and mercy and second chances and healing and hope and grace and sanctuary and inclusiveness and restoration and kindness and bigheartedness.
I will remind us that…
That we can be, Jesus with skin on it.
For some, life has turned upside down. (Or, it feels that way.) And when that happens, blessings feel very far away (or unavailable, or for someone other than me).
So, let us pause. Take a time out to give up our preconceived notions… putting life and wellbeing in boxes to check off. And how we look at each other, depends on the box. Sadly, we do that with our own worth and self-esteem. I know this personally.
When we internalize (and live out) any message that we are not enough, we are not our best selves. And because of that, we misunderstand, we dismiss and we judge. And we live deflated and sad and afraid.
Because we forget that in the power of blessings, grace honors and embraces us at our very core.
And that’s why I love (and need) stories about blessings (about hugs, and affirmation, and being seen). They remind me that… Grace wins. Hope wins. Compassion wins. And none of it is tied to a religion or creed.
In our story this week, this is what Henri Nouwen saw in Janet. Janet walked up to me and said, “I want to be blessed.” She put her head against my chest and I spontaneously put my arms around her, held her, and looked right into her eyes and said, “Blessed are you, Janet. I want you to know that you are God’s beloved daughter. You are precious in God’s eyes. Your beautiful smile, your kindness to the people in your house, and all the good things you do show us what a beautiful human being you are. I know you feel a little low these days and that there is some sadness in your heart, but I want you to remember who you are: A very special person, deeply loved by God and all the people who are here with you.”
So, this week, can we can give ourselves the permission to receive this blessing? To come home to ourselves, to find a depth of love and fortitude and courage and light that perhaps we did not know resided within us?
Who (and what) is it that nurtures you?
Who helps you be your highest self?
Who provides you unconditional love?
Who makes you laugh?
Where do you go when you need to grieve?
What (or who) offers you the greatest solace?
Where do you receive, and give blessings?
Unfortunately, today was a not-very-fun-day technology wise. And I’m very sorry for all Sabbath Moment Daily and Audio readers. Our website was down for a day. So, no links on any of the emails worked. Many of you discovered that. But, all is good now. If you need me to resend the SM Audio, let me know.
In life’s ups and downs, gratefully, there are moments when we can let our guard down, because someone puts their arms up, and around us. To remind us, “You are precious in God’s eyes. I know you feel a little low these days and that there is some sadness in your heart, but I want you to remember who you are: A very special person, deeply loved by God and all the people who are here with you.”
I am so grateful for those people and those places in my life. Places that spill from grace. From blessing.
Reminded of those places this morning, reading this article about The Worship Center, at the University of Texas’ Austin campus. It made me smile big.
“We call ourselves a Methodist group, but we are enthusiastic to accept people of other faiths, people who might not have any faith, or who are questioning their faith,” Brandon Devaney (age 22) said. “We really like to meet people where they’re at.”
A Methodist organization may not be right for everyone, Ailin Flores (21) said. “We’re not here to win you. You’re not some type of trophy. You’re a person.”
But if students are looking for a community where they can wrestle with big questions of meaning and identity, the Wesley is open to them.
When she first started visiting the Wesley, Sydney Cox (21) said, “people would come eat dinner and then leave before the service, and I thought that was bad. But that, is inclusive love. We don’t love them because they’re Christians,” she said. “We just love them.”
(NYT, The Worship Center, Jennifer Harlan, July 2, 2023)
True, we do live in a world where kindness is not always the norm. So, kindness often takes us by surprise. Which makes it all the more powerful. And it is so easy to be overwhelmed when the world is sideways.
And so easy to forget that hope exists. Love exists. Kindness exists. Grace wins. Blessings are real.
“I want that kind of blessing too.”
I will continue to write Sabbath Moment, because I want to live with a soft heart; to help create places for sanctuary… places for empathy, inclusion, compassion, kindness… and blessing. Places where we are all refueled to make a difference.
plunge me deep into a sense of sadness
at the pain of my sisters and brothers….
that I may learn again to cry as a child
until my tears baptize me
into a person who touches with care
those I now touch in prayer….
Ted Loder, “I Remember Now in Silence,” Guerrillas of Grace
Prayer for our week…
The Grace of Beauty:
Thank you, God, for beauty, for harmony and proportion, for order, symmetry, and balance…
Thank you for the pleasure beauty gives to our eyes, ears, nose, touch, and taste…
Thank you for oceans and snowflakes, for giraffes and ladybugs, for watercolor paintings and clay pots, for movies, plays, photographs, and dance…
for chirping birds and grand symphonies,
for the scent of roses and the smell of rain,
for the feel of clean sheets and a toddler’s hug,
for the taste of hot coffee or a cold bottle of beer…
Thank you God, for beauty in all its forms…
for we believe that all the beauty we experience is but a faint reflection of you,
O Most Beautiful One. Amen.
Sister Melannie Svoboda, SND
Photo… “Terry, This Torch Ginger flower sat alone in a green rainforest at ‘Akaka Falls State Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. It gave me pause to savor the moment. Thought you might like to see it.” Albert Lind… Thank you Albert… I’m so very grateful for your photos, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org