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Daily Dose (June 27 – 30)

Tuesday —

This week, the invitation to dance, to keep our hope alive.
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.

This week let’s look for invitations to dance. (Or, if dancing is not your thing, try baltering. To balter is to dance without particular skill or grace, but with extreme joy. Often performed by teenagers at parties, but can be enjoyed by a person of any age… say a middle-aged guy. “Hey, that is some sweet baltering you’re doing!”)

Wednesday —

In yesterday’s story, a Rabbi was invited by a congregation looking for answers, remedies and solutions. And, instead, he invites them to dance. For a good long while.
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.

Which all sounds really good on paper, until you realize that you’ve finished the dance, and still have no “answers.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit.” Translated it would be “Blessed are the confused.” Ahhhh… that’s just it; most of us aren’t in a mood to be blessed that way.
There is something about our need to have the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted for life to be okay (as if only answers can calm our spirit). And I wonder what this hankering for closure takes care of? Perhaps because if life doesn’t fit into a tidy box, it unnerves us. Sadly, fear always propels us to shut down, or strike out (at anything or anyone who doesn’t fit).
From my own experience, this gets us in trouble every time. Because we see dancing as an assignment (or strategy… or worse, we compare ourselves to others) and that never turns out so well, as we miss the real invitation, to be present, to just savor.
So, today, what if we begin with the Rabbi’s invitation?
What if it’s okay to not know?
And what if it’s okay to embrace the invitation to dance (pause and celebrate).
To savor this day.
To taste the sacrament of the present, even in our uncertainty.

This is our invitation and gentle reminder this week… that regardless of our confusion or conflict or messiness, we are not lost.  There is inside of each of us, a dancer.
What would it mean to live into that reality?  Can you tell me the last time you were invited–given the permission, just like the members of the synagogue–to be vulnerable, curious, lighthearted, inquisitive, spontaneous, intuitive and playful?
To be filled with wonderment and laughter?
What would that look like?
And if I invited you today, would you say yes?

And for our friend in parts of the south with the heat wave. Please find ways to stay cool. And hydrated. And please check in on friends who may need help.

Thursday —

When everything in our life must be weighed and measured to be “of value”, down the road, (gratefully) something snaps.
Because we have forgotten the sufficiency in the present. And yes, even in the incomplete or “imperfect” or unsettled present. We miss the hiding place for the holy.

This memory comes to mind… While I sit on the back deck, the sun sets over the Kitsap Peninsula (the expanse of land west of Seattle and Puget Sound). The sky, as if batter poured from a pitcher, turns an effluence of slate blue and vermilion. Spires of hemlock are backlit and silhouetted like hand puppets on an immense screen. I stand for some unknown reason, singing, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog. Was a good friend of mine…” at the top of my lungs, and do a little boogie with my black Lab Conroy (named after author Pat Conroy), who hasn’t the foggiest idea what’s come over me, but is a sucker for a party, and plays along nonetheless.
I let the moment melt around me before I gain my composure and give myself some sort of reality check: a quiz requiring justification for what I’m feeling and why. And then it hits me. I can’t tell a soul about my dance at twilight without coming face-to-face with who I was pretending not to be and the energy it required to maintain that image.
When I lived in Southern California, I spent three days a month at a Benedictine monastery out in the high desert. It was my periodic trek to a place where I could slow down long enough to pay attention. Truth is, I wanted to learn how to be alone with myself and like it, because I wasn’t very good at that. And, I wanted to learn how to be alone with God and like it, because I wasn’t very good at that, either.
On one visit, a friend asked one of the monks, “What exactly do you do here?”
“We pray,” the monk replied simply.
“No, really,” my friend persisted. “I mean besides that. What do you really do?”
“It is enough just to pray,” the monk told my friend.
“It is enough,” I tell Conroy standing on the deck absorbing the summer sky, “just to boogie.” Just to boogie under the inexplicable marbled canopy of dusk. Just to feel your lungs swell and your heart flutter. Just to cheer the sun as it sets and not give a damn about some need to fight back the tears, standing spellbound in the salty prism for twilight rainbows.

Not a bad way to start of conversation, “Where did you embrace or dance to the sacred present today?”
Even though we may not believe it, the dance, the perseverance, the light, the tenderness, the intimacy, the whole-heartedness… the hope, is already within us. Let us never forget this. 

Friday–So. Let me get this straight. In times of anxiety or fear or suffering or distress—when our equilibrium is catawampus—we are invited to open our heart?
We are invited to dance? The prisoners in Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, would say, “Yes”.
That in adversity, the medicine of intimacy allows us to become more human.
That even times of sorrow or discontent can become fertile ground for generosity of spirit, mystery, delight, touch, tenderness, vulnerability, risk and yes, even gladness.
Dancing and hope. They go together.
And I was grateful this week for the story from Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation, about United Church of Christ minister Otis Moss III, reflecting on joy’s availability even in difficult times. During a harrowing period when his church received violent threats, Moss woke late one night to unexpected sounds in his house. Fearing an intruder, Moss instead discovers his daughter dancing in her room.
Her movements were so jubilant, her spirit so free of worry or fear that I couldn’t even stay mad at my baby girl.
She’s dancing. The darkness is all around her as it’s all around you—but she’s still dancing….
Instead of seeing Makayla as just another addition to the night’s problems, I glimpsed her as a fellow traveler…. Like her frightened father, this six-year-old fellow traveler was awake in the night.
Even so, there was a difference. I was caught in a cycle of worry and anger. I was not just walking a dark path; I had let the darkness inside me. Evil always seeks to obscure the light, because once it has you living in darkness, that which should not be painful becomes so….
What we forget, faithwise, in our fear—what I was forgetting that night in my daughter’s room—is that even in the darkest night, when we see no light at all, the light is still there. The sun is still shining over Earth even when our side of Earth rotates away from it. The stars still shine above us, no matter … how thick the clouds above our heads. What we need in the darkest nights is to keep walking along the path until we can glimpse the stars again. What we don’t need is to panic and run blindly into the woods.
Makayla was just a child, but on this night, she had moved ahead of me on that path. By dancing in the dark, by doing one of the things she most loved, she was making her own light.…
The enduring words of Psalm 30 struck me afresh: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning…” The eleventh verse of the Scripture made me shout: “You have turned my mourning into dancing.”
Seeing his daughter dance inspired Moss to share the message with his community:
Sunday, I told the congregation that we must meet the threats in our lives. We must fight for justice, for our safety, and for the right to live in a world where we can thrive. But even in the darkness of midnight we can maintain a connection to the light. When we cannot survive in darkness by using visual tools of sight, we still have internal tools of memory to remind us of our terrain. Until dawn comes, we need more than the determination to fight for justice. We need love to keep us from getting lost in distraction, love to keep us from falling into despair, love to help us restore ourselves, get back into harmony with ourselves, so we can last through that dark night.
“Dance,” I urged them. “Dance in the dark!”
(Note: Otis Moss III with Gregory Lichtenberg, Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times—New York: Simon and Schuster, 2023)

Prayer for our week…
May the Lord Bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious unto you.
May God give you grace not to sell yourselves short,
Grace to risk something big for something good,
Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love.
May God take your minds and think through them.
May God take your lips and speak through them.
May God take your hands and work through them.
May God take your hearts and set them on fire.
William Sloane Coffin

Photo… “Dear Terry, We all need guidance in this world… thank you for your dedicated guidance to your ‘flock’. God bless you. This is the Point No Point Lighthouse in Hansville, WA.” Marguerite Gerontis…

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