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Daily Dose (Mar 18 – 21)


“Listen. Can you hear it? The music. I can hear it everywhere. In the wind… in the air… in the light. It’s all around us. All you have to do is open yourself up. All you have to do… is listen.” The opening voice-over in the movie, August Rush.
And my friend Charlie reminded me of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, and the very first chapter The Ainulindale, proposing that Creation was sung into being. Yes indeed. (The Music of the Ainur, also known as the Great Music, or the Great Song.)

This week, we’ll be talking about music and the gift of Grace.
And here’s the power: Arms of healing and value and safety regardless of absence of certainty about creed or destination.
Richard Rohr’s reminder, “By God’s love, mercy, and grace, we are already the Body of Christ: the one universal body that has existed since the beginning of time… That little and clearly imperfect self just cannot believe it could be a child of God. I hope the gospel frees us to live inside of a life that is larger than the one our small selves have imagined.”

But oh no. When it comes to grace, we tell ourselves we need to tone it down, or find a way to reign it in.
When I was thirteen, I participated in a national preaching contest (Yes, it’s a long and interesting story. Someday I’ll write more about it.) The contest was held in San Diego.  I was a small-town Michigan boy, thrilled to be in exotic California (my first time on an airplane, and my first time to be smitten by a blond-haired preacher’s daughter). I preached well (as I recall).
Unfortunately, I lost the contest.
Because of flawed theology? No.
Because my presentation was incoherent? No.
I was disqualified because I wore a blue shirt. The judge said (in a sonorous voice) that “a preacher of God’s Word must wear a white shirt.”
Translation: The rules are simple young man, “First, tie the cat to the pole.” (Reference from yesterday’s Sabbath Moment in the Ashram. In other words, find the “right box”.)
This much is true: the preaching contest experience has stayed with me. And to be honest, there’s little bit of that judge still active inside of me. Because there is a fine line between safe (certain) and stuck—which becomes paralysis. It happens when I focus only on the “right notes” or the “right answer” or the “right stuff”—the “right box” for life. You know, the temptation for control and order. And when I do, I miss hearing the music, which invites and allows me to find healing and value and home.
And grace and transformation.


This week, we are talking about music, and the gift of Grace.
And the good news that the power of this gift, is that it is not wired to (or confined by) a specific script. With grace, we let the script go.
The Celtic church gives us a word for such grace moments (doorways). They called them thin places. “A thin place is anywhere our hearts are opened,” writes Marcus Borg. “They are places where the boundary between the two levels becomes very soft, porous, permeable. Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts, and we behold (the ‘ahaah of The Divine’) all around us and in us.”
Yes, and amen. Arms of healing and value and safety regardless of the absence of certainty about creed or destination.

I’m a May Sarton fan. For her poetry, but even more for her journals. Today I was reading Journal of a Solitude and enjoyed this reflection about “thin places.”
“A good piece by Auden in the Times. I read it while eating a hot dog at the kitchen counter and felt happy. His theme is that we’re losing two precious qualities, the ability to laugh heartily and the ability to pray, a plea for carnival and for prayer, the conscious thumbing of the nose at death. I suppose that the only prayer—reached only after all the pleas for grace or for some specific gift have been uttered and laid aside—is ‘Give me to be in your presence.’ This is really just about what George Harrison, the Beatle, sings in the hit song of the moment: ‘I want to know you, I want to be with you.’ Simone Weil says, ‘Absolute attention is prayer.’ And the more I have thought about this over the years, the truer it is for me. I have used the sentence often in talking about poetry to students, to suggest that if one looks long enough at almost anything, looks with absolute attention at a flower, a stone, the bark of a tree, grass, snow, a cloud, something like revelation takes place. Something is ‘given,’ and perhaps that something is always a reality outside the self. We are aware of God only when we cease to be aware of ourselves, not in the negative sense of denying the self, but in the sense of losing self in admiration and joy.
And in a strange way laughter has the same effect. We are able to laugh when we achieve detachment, if only for a moment.”
And I do know this; such moments make all the difference in the world. Reminders of thin places, and the healing arms of the sacrament of the present moment.

I am writing this a few hours before the Earth’s axis and its orbit line up, so that both hemispheres get an equal amount of sunlight. Spring Equinox. And on my morning walk, I gladly celebrated the gift of spring blossoms on many of our native shrubs. It made me smile real big.


On my walk each morning, I am always on the lookout. Moments to stop, pay attention and savor gifts of wonder. And when I see the ordinary as the hiding place for the holy, I am in the presence and embrace of grace. (The photo, azalea with morning dew, from this morning’s walk.)

I loved this from Rachel Carson, “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.” (The Sense of Wonder)
Which takes us back to the movie, August Rush, “Listen. Can you hear it? The music. I can hear it everywhere. In the wind… in the air… in the light. It’s all around us. All you have to do is open yourself up. All you have to do… is listen.”

Theologian Howard Thurman is a frequent healing voice in Sabbath Moment. And this week I enjoyed learning about his belief that cultivating inner stillness allows us to experience the divine.
In her book, What Makes You Come Alive, Lerita Coleman Brown writes: “As a seminary student walking home late one night, Thurman noticed the sound of water. He had taken this route many times, and he had never heard even a drip. The next day Thurman discussed his observations with one of his professors, who told him that a canal ran underneath the street. Because the noises of streetcars, automobiles, and passersby were absent late at night, Howard could discern the sound of water.
Thurman equates these sounds… to the inner chatter within our minds that prevents us from being aware of God’s presence. Quieting the surface noise in our minds is what Thurman urges us to do when he instructs us, as he does throughout his writings, to ‘center down.’
What attracts and holds our attention determines how and when we will experience God. ‘In the total religious experience we learn how to wait; we learn how to ready the mind and the spirit,’ he writes (in Temptations of Jesus). ‘It is in the waiting, brooding, lingering, tarrying timeless moments that the essence of the religious experience becomes most fruitful. It is here that I learn to listen, to swing wide the very doors of my being, to clean out the corners and the crevices of my life—so that when His Presence invades, I am free to enjoy His coming to Himself in me.’”
This week, let us quiet the inner chatter, and pause to make space for gifts of grace and moments of wonder.

(And thank you to the Center for Action and Contemplation, for the Coleman Brown article.)


I love May Sarton’s practice. “I spend the first 20 minutes of my morning walking the garden looking for miracles.”
Be it in the garden, around the block, sitting in the park, looking through the back yard, naming cloud shapes.
It is the invitation to sanctify the ordinary.  To experience and embrace moments of grace—literally and figuratively—in the world we live in.

“Listen. Can you hear it? The music. I can hear it everywhere. In the wind… in the air… in the light. It’s all around us. All you have to do is open yourself up. All you have to do… is listen.” August Rush.

Barry Lopez wrote that “The purpose of such attentiveness is to gain intimacy, to rid yourself of assumption.” I like that… and there is no doubt (I know from my experience) that we carry the weight of assumption; in other words, seeing what we want, or “assume” we ought to see.
As a boy, stories from the Bible were a staple in my education. Remember the Old Testament story about Moses, on a mountain in a desolate place, on the edge of gloom? A bush begins to burn. And a voice speaks from that burning bush. “Take off your shoes,” it said. “You are on holy ground.”
Now, in the church of my youth, this was not suggestion. This was God after all, so it was a command to be broken at great peril. Because, if God is holy, show some respect. If not, you’re going to get Smote. (I can still hear the severe tone in our pastor’s voice. This taking the shoes off wasn’t meant to make us smile.)
I now believe that those words were not a command at all.
I believe they were an invitation.
Moses… You are on holy ground. Therefore, in order to touch, to feel this ground, let’s remove whatever blocks or inhibits or prevents.
Take off your shoes. Savor the ground. The ordinary ground.
The hiding place for the holy.
Yes indeed… the purpose of such attentiveness is to gain intimacy.
To be grounded… literally sinking into life, allowing us to be fully alive smack dab in the middle.

Prayer for our week…
Gracious God,
when the struggles of life hem me in on every side,
open me to the freedom of your presence
that can help me see beyond every restriction, every limit that binds me.
O God, give me the wisdom to see the subtle ways people can be enslaved and the courage to speak for those who have no voice.
I ask this for the sake of your love.
O God, when we wake to yet another day of wonder and joy in the beauty of your creation,
give us the heart to keep our needs simple, our desires soft, our wills pliable,
so that we never participate in the exploitation of the earth, which is the work of your hands.

Photo… “Dear Terry, I listened to your incredible presentation to Religious Education Congress while driving home after 3 days with my grandsons and so loved your ‘sacrament of the present moment!’ What a Lenten treat! These daffodils are on my grandsons’ street in Silver Spring, MD. Thanks for your passion for grace!” Bob Keener… Thank you Bob… And I’m so grateful for your photos, please send them to [email protected]

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