This week we take to heart the story of a homesick dog making news headlines in Seattle. He negotiated traffic, eluded Washington State Police, and crossed a bridge.
Why? Because it was love that brought Zeb home.
His caper-filled journey captured our attention, and tugged at something in our hearts. I’m more stirred by the fact that he had the pluck and courage and hopefulness to set out in the first place, having no idea whatsoever of the outcome. It was as simple as this: something in Zeb told him he needed to go home.
So. Here’s the deal: love brings you home.
Because love is not something you have.
Love is something that has you.
Or, in the words of Henri Nouwen, “It means a gradual process of coming home to where we belong and listening there to the voice, which desires our attention. Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us.”
And… “When we are in touch with our blessedness,” Henri Nouwen also reminds us, “we can then bless other people.”
And in that blessing, “…awaken from the illusion of our separateness,” Thich Nhat Hanh wrote.
That does my heart good. We are not on this journey alone.
We are invited to let the love spill.
Anthropologist Eleanor Leacock spent a lot of time with the Cree Indians of northern Canada. She went on a hunting trip with a Cree name Thomas. Deep in the bush they encountered two men, strangers, who had run out of food and were extremely hungry. Thomas gave them all his flour and lard, despite the fact that he would have to cut his own trip short as a result. Leacock probed Thomas as to why he did this, and he finally lost patience with her.
“Suppose, now, not to give them flour, lard,” he explained, “just dead inside.”
I get it. And that’s the last thing I want to be.
Here’s what I believe: every one of us has the resources to feed and to nourish, and to bless one another.
Yes. To lead one another home.
And here’s good news… to a home that emboldens us. And who knew that it would require bravery to spill kindness in our world? Go figure.
Thomas blessed the two strangers because he was made of stronger stuff, right?
No. Blessings can spill from ordinary people who can do extraordinary things.
Notes: Cree story from Tribe by Sebastian Junger
“I now believe that the instruction (dogma) of my childhood—that led me into faith—is not what saved me,” my friend tells me. “It was the kindness of my Sunday School teacher; it was when my parents forgave me when I wronged them; it was the friend who stood alongside when I felt isolated from my peers. It was the hymns we sang in unison as a community, and it was the touch of a kind hand when someone had shamed me. It was the touch of the other—my brother and sister—that saved and saves me today.”
I love the story from Robert Benson’s book “Between the dreaming and the coming true,” when he talks about Sunday School teacher Hazelyn McComas (“a kind and gentle woman, a teacher, a woman of prayer, a woman whose spirit bears witness to her having spent a life seeking for glimpses of and listening for whispers of God within the ancient prayer of the Chosen People”). There is always a kid in the class who considers it his charge to trap the teacher. Benson remembers one occasion when the teacher was challenged about the veracity of the Faith. “I remember that she drew a breath and straitened up a bit, as though she wanted to be firm and clear, but not harsh and critical. (She said,) ‘This is what I believe: We were with God in the beginning. I do not understand that exactly–what we looked like, what we did all day, how we got along, any of it. Then we were sent here. And I am not sure that I understand that very well, either. And I believe that we are going home to God someday, and what that will be like is as much a mystery to me as any of the rest of it. But I believe those things are true and that what we have here on earth in between is a longing—for the God that we have known and for the God that we are going home to.'”
And I know that there have been times in my life when I’ve lost track of where my well-being was grounded. Assuming performance or creed or impressing or getting noticed or drawing attention was necessary.
And, gratefully, a story is often my bridge back home. And a blessed reminder, theology is not a test to pass. It is embedded in, and enfolded by, a relationship.
And yes, Ms. McComas… love (value or meaning) is not something you produce or achieve or acquire.
It is not something that you even have.
Love is something that has you.
I write this on my flight home from Tampa to Seattle. And the weather in Florida today—rainy and cloudy and gray—cooperated in helping me get ready to acclimate to the Pacific Northwest. (Where it was sunny, go figure.)
So grateful for friends that open their hearts and home, love with real skin.
“Of God’s love we can say two things: it is poured out universally for everyone from the Pope to the loneliest wino on the planet and secondly, God’s love doesn’t seek value, it creates value. It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value. Our value is a gift, not an achievement.” (Thank you William Sloane Coffin)
However, it is not easy to embrace (or internalize or be embrace by) this truth…
Love is not something you have.
Love is something that has you.
This little light of mine… indeed.
And yes, we do live in a world where, more than ever, it is easy to lose our way. To feel derailed, disenfranchised, exasperated. Or just plain lost. Bottom line, we are not at home. I do know this; when I let the cacophony or noise win, I am not at home.
When either fear, or shame, win, I am not at home.
When the burden or demand for performance wins, I am not at home.
Let us remember the light within each of us—“this little light of mine”.
And let us be unafraid to talk about how easy it is to hide this light under a bushel, and how when we do, how the miracle gets flipped on its head:
passion becomes fear,
purpose becomes victimization,
heart becomes a litany of “shoulds,”
and grace gives way to shame.
But here’s the good news: GPS or no, there is something inside of us, just like Zeb (our homesick dog making news headlines in Seattle negotiating traffic, eluding Washington State Police, and crossing a bridge). Zeb wanted to go (find) home. And it was love that brought Zeb home.
So. To help on our journey, let’s ponder these questions:
What is it that I fear (what keeps me from “home”)?
If I give up being afraid, where will it take me? (Or, more explicitly, am I willing to go there?)
Is my identity defined by my fault-lines and blunders (being “lost”), or is grace bigger, and can I let the light inside shine through?
If I am in a place where my choices seem limited, is it still possible to bring my whole heart?
“To understand the gospel in its radical, transformative power, we have to stop counting, measuring, and weighing. We have to stop saying “I deserve” and deciding who does not deserve. This daily conversion is hard to do unless we’ve experienced infinite mercy and realize that it’s all a gift—all the time.” (Thank you Richard Rohr)
This week we take to heart the story of Zeb, a homesick dog making news headlines in Seattle. He negotiated traffic, eluded Washington State Police, and crossed a bridge.
It is a reminder of one of my favorite images, from a magazine ad sponsored by the Humane Society, looking for homes for homeless pets. A photo of a puppy and kitten—looking up at you from the page—catches your eye and your heart. But it’s the affirmation on the top of the ad that sticks, “It’s who owns them that makes them important.”
When we feel out of control, when we feel overwhelmed, when we feel lost, it is easy to give in to—to be owned by—a spirit of fear.
And yet: In spite of the circumstances, Zeb was not owned by a spirit of fear.
Somehow, in his journey toward home, Zeb found sanctuary.
A sanctuary is not in the arrival, but in the journey.
A sanctuary is a place that restores us.
Renews us. Heartens us. Tethers us.
A place we call home. And reminds us of what is really important. And allows us to continue going on…
A reminder (even lost, or out of our way, or “at the mercy of” life turning left) that we are enough. That we are preserved by God’s bounty. That an abundance of grace summons us home.
I like this: Zeb carried home in his heart. It is in his DNA. It wasn’t something he needed to add to his life, and there is no “should” attached.
Simply, you belong here.
You are your best self here.
You are grounded and tethered here.
So. Let us allow these words to rest in our heart. “It means a gradual process of coming home to where we belong and listening there to the voice, which desires our attention. Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us.” Henri Nouwen
Prayer for our week…
Deep within our being where truth and peace yearn to reign over chaos and confusion; we pause to listen
In the midst of our daily activities and the many thing to do that haunt our calendars; we pause to listen
Among the people who come into our lives–our loved ones, our friend, our colleagues and companions, even our enemies; we pause to listen
As we move into the heart of prayer and hear the call to be more in union with you; we pause to listen
When we feel empty, distraught, frustrated, and lost; when we wonder in what direction we are to go; we pause to listen.
God, give us ears to hear You as we listen for Your voice
in calm and in the wind
in busyness and in boredom
in certainty and in doubt
in noise and in silence
in this day to pause with you and others on the journey.
Accept our gratitude for the many times you have sought us
and have invited us to recognize you
in the home of our true self.
Sisters of Charity, Cincinnati
Photo… I do love tiny gifts of delight, and wonder. On my walk this morning, Canavalia rosea (bay bean)–small racemes with white centers to guide insects to the nectar, Manasota Key, Florida. And a plant I had never seen before.