A woman called her priest. “My Daddy is dying, would you come and pray with my daddy?” She asked.
“Yes,” he told her.
With the man, the priest noticed a chair pushed tight to the head of the bed.
“Has someone been visiting you?” he asked.
The man answered, awkward, “I don’t know how to pray. And truth is, I don’t like to pray that much. But every afternoon Jesus comes and sits in the chair, and I talk with him.”
The priest assured the man it was okay to talk with Jesus sitting in the chair. He anointed the man, and prayed, and left.
Three days later, the daughter called the priest, “My daddy died.”
“Did he die peacefully?”
“Yes, he did. I went in at one, and gave him some water, and he tried to tell me a joke. I went back in at three, and he was gone. But it’s very odd. His head wasn’t lying on the bed. His head was lying on the empty chair beside the bed.”
This man knew there were gentle hands, to hold him no matter what.
There is power in that knowing.
There is grounding in that knowing.
Because the knowing isn’t wedded to a script or code or dogma.
That’s the power; this has nothing to do with performance or piety.
Last week I talked about my upbringing, and God as no different than alcoholic father, and how grace can scare us silly. I carry shame still.
So, reading Paul Tillich in seminary was water for a parched soul.
“Sometime at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, ‘You are accepted. You are accepted;’ accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know.
Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later.
Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much.
Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything.
Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. If that happens to us, we experience grace.”
This is not easy, as it means letting go of ego control; of my script and my dogma.
And grace is not easy in a world given to cynicism, envy, willful blindness, striving and dispiritedness. Much of it fueled by the boatload of emails each week to remind me I need a different life than the one I’m currently living (and, my favorite part, “retire as a multi-millionaire”).
Not that we need emails for that kind of grief. The tapes are in our own heads.
People tell me their stories, fearing their life isn’t as it should be. And I say, “Be gentle with yourself.” We don’t cut ourselves much slack, do we? It makes me wonder whether we trust our own capacity for goodness.
Deep down I know that people tell me their story because there’s a shortage (or an absence) of mercy in their lives. They don’t need answers or advice… or script or dogma. They–as do we all–need a heavy dose of grace. And gentle hands to hold us, no matter what.
I am a certified M*A*S*H* junkie. In a memorable episode, there is a wounded bombardier who thinks he is Jesus.
The camp is mixed. Some say he’s crazy, most say he’s doing an act to get discharged from the Army.
One person in camp believes him. Radar O’Reilly.
It’s time for the man’s release. Radar walks out to the jeep where the man sits. “Excuse me, Jesus, sir. Could you bless my friend?”
“Yes,” the man replies.
And Radar pulls his Teddy Bear from behind his back. Jesus blesses the bear.
“Excuse me, Jesus, sir. Could you bless me?”
Radar steps back in deference. “Thank you. And my name. It’s not Radar, sir. It’s Walter.”
What is Radar asking for? Many say that to “be blessed” is to be granted God’s favor and protection. To be safe even in the darkest time. (And just for the record, this is not a game rigged in the favor of people with more faith. Blessing never plays favorites. Never.) Other definitions include the bringing of welcome pleasure or relief. Another, to be consecrated.
Regardless of the definition, there is good news in all of this. We live in a world where we are deluged–daily–by the need to achieve, or pursue; where we are rewarded by consuming and having more, or by being “somebody.” So, we create layers between what is, and what should be. Bottom line? We do not feel at home.
To be blessed, is to know that place of no striving.
To be blessed, is to know that place of rest and dignity.
To be blessed, is to know that I am loved by a gracious Creator, and that I can own and celebrate my identity–this identity–knowing that it, and it alone, is enough. To feel at home.
“And Lord, it took me back to somethin’
That I’d lost somewhere, somehow along the way”
My friend, Rabbi Ted Falcon, frames our journey, writing, “The Book of Exodus chronicled an ancient history in which our People journeyed from enslavement toward freedom… Individually, we might experience ourselves enslaved by busy schedules and the demands of others. But the deepest enslavement results from our experience of estrangement from our own Essence, our ability to know the more profound Truth of our own Being. Our truest freedom awakens with our awareness of the greater I AM behind our ordinary awareness. Awakening to our more expanded Identity allows us to know the sacred essence we each carry, and allows us to express the truths of that Identity in our daily lives. To bless, of course, is to embrace the essential beauty and goodness of the remarkable people with whom we share our lives. To bless is to awaken to the incredible expressions of Life all around us. As we become more awake, we bring blessing wherever we are.”
When someone asks, “What are your plans this week?” Tell them, “I’ll be bringing blessing to those who need it most. Would you like some?”
I hope you paused on International Women’s Day and raised a glass to the powerful, courageous and brave woman in your life and world, and told them, “thank you”.
I’m in Arlington, WA this week, with the good people at Immaculate Conception. Join me if you’re in the area. My spring schedule is below. Take a look. I’d be honored to see you at an event.
Yes, it snowed again this past week on Vashon. And yes, of course, I still worked in the garden.
Our new eCourse begins this week. It’s not too late to join us.
Quote for your week…
The baby was staring intently at other people, and as soon as he recognized a human face, no matter whose it was, he would respond with absolute delight. I realized that this is how God looks at us, staring into our face in order to be delighted, I suspect that only God, and well-loved infants, can see this way. Even when we try to run away from our troubles, as Jacob did, God will find us, and bless us, even when we feel most alone, unsure if we’ll survive the night. God will find a way to let us know that [God] is with us in this place, wherever we are, however far we think we’ve run. Kathleen Norris
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.
The dawn of Glory
has come spreading its light
and the bird of my soul bursts with song
In the radiant sun the dust of my body settles
and the Beloved comes to sit at my side.
Touched by His grace my forlorn heart
stirs joyously and begins to dance.
The one whose back has been bent
by the journey springs back to life.
The heart is the light of the word
and the soul its brilliance.
One sets the beat for the other to dance.
The Prayer of Echoing
Cherished Word of Life, stand on the mountainside of my heart.
Speak your words of love to me.
As your message awakens and reverberates within my being,
transform me into an ever more caring person.
Awaken an awareness of your guiding presence
so I express your love like a canyon’s echo in every part of my life.