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Freedom to choose to care

The Sunday-school teacher asked her 10-year-old students if they would be willing to give $1,000,000 to missionary work for children and families in need.
“Yes,” they all screamed in unison.
“Very good. Would you give $1000?”
“Good. Would you give $1?”
The class responded, “Yes,” except for one young boy, who sat silent.
“Why didn’t you say yes?” the teacher asked.
“Because” he stammered, “I have a dollar in my pocket.”
Napoleon reminded us, “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to choose.” And because of that, the freedom “to choose” always works better in speeches, than it does in practice.

Here’s the deal: I can relate to the little guy. I get it.
Because this story isn’t about money, but our freedom to choose. And, once you’ve got “a dollar in your pocket,” there’s a parting of the ways in what we “believe” and how we live. Of course, I am still “free” to contribute, give, care for, risk, go out on a limb, let go, to live unshackled. But with my hand over the dollar in my pocket, I am stuck. And we all know the litany here (any of the reasons we find it difficult to remove our hand… any of the reasons that keep us stuck)—shame, need for perfection, fear of disappointment, “should,” need for certainty. Or, what if my dollar is not enough? After all, what will “they” think? (Did it ever occur to you that we’ve never actually met “them,” but they still control our lives? Go figure.)
For me, it boils down to this: For whatever reason, I am afraid to let who I am (and what I have) spill to the world around me.

My mind goes to the image of Michelangelo’s statues. He started many more stone statues than he finished. I believe that he completed fourteen. And what of the others (also creations of extraordinary genius)? As far as I know, they remain locked inside of the blocks of marble.
So. How do we become unstuck?
(I am certain that there are programs. And no doubt, apps for your phone: Basic Unstuck and Unstuck Pro.)
But freedom to choose (“unstuckness”) is not about adding one more thing to our life.
Freedom is grounded in embracing (and being embraced by) the gift of grace (in the words of Seamus Henry, “like well water far down”) that already abounds. Inside of us.
In the Gospels, Jesus loved a party. And he partied with some very eccentric and outlandish people. And he wasn’t too concerned about public opinion, or impressing the right crowd. Remember the party with the woman who wasn’t invited, the conspicuous outsider? Notice this: Jesus never talked to an outcast or untouchable, because Jesus didn’t “see” an untouchable. He saw only a child of God that he was madly in love with.

The God Who Only Knows Four Words
Has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does
Anything weird,
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying: “Come dance with Me.”
Come Dance.”
Hafiz (rendered by Daniel Ladinsky)

My confession: it scares me half-to-death to be seen, embraced by grace, to be invited and to be loved in this way.
So, it is no wonder that freedom (to choose, to let our light shine) is not easy.
It will mean giving up the security represented by the dollar that I know I have in my pocket. However, just like breathing, we will inhale grace, and in our exhaling, we pour ourselves out, a spillage fueled by grace, to create a place for empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness.

Freedom cannot exist in a vacuum. Judaism teaches us that we need to see beyond “redemption.”  When the Jewish people were set free from slavery in Egypt, the point of the story (for us today) is not just that we are free, but what we do with that freedom. The story says, “Let my people go, so that they may reflect God.”
In other words, we do this by not withholding.
By living unabashed.
By letting the grace that is within us, spill.
In conversations these days, in a world often upside down, I am asked, “But what choices do we have? What can I do?”
I can begin here: I can care. And I can give the dollar I have.
Good news: If you take the dollar from your pocket, you open yourself to change.
No, it is not easy. It will require action and the acceptance of any consequences of that choice. However. The music you make, will be life-giving to anyone around you.

Live simply.
Love seriously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.
Leave the rest to the God.

This week I’ll be on my way to France, where I’ll meet my friends Rev. Bill McNabb and Rev. Dick Wing for our vacation wine trip. It’s something we’ve done for many years (paused during the Pandemic). And both are retired clergy, which means many of our conversations are about navigating life when the goalposts have changed, although the measurements for meaning (success or accomplishment) seem unchanged. “Retired, eh? Okay, so, what do you do?”
Letting our souls catch up with our bodies—the gift of enough—is not easy in a world when we equate significance with usefulness or “achievement” or arrival.

And, take this one into your week. Reporters were fussing over a woman celebrating her 104th birthday. “And what do you think is the best thing about being 104?” one reporter asked.
She simply replied, “No peer pressure.”
You gotta love it…

And if you want to watch the presentation The Gift of Enough from last week’s Religious Education Congress, you can find it here. Please pass it along.

We’ll soon be making my Power of Pause audio book available to all. Please enjoy the first few chapters here.

Quote for our week…
“What would happen if security were not the point of our existence? That we find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, or protects us but from dissolves, reveals, and expands us.” Eve Ensler


Today’s Photo Credit: “A few days ago I was gifted with a stunning sunrise here in Paso Robles, CA. Oh how it made my heart sing! Blessings,” Madeleine Gallagher… Thank you Madeleine… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)

NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — The light of grace
Join us every Wednesday… Audio Sabbath Moment

Letters that do my heart good…
–Thank you, Terry, for always making me laugh, reflect, share and smile! And for reminding me that laughter is a prayer. I promise to allow my light to shine…it’s definitely there! Ana
–Wow! Sabbath Moment this morning is a Feast – from the photo to the writing and even quoting Pope Francis! I just. might print it all out and frame it and put it on a wall near my desk. Bravo! And thank you, thank you, thank you for starting my days all week long. Carolyn
–Hey Terry,I loved your message at the Congress and was so glad to find that some were on YouTube. Question?  I would like to put your message on our Christian ed page. Do you mind if I put the link so others can enjoy another who is “wired weird”. You and Greg Boyle were absolutely Great for me as I had a sleepless night in New Baltimore MI on Friday. Only because you had mentioned you were going to LA did I think to catch some of Congress. The crowd looked big, and that LA Religious Education Director was delightful. The music was excellent. Katie
–Dear Terry, I tuned in last Saturday for your streamed presentation. I still smile when I think of it. Your words were enjoyable and touching and thought-provoking. And it was your presentation I enjoyed most. Your joy in presenting and telling stories, your delight in laughter, your comfort in your own skin and how you let us see your tears. As the ‘sensitive’ one who always teared up and cried at the drop of a hat to the dismay of her family, that last one was especially moving. Makes me want to let go of that shame. You are teaching me that letting the soft heart show, even in tears, is good. Thank you. Mary
–Hi Terry, For the first time, in a long time, I received your beautiful thoughts for the day and newsletter. I just moved it to your folder… after writing down the prayer… as a daily reminder for letting the energy of anger or sadness be turned toward justice and kindness. It was so beautifully phrased! Your gentle word of inspiration seem to show up for me at just the right moment! Thank-you and hopefully I will be able to keep receiving them! I am still in my little house off the  in close to downtown Fort Lauderdale. Every day is very interesting.. and a challenge, (and I do feel anger and sadness) but also very very grateful! Lots of love to you, and grateful for your continuing inspiration. Liana 


The Path
When you have followed the map
which is not a map
and created the path with every
you will traverse the in-ferno,
meet the dragons and find them
You will bathe in
the pool of the past and empty it.
you will cross the desert and
fall in love
with life teeming there
and you will emerge where
the luminous world swoons at your
feet, seeking what only you
can give.
Antoinette Voute Roeder
(Still Breathing, 2010)

We may wonder
Whom can I love and serve?
Where is the face of God
to whom I can pray?
The answer is simple.
That naked one.
That lonely one.
That unwanted one
is my brother and my sister.
If we have no peace,
it is because
we have forgotten
that we belong to each other.
Mother Teresa 

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