We live in a world that needs healing, from the gentle arms and hands of grace.
And every smile, every laugh, every moment of kindness, every bit of gentleness and tenderness, and every gift of grace, lets a little more healing light spill into our world.
Some of us are still in resolution mode, unpacking last year’s, or planning for their new year. Maybe trying to keep hopes and dreams alive.
And some are just doing their best to brace for whatever uncertainty may be ahead. “It’s mind-boggling sometimes,” one person told me. “There are way too many things to worry about.”
Here’s our question for the week: In this new year, where will we find sustenance and grounding in the gentle arms and hands of grace?
I took a pause from my writing, to re-read one of my favorites, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy.
The boy sits on a branch and asks the mole: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer: “Kind.”
The boy asks the mole, “What do you think success is?” The reply: “To love.”
What a great reminder that sometimes we need stories more than food to stay alive. Stories to remind us what really matters and allow us to see with our heart.
And I remember this story from writer Kim Rosen’s visit to a safe house in Kenya for young Masai women who had run away from home to escape genital mutilation. The girls liked to sing, and asked Rosen if she knew any songs. When Rosen said that what she really likes is poetry, the girls asked her to recite a poem. The first poem to come to Rosen’s mind was Mary Oliver’s The Journey, a poem about leaving home, which begins:
One day you finally knew
What you had to do
By the time Rosen was done reciting this poem, she and some of the girls were in tears. One of them asked, “Who is this woman, Mary Oliver? Is she Masai?”
We do not know the horror experienced by these young Kenyan women, but we do know what it means to feel, even in a small way, the encumbrance of shame, or the weight of fear.
To not be seen.
To not be known.
To, quite literally, disappear.
Rosen writes, “It can be lifesaving to return to a poem that you hold within you. It lives inside you like a sanctuary, like a mosque or a church. Whether you know it by heart, or you turn to it on the page, that poem literally does what I believe temples were created to do. It returns you to what matters most.”
Yes. To return you to the gentle arms and hands of grace.
I preach this stuff.
And I believe in the exhortation to live deeply and deliberately.
What Annie Dillard calls “spending the afternoon.” What Thoreau described as “sucking out all the marrow of life.” How Jesus invited us to “life more abundantly.”
This matters today, because I hear many stories, from people who feel untethered, inundated, or lost. Doing their best to pretend otherwise.
And so, I wonder. Why is it so easy for me (choose any number of synonyms) to live cautious, guarded, angry, measured, numb, detached, apathetic, on the fence? Or, to live vicariously? (Or, on the other extreme, to perform, aiming for perfect, faultless, without blemish—though still carrying shame.) Maybe you can relate?
I do know this much: All of these options are fueled by fear, and take me away from a place where I feel grounded and integrated; where I am known, whole, and alive in my own skin.
“On his right hand Billy tattooed the word love
and on his left hand was the word fear,
And in which hand he held his fate was never clear.”
Bruce Springsteen, Cautious Man
As if that’s not enough, we give ourselves grief for having not lived the way we “should” live. Or, we feel beholden to the identity others have given us. That somehow, whatever or whoever we are, is not enough. Lord have mercy.
So. What could a poem actually do—to give hope, or to “save”—those young Kenyan women? There is no doubt that it offered some kind of key, or invitation, or blessing, to unlock their shame. Here’s my take;
The poem honors them—it “sees” them.
The poem speaks the truth, reminding them that they matter (in their particularity, in their uncertain moment).
The poem reminds them of their value.
The poem offers sanctuary in the gentle arms and hands of grace.
Yes, a poem is (to be sure), beyond words, and yet words do make a difference. Words have power to open doors, rather than shut them. To invite vulnerability, rather than disconnect us from our heart. To create space to give, rather than put up rigid boundaries that divide us from one another.
We are—all of us in our own way—broken. (Even in this cheery-photos-aplenty time of year, many are sad, sorrowful or exhausted.) I love that the poem’s gift to the young Masi women, was not a denial of their brokenness. The poem offered mercy, and in that mercy, freedom; freedom to live deliberately and deeply, even in their brokenness.
My favorite part; this freedom did not come from a sermon, or a doctrine, or an argument, or an explanation. (I laugh, remembering my seminary days, when I spent an entire year in a course where I was required to “prove” the existence of God. I was to accomplish this by writing a paper—50 pages or more—with a convincing argument. Now, in retrospect, I realize that it would have been better to have simply read a poem. Or perhaps, brought a bouquet of freshly picked flowers to class.)
I wish I had read St. Catherine of Siena;
“I won’t take no for an answer,
God began to say
when He opened His arms each night
wanting us to
Our Christmas tree stays up for the twelve days of Christmas and through Epiphany (January 6). Well, to be honest, I will enjoy it up until at least mid-January. After all, Epiphany is our season to remember how God’s light is revealed in the world. So, let’s enjoy all the reminders we can.
And Sabbath Moment will continue to create places for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion, kindness and grace… where we are refueled to make a difference.
A blessed New Year to all.
Quote for your week…
The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul. G.K. Chesterton
Notes: The safe house story with Kim Rosen is from The Sun. Mary Oliver’s poem is from her book Dream Work. And Kim Rosen’s work from Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words
Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, Banff, Alberta, Canada. A ‘peace’ of heaven on earth. Thank you… your SM feeds my soul,” Molly Talbot (Pure Michigan)… Thank you Molly… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to terryhershey.com
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.
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Thank you Terry Hershey! Great message to begin our new year. I agree 100% with what is in our DNA and spreading Sabaoth Moments or what Matthew Kelly defines as Holy Moments can begin to change our world back to God’s plan of the gift that was given to all of us. Spreading acts of kindness in hope and love wherever we are. God’s grace will have a ripple effect of love and hope in our damaged world. So grateful for this connection to you and Sabbath Moments. Blessing and Peace to you, Anita
–Happy New Year Terry! Always such a beautiful message but you are one of my people! You have helped me heal so that I can help others who need a loving touch or to just sit and listen and be in the moment with them. God Bless you for being that shining light that gives us hope. As always Blessings to you and your family, Mary Anne
–Thank you so much. Your course Soul Gardening had a profound and life changing effect on my life. How I now appreciate God’s amazing creation with time to stop and stare. Jean
–Dear Terry, Thank you so much for the story of Hope in No Man’s Land and the song, Christmas in the Trenches. Both sure made me smile! Somehow, I have never heard about that Christmas Eve in 1914. What a beautiful and inspiring story of Peace and Hope. It feeds my need to believe in Possibilities, despite the current situation of our world! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! Wishing you many special Blessings in the New Year. Thank you for Sabbath Moment and for sharing your heart. Peace & blessings, Darlene
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Bring on the poets
to remind us of the weighty glory resident in the rose,
the caterpillar, the dog, and the grass.
Bring on musicians of the spirit
whose melodies touch both light and dark.
Bring on painters and writers and designers and architects
who ignite sparks of the soul.
But mostly, bring on the sun and the rain and the dawn and the dusk,
the night and the moon, shadowed by a hazy film of cloud.
And bring on love in a wife and a son and rich friends
who suffer from the same fatal disease but refuse to give in,
who redeem moments of time simply for rest
and joy and goose-bumpy love.
Open me up to the magic and possibility
of living within what my dear friend calls
“the grace of the day”—
where every gift is savored
for as long as it lasts,
like being lost in a song,
swimming in its layers,
fully present, strangely free,
wanting nothing more from life
than dancing into the next tune.
All is a gift from you for me.
Thank you, Lord.