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One soul helping another

Today’s NYT special section newspaper headline, “A Year Without Travel.”
An accurate sentence about my own year, to be sure. And a good reminder to us all; a year without (fill in the blank).
And yet, while I may have been “without” many things, gratefully, I found restorative comfort on my daily walk, and, to my delight, a new congregation, of local sheep, who never complained that my homilies were too long.
And here’s what they taught me; when you focus on what you love, you see what you have and not what you are missing (or without). You know, like the little daily miracles we walk by, the sacred in the ordinary.
And the sheep practiced what they preached. They never asked about my bank account or when and if I would work (travel) again. Or, more importantly, about when life would go back to “normal”.

So. Here we are, one year later. With normal right ‘round the corner. It’s important to not forget that while waiting for “normal”, the sacred is still alive and well. This is the life. And the ordinary is the hiding place of the holy.
Let’s not forget that human connection (though tested) is still alive and well.
Empathy and compassion are alive and well.
Beauty and gladness are alive and well.
Sanctuary is alive and well. Ministry is alive and well.
Spontaneous gestures of kindness are alive and well.
Music from the heart is alive and well.

It’s easy to see what we are “without” as we see how fragile our world can be. And we’ve needed every bit of empathy, compassion, sanctuary and kindness in a year where 550,000 families lost a loved one to Covid. Where dark clouds fostered doubt and melancholy. And where simple conversations triggered fisticuffs.

So. What now? The sheep helped me with this: It’s always a good time to Pause. Breathe. Reflect. Reset. And renew.
And speaking of renewal, it is Passover. And Palm Sunday, the beginning of Easter Week.
The Passover Feast commemorates Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. In other words, Passover is a festival of freedom. Freed by God from captivity. 
But freedom happens only when we can let go. And embrace the grace in the gift of enough. “Once you have grace,” wrote Thomas Merton, “you are free. Without it, you cannot help doing the things you know you should not do, and that you know you don’t really want to do.”
And the gifts born in grace? Vulnerability, empathy, inclusion, compassion, presence and authenticity.   
No, it’s not easy to do. It’s easy to lose sight. To be distracted. To not see. To not be free. And I fight battles that have little to do with my wellbeing, protecting my insecurity or my fear of loss, of not being enough.
When I see only “without”, it’s easy to live as a victim, at the mercy of life’s circumstances. To nurture unfairness, and project blame.
When I don’t see the sufficiency and grace at my core, I believe the labels and I aim too low and walk in shoes too small for me.

I went back to reread the homily from (March 23) one year ago. I didn’t remember what I had written. (No surprise as I don’t often remember where I put my keys.) Re-reading it made me smile, so today on my walk; I tried it out with the geese. They graciously listened.
Here’s what I know: When life is only about what we possess, or what we have lost, we miss seeing and hearing the truth about who we are at our core.
We’ve lost the empowerment that comes from knowing that what is at our core (compassion, generosity, kind-heartedness, our capacity for connection) is greater than whatever change confronts or challenges us.
In other words, we have forgotten our best selves.
We have forgotten that we were made for this, one soul helping another.

“What will life be when this is past us, back to normal?” Someone posted.
Ahhh, it’s normal we’re looking for is it? (No wonder we’re prone to panic, and seem to double down with fear. And from my experience, that’s never fun.)
Here’s the deal: With my life on hold, I miss the invitation and the gift of life. Today.
True, in the life I have now, there are many things I cannot do.
However, in the life I have now, I can… look for daily miracles.
I can savor gifts of gladness and grace abounding.
I can find beauty and pass these gifts on.
In the life I have now, I can see the sacred present as the hiding place for the holy.
I can do whatever possible to remember that we are on this journey together.
I can give to those where pain and fear hit hardest.
I can trust the healing power of empathy.
I can send virtual hugs.
I can listen, invite music and heartfelt passion.
And I will not allow inconvenience to be my measuring stick for daily choices.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (Lord of the Rings)
Yes. We were made for this, one soul helping another.
Here’s what I’m learning; some gifts don’t show up when life seems easier. When the noise is louder and the lights are brighter, it’s easy to miss the gifts.
When that happens, we live reactive (demeaning, blaming, in denial), which helps no one.
“We’re going to be changed,” another posted.
I hope so. What a marvelous gift. As humans, the capacity to change and adapt. (Why do we seem surprised that disasters evoke, invite and awaken the extraordinary power of kindness?)

So. As we celebrate Passover and Easter, let us embrace the gifts in the freedom:
That the holy is not confined or restricted to what we call normal.
That our eyes can be open to the sacrament of the present moment wherever we may be.
Open to the sacred; in compassionate gestures and hospitality and small heroes.
Open to hope found in clarity with no need for arrogance, cruelty, fighting, or paranoia.
Open to the deep river running in each of us.
I hope you’ve been enjoying our full moon. It keeps my hope alive.

Quote for your week…
So, in the coming days, think about being someone who strives to make life better for another person. Holy Week isn’t just any other week. It leads us into the Resurrection. It paves the way for renewal. Don’t think of going back to normal anymore. Head towards your rebirth. Maria Shriver

Note: One year ago, I began writing Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. In part because my life was changing, with no travel and events cancelled. In part because I was looking for ways to navigate a new world (at least new to me and to most of us who had never lived through a global pandemic). And in part because I knew that most of us are eager to find places where our souls and spirits can be nourished and refueled.

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Today’s Photo Credit:  “Good morning Terry.  My husband captured this inspiring picture in Shenandoah National Park. I thought you might like to use it for this Easter season. Thank you Terry for for helping me to quiet my heart and to remember the important things in life. Blessings,” Debby Eilercrumb… Thank you Debby… Keep sending your photos… send to tdh@terryhershey.com
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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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In the mailbag…
–So grateful for the life changing experiences in the life of the ordinary. Ironically, if I did not have Parkinson’s Disease I would not have the gift of living in this life. I too talk to the geese every day. They live in the park that is now my ‘front yard’. But, mostly, I listen to them talking amongst themselves. I don’t speak goose, so I catch only a few words. I like to think that they are furiously thanking one another for another day’s flying, well done. Or shouting I love you. Or telling jokes and laughing! Jan
–I began to read today’s Sabbath Moment and arrived with some weariness at the part about “living the balanced life”. With great delight, therefore, I came upon your “hint”: It isn’t possible. Wow. That says so much to me about your “pastorality”: don’t give aphorisms and bromides, just listen to what’s happening in people’s lives! Thanks, and blessings! Bob

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POEMS AND PRAYERS

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved
but hope for patience to win my freedom.
Bodhistava Prayer

Take Love for Granted
Assume it’s in the kitchen,
under the couch, high
in the pine tree out back,
behind the paint cans
in the garage. Don’t try
proving your love
is bigger than the Grand
Canyon, the Milky Way,
the urban sprawl of L.A.
Take it for granted. Take it
out with the garbage. Bring
it in with the takeout. Take
it for a walk with the dog.
Wake it every day, say,
“Good morning.” Then
make the coffee. Warm
the cups. Don’t expect much
of the day. Be glad when
you make it back to bed.
Be glad he threw out that
box of old hats. Be glad
she leaves her shoes
in the hall. Snow will
come. Spring will show up.
Summer will be humid.
The leaves will fall
in the fall. That’s more
than you need. We can
love anybody, even
everybody. But you
can love the silence,
sighing and saying to
yourself, “That’ s her.”
“That’s him.” Then to
each other, “I know!
Let’s go out for breakfast!”
“Take Love for Granted” by Jack Ridl, Practicing to walk Like a Heron. © Wayne State University Press, 2013.
Reprinted with permission

I know a cure for sadness:
let your hands touch something that
makes your eyes smile.
I bet there are a hundred objects close by
that can do that.
Look at beauty’s gift to us–
her power is so great she enlivens
the earth, the sky, our
soul.
Mirabai (Hindu mystical singer)

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