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To live is holy

The wind chill this morning hovered in the low 30s, stocking hat and scarf weather, so I tell the sheep that the homily will be brief. That got their attention and I see gratitude in their eyes.
“it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world”
“Nice,” one said. “Did you write that?”
“No,” I didn’t. “I borrowed it from one of our saints, Mary Oliver.”
I start to walk away, but turn and tell them, “Oh yes, here’s one more that will do your heart good. ‘Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.’” (Thank you Rabbi Abraham Heschel.)

Which reminds me of a story that floated my emotional boat this week.
While a young mother waited at a post-office-counter, her four-year-old daughter occupied herself with the opportunity for self-entertainment, exploring around the lobby, looking, prattling, not an item left untouched.
The girl finds a penny on the floor. “Look momma,” she says proudly, “a penny.”
Her mother, busy with a clerk at the window, mumbles an acknowledgment. Others in line smile while some shake their head and cogitate about the regrettable decline in discipline. The girl walks to the other side of the lobby and places the penny back onto the floor. Feigning surprise, she says, “Look mamma, I found another penny.”
Delighted, she keeps at her enterprise, placing the penny in a different location, until she has found five pennies, each one of them brand new.
Okay. It’s a make you smile kind of story. Certainly, meant to lift the spirits, but I’ll bet you serious money that I would have likely been one of the curmudgeons. There is nothing like being made to wait in line, sidetracked by a bothersome, disconcerting and merry child.
And yet. Jesus goes out of his way to connect the Kingdom of God with children, and the child within each and every one of us.
It is not hyperbole. Because “children live in a world of imagination, a world of aliveness,” Mike Yaconelli writes. “Playing Superman and feeling alive, (the child in us) hears a voice deep inside, a warm and loving voice, a living, believing voice, a wild and dangerous voice.”
And then somewhere, somewhere along the way, we “grow up,” or are tempted by an obligation to “control” life.
We realize that we can’t fly after all, and our “God-hearing,” goes on the blink. We go from flying-wonder-child, to exasperated and intolerant consumer, undone by all the ways we can feel annoyed.
Somehow, the gift of just being me, isn’t enough. And we disconnect from delight and wonder and joy and gratitude. It’s as if we lose our true identity.

In a national magazine, an ad for the Humane Society minced no words. Above an adorable puppy and kitten, the ad read, “It’s who owns them that makes them important.”
Our wellbeing, is about who or what, owns us. And here’s the good news; when we do lose our way, our authentic self has not vanished. It’s just been unembraced, and demoted.
It’s no wonder life feels reactive and combative and divisive. And no wonder we don’t see the sacred, or the holy, or the opportunities to heal the parts that have been diminished and wounded.
“I think this election shook all of us (or at least I hope it did). I know it shook me to my core. I also know that it’s up to me to do my part in bridging the lack of understanding that exists within myself and with those in my country,” Maria Shriver wrote this morning.

I spent Saturday morning leading a Zoom retreat (I smile thinking that this was never an aspiration growing up, to lead Zoom retreats. Just sayin’.) I was grateful to spend time with a group, as we talked about embracing the Gift of Enough. Which is another way of talking about who or what owns us. And because of Enough, we are not at the mercy of life. Because of that sufficiency at our core, our capacity to be penny finder, grace spiller and healer; it gives us purpose. 

Back to the story. It’s as if the little girl in the story is swimming in a sea of grace, and in her heart and mind, that sea is available to everyone. You see, the penny is a paradigm. And here’s our question today: What paradigm owns me?
Here are my pennies…
God is alive in well in everyday life, and in the people around me
The ordinary is the hiding place for the holy
In small gifts and gestures, we find ourselves celebrating the sacrament of the present
In honoring grace, I say yes to sanctuary, wholeness, resilience, unity, inclusiveness and healing
And here’s the good news. This isn’t an assignment. It’s the permission to draw on the reservoir that is already inside: the gift of enough. Granted, in troubled times, it doesn’t feel easy to access.

“In Hebrew the opposite of holy is chol, which is translated not as ‘profane’ but as ’empty’; in other words, ‘not yet filled.'” writes Irwin Kula. “The word for holy in Hebrew is kedusha. A more accurate translation of kedusha is ‘life intensity.’  To be holy is to be intensely dynamic, ever-changing, and ever-realizing.  The Biblical command ‘You Shall Be Holy’ is an invitation to celebrate what philosopher Mark Taylor calls ‘a maze of grace that is the world.’  Live as richly and passionately as possible; that’s as close to meaning as you will get.”
So. Here is our invitation today: Share your delight (your discovered penny) with someone else.
We can risk living less than tidy lives.
We can risk asking for less than perfection from others (and ourselves).
We can risk loving.
In a glance.  In a word.  In a touch.  In a gesture, there is healing and kindness and hope… and the permission to dance is offered.  We cannot change the pain in our lives or the lives of others.  But we can accompany each other, and along the way, look for pennies…    
Today, we pray for our new President and Vice-president elect, and their families.
And today, I spent a little time raking big leaf maple leaves, some of them up to fourteen inches across. I had to stop raking just to admire them. “Look,” I say to the sky, “I found another penny!” 

Quote for your week…
To risk being disturbed and changed.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.
John O’Donohue 

I’m grateful for those who have joined us for the NEW Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Tuesday through Friday. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.

My new book is here. Order today. The Gift of Enough–a journal for the present moment (Franciscan Media).

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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Good Morning, Terry! This is a draft of the email I would like to send out tomorrow, Nov. 3rd—with your permission—to the people who subscribe to the daily edition of my newsletter, A Piece of Good News. Your and Nadia’s words are the perfect way to reframe such an important Election Day and beyond. I’ve been getting your Sabbath Moment for a few months now and it’s become one of the highlights of my week! There is no doubt that my brain waves, heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, stress hormones and other such always get themselves into much better alignment and balance after reading each issue—especially during this fraught political season. I hope to be able to send out this email early tomorrow morning. Blessings and thanks for what you are doing, Bruce Williamson

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POEMS AND PRAYERS

People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Invitation
Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.
Mary Oliver

Dear God,
May today be Day One of a new unity in the US, with former divisions freshly healed by humility, wisdom, charity, grace, and forgiveness.
Healer of our every ill, breathe in and among all of us who dwell on this land.
Soothe our wounds. Calm our fears.
Mend our divisions.
Hope of all tomorrows, open our deaf ears and fill us with compassion.
Tender our hearts. Inspire creative ideas to address the cries of our sisters, brothers, and Earth itself.
Send forth your Spirit of Love and Unity.
Transform pointed fingers of blame into hands open in reverence to receive one another.
Fan into flame the gift of our founding and let us be known again as a people united for the goodness, justice and peace of all people forever. Amen.
Sr. Pat Bergen, CSJ

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