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Invitation to be here now

Uncertainty doesn’t feel like a fun thing. And we like to think we’d recognize the stuff that may unravel us, but are routinely surprised. So, it is no shock that we yearn for more certainty, you know, to enable us to “handle” uncertainty. (And no surprise, when something does unravel us, we think we have missed something, and give ourselves grief.)
This week I’m enjoying the book Uncertain, by Maggie Jackson, telling me that “the best thinking begins and ends with the wisdom of being unsure.” And I confess: reading that sentence made me stop and say, “Wait a minute.”

So. It is story time.
And I’ve always loved the Tibetan story about an earnest young man seeking enlightenment. (Earnest people must think this quite unfair—since they play a central role in most parables and stories about enlightenment.)
A famous sage passes through the man’s village. The man asks the sage to teach him the art of meditation. The sage agrees. He tells the man, “Withdraw from the world. Mediate every day in the specific way I will teach you. Do not waver and you will attain enlightenment.”
The earnest man follows the sage’s instructions to the letter. Time passes—and no enlightenment. Two years, five, ten pass.
It happens that the sage once again passes through the man’s village. The man seeks him out, grumbling that despite his best intentions and devotion and diligent efforts, he does not achieve enlightenment. “Why?”
The sage asks, “What type of meditation did I teach you?”
The man tells him.
The sage says, “Oh, what a terrible mistake I made! That is not the right meditation for you. You should have done another kind altogether. Too bad, for now it is too late.”
Disconsolate, the man returns to his cave. Staking his life on the sage’s instructions (assuming the meditation meant certainty), and now believing he is without hope, the man abandons all his wishes and efforts (and his need for “certainty”), as a way to control his road to enlightenment.
He does not know what to do.
So. He does what knows best: he begins meditating, honoring his practices. And in a short while, much to his astonishment, his confusion begins to dissolve, and his inner world comes to life.
You see, a weight falls away, and he feels lighter and regenerated. When he walks out of the cave, the sky is bluer, the snowcapped mountains whiter, and the world around him more vivid; now walking fully, and wholeheartedly, into the day.
There is no doubt that all too often, our efforts—to put certainty in a box, to succeed or achieve or attain—get in the way of the invitation to simply, be here now. It brings to mind my favorite Robert Capon quote, “We live life like ill-taught piano students. So inculcated with the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”

I often talk about scotoma. I think of it as selective blindness: We see only what we want to see. Which means, it is paradigm shift time.
Meaning? When we require (even demand) a certain script, we see only that script (for example, the meditation that the man assumed would give him inner peace). We assume that the script will take us where we need to go.
Bottom line, we miss the beautiful complexity of this moment. We miss the gifts of liberation that live in the sacrament of the present moment. We miss the gifts of grounding that live in the ordinary (yes, even uncertain ordinary); yes, the hiding place for the holy.
So. I want to let go of the script that uncertainty is my enemy.
I want to see the gifts. I want to walk out of the cave, and embrace the invitation to presence, curiosity, wonder, awe, learning, change, seeing, pausing, reflecting. To creativity and resilience.

As a young clergy, I connected certainty with appearance. So, I can tell you that I relate to the young man in the story (well, maybe not the young part). I was weaned on a spirituality that predicated itself on artifice. In other words, the importance is placed upon appearance, rather than just being. (It was vital to “look spiritual.” Which begs the question, “What do spiritual people look like?” As a boy, I always thought the “spiritual people” looked as if some part of their clothing was a size too small.)
This also I confess; I still prefer (sometimes need) my world tidy, or at least explicable, something I can put my mental arms around. Telling myself that it’s easier to breathe that way, because peace only happens when everything lines up. And my selective blindness doesn’t see otherwise. So, like the young man, life must be figured out (resolved) before we live it.
Here’s the deal: I always thought I needed to explain grace. Find the box to fit grace in. Bottom line: I didn’t allow myself to simply rest in grace.
Even the parts that I didn’t understand. The gift of grace allowing me to be awake, to love all the parts, the cracks and the uncertainty. To be at home in my own skin. Or, Maria Shriver’s invitation, “This week, I hope you can make room for the unexpected, and when it arrives, show it some love.”

I take heart in Rabbi Irwin Kula’s wisdom, “Don’t we all want to make sense? Jewish wisdom sanctions the yearning even ennobles it, at the same time teaching there is no meaning: only a kind of dance between meaning and ambiguity; understanding and misunderstanding; faith and doubt; essence and no-essence. And the more joyous the dance, the richer and more holy the life.”

Speaking of uncertainty, it was a not fun week for me, technology issues with Sabbath Moment. There are a few things we need to redesign. And I’m so sorry for the problems with many SM readers missing the emails. We are working to get it resolved.
For Super Bowl watchers, I hope you enjoyed your chicken wings and chips and dip. And congrats to
A blessed Lenten season to you. Our invitation to pause, and find ways to go deeper in our relationship with God.
And this week I’ll be headed down to Anaheim for the Religious Education Congress. I hope to see some of you there. Stop by for a hug. I will welcome it.

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…
One of the ways to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that we have an address but cannot be found there. Henri Nouwen  


Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, Thought you might enjoy this picture I took in December. It made me think of the word Resilient. The tree is clinging to the edge of Bryce Canyon in Utah. It’s alive and has an amazing view. Thanks for all you do! Your Sabbath moment centers me and helps me find peace and joy.” Donna McNamara…. Thank you Donna.. And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

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NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — Reintroduced to wonder
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Terry, I don’t know if you are familiar with Steve Garnaas-Holmes, but I get his weekly poems. Today’s reminded me of your mantra re the ordinary being the hiding place of the holy. This poem seems to capture that thought.  I hope you enjoy. (Listening to it is also a nice way to enjoy it.) Peace, Jan
–God blessed the day that I understood, and believed, that I could finally accept God’s grace and more, his truly unconditional love. Thank you for helping me to remember that day. Your friendly follower, Barb
–I’m enjoying your book “Soul Gardening”. We have a very small yard of condo front all sun and back three feet only, and all shade. When my husband ordered strawberry plants and tier for them to be put in Front yard, I laughed. Three years ago I’d have had a fit. Thanks for your book and Sabbath notes. God bless you. Mary
–Hi Terry, The god of my (mis) understanding and I will be going to see The Rolling Stones this summer. It’s where the magic is. Best to you amigo, John
–I want you to know how much your messages reminds me of the kindness and acceptance that still exists in this country. Love does win. Thank you Terry for being a beacon of light and hope. All my best, Ron 


Rabbi Irwin Kula urges us to find meaning in “…the sacred messiness; when we can experience, even just for fleeting moments, the fragility of creation and the necessity of chaos.” Yearnings, the Sacred Messiness of Life.

Days pass and the years vanish
and we walk sightless among miracles.
Lord, fill our eyes with seeing
and our minds with knowing.
Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning,
illuminates the darkness in which we walk.
Help us to see, wherever we gaze,
that the bush burns, unconsumed.
And we, clay touched by God,
will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder,
‘How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.’
Gates of Prayer

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
Mary Oliver 

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