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Let us pause, and be grateful

Once upon a time there lived a lowly stone cutter. A less than content lowly stone cutter. He was certain his life would be better if, well, if it were different than the life he had now. Although he was very good at what he did (cutting stone), he always assumed he needed more, you know, if he could be more powerful, he could be somebody.
One day while he was working, he sees a sultan pass by, carried on a great chair with the usual assortment of guards, courtiers and the like.
And the stone cutter thought, “If I could be like that, I would be content.” And his wish was granted. And he became the great sultan, and people bowed down, and he felt powerful. And content.
But he wasn’t content, because it was a very hot summer day, and the sun beat down, and he felt very uncomfortable in the sticky chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is.” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun.”
And his wish was granted. And he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers.
But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is.” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud.”
Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone.
But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is.” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind.”
Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, there was something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it—a massive, towering rock. “How powerful that rock is.” he thought. “I wish that I could be a rock.”
And he became the rock.
Then one day, he heard the sound of a hammer and a chisel and felt himself changing. And he realized there was something “more powerful” than he was.
And he looked down, and he saw a lowly stonecutter.
This Taoist parable makes me smile, and does my heart good. (Here’s my version, telling the story.)

Because we easily forget that contentment is not about changing, or needing power, it is about being alive and well in our own skin.
Giving ourselves the permission to see the light inside.
Yes, the holy in the lowly.
(We are too easily captivated by labels. It’s just that when we label, we see only the label, and sadly, dismiss what is there.)
True, we do live in a world that often feels too heavy. And we carry sadness, loneliness, melancholy… and discontent. And yet, because we see only the “lowly” (and see it as detrimental), we miss the beauty and light that resides there (even and especially there). No wonder we are afraid to be at home in our own skin.

Today we light the second candle of Advent. It is called the “Bethlehem Candle” as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. Thinking out loud here, but didn’t Mary and Joseph (on their journey toward Bethlehem) find sanctuary and rest in a “lowly” stable? Ahh yes, the lowly stable, now home to the holy. And unto us a child is born… the gift of light to a dark world.

So. During this season, let us pause, shall we? To be replenished by gratitude, and to savor the journey without focusing on where we “should be”.
No, gratitude is not a cure all. It doesn’t erase broken places, but gratitude does invite us to open our eyes to what we are “unable” to see (you know, beyond the labels), and embrace the gift of now.
And sure, change is not a bad thing at all… But you can’t change anything until you love it.
You can’t love anything until you know it.
You can’t know anything until you embrace it.
This is the solid ground of grace. And we know that light spills from that grounded self. (I’ve written before about the need to let go of the phrase “I’m just a…” as we put a bushel over the light.)
Let us be gentle with ourselves, and frolic in the gift of grace.

Pause for just a second…
a moment…
to be grateful…
Even if life isn’t perfect.
Just be thankful…
For the life you get to live.
For the stories.
For the adventure.
and for those you are blessed to love
Rachel Marie Martin

Mary Oliver’s reminder, “It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.”

Today I’m on a plane to Arizona, where next weekend I’ll be at the Franciscan Renewal Center (Scottsdale). Our topic? Being at Home in My Own Skin: The Ultimate Gift. The permission to embrace authenticity and find our voice. Yes, even in the “lowly”.
This week visiting old friends in Tucson. And hoping for a place not covered in ice and snow, the Pacific Northwest still blanked. And the geese are wondering if they need to wear boots.

Quote for our week…
I do not ask to see the reason for it all;
I ask only to share the wonder of it all.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel


Today’s Photo Credit:  “Good morning Terry… Sending along some photos from a local beach hike in Dana point. I can never get enough of God’s beauty in creation!” Cathy Roby… Thank you Cathy… Keep sending your photos… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Dear Terry, I can’t begin to tell you how much the writings in “Sabbath Moment” and in your books have meant to me.  It’s been quite awhile since I met you in Cincinnati when you came to Mount Notre Dame. (I was the one who gave you the yellow rubber duck in remembrance of “Duckling Moments.”)  Since that event, I weathered two cancer surgeries and lost my ministry as a social worker in a drop-in center for people because of Covid. Through all those ups and downs, your urging to live fully with God in the present moment has continued to revive my spirit. Even losing my ministry has turned into an unexpected blessing.  At age 81, I was requested to move to Kenya, Africa, and assist Sister Lucy in the formation of 10 wonderful novices.  Will wonders never cease?!  I have been here three months and have brought you with me!  I treasured your story of the beggar who sat on a box  that had all he needed inside, but was unknown to him.  Since Thanksgiving Day is not a holiday in Kenya, I shared it with the community during a Thanksgiving prayer service I prepared.  I found a beat-up carboard box and put it in front of the altar in chapel.  Inside the box, I placed a scroll with the message that is better than any gold coins.  As I shared the story of the beggar and the man who spoke with him, two novices carefully opened the box.  Then a third sister opened the scroll and stood in front of each person present to read.  It said: “The kingdom of God is within you!”  What an impact that had on everyone!  It’s a known fact, but sometimes an unrecognized gift.  They are still talking about the depth of that realization. I hold you and your family in prayer as you remember your father who died about two years ago at this time.  I am glad that you are on the speaking circuit once again.  Maybe you’ll even get to Nairobi, Kenya, some day!  Have a blessed Advent and a Wow of a Christmas. Sincerely, Sister Therese 


If you live the life you love, you will receive shelter and blessings. Sometimes the great famine of blessings in and around us derives from the fact that we are not living the life we love; rather, we are living the life that is expected of us. We have fallen out of rhythm with the secret signature and light of our own nature. John O’Donohue 

Had I Not Been Awake
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore
And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
It came and went so unexpectedly
And almost it seemed dangerously,
Returning like an animal to the house,
A courier blast that there and then
Lapsed ordinary. But not ever
After. And not now.
Seamus Heaney

I Would Be Glad
You are sitting in a wagon being
drawn by a horse whose
reins you
There are two of you
who can steer
Though most never hand the reins to Me
so they go from place to place the
best they can, though
rarely ever happy.
And rarely does their whole body laugh
feeling God’s poke
in the
If you feel tired, dear,
my shoulder is soft,
I’d be glad to
steer a
Kabir (1440-1518)

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