It wasn’t church, but I sure said Amen a lot.
In the Vashon theater, we watched “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” All we were missing was a spirited gospel choir.
A dose of Mr. Rogers does my heart good. It is medicine for my spirit, too often agitated in a world where stickum attracts cynicism and melancholy. “He can’t be for real,” the reporter in the movie protests. I know my tears were real, and healing.
The power of the movie is in the affirmation of moments of grace. “Vagrant, unearned, numinous and liberating (grace moments) can turn everyday life into a miracle. In an era that seems fatally mired in fear, anger and mistrust, ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ arrives as something more than a movie. It feels like an answered prayer.” (Thank you Ann Hornaday)
Here’s the deal; This little light of mine… that light still shines.
In Fr. Greg Boyle’s Barking to the Choir (about his work with Homeboy Industries, gang intervention, rehab and reentry), he replays a conversation with Jermaine (after 20 years in prison, which in my mind, qualifies as a boatload of sediment).
Fr. Greg wonders aloud how Jermaine stays so upbeat.
Jermaine tells Fr. Greg, “I’ve decided to be loving and kind in the world. Now… just hopin’… the world will return the favor.”
Which is another way of saying, Jermaine can still see the light. Thank you Jermaine.
Fr. Greg calls these conversations “salvific stories.” As you spend your days, well, you live your life.
In all of us, there is a tussle between weakening of hope, and the hunger in our own soul for hope (a hunger David Whyte describes as “that small, bright and indescribable wedge of freedom” in our heart). Today I can live with that. And today, I can make choices from that place. Choices to cherish life and not to demean it.
There is a story about a kind, quiet man who prays in the Ganges River every morning. One day after praying, he sees a poisonous spider struggling in the water and cups his hands to carry it ashore. As he places the spider on the ground, it stings him. Unknowingly, his prayers for the world dilute the poison.
The next day the same thing happens. On the third day, the kind man is knee deep in the river, and, sure enough, there is the spider, legs frantic in the water.
As the man lifts the creature yet again, the spider asks, “Why do you keep lifting me? Can’t you see I will sting you every time, because that is what I do?”
And the kind man cups his hands about the spider, lifts the spider and replies, “Because that is what I do.”
I’ll admit it. Sometimes “kind” people trouble me. You know, those with that smile glued to their face. As if there’s an agenda and I didn’t get the memo. Or they need to prove a point to work off some kind of cosmic debt.
Yes, I’ve met truly kind people. My grandmother, for one. Sometimes I’m certain that her kindness saved me.
But I don’t come close to that kind of kindness. At least that’s what I tell myself. I’ve been selfish and have squandered too many opportunities. So, the stories of the sage and the spider and Mr. Rogers seem a stretch. I do get the point… Spiders sting. Wolves howl. And human beings lift each other up, no matter the consequence, even when other beings sting.
In our theater “church”, we had no need for a sermon. Only the permission to embrace something deep inside that helps us remember that we are the light.
Receiving his induction into TV’s Hall of Fame, Fred Rogers tells the audience, “We are chosen to be servants, it doesn’t matter what our particular job.”
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us.
This little light of mine… that light still shines.
When the Civil War started in 1861, Clara Barton was a copyist for the US Patent Office in Washington, DC. Because of the war, it wasn’t long before troops poured into DC. Clara quickly realized that many of the soldiers were hurt and hungry. So, she gathered clothing, food, and bandages and brought them to the troops being housed in the not yet completed US Capitol Building. To Clara, they were “her boys.” In addition to gathering medical supplies, she read to the men, cooked for them, wrote letters for them, listened to their problems, and prayed with them. Soon, though, she realized that the place she was needed most was the battlefield itself.
This’ll make you shake your head; Clara had to convince Army powers to permit her to volunteer.
One night in 1862, after a particularly brutal battle in northern Virginia, she showed up at the field hospital around midnight with a wagonload of supplies. A surgeon working at the camp wrote: “I thought that night if heaven ever sent out an angel, she must be one—for her assistance was so timely.” She became known as the Angel of the Battlefield.
Something else to know about Clara; danger didn’t bother her. Her foes were internal. She wrote in her diaries: “I am depressed and feel dissatisfied with myself.” She struggled with the “thin black snakes” of sadness that threatened to close in around her. And her way out? To find another place to be engaged. And in 1865, President Lincoln found Clara another problem to solve, inviting people to address her with names of missing prisoners of war. She and her team answered 63,000 letters and identified over 22,000 missing men.
She didn’t stop there. In 1881 Clara founded the American Red Cross. (Story from The Book of Gutsy Women)
A man dies and stands at the pearly gates. St. Peter asks, “Tell me, where are your scars?” The man replies, “I don’t have any.” St. Peter, “That’s too bad, was there nothing on earth worth fighting for?”
This is perfect for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. So, if someone asks you what you “do,” tell them, “I lift others up.”
Quote for your week…
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. Edward Everett Hale
Notes: Clara Barton story from The Book of Gutsy Women, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Thank you Terry, for your messages of kindness and inclusiveness. A wonderful way to begin each week with a grateful heart. Carole
–I enjoy your work, Terry! We met at a conference in the Seattle area when I was a new yoga instructor, about 8 years ago. I was leading a Holy Yoga breakout session and you were the Keynote speaker. I was very nervous about teaching, but you were very kind and encouraging in our brief conversation. It went well. I have continued to teach but now call my classes Prayerful Yoga. I teach classes to people from their 40’s to their mid-to-late 80’s… and it is a beautiful thing! Andrea
–I love Mondays because I look forward to the inspiration I get on that morning when I get to read what Terry has written. Judy
–Hello Terry, Your SM are like a bottomless cookie jar, always filled to the brim with a fresh batch of morsels to satisfy and inspire our hungry hearts. We are so enriched by you and all that you are! You are enough and yet, you are always more. Thank you for generously spilling your light. Diane and Al
–You have always motivated me to pause… Judi
–Your CD’s help save my sanity, a very dear friend and spiritual advisor gave me the one’s on intimacy and I listened to them constantly for months, it was exactly what I needed at that time and words cannot express how thankful I am to have you in my life!! Lois
–Oh my you always seem to touch that deep soft spot. Thank you! Tammy
–Hi Terry, I think you are less about motivation and more about comfort, encouragement, and meeting people where they are. I’m surprised that the bank teller missed the sparkle in your eyes. I hope you will share today’s SM with her. Peace to you, Stephanie
–Hello Terry – I am moved to write to you, after laughing out loud at your story of the bank teller blurting out her comment…I am sure you already know this, but you don’t need to look any different than you already do, because there are bunches of us out here for whom you are a motivator! I especially appreciated these parts of your Sabbath Moment today: as a person who gave up a career where I was the director of a spiritual life center, part of a church staff, and the leader or co-leader of many support groups, I have been wondering for the last 12 years what my “legacy” might be when I have moved away from where I worked for my entire career, to live in Florida and serve as the back-up caregiver for two grandchildren. My husband and I started this “job” when we had one grandson, 10 months old. His sister came along about a year later. They are now ages 11 and 13 and growing so fast. They are both taller than I am, and soon will not ‘need us’ at all, but will hopefully still want to come spend time with us. I certainly hope that we are that sanctuary for our grandchildren. I was so encouraged by your story about Peggy Wallace Kennedy and her feeling about the road to her grandfather’s house: “It was like a signpost of a first glance of happiness point to the way home, where moments of acceptance and love were always waiting. This is what we are trying to create for our grandchildren. And Terry, SM is that sanctuary for us, your readers! Keep spilling your light! Blessings, Chris
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Do it anyway
People are often unreasonable,
illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and true enemies;
If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest anyway.
What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life