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Love starts a ripple

There were times this week, sitting at my computer writing Sabbath Moment, when I couldn’t take my eyes off the news, watching pain and suffering and inhumanity in real time. I couldn’t move, tears scrolling down my cheeks.
“My body itself feels shocked and my heart beyond sore,” Krista Tippett described her experience this week.

Gratefully, I did not wipe my tears away. Nor did I chide myself. I was grateful, knowing that my tears were my teacher, a fountain of strength, and a gift reminding me of my capacity (and yes, my arsenal) for humanity, empathy and compassion. A reminder that my heart, while sore (or broken or overwhelmed) is still very much alive and well.

So. What do we do when life feels upside down?  I’m smiling because even with a deflated spirit, I can still find myself feeling guilty about my puny efforts, including my prayers. (As if caring is about keeping score. Lord have mercy.)

This week, my heart needed a replenishment story. To let me see and embrace that our best response (our best “weapon” if you will) is to let our heart do what it does best: to feel and hold the pain yes, and then to love, and care for, and gift grace (even recklessly) to those who can’t fight for themselves.
I love the story Chris Hedges writes about his father (Losing Moses on the Freeway). It does my heart good.
“But what struck me about him most,” Chris writes, “as I grew older, is that he did not have to embrace difference.  Charming, good looking, endowed with an infectious sense of humor, it would have been easier to go along.  He could have simply been ‘nice.’  He could have avoided the confrontations that tore him apart.  But he understood the message of the gospel, although I suspect his actions were less intellectual than instinctual.  I asked him once when I was a teenager what he said to bereaved families when he went to the farmhouses after the funerals of loved ones.  Surely, I thought, even my father with his close proximity to disease and death and grief would have some wisdom to impart.’Mostly,’ he answered, ‘I make the coffee.’
It was his presence, more than anything he could say, which mattered.”
That’s it?
Yes, that’s it.
We do find a way to complicate things, no doubt about that—by turning whatever he did (or had, or offered) into a program on “presence.”  You know, with a sure-fire title like “Discovering the Five Steps to Presence.”  Or requiring “advanced presence certification.”  Churches, to be sure, would oblige the formation of a “presence committee.”
But here’s the deal: presence is not a skill set.  Presence is what spills from one who is unafraid to be at home in their own skin, even with a sore heart. Or at the very least, one who has given up the need to impress or jump hoops for laurels.
You see, presence does not distinguish.
Or judge.
Presence just is.
Or mostly… just makes the coffee.

I liked this, from Rabbi Dr. Ariel Burger, “My mantra this year has been the Hebrew words, Lev Basar, which means ‘a heart of flesh,’ from the biblical verse, ‘I will take from you a heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’ Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, ‘There’s nothing as whole as a broken heart.’ In these traditions, you cultivate a broken heart which is very different from depression or sadness. It’s the kind of vulnerability, openness, and acute sensitivity to your own suffering and the suffering of others that becomes an opportunity for connection.” Yes indeed, Martin Luther King’s reminder, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

I confess that when I’m down, I’m susceptible to an internal grilling, “Does what I do even make a difference?” And I have found that this question messes with me only when I assume that something is missing from my life. Or that I need to prove something to someone.
In those moments, I’ll turn on the coffee pot, and remember Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ wisdom that “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.”

“There’s a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call, and answer in extraordinary ways.” From the film “Mother Teresa”

I took heart in this from John Roedel (the entire text is in the poems and prayers).
“I can’t deflect a sniper’s bullet
from turning a wife into a widow
I can’t stave off a country being
reduced to ash and rubble
I can’t do any of that
the only thing I can do
is love the next person I encounter
without any conditions or strings
to love my neighbor
so fearlessly that
it starts a ripple
that stretches from
one horizon to the next”

Let us remember than many hearts are sore. People around us, people we know and love. So, this week… can I make you some coffee?
We make space to welcome.
We make space to offer comfort or reprieve or hope.
We make space to be sanctuary in a world of disquiet, disruption and misgiving. 

I just read this story… my oh my… “Russian soldiers captured in Ukraine will literally be delivered back to their mothers. A POST reportedly from the Ukraine army says it will give Russian soldiers captured during the invasion back to their mothers, literally. The post states that all Russian mothers need to do is make it to the Ukrainian border and they will be able to meet their sons in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv. The post concludes: ‘We, Ukrainians, unlike Putin’s fascists, are not at war with mothers and their captive children.’”
A shout out to the Paralympic athletes competing this week in Beijing. A treat to watch.

Quote for your week…
Imagine there’s no heaven,
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us.
Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people
Living for today.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.
John Lennon

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Today’s Photo Credit: Miniature cairns. To guide our way. From my friend Bill Taylor (Houson, TX)… Thank you Bill… Keep sending your photos… send to 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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Letters that do my heart good…
–Dear Terry; I read and enjoy these most days, just don’t always make the time.  But, today, these words were incredibly helpful to me as I feel so helpless with the war in Ukraine and have wondered what I could possibly do. Your words were so helpful in that regard, so, thank you so very much. Gratefully, Darla
–Again your words put an instant change in perspective today. Capturing my attention to refocus. My take away is bringing myself back to my little world and my contributions when I walk out my door. Success and satisfaction can be achieved. We are all connected and yes, praying for peace is one. I like your intention Terry. Pray for miracles. While what is opening before us is all you mentioned. Sounds, changes, crocuses popping up. I don’t want to miss these views either. Thank you for being my shift leader today.  Donna
–Dear Terry, Thank you for your wise words and gentleness each day. They are so kind and act as a roadmap for me by helping me realize that each day God’s grace is with us all. The news about Ukraine is so unnerving, covid is still hiding around corners, crime is in the headlines. You offer a prescription of faith. Your words help to turn our fears into trust and to take one day at a time. God bless you. Christine 

POEMS AND PRAYERS

“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”
Frederick Buechner

Prayer for peace
For those who are fleeing : sanctuary
For those who are staying : safety
For those who are fighting : peace
For those whose hearts are breaking : comfort
For those who see no future : hope
Amen.

I can’t make the
world be peaceful
I can’t stall tanks
from roaring down roads
I can’t prevent children
from having to hide in bunkers
I can’t convince the news to
stop turning war into a video game
I can’t silence the sound of bombs
tearing neighborhoods apart
I can’t turn a guided missile
into a bouquet of flowers
I can’t make a warmonger
have an ounce of empathy
I can’t convince ambassadors
to quit playing truth or dare
I can’t deflect a sniper’s bullet
from turning a wife into a widow
I can’t stave off a country being
reduced to ash and rubble
I can’t do any of that
the only thing I can do
is love the next person I encounter
without any conditions or strings
to love my neighbor
so fearlessly that
it starts a ripple
that stretches from
one horizon to the next
I can’t force peace
on the world
but I can become a force
of peace in the world
because
sometimes all it takes
is a single lit candle
in the darkness
to start a movement
“Lord, make me a candle
of comfort in this world
let me burn with peace”
John Roedel 

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