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Love will set us free

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable,” Madeleine L’Engle wrote. “But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
And there is a voice inside of me that says, “Do I have to be?”
Sometime the world hurts too much, and vulnerability is not always fun.
This morning, in church (in Greenwich, CT), we heard this invitation in song, “Dreaming of a world of peace.
Lay down your arms,
Let time heal every wound,
And love will someday set us free.” (Lay Down Your Arms)

This invitation gratefully has the power to shift our core sense of where we tether our being. And it includes the recognition that it is (even, and especially) in our vulnerability, and humility, that we find the strength and the power to take care of one another.
The invitation to be the light that lets love set one another free.
This matters, because no one is on this journey alone.

Bob works as a pediatric nurse with terminally ill children. One of his “patients,” is a little girl named Emily. Emily loved playing with Bob when he visited her room. She felt safe and they become fast friends. Occasionally, Emily would talk about the time when “Chucky Lee” was “going to come.” Bob assumed she was speaking of a friend, or family member. So, one day he asked her.
Emily told Bob, “Chucky Lee comes to see me sometimes.” And then paused and added, “Chucky Lee is death. Someday Chucky Lee will come and take me away.”
Bob knew that Emily needed to personify death into a character she could understand. It made perfect sense.
“Are you frightened?” he asked.
“Yes, very much. Mostly he comes at night.”
Bob was moved by her clarity and innocence. And he wanted to protect her, to shield her from such sorrow. “At night, when you feel Chucky Lee coming, is there anything you can do to feel better?”
“Oh, yes,” Emily replied brightly, “You have to sing Jingle Bells and other love songs!”
After that Bob asked specifically about her nights.
“Well,” she told him, using a conspiratorial whisper, “Last night, I had to sing Jingle Bells three times, very, very loud.”
Indeed Emily. Very, very loud…
We can all learn from Emily. Let’s call it the music of love setting us free. Even when we are most vulnerable.
Although, to be honest, I’d rather a life exempt from the visits of Chucky Lee. Whether it is heartache, fragility, vulnerability, breakability, weakness or disillusionment. Each of them, in their own way, a small death.

I vividly remember a conversation with a friend. As paramedics worked over the body of a young man dying from an overdose, my friend held the young man’s 21-year-old friend tightly, as he sobbed in her arms, hyperventilating. She didn’t know quite what to say, but whispered over and over, “breathe with me, breathe in the spirit, and breathe out the junk.” She told me, “I cleaned up the blood-stained carpet left by the paramedics. It was my prayer of servitude, I guess. It is an unusual feeling, cleaning up the blood of someone who is dying, but there is a profound sense of devotion to what is sacred here. It’s not just about the bloody and messy, but about the fragility of life, and how life doesn’t unfold neatly and how I have so much to learn in trusting that truth.”
Yes. It is in our vulnerability and humility that we find the strength and the power to take care of one another.
Here’s the deal: Sometimes we need to hold someone tight, even if we don’t know what to say.
Sometimes we need to let ourselves be held tightly, even if we don’t believe what is whispered in our ear.
Sometimes we must be very still, for an afternoon, and use our stillness as a prayer, a silent song to the heavens.
Sometimes we need to walk the dog, fill the bird-feeders, talk with a friend, or reach out to someone who feels isolated, under a dark cloud, and alone.
And sometimes, we need to sing Jingle Bells and other love songs very, very loud.
Not that music always has its intended result. Many years ago, Zach and I are tooling down a Vashon country road, Matisyahu’s One Day blasting (what is heartfelt music, if not loud?), and me singing along with unabashed gusto.
“Dad,” Zach says, “Shhhh. You know these feel-good songs, the ones where you can almost taste the sadness? Well, the way I listen to them is to become like an Indian doing meditation. And Dad, when you sing along, you mess up my mantra.”
Ohhhh. Okay. Thank you, son. I know I can’t carry a tune. I just never knew I could mess up someone’s mantra.
I do know what he means though. About the almost taste the sadness part. Music has a power that enables it to find its way into the crevices of our soul.
Yes, the music of love setting us free.

So, this week, very, very loud renditions of love songs—music of healing and redemption and transformation. The music that gives hope to people around us.
We can do that. We make a difference. In our humility, we can make choices that empowers love to set us free. Let us pay it forward, singing “jingle bells” with fellow travelers, who need a hand to hold.

Tomorrow I am so grateful to be celebrating Passover Seder with the community at Temple Shalom in Greenwich, CT with Rabbi Mitch Hurvitz.
Passover, in Judaism, commemorates the Hebrews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, their ultimate exodus to freedom, and the “passing over” of the forces of destruction. A story that shapes their values of religious freedom, caring for the stranger, and standing up to oppressive tyrants. The celebration of freedom.
And a shout out to the good people at North Greenwich Congregational Church where I was honored to be guest preacher today. And to the Rev. Karen Halac, for her commitment to making a place where love does indeed set us free.

Quotes for your week…
Music can change the world
because it can change people.
Bono, U2
Note: Chucky Lee story adapted from Wayne Muller’s book, How then shall we live? 


Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, leaving the west coast to explore the east coast of the US and Canada by sea… The awesome grandeur of our Creator! Sunrise breaks through after a stormy night (and continued stormy day) in the Atlantic, off the coast of northern Florida.” Susie Hahn… Thank you Susie… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Your daily writing was shared with me a few years ago and I wanted to reach out and simply say “thank you”. Your heart and words echo my own. I’ve enjoyed each book, of yours, I’ve read either solo or within my book club. You’ve made me smile and have stirred my heart too many times to count. You bring the love and fun into our walk with the Lord in a rough and sometimes unkind world. “Thank you”. Virginia
–And a belated happy ordination anniversary to you. Glad you accepted God’s invitation. Peace and all good, Mary
–Terry, Your April 15th, “The Gift of Wonder” moved me this morning in ways I can’t describe. Nostalgia and memories of my youth and the journey I have been on. Hope you are keeping well. Jim
–Terry, Whoa! Mercy me! This reflection is just stunning. Having danced with cancer, I can assure you that your writing today hit every soft spot in my heart. Yes. Dancing with cancer gave me an opportunity to “relook” on the wonders of my life. Radical humility. Reset. An opportunity to look at life with a 360-degree view in 3D. Only you could find those descriptive words that make sense to the inner chatter of my mind. I’m going to print this one out as I need gentle reminders of God’s ever-present grace. Thank you my friend. Andrea
–Terry, a huge hug for you as you celebrate 45 years of being an ordained minister. I’m thinking how often your heart has grown over those years, how many hearts you have touched, how many lives you have transformed. I thank God for all the love you have brought to people, to this world. I thank God for you. Blessings, my friend. Mick


A Guiding Vision
All you who are thirsty, come
Come–where the Spirit stirs the waters
     to reveal the place where you stand as holy ground.
Bring here your God-story, the stories of those you touch
     to place them within the universal divine story.
Come–to receive and be nourished,
     to speak and to listen,
     to share and to reflect.
Come–to hear today’s prophets speak a vision for a better world.
Come–to renew your faith, your hope, your efforts
     for a world of peace, not war
     of harmony, not division
     of meaning, not power
A world held within the arms of divine compassion
Rita M. Martin, OP
(Siena Retreat Center, Racine, WI)

To Say Nothing But Thank You
All day I try to say nothing but thank you,
breathe the syllables in and out with every step I
take through the rooms of my house and outside into
a profusion of shaggy-headed dandelions in the garden
where the tulips’ black stamens shake in their crimson cups.
I am saying thank you, yes, to this burgeoning spring
and to the cold wind of its changes. Gratitude comes easy
after a hot shower, when loosened muscles work,
when eyes and mind begin to clear and even unruly
hair combs into place.
Dialogue with the invisible can go on every minute,
and with surprising gaiety I am saying thank you as I
remember who I am, a woman learning to praise
something as small as dandelion petals floating on the
steaming surface of this bowl of vegetable soup,
my happy, savoring tongue.
Jeanne Lohmann

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