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A Place For Sanctuary. Sabbath Moment Daily Dose (Oct 12 – 15)

Tuesday — At what point does our worship (our desire for God) become routine?
At what point does our growing (our desire for wholeness and well-being and flourishing) become stale performance?

Because there is a fine line between safe (certain) and stuck–which becomes paralysis.  It happens when (like the ashram in Monday’s SM) I focus only on the cat. When I see only “the cat”… when I see procedure and creed, over journey and faith—you know, the “right notes” or the “right answer” or the “right stuff” or “when real life begins”, I miss…
…having my world shaken,
opportunity,
learning,
change,
transformation
and grace.
And I miss wonder, every time.

When closure is a prerequisite, we miss all the gifts (the sacred, the music, the dance in ordinary moments) on the journey.
In other words; “We live like ill-taught piano students.  We are so afraid of the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes,” Robert Capon.

It’s paradigm shift time. It’s not where we arrive, it’s the direction we are going. The permission and invitation to embrace the gifts on the journey. “If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.” Amen, Rachel Carson.

And yesterday, we lost a friend. A man who helped us see the power of the pilgrimage, the power of the music and the journey. Phil Volker now continues his walk in the great Santiago in the sky.
He talked a lot about the journey versus the destination. He had a right to. He lived with stage four cancer, meaning very slim odds. Well, so he was told. So, he decided to walk the Camino de Santiago (which began as a half-mile track in his own back acreage on Vashon Island until the doctors let him travel to Spain), and he learned early on that healing is more important than a cure.
Phil’s story is wonderfully told in the documentary Phil’s Camino, directed and produced by Annie O’Neil, which includes Phil’s musing about his own journey while carrying a chronic illness. (Check out his movie, Phil’s Camino.)
“There is being cured, and there is being healed, and there’s a difference,” Phil said in a moment of reflection some halfway through the pilgrimage. “I’m not going to be cured of the cancer, but I’ve been healed, and what that means is the joy of knowing that all things are reconciled with family and with God. There is a great joy and a great peace in that healing.”
Cure versus healing. Thank you Phil, for helping us all hear the music.

(I’ll write more about Phil in upcoming Sabbath Moments.)

Wednesday — What do you do when the/your world feels/turns upside down?
When your world feels unrecognizable and unsettled?
When you feel overwhelmed and alone?
It is no surprise that we want answers or solutions. Or, at the very least, some explanations. But wouldn’t you know it, none of the answers seem easy or what we had in mind.
In an email late in 2020, someone asked, “What have you been learning during this past year?”
And I responded, “More than ever, the invitation to wonder and to savor life in the moment. To be here now.” Even when now is challenging, even when now is difficult, even when now is completely upside down.
I write my daily blog, “Sabbath Moment,” 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. And when life feels upside down, it’s not that easy to do.
And yet, it has been said that when the supports are gone, we can find where our real worth lies.  Not exactly what we may have had in mind, but so it is.
Sometimes we choose.
Sometimes we don’t.

Even still, I’ll admit to a hankering for closure (some kind of enlightenment or at least that explanation). It is there that we forget: When closure is a prerequisite, we miss all the gifts (the sacred, the music, the dance, the epiphanies in ordinary moments) on the journey. Even in, and maybe especially in, the uncertainty.
Yes, even when we can no longer tie the cat to the pole (Monday’s SM).
We are invited to let go of what we cling to, and hear the music.
To quote my friend Phil Volker, “There is being cured, and there is being healed, and there’s a difference.”
So, this week we’re talking about that paradigm shift; from playing the notes to hearing the music. And here’s what I’m learning… epiphanies love to dance when and where we least expect it, even if only for what feels like the briefest of flashes.

In one of Phil’s blogs about Hildegard and medieval medicine and the book God’s Hotel, he relates the story of the power outage in Seattle and the Cancer Treatment Center running on 10% electrical power when things went medieval for an afternoon.  The lights were low, the chemo pumps ran but without all their noises and alarms and buzzes. The computers were down so the nurses actually spent the majority of their time with the patients.  It was a temporary shift that gave us all a different view, a view that favored quality for the patient and not the efficiency of the hospital.
It’s paradigm shift time.

And this, from John O’Donohue: “If my own death were to occur tomorrow, what would be the peaks of my existence? The faces of my beloved, and of others I love and those who loved me. The dark valleys of devastation; mountains; the ocean, the numinous music of words; the endless festival of the senses; the excitement and beauty of woman; the joy of music; memories of hard but satisfying days of work on the bog, in the meadows, building walls; conversations that still sing in the mind; the harp cello of the Irish language; the Eucharist, and the celebration of the body in love; being listened to when words were frail and suffering was sore; the return of the swallows to the shed; my uncle’s companionship; my father’s mystical sense; and my mother’s love and trust in my being.”

Thursday — I’m not sure why closure is so seductive. But it is, that I do know.
Some kind of security, I’m guessing.
Of course, with our craving for closure comes a myriad of worries about uncertainty. (As if uncertainty is a detriment, or a deficiency.)
Again, quoting Robert Capon, “We live like ill-taught piano students.  We are so afraid of the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”
When closure is a prerequisite, we miss all the gifts (the sacred, the music, the dance in ordinary moments) on the journey.
Here is what I do know: I want to hear (savor, enjoy) the music, even in (and especially in) an uncertain world.

I’m smiling big because our itch reminds me of the story of the Sunday School teacher with first graders who were acting up.  To calm them she said, “Kids, let’s play a game.  I’ll describe something to you, and you tell me what it is.  Okay?  It’s a furry little animal with a big bushy tail that climbs up trees and stores nuts in the winter.”  Silence. No one said anything.
“Come on,” the teacher encouraged, “You’re a good Sunday School class, you know the right answer to this question. It’s a furry little animal with a big bushy tail that climbs up trees and stores nuts in the winter.”
One girl raised her hand.  “Emily?”  “Well teacher,” Emily said, “it sounds like a squirrel to me, but I’ll say Jesus!” 

Okay. Instead of passing a test, it helps if we see our story as a life-giving invitation, and the permission to embrace a paradigm shift.
We forget that our well-being is not at the mercy of life’s happenings.
We get to choose the lens through which we invite life in. Our well-being is grounded in the power of this paradigm shift.
And here’s the gift: in our shifting, challenging, uncertain world, we are invited to pay attention to ways that our lives are recalibrated, grounded in values that allow us to find the sacrament of the present moment.
This is not a cerebral endeavor, as in “I believe in attentiveness and sacrament of the present.”
You see, we are wired to want lives that matter. To be connected. To make a difference. And yes, to spill hope.
We are wired to savor the sights and sound of the day.
We are wired to find grounding in wonder and awe.
We are wired to see the sacred in the ordinary, in the world and in the people around us.
So, here’s the deal: When we are present—attentive—we remember and embrace what matters.

And this week, I’ve been relishing some of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s quotes (he celebrated his 90th birthday) “We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”
Here’s my suggestion: Let’s remember why we are here.

Friday — “Tell me again, why are we here? I just want it to make sense.”
Late in her life, May Sarton was questioned about what she wanted to be when she “grew up.”  She replied, “To be human.”
Not bad. To be human is about regaining what has been lost in the shuffle when life has been relegated to keeping score and making waves.
To be human is about cultivating the nourished and replenished life.
To be human is about gardening the soul.
You can count me in if it means cultivating a place where I am attentive, present, and grounded. It’s just that twenty years of relentless pursuit of the good life delivered by a lottery-driven culture had rendered my perspective noticeably one-dimensional—“what’s the payoff?”—as if consumption (and closure) equals life at its finest.

For starters, we need to let go of our need for our journey or pilgrimage to be a race, or a contest, or a beauty pageant.
So. What if… we start by being at home in a world that is infused with the sacred.
Grounded, connected. The gift and the permission to be here now. The sacrament of the present, enabling us to be invested in a place (in a world) where grace and mercy and healing and redemption are alive and well.

A Zen roshi is dying. All of the monks gather—an eagerness restrained—around the deathbed, hoping to be chosen as the next teacher.
The roshi asks slowly, Where is the gardener?”
“The gardener,” the monks wonder aloud. “He is just a simple man who tends the plants, and he is not even ordained.”
“Yes,” the roshi replies. “But he is the only one awake. He will be the next teacher.”  

To be awake if born in the sufficiency of being at home in a grace filled world.
Broken? Yes. Unraveled? Too often. Uncertain? So, it seems.
And yet, grace is bigger. Which means it is available to spill to the world around us, to all who need the gift. 

The geese are back, so I’ll need to be talking to them this coming week. Looking forward to that. Oh yes… and I’ll be listening too.
And I can’t help it, but I need to repeat Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s answer to that question (“Why are we here?”), “We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”

Quote for your week…
Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.  Saint Francis de Sales

Quote for your week…
We live like ill-taught piano students.  We are so afraid of the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes. Robert Capon.  

Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
Franciscan Benediction  

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