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Wide open arms

It’s already long past departure time.  I’m standing near the gate, waiting for the inbound passengers to deplane. There’s nowhere to go, and the plane will depart when it departs.  Even so, the passengers (including me) are beginning to huddle, as if our hovering will speed up the process.  (And it doesn’t take much to make the air fretful and heavy.) We form a makeshift column, all of us wanting dibs on the precious above-seat-cargo-space.
Standing nearby, facing the now open jet-bridge-door, is a uniformed soldier.  He stands with nervous energy, conveying a restless and eager air.  He watches the door intently.  In his right hand he holds a large poster board sign, now hanging down by his side, hand stenciled in magic marker, “Welcome Home!  I love you!” 
Since he has been allowed to stand at the arrival gate (past airport security), it is evident that he is waiting for an “unaccompanied minor.”  The passengers from the inbound flight spill from the doorway.  She is the final passenger to deplane, accompanied by a flight attendant.  Around her neck, a plastic packet hangs with her documents.  She is, perhaps twelve or thirteen, although still childlike with two perfect braids.  She scans the faces; sees her father, and her smile is radiant and luminous.
There is a moment.  A pause.  She drops her backpack and catapults into his wide-open arms.  His hand-lettered sign has dropped from his hand to the floor, now immaterial, and as his daughter leans into his chest, he clutches her tightly and kisses her head.  Those of us lucky enough to witness this scene know the healing power, and blessedness of this embrace. 
No, we do not know their entire story.  How long since their last visit?  Why have they been separated?  Has he been deployed and in “harm’s way”?  And will he be returning to a war zone?  Does she live in another state, unable to frequently visit her father?
But this we do know: Every single one of us in that departure lounge wished to be in that embrace. You could feel our disquiet dissipate.
Here’s the deal: in that embrace, the little girl was at home. 

I don’t remember the year I witnessed this hug, but it stays with me. I replay it in my mind for emotional sustenance. And I love to tell the story at events. I can still see the look on the faces of the Father and Daughter.
The embrace resonates (and soothes) because in the cacophony of our world, it’s easy to lose our way. Derailed or distracted or disconnected, we forget where we park our well-being.
Which begs the question: When do you know that you’ve come home?
There is a similar story (about an embrace) told in the Gospel of Luke.  A young man leaves home in order to explore and experiment.  And “find himself.”  It doesn’t turn out like he planned.  He squanders his inheritance and his opportunity, and lives penniless.  So, he decides to return–full of shame and regret–willing to be his father’s servant, as some kind of penance.  And then this sentence; “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” 
His Father’s reaction?  Wrath? 
Hardly.  Just the opposite.  His father throws a party.  He calls for rings on his son’s fingers, shoes on his feet, and says: “Kill the fatted calf, and let us eat and be merry. My son was dead, and he’s alive, was lost, he’s found.” And they do indeed have the best of all parties, with music and dancing and everything else necessary for merriment.
So, we reaffirm Robert Capon’s affirmation, “You can’t get away from a love that won’t let you go.” 

But in real life, it doesn’t always turn out this way, does it?
A fifth grade boy (in a Texas school) wrote about his “very first dad.”
I remember him
like God in my heart, I remember him in my heart
like the clouds overhead,
and strawberry ice cream and bananas
when I was a little kid.
But the most I remember
is his love,
as big as Texas
when I was born.
His teacher explained, “He’s not a very good student, although he tries.  But he’s never done anything like this (the poem) before.”  She went on, “He never even knew his real father.  The man skipped town the day the boy was born.” 
Even so.  In all of us, there is a yearning.  A hunger. 
A need to know that we count. That we matter.   

Until the day we leave this earth, we all are looking for wide open arms. Yes, we do our best to pretend that we have our act together, or that we are above overtures of compassion. But inside something gnaws. Too often, we don’t trust our own goodness. So, we reach out, at every opportunity, looking for mercy. We need hugs to remind us. I see a lot of pain in our world; physical, yes, but more emotional and spiritual pain that tears at us with sadness, estrangement, emptiness, and anger. 
However; let us not forget… finding this embrace is not a contest or test. And more than ever, it helps when we remember that the embrace we seek, is an embrace we too, are able to give (even in our brokenness and forgetfulness), because compassion and mercy is alive and well at our core.  
A young boy had nightmares.  The kind that makes you go to mom.  (You know, because Dad may say, “Go to mom.”)
“Okay,” the mom tells the boy.  “Go back to your room.  Kneel down by your bed.  Pray to Jesus and he’ll fix it.”
Back to his room.  Kneels down by his bed.  Prays.  And… more nightmares. Back and forth to mom.  The sixth time.  “Mom, I’m having nightmares.” “Okay honey, here’s what…”  “I know the drill mom.  I’m going to my room, and kneel down by my bed and pray to Jesus.  But before I do that, can I just lay in your bed and have you hold me?”
“Yes, honey, why?”
“Because sometimes I just need Jesus with skin on it.”
That’s our invitation: today, let’s be Jesus with skin on it.

A year ago, Georgia Representative John Lewis died. “Do not get lost in a sea of despair,” Lewis tweeted almost exactly a year before his death. “Do not become bitter or hostile. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. We will find a way to make a way out of no way.”
And today, I watched Collin Morikawa become the Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal St George’s in England.

Quote for your week….
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou

SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD

Today’s Photo Credit: “Dear Terry: My husband Bernard took this photo of our sacred mountain as we awaited the rains showing on and around it. This mountain ALWAYS brings peacefulness to my heart. I can sit in stillness for hours gazing at it feeling the presence of our ancestors, hearing its (the mountain) songs, and experiencing flashes of precious moments with significant people who have gone on into the after world.  We call it Waw Guiwulk which describes it as we know it. It’s referred by others outside our Nation as Baboquivari.” Regina Siquieros (Arizona)… Thank you Regina… Keep sending your photos… send to tdh@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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In the mailbag…
–Dear Terry, I had to send this to you! I just finished watching Season 8, Episode 8 of the PBS series “Call the Midwife”.  As the town’s people are dancing at a fundraising dance for a new incubator for the hospital in the small English village, a mirror ball spins, spreading light everywhere. The narrator says, ” Gathered together we find our light, and each spark shifts and multiplies, scattering its radiance on our ordinary lives. Like everything precious, more valuable when shared; like every common miracle made up of the stuff of stars. Let the light shine, watch for it falling on each other’s faces. Count the beams, catch them. Let them be reflected back. See the Hope! See the Promise! Never hide your fears in silence. Listen to those you cherish. Hold them in your arms. Let them hear your heart. Tell your truth. Tell your story. Tell your Love.” I continue to spill the light here in Wadsworth, OH. Thank you for Sabbath Moment.  Glad to be a supporter. Peggy

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POEMS AND PRAYERS

Paradoxically, we achieve true wholeness only by embracing our fragility and sometimes our brokenness. Wholeness is a natural radiance of Love, and Love demands that we allow the destruction of our old self for the sake of the new.  Life did not intend for us to be inviolable.  –Jalaja Bonheim

A prayer for when we have come to the end of our own resources —
We struggle, we grow weary, we grow
tired.
We are exhausted, we are distressed, we despair.
We give up, we fall down, we let go.
We cry.
We are empty, we grow calm, we are ready.
We wait quietly.
A small, shy truth arrives.
Arrives from without and within.
Arrives and is born.
Simple, steady, clear.
Like a mirror, like a bell, like a flame.
Like rain in summer.
A precious truth arrives and is born within
us.
Within our emptiness.
We accept it, we observe it, we absorb it.
We surrender to our bare truth.
We are nourished, we are changed.
We are blessed.
We rise up.
For this we give thanks.
AMEN.
Text by Michael Leunig.
A Common Prayer. 

Slow me down, Lord
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations
— of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
Amen.
Wilferd Arlan Peterson

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