skip to Main Content

Permission to be soft

“Do you want a part in the Christmas nativity play?” James’ grade schoolteacher asked him.
“Of course,” he answered.
“You get to be Joseph,” the teacher told him.
James was proud, what with his friends having to be sheep and cows and such. “What are my lines?” he asked his teacher.
“You don’t have any,” the teacher answered.
“But what do I do?”
“You just stand there,” the teacher said, “and make sure Mary doesn’t look bad.”
Have you been to a grade school nativity play? What does Joseph do? Other than stand at attention until his balance starts to give out…
After the play all the adults patted James on the head and said, “You were such a marvelous Joseph!”
“And I was so proud,” he recalls. And then he grows up and it occurs to him, “Wait a minute. If I was such a great Joseph, how come I never once talked with Mary? If I was such a great Joseph, how come I never once picked up the baby Jesus and sang him a song? If I was such a great Joseph, how come I never offered coffee to the shepherds? I was only a great Joseph because I did what everyone said I should do. I was great because I was frozen.” 

I understand what that feels like. It’s just that when I live frozen, I lose Terry, and I live small (all the while, patted on the head). But I don’t like what it does to me. And I don’t like how it affects the people I love.
There is already plenty of angst during the Holiday Season and looking into the New Year. And sometimes we tell ourselves we can outrun the angst by being strong. One email assured me the New Year is my time to “create a new, stronger, and more marketable self”. Who knew?
I want to vote for a very different idea: Instead of finishing the year strong, why don’t we finish the year soft. Rested and at home in our own skin. You know… Open to gratitude, and compassion, and gifts of tenderness, and the love found even in broken (or unfinished) places. In other words, let us live unfrozen.
I take heart in Fred Rogers’ (Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood) affirmation that we live fueled by grace and graciousness. When we do, it touches deeper needs in others, and we literally “love someone into existence.” Yes. And here’s the deal; that “someone” you love into existence, may be yourself.
This gift begins with a paradigm shift. GK Chesteron’s observation. “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul; and a new nose, new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”

And speaking of embracing and honoring what is soft, I watched the Musial Awards this weekend (named after baseball legend Stan Musial). I didn’t know about these awards. But my oh my, these stories did my heart good. These are awards (acknowledgements) given for Musial Moments—acts of kindness and selflessness that take place in competition or everyday life—all with the goal to help one another and make our community better. Unfrozen indeed…

American poet, May Sarton was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. “To be human,” she answered, simply.
Even so… there is one taste, deep down, that seems unsatisfied.  And sometimes, I can’t even name it.  But I know it is there.  However, in order to be human—in order to be my “self”—I must move past this insistence on arrival or closure.  It seems that no matter what it is—whether our identity, our faith, our calling—we feel compelled to nail it down (a variation of frozen).
Ahhh, there’s the rub.  It’s not authenticity I want.  It’s certainty (or security) that I’m after.

What makes this journey (process) messy or confusing or derailing is this: it is not easy to trust “soft places”—places of not knowing. Places of uncertainty. Maybe without closure. Maybe with risk and discomfort.
(“I do so want to be my authentic self, but can we get on with it!”) Perhaps we could all benefit from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s reminder, “To live is to be slooowly born.”
You see, as long as closure is essential to me, I give in to the expectation that somewhere around the corner, God is waiting to bail me out.
I asked one young friend, “So what’s next for you?”
She replied, “I’m just waiting for God to show me what he wants from me.” Okay.
But in the meantime, you know, until you have your life and self figured out, I have a suggestion: Live today. Live this day, with this self—yes, soft self, without holding back. Today… savor, doubt, embrace, question, wrestle, give, risk, love, fall down, get up, accept your incomplete and fractured self, know that anything worth doing is worth doing badly, speak from your whole heart, and whenever you can, lavish excessive compassion and mercy on anyone who crosses your path. Who knows, you may even love someone “into existence.”
And if you practice all of this while you’re still waiting for God’s instructions, I’m sure God won’t mind.
With this picture of the hunger in our soul, let’s hang on to what David Whyte describes as “that small, bright and indescribable wedge of freedom” in our heart.  Today, I can live with that.  And today, I hope, I can make choices from that soft and authentic place. 

I hope your Christmas connected you with loved ones.
And a reminder for Christmas lovers that the Twelve Days of Christmas have just begun, now through January 6 (Epiphany or Three Kings Day). (My confession is that I do celebrate the twelve days, but I do my very best to stay away from the carol that never seems to end… just sayin’.)
We are thinking of our friends in upstate New York, with the blast of Arctic weather.
As the year end draws close, savor your days my friends. And count your blessings. I do consider myself richly blessed and grateful to be connected with this Sabbath Moment community.

Quote for our week…
“May I live this day compassionate of heart, clear in word, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought, generous in love.” John O’Donohue


Today’s Photo Credit:  “Hi Terry! Pelican love… Here’s my wish for Christmas and the New Year… that we huddle close and share the gift of love. Blessings!” Madeleine Gallagher… Thank you Madeleine… Keep sending your photos… send to 

Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
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.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365

Upcoming Events — Florida friends, join us… Venice UCC Church, Venice, FL. Saturday, January 28 — Soft Hearts from Hard Places

NEW Book – Stand Still: finding balance when the world turns upside down

NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — Let us pause and be grateful
Join us every Wednesday… Audio Sabbath Moment

Letters that do my heart good…
–Thanks Terry.  I forward all the Sabbath Moment emails to Joy, but rather than use “forward,” which puts in a lot of extra stuff, I hit reply, then substitute their name for yours. Joy appreciates Sabbath Moment as much as I do (a lot!) and she could sign up to receive them directly from you. However, she is 88, as am I, but she is in poor health, and this way I maintain contact with her on things we can share from your blogs. We are both Christians, and appreciate your expressions of how one might live the life apart from the present “Christian” politics. Thanks, Terry, for being true to the good news–the gospel! Merry Christmas, Terry, to you and yours. Peace, Jan
–I am not of the Christian persuasion, but I really like your posts, which are mostly nondenominational. They help center my mind and attitude and I appreciate it very much! Merry Christmas! Ruth
–Dear Terry, I send blessings to you, Terry, blessings of joy, peace and happiness, of generosity of spirit, of a magnitude of words, a plethora of opportunities to share them, and the exquisiteness of responses from readers who enjoy them and are uplifted by them (like myself)! May you feel especially the breeze of the Holy Spirit surround you and balter with you daily this heavenly season and daily during the new year! With much respect and love, Beth
–Hi Terry! As we prepare for a big Winter Storm, and Ice, here in the NW,  I wanted to thank you for the wonderful devotions and photos on Sabbath Moment devotional site. I enjoy your writings, and emotions and thoughts, and feel so blessed that you share them with us. I really enjoyed your book “Standing Still” too. I will be sending you a donation soon for Sabbath Moment. I’ve been a bit under the weather, so am doing things late and slow, but I want to wish you a Blessed Christmas, and pray that the New Year will bring you Joy, Hope and Peace (and good health)! Blessings to you, Arla


I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.
Mary Oliver   

The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman

Let us go forth from here, blessed and renewed
in the Spirit of Shalom
in the Spirit of Integrity
in the Spirit of Illumination
in the Spirit of Transformation
with hopes lifted heavenward
with hearts loving the earth
in the name of our creating, liberating, nurturing God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top