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Permission to let go

I just finished a weekend in Anaheim, CA at the Religious Education Congress. Hugs from a few thousand of my closest friends. And I talked about the permission to slow down long enough to savor the moment. But that’s not easy to do when our plates are full, and we’re doing our best to balance more than one plate.
I told stories, and let my tears fall, letting them know that for Lent, I want to let go of a hard (or closed) heart. In our world that often feels upside down, I want to honor a soft heart. And to make choices that spill from a soft heart.
Speaking of soft hearts, Etty Hillesum’s reminder that “ultimately, we have just one moral duty. To reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
So, it’s story time.

Two traveling monks reached a river where they met an attractive young woman waiting to cross. Wary of the current, she asked if they would be willing to carry her. One of the monks hesitated, but the other promptly picked her up into his arms, transported her across the river, and put her down, safely on the other bank. She thanked him and went on her way.
As the monks walked toward the monastery, one brooded, stewing in the toxic elixir of self-righteousness and envy. After an hour, unable to hold his silence, he spoke. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked her up in your arms, held her very close and carried her!”
“Brother,” the second monk replied, “That is all true. But on the other side of the river, I set her down. It sounds to me as if you are still carrying her.”
This is a story about how we can be (every single one of us) owned or possessed by the things we carry. We live with an absorbed willful blindness, seeing only what we want to see, and our spirit can be tied up into knots.
Remember when we called it baggage? Or tapes? (It doesn’t quite translate in our world now, does it?) Regardless of the name we give it, we are prevented from being free. (Or, at the very least compelled to buy every self-help book that promised some kind of relief, promising a version of an enviable life.)
Our spirit can be too easily overflowing. And we’re eager for guidance, for someone to give us the key. We just didn’t expect to know our response would be, “You need me to let go of what?”
Let go of say, mental and emotional distraction. Like the little boy said, “Momma, momma, listen, but this time, with your eyes!”
Let’s admit that there is a fusion or muddle. Meaning that there is stuff we carry that brings delight. And, there are a few things that bring regret.
And too much that brings worry or fretting or obsession. So. Maybe that’s the weight: an expectation that I am to be somebody other than who I am today. Or that my value is conditional; all about some need to measure up or pass muster. Can it be true that I am loved, or am somebody, only because I keep the rules, or play the role, or worry about what others think?
If that is the case, then this weight means that I am no longer free…
To risk, or to try.
To live unbridled.
To give.
To show mercy.
To right wrongs.
To celebrate.
To savor.
To love.
In her book Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser talks about our need to “practice death”; the process of letting go of whatever enslaves us. Like the worried monks, there are times when I carry a life that does not even belong to me. We need to take a breath or two, in order to clear our minds of emotional storm clouds.
I no longer need to clutch.
I no longer need to be a warrior doing battle, as if my identity is dependent upon only being strong.
I choose to quit trying to be perfect or always right or unflawed or impressive or in a pell-mell hurry.
If it is toxic to my spirit, I choose to say, “let it die.”
I choose to learn the dance between letting go and gratitude.
Here is the power of making space. Within that space, we are able to see, and to receive. Even if that means receiving sadness or loss or grief or the death of expectations. You know: by now I expected to be _________ (fill in the blank).  And when we receive, our lives are fueled by gratitude.
Yes, I know. We want a list of “how to.” But let us not make letting go another obligation. Lord have mercy.
Let us begin simply. I will stop, if only for a minute. I will take time to breathe. With each breath, I will empty a little from my cup. With each breath, I will say thank you, and not close all the windows of my heart.
When standing knee-deep in the uncertain, it’s so easy to be derailed by tensions from the “unknown”, as if we can only “move forward” with some kind of resolution or tidiness. But what if… I allow tensions to expand my heart, and invite me to new appreciation of the sufficiency that is already there, inside. And from that, embrace the capacity to create a community of kindred spirits kindling the courage we need to show up, even in a messy world?
Looking forward to a good night’s sleep. And back home tomorrow.

We’ll soon be making my Power of Pause audio book available to all. Please enjoy the first few chapters here.

Quote for your week…
Let nothing dim the light that shines from within. Maya Angelou


Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, God’s peacefulness and serenity, in Glacier National Park.” Rachel Beck… Thank you Rachel… 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…
–Terry, My friend Pam recommended SM to me several weeks ago. It has been a blessing more than I can say, especially as I go through some challenges. Blessings, Lynn
–Thank you for the quick response, Terry.  And thank you for Sabbath Moment Daily.  I use it every day during my early-morning quiet/meditation time.  It gives me a wonderful start to my day! Carolyn
–Dear Terry, thanks for the beautiful poem, “Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles. How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.” from Gates of Prayer.  The picture at the beginning is taken at a place of “awe” and the tree reminds me of Lent.  We hang on for dear life just like the tree.  A faithful reader, Ann
–Thank you Terry for this. Needed to hear this since my husband passed away on July of 2023. Your Sabbath moment today gave me a little more strength to keep going and being grateful of the beautiful memories we shared. Amen! Irene
–Hi Terry. I don’t know if you are familiar with Steve Garnaas-Holmes, but I get his weekly poems. Today’s reminded me of your mantra re the ordinary being the hiding place of the holy. This poem seems to capture that thought.  I hope you enjoy. Peace, Jan


May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be confident knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
St. Theresa’s Prayer

Love after Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott

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