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The sounds of children playing

A seminary student body participated in a day of recollection and reflection. As the Seminary President introduced the guest retreat leader—on a beautiful Saturday morning in spring–he apologized to the seminarians, “I’m very sorry for the distraction and the noise.”
This Saturday—on the seminary grounds sports field—happened to be youth soccer day.  It seems that the President had forgotten to arrange for the local youth soccer program to play their games elsewhere on the day of the retreat.  Which meant hundreds of children on the seminary grounds, and the sounds of play and laughter could easily be heard, echoing and reverberating inside the lecture hall.
But when the retreat leader stood up to begin his first talk of the day, he said to the seminarians, “I think it’s wonderful that the children are here with us this morning. I will not have done my job, if you aren’t able to have a good retreat while you see and hear the sights and sounds of children playing on our soccer fields today.”

Yes indeed. This sounds good, doesn’t it?
Easy to practice? Not so much. But it helps if we see this story as a life-giving invitation to a paradigm shift.
We forget that we are not at the mercy of life’s happenings. We get to choose the lens through which we invite life in.
This is a necessary paradigm for our now changing world. A world with events to attend. Gatherings, parties, movies, brunch and church coffee hour with hugs. (You know, the kind of thing that gives introverts pause. Remembering how we said, “Let’s get together after this is over?”)
But here’s the gift: in our changing world, we are invited to pay attention to ways that our lives are recalibrated, grounded in values that allow us to be present.
This is not a cerebral endeavor, as in “I believe in attentiveness and sacrament of the present.”
This is about what we value, meaning, where we park our presence (remember the invitation of the retreat leader): I am here. Here I can I give, listen, learn, empathize, grow, forgive, welcome and invite.
Much derails us, speaking of noise and distraction. As does our inability to say “No”, an inability to have boundaries for a healthy self. (Covid made it easier for many of us. Saying no on our behalf.) 

Did you see the movie The Shawshank Redemption?  Andy Defresne is serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.  In one scene, after a stint in solitary confinement, Andy is quizzed by his prison mates, “How did you make it?”  “Music,” he told them.
Andy: That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you… Haven’t you ever felt that way about music?
Red (Andy’s best friend at Shawshank): I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn’t make much sense in here.
Andy: Here’s where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget.
Red: Forget?
Andy: Forget that there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.
Red: What’re you talking about?
Andy: Hope.

We are wired to want lives that matter. To be connected. To make a difference. Yes, hope; because I can be present in this moment. The invitation to savor the sights and sound of the day.
Here’s the deal: When we are present—attentive—we remember and embrace what matters. Albert Einstein’s reminder that “not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

I’m about to be back on the road. Hayesville, NC in July. Our topic? Spiritual hydration. How not to let the noise and distraction win. Our invitation to be present. 

And no worries… our internal worrier will pester us, “What’s the secret? How do we actually practice it?”
(I wish I could say buying a box or two of my books would do the trick. Just sayin’.)
But that is the enigma, isn’t it? Life tips and tilts and turns left when we least expect it.  We juggle and we multi-task. And we want someone to give us the answers.
Someone to balance it all or give us the list.
And on a day when we expect inspiration, motivation and reflection, we are told that it is enough to take delight in the play and laughter–the noise–of children.
Excuse me?
Am I hearing you correctly?
It is enough to embrace the sounds and sights of children playing. It is enough to embrace the gift of kind words, given and received. The gift of an open heart, the gift of a gentle embrace for difficult emotions.
Living in the present, fully alive and wholehearted, is not a technique.  There is no list.  And chances are, we pass by life–the exquisite, the messy, the enchanting, the untidy, the inexplicable–on our way to some place we think we ought to be. 

Okay.  If we need a list, here’s number one: We need to get rid of the notion of perfection.  We try so hard to get it right.  And in the end, we make it fairly complicated.
There are some words (notions, concepts, phrases)–like morality or theology or Christian behavior–that can seem too wide-ranging and ambiguous.  We nod our heads, knowingly, when the meaning is not in the schooling or in the line of reasoning, but in the laughter of children that wafts through the window.
There is meaning–consequence, value, and import–only when what we believe or teach touches this moment.  In other words, it’s the small (and specific) stuff that really does matter.  Belief is all well and good.  But there has to be skin on it–something we touch, see, hear, taste and smell.
I’m not sure what number two is, but let’s remember this, Life really is, after all, a gift.  The gift of “it is enough.”
I tell the geese the story about the children playing, reminding them that for the past 10 weeks, it’s been their children that have given me joy. And I tell them I’m grateful. I hope they understood.
Happy Father’s Day to all. And to my Father, I am grateful to be your son, may you rest in peace.

Quote for your week…
The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments.  Rabbi Abraham Heschel

Note: For the seminary story, my thanks to Sabbath Moment Friend, Randy Wakitsch  

Note: Thank you for making space for me and for Sabbath Moment. Your support means the world. Let us continue to find places where our souls and spirits can be nourished and refueled. Please pass the word about Monday Sabbath Moment. And Daily Sabbath Moment (Tuesday – Friday). Your donations make a difference, and if you are able, thank you. And the new book, The Gift of Enough–a journal for the present moment.

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SABBATH MOMENT DAILY DOSE

Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, After reading your Sabbath moment this morning I wanted to share with you my place of sanctuary that I go to every summer in physical form, but I also go to in memory  when I’m not there.  My parents built a small modern house on this lake on Mount desert island in Maine, Acadia national Park. And this is the view from my deck. This place is my sanctuary and always has been. Thought I’d share,” Barbara Shulman… thank you Barbara… Keep sending your photos… send to tdh@terryhershey.com
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In the mailbag…
–Dear Terry, Thanks for this message! I love the idea of asking “How is your heart” instead of “How are you?” It makes so much more sense and is truly more intimate and connective! I am going to use some verbiage from your message in my blog today. I’ll reference your Sabbath Moment. Thank you again. Your Daily Sabbath Moment brings so much lightness into my life that I don’t know what I would do without it. I wish, as my Mother used to say, that “I was rich instead of so beautiful”, so that I could more often support your work. Keep smiling. It does all of us who read your messages so much good. If not, share your sorrows that we are free to do the same. Always love, Beth

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POEMS AND PRAYERS

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.  –Ashley Smith

May the blessing of the rain be on you—
the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit
so that all the little flowers may spring up,
and shed their sweetness on the air.
May the blessing of the great rains be on you,
may they beat upon your spirit
and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.
Celtic Blessing

In The Colors
When your whole world is shaken
from all the risks we have taken
dance with me into the colors
of the dusk
when you have awoken
from all the dreams broken
dance with me into the colors
of the dusk
the paths we’re walking on
crumble behind us
but if we leave now they will
never find us
and if this crazy world spins itself
down to dust
I want to be with you
in the colors
when you again start hoping
with your arms wide open
dance with me into the colors
of the dusk
and all will be right
dancing like water with the light
dance with me into the colors
of the dusk
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals

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