In the movie Walk the Line, Johnny Cash auditions for Sam Phillips. He is hoping for a record deal. He is playing an uninspired and insipid version of a gospel hymn.
And Phillips tells him no.
When Cash demands a reason, Phillips says, “Because I don’t believe you.”
Cash looks crestfallen.
Phillips continues, “We’ve already heard that song a hundred times. Just… like… how… you… sing it.
Cash says, “Well you didn’t let us bring it home.”
Sam Phillips answers “Bring it home? All right, let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing ‘one’ song. Huh? One song that people would remember before you’re dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing? That same tune we hear on the radio all day, about your peace within, and how it’s real, and how you’re gonna shout it? Or, would you sing somethin’ different. Somethin’ real. Somethin’ ‘you’ felt. Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.”
I want to sing that kind of song.
I want to sing a song that touches where we hurt, where we care, where we heal, where we give, where we reconcile and mend, where we make and are made whole.
And here’s the deal: That song is alive and well inside every single one of us.
Phillips was inviting Cash to live into his best self. He’s telling him, “You are more than acquiescence.”
Although there is no doubt that we’ve been conned (or programmed) to connect stuff—anything outside our self as the gospel about our identity. I tell myself that only what I consume or earn validates me, so my worth and my capacity to sing somethin’ real is predicated on willpower or talent or creed.
“You’re tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing?” I love this invitation. Because it emboldens me to access—to draw on—what is at the core of human dignity. That at my core, I touch the capacity to grieve and to give, to tremble and to be courageous, to doubt and to be faithful, to be uncomfortable and to love, to be watchful and to be generous…
to be fully human and fully alive…
compassionate, patient, resilient, kind, unselfish, responsible, spirited, high-minded, a listening heart.
Now that’s a song worth singin’.
The kind of singing (to paraphrase Jesus) that takes the bushel off this little light of mine.
Here’s my confession. When I’m tempted to shut down (which is too frequent)—to live cynical and angry or cautious and afraid—I do not (cannot) now bring my whole heart to the table, or to the moment. I short-circuit my capacity to spill empathy and compassion and I do not see or embrace delight and wonder (gratitude) in the sacrament of the present.
So. This is a reminder I need more than ever. Two takeaways come to mind.
One. Fred Roger (“Mr. Rogers”) calls Yo-Yo Ma one of the “great appreciators of our world. It seems that people always walk taller after they’ve had an encounter with him. The only thing that’s larger than his talent is his heart.” Mr. Rogers tells the story about a day he was privileged to sit in on one of Yo-Yo Ma’s master cello classes. “During that master class one young man was struggling with the tone of a certain cello passage. He played it over and over and Yo-Yo listened with obvious interest. Finally, Yo-Yo said, “Nobody else can make the sound you make.” That young man looked at Yo-Yo Ma and beamed. What a gift those words were not only to that cellist, but to everyone who was there. Nobody else can make the sound you make.”
“Well, nobody else can live the life you live. And even though no human being is perfect, we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to live in a redeeming way.” Fred Rogers
With a few exceptions, I do my best to see those around me with Mr. Rogers’ lens: Inside of everyone a light shines. Inside of everyone, there is a sound that no one else can make. Yes… A song that truly saves people.
And two, from Annie Dillard. “Thomas Merton wrote, ‘there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.’ There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock–more than a maple–a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.” (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
Yes, spend… good verb. Spend my days with mercy and compassion and inclusion, connected with a heart now engaged, ignited and refueled.
This week, I want to sing a song that touches where we hurt, where we care, where we heal, where we give, where we reconcile and mend, where we take delight and give thanks, where we make and are made whole.
We are savoring our summer days here, but still getting used to the heat (and it’s only in the 80s here, nothing like where some of y’ll are).
On Saturday, an afternoon Mariner baseball game with my son Zach. That did my heart good. And our boys won.
Next weekend I’ll be in So Cal at Mary and Joseph Retreat Center. Hope to see some of you there.
Quotes for your week…
Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid to love, I who love love? Eugene O’Neil
Today’s Photo Credit: “Thanks for focusing Jesus at the party hanging out with the woman who ‘crashed the party.’ Her vulnerability is beautiful and courageous! Our recent trip to Honduras and seeing the delicate beauty of hummingbirds, brings me into a quiet place of worship to the Creator. The Rivoli’s and Mexican Violetear Hummingbirds wheel and deal.” Bob Keener… Thank you Bob… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
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)
Letters that do my heart good…
–Good morning, Terry! First, thank you again for all the peace and joy and gentle reminders that you share. I am better for it. My life is full, rich, and filled with joy personally. But the grief and hate and pain of the world tugs at my heart. Earth Justice magazine in January 2017 had an article that encouraged us to continue to work for things we believed in…a quote from that article has stayed with me. “Despair is not the answer, action is the answer.” We are involved in several outreach programs which we feel are making big differences in our world, and we’re politically engaged. Taking action does keep us from falling prey to despair. But I also needs words that soothe and remind me to quiet my mind. Your words do that and I am grateful. Thank you. We are storytellers in our family and as many southerners do, we love a good story! Your Pooh and Piglet story today reminded me of a sweet occurrence during the beginning of the pandemic. Although we live 2 miles from 2 of our grandchildren, we’d made the decision at the urging of our children to not be in close contact. It was painful for all of us… we are a hugging family. Max was 5… an old soul who seemed to grasp the issue of virus and germs amazingly well. We’d go to their house for a sidewalk visit. We stayed 6 feet away, and we’d leave bags of surprises in the grass that separated us. One visit we were engrossed in conversation with our daughter when I became aware that someone had sidled up from behind me. It was Max. Without a word, he slid his little hand into mine and just leaned into me. No words were spoken…like Piglet, we both knew we just needed to “be sure of each other.” Thank you for the reminder of this sweet moment. Donna
POEMS AND PRAYERS
When in these fresh mornings I go into my garden before anyone is awake, I go for the time being into perfect happiness. In this hour divinely fresh and still, the fair face of every flower salutes me with a silent joy… All the cares, perplexities, and griefs of existence, all the burdens of life slip from my shoulders and leave me with the heart of a little child that asks nothing beyond the present moment of innocent bliss. –Celia Thaxter
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
John O’ Donohue, Beannacht (Blessing)