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Restorative power in sanctuary

Every day after school, the young son of a well-known Rabbi would enter his house, place his backpack on the dining room table, leave the house through the back door and head into the woods behind the house.
At first, the Rabbi gave little thought to his son’s ritual. Until it continued, for days, and then for weeks. Every day, out into the woods for almost a half hour. The Rabbi grew concerned.
“My son,” he asked one day. “I notice that every day you leave our home to spend time in the woods. What is it you are doing there?”
“Oh papa,” the son replied. “There is no need to worry. I go into the woods to pray. It is in the woods that I can talk to God.”
“Oh,” the Rabbi said, clearly relieved. “But you should know, as the son of a Rabbi, that God is the same everywhere.”
“Yes, papa. I know that God is the same everywhere. But, I am not.”

This little boy knew, instinctively, that there are two spaces in our lives. And both are important.
In the first space, we generate activity, productivity, accomplishment and achievement (and yes, busyness, worry and a wee bit of stress). In this space we carry our calendars, our smart phones, our iPads, and our to-do lists.
But there is a second space. In this space we find sanctuary, quiet, reflection, contemplation, and meditation. In this space we find replenishment, spiritual nourishment and renewal. In this space is born prayer, music, poetry, friendship, amazement, awe, wonder, renewal, and if we are lucky, unrepentant napping.

“God is the same everywhere. But, I am not.”
Today, I am grateful for the wisdom of a Rabbi’s young son. Because there are times when I lose my way. When I am untethered and not at home in my own skin. I am easily riled, disconnected and wearied. Can you relate? In our world so full of diversions and distractions, I see the toll untethering takes.
And this disconnect matters more because we forget that we are here to walk one another home. I forget that replenished I’m at my best for you… and for us.

It’s not just about being drained. It’s almost like a paralysis. I am not present. I can’t absorb beauty. I go through the motions, as if I have lost touch with all the good stuff: gladness, wonder, grace, empathy, compassion, hope, passion and the sacrament of the present.
The boy’s wisdom reminds us that sanctuary or Sabbath space is the invitation to recover what has been lost in the bustle. An invitation to hit the reset button. An invitation to come home. Joseph Campbell’s reminder that we must “have a room, or a certain hour (or so) a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be… if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

Here’s the deal: I believe that every one of us has such a space. We just didn’t know what to call it. So, it’s easy to disregard, or pay little attention to it. Your sanctuary space doesn’t have to be the woods, like the Rabbi’s son. It can be in your garden, your car (while commuting), coffee on a porch swing, walking your dog, lounging in an Adirondack on your back deck, strolling a park, parked in your favorite chair at a coffee shop, serenaded by favorite music, counting clouds, weeding your garden, savoring poetry…
No matter, there is restorative power in sanctuary space.

But wait a minute Terry. Productivity—the capability to create and build and produce—is hardly negative. We need to produce, don’t we? Yes indeed. And I can tell you that I love being creative. However, my identity and wellbeing can’t depend upon it. It’s all in the paradigm we carry. If I attach my value and worth to productivity, I will be wedded to restlessness and anxiety. My identity becomes a consumer sport, and my endeavors are easily fueled by scarcity. No matter how much I do, there is never enough. And I wonder why I feel untethered?
Without sanctuary, the productivity space provokes a compulsion to fill. And our emotional life looks like our garage. Floor to ceiling with boxes that we are convinced are indispensable, though we have no memory why we warehoused them. Maybe we just enjoy the time spent shuffling them around.
When we honor sanctuary space, we say yes to sufficiency. We say yes to enough. In other words, our value is not predicated on what we achieve in the first space. Take to heart William Sloane Coffin’s reminder that “God’s love doesn’t seek value, it creates value.  It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value.  Our value is a gift, not an achievement.”
I am whole, filled with grace and sufficiency. And from that wholeness spills tenderness, tenacity and compassion to the world around me.

On my walk this morning, I see the geese have found our neck of the woods again. I’ve missed them.
A celebratory Halloween to you all, our created mixture from All Saints and All Souls Day. And for our Mexican and Latin American friends, Día de los Muertos. Days to celebrate and welcome family spirits back to the realm of the living.
I confess that I don’t really have a Halloween costume, unless you count middle-aged golfer. Just sayin’.
Please remember that our voice matters more than ever, so take the time to vote.
And be gentle with yourself this week. Tell me about your sanctuary space. Tell me where you are refueled. And let your light spill.

Quote for your week…
Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.  Wayne Muller


Today’s Photo Credit: “Dear Terry, I took my grandson to a pumpkin farm and saw this charming barn. I think it represents your powerful invitation to be open… thank you for your timely inspirations,” Marguerite… Thank you Marguerite… Keep sending your photos… send to 

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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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December 9 – 11 — Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, AZ, Men’s Retreat

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

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Terry, Wonderful! Reading this on Wednesday, October 26. I appreciate you and your “refueling” messages. They calm my soul and soften my heart. Have a beautiful day, Lindy
–Very powerful Sabbath Moment on Monday – made me realize just how important it was that I slip my paradigm around to becoming who God made me to be… and I’ve been living that one for enough years now that just doing it is sharing it with others! And, with the added pleasure of knowing myself more as my God knows me – full of love and ready to share same with myself and others! As always, thank you Terry! And for that pic – it’s of a shore that I used to visit, rather frequently!  Barb (with my arms down!)
–Terry, If we could all live by just one motto “There are no ‘others’”. We are all human. We all need to share this planet. We all want security for our families, human dignity, love, connection, dignity.  Seems so simple and so unobtainable.  We are in a Society of the “other”. Sad. Ken


Almost everything will work again if you unplug it
for a few minutes, including you.
Anne Lamott

Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day. What had been done has been done;
What has not been done has not been done; let it be. The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.
In your name we pray.
New Zealand Prayer Book

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry (The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry)

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