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Seeing the gifts in the present

A pious man heard God. “Tomorrow night I’m going to visit your home,” the voice told him.
The man pushed aside his predictable hesitation, and rolled the dice in favor of belief. After all, it’s not often you get a personal invitation from the Creator.
Regardless of your religious inclinations, this is quite the occasion. And anyone who receives such an opportunity has one thought, “I’d better tidy up.” I’m just guessing here, but you probably don’t want God showing up to a cluttered house.
Early the next morning the man set out cleaning, scrubbing and gussying up.
There’s an ill-fated knock at the door. Why is it that we are interrupted at the most inconvenient times?
It is a long-time friend thinking that tonight would be a great night for beers and a football game. “I’d love to, but we’re together next week, let me focus on what I have here for a little bit.”
Not long after, there is another knock. The man’s neighbor wonders if he has a moment to talk about the back pasture that they share. The neighbor is not at all a likable fellow, a bit tedious and full of himself.
And not long after that, the man’s son, now grown and on his own, part reflection of his parents, part finding his own way, a bit fragile and on this night needing some counsel, or more likely, a sounding board.
The man’s response the same to each, “Can we take care of this another time? I’m expecting a very important guest.”
Each visit takes its toll. With so little time and all.
Evening approaches. Candles are lit. Wine is poured. The good stuff.
Nothing. One hour, two, three. Finally, he yells, “Where are you? You said you would visit me. You promised.”
And God speaks to him in a gentle voice. “I did visit you. I was in your friend. I was in your neighbor. I was in your son. And each time, you were not able to see.”
Let me say that there have been more than enough messages, internal and external, chastising me for missing something in my life. And more often than not, the messages are spot on. I have missed and squandered moments. And I have injured and dishonored people. But in the end, it is never ( I repeat, never) helpful if all I do, is to end up throwing kindling on a fire that nurses regret and burns with shame, repeating, “if only, if only.”
You see, I don’t think this story is about fostering regret. Of course, regret can be real, but there is no advantage here in a finger-wagging scolding. Or beating ourselves up.
Because this story is an invitation.
An invitation to celebrate.
To celebrate that at the very center or core of every encounter is an interaction with the sacred.
With the divine.
With God.

I just finished a gratifying weekend in Anaheim, CA at the Religious Education Congress. My first conference as a speaker here was 36 years ago. I must have been very very young. (Just sayin’.) Returning here each year, you get the gifts of reconnection with people, revisiting the stories that come with long-term relationships. And checking in with one another, we find ways to encourage and support, a good way to remember to pay attention to the stuff that really matters.

Speaking of gratitude… My confession is this: in years past when I was asked, “What are you grateful for?” I would answer with a litany meant to captivate and impress. I smile now at that part of me, so eager to make good. In my mind, the scene would be rendered in pastels for a poster, with a tender motto below, as evidence that all is right with the world. Even though in my heart I knew that all was and is manifestly not always right with the world.
And that’s just it. I assumed that I could live in gratitude—or entertain God at my doorstep—only if and when everything was in order, and tidy.
What I needed instead was a reminder to be gentle with myself.
I needed to befriend those parts of me that are untidy.
To befriend those parts of me that do disappoint.
To befriend those parts of me that too easily miss the present moment.
To befriend those parts of me that don’t always see the divine at my door.
And here’s the good news. Living from this place of gratitude settles my spirit, allows me to be here now, and that spills to the small world around me. Because no one of us is on this journey alone. James Finley’s reminder and invitation that we can be a “healing presence in a tumultuous world.”

So, here’s the deal. When you answer “the door” this week, in conversation, or in an encounter, you never know when you’ll be face to face with the sacred. With the divine. With God.
Tidy or untidy… remind yourself that…
This is the place where grace lives.
This is the place where reconciliation is possible.
This is the place where the seeds of understanding and compassion and kindheartedness and hope and courage and faith take root.

The weather this weekend, a spectacle, and for many, a significant complication. With hurdles or snags, I can too easily get ahead of myself with worry or fret, so I need to pause and remember that gratitude is found (the sacred is found) in the present. Like early this morning when I opened the window curtains to see a horizon filled and anchored by the crystal clear, majestic, snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains. It stopped me. And reminded me of the best prayer, “Thank you.”

Quote for our week…
“God, Who is everywhere, never leaves us. Yet He seems sometimes to be present, sometimes to be absent. If we do not know Him well, we do not realize that He may be more present to us when He is absent than when He is present.” Thomas Merton  


Today’s Photo Credit:  “Terry, here is a photo taken at 33,000 feet while flying over the majestic mountains in Alaska. Stay warm and safe.” Penny Prior… Thank you Penny… Keep sending your photos… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Love all that you do to refresh, and to be hopeful in all things! Please add my new email to your Sabbath Moment and to the audio on Wednesday! With a sincere heart, thank you! Irene
–Dear Terry, Thank you for today’s message. Recently my husband of 60 years passed away and I have lost my sense of purpose. How do I make a difference without my life’s partner? We have always worked together. Now I will go on alone. It frightens me, but I will do it anyway. Thank you for your words of encouragement. They touch me deeply. Anon 
–Dear Terry, I feel compelled to share this experience with you – it just happened yesterday.  Something taken for granted all my life (80+ years) just now “noticing.” At lunch yesterday, I was gazing out the window into our back yard, on and off and noticed that all the things that God created (trees, branches, bushes, birds, people – etc.) were all shaped differently, curves and bends, leaves that are left are in any which way – but everything that is man-made were all measured out – straight lines, angles – buildings, tables, chairs… and God was so present in His nature that I never ever experienced before – and this effect still remains in my consciousness. How amazing our Living God is! Thanks for this opportunity – invitation – to share it with you! A newly Blessed New Year! Sister Naomi, RSM
–Hi Terry, Thanks for your listening ears as you listen to God’s whispers and share with all of us. I appreciate you. Enjoy this hummingbird from our feeders! A promise of spring to come. May God bless you. In gratitude. Mary


“Remember only this one thing,” said Badger. The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory.”
(Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez)

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

We do not become healers.
We came as healers. We are.
Some of us are still catching up to what we are.
We do not become storytellers.
We came as carriers of the stories
we and our ancestors actually lived. We are.
Some of us are still catching up to what we are.
We do not become artists. We came as artists. We are.
Some of us are still catching up to what we are.
We do not become writers… dancers… musicians… helpers… peacemakers.
We came as such. We are.
Some of us are still catching up to what we are.
We do not learn to love in this sense.
We came as Love. We are Love.
Some of us are still catching up to who we truly are.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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