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Show up for life

The goslings are getting bigger. It’s the gangly stage, their wings still too small for their growing bodies.
And some weeks I don’t have a homily. This is one of those weeks. So, I ask if I can hang out with them, for a wee bit.

Some weeks the stories in our world feel too raw.
We read the stories, but cannot wrap our mental arms around them.
And here’s the deal: When we see only stories with an overhanging darkness and dread, we miss the stories about navigating the dark precarious world.
Stories about ordinary people who speak truth and shine a light, a reminder that even in the darkest times, there are stories about ordinary people and real superheroes. Everyone is fighting his or her own battle. So, we need one another, whether we like it or not. And we need stories about…
…people who said no to the darkness.
…people who lit a candle instead of cursing the darkness.
…people who let music dissipate the darkness, and kept hope alive. 

In 1940 Nazi Germany turned Terezín into a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp.  It held primarily Jews from Czechoslovakia, as well as thousands of Jews from Germany and Austria. More than 150,000 Jews were sent there, including 15,000 children. 33,000 were to die of malnutrition or disease, and more than 88,000 were sent to death camps.
Less than 150 children survived.
Many educated Jews were inmates of Terezín including scholars, philosophers, scientists, visual artists, and musicians of all types.
Looking for ways to stay sane, materials were begged, borrowed or stolen. And inmates created a rich artistic life within the ghetto walls. Not without repercussion and reprisal. Fingers broken, some artists shot.
Because they used the camp as a PR stunt, the Nazis relented and allowed musical instruments. Czech composer Rafael Schächter conducted an adult chorus of 150 Jews in 16 performances of Verdi’s Requiem (learned by rote from a single vocal score and accompanied by a legless upright piano) before audiences of other prisoners, SS officers, and German army staff members. Their purpose: to sing to their captors’ words that could not be spoken.
Here is the power: For the hour or two that these performances lasted, those in the audience were no longer prisoners (whose only thoughts were about food or fears for their own survival). Instead, they were free to laugh and cry.
Free to feel hopeful and sad.
Free to be transported to a happier time by music, dance and song.
Through the arts you could let go.
In open defiance of the threat of death that hung over them, the Jews chose life. As part of their private rebellion, they sang, they danced, they fell in love, they married, and—desperate for love and some sort of physical contact—they tried to find comfort wherever they could.
Here’s the deal: when we choose life, it is not just avoiding crazy (or being reduced to animal), it is planting the seeds of wholeness and wellbeing and bigheartedness.
This story keeps my hope alive.
How is this possible? “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts.” (from Paul’s Letter to the Romans)
There is in every one of us an inherent dignity that no one can give you, and that no one can take away. 

So, how do we make what is fragmented whole again?
I don’t pretend to sugar coat this, or tell you that it is easy, or make you feel shame for wanting to close your eyes and shut down.
I do want to invite us to a paradigm shift. One paradigm is the need to “make sense” of darkness. As if that removes it.
The other, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Yes: our invitation to show up. Showing up (in touch with our hearts and the light inside) we put healing front and center, allowing for touch, presence, making space for grieving.
This is never easy if we see it as an assignment, or believe that we’re not enough, as if it is only for the gifted and called among us.
Because we forget the light that each and every one of us can bring. And spill.
Gratefully many reminders were sent my way this week. I want to pass them on to you. Let the light spill…

Steve Charleston puts it this way (Ladder to the Light); “Every day I know there is something I can do to help, something great or small: showing up, being counted, attending the meeting, making my contribution, saying my prayers… Something I can do to spread the word, great or small: make some ripples, open hearts and minds, change the world for the better…
Every day there is work to be done
Every day we can show up
People neither stuck, nor aimless
But people determined to journey through this life
With all its vagaries
As Ashley Judd noted when talking about her mother
“You can pretend to care
But you can’t pretend to show up!”
(Dancing Faith blog)

This paradigm shift is possible because… in the words of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes;
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.

And from Helen Keller; “I am one, but still I am one;
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;
And just because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

It is heavenly sunny here in the Pacific Northwest. In the low sixties (you know, chilly for my friends in Arizona and Florida).
As a golf fan I enjoyed watching the PGA championship nail-biting drama.

Quotes for your week…
So, as this week comes to its end and a new one arrives, may your beautiful mind and tender heart lift you above the noise and the hate. May you quiet yourself and allow the beauty your mind can envision to be your guide moving forward. May the love in your heart that you were born with keep your faith in the possibilities of humanity. Maria Shriver

Notes: Terezin story adapted from Born Survivors, Wendy Holden 


Today’s Photo Credit:  Flame tree, full bloom. Manasota Key, Florida. Keep sending your photos… send to
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Hi Terry! I carry your daily words with me as Dave and I walk the Camino de Santiago. They are helpful even here. The balancing rock picture (cairn) reminds me of many I’ve seen along the way. Gerry
–As I was reading Sabbath moment this morning, these words “Everyone needs a sacred place,” Joseph Campbell reminds us. Here’s what I’m learning… there are sacred places, throughout the day, this ordinary day, where we can pause, pay attention, embrace the sacrament of the present moment, and allow our soul to catch up with our body. Reminded me of a place I find sacred. When I can be there in person, I am. When not, I use this photo to “allow my soul to catch up with my body. The statue of St. Francis is in nestled among crabapple trees in Brenton Arboretum in the country near Dallas City, Iowa. Thank you for the daily inspiration. Jan
–Just so you know, I made 25 people so very enlightened by sending on your Mary Oliver selection! Perfect for us older women! We’re all ‘outside singing’ instead of fretting. Thank you and bless you! Joanna


If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.   Mother Teresa 

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out – no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.
William Stafford

To live content with small means,
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion,
to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich,
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly,
to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart,
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
await occasions, hurry never,
in a word to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common, this is to be my symphony.
William Ellery Channing (1780-1842)

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