“Happy Father’s Day,” I tell the sheep on my walk this morning.
“Why do you look tired?” one asks.
“I let my spirit get on edge,” I tell them. “There’s so much to do, my world is hungry for people to step up and embrace becoming bigger and better, including the discomfort that accompanies it, even if we don’t fully understand it yet. To give our hearts to creating a world, even if that is the small world around us; where sanctuary is real, where racism and bigotry stops. A world that embraces the human, vulnerable, broken, passionate and redemptive self of anyone who crosses our path.”
“Did you practice that speech?” their look tells me. “That was pretty good. So, why are you still on edge?”
I smile. “You got any advice?
“Stay emotionally and spiritually hydrated.”
“And, a little joy and laughter wouldn’t hurt. You know it’s the superpower of resilience, and it’ll boost your immunity. Just because the world is overwhelmed, doesn’t mean you have to be.”
This makes me laugh. “This is why I like talking with you all.
As I’m walking away, I hear one of the little ones say, “And don’t forget, more love and more stories wouldn’t hurt either.”
An elderly carpenter is eager to retire. He tells his employer (a very well-respected contractor) of his plans to leave the house-building business. He wishes to live a more leisurely life with his wife and extended family. He knows he will miss the paycheck, but it’s kick-back time and he needs to retire. And his family will get by. “I’ve hammered enough nails in one lifetime,” he tells his employer, with a laugh. There’s no need to put myself out any longer, he tells himself. The contractor is very sorry to see his best carpenter go, and asks this, “Would you be willing to oversee the building of just one more house, as a personal favor to me?”
Hesitant, the carpenter says yes. In a short time, it becomes easy to see that his heart is not in his work. He resorts to substandard workmanship and uses inferior materials. It is an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finishes his work the employer comes to inspect the house. The contractor hands the front door key to the carpenter.
“This is my gift to you,” he says. “This is your house.”
Most of us have been there. Holding those keys. And it never helps slip sliding down the if-only-stream. We know where that takes us.
In my memory I’m back in southern Michigan, the son of a brick mason. I’ve been on countless constructions sites. Most of them as a hod carrier (mixing mortar, lugging bricks). So many days eager to quit. And hearing my Father’s words, “Son, build this one like you’re building your own.” (Eighteen years ago, my Father helped me build the house I am in today, a great Father’s Day memory.)
So yes. We make a difference with every nail we hammer, each board we choose, each brick we mortar, each window we put in place.
Because we live in a culture of bluster and ado, we forget that we can make a difference. And more often than not, the wrong people get the attention.
I’m with David Orr here, “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind.”
Here’s to the restorative power of small gestures… one nail at a time.
We are, all of us, builders. We are about the business of building places and spaces for human dignity and inclusion and justice and hope. For resilience and confidence and courage and safety and wellbeing. But this is important. This parable is not meant to scold us into making a difference. It’s a recognition that we have been created and are able to do so. It’s not about bootstraps and will power and consternation. This is about letting the language of our (replenished and not overwhelmed) heart speak.
When I live from overwhelmed, I react, I live fearful, I give in to cynicism. No wonder the first to go are my courage and my ability to laugh. Which is not good considering that they both come from the same muscle in our heart.
Invited to guest preach at another parish, Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor asked the priest, “What do you want me to talk about?”
“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” he told her.
Taylor writes, “I did not have to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves.” (From An Altar in the World)
Home (in my own skin), that “safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer,” Parker Palmer writes. “It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm—it’s about spiritual survival and the capacity to carry on.”
On June 19, we commemorated Juneteenth, the date in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told that they were free. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation occurred January 1, 1863. However, Texas ignored the proclamation, as did the ten other Confederate states. “This all indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the significance of Juneteenth. The fact that slaveholders extracted thirty additional months of uncompensated labor from people who had been bought, sold, and worked to exhaustion, like livestock, throughout their lives is cause for mourning, not celebration. In honoring Juneteenth, we should recognize a moral at the heart of that day in Galveston and in the entirety of American life: there is a vast chasm between the concept of freedom inscribed on paper and the reality of freedom in our lives. In that regard, Juneteenth exists as a counterpoint to the Fourth of July; the latter heralds the arrival of American ideals, the former stresses just how hard it has been to live up to them.” (Thank you Jelani Cobb)
I am embarrassed to say, I did not know this history. It was never taught in all my years of schooling. And that is indefensible. And I need to learn. And take to heart the words of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, who maintained that “nobody is free until everybody is free.”
I’m with Richard Rohr here, “So, let’s use the word emancipation to describe a deeper, bigger, and scarier level of freedom: inner, outer, personal, economic, structural, and spiritual. Surely this is the task of our entire lifetime.”
Summer solstice is life-giving here. Sixteen hours of daylight. That means more time to savor the garden, and the birds and the bees who call it home.
The roses, well, the roses melt my heart. No, let me change that. They hydrate it. Letting me drink from a well of beauty and wonder and awe.
Quotes for your week…
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart (spiritually hydrated)… to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. Here are some ways you can connect with us here…
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Thank you for all you do to help keep me grounded, Terry… Mary Jo
–Terry, thank you particularly for today. This spoke into my heart, in my life. Keep well. Steve
–Terry, thank you so much for the gift of this course. It has helped me so much to focus on the Sacred Necessities and the gifts of the present moment. May God continue to bless you! Kathleen
–I really wish you hadn’t contributed to the division with this post. I believed in you and have enjoyed listening to what you’ve had to say when I first saw you at an LA Congress about 15 years ago. Now I’m disheartened and will unfollow you. I pray you don’t do this again for others sake. God Bless.
–Terry, I am in charge of developing the “Not Quite So Early Morning Prayer” liturgy for a small group of parishioners of The Episcopal Church of the Messiah. We meet on Zoom each Wednesday morning. I have copied at least a portion if not all of your Sabbath Moment reflection on two occasions to use as our “homily”. In addition, at the end of the service, I give a closing blessing which I borrow from a variety of sources, but have recently found the Prayers at the end of your Sabbath Moments to be what I like to close with. Is there any way I could get some past reflections and prayers from you to use?Robert
Thanks Robert… All SMs are on the website… Peace to you all
–Hi, Terry, I wish I had your beautiful garden. Thanks for sharing it with us. Thanks be to God for you. You touch so many of us & make us feel better. Peace & blessings to you. Be safe, Sue
–Thank you for naming the gut wrenching and heartbreaking pain I feel as I witness the heinous crimes committed against the world today. However, the pain and sorrow I face is nothing compared to the hate that our Black brothers and sisters face every day. Or the ravages that our earth has to endure. I continue to stand up and speak out against the crimes that are forced against so many. I weep as I ask for God’s forgiveness and healing of the world. And I have hope. Ubuntu. Linda
–Thank you for the Talmud quote. The conspiracy theory people are getting me down. I am mourning the postponed Fall Camp. Having Ed’s evening concerts helps. I hope to go to Shrine Mont at the end of the week to garden for a couple of hours. I was supposed to have my annual painting workshop June 11th. Hopefully it will happen in August. Say hi to your congregation for me. Peace, Patty
–Terry, Thank you for the messages you share with us. You give me hope for a better world by Loving and accepting others, by taking the time to stop and smell the roses and by being grateful for the blessings God has given me. Love your garden God bless, Toni
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer
Loaves and Fishes
This is not
the age of information.
This is not
the age of information.
Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.
This is the time of loaves
People are hungry,
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.
Let this be our prayer for the world…
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Rabbi Harold Kushner