“I’ve lost my way.” One man confesses to his friend. “And it’s not good, because I don’t know how much more I can take.”
“I understand,” his friend says.
“I don’t know what is next, but I think I’m close to the bottom.”
“Well,” his friend tells him. “I can tell you this with all my heart. I have been to the bottom. And I’m glad to report, that the bottom is solid.”
This week I had conversations with friends in the Sabbath Moment community whose worlds have been rocked. Derailed. So, in good form I put on my Pastor hat, and hope to find the right words. But too often, my Pastor hat disconnects me from my own brokenness. You see if I’m honest, I am where they are. And I need to speak (and gratefully am more comfortable speaking) from that place, to be honest about and embrace that brokenness. What James Hollis calls an appointment with our own soul.
Legendary country singer Loretta Lynn died this past week. This quote really tugged at me and took my heart on its own road trip of sorts. “The more you hurt, the better the song,” Loretta once said. “You put your whole heart into a song when you’re hurting. You can’t be protected. I didn’t try to be protected. I didn’t want to be protected.” (Thank you Maria Shriver)
Yes, I’m glad to report, the bottom is solid.
Sometimes, “the bottom” is not end of our rope, or catastrophe. Sometimes we feel completely empty, unable to connect with (drawn on) the resources at our core.
It happens and we feel only the symptoms of disconnection and drained spirit.
Here’s what I do know: We are invited to make our wounds into sacred wounds. If we cannot, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter. This much is true; if we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.
Toward the end of Leonard Bernstein’s musical work entitled Mass, there is a scene in which the priest is richly dressed in magnificent vestments. He is lifted up by the crowd. He is carrying a splendid glass chalice in his hands. Suddenly the human pyramid collapses and the priest comes tumbling down.
The priest’s vestments are ripped off and the glass chalice falls to the ground, shattering into tiny pieces.
As the priest walks slowly through the debris of his former glory, barefoot and wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, he hears children’s voices singing off stage, Laude. Laude. Laude. Praise! Praise! Praise!
His eyes, transformed by God’s grace, suddenly notice the broken chalice. He looks at it for a long, long time. And then, haltingly he says, “I never realized that broken glass could shine so brightly.”
Things do not always go the way we plan. Not that we don’t try. Somehow, well made plans make us feel better. More presentable. Even acceptable.
Then life happens. And life turns left. Things—plans, dreams, relationships—can, and do, break. Sometimes even shatter.
And hearts can be broken. On occasion, invited to speak, I spend some time with a group of people weighed down by broken things. They invite me to sit, to listen, and if I have any, to offer some insight.
On goes my Pastor’s hat. I had the right things to say. And I want to put the chalice back together.
But here’s the deal: since when are tidiness and the presence of the sacred one in the same?
In the end, I realized that I could only invite anyone to the epiphany of the priest in Bernstein’s Mass. That if we have eyes to see, there are no unsacred moments. And that God is alive and well in all things.
Even in the broken glass.
Or, in the words of Van Morrison, “Whenever God shines His light.”
I’ve been to the bottom, and am happy to report the bottom is solid.
Our knee jerk is to go cerebral. If only it all made sense. So, teach us, please. Give us the script.
It’s just that when we bring God into the collusion, saying that God sends us the burden because [God] knows that we are strong enough to handle it, we have it all wrong. Fate, not God, sends us the problem. When we try to deal with it, we find out that we are not strong. We discover that we are weak; we get tired, we get angry, overwhelmed… But when we reach the limits of our own strength and courage, something unexpected happens. We find reinforcement coming from a source outside of ourselves. And in the knowledge, that we are not alone, that God is on our side, we manage to go on… (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner) And you discover people around you, and God beside you, and strength within you to help you survive.
I came upon a doctor who appeared in quite poor health. I said, “There’s nothing that I can do for you that you can’t do for yourself.”
He said, “Oh yes you can. Just hold my hand. I think that that would help.”
So, I sat with him a while, then asked him how he felt.
He said, “I think I’m cured.” (Thank you Conor Oberst.)
Thank God, I have friends. They carry the weight and the freight. They hold my hand. And I trust them. That’s a big deal. Because I learned early in my life, not to trust. This isn’t a cathartic therapy session. But it’s important to fess up from time to time. To know what our trigger points are… It’s all a part of that handsome mixture.
This week, my heart replenished in the mountains of southern North Carolina, by Pisgah National Forest’s rivers and waterfalls. Reminders that nature nurtures and sustains us. And the trees dance with the breeze, their leaves now a flotilla, pirouettes carried in the sunlight.
Today with the good people at The Congregational Church in Tryon, NC. We told stories and talked about the gift of emotional and spiritual hydration.
Quote for your week…
“This isn’t where I expected to be. My version of myself, my life didn’t have this.” Ram Dass (after his stroke)
Today’s Photo Credit: “Shortly after I listened to the Bruce Springsteen video of ‘Let My Little Light Shine’, we visited Marshall Point lighthouse in Tenant’s Harbor, Maine. I thought about how this lighthouse had guided many to safety, projecting its light to those on the open sea and in potential danger. I think we all need lighthouses in our lives and gratefully accept the light they shine to lead us through periless times. Thank you for all you do to be one of my ‘lighthouses’.”
Linda Armstrong… Thank you Linda… 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.
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UPCOMING EVENTS —
December 9 – 11 — Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, AZ, Men’s Retreat
Letters that do my heart good…
–Enjoy your weekend in Asheville! When you get a quiet moment I hope you’ll indulge me and let me share my own sanctuary moment today. This morning we had Miss Georgia Senior America come pay a visit to the folks at Creative Enterprises where I work. It’s a day program serving adults living with disabilities. There were about 70-80 of them there today, I’m guessing. She was presenting an hour long musical program just for us. She sang and played a variety of songs, from Let It Go from “Frozen” (a huge favorite here) to “At Last”, channeling Etta James. Our folks joined in, off key but with great enthusiasm. A few couldn’t contain their enthusiasm and got up and danced without a care as to who was watching. Near the end of the hour, our lovely guest finished the set with a couple of hymns. Most of our guys are churchgoers and knew the hymns by heart. I looked around the room, and noticed several of them lifting their arms, swaying, eyes closed, and singing every word. A few of them started crying. I noticed one of my students, a young man who had been less than thrilled to have to sit through this program, made his way over to another guy who was crying. He gave the guy a hug and prayed with him right then and there while the music played on. All this took place in the large warehouse where some do piece work. There are metal tables and painted cylinder block walls. But we had church right there in that space today! I know God was in our midst. Those unplanned moments are the best because they are truly authentic. I am humbled and blessed to work where I work with all these amazing genuine folks of all ages and all abilities, who are not afraid to let their light shine. I am still smiling and grateful for this day. Be blessed, LaTrecia
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Oh the comfort, the inexplicable comfort of feeling safe with a person-having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
Dina Craik (1859)
As people of faith, we unite our hearts in prayer for our world.
Pray with me.
God, creator and sustainer of all life, we pray for our world and all your creatures in it.
We pray for leaders, local and national, that their words and actions will be sown like seeds, growing into understanding and peace.
Creator of life, hear our prayer.
We pray for people facing prejudice and unfair treatment because of who they are, what they look like, what they believe, and how you have created them.
Make us brave enough to identify the weeds that threaten to choke and destroy and to speak out against hurt and hate.
Creator of life, hear our prayer.
We pray for our church, this vine of faith upon which we are all branches.
Thank you for those things that are flourishing today because of the seeds of faith and action planted over the generations here in this congregation.
May the seeds we plant today be so fruitful.
Creator of life, hear our prayer.
We pray for our children and youth, for our aging and ill.
Creator of life, hear our prayer.
Thank you for hearing our prayers, which we share in faith.