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To reflect the light

During the recent pandemic shutdown, on my walk every day, I stopped to chat with (and yes, often preach to) the congregation of sheep just around the corner from my house. I miss them.
They gave me the permission to simply pause. To not be afraid of my melancholy. And to carry sorrow without becoming completely undone.
They gave me a place to look for words, especially when words were hard to find. Now, with fresh images and news from the Middle East, we are looking for words. Being horrified is perhaps something we can agree on. And…
Sadness for children who grow up without hope.
Anger at those who celebrate death.
Sadness at seeing human life cast aside.
Anger that the world hasn’t summoned the will to prioritize solutions.
(Thank you to Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner.)

So. Let’s pause… where do we go from here?
Robert Fulghum once asked a Greek philosopher named Dr. Papaderos, “What is the meaning of life?” as they concluded a class taught by the professor. Papaderos could see that Fulghum was serious. He took a small mirror out of his wallet, and told this story. “During WWII, I was a child in a poor remote village. One day, on the road, I found several broken pieces of a mirror from a wrecked German motorcycle. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would not shine – in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.  I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light—truth, understanding, knowledge—is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.”
Fulghum continues: “And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.”

“There is no meaning to life,” Joseph Campbell once said. “You bring meaning to it.” To explain, he said that for him, meaning is “participating joyfully in the sorrows of the world.”
Well, that’s a tall order. And I must confess, that wasn’t what I had in mind. So. I’m torn. Especially with my hankering to want someone to fix it all.
And while I’m torn, I take heart in Robert Alden’s affirmation, “There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle.”

Spill (reflect) your light. That is my mantra. So. Sign me up.
However. I’m wired to be the “minister”, meaning that it’s obligatory to be strong and impermeable. You know, the one that helps others.
But what about self-care and self-compassion for the care giver? It’s not easy to let yourself receive light (or let yourself heal) is it? “Terry, can you use that mirror to shine light and love on the dark and painful places in your own heart and spirit?”
Can we trust our hidden beauty, trust that there is a heart, and little by little receive love, be transformed by love, and then give love?
We’ve been hoodwinked. Believing that self-care is selfish, and somehow, shortsighted. With irony, the light that spills to those around us, comes from that place in our own heart, where there is both pain and self-compassion.
I’m in a place, where, for the first time in my life I welcome a tender heart.
This has not always been the case. I have used many well-honed default mechanisms for pain. Explain it away. Run away from it. Bank on performance (the stage can be convenient).
As long as our culture worships at the altar of bravado and swagger, we live disconnected. When we are afraid to be tiny or humble or meek, we live paranoid and anxious. I loved the article in a recent NYT, about Pope Francis, the “Anti-Strongman.” That faith is less about the use of power to shape the social order—the stuff of present strongmen and past popes—than about straightforward efforts of kindness and generosity, the gifts from a heart glad to be alive.

Garrison Keillor once reflected on the church of his youth: “We had a surplus of scholars, and a deficit of peacemakers.” A ratio, I would say, which needs to be reworked.
Well, here’s the good news; every single one of us have been endowed and equipped, because every single one of us has been given the name, peacemaker.
Too good to be true?  I can relate.
So, I settle for less. Because, “That can’t be me,” I tell myself.
Which begs the question; in this churning and uncertain environment, from where do we draw our identity, and our character?
This is from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, “So; chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength and discipline. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”
I like the paradigm shift.  We are not mandated to design or create or assemble the wardrobe.
Only that we inhabit the wardrobe we’ve been given.
To reflect and spill light (yes, even from the broken pieces), wherever and whenever we can.

I hope some of you saw the ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse. One news commentator, standing with a large gathering watching the eclipse said, “You could almost ‘hear’ the awe and wonder. This was personal and communal.” 

Quote for your week…
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri Nouwen


Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, Here is some photos of Glacier National Park. I just spent 6 months there.” Rachel Beck… Thank you Rachel… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–So timely… deeply comforting. Thank you, as always, for giving words to my inner yearnings. Donna
–Thanks for all the words, transparency, vulnerability, and authenticity you spread to us out here. You’re the real deal. Best, Kay
–Thank you My Friend for being you. For sharing so many wonderful words with us. Gift to each other, in return, prayers for you to soothe your soul. Look up. Pat
–Thank you Terry for sharing everything you do. This week we’ve needed something to believe in, and someone to remind us what is important, and how we can be of support for so many… including ourselves. Sue
–Good Morning, Terry — and a good morning it ‘tis.  As I was about to close the sliding door after letting our four-legged companion in from her morning relief, my ‘heart leapt within’ as my ear caught a bird welcoming the morning with song. The birds have been quiet, lately, so it was a blessing to welcome back their song. Thank you for taking time to respond to my reflections. I know many lives are touched by your words and images, much is asked of you, so I never anticipate an answer. Yet I am delighted when you find a moment to respond. Thank you for adding Mother Teresa’s inspiration.
–Meditating on your reflection this morning, I, too, am ‘weighed down.’  I am struggling with the challenge of balancing the heartbreak of a broken, deadly world, while holding the fragility of love, grace, and hope to offer a ‘balm in Gilead to heal (our wounded) souls.’  I am lifted up by your reminder of the healing power of compassion. Also I am touched by Steve Garnaas-Holmes’ morning reflection (see below), reminding me to open my heart to joy, once again, even while being ‘heartbroken for the world,’ to let ‘the thread of grief’ guide me. Maybe Steve’s reminder will lift your ‘weighed down’ spirit, as well. Deep blessings to you and those near and dear to you, Terry. With a grateful heart, Elizabeth


Blessed are you
who guard your joy so tenderly
because you’re also heartbroken for the world.
Blessed are you who, in passing moments,
feel a flutter of dread
for what is larger than you, but more threatened,
for oceans and forests, peoples and generations,
and how they might suffer,
and how you could ever let them know you loved them.
Blessed are you when you see the child on the news
and something in you collapses a little.
Blessed are you when you wake in the night
with worry for the world,
with sand in your throat for weeping
and yet who carry on in hope.
Blessed are you, for your hope is not wishing,
but trust in the unseen, already rising.
Hold your thread of grief, and do not let go;
follow it into the darkness. It will guide you.
It will not sap but strengthen your courage.
You will go on. You will be true. You will be blessed.
Your very breath is the hope of the universe moving in you.
And still, beloved, guard your joy tenderly.
It, too, is holy.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Healer of the Nations,
from the noise of war
and the drumbeat of vengeance,
give us undiminished determination
to wage peace.
Out of brokenness, violence, and destruction
let us plant seeds of hope.
Out of chaos, confusion, and hatred,
build bridges of love.
Out of distrust, disunity, and distance,
walk together in harmony.
Heal our divisions and make us whole. Amen.
Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson

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