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What really matters

An all-star quarterback retired this past week. Andrew Luck is 29. Which means, too young to retire. Because of years of chronic pain, he made the decision based on priorities other than his job; health, family and joy.
He was booed by fans, and second guessed by pundits.
His choice didn’t fit neatly into who he was: a sports hero. Someone like him wasn’t supposed to be hurting so much.
His decision “let us down”, we are told. So, I wonder, how do we find the courage to choose what really matters?

I’ll go with Mr. Rogers on this one. “It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have. The alphabet is fine, but it’s what we do with it that matters most. Making words like ‘friend’ and ‘love’. That’s what really matters.” (We could use more of Mr. Rogers in this world. Just sayin’.)

I’m not a pro QB, although as a boy I dreamt of being the next Bart Starr. What I do know is that each week I’m more aware of why struggles (anger or tears or sadness cropping up when I least expect them) make choices about what matters difficult. This is no surprise, with all the competing and conflicting bombasts in our world. I forget (or lose track) of the integrity of my inner Voice (what Marilynn Robinson called the reservoir of goodness).

As the old man walks the beach at dawn, he notices a young man picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up to the youth, he asks a simple question, “Why are you doing this?’
The boy answers that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun.
“But the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish. How can your efforts make any difference?”
The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and threw it to safety–into the ocean past the breaking waves. “It makes a difference to this one,” he said.
I don’t know what your emotional wellbeing thermostat reads. I do know that when I’m tired or worn down, I’m susceptible to disheartenment and discombobulation (compounded by a dose of guilt that I should know better than to give in to melancholy). Well, this week, I gave that inner-bully a time out.
We can make choices that matter, that make a difference. To this day. This encounter. This conversation.
So, this week, what really matters for you? Our lists don’t need to be exhaustive. This isn’t a contest. Just a good place to begin.
Here’s mine. This week I choose;

Rear Admiral Thornton Miller Chief was the Chaplain at Normandy in WWII. Someone asked him, “Up and down the beach, with the shells going everywhere, why did you do that?”
“Because I’m a minister.”
“But didn’t you ask if they were Catholic or Protestant or Jew?”
“If you’re a minister, the only question you ask is, ‘Can I help you?'” 
Four simple words. And, in our broken world, that’s a good place to begin.

Here’s the deal: the love of God transcends and transforms what the world imposes upon us in fear, and our own sense of helplessness. That love is carried by kindness. It’s not my desire to convert anyone. Just to remind everyone that, “Transformed people transform people.” (Richard Rohr)

This from Fredrik Backman’s Every day the way home gets longer (a conversation between Noah and his Grandpa).
We have to write essays all the time! The teacher wanted us to write what we thought the meaning of life was once.
What did you write?
Grandpa closes his eyes.
​​​​That’s the best answer I’ve heard.
​​​​​​My teacher said I had to write a longer answer.
​​​​​​​So what did you do?
​​​​​​​I wrote: Company. And ice cream.
​​​​​​​Grandpa spends a moment or two thinking that over. Then he asks: what kind of ice cream?
​​​​​​​Noah smiles. It’s nice to be understood. 

No one of us is on this journey alone. And life without community (company) is anxious and unsatisfying, leaving an emptiness no purchase or accomplishment can fill.

St. Cyprian in the third century, writing to his friend Donatus. “This seems a cheerful world, Donatus, when I view it from this fair garden.”
Amen. My new book is about savoring and mindfulness. Be here. Now. Beauty makes space for the sacrament of the present. And leads us to connectedness. Mary Oliver told us that “attention is the beginning of devotion,” which invites listening, and a new way of presence in our world. (Brené Brown talks about presence not as what’s possible between people, but “what’s true between people.”)

This isn’t always easy or straightforward. Even my list has “pundits” annoyed. I’ve been told that equating sanctuary with my garden is white privilege. Lord have mercy. I’ll answer that in another SM. But today I need to sit in my garden and gather my wits. About the privilege I have to write this SM, and the privilege to nourish, and be nourished by, the grace and mercy which is profoundly abundant in the SM community.

Okay. I’ll add a fourth. Humor. We don’t laugh enough.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Victor Frankl
Frankl adds, “Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”
To put it another way, regardless of the cacophony, there’s always a medicinal and emotional benefit to hearing about a priest, a rabbi and a preacher who walk into a bar. I don’t even need to finish the yarn. It still brings a smile, some balance between laughter and uncontrollable weeping.

It is Labor Day weekend. I wish for you moments to savor.
Back home from recording my new book. I’ll keep you posted. It’s out October 14.
Dorian is now a category 5 storm. Be watchful my friends in the southeast. We pray for your safety.
And, I just saw the news, “another mass shooting”. My heart stops at those words. And makes me know that I choose to do everything in my power to say no to a world where violence lives.

Quote for your week…
May I live this day compassionate of heart, clear in word, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought, generous in love. John O’Donohue


Today’s photo credit — Cayucos, CA…  Laura Valenzuela… Thank you Laura… keep sending your photos… send to

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Join me this Fall…
Sept 7 — Whispering Winds Center, Julian, CA
Oct 23 — St. Mary, Park City, UT
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In the mailbag…
–Hi Terry! Thanks so much for the invitation to take the eCourse. Am looking forward to it; my life is stressed, with a capital S sometimes! Oh yes, I get SM and just love it. You are amazing – I learn so much from that, and appreciate your sharing; your feelings and thoughts in a spiritual way. It is so well done, and speaks to us in many ways. Blessings to you, Arla
–The first line says it all. I want to reprogram my cash register and begin choosing what God values: compassion, loving kindness, forgiveness, and faith. Pamella
–Safe travels to my old Buckeye State. CONGRATS on the book. Ever thankful for my early Monday mornings with your writings. Ha! You help me knock the letter D off the end of the word GRIND. Vanessa
–I thought you would like this, our last chance at civility before the college football season starts. As you say, “that’ll preach”. “To my mind, the table is the great altar of life. Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, deaths, promotions, crises — and the everyday, every day — all are best at a table. Why that is so and not, say, at church or in the calm of silence alone, I cannot say.” Best wishes, Terry
–So much Gratitude! I am struggling with so many emotions & challenges these days & definitely feel lost & more than a little crazy. Your thoughts & wisdom were an answer to my morning’s prayers. Bless you for lending some direction for the journey…for opening your soul & sharing it…for being genuine…& for being Love in a world that so desperately needs it! Judy
–Dear brother/friend, Terry, Thank you for the refreshing, renewing, and restorative inspiration of “taking stock” of the sacredness that we carry with ourselves and within ourselves–our medicine bags of reminders of that what grounds us to love and life. Like when Mother Teresa spoke to the lepers and they responded, “Can we hear it one more time?” I pray that your trip and time with Franciscan Media brings forth the rich fruit to that you bring to us all. “Be Well” my brother, in all matters of life, love, and living. Larry
–Terry, I love the message today! Please come to the east coast (south east, specifically)!  I’d love to hear you speak in person. Blessings! Donna
–I am praying over “heatstroke of the heart”. It deeply speaks to me. Thank you for words that open me to do some meaningful self-reflection! Pam
–Terry, So many of us are discouraged by all the chaos in our country and in the world.  My ABSOLUTE SAVIOR IS goodnewsnetwork. Please share that with your readers and here’s a fun read: Mind Your Manners, Says Edith Wharton, Connie
–I started following your SM’s through a chaplain at the hospital I worked at. Later I purchased your book Power of Pause for my sisters and myself (years ago). Very helpful, as have been the ecourses I’ve joined. I enjoy your sharings on facebook as well. Thank you, Terry! Next month, I will start participating in a Chalice Circle through my town’s Unitarian Universalist congregation. The practice follows the curriculum of Soul Matters Sharing Circles. I am blessed to have been granted this time for discovery and growth on my journey through this life. With gratitude, Maureen
–Hi Terry, I’ve been a SM supporter for many years, it is wonderful to now have reflection questions to use with others. I will encourage the CSJ Associates to sign up and become supporters too. Thank you for all you do. SM every Monday keeps me balanced. Have a blessed day! Denise 

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We teach children how to measure
and how to weigh.
We fail to teach them how to revere,
how to sense wonder and awe.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel

A Child in the Garden
When to the Garden of untroubled though
I came of late, and saw the open door,
And wished again to enter, and explore
The sweet, wild ways with stainless bloom inwrought,
And bowers of innocence with beauty fraught,
It seemed some purer voice must speak before
I dared to tread that Garden loved of yore,
That Eden lost unknown and found unsought.
Then just within the gate I saw a child,
A Stranger-child, yet to my heart most dear;
He holds his hands to me, and softly smiled
With eyes that knew no shade of sin or fear:
“Come in,” he said, “and play awhile with me;”
“I am the little child you use to be.”
Henry Van Dyke

To be on a spiritual path means to look inward as often as outward,
knowing that the externals of our lives are reflections of our thoughts and words, manifestations of that which we are energizing into being with the fuel of our passion.
To be on a spiritual path means to use the rearview mirror to be sure that the path behind is clear of debris and that we do not obstruct another’s journey with clutter of our own.
It means making peace with our past, knowing our future contains it,
and summoning the courage it takes to acknowledge, forgive, and release whatever we have clung to that impedes our movement.
To be on a spiritual path is to take responsibility for creating our own creed, based on our commitments, and to respect the rights of others to do the same.
It also means to reflect anew on what beliefs we’ve inherited to be sure they are compatible with our inner knowing.
To be on a spiritual path, it is necessary to forgive yourself for wrong turns, for failing to yield, for driving under the influence of others.
These are minor and forgivable infractions.
The more important rules of this road are to be attentive, to notice when you stray, and to get back on the path as soon as possible.
Jan Phillips, Finding the On Ramp to Your Spiritual Path.

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