Time's Up

"Time's Up!" By now you have no doubt heard about the powerful address given by Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes Awards Celebration. She was speaking about the recent "me, too" movement in which women from the entertainment, political, and corporate worlds-women actually from every corner-who are now standing up to predatory men that sit in seats of power and influence. Sparked by the courage of one woman, hundreds of others have now joined in to say, "me, too" - I was also harassed, assaulted, or discriminated against because I am a woman.

Oprah's speech that night took this movement to the next level. "me, too" has now evolved into ''Time's Up!" Their way of saying that those in positions of influence who have abused that influence,­ your time is up and we won't sit quietly and take it any longer. The list of powerful men who have now been called out grows daily.

It seems to me the church of Jesus Christ ought to be the banner carrier for this movement. After all, in our Book - at the very beginning - we are told in no uncertain terms that "God created them, male and female He created them... " All biblical scholars agree that the Hebrew term "adam" did not refer to a man named "Adam". The word simply means "humankind". So that in the beginning, God created all of humankind as equal. This is the foundation of our understanding of one another.

And yet women are to this day still not receiving their due respect within the walls of the church. I have been privileged to serve along side women in five different congregations. I have found them all to be highly intelligent, creative, competent and hard-working colleagues. And in every one of those congregations I have heard congregation members say things like, "you sure are the prettiest preacher we've ever had" or "how does your husband feel about you doing this work?", or worst of all, "no thanks, I'll just wait to talk to Jim."


In our society, it is way past time for us to recognize the full place that women should hold in our world. They are not "decoration." They are not merely "helpers." Woman are leaders and they have been called by God into the church and into the classroom and into the boardrooms of this nation. 

If you are not moved by the power of the ''Time's Up!" movement, I wonder if that's because you don't have a daughter? Would it be OK with you to know that your own daughter was being harassed by someone who thought he could get away with it because he was "in charge?" Have you asked your spouse if this had ever happened to her? I have four daughters and it is not OK with me.

Maybe one thing we can all do is begin now to teach our boys what it is to respect girls. I fear that if we wait until they are young men, it may be too late. But if we start early, we can change the narrative. I'm pretty sure God would approve. 



Benevolence Ministry

I wonder if it has ever occurred to you that one of the hardest jobs of a pastor is having to decide who to help and who NOT to help. It should come as no surprise to you that we get a pretty steady stream of people who call or come by the church seeking financial help. It ranges from help with rent and utilities to help with food and medicine and gas. Often times it is for a place to stay at night. If you are involved with this sort of “rubber meets the road” ministry, you also know that it gets complicated.

Take utilities, for instance. If someone calls us or comes by asking for help with utilities because NES has threatened to cancel their service, that almost always means they are one or two months behind, already. And that usually means needing several hundred dollars just to get caught up so they can keep their electricity running. And if it happens to be 25 degrees outside like it has been lately, then you can imagine the fear of having no heat in your home.

To complicate matters even further, we have a limited amount of funds available at any given time. Our “benevolence fund” is supported solely by communion offerings dedicated for that fund and most of you know that we don’t designate every communion offering toward that fund—in fact, we probably dedicate only half of those 12 communion offerings a year to the benevolent fund. If you make a decision to help one person with a three-months-in-arrears electric bill, you could easily spend 10 to 25% of your available funds on one person.

Another stark reality is that we get calls from folks from all over Nashville. Some of these are “professional beggars”, but it’s very hard to determine that over the phone.

One more thing—sometimes the people who come to the church in person can become angry or belligerent if you tell them you can’t assist them. This has put church staff and church members in occasionally awkward—and even potentially dangerous—situations.

So, we have established a policy for dealing with those who need help. Given the limited amount of resources we have available, we have decided that only the pastoral staff may determine to whom and how much aid can be given. The pastoral staff has the most experience dealing with folks who have this need. This policy includes letting everyone know (church staff and members) that if you are confronted by someone at the church or in the parking lot after worship, we are asking you to gently let these folks know that only a pastor is authorized to offer aid. If it so happens neither Sam or I are available at that moment, we ask that you let them know they will need to wait until they can see one of us—even if that means asking them to come back the next day.

Our policy also includes a stipulation that we are going to try to help those in our immediate neighborhood, first. This is simply a matter of conservation of energy and resources. If we get a call from someone who lives in Madison, we encourage them to try getting assistance from the many churches in their immediate area. This doesn’t mean we don’t think they need help—they probably do. But we feel more responsibility for those who live in the three zip codes that are closest to our church.

We truly do feel a need to help anyone who comes by or calls the church. The list of genuine needs around us are many. We will do the best we can and ask that you keep us in prayer as we try our best to represent the Church of Jesus Christ in the world—as well as the believers of Belle Meade UMC.

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Starting Fresh in 2018

Happy New Year!! We turn the page on our calendars to 2018. The years just seem to fly by, don’t they? It would be easy for us to wax on with nostalgia over things in our past—to talk about “the good old days” or whatever we think those were.

But the bigger truth is that we get to look forward and ponder what changes we might make to improve our lives, the lives around us, and the greater community in which we live. These are commonly called “New Year’s Resolutions”—an occasion to reset the clock and to try and do better some things we may have done poorly, before.

For some of us, it will be trying to get on top of an annoying or even harmful habit. Some of us will try to lose weight (me included), some will try to quit smoking or drinking or whatever other ways we tend to harm ourselves.

Some of us will make a pact that we will be kinder and gentler in the new year. Maybe we’ve all had enough of partisan politics that we will resolve to spend more time listening to the hopes and dreams of each other rather than simply talking over them.

Some of us will seek to renew our connection to God this 2018. I hope that if you have been feeling disconnected from God lately that you will take this moment to start fresh. If you’d like, the pastoral staff can help you with that and there’s nothing we’d like better. Give one of us a call and we’ll sit down over a cup of coffee/tea.

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The Christian Church has long understood the need to start fresh. We have used phrases like “born again” to speak of resetting our clocks in a particular way. For us, it starts with confession and then forgiveness. Once those two moments have occurred, all that’s left is the “NOW WHAT?”

Let me suggest that 2018 could be a wonderful year of “NOW WHAT?” all of us. Who have I been? Who do I seek to be? How can I be a better friend, spouse, citizen?

It’s good to have a chance to start fresh. So Happy New Year!! Here’s to our best year, yet!




Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

More God sightings in Advent.

Sunday a week ago I was finishing up the Sunday morning routine. Both worship services were completed and I had just finished the fourth “impromptu” meeting in the narthex. I made it to my office to put all things away and head home. When I got to the outside door of the office hallway, I could already see it on my car—a flyer. Somebody had taken the liberty to place flyers on all of our cars while we were worshipping.


This had happened to me before in other settings. A neighborhood church in the town where I served took it upon themselves to place flyers of THEIR worship service times on OUR cars. I thought that was a pretty tacky thing to do. I was expecting that when I got to my car and I don’t mind telling you that I was all ready to explode. 

Then I saw the actual flyer—“YOU’VE BEEN RACK’d” it said—“Random Acts of Christmas Kindness” courtesy of our 2nd and 3rd grade Sunday School class. I was all ready to unleash my anger on someone and now I felt guilty for having such thoughts. That little message stayed with me all day—I’ve Been Rack’d”!! God works in mysterious ways, no?? (P.S.—my message came complete with a small candy cane attached☺)

Just heard today that The Last Minute Toy Store served over 5,400 children. These were children that were NOT being served by any other agency in town. That’s more children than ever before and we United Methodists should all feel gratified that together, we were able to serve our community in such a profound way. So many of you gave gifts and gift cards for the store—thousands of dollars worth of gifts and cards were given.

Please accept our deep gratitude for all you did. A special word of thanks to Anne and Wayne Underhill who were coordinating not just OUR church’s donations, but also the donations of all the other UMC’s in our area. That was a big job and we are especially thankful to them.

You can see God at work all around you if you are willing to look. I promise you will have some God sightings this Sunday, Christmas Eve. In addition to our combined morning worship service at 10:30 (no Sunday School), we will then have our children and family-friendly Christmas Eve service at 3:00. Then at 7:00 and 11:00 we will celebrate with candlelight communion and amazing music from our Chancel Choir and special guests.


I hope you will make a special effort to attend one of these services and if there was ever a time you would want to invite a guest, a neighbor, a friend or a family member, Christmas Eve is the perfect occasion.




“God-sightings” in Advent

Does the name Jose Andres mean anything to you?? You are forgiven if it doesn’t. You’d have to be a die-hard “foodie” to recognize his name. Jose is a Michelin-starred chef who is widely credited with bringing the concept of “small plate” dining to America. He owns well-known restaurants in nearly ten cities across the country. He also chairs the advisory board for “L.A. Kitchen”, a social enterprise in Los Angeles aimed at reducing food waste, job training, and nutritious eating.


He would be a person much to be admired just for that. But the most important meals he is serving today are free. You see after Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico—so many of whom still have no power coming up on three months now—Jose set up portable kitchens—20 of them--and began cooking stews and paella for the storm-torn region.

To date, he has served over 3 million hot meals—more than any other relief agency. One person, one passion, one heart to serve people in need. That’s truly all it takes.

How about something more local? I give you “The Real Mamas of Mt. Juliet”. Catchy name, isn’t it? Four women—four mothers—who recognized an issue that no one was addressing and decided to engage. These aren’t “activists” looking for a fight. These are real moms who noticed that many students in their local, public school were being singled out and ridiculed over the federal lunch program. 

Each student was expected to pay a portion of their meal program funded through the federal government. Many of these students couldn’t make a payment and the connection between hunger and poor performance in school is well-documented. So when these students couldn’t make the payment, they were then sent to the principal who provided for them “an alternative snack”. Until these students could pay off their “debt”, they would remain in the “alternative” program and forbidden to eat with the other students.

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So what did these moms do? They decided that feeding every hungry student in their local school might be more than they could manage, but they COULD find ways to pay off the debts of those students who had debts. They made decorative sweatshirts and began selling them. Now, other local businesses are selling those sweatshirts on their behalf.

Four mothers seeing a need not being addressed and being moved with compassion. That’s all it takes to change the world.

As we enter the third week of Advent, can you find some God-sightings to share?




Advent Surprises

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Advent/Christmas surprises are among my favorite things. The giving and receiving of gifts, though capable of getting stressful and out-of-hand, can be a time of great joy among families and friends. Over the course of the last several years the trend has been for us adults/parents/relatives to give gift cards to our teenagers and older children. I’ll admit that I don’t like to do that. I much prefer to think about what I’m giving to someone and put in the effort. On the other hand, I have also failed miserably at times to choose a great gift—a fact that is immediately recognized by the look on the face of the victim—I mean, recipient. So the gift card route guarantees success on the part of the receiver, which should bring a good feeling to the giver.

More recently, my family has taken to less and less actual gifts given and more choosing of a worthy agency to which to make a donation. That brings joy, too.

My season this year is already off to a great start. Something pretty amazing happened here at the church last week. I imagine most of you are aware that we get a lot of calls and drop ins of folks who need all manner of assistance. Most of them are genuinely in need. Some of them are “professional beggars”. It isn’t easy having to make choices about whom to help with the available resources at our disposal. We can’t help them all. And many of them will gratefully receive our help with a promise to pay us back when they get on their feet. That happens about as frequently as a Halley’s Comet sighting.

Last week a woman came in. She was slight of build and a bit ruffled in her appearance—in other words she looked like someone in need of help. She asked to see a pastor and the staff told me we had someone in the lobby in need of help. I walked out to see her. She spoke with a thick eastern-European accent. I asked, “How can I help you?”

She handed me an envelope with a card inside. She explained that three years earlier she and her family had been in trouble, had come to the church to ask for help, and were given $500. The card inside the envelope contained $200 dollars that she wanted to give us. To pay back our kindness—or to pay it forward.

She gave me a firm hug and went her way.

That’s the kind of Advent/Christmas surprise that can make your season special.



Welcome to Advent

Advent Season at Belle Meade UMC

And so it begins—the preparation for Christmas is upon us. For many merchants, this preparation was very evident weeks ago. Many of our merchants depend heavily on a good Christmas season in order to salvage their year so I won’t we shouldn’t forget that when we sometimes gripe about how commercialized Christmas has become.

Having said that, the Christian Church recognized very early on the need to set aside a time for fasting and preparation for the actual Christmas celebration—the birth of the Christ child. It may have begun as early as the 5th century, but the observance of Advent ebbed and flowed over the centuries. No one, even now, pushes the idea of fasting during the Advent season anymore—small wonder with the number of holiday parties we all typically attend.

And so this coming Sunday will mark the beginning of the Advent season. Four Sundays prior to Christmas that allow us to try and focus our attention on what new thing God is trying to do in our midst. It marks the Christian New Year—starting all over telling the story of Jesus. I wonder why we Christians don’t take this Sunday to make our own, unique New Year’s Resolutions? Is it because we have capitulated to the secular culture that surrounds us? Are we afraid our friends and neighbors might snicker at us if they heard we were making New Year’s Resolutions in December? Why? Because then we’d have to explain why our faith causes us to view the world differently?

And there it is—the Advent Season is precisely a sign that we followers of Jesus really DO see the world differently. Or at least we are supposed to. Advent gives us a chance to imagine a different kind of Christmas. When we sing “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to ALL people” that is a statement to the world around us that we believe life is best lived that way. When we make it a point to encourage our members to support The Last Minute Toy Store that is a statement to the world that exchanging gifts just among ourselves is thoughtless and cruel and tone deaf to the misery and needs that surround us.

Advent is an opportunity for the church to make a WITNESS to the world—one of our 5 membership vows. There was a time not all that long ago that no matter where you tried to eat out on a Friday, you could be certain that there would be at least one fish option. Why? Because the Roman Catholic Church “fasted” from eating meat on Fridays and pretty much everybody knew it. You might be hard-pressed to find that emphasis today. Not that long ago our nation observed what were called “Blue Laws”—pretty much everything closed on Sundays so families could attend church and spend the day together. It was our way of observing Sabbath. The culture around us has swallowed such quaint notions whole.

And even though we won’t be turning the clock back on these traditions, I suggest that we CAN still observe Advent as a way of giving witness to the culture around us that there is another way to live. God’s way is a way of peace, of hope, of love. God’s way focuses on a quiet manger where we might meet and be met by God. God’s way involves giving much more than swapping “reasonably priced gifts”.

Welcome to Advent. “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus.”



A Season of Fellowship

This is an important week in the life of our congregation. This Sunday, we will celebrate Commitment Sunday during worship. For those of us who have not yet turned in our Estimate of Giving cards, we will have baskets available during the worship service for you to do so. I can’t stress enough how important it is for every regular participant in our congregation offer this Estimate of Giving—regardless of the amount. That card is a “vow” of sorts that says “This is my church and it needs my support and I am going to do what I can.” These Estimates of Giving will be the determining factor for our 2018 budget.

I also would like to catch you up on our apportionment giving. As of October 1st, we are one half of one month behind on paying 100% of our conference apportionments. We haven’t been this close to fulfilling that mission in decades. Now we are really close. I want to ask you that if you are behind on your giving for 2017 would you please do all you can do catch up. I hear many people speak with great hope that we can fulfill that 100% this year. Together, we can.

This Sunday is also PUMPKINFEST. This is one of our best fellowship events. There will be a chili cook-off. Make your own special, secret recipe pot of chili and come early to build your “booth” (if you wish). There will be a “celebrity judge” to determine the winner. It’s all in great fun. In addition, there will be a Halloween costume contest. This is a great highlight of the afternoon, so don your best costume and join us from 4 till 6.

We are also entering a season of special, sacred days. The first Sunday of November is All Saints Sunday. On this day, we remember the lives of those in our church family who have died since this time last year. It is a very special worship service.

On November 19th we will celebrate Thanksgiving together as a church family with a potluck dinner at 5:00 p.m. The church will provide the turkey and dressing and drinks and the rest of us will bring side dishes to share. Let me suggest that we all bring two sides or one large side so there will be plenty of food to go around. We will create a sign-up with Sunday School classes asking them to bring a vegetable or a dessert in order to be sure we have a good variety.

Then we enter the season of Advent on December 3rd for four Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve which we all know is pretty amazing here at Belle Meade.

I hope you will come and support all of these special services and occasions. Being together as a church family is one of the true benefits of the faith. Don’t miss it.



Tidbits of Wisdom

One of you recently sent me a list of tidbits of wisdom to help manage the stress we are all under. I thought I’d share a few of those today. Enjoy.

Accept the fact that some days you are the pigeon and some days you are the statue.

Always keep your words soft and sweet just in case you have to eat them later. 

Drive carefully—It’s not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.

Nobody cares if you can’t dance—get up and dance, anyway.

The second mouse usually gets the cheese.

When everything is coming your way, you are probably in the wrong lane.

A truly happy person is the one who can enjoy the scenery even on a detour.

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

Since it’s the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

And this is my personal favorite:  We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull.  Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.




In Memory of Our Friend

Beloved church,

Death is hard.

Like many of you, I am still shocked at the loss of our dear Edgar Jones. I do not even want to talk about him in the past tense. It’s too jarring. Death has interrupted our lives too harshly.

Yesterday, I saw and spoke to people who loved and knew Edgar all day. Our emotions were varied: anxious, angry, confused, grieved, heartbroken. Today, I’ve spoken with a member of the church who said she feels numb. I want to remind you that whatever you are feeling is faithful. Like the psalmists, we lament. We ask God questions. We cry out. Not all of us are ready to ask, “Oh death where is your sting?” We feel it and it sucks.

Many of you have started sharing stories about Edgar. They speak of his friendliness. He acknowledged everyone by name, didn’t he? He always asked how you were doing. He genuinely cared for people. He reached absolutely everybody with his kindness. You could always depend on him to show up. He was faithful to working the front desk, answering the phones, counting money, making ice cream for the social, attending the Oxford class, ushering at funerals, and yes, putting ashes into the columbarium.

Edgar was also good for a laugh. He was joyful and made people smile. 

I’ve been teaching the Oxford class about once a month for awhile. A few mornings, we have shared our stories with one another. I bring in a fishbowl of questions and everyone takes one out. I’m almost certain the first time Edgar drew a question, it was to tell about the greatest gift he’s ever received. I know all of you can anticipate his answer: Mary Sue.

The second time he got a question about his favorite recipe. It was a dish his mother used to make as he was growing up. He told us about each ingredient. The "special" one was something toxic. I mean, like flammable. Something no one should have ever been allowed to eat! We all laughed out loud in disbelief. He said he was serious. And it was delicious.

In the days and weeks to come, we will remember our friend. It will be hard for us to have “firsts” without him there. Offer yourself grace; healing is a process. Grief ebbs and flows. It’s okay to feel whatever we feel when we feel it. Grief is hard on the body. It’s heavy. It is physically exhausting. Take care of yourself. As we said in the sermon a few weeks ago, it’s okay to put the grief down and pick it back up again. It’s okay to take a break from it. It’s too much to hold onto continually. 

As a church, we will also hold one another’s grief. We will be reassured of the presence of God because we will lean on each other through shared memories, pictures, hugs, prayers, cries, and laughs. Perhaps we can keep reminding one another: God is with you and so am I.

God, we are thankful for the life of Edgar Jones. In our mixed emotions, hold us. Help us know our feelings are faithful. Offer us strength for today or how about strength for this hour? When it’s too much to bear on our own, help us reach out to those who love us. Amen.

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Grace & Peace,

Rev. Sam McGlothlin 

Unlikely Heroes

Just when I think we are coming apart at the seams and nothing can seemingly stop the foolishness going on around us, I am rescued from the folly by unlikely heroes.

Today it begins with Sloane Stephens. Don’t know that name? Unless you are a tennis geek like me you probably wouldn’t. As of last year at this time she was ranked in the 800s in the world. This morning she is the U.S. Open champion having won the tournament as the first unseeded winner in the open era (since 1968).

Sloane remarked that as a junior player, her mom took her to a tennis academy where the head instructor told her that the best she could hope for was maybe a scholarship to a Division 2 college. I’d love to see that guy today and ask how he feels about that assessment. This is also a tribute to the hard work Sloane put in to achieve greatness. Not to mention that she had surgery on her foot only a few months before the tournament.

That she won the tournament was remarkable. That isn’t what has rescued me today. It was the aftermath. She had been playing against her best friend on tour, another surprise finalist named Madison Keys. Two young African American female tennis players reaching the final of a Grand Slam was a good enough story. But Madison played poorly. She felt the weight of the occasion far more than Sloane. In tennis terms, Madison choked on the occasion and that is a very large audience for someone to choke in front of.

After match point, the two met at the net as is typical for the congratulatory handshake. But this was far more. Sloane embraced her friend for a long time, offering her encouragement and the love of a friend. It was a transcendent moment—more dramatic than the tennis, itself. Then Sloane did something that has never been done before in such a setting. While waiting for the trophy presentations players typically sit in their assigned seats on either side of the umpire’s chair. It is an awkward moment, especially for the runner-up. Sloane got up and went to sit next to her friend so they could wait together. They talked and eventually began to laugh together—the comfortable laughter that only good friends share.

Sloane Stephens is the classiest champion I can remember and she gives me hope today.

The other heroes are the countless thousands who made their way to East Texas to assist in rescue operations following Hurricane Harvey—and the many others who will undoubtedly make their way to the Florida west coast to assist with the aftermath of Irma. I saw a photo of hundreds of our brother and sister Tennesseans in a convoy of trucks and boats headed into the area to help find those who were stranded by flood waters—to help save lives. They didn’t have to go—but they did. They and thousands more like them from all over the country.

Sloane Stephens and these other heroes remind me that the majority of our neighbors in this country are good and decent people. We share similar values and we stand ready to help a neighbor in need. I think most of us really do know this about each other.

The problem comes when we listen too much to the shrieking of talking heads who have a vested interest—a financial interest—in causing disruption and chaos around us. They want us to become addicted to the drama so we can continue to “buy their brand”. There’s good news—we don’t have to keep falling for it. We are all being played as suckers and there is an easy fix—turn it off. Tune it out. Watch an episode of Andy Griffith.

We are better than this. These unlikely heroes prove that it’s true.




Moments of Awe

The hype started a full year ago. We learned that Nashville would be the largest city in the United States to witness a totality solar eclipse. And then a few months ago the hype went into overdrive and we heard that thousands upon thousands of people from all over would descend on our city to view this event.

The week leading up to the eclipse was amazing. Stories every day on every channel on the T.V. talked about the eclipse. Then came the day of. We planned a viewing party here at the church, not really knowing what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to see some 400 congregation members and neighbors come out. Natasha McMann, our own resident Astrophysicist, offered a presentation on how eclipses work and what we should know about them. At about 12:30 the eclipse began. First as just a tiny sliver and then, as time went on, more and more of the sun began to darken.

At about 1:15 all that remained of the sun was a banana shape. Tari and I marveled at the little crescent shadows on the ground. And right around 1:27, we arrived at totality. The glasses came off and we witnessed a celestial event that hadn’t been seen in Nashville for 500 years and won’t be seen here again for another 500 years. There were audible sounds of excitement.

And then, in about 2 minutes, it was over.

I found myself wondering if the event was worth all the hype. A year of talking about it and a total of two minutes of the actual event. That seemed unbalanced to me.

Except—what we experienced together was AWE and awe is very hard to come by. How many moments of awe have you ever experienced? The first time I saw the ocean I was filled with awe. Being in the operating room for the birth of my children filled me with awe. At my ordination having hands laid on me to go and preach the gospel was such a moment.

It occurs to me that the best of our lives come in these kinds of small moments. The first kiss, the graduation, the job promotion, when we say “I Do”. The best of life happens in these moments. Did the event live up to the hype? Absolutely! None of us who witnessed it will ever forget it. I heard some folks say they were so excited about it that they were going to start right now making plans to go to Paducah, KY in 2024 to see the next one.

I would suggest something else we can all do is to have more discerning eyes to see the wonder that happens around us every day. A solar eclipse is an amazing thing. It reminds us that the big rock we inhabit is hurtling around the sun at a ridiculous speed and there is a moon hurtling around the sun AND the earth at the same speed. And we human beings, all of us, have a significant amount of “stardust” inside of us. And there is nothing “solid” in our universe—only atoms spinning so fast that they give us the illusion of solidity.

More than any of that, there is the wonder that happens between us when we hold each other, and when we say “I forgive you”, “I love you”, I need you”, “I want to be your friend”.

May this day be filled with awe for you.