Thursday, December 21, 2017


This has been and continues to be a meaningful Advent season for me, but not in the way I have experienced it in previous years. In the past, I have found meaning in different Advent devotional books, which I’ve read in the early morning darkness each day. And while I’ve read Advent devotions this year, the meaningfulness of this Advent has been found in relationships.

Reflecting over Advent thus far, what shimmers forth for me are the experiences of laughter, hugs, meals shared, worship, work done together with gladness and conversations that help me to know others better, that open doors to deeper connections. These have been for me the gifts of Advent for me this year. I am grateful for each of these experiences, which represent God’s lavish gift of love and koinonia.

What I’ve received so richly cannot be contained in a box, cannot be tied up with ribbon, cannot fit under the largest tree. The gift of relationships that incarnate God’s love is what I treasure this season.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

An Advent Prayer

“. . . you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have shown them to babies. Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness.”   Matthew 11:25-26

Loving God, don’t let me be so wise,
so intelligent, so busy, so practical, that I miss
the miracle before me. Do not let my heart grow numb,
unable to muster awe and wonder and love.
Keep me from the cynics, the complainers,
the rushing-arounders who have no time and
no use for a tree full of joy,
gifts given in love, or the sparkle in a child’s eye.

May I find a silent night, or several,
in which to sit with The Story,
in which to enter it afresh.
Light the Christ candle in my heart today and throughout
this season, that I may be aglow with your love
and presence. May my heart
be a welcoming womb for your Great Gift to us.
O come Emmanuel. Amen.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

All Flame

Therefore, everyone who acknowledges me before people, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven. But everyone who denies me before people, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.     Matthew 10:32-33

Let me not be one who denies you with
my life, while professing you with
my voice. I want my heart to be
open always to you, to be
your dwelling place. I want you
pulsing through my veins, filling every
cell with your presence. And yes, I know
you are already present in these places.
Yet I want to feel you there, in my heart,
in my blood, in my cells. I want,
like Abba Joseph*, to be all flame with you.
May it be so today, gracious Christ.
May it be so. Amen.

*Abba Joseph was one of the Desert Fathers. The reference is to this saying about him:
Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


My heart holds things my mind
cannot remember, shielding me, perhaps,
from pain I cannot yet embrace.

My heart, the oldest part of me, knew me
before I was me. How does it beat
all this time, so steady through sorrow and joy,
suffering and liberation?

Every tear and smile it knows. While mind
can only hold so much, heart holds it all.

“Listen, listen” it says, “to my wisdom. I will not
forsake you. Tune your life to my rhythmic beat
as you did, once, in the womb. My knowing
can be trusted.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Thanksgiving Prayer

 This morning I rose from a bed,
drank clean water from a faucet,
ate breakfast in my home.
Thank you, God.
I have a toothbrush, soap and clothes,
friends, family and love.
Thank you, God.
My heart beats, my lungs swell,
my mind works, I hear birds.
Thank you, God.
Your colors surround me,
your love sustains me,
your peace fills me.
Thank you, God.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


“Show us mercy, Son of David.”    --Matthew 9:27

 Show us mercy, Son of David
   for we are blind and do not know the way forward.
Show us mercy, Son of David
  for darkness envelops us today.
Show us mercy, Son of David
   when we use scripture to justify sin and excuse our callousness.
Show us mercy, Son of David
   when our blindness is so deep
   that we call the bad good
   and the good bad.
Show us mercy, Son of David
   when we do not see the log in our own eye.

Show us mercy, that we may learn mercy,
   that we may love mercy,
   that we may show mercy
      to the hungry and the hurting,
      to the sick and the homeless,
      to the prisoner and the outcast,
      to the privileged and the proud.

Show us mercy, Son of David
   until we become mercy.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Time Change

Conversation in person and on social media the past few days has often included the time change from the past weekend. The darkness at the end of the day is a struggle for many, including myself, and though I enjoy the light in the morning, it does not offset for me having to move around in the darkness after leaving work at day’s end.

On Tuesday mornings I’m at the church early for our service of Morning Prayer. Depending on the season and amount of light outside, I see a squirrel whose morning ritual has become familiar to me. This squirrel is unfazed by the time change; his days are always marked by the rising and setting of the sun. We are the ones who artificially bend the day to our control, imposing our schedules on the earth’s pattern of seasons and days.

Our bodies know the earth’s rhythm. After the time change on Sunday, many of us have awakened earlier in the morning and been sleepy earlier in the evening because our bodies have yet to adjust to a different rhythm. Yet we adjust eventually to the time change, like adjusting to a pair of new shoes that are uncomfortable at first, then get broken in as we wear them.

Thomas Merton observes that each morning at the point between darkness and dawn, creation asks God for permission to be. However, we humans “have fallen into self-mastery and cannot ask permission of anyone. . . We know the time and dictate the terms.” I wonder how life might be for us if we lived like the squirrel, who rises when it’s light and goes to sleep when it’s dark. I wonder if we’d have less stress and more freedom if we didn’t force ourselves to live by artificial time.

 The squirrel I see on Tuesdays reminds me of the Rule of St. Benedict. Benedict’s monks adjusted their schedules by the seasons. The physical labor, the number of psalms recited daily, the number of meals—these components of the order of each day were different when the days were shorter.

Are there some small changes we can make as these days shorten, changes that help us honor the season and connect us more fully to the rhythms of creation around us? Maybe you allow yourself to go to bed earlier or read rather than watching TV. Maybe you avoid running errands in the evenings and spend time with family or drink a cup of tea. Can you think of how you might welcome the shorter days?

Thursday, October 26, 2017


If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.   Matthew 7:11

What is good does not always seem that way in the painful moments.

What baby, though cramped in the warm womb,
thinks being pushed through the birth canal is good,
thinks emerging into light and chill and noises loud and harsh is good?

Does the caterpillar wonder at the cruelty of having the build its own coffin,
the chrysalis that seems the end of its life of freedom?

Good can’t always be discerned, foreseen;
sometimes, often, it is entered into blindly.
It is not willingly chosen.

Transformation comes disguised as chaos, upheaval, disorientation,
fraught with questions beginning with

Sometimes good is only seen in hindsight,
as one flies on colorful wings,
or experiences the vastness of light and love.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Prayer to Know Myself

“. . . your Father knows what you need before you ask.”  --Matthew 6:8

You know me, God, inside and out,
better than I know myself.
You know my needs, and though I am often
blinded by wants,
you see clearly.
Draw me closer to you so I may see myself
as you know me.
Help me to parse wants from needs
that I may be content and grateful.
I want my prayer to be a song
sung to your secret tune for me.
Let my life follow your melody,
let my spirit resound with your song.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Prayer

I want to be as adaptable as
the mockingbird I saw today
in a drab part of town. I want
to be able to live anywhere
with even grace and joy,
with eyes that seek out beauty,
and a heart
full of fearlessness and laughter.
I know not the route my life
will take,
yet the destination is clear and bright
and that commands my faith and fills me
with peace.
Grant me the heart of the mockingbird
that I may sing
wherever I am planted,
for I rest in your heart O God.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

We Are Our Times

“The times are bad! The times are troublesome!” This is what humans say. But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times. ---Augustine of Hippo

This quote in today’s liturgy for Common Prayer could not be more appropriate, and yet, its author, Augustine of Hippo, lived from 354-430, in a time and place far removed from us. To read this quote in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, and in a world that seems increasingly filled with violence and tension, I realize that there really isn’t any such thing as “the good old days.”

We are our times. . . Such as we are, such are our times. What we tolerate in ourselves grows. What we excuse in ourselves overtakes us. We are often quick to speak of what Satan is doing in the world. But evil isn’t simply “out there.” To blame evil on Satan keeps us from taking responsibility for our part in the perpetuation of evil.

The desert abbas and ammas, those early Christians who have much to teach us today, understood that spiritual growth and transformation happen only as we battle the demons within ourselves. The capacity for any kind of evil lives in each one of us. Why do you think Jesus stated that calling someone a fool was the same as murdering them? What we carry inside, what we allow within us is what determines the state of the times in which we live.

When we fail to understand our own capacity for evil, the seed of evil grows within us. What begins as a thought eventually is acted out through words or deeds—our judgment of someone who is different from us, our unwillingness to act for the common good because it will cost us something to do so, our sense of superiority over others—so the seed grows into a weed that we fail to even recognize as such.

Recognizing our capacity for evil is not the same as saying we are bad or saying “I’m only human.” These excuse us from taking the hard road of growth. Excusing our evil is like running a weed eater over weeds—it does not eliminate them but instead strengthens the unseen roots, causing the weeds to come back stronger than before.

Teresa of Avila understood that spiritual growth was not always easy or pleasant. In her book on spiritual growth, The Interior Castle, she uses the metaphor of a castle for the spiritual journey. She notes that when many people encounter the snakes and bugs of the basement, they turn away rather than persist through what is unpleasant within themselves. It is helpful to have a spiritual companion who will accompany us through the stages of growth, encouraging and challenging us. I have found spiritual direction a safe and grace-filled place to look at the parts of myself I’d rather ignore.

We may not have pulled the trigger in Las Vegas, but we have all wished ill for another. When we can acknowledge that, and see it for the evil it is, our world will begin to change. Such as we are, such are our times.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Life as Liturgy

Last week was anything but routine in my community. Hurricane Irma, which was Tropical Storm Irma by the time it arrived here, blew through on Monday and disrupted pretty much everything for the rest of the week. Lack of electricity, storm damage to homes, businesses shuttered because of no power, schools out for the entire week—and the story was not unique to our city. Our church housed 100 law enforcement personnel who were sent to assist, so going to work (thankfully the church never lost power) was a reminder that the order of the week was not business as usual.

Almost all our weekday events were cancelled because facilities were used to house and feed our guests. The one thing that stayed on the calendar was our weekly Taize service. I was grateful for that anchor because the activities of the week that help orient me to God through prayer and fellowship with my faith family were on an Irma hiatus.

It reminded me how much I crave order and consistency, and how much life anchored by these occasions of prayer and fellowship is an act of liturgy for me. The various gatherings for prayer, study and meals connect me to God and to my faith community.

Liturgy means “the work of the people” and that work occurred by means other than our usual activities. Our church did much of its “liturgy” last week in the kitchen, preparing three meals a day for the men and women who were making us their home base for most of the week. It was inspiring to see the hospitality offered and the dedication and abundance of volunteers.

I was also reminded that God breaks into routine and offers us the opportunity to wake up from the lethargy that can happen when our lives get so systematic that we go through them on autopilot. In the midst of the dis-order of the week, I had a couple of occasions of God showing up in unlikely ways and places. That I could recognize these for what they were I attribute to the regular rhythm of prayer that forms my own personal liturgical practice.

There are those who discount liturgy, seeing it as old and stiff, but I think a liturgical life gives us a framework that grounds us so that we recognize the Spirit where we might not otherwise. Just as a building needs good framing, a life of faith needs practices that provide order and rhythm, but with space for the Spirit to move through and awareness to recognize the Spirit’s movements. 

What are the practices, the routines that provide the framework for your life, that form your own liturgy? 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Where Are Your Roots?

One of my favorite Bible stories is that of Queen Esther. Recently, the Old Testament text for Common Prayer zeroed in on Haman, the “villain” of the story, who wants to have all the Jews killed because one Jew, Mordecai, would not bow down to him.

Esther 5:9-13 gives this account of Haman as he leaves the first of two banquets Esther has held solely for Haman and the king: Haman went out that day happy and in good spirits. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and observed that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was infuriated with Mordecai; nevertheless Haman restrained himself and went home. Then he sent and called for his friends and his wife Zeresh, and Haman recounted to them he splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the ministers of the king. Haman added, “Even Queen Esther let no one but myself come with the king to the banquet that she prepared. Tomorrow also I am invited by her, together with the king. Yet all this does me no good so long as I see the Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”

Haman’s happiness is completely dependent on what others think of him. He’s on top of the world when invited to Esther’s banquet, but then he sees Mordecai and is immediately angry because he doesn’t receive respect from him. This snippet of scripture emphasizes Haman’s roller-coaster mood swings. His pride, which leads him to want to exterminate all the Jews in Persia, becomes his downfall, which you learn when you read the rest of the story.

Haman’s pride is a caution to me to reflect on how I measure my worth. Does my sense of worth come from what others think of me? If so, I am forever insecure, because, like Haman, some will praise me and others will criticize me. People will not understand my motives for acting as I do, and no amount of explanation will change the minds of some.

If, however, I am rooted in Christ, then whether I am praised or criticized, I stand, because I know my worth is found in God. Like a tree that receives both sunshine and storms, I will continue to grow, because I am planted in the good soil of Christ’s love and grace.

Pride and its accompanying insecurity are rooted in fear and fear keeps us from knowing God’s peace and joy. If you look around at the world in which we live, you will see that fear is at the root of evil acts. So this is not a trivial matter. If we are rooted in fear, we will act in ways contrary to the teachings of Jesus. What may begin as a fearful thought eventually grows into an action that cannot be reeled back in.

Letting go of fear is a lifelong process. Growing closer to God can only happen as we let go of fear and entrust ourselves to God’s welcoming love. For God loves us as we are, and when we know this, we can know peace, not fear.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Needing community
the Spirit interceded,
bringing me to
where I am seen for
who I am,
I put down roots and bear fruit in this

place of welcome,

Community’s gift—being seen,
being known,
being accepted—
being a part
rather than
being apart.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


A poem/reflection on Matthew 4:1-2

The wilderness is a place of starving,
of stripping. A place where
what seemed important,
now seems either
necessity or nothing.
Senses become clearer by sparseness
or consumed by what is now gone.
When you are starving you have
a choice: to focus on what
you no longer have
to be filled and nourished by
your emptiness.

Monday, August 14, 2017


“And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones.”          Matthew 3:9

It is often tempting
to rely on
the faith of others,
past experiences of awe,
rote practices now devoid of meaning.
But these are stones.
Too heavy to carry far,
they are designed
to make, to mark a path
forward. They are not
sitting stones
but rather
stepping stones
on the journey of spiritual growth.

“Move on, move on”
they say.
“Find new stones. Your life,
like a garden path, is a
collection of such stones,
of Ebenezers on which
to tread.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Place to Thrive

Recently, I confided to a friend my struggle with a basil plant. It had been trimmed and used for a number of months, and was pretty bare of leaves, and those it had were small. I had purchased a new, full basil plant because the existing one wasn’t able to contribute much to my kitchen, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw the old one in the trash. Early one morning, I took the plant outside and dumped the pot at the base of one of the trees along my street at the entrance to the building where I live. I made sure it was right side up and figured it would get rain and sun and have a chance to survive there.
For several weeks I watched it as I went in and out of my building. It began to perk up and put out new leaves. One day I noticed that someone had transplanted it to a planter outside the door of my building. It had been seen and loved and cared for. Now it is green and healthy, and I am glad that I placed it where I did and that someone else realized its potential and gave it a chance to thrive.

Psalm 40 reminds me of this plant:

I waited patiently upon the Lord;
   he stooped to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;
   he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
   Many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the Lord.

Our lives at times are similar to that basil plant. Sometimes we find ourselves in places where life is hard, where the gifts we have to offer are not wanted or valued. Like the Psalmist, we may be in the desolate pit. I know I’ve been there, in that place of wilderness, of mire and clay, questioning my life, my worth, my gifts. God came and lifted me, in the form of community, friends who reminded me that I matter. Transplanted into a different environment, an environment of love and nurture, we can thrive. May we be those who help life to thrive, and when others are in places where they feel withered and worn, may we see and love and care for them.

Monday, July 31, 2017


Forty. It’s one of those biblical numbers. Forty years of wilderness wandering led by Moses. Forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness. Forty days from Jesus’ resurrection until his ascension. And others.

This forty wasn’t biblical, though. It was a forty I could hardly believe. Forty years since I graduated high school. At first, I thought the math was wrong. Surely we were getting ahead of ourselves! But then I did my own math and realized that it was really true that I graduated forty years ago, class of ’77.

I almost didn’t go to the reunion. I hadn’t seen anyone from my graduating class since our 20 year reunion, except for one classmate that I ran into at a book signing several years ago. I was friends with just a few on Facebook, but since I no longer live in my hometown, and had not attended one of the feeder elementary schools for my high school (which deepened relationships among many of my classmates) I was ambivalent about attending. Plus, I’d come out of the hardest couple of years in my life just a few months earlier. I wasn’t sure I was up to the conversation in such a large group that I hadn’t connected with in so very many years.

But I went. And I’m glad that I did. One of the unexpected gifts of the wilderness journey I went through and have come out of has been reflecting on who I am and where I’ve come from. Not necessarily where I geographically came from, but a looking back at my life, and deeply looking within, both with the aim of helping me to know myself more fully, and at the same time, know God more fully and how God has been present with me in the various seasons of my life. I’ve learned a lot, though there is still much more to learn.

I learned a little more this past weekend as I joined some of my classmates for the reunion. I was reminded of how our group shares a common geography. We all lived in a not too big area of East Point, Georgia. We were solidly middle class, for the most part. No country club memberships, no cotillion, no multi-week summer camps (at least I wasn’t aware of any of these among my classmates). I’m not criticizing any of these, and my children were the beneficiaries of some of these in the city I live in now, but it was not a part of my growing up years, nor that of the classmates I spent the most time with.

Maybe because of what we shared, I felt a bond with those who gathered, even the ones I had not been close to in high school, even the ones I didn’t get a chance to talk to at the reunion. As I drove the hour-plus drive home afterward, I reflected on my history. I’ll do more of that over the coming days and weeks. And I won’t let twenty years pass before I reconnect with the classmate-community that shaped my teenage years and influenced my life in many ways.

One of the elements missing from most of my adult life was that connection to high school and college friends. When I journeyed a difficult path I came to a greater appreciation of my friends. Friends were my lifeline when life’s circumstances seemed overwhelming. Gathering with my classmates, celebrating where we came from and where we are now, I know my web of relationships has grown. I look forward to deepening the friendships I renewed this weekend. I certainly claim the truth of Proverbs 18:24: There are persons for companionship, but then there are friends who are more loyal than family.

Monday, July 24, 2017


Another reflection arising from a slow, deliberate reading through 1 John.

God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them.   ---1 John 4:16b

I want to remain in the refreshing
bath of your love
until I feel it work all the way
through me—stickiness
of hurt soaked into the
softness of mercy, ache
of suffering soothed and transformed
into the replenishing
balm of wisdom. I emerge,
shriveled fingers and toes, from your
healing water
carrying with me
the cleansing grace
of your love.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Freedom From Fear

For our soul sits in God in true rest, and our soul stands in God in sure strength, and our soul is naturally rooted in God in endless love.    ---Julian of Norwich

To read the writings of Julian of Norwich is to read of the depths of God’s love for us. It’s hard to come away from her work without a sense of peace that dispels fear and anxiety about our relationship with God.

While we don’t know Julian’s real name (the name we have for her is the name of the church in which she lived as an anchoress—St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England), her recording of a series of visions given her by God is powerful because it provides us with an image of God as loving and merciful.

Consider the quote I’ve shared above. If you spend time reflecting on this, really allowing it to sink into your mind and heart, it is hard to not be filled with a sense of peace and an assurance of God’s presence and love for us. Words from one of John’s epistles come to mind: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (1 John 4:18).

We can grow to a more mature faith in God when we move beyond fear of punishment and can allow our souls to simply rest in God, knowing that God loves us abundantly and endlessly. When we are not afraid, we become open to know that God IS love because we fall headlong into the endless love God has for us.

I encourage you to take some time this and reflect on Julian’s quote. Maybe copy it and put it somewhere that you will see during the day. It is a gift to your soul to find rest in God. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Like You

We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is.
                                                                                                         1 John 3:2b

You, whom I so love,
   I want to be like you.
   I want to do what you do,
   love what you love,
   give like you give.
Like a child watches a parent
to copy what the parent does,
I want to copy you, but I am clunky,
your shoes too big for me,
your clothes hang loose on me,
your hat covers my eyes.
I smell your smells in these clothes.
I imagine myself filling them.
I see your smile. I see
your love for me, for my childlike
effort to follow you as faithfully
as I know how. Let me grow and know
you more deeply. Help me become
more like you.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


I am becoming,
uncurling like a fern frond.
It isn’t easy to become
who you were created to be.
Rocks get in the way and you have
to be patient until something
(or someone) moves them
or until you become sure enough
of your destiny that you have the
strength to push them aside
or maybe both happen at once.
But then, ah then,
you stretch out your leaves—

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Small Delights

Yesterday I sat at a stop sign, waiting for an opening in traffic so I could pull onto a busy road. As I was checking to the left, I saw movement closer to me. It was a sparrow, flying-hopping up to a seed head of crabgrass, raking the seeds off, then settling on the pavement below to eat what it had harvested. I stopped watching the traffic and instead watched the busy bird until a car pulled up behind me. It was a small delight, a breath of joy breathed into my day.

Later, I was walking across a shopping center parking lot when I saw a dragonfly. I stopped, (safely out of traffic) and simply watched its flight--hovering, then moving, then hovering—until it finally flew out of sight. It was another small delight, and I felt the breath of joy I had felt upon seeing the sparrow earlier.

On a recent walk, I found a petunia growing out of a sidewalk crack. There were no other petunias around, so I suppose this one sprouted from a seed that waited through the winter for its chance to germinate and grow. Its determination and patience brought a smile to my face—yet another small delight.

In a world where we seem to crave the constant stimulation of big, splashy and dramatic events, people and things, I relish these small examples of grace and life. Saint Thèresé of Lisieux had such an appreciation of small things. She said this, speaking of the different flowers—roses and lilies, contrasted with the more common daisies and violets: I saw that if all these lesser blooms wanted to be roses instead, nature would lose the gaiety of her springtide dress—there would be no little flowers to make a pattern over the countryside.

I believe that an appreciation for small things helps us to be more aware of the presence of God in all of life. It also invites us to a more permeating discipleship because we know the significance that the smallest act can have for the world as a whole. When we delight in the small, we are more likely to do the small things that, added together, make a big difference—picking up a piece of trash off the sidewalk, feeding the birds, acknowledging a homeless person by looking them in the eyes and speaking to them.

Thèresé described her mission in life as simply “to make Love loved.” To make Love loved opens us up to an appreciation of the small and simple in life. I would argue that it is more significant than a large, showy mission because it is purged of any pride, any desire for recognition or attention and is thus pure and holy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Belonging to the Truth

Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence.      
    1 John 3:18-19

Love well demonstrated happens when we belong to the truth. We belong to the truth when we know how much God loves us. When we know how much God loves us, we can love ourselves. When we love ourselves, we can love others. When we love others, we demonstrate love with both action and truth. The coupling of action and truth is important because our actions demonstrate love to the extent that we belong to the truth.

Belonging to the truth is different than saying you don’t tell lies. Belonging to the truth is a way of being, a permeating presence, the awareness that one is deeply rooted in, and drawing life from, the heart of Christ. When we are confident of God’s love for us, we dwell in the truth and our actions flow from that truth. There is integrity between inner and outer—inner truth and outer action.

Belonging to the truth is not moralistic. It is not incidental, that is, based on telling the truth in particular incidents. You can tell those who belong to the truth because their entire way of living emanates love. Moralists, on the other hand, emanate pride, which is fearful, judgmental and arrogant, highly concerned with controlling the perceptions of others. Moralists are focused on what others think of them and are often vocal about how moral they are. Those who belong to the truth are focused on God, acting out of their love for God, unconcerned about how they are perceived by others.

This story from the sayings of the desert fathers that illustrates the difference between belonging to the truth vs. not telling a lie:

It was said about one brother that when he had woven baskets and put handles on them, he heart a monk next door saying: What shall I do? The trader is coming but I don’t have handles on my baskets! Then he took the handles off his own baskets and brought them to his neighbor saying: Look, I have these left over. Why don’t you put them on your baskets? And he made his brother’s work complete, as there was need, leaving his own unfinished.

In this example, the compassionate brother said the handles were left over, when, in fact, they were not left over, but the ones he needed to make his own baskets complete. A moralist would say he told a lie, and yet he demonstrated compassion and showed he belonged to the truth. To have given the handles to the brother, telling him they were his only handles, would have been prideful and made the despairing brother feel worse than he already felt.

Those who belong to the truth know that they belong to the truth by grace alone, not merit, so they are humble and can extend grace to others. Because they aren’t concerned with what others think of them, they are free to act out of love for God and love for others, actions that come from a heart of love that is confident of God’s love for them. There is congruence between their inner being and outward doing—they belong to the truth because love permeates both their inner being and outward doing. They aren’t perfect; they still fall short, but because they know deeply God’s love for them, they can humbly acknowledge their failure and receive God’s grace with gratitude.

Moralists, who are often quick to tell you that they don’t lie, are actually living a lie because there is not congruence between their inner being and outward doing. While their outward doing may appear “correct,” it comes from a heart of fear, pride and self-righteousness. It is a façade that masks their inner fear.

May we know the truth of God’s love for us, and live lives of congruence that demonstrate our belonging to the truth.  Such a life is a life of compassion, freedom and joy!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Be Careful How You Pray

Be careful what you pray for . . . is the first part of a saying we’ve likely heard. It came to my mind recently when reading a person’s comment to the prayer request of another. I was surprised by the pray-er’s assumption that she knew what the requester needed. While not about prayer, a quote from Wendell Berry offers a valid warning to us when we pray for others:

We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us. We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world—to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it.

Have you ever shuddered at the way someone’s prayer assumed to know what was best for another? Or was ignorant of all the facts? Is it right to pray for a marriage to be saved if one spouse abuses the other? If an elderly cancer victim is ready to cross the threshold into heaven, do you pray for them not to die?

In early May I attended a Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation on the Georgia coast. One of our presenters, Sister Kathleen Flood, was asked how we should pray for others. The question was prompted by the uneasiness of presuming to know the need of another. Sister Kathleen offered a lovely response. She said when others ask her to pray for specific outcomes, she responds, “I will hold you in prayer.” She went on to tell us that she lifts the person’s name to God in her prayer time, but does not attempt to direct God toward a specific response.

Her answer reminded me of a healing story of Jesus. When Jesus was teaching in a crowded house, friends of a paralyzed man took their friend up on the roof, made a hole in it, and lowered their friend in front of Jesus. They didn’t ask Jesus to heal their friend. They simply placed him at Jesus’ feet.

Their example is a good one for us. Rather than giving God directions about how to respond to another’s need (which, when described as I just have, sounds as presumptuous as it really is), can we simply place our friend in God’s presence and trust that God knows what our friend needs?

In addition to not presuming we know better than God the need of another, such a way of praying relieves us of “pray-er’s guilt.” An example of this is when you pray for another to be cured and they die and you wonder if you didn’t pray hard enough or say the right words, as if there is a magic formula you have to utter to get the prayer to “work.”

Because God is God and we are not, and because sometimes our prayer requests can come with our own selfish agendas, simply holding another in prayer to God is prayer enough. Such a prayer prevents a superfluity of words, and teaches us the humility of letting another go to God’s care and keeping. Let us hold one another up to God, trusting that the One who made us knows our needs.

Monday, June 5, 2017


As for you, what you heard from the beginning must remain in you.
                                                                                                                                1 John 2:24a

Long before I was in the womb, long
before I was even an egg—when I was alive
only in the mind of God—
God whispered into me her dream for me.
The word I heard from the beginning
brought me into being.
It remains in me, a spark, which,
ignited by self-knowledge, fills
all of me with light and life.
Listen, my heart.
What stokes my fire?
What makes my soul dance?
What nourishes my joy?
These reveal how God’s dream
resounds in me. May my life
sing its unique song into the void
I was created to fill.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Perfection: A Matter of Heart

Perfection, then, is clearly not achieved simply by being naked, by the lack of wealth or by the rejection of honours, unless here is also that love whose ingredients the apostle described and which is to be found solely in purity of heart. Not to be jealous, not to be puffed up, not to act heedlessly, not to seek what does not belong to one, not to rejoice over some injustice, not to plan evil—what is this and its like if not the continuous offering to God of a heart that is perfect and truly pure, a heart kept free of all disturbance?

I read this quote in a book of daily wisdom from contemporary and ancient monastics. It is a restating of Paul’s most famous writing, his words about love in 1 Corinthians 13. Though Paul does not use the word perfection in that chapter that is so familiar to us, to love and live with a pure heart could be a good definition of perfection.

Often, our focus is on achieving outward perfection. We want to be thought well of by others and we may act to achieve that end rather than from the desire to love God well by cultivating a pure heart. I know I have sometimes acted in a way not in accordance with the desire of my heart because I wanted to present a good outward appearance. Yet the dissonance within, created by going against the grain of my heart’s intuition, did violence to my soul.

We know from scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments that God is more concerned with the state of one’s heart than with actual deeds done. You can cross all the spiritual ‘T’s and dot all the spiritual ‘I’s and leave God unimpressed. The prophets chastised the people to attend to their hearts rather than cover all the bases with their sacrifices, and Jesus spoke of those who clean the outside of the cup but leave the inside full of filth.

Why do we give more weight to outward acts rather than attending to the state of our hearts? I believe there are several reasons. Pride is a strong force, and we can be recognized by others as “good people” based on what we do, even if we harbor hatred and bitterness within. Ease is another motive—it’s a lot easier to do an outward something, even something difficult, than to commence the long path of inward change and growth, which requires much discipline. I’ve encountered many who, when challenged to begin a practice of self-reflection, look within, dislike what they see, and choose not to go any further down that path. In her book, The Interior Castle, Teresa of Avila speaks of this propensity with colorful metaphorical language. She talks about the snakes, vipers and venomous reptiles we encounter as we begin the journey inward, and how we have to persevere to get past these.

The most important work we can do for God is the work of allowing our hearts to be changed. It is through purity of heart that our outward acts become pleasing to God. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Our Inherent Interconnectedness

Sometimes life lessons come from the simplest items. Recently for me, it was an apple core. Let me explain.

On Wednesdays, I bring my lunch to work. The schedule for that day makes it difficult to go out for lunch and we have a wonderful courtyard with tables and chairs, flowers, and abundant shade. I enjoy being outside anyway, so it’s always a pleasant break in the day.

Last Wednesday, I noticed an apple core in the chair next to mine. I bring apples most weeks, and place the core at the base of a plant, since I know the core will compost. A squirrel knew it had found a treat, carried it to the table and sat in a chair like a person to dine! While I didn’t get to see the actual event, I enjoyed the mental image it brought forth.

On Tuesday mornings, we have a service of morning prayer in our prayer center. Many mornings I enjoy sipping my coffee prior to prayer while looking out the windows of the prayer center. A fence of brick lattice is visible outside the windows, and the windows also overlook the courtyard. I often see squirrels and birds, and when the season and weather cooperate, I get to see the sun hit the side of our sanctuary building. There is a particular spot on the brick fence that is often littered with acorn shells, evidence that a squirrel has had a meal there.

When I looked out the window yesterday, there was an apple core in that spot! I laughed out loud, thinking about how much my lunch leftovers are being appreciated by our church’s nearest neighbors. It was a reminder, a lesson for me about how all creation is connected, that every act we take affects others, whether we are aware of it or not. We know it if we remember our science lessons—the trees produce oxygen we need to breathe, and we produce carbon dioxide that the trees need to breathe. Yet we don’t always live like we know this, or else we would be more careful about our environment.

This is only one example of how our lives depends on the lives of everything and everyone else. We are dependent on one another far more than many of us realize. People you will never meet made your clothes, tended and harvested your food and assembled most of the products you use every day. When we act as if some people don’t matter, as if they are disposable, we harm ourselves, not only our way of life but also our souls.

All we do, for good, for ill, or simply unknowingly, has a ripple effect, just as we are affected by the actions, beliefs and choices of others. An apple-eating squirrel reminded me of that. May we all be more aware of our interconnectedness and live every day with care, remembering that our neighbors include all of creation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Three Haiku from Ireland

On Easter Monday, I traveled to Ireland for a writing retreat, giving my blog a rest while generating fresh ideas for future posts. Today I offer three haiku written in the ruins of the church named for St. Colman Mac Duach.

Ancient prayer grows
from the stone. Small fern speaks life
into hopeful hearts.

Warmh of holiness.
Sanctuary of silence.
Eternity speaks.

I offer my heart
on this ancient altar as
prayers seep from stones.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


2 Corinthians 1:19-20

Christ is risen and so am I:
   my first thought on waking today.
What great surprise—
   the powers that rule are overthrown
   not by force but by love.
Greed, jealousy, hate, fear outwitted.
Peace, joy, grace, abundance flow
drowning the armies of small-mindedness.

Sing, dance, praise the God of life,
the God of love,
the God of YES!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday

1 Kings 19:11-13

Holy Saturday recalls those times of waking up
to find no miracle. What you hoped was a dream
The pain of loss sharp, acute.
The storm has wreaked its havoc.
Life as it was is gone
Shock and disorientation immobilize.
The mind too numb to imagine new.
Be still.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Mark 15:33-34

It may be the aloneness after death,
when all have returned to their homes
and you are left with memories and emptiness.
It may be the grind of medical treatments
that ravage body and spirit
by their seeming neverendedness.
It may be a child's innocent request for candy
that makes the heart ache,
weighed against unpaid bills and an empty refrigerator.
It may be the weariness of living
with misunderstanding, betrayal and false accusation.
It may be the daily fear of deportation
or bullying or prejudice.
It may be the experience of exile with no place to go
or a caregiver who receives no respite.
It may be a man who hangs on a cross.

Forsakenness is the darkest of days,
the deepest pit, the absolute emptiest . . . hopelessness.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

God Who Understands

Psalm 56

When life abruptly changes
   God have mercy on me.
When friends become betrayers
   God have mercy on me.
When I have been wrongly accused
   God have mercy on me.
When the next step is utterly dark
   God have mercy on me.
When I feel alone in the wilderness
   God have mercy on me.
When I struggle to trust you
   God have mercy on me.
Remind me of your faithful love,
   God of mercy.
Be my companion, my savior,
   God of gentleness.
All my hope is in you,
   God who overcomes.
You have traveled the path of suffering yourself
   and you travel it with me.
Thanks be to you, O God.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


John 11:1-44

Jesus, I think of you crying at the grief of your friends,
Martha and Mary, and over the death of Lazarus.
Even in your tears you were disparaged by others.
We can be so cynical and mean to each other.
Maybe your tears were also because of that.

Today, Christ, you still cry for those entombed and those
who love them, whether the tomb is death,
prison, disease, oppression or fear.
You cry for the cynics, the proud and powerful who
do not even know they are dead, who are unaware
they are entombed by their pride, their power, their hate.
The stench is terrible and you cry.
But you do not turn away.
You remove the stone.
You call us out of the tomb.
You unbind us and set us free.
You have the power to speak us into life.
Are we listening?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Jeremiah 31:2-13

Grace in the wilderness!
A foretaste of freedom, of life
abundant, new, filled with surprise!
God-sized gifts, deepest longings met,
my heart bursts with love and praise.
Loved with a love that lasts
forever. Forever! Home—
extravagant garden of God’s heart.
I dance and dwell in gratitude,
laughter my song of joy!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Songs of Praise

Psalm 148

Rambling robin song greets me in the early morning darkness.
Wrens and mockingbirds belt out their praise and I wonder—
how does the wren bring so much volume from its tiny body,
how does the mockingbird remember all the songs it sings?
When I’m lucky, I hear the soft lament of the song sparrow,
reminding me that lament is also praise.
And in the morning light the starlings’ song makes me smile.
Each bird sings its praise using its unique voice, and so it is with us.
What song am I given to sing?
What song is yours?

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Genesis 2:4-14

Season after season I walks these paths.
Always they are fresh, offering me
something new, hawking their wares loudly or
coyly challenging me to discover what’s changed
since last I ventured here. My eyes, ears and feet
argue—who will lead the way? So much to see,
so much to hear—I’m almost frozen in place taking it in,
though my feet, like police, say move on, move on.
For all I see, I still miss much.
My brain cannot process all the sounds I hear, and my feet
never get to walk as far and fast as they’d like.
With such abundance in one small place
I cannot fathom the superfluity of God in all the world.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Luke 19:1-6

“. . . come down at once. I must stay in your home today.”

Possessions and demands once occupied my life—
stuff to do, stuff to tend. Schedule and home
clutter weighed me down, wearied me.

Simplicity of home and heart now allows for spontaneity.
Lightness of spirit makes for hospitable space. I have room
for laughter, love, tears and koinonia—room for what is
most precious.

Welcome friends.
Welcome love.
Welcome life.
Welcome Christ.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Genesis 32:6-12

Sometimes the threat seems bigger than we can address.
We feel small and alone even surrounded by people who love us.
Sometimes way forward is impossible to see, and we feel trapped—
unable to go back and afraid to take a step into an unknown future.
That is when memory gifts us (if we let it)
with experiences from earlier times when we were in a similar place
and lived through it by God’s faithfulness.
Jacob came full circle, beginning with a desert promise,
recalled as he stood at another desert threshold.
Life gives us many such places—thresholds,
points of uncertainty, tension and challenge—places of coming
full circle, of familiar unfamiliarity, where we know
we may be afraid, but we won’t be alone.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Psalm 36:5-9

Today I will drink
from God’s river of pure joy.
My spirit shall dance!

Today I will bask
in God’s light until I see
that all bear God’s light.

Today I will live
within the Trinity dance
as all creatures do.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Signs and Wonders

Daniel 4:1-8

Generous God, I cannot begin to name
all the signs and wonders you have shown me,
especially in the recent past. Kindnesses
sent when I was at my lowest, surprises when a
word read affirmed or clarified an earlier thought,
opportunities more abundant than I could have imagined.
Some were truly improbable—
the red bird that crashed into a window beside me.
As it lay on the ground and drew its last breath, I was given
the answer to a troubling question. The dream that revealed
something I could not have known any other way.
The weight of unseen hands on my head, blessing me
for a journey I didn’t know was coming.
You are a God who constantly surprises.
Thank you for all love’s expressions, for the way
you reveal yourself time and time again. Amen.

Monday, April 3, 2017


Matthew 6:9-13

Bird song, fresh air,
time to sit quietly,
meaningful work and meaningful people
to do it with,
laughter, coffee, exercise,
relationships of depth and knowing
and flowers—these are gifts
that feed my spirit, radiate
God’s presence, nurture my heart.
These are my daily bread.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Job 9:1-12

Holy One, I remember how I felt, lying in bed,
awake, unable to sleep. Each night
I managed only a couple of hours.
Those were interminably long, lonely nights.
I ached for your comforting presence,
but though I knew you were present
I found no warmth, nothing to ease the void
of darkness.

It was then that I had to draw on faith, on resources
within, on memories that testified to your love and provision.
And friends, who loved me in the day so I could last through the night.
A place I love so much, that had been a thin place
felt heavy, thick and barren of all it had ever given me. I moved
as one moving in bitter cold—hunched, stiff.
Job, I hear your anguish, and the memory of mine rises up in accord.

I have learned this:
what seemed insurmountable called forth faith, perseverance,
and courageous hope. I have learned that scars can make us beautiful
if we will allow them to be seen.

Friday, March 31, 2017


Psalm 18:1-2

Unshakeable God, when I think of you as
rock, refuge and fortress,
I need not be afraid. You
shelter me when I am weary,
when I have been stoned by
words and deeds of others.
You shield me, you keep me safe.
You sing my soul’s destiny to me
when I am wrongly labelled.
I entrust my life to you,
you who know my heart. I live
to sing your praise, you
my rescuer, my rock, my refuge!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Strawberry Witness

Psalm 34:8

A strawberry preaches, testifying of God.
The red tells Jesus’ humanity—he bled
because he was human. Heart-shaped,
a reminder of the sacred heart of Jesus, my refuge, my home.
Tiny seeds an emblem of the divine seed
within each of us that, with intention, grows
so that Christ is seen in us.
When halved, symmetrical white lines speak of God’s
care and attention to the smallest detail of our lives.

What remains hidden is its nutrition—a benefit received
when eaten. Like Christ, looking at, knowing about, admiring
does not equate to being open to receive.
When I taste and see, God’s sweet, juicy goodness
fills me, changes me, nourishes me.
Thank you God, for the witness of strawberries!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Prayer

Mark 14:36

On the other side of suffering, I see your transforming work, O God. But when I read this single verse, Jesus’ plea to you, I go back to my season of suffering and my wish to run away from it.

A wise guide spoke hard truth to me when she said to stay with my pain. Let it be my teacher. I did not want to hear those words, but I received them. I lived them, through days and weeks and months, walking the thin line between despair and hope.

I did not numb myself to the pain, but felt it as fully as I was capable of feeling it. And even for that, I was derided by the same ones whose words and deeds had already exiled me.

But because I did not numb myself, did not avoid the pain, I now sing with unfettered joy the song of salvation and new life. I am redeemed and reborn! Thanks be to God! Amen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Lived Psalm

Psalm 23

Loving God, I have lived this psalm.
Not the flowery King James Version, but the straightforward Common English one.
You have kept me alive through my darkest hour,
leading me to restful waters—the river, the marsh, the lake—
when I was so very dry within,
when tears had wrung me out.
When I lost almost everything
I came to know that you are everything.
I lack nothing for I have you.

Though others proclaimed me worthless,
you welcomed me to a lavish feast,
feeding me love in heaps and mounds,
overflowing, extravagant love.
You bathed my broken soul with oil,
gratitude spills out of my full heart!
I now know that you never stop pursuing me.
We will always dwell together.
My home is found in you!

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Matthew 1:23

Holding the day lightly, here
at its commencement, clean page
not crammed full of plans,
I want to leave large room
for God to be with me.
Not as the persistent weed growing
in an impenetrable wall,
or the penny in a parking lot that I
acknowledge but do not take with me,
or the perfunctory blessing said before I
mindlessly eat my food.
Today I want to marvel at sky
with the wonder of my elderly friend
who praised it from the hospital window.
I want to breathe into a tight muscle,
fully aware of my body’s shape in that moment
on my yoga mat. I want to savor the silence
before the day shakes itself awake.
I want to see all who cross my path,
sensing the energy of communion
with the whole human family.
I want to be fully present to food and friends and flowers,
and the feel of wind on my skin, and to know,
in every breath, every blink, every beat of heart,
that God is with me.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Hebrews 11:1-12

Steadfast God,
you faithfulness to us calls forth
our faithful response to you.
In all ages, we witness your tender care to your creation
and creation’s faithful response to you.
From Abraham to Noah to Ruth,
to Jeremiah, Hosea and Esther—
you challenged them to see a future they could not imagine.
Because of your faithfulness
they responded in faithful obedience.
The woman who touched Jesus’ robe,
the centurion who trusted Jesus’ authority,
Paul, whose dogged faith sustained him through countless hardships—
these examples of faith flow from your faithfulness to them.
The early Christian martyrs, and martyrs and saints in every age
saw beyond their lives and trusted in what they could not see.
They lived as those prepared to die,
and in their dying they went forth to live.
Steadfast God, may your faithfulness to us
call forth our faithfulness to you
that we may be numbered among the faithful. Amen.