Thursday, December 20, 2018

Making New Traditions at Christmas

Christmas is a season during which we often place great weight on tradition. We reenact, year after year, things we’ve done previously, elements of past Christmases that hold memory and meaning for us. Though we may balk at tradition at other times, we hold on to Christmas traditions with great zealousness.

Yet there are times when those traditions are no longer available to us. Children grow up, family members die, divorce happens, people move, etc. When these things happen, we grieve the loss of traditions. We may bemoan that things are not what they have been. We lose the patterns of holidays that are as comfortable and familiar as well-worn shoes.

We can become angry, blame those whose changes have wrought changes to our traditions, or simply let ourselves become depressed and despairing. When tempted to embrace an unhealthy emotion, maybe it is good to consider the first Christmas and the chaos it caused to all who were a part of it. An unmarried young woman, pregnant, a betrothed who sticks with her at the risk to his own reputation, a birth away from home and the difficult journey preceding it—there really was nothing very peaceful and calm about that first Christmas!

This year I am thinking of ways to create new traditions around this season.  The inspiration for this came from my Christmas tree. The Christmas I was separated from my spouse, I almost didn’t get a tree. Not knowing whether the separation would be temporary or permanent, the practical side of me thought not to, but I realized that having a tree could provide an emotional lift in a chaotic and stressful holiday season. To appease my practicality, I purchased a $15 prelit tabletop tree and a $1 package of small star ornaments for it. I tied a small gold ribbon at the top and placed my presents for family and friends around it.

This is my third Christmas with my little tree. While in Portland Oregon with friends, I found small wooden bird ornaments that fit both my tree and my personality (I love birds). Another friend brought me some small shiny balls to add to my tree. Decorating it this year was something I looked forward to, because it represented people and memories that I cherish.

My tree is inspiring me to consider how I might make more new traditions for the Christmas season. I want to embrace that things may be as chaotic as they were the first Christmas, and yet also imagine ways to create traditions that will be touchstones in the sometimes messy circumstances that are indicative of “real life.”

Whether your holiday season is chaotic or calm, I pray you can be patient, loving and centered in God’s peace, not just at this time of year but always. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Mary said,
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
     He shows mercy to everyone,
        from one generation to the next,
        who honors him as God.
 He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.
 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.
 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
        remembering his mercy,
     just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
                                                                Luke 1:46-55

Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat, does more than hint at the upheaval that her son’s coming brings. Her prophetic word is clear. The coming of God in human form will reverse the usual order of things. The hungry will be fed. The lowly will be lifted. The powerful are stripped of their influence. The rich are sent away empty.

If you only read this text once a year during Advent, you might simply enjoy its poetic quality and miss the power of the words themselves. Mary’s song is regularly recited as part of Vespers, the evening prayer service of the daily office. This daily reading of this text allows the words to sink into us, and, in our affluent culture, may cause us to wonder if we truly welcome this change of affairs.

Mary has much to teach us beyond her prophecy. Mary shows us that our power and influence are less important than our availability. Loretta Ross-Gotta says: God asks us to give away everything of ourselves. The gift of greatest efficacy and power that we can offer God and creation is not our skills, gifts, abilities, and possessions. The wise men had their gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Paul and Peter had their preaching. Mary offered only space, love, belief. What is it that delivers Christ into the world—preaching, art, writing, scholarship, social justice? Those are all gifts well worth sharing. But preachers lose their charisma, scholarship grows pedantic, social justice alone cannot save us. In the end, when all other human gifts have met their inevitable limitation, it is . . . the bold virgin with a heart in love with God who makes a sanctuary of her life, who delivers Christ who then delivers us.

Mary’s prophecy is an invitation to us who are rich and powerful in comparison to the rest of the world. Mary encourages us to no longer rely on our influence or wealth, but to empty ourselves, give ourselves away, die to ourselves, and instead offer space and love to Christ who becomes our food, our wealth, our strength.

We cannot deliver ourselves. Our possessions, our influence, even the good works we do—none of these can deliver us. When we truly believe that God, who made us and loves us, will deliver us, we can sing with Mary, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Holiness does not lie on the other side of temptation; it is to be found in the midst of temptation. It does not sit waiting for us on a level above our weakness; it is given us in weakness, or else we would elude the power of God that is operative only in our weakness. . . It is only in our weakness that we are vulnerable to his love and power. Accordingly, to continue in the situation of temptation and weakness is the only way for us to connect with grace, the only way we can become miracles of God’s mercy. 
                          –Andre Louf

In my observation, it seems there are two categories of people in church. There are those who believe themselves to be holy because they feel themselves to be morally flawless, and there are those who believe they will never be holy because they struggle with temptation.

Those who equate morality with holiness are generally hard folks to be around. They see Christianity as a list of rules to be followed. If you follow the rules, you are good; if you come up short, then you are unacceptable. When one lives this way, they find it hard to have compassion for others who don’t measure up to the standards they deem important. And it’s not at all Christlike, for Jesus didn’t limit access to himself based on who followed rules. On the contrary, he spent more time with those whom we might judge to be morally deficient.

Morality, however, is not the measure of one’s holiness. Holiness is not about being correct, saying the right words, doing the right things, or following the right rules. Holiness is about knowing who we are—that we are subject to temptation and that God is with us in the struggle, whether or not we succumb to temptation. God’s grace comes to us when we are able to accept that we are weak and in need of God’s grace. If we are so certain of our moral purity, then we really don’t acknowledge a need for God’s grace.

Julian of Norwich is one of my favorite Christian mystics. She offers us a gracious image of God, as both strong Father and nurturing Mother. She even says that when we fall (succumb to temptation) it gives God occasion to care for us, to show us mercy and forgiveness. It’s not that we try to fall, for we don’t really have to try. It’s going to happen because falling is simply part of our nature (and those who don’t think they are falling are fooling only themselves).

When we can receive the gracious love and forgiveness of God for our own falling, we actually are more closely connected to God than when we feel ourselves morally correct. And those who know themselves as ones who fall receive the strength and compassion of God for themselves, and are likewise able to share God’s compassion with others who fall. A church full of compassionate souls who fall is a beautiful expression of the body of Christ.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Hostility vs Joy

While Jesus predicts that people will die of fear “as they await what menaces the world” (Luke 21:26), he says to his followers: “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). After I gazed for a long time at [Andrei] Rublev’s Trinity [icon] these words spoke to me with new power, “Praying at all times” has come to mean “dwelling in the house of God all the days of our lives.” “Surviving all that is going to happen” now tells me that I no longer need to be victim of the fear, hatred, and violence that rule the world. “Standing with confidence before the Son of Man” no longer just refers to the end of time, but opens for me the possibility of living confidently, that is, with trust (the literal meaning of con-fide) in the midst of hostility and violence.     –Henri Nouwen

There is so much hostility and violence on display in the world. War, violent crime, oppression against groups of people—these may be the first things that come to mind when we think of hostility and violence. Social media though, increasingly reveals to me that hostility and violence are not just “out there” in other countries, in certain neighborhoods, and perpetrated by dictators, gang members or others that might fit our definition of “likely suspects.”

The perpetrators of violence I am most familiar with are people of comfortable means, church goers, business leaders—the folks we work with, worship with, play tennis with, travel with. Hostility, violence and hatred show up in what is posted or shared on Facebook and Twitter. What such postings reveal to me is that many who would claim to be Christian are not interested in living with confidence in the midst of hostility but would rather participate in promoting hatred, hostility and violence.

I’ve been thinking about St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is October 4. He saw God’s light in creation. He found joy in what others bemoaned as paltry. He reached out in love to those who practiced a different religion than his. He let go of the values and culture of his family and joyfully embraced a life outside the mainstream, eschewing status and wealth and instead embracing poverty and simplicity.

He could do this because he had nothing to protect or defend. He was dwelling in the house of God while living in a world of hostility and violence. He trusted God to be God for him. He lived the gospel of Jesus, and his rootedness in God’s love meant he poured love out wherever he went.

In the midst of a society that is more interested in bringing a kingdom of hostility and violence than in bringing the kingdom of God I want to emulate his joy, his vision, his way of dwelling in the house of God. We need the spirit and theology of St. Francis.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


You were seen with the eyes of perfect love long before you entered into the dark valley of life. The spiritual life begins at the moment that you can go beyond all the wounds and claim there was a love that was perfect and unlimited long before that perfect love became reflected in the imperfect and limited, conditional love of people.                                             –Henri Nouwen

We often have one of two reactions to wounds, both physical and emotional:  we either try to hide them or we become defined by them. To have a healthy relationship to our wounds enables us to be transformed by them. Our wounds are part of us, but we are more than our wounds.

Our wounds can make us stronger. Years ago, my younger son had surgery to correct a recurring spontaneous pneumothorax. The surgeon made scar tissue on the exterior of the lung so it would basically act like glue to hold the lung in place so it would no longer collapse. The wound of scar tissue corrected his issue.

Our wounds do not make us less than. As Henri Nouwen says, we are loved perfectly by God without any reserve, without any consideration of what we’ve done or what we fail to do, or what anyone has done to us. Just as Jesus rose with and was loved with his wounds, so are we.

Jesus did not try to hide his wounds. In fact, he used his wounds to identify himself to his disciples after his resurrection. They connect him to us; they are a sign that being human means suffering, and that in what is apparent weakness, God overcomes and brings new life.

We cannot see the beauty that comes from our wounds when we are in the midst of pain and hurt. Yet when we can live our wounds through, rather than ignoring them or becoming defined by them, God is able to bring beauty from even the darkest places of pain. And often that beauty is beyond anything we could have ever hoped or imagined.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

God's Abundance

“We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.” –Matthew 14:17

 We have nothing here except. . . All day long Jesus has been with this large group of people. Their emotions ay have been mixed, as those of Jesus likely were. The news of John’s death at the command of Herod likely created an atmosphere of fear, heaviness and loss.

Into that scene Jesus proposes a shared meal. Symbolism and sustenance meet in this event. There is enough food for everyone, literally, as abundant leftovers are collected. God is not a God of fear, scarcity and small-mindedness.

Jesus had been healing the sick, but I expect the meal healed the fear of many present that day. Yes, John was dead, but God is not. God is in community, in bread and fish shared among all—disciples, questioners, the sick, children, women, men—no one turned away. God is a God of abundance, hospitality and community—found in the most ordinary of places, people and food.

There is always enough, plenty, more than enough. No need for fear, jealousy or greed. God’s economy is for all and in abundance. God’s work is larger than we can see or know.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Some Thoughts About Yoga as Spiritual Practice

Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our true nature.  –Henri Nouwen

Nouwen is speaking of the importance of solitude, but I also believe these words have applicability to the practice of yoga if one is approaching yoga as more than simply a way to exercise. I encourage students to come to yoga with openness, because the physical practice is only a part of the overall aim and philosophy of yoga.

The physical practice of yoga becomes a spiritual practice when we are able to extend grace to ourselves. We learn our limitations and do not view these as deficiencies. We accept and honor our capability, yet always seek to do the best we can do. When we can accept and honor our own capacity, it then becomes possible to accept and honor the capacity of others.

Our ability to accept our wounds makes the physical practice of yoga an exercise in spiritual growth. We may have injuries or conditions or aches and pains that bring us to yoga in the hope of finding relief. It requires vulnerability to accept and work with the wounds we have, be they physical or emotional. As we learn to love our bodies and what they are capable of doing, we find healing of attitudes that may be more limiting than the wounds themselves. Our culture does not encourage vulnerability, so the ability to hold our woundedness lovingly grows us spiritually.

Finally, there are poses in yoga that challenge us, that invite us to move past fear of failure, that coax us to try, in a safe space, something we may not have thought we could do. For me, that was a significant aspect of spiritual growth. Yoga helped me to be strong in the face of fear, to “breathe through the pose,” and come out on the other side more confident than before. In yoga, I discovered strength within me that I wasn’t aware I possessed. I know where that strength came from, so yoga has helped me to tune in more fully to the presence of God’s spirit in me.

Thursday, August 9, 2018


“When an unclean spirit leaves a person, it wanders through dry places looking for a place to rest. But it doesn’t find any. Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the place vacant, cleaned up, and decorated. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself. They go in and make their home there. That person is worse off at the end than at the beginning.  
–Matthew 12:43-45

Let my heart not be found vacant, Lord,
well-adorned yet empty. Let my heart be
filled with warmth, love and your presence,
that I may walk in your way,
that I may radiate your love to others.
Fill me full of yourself, O God.
Leave no cell void of you
that I may dissolve into you

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Birthday Reflections

I celebrated my birthday this week and I certainly know I have much to celebrate. I am living in a place of fullness, joy and peace that I could have never imagined for myself. Some people use the expression “living the dream” sarcastically, but I use it with sincerity. Friends of mine have heard me say that truly, I am living my dream. I am grateful for the way my life has unfolded to bring me to this place of deep gladness.

Frederick Buechner says this: The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. When I first heard this quote, I was in a season of discernment about what I sensed as a call for my life. Following that call took me from what felt comfortable and predictable and set me on a journey that defied any effort at making a five year plan. Even if I had made such a plan, the events that unfolded along the way were ones I could have never predicted.

Fullness of life doesn’t mean rainbows and unicorns. I went through the hardest season of my life thus far in the years between following this call and now. In fact, there were days dark enough and circumstances unsettling enough that I questioned my worth and my call. But God’s love was manifested to me in the love, companionship and encouragement of friends. I likewise realized that the consistent practice of centering prayer and lectio divina had led to a sense of God’s presence that sustained me. I was grateful that I never felt abandoned by God, even when I questioned everything else about my life.

As I reflect on life at the conclusion of another trip around the sun, I can’t think of anything I’d wish for if I had birthday candles to blow out. I am grateful for each moment. I am grateful for my friends. I am grateful for the communities to which I belong. And yes, I am grateful, supremely grateful, for the season of struggle, the pain and the people whose words and actions hurt me. Without them, I would not be where I am today. I would not have learned and lived the truth of death and resurrection in such a palpable way.

So I celebrate that I have been born and that I have been reborn. Life is good. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Present in the Transitions

When Jesus heard about John, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. When the crowds learned this, they followed him on foot from the cities.
                                                                                --Matthew 14:13

Jesus needed some alone time after learning of the execution of his cousin John. The only time he could claim was the time on the boat. As soon as he landed, he was once again surrounded by crowds.

I imagine Jesus found the time on the boat soothing to his grieving soul, enabling him to then be fully present with the crowds who were waiting for him when he came ashore. It is a reminder to me to not fail to be fully present in the transitions of life.

Our achievement/accomplishment oriented culture places greater emphasis on the destination than the process required to get there. We are constantly looking ahead to the next thing, but when we do this, we miss the gifts of being on the way.

Recently I observed a Luna moth on a UPS drop box as I was walking on a downtown sidewalk from my apartment to my car. Had I been lost in thought about my to-do list, I might have missed a moment of beauty. And this morning as I parked my car in a large parking lot to go to an appointment, I heard a hawk. I stopped, looking in the sky to see if I could see it. I found it perched in a pine tree that is growing at the edge of the lot. It was a gift to appreciate as I moved toward my destination.

It takes intentionality to be as present climbing the stairs, walking across a parking lot, riding an elevator or standing in line as we are when we first put our bare feet in the sand on a long awaited beach trip, or are eating lunch with a friend we haven’t seen in a while, or celebrating a milestone moment of life.

Seeking God’s presence in the moments between moments, in the spaces between thoughts, or in the transitions between events enriches all of life and disposes us to see God in ways we could miss if we are only focused on accomplishments or destinations. Much of Jesus’ ministry happened when he was on the way. I pray we can appreciate the “on the way” moments as much as the moments of arrival or accomplishment.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees the heart.
                                                                                                                --1 Samuel 16:7b

 Because I am seen by God
   I want to see others as God sees them.

There are those who have seen me this way.
   They helped me to live.
   They loved me to new life.

To see another as God sees them—
   what greater gift can we give?

Was it God’s seeing of David,
   his anointing by Samuel,
   that sparked the faith to face Goliath?

Being seen is the sun and water
   for the Godseed in our hearts.

We grow and bloom when seen as God sees.
   We catch fire and burn brightly,
   fully engulfed with life and light.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Thoughts on Community

Community is a matter of the heart and the mind. It cannot be created by place alone, and it cannot be destroyed by distance alone. It is the essence of the soul.    –Joan Chittister

If you read my musings often, you will know the value I place on community. Community has sustained me when life has been incredibly hard. I do not take for granted the gift of community and am grateful for the communities to which I belong.

Sister Joan’s observation about community arises, at least in some part, from her own experience living in a monastery as a Benedictine Sister. But hopefully most of us can identify with her observation from our own experiences of community. As she notes, simply living under the same roof does not create community. Nor does being part of a particular group.

Community is not the same as a collection of individuals. There is a quality of soul that true community shares. One can be terribly lonely in a group when there is no soul connection, when there is no one interested in listening to what it is that makes your soul sing. In fact, one of the signs of verbal abuse in a marriage is that the abuser trivializes what is important to the other by being disinterested or dismissive. Proximity does not necessarily create community.

On the other hand, distance does not quash community that is rooted in genuine care for one another. You may have friends you do not see often, but when you do, it is as if no time has passed. You pick up where you left off. When you have such connections, you can be alone and yet not be lonely, for the soul connection is palpable.

If the soul’s essence is to be in community, then it matters that we build relationships that are deep and mutually life-giving, relationships that help you discover your true self, that do not silence your true voice. If we squelch our truth to try to fit into someone else’s idea of who we should be, we will not find peace in our souls.

True community feeds our souls and reveals to us the commonwealth of God.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Yoke of Gentleness

Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves.
                                                                                                                                Matthew 11:29

To focus on this one verse helps me to see it differently. Jesus invites us to learn his way of gentleness and humility. When we focus on striving to better ourselves, to win over others, to prove ourselves right, worthy, smart, capable and adept, we will inevitably come up short at some time. There is a limit beyond which our faculties and milieu will not let us go.

We mostly live our lives trying to be superhuman. Our culture encourages it. Perfection, at least in what is visible to others, is the goal. But it is a goal we cannot reach. We dress our family for the perfect family photo and struggle to find one where everyone appears happy. We set a table for the perfect family meal and then the bread gets too brown on the bottom or the dog licks the ham and we can either come unglued or remember that life is not perfect.

In so many scenes of our life—at work, at church, in the community—we envision scenarios where everything goes smoothly, only to experience that they don’t. Real life does not look like perfection.

Jesus’ offer to be gentle and humble begins with ourselves. When we can let go of the superhuman image of ourselves that we strive to present to others and even to ourselves, and can accept our dents and scratches and let these be visible to others, then we can learn to rest.

While we may strive for exterior perfection, the perfection to which Jesus calls us is wholeness, completeness, the fullness of our humanity.

Thomas Merton said that to be a saint is to be who you are. How do we come to know ourselves wholly, deeply, clearly so that we become more fully human? Jesus invites us to a way of gentleness and humility, so we can begin to see the self that God sees and loves. Not an outwardly perfect self, but a self created in the image of God that gives voice to the unique melody God has placed in each of us. When we sing that melody, we grow more fully human n the way God created us to be. To know ourselves more fully allows us to know God more fully.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Scarcity vs Contentment

The man who thinks nothing of goods has freed himself from quarrels and disputes. But the lover of possessions will fight to the death for a needle.  –John Climacus

John Climacus was born in 570 and lived as a monk on Mount Sinai in Egypt. Yet his wisdom is timeless. For it is not the amount of one’s possessions that makes one possessive, it is the inner disposition of heart.

Possessiveness is rooted in a disposition of scarcity, a fear of there not being enough. It isn’t limited only to possessions. I have known people who are possessive of spouses or friends. They see love as a scarce resource. Possessiveness can extend to experiences, where a fear of missing out keeps one always focused on the next vacation, the next concert, the next big event.

Scarcity tells us that we are not enough just as we are and that having more, doing more, or receiving more attention will assuage our insecurity. But this is fear’s way of blinding us from trusting God, who loves us as we are and whose love and provision are abundant and limitless.

When our inner disposition is fear, there is always something to protect and defend. Fear builds walls. When I live in fear, I see situations and people as a threat to my well-being. This happens in obvious ways, but also in ways so subtle and insidious that we may not recognize fear as the driving force. When we are jealous of another because they get more attention than we do, when we worry about what others think of us, when we are obsessed with holding and increasing our possessions, fear is controlling how we see the world and how we see ourselves.

When our inner disposition is contentment, we can share our time and possessions freely with others. We don’t build walls when we live from a place of abundance. We don’t have to quarrel with others when we have nothing to protect or defend. When we can be content with however others think of us, when we act out of desire for the well-being of another and don’t need to be appreciated or recognized, we can come to know the inner peace that passes understanding.

All around us is a culture of fear and scarcity. But we don’t have to buy into that way of seeing the world. That way is a way of bondage. The way of abundance is the way of freedom.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Gift of Communities

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been out of town a lot recently. Being gone, especially the three weeks I was in North Carolina for yoga teacher training, has reminded me how much communities nourish and sustain me. I missed my people. I was grateful for texts from friends offering encouragement and letting me know I was missed. When I was fatigued at day’s end, these messages mattered to me.

It matters that we are part of a community, or of several communities. Studies show that being an active part of a community, be it religious organization or the people you regularly exercise with, enhances our health. It truly does take a village, not only to raise children but to maintain our sense of well-being.

What I likewise noticed was how my fellow teacher trainees became a community over the three weeks we spent together. We were quite a diverse group—different ages, different beliefs and values, and from different places. Yet, to my knowledge, no one let their differences get in the way of hospitality to or compassion for one another. We were there for a common purpose and that transcended the differences among us.

In a culture that values individuality, where your individual preferences are catered to by restaurants and retailers, it is sometimes easy to forget the value of community. The divisiveness we see in our country today shows me that we value our individual preferences over community. Fear of “the other” leads to isolation, and there is nothing nurturing or sustaining about isolation.

Joy cannot exist in an environment of isolation, because we need one another in order to share joy. And times of sorrow are better borne among community. We grow by exposure to more than what we already know. If communities exist only to close off others, to promote homogenous thinking, they are unhealthy communities to belong to. The common ground of such communities is fear, and fear cannot coexist with joy. Fear never nourishes us. Opening ourselves to different ideas and people is what makes community rich and healthy.

I am grateful for all my communities. They are diverse, yet they are all filled with hospitality and love. As I wrote on a recent Instagram post, home is where you give and receive love. And love, especially love given and received in community, is necessary for us to flourish.

Thursday, April 12, 2018


Whoever isn’t with me is against me, and whoever doesn’t gather with me scatters.
                                                                                                                                ---Matthew 12:30

I want to be with you, Jesus,
every moment, every breath, every step,
every thought, every heartbeat, every blink of the eye.
I want to be in the flow of your grace—
gathering, drawing in, embracing with you the ones you love,
Let my words speak love; center me in your heart.
May I be light and salt for you.
Show me your way,
your path, that I may not stray from it.
Let me not be scattered but gathered,
centered, content in you. Amen.

Thursday, April 5, 2018


Today I was a bird, singing the song
   Creator gave me to sing.
I was a tree, bearing fruit nourished
   by roots deep in God’s soil.
I was a brook, babbling and sparkling
   in the sun, making its way
   naturally, beautifully.

Today I caught fire. I was all flame,
   fully alive in the flow of grace.
One hundred percent who I was created
   to be,
      like bird, brook and tree.

Today I knew union, not in ecstasy,
   but in living completely surrendered,
   bursting with the gifts of my true self
   the way a fully ripe grape bursts between the teeth.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


How do we even stay upright
when burning bushes are everywhere?
Angels fly around my head
twittering their praise to God.
I feel I should fall to my knees
as God’s breath blows against my skin
and moves the clouds across the sky.
Surely this butterfly, yellow against gray trees,
is a miracle, a sign that all nature incarnates God.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Attentiveness to the Transitions

When Jesus heard about John he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. When the crowds learned this, they followed him on foot from the cities.   –Matthew 14:13

After hearing of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus needs some time to himself. However, the only time he gets is the time on the boat. Alone on the water, I imagine him feeling the rocking motion and hearing the waves lapping against the hull. Other than this, things are still, quiet, calm. I can imagine the time on the water soothes his pain.

I’ve read this verse many times but never before have I thought about Jesus’ time on the water. That was merely a transition from point A to point B in my mind. However, a group from my church recently returned from a pilgrimage to Israel. I asked two different men at two different events last week to describe their most memorable moment of the time away. Both of them described being on a boat in the Sea of Galilee in silence for about ten minutes—no boat engine, no conversation. Just silence.

Their descriptions of this experience caused me to pay attention to this verse that details Jesus’ movement by boat. Having heard my friends describe their experience, my own imagination went with Jesus into the boat, and I shared the experience with him. It reminds me that being present is not only about arriving at a destination, but also about being present in the transitions of life, mundane as they often are. For Jesus had only the boat time to renew himself, only that time alone on the water to attend to his grief.

The transitions in my day and yours are many and we often miss the gifts they offer us. Climbing the stairs, driving the car, standing in line, walking across a parking lot—all these are times we can choose to be present and attentive or we can merely be focused on getting to the next thing.

Years ago, I was looking out my office window into the parking lot. A bush was alive with cedar waxwings, devouring the berries. I was mesmerized as I watched them. A coworker pulled his car into the parking space near the bush, got out of the car and walked into the building. He never saw the birds right there in front of him. That happened thirty-plus years ago and I still remember it.

So today, I want to pay attention to the transitions, to the moments between moments, the pauses between words, the spaces between thoughts or breaths. Those are opportunities to be aware of the Spirit’s presence.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Instructions I Need to Remember

Close the door. What’s gone is gone.
Hold the memory, but do not live it.
Love the now, live the now.
See what and who surrounds you and
breathe them fully into your heart.

This moment, this day, the present presence—
embrace it completely. It is the gift.
Let go what is no more. Don’t drag
regret’s anchor or carry future’s
worry stones.

Sink deep roots into eternal now.
Love what you are given,
love what you love without shame.
Sing this moment’s symphony. Let
every note enliven every heartbeat
so that your whole life becomes song,
an eternal, everliving, everlasting
Jubilate Deo.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Selfishness and Rights

I don’t know the answer. But what I do know from reading just a few of the Facebook posts that have come out since the latest mass shooting is that selfishness is alive and well in our nation. This isn’t really new news, but fear and greed have taken the defense of our “rights” as Americans to a place where our first interest is MY rights, not your rights.

Contrast that with the instruction of Paul in Philippians and the way of Jesus, which Paul describes:
Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
        he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
     so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
        and every tongue confess that
            Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Especially in this season of Lent, which is time we set aside for contemplating how we need to conform ourselves to the image of Christ, should we not be watching out for what is better for others? Should we not be willing to empty ourselves of self-interest as Jesus did?

Is there no longer a place in our country for self-denial, compassion and willingness to listen to one another? At the very least, is there a place among Christians for such behavior?

What might be different in our nation if Christians “adopted the attitude that was in Christ Jesus”?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


The remains of those whose love brought me into life
I stared at. Two piles of ashes on the hilltop of the island
across the water from the house they loved
in their retirement.

Two metal tags the only marker of place.
I wondered how long these would remain.
Would the bald eagles that nest on that island
add them to their nest, a bit of shiny amid twigs?
Would deer step on them?
My parents would be thrilled with either possibility.

My life has changed much
since the day we paddled to the island
to place their ashes there.
I hold the memories, both good and difficult.
I hold the knowing of their love for me.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Object Lesson

Jesus left that place and went into their synagogue. A man with a withered hand was there. Wanting to bring charges against Jesus, they asked, “Does the Law allow a person to heal on the Sabbath?” Jesus replied, “Who among you has a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath and will not take hold of it and pull it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!”  --Matthew 12:9-12

They made me into an object, these
who needed to win, to be right.
They pointed their fingers,
asserted their accusations,
murdered with their meanness.
They withered my soul with coldness
and hate.
Convinced I was as they decreed
they ended my story, pronounced my sentence
and placed the period.
They were done reading my life.
But not you.
You saw the depth, the colors, the truth.
You opened my story and declared it good.
You unwithered me, reading my life back to me,
showing me my worth, my heart,
my sweetness.
You lifted out lines I’d long forgotten,
reminding me who I am—a vibrant soul-story,
bright with meaning and love,
a story held and read with your great tenderness.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

All Things

My Father has handed all things over to me. No one knows the Son except the Father. And nobody knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him.  –Matthew 11:27

All things. Jesus is one with God, knowing and known perfectly, one by the other. All knowledge, all power, all love, all humility, all compassion, all generosity—all that is in God is in Jesus, and Jesus’ life and work reveal to us a glimpse of the Father’s heart, which is still beyond our comprehending.

To have been given this glimpse, which seems to us in our smallness so vast and deep a knowing, is such a gift, such a grace. Our whole lives—all we learn and know of God—is still only a glimpse of the Creator. No matter how much we know, our knowing is but a grain of sand compared to what Jesus knew of the Father.

Do you ever imagine what God knows of God’s whole creation? The thoughts of the hawk I saw soaring yesterday, the sound of sap moving in a tree’s body, the timing of my next breath, the location of every worm pushing through soil—God knows all this. And God loves each with a love I cannot fathom, but want to emulate.