Thursday, November 17, 2022

Being Human

Each face had a long time in the womb to decide
How much it would let worldly things affect it,
How often it would turn toward the wall or the woods,
I it didn’t have to be seen, how much
It would give in, how stubbornly it would
Hold its own.
                                           From “Looking at Aging Faces,” Robert Bly
I am human.
Worldly things have affected me.
I’ve acted in ways I wish I hadn’t.
I have skeletons in my closet—maybe not big ones
but there are some there.
They may not shock others, but they rattle
now and then to remind me
I am human.
Times I gave in, times I should have spoken up,
drawn the line, held firm. Stubbornness
has its pitfalls and its benefits.
I’ve held on when I might’ve let go
and saved myself, made a new start.
I’m still learning, still not always sure
how to choose, what to do, who I am.
Being human is a lifelong process.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Marveling at the Mundane

When things are stressful in the world around us (and aren’t they always) and it is tempting to think the world is in danger, I find it helpful to think about all the ordinary things that bring me joy and remind me that there is more that is good than there is evil.

Here are some things that have been causing me to marvel lately:

·       the sound of wind in the trees, and the ways it sounds different in pines than in deciduous trees

·       the way sunlight makes one tree’s orange leaves pop in a thicket of trees

·       the soft, sweet, sort of creepy song of a white throated sparrow

·       the different ways leaves fall—some spin like whirly-gigs, some roll like a barrel rolling downhill, and others float slowly to the ground

·       the way a large hawk can fly through thick woods without running into branches

What are you seeing or hearing that makes you marvel? Can you make a list, either written or in your head, of these things so that when you feel anxious, they can remind you of the simple, mundane goodness that is always all around us?

Feel free to share in a comment your marvelous mundane moments of joy. When we see what brings joy to each other, it improves our own ability to find the marvelous in the mundane.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

A Prayer of Longing and Contentment

I need no more, I have

everything I need. Contentment

is a blessing, a gift. Yet I want

to grow, to know you better, God,

and to know myself better too.

You are always with me, and I am

always with me, yet both shrouded

in mystery. I get distracted, but

deep down, the waters are still,

cool, and teeming with life.

I long to go there, to enter

the depths of my heart, and yours.

I want to know why tears come,

why the sight of clouds against

blue sky swells my heart, why the

touch of another lingers in my mind.

I want direction when I’m aimless.

I want to hear my soul sing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Overflowing Joy

At that very moment, Jesus overflowed with joy from the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and shown them to babies. Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness.”

                                                                                                    Luke 10:21

I would have loved to see Jesus overflow with joy. I don’t recall having read such a description of Jesus elsewhere, but I can imagine it. Can you? 

This verse is part of the story of the seventy-two who have been sent out and have now returned to share their experiences. Imagine the excitement they brought, and Jesus, in the thick of their excitement, exclaiming with joy to God! It is a glimpse, surely, of what heaven must be, and the overflowing joy that is part and parcel of eternal life. 

I’ve had those moments of overflowing joy, and I’m sure you’ve had them too. Last weekend, I was in the North Georgia mountains, and one morning, as I sat outside in the crisp, cool air, I saw the sun strike the mountain in front of me. It brought tears to my eyes, a moment of overflowing joy. We experience such moments, and most of them take place in events of everyday life. Something clicks, and we are present in a way that is hard to describe. If we do try to describe it, we cannot adequately convey why it is such a moment for us.

Maybe such moments are when we actually experience the world with childlike wonder. Jesus speaks of things being hidden from the wise and intelligent and shown instead to babies. To overflow with joy requires that we lay aside being “reasonable” and embrace imaginative delight, that we receive God’s kingdom, which is everywhere, all around us, as a child.

Are you open to experiencing overflowing joy? Are you willing to let go of stiff, stuffy adulting to see the ordinary as extraordinary, with the eyes of a child?

Wednesday, October 19, 2022


Some people talk so brilliantly

That we get small and vanish.

                             From Thoughts, Robert Bly


Invisible whenever guests came,

longing to engage in conversation but overpowered.

Did my presence even matter to you?

Damn you, let me speak! Turn the spotlight

off yourself. Words that fell on deaf ears

because I was small in your eyes.

Now you don’t see me at all. I’m gone,

done with invisibility, smallness.

Go ahead, fill the house with your brilliance,

your many words. Talk your fool head off.

I am where my presence matters,

shining like the sun.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Stubbornness or Adventure

Last week I was in the mountains for some time away. I didn’t go to the mountains with a plan to hike to waterfalls, but most days, those were the trails I chose.

One day I found a great place to eat lunch by a waterfall. As I ate, I noticed leaves that, instead of being washed downstream, were stubbornly clinging to rock, even though water was rushing forcefully over them. I cannot explain how they managed to hold on tightly where they were.

Certainly, there is a time to hold fast, but also there is a time to let go. I thought about the adventure of riding the current of the stream, and how, if we are too intractable, we miss out on the grand adventure that is life. To let go makes one vulnerable, because we cannot know what lies downstream for us.

However, staying stuck to the rock means those leaves will slowly disintegrate right where they are. We can wither when we are stubborn. We can stick so hard to a belief, a way of living, a job, that we wither away in that position. I have certainly known people whose stubbornness kept them from experiencing growth and adventure in their lives. To take hold of life means a willingness to live in the flow, even when that flow takes us through difficult or painful changes. A life immune from risk isn’t much life at all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Praising Plants

Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you;
    all the trees of the field will clap their hands.                                                      
 Isaiah 55:12

Anthropomorphic descriptions are plentiful in scripture. Maybe you’ve watched a tree sway in the wind and imagined it clapping its hands.  As fall colors begin to appear, mountains do look like they are bursting into song. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The earth laughs in flowers.”

A couple of weeks ago I repotted a very potbound spider plant. Its leaves were brown on the ends and when I watered it, the water quickly filled the dish under the pot. It had several plants in it that needed to be separated into their own pots. I had known for a long time that it needed some attention, but it kept making the “do later” list.

This past weekend I was looking at the repotted plants. I felt I could almost hear them exclaiming with delight at their new digs. They truly look happy! In fact, one of the plants is making spider babies already!

All of which makes me wonder, what is it within me that needs space to grow? What do I need to stop putting off and give time and attention to so it can spread its roots and thrive?  When I actually took the time to repot my plant, it really didn’t take that long. It mostly took being prioritized. I just needed to commit about half an hour to the project.

Maybe what is languishing in you, suffering from lack of attention, just needs a small amount of time and space to take root and grow. Making the time and space for a dream to root and grow is an act of praise to God. A thriving desire given time and attention to flourish is a way you show your delight for the gifts and abilities God has placed in you.

I am inspired by my spider plants to tend my “inner garden.” I hope their example likewise inspires you!

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Letter to a Fly

Dear fly, (though I don’t really mean the “dear” part)

why must you ceaselessly circle my head,

occasionally tangling in my hair, or

clumsily crashing into my cheek, or worse,

my lips?

I know you are a child of God, as am I.

St. Francis would have called you brother.

I’ve tried to imagine you as guardian angel

keeping me safe as I walk in the woods, but it

stretches beyond the reach of my imagination.

Were you more calm, maybe marking the place

in my psalter, as your kin did for Saint Colman

I might have more affection for you.

Your presence, however, reminds me

I do not yet fully love as God loves.

I have some growing to do.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Forest Silence

The silence of forest isn’t

absence of sound. Rather the sound

belongs. Wind rustling leaves, a

woodpecker’s thrumming, chorus

of tree frogs or crickets, bird song.


Nothing out of place.

I breathe.

My feet crunch leaves lightly.

I try to belong, let myself be wild.

Thursday, July 14, 2022


Being saved from death is

not the same as saving

a life. What good is it

to survive, if you don’t live?

I don’t mean, of course, having

a pulse, breath, the daily

maintenance of eating, sleeping.


I mean feeling wind on your skin,

savoring chocolate, a glass of wine,

the wonder of seeing a sunrise

or a dear friend’s face.


I mean, of course, the way

your heart beats wildly

with joy when something thrills

you, or beats with fear

when you risk yourself or

feel pain. You see, living is not

playing safe, staying behind fences

or locked doors. That may let you

survive, but already you’re dead.


Life wants to be lived,

   out loud,

      no holds barred,

         all in.


when death does come, it comes--

an exclamation point at the end

of life’s story, a cause for


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Building Project

Because it happened, certain gates were shut;

A door opened.

                                                          From “The Parcel” by Robert Bly


Looking back at shut gates accomplishes nothing.

You walked through the open door, into new life,

laid a foundation, built,

tore down, rebuilt, a process repeated

until the house was truly yours.

Now dwell there, inhabit it fully,

fill it with light and joy. It is your home.

Who cares what others think of it?

It fits you perfectly.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Deep Questions

Here it is,

Eight thousand years later, and I still remember.

                                                          From “Looking at the Stars,” by Robert Bly


How much is stored in the memory of our bodies?

I wonder what I’ve carried for thousands of years, unconsciously,

events of ancient times that have shaped who I am.

When I look at the full moon, or watch the sun rise

what is triggered in my being,

how many sunrises are stored within?


What wildness lies deep in my DNA, at the core of my identity?

When I walk through the forest am I bridging

gaps in my soul, traveling neural pathways

ancient as earth itself?

What, finally, will I know of myself

when I come to the end of knowing?

Thursday, June 2, 2022


Each time a story ends

There is such a long pause before another begins.

                                                          --Robert Bly, from “Looking at the Stars”


Those pauses seem interminable, even if only days:

the pause between test and result,

diagnosis and treatment plan, breach of trust

and forgiveness, death and resurrection.

Though the new story may truly start

at the end of the old, there is a time,

disorienting, when one knows not what to do,

when you are frozen in limbo,

when no path is visible. The shock

of ending holds us fast, and though painful,

it is good to be held, to be kept from

stumbling any deeper into the chasm

between stories. The pause has its own story.


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Lesson From an Iceberg

What we see and know is always only partial.

The unseen we invest with assumptions we dress as truth.

To judge another—such a weighty, preposterous act,

none of us worthy to undertake.


Awareness is not full knowing, but rather

knowing that we don’t know much at all.

To live in bliss is to accept myself and others

at face value, allowing for the mystery lying beneath.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022


 And now the grain of sand becomes sand again,

And you stand on some mountain road weeping.

                                                            --From “The Face in the Toyota” by Robert Bly


Why the weeping? Is it loss of the dreams

for life and love held close in younger years,

or tears shed when what seems transcendent disappoints?

Life’s reality, either way, is different than expected.

Loss is a part of life, but bitter still, even when accepted. We hope

for the dream but it plays out incomplete

or not at all. Better to look

closer in, to find joy in smaller things, in the

present moment. Joy persists, though at times, unexpected,

the dreams will resurface,

their own persistence bringing tears for what was not.

Thursday, May 5, 2022


Only in snatches of thought, brief

moments when emotion cracked

the thick shell of duty, did I

consider escape. To walk away

wasn’t reasonable and I fed

reason with my life. Cracks, however,

have a way of growing, often

imperceptibly, until one day

things break wide open.


When it happened, reason

reached for the spackle, but

emotion said, “No. It is time

to live,” and soul

poured through the cracks,


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Reclaiming Myself

You rejected me, hoping, I suppose, to punish me,

maybe to force me to shrink to a size you could manage—

small enough to control,

small so you would always be bigger.


I knew that smallness, lived it for years,

diminished by your put-downs, the guilt you

laid on my shoulders to keep me

shrunken, less than, making me think it was

benevolent of you to love me.


Your big threats stirred something in me,

something that had not dried up by your abuse

and I rose up by your rejection,

reclaimed myself, set myself free.

There was enough of me without you,

more than enough to thrive, to shine,

to live fully alive.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022



Happy are those who trust in the Lord,

   who rely on the Lord.

They will be like trees planted by the streams,

   whose roots reach down to the water.

They won’t fear drought when it comes,

   their leaves will remain green.

They won’t be stressed in the time of drought

   or fail to bear fruit.

                                           Jeremiah 17:7-8


Down—the unlikely way to go,

but it is where the water of life dwells.

My roots went down to the Source and I found

my origin: to be one with nature, to play

outdoors, to see the world with child’s awe.

I am reborn by descent. I lived serious

far too long.

Now is the time to play, to be curious,

to live in wonder.

Thursday, April 7, 2022


Though stillness seems to define its surface,
a closer look gives hints of what lies beneath.
Small fish, tiny I should say, active at the surface,
create sparkles as they pop up to feed, and less frequently
a splash speaks of larger ones deeper within.
Unseen current, life force, revealed in the sound
of water through the dam pipe
reminds me that this is not the same water I saw yesterday
and will be different tomorrow and the day after that.
Is this how my unconscious looks to God?
Is this the point of pure nothingness that surfaces 
in dreams I don’t recall?

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

March Ferns


Coming up a rise in the trail I spied them,

poised, still life of a dance beginning.

Some stick-straight except for their fiddle heads

bent in a formal bow as if preparing to contradance.

Others, more unfurled, a bit wilder, looser,

looking almost raucous in their heady celebration of spring.

It is this dance I want to join, moving loose, lanky, free,

intoxicated by new life, waving wantonly in the spring breeze.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Tastes of Heaven


But our gusty emotions say to me that we have

Tasted heaven many times: these delicacies

Are left over from some larger party.      

--From Tasting Heaven by Robert Bly


If tastes of heaven are the tidbits from a larger party,

then what was the larger version of the soft mist I enjoyed on my cheeks

this morning? Was it the residue from some heavenly celebration,

where bottles of champagne erupted to celebrate

the blooming of tulips, or the woven engineering of a swift’s nest?


I wonder what gets celebrated in heaven.

I imagine the minute, tiny, barely noticed (by us) events,

fattening buds, pink hue on a cloud, the way

sunlight filters through upon forest floor,

the first breath drawn by a foal—these

surely elicit uproarious response.

If I could count the misty drips as they touch my skin,

each drop a celebration to last a lifetime, ah,

this is a foretaste of eternity!

Thursday, March 3, 2022



Settled, at least for now, in the act of feeding, 
birds blanket the ground, their chirps and cackles 
drench the morning air with sound. 
I could not count them if I tried, the volume 
and their movement muddle any hope of totalling. And why 
would I want to count? Better to stand in awe, 
witness to abundance, communion, energy of life. 
Enjoy the gift, marvel at the scene, for it is fleeting. 
A sound, movement, something I don’t sense, disturbs, 
in a flurry of sound, a thousand wings lift the mass 
into the sky. I stand, agape, in the silence they leave behind, 
 recognizing the place I stand as holy ground, 
 receiving their mantle and their lesson. 
Sing, eat, share life with friends, live in this moment, 
turn aside, be awed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Close to Water

What is it about water that soothes the anxious soul?

Sound, sparkle in sunlight, the rhythm of waves or current,

the concealment of what lies under. . .

Water wears many faces,

lives differently depending on location,

but woos and mesmerizes in its varied forms.

Rushing, undulating ocean waves,

singing, shimmering stream flowing through forest,

peaceful pond reflecting moonlight.

I am drawn to water, soaking in its call to calm, my soul

slaking its thirst for peace.

Is it the water in me that makes me feel at home,

at one with water in the world,

joined by our common nature?

Thursday, February 17, 2022


One of my potted herbs, a basil plant, takes time to water. If I try to pour water on it from my watering can, the water simply runs across the top of the soil and over the edge of the pot. The plant itself gets no benefit.

What I’ve learned is that I have to use a small watering bottle with a straw, and squeeze water through the small opening in the straw to give the plant what it needs. It takes time, but it’s the only way I can adequately water the plant.

I thought about this plant as I was reading from the epistle attributed to James. James begins his letter with these words:

My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

To build endurance involves some soaking. It takes time, patience, consistency, and the ability to be content when you don’t see “progress.” Endurance requires showing up, day after day, moment by moment. It isn’t glamourous. It doesn’t draw much attention. It doesn’t generate a rush of adrenaline. It may not garner you any praise or recognition.

Endurance is about remaining in the flow of God’s grace so that you are gradually reshaped. I think about rocks worn smooth by constant contact with the flow of a stream. It takes a very long time for a rock to go from jagged to smooth. In the same way we grow more complete in our faith by remaining in the flow of grace.

The willingness to be consistent and constant without any significant signs of progress does test our faith. We would prefer that God would bestow signs and wonders on us that enable us to be certain of our growth. It’s been my experience, though, that God works mostly in small, subtle, barely perceptible ways. We have to trust that the soaking, the flow, is moving us toward maturity and completeness.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Winter Beauty

 Living in middle Georgia, winter is a variable affair. One day it’s 65 degrees, another day it’s 40 and drizzling. We don’t get the Winter Wonderland of snow that friends further north enjoy, but I have a deep appreciation for the beauty that a middle Georgia winter offers me.

 I enjoy the bare trees. To see the intricate lace of limbs against a gray sky always generates a sense of wonder in me. I have my favorite trees around town but I enjoy them all. Their bareness also yields the surprises of bird nests that were hidden by summer leaves. I walk by the nests and think about how I passed them in the summer without any awareness of the life that was so close by.

 I like the days we have cold drizzle. Those are some of my favorite days to walk outside. Ever since I went to Ireland several years ago, I’ve grown to appreciate rainy days. An Irish man gave me a pearl of wisdom I remember every rainy day: There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! So I don my raincoat and waterproof boots and enjoy a walk in the drizzle.

I enjoy the winter plants, the stalks and sometimes seed pods that remain when all the green is gone. The shapes and patterns they make, and the ways they light up when the sunshine hits them, is as much a treat for the eyes as flowers in springtime.

 If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I am grateful for the beauty I see in a winter landscape. I do believe that to see beauty in the browns and grays of winter is a choice, an intention that can make the difference between having a gloomy day or a delightful day. May you be gifted with eyes to see the beauty around you in wintertime.


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Somewhere Near the Edge of Life


Inspired by a line from a poem by Robert Bly, “It’s As If Someone Else Is with Me”: I am here, somewhere near the edge of life 

Who could not believe in magic

walking on a misty morning?

Jewels hang, diamonds, from every bare branch.

The pines, proud in their winter green, sparkle,

each needle adorned with light on this gray day.

The bite of winter air, the mist hitting my cheeks,

gentle as feathers, stimulates me.

I am fully alive and magic everywhere I turn

in this thin space, somewhere near the edge of life,

somewhere I know, yet meet anew today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A Word for the Year



Several years ago, instead of making resolutions, I adopted the practice of choosing a word to guide my year. It’s probably more accurate to say I let a word choose me. Through a process of prayer, listening to the world around me, and reflection, a word makes itself known to me. Sometimes a word comes quickly, and other years, I find myself sifting through several different words, waiting patiently for one to emerge with clarity.

 As someone who used to be all about detailed goals and plans, this way of approaching the new year was a big change the first couple of years I practiced it. I have found it to be liberating and life-giving, because instead of focusing on what I fail to do, on goals I fail to meet, I stay open to how the year unfolds itself, and let the word guide me when unexpected changes happen.

 In 2020, my word was “Grow.” When Covid shut things down, and caused a major change to life, I could adapt. A changed environment didn’t derail me because growth was certainly possible in a different landscape than I anticipated at the start of the year. Had I set certain goals and made specific plans, they would have likely been irrelevant by mid-March.

 A word to guide the year creates spaciousness. There are many ways one can live into their word, and no two people will embody a word in the same way. Even if I have the same word as you, we’ll live into it differently because our lives and perspectives and needs are different.

 Sometimes the word has been something to reach for. One year, in the midst of turmoil and change, my word was “Brave.” It inspired me to keep going when it would have been easy to crumble in on myself. It challenged me to draw on resources deep within me, and on those days when I felt anything but brave, it reminded me not to be defined by that one difficult day.

 At the end of each year, I’ve enjoyed reflecting back on how my word has shaped my experience of the year. There are always surprises—a word makes space for the unexpected to happen. To look back and see how the events of the year, the choices I’ve made, and the ways I’m different connect to the word that has guided me encourages me to continue the practice.

 If you’re already frustrated by resolutions, I suggest listening for a word that might guide or challenge you for 2022. Pray, pay attention, and listen to what is around you and within you. You may find a word invites your attention and speaks to your soul. The process itself can be deeply spiritual, and living into the word may keep you connected to God in creative ways.