Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gifts for the Christ Child in You

Last night I ran to the grocery to pick up a few things. One of the employees there I always talk to walked up, smiling. "So, are you don't with your Christmas shopping yet?" he asked. "No," I admitted. "I haven't even started. I'm just not feeling it yet."

That's an odd admission for me and I realized with some surprise that I really wasn't feeling the same excitement and bubbly joy I usually feel this time of year. This has been a difficult fall for me and maybe my spirit is sagging a little. This morning, still thinking about it, I decided to pray about that issue during my quiet journaling time. An interesting thought swirled its way up into my consciousness. If Christmas giving is really about giving to that of Christ in another, what kind of gifts would I give? I began to envision each person on my list. What gift would I give them to honor the Christ in them? For one person, I saw beautiful scents and lotions; for another, an engraving of his accomplishment; for another, a fine leather-bound book for expressing his wisdom. The ideas for gifts flowed from that central idea of giving to the Christ in each of the people I loved. It was a powerful prayer! The ideas came as fast as I could write them down, and when I finished I had my list and the energy and joy to begin my shopping.

The next time I stop in at the grocery, when someone asks me about my holiday progress, I'll be able to say that I truly got back in tune with the Spirit of Giving this holiday.

Blessings and joy to you today!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Special Holiday Insert! Just for the holidays, come by the fun new space I created, called All Things Christmas This space includes holiday favorites, trivia, organizing templates, and links to great projects, offers, games, and more! Happy Holidays!

Pines and Pears

I was sitting at the kitchen table writing in my journal and sipping coffee when I noticed two trees, side by side, on my neighbor's property 40 feet away. I noticed that I could easily see the clear outline of every leaf on the pear tree, but from that distance the pine looked fuzzy and unclear, no matter how much I squinted and tried to focus. It occurred to me that situations (and sometimes people!) are like that too--some are clear and easy to understand; others are less defined and harder to grasp. I wondered...is that difference inherent in the nature of the tree or in my eyes, or both? The shape of the leaves on the tree (and the personalities of some people and circumstances in some situations) have something to do with how easy they are to see; but also the ability of my own eyes (as well as the limitations caused by being at such a distance) have something to do with hindering or helping my own understanding.

The idea was helpful to me because I can sometimes work so hard at trying to understand situations that are beyond my ability to grasp--I keep working at it like a child wiggling a loose tooth. But usually I just have to put it all back in God's hands and say, "I know you'll give me more understanding about this when and if I should have it, but for now, it's beyond me. I just have to leave it with you."

And you know what? That works a lot better than squinting. :)

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Look in the Mirror

I read something yesterday that said most of us look in the mirror to see how we could be somebody else. If I just get a hair cut, fix that tooth, smooth those laugh lines...

The writer suggested that we might look in the mirror with a different motive: to see who's really there. It's a subtle idea, but important, I think. Two weeks ago I mentioned to my daughter that it would be interesting to change the color of my hair; she has been creative with hair color since fifth grade and I thought maybe I should lighten up a bit (literally and figuratively!). Then two nights ago, getting ready for bed, I paused and looked in the mirror. I noticed for the first time that I have natural red highlights in my hair. I never noticed that before. How is it possible that I've lived 44 years and never known that about myself?

When I read the writer's words yesterday, it came clear to me. I was in such a hurry trying to look better, be better, behave better, that I didn't notice the highlights I already had. Today I want to stop the construction I tend to do on myself and take a break with the intention of making room for a real sense of understanding and appreciation of what's already here. Maybe you'll pause for a moment and do it with me. A collective breath in which we can stop, open our eyes and hearts, and just notice how we shine right now could feel like a real homecoming.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Last night Georgie woke me up around 2:30am so she could go outside. Everything was so quiet. Even though it was cold, I stepped outside on the deck in my pajamas and looked up. The stars were so bright and so plentiful--they just filled the sky with their varied brightness. Some were large and bright; some were small and faint; some were clustered together in recognizable patterns (the little dipper and Orion's belt); others seemed to be off alone in the stratosphere.

I thought how much like us the stars seem, different and similar, miraculous and unique while sharing a common luminescent purpose. I wonder, looking Earthward from the perspective of the stars, how we might shine for God? Some brightly, some dimly, some in groups, some alone--but all shining.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Stories That Join

In the aftermath of this horrific hurricane, I was thinking back to an experience I had when I was working at the Stress Center this summer. I was leading the community time for the adult mental health and addictions patients; this is often a quiet and sleepy time where folks who have just received their meds come in and gather for their first group meeting of the day. Typically there were between 10 and 20 people present, and we all sat together in a gathering space where they serve meals later in the day. I always began the morning with a simple story that had some kind of theme related to recovery or healing; sometimes I wrote the stories and sometimes I read stories written by other authors.

On this day, I felt compelled to take in a story I'd written last year, about the mini-flood my neighborhood experienced after four days of torrential rain. I wasn't sure why I wanted to read it or how folks would respond. The openness and engagement of the group varied widely from day to day.

I said my good mornings and told the story, embellishing a little as I talked. I could see from their eyes and postures that they were really connecting with the story. Then, slowly, to my surprise, folks began talking. And for the next 15 minutes, we all shared our experiences of that same flood two years ago--remembering the hardship, the loss, the awful feelings, the fear; but ultimately talking about the miracle of the goodness of people who came to help, offering rides, donating dry clothes, helping children get home from school, making sure we were safe. Just by starting with the story of a flood, that morning the room became filled with hope. People who had never made eye contact with me before were suddenly leaning forward and speaking about what happened to them. Folks who had never said a word to any of the other patients now tuned in and listened, connecting to the group, moving out of their isolation.

As I watch on the news the unspeakable loss and erupting anger that is part of the nature of this type of tragedy, I remember how unifying it was for all of us in the hospital that day to talk about the lesser crisis that had made us one. It didn't take away the very real hardship of the circumstances, but it brought with it the miracle of community. We'd all been there. We'd all been afraid. We'd all suffered. We'd all survived. And people--real people, not governments or agencies or social structures--were good, loving, kind, and giving in the midst of that crisis. We'd seen it with our own eyes. And we believed it.

Friday, September 02, 2005


* pray * pray * pray *pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * * pray * pray * pray *pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * * pray * pray * pray *pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray *pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * * pray * pray * pray *pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray *pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray *pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray *pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray * pray *

And when you're doing praying...

Please pray some more.

Prayer changes things. We know it's true--we've seen it happen. We need to turn that belief into spiritual action right now. We can enfold the entire city of New Orleans (and then the other affected cities throughout the gulf region) in protective, calming light. We can imagine God holding and cradling the entire city in his arms. We can pray for clear minds and honest intent in our leaders; for smooth organization of resource deployment; for all obstacles to sustaining care and comfort to be dissolved so that the spirit of God can flow freely and instantly to all who need it.

Thank you, friends. Rest assured I'm out here praying too. This is really a time when we need to do our best to "pray without ceasing."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Up Close

When I awoke yesterday morning, the rest of the world had disappeared into a thick gray fog. I looked out through the kitchen windows into a bluish gray haze. Then I noticed something. Right outside the window, a beautiful, intricate spider web was visible, jeweled with little drops of water from the moisture in the air. I went out on the deck and looked around--on the trees, on the flowers, little lacy webs, visible only just now, when the rest of the world was hidden. With the distance obscured, the present became very clear.

I thought about how that works in my life, too--when I'm looking far ahead, counting my chickens, making plans, I can easily lose touch with the miraculous right in front of me. Sometimes I need God to put me in a fog, to remind me that my future is still out there somewhere, and that the miracle of the gift of this moment is right here, right now, as close as the next rose bush, the nearest smile, the touch of a loving hand.

Friday, August 26, 2005


This morning for some reason I awoke with a thought about the difference between the spirit of competition and the spirit of cooperation. In our culture, we have prized competition because it builds (or so the theory goes) a strong, vibrant marketplace that ultimately benefits consumers. Our kids compete in sport and when they win--or even when they lose--we feel it's good for them. That's the way the world works, right?

But this morning I was thinking about the nature of competition and its down-side, comparison. When we compare ourselves with others, maybe we run the risk of putting more energy into the idea of separateness and making it seem more real. And maybe when we put too much focus on what we want to be one day, or worse, who--by comparing ourselves with others and coming up short--we might miss the many ways God has blessed us uniquely to love and serve others our way, creating something beautiful with our lives.

When we cooperate, we work together toward something shared. There is the feeling of traveling together, even if we tussle along the way. It's not our team against their team or our school against theirs--it's, "How can we all have a great time playing football in this program?" It is no longer the arts program competing with the science program for funding, but rather, "How can we provide the best education for our kids?" It's not even, "I do all the real work around here while he sits in his recliner and watches TV!," but "What can we do to make this relationship more alive, more fun, more fulfilling for both of us?"

Perhaps the spirit of competition turns our eyes inward, where we focus on what we need, want, desire. And maybe the spirit of cooperation helps us fix our eyes on something bigger than ourselves and our individual wants. I think cooperation is the harder of the two, because as we all know, we have to give up control and, well, cooperate with other sometimes unpredictable people--who may have different ideas than we do, about things we really care about. :)

But I think we'll get it, one day, perhaps in the not-too-distant future. They say the Kingdom of God is within us, right now. Maybe we just need to hold hands in order to find it. :)

Blessings on your day!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Looking Godward

Yesterday I slipped into a funk of frustration and discouragement. It's a very busy time--the boys have started back to school; I have three huge work projects with looming deadlines; I have just finished an intensive class (on Constructive Theology, which was wonderful) at ESR and will begin my fall semester classes next week. By the end of the day I felt disempowered and ineffective. I finally just gave up and went to bed. In the middle of the day someplace, I remember thinking, "My biggest problem is that during the day I forget God," but that leading didn't stay with me very well. A few minutes later it was washed away by a fresh wave of email or that growing panicky feeling that I'm falling behind on my writing.

This morning I made sure to take my prayer and meditation time; I wrote in my journal; I did yoga. Yesterday I had skipped those things because of the lure of deadlines. As I reflected on my struggles yesterday in my journal, it was very obvious to me how I hadn't--in spite of the quiet leading I'd gotten during the day--given myself the time to look Godward. I need that time. I need that action. I need to look to God, more than just in the morning and last thing at night. I need to look Godward through my day, remembering the source of my life.

Not long ago I realized something wonderful about my house. The front door is surrounded by beautiful etched glass, and way up in the upper right corner, there is a small sticker that says, "Godward Glass, Indianapolis, Indiana." When I'm feeling really low and in need of divine reconnection, I go look up at that sticker. I remember I am indeed looking Godward (which is also looking within, and appreciating the beauty around me, and waiting for God to touch my spirit). It's a powerful outward act for an inward intention. I hope you give yourself a moment to look Godward today. It's the thing I need most to remember--the breath that gives me life.

Blessings on your day!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

A Prayer and a Thought

Sitting with my journal in the early morning sunlight this morning, I felt the summer drawing to a close. School for me--my final year in seminary--begins tomorrow. In two weeks the boys go back to school; football, marching band, regular classes all commence. This morning is a deep reflective and grateful pause before the beginning of the busy--and abundant--harvest time. I looked back through my journal and found the following entry, dated July 1, 2005. I wanted to share it with you.

    Truly, O God, I give this day to You as best I can, my Father and maker of All There Is. You O Lord are the center of All, the center of Everything, the Light and Source and Being in which we share. Each blade of grass arises from you; each breeze returns to You, each sound is but a love whisper from Yourself to Yourself. This is truly, my Father's world.

    When I become fixated on seeking my own perfection, focus on the Father's perfection.
    When I begin to worry about my forgetfulness, remember how God never forgets.
    When I worry about my health, lean into God, who cannot be sick.
    When I start to thrash against my flaws, consider how Hashem has no flaws.

    When I relax, the world is good.
    When I am tight, the world is threatening.
    When I am hurting, the world is dark.
    When I am joyful, the world is bright.
    What, then, is the world?
    What, then, am I?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Giving the Apple Back

I was talking with a wonderful friend over coffee this morning and the topic turned to the many ways in which we struggle with the idea of control in our lives. The idea that we can control life--if we just try hard enough, do the right things, play by the rules, and get a little bit of luck--seems to have something to do with that original bite of the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Metaphorically I must take bites from a dozen apples every day! The temptation is always there to make the choice myself, to go my own way, rather than stop-look-pray-and-listen for God's leading on a particular decision or event. What I am learning--slowly, gradually--is to ask God about things before I rush off to do them my way. And when I do forget God (and I do more often than I wish I would), I don't run away and cover myself in fig leaves, but come back to God, apple in hand, showing him what I did and asking him to help me remember him first next time.

I wonder what the outcome of the Genesis story would have been if Adam and Eve could have trusted God enough to be honest with him and welcome him into the middle of their imperfections? I think God loves it when we do that. But if we're waiting to be perfect before we invite God in, we'll continue hiding and keeping him out. There's just no un-biting that apple. But we can notice--and be honest with ourselves and with God--when we do it. And that, faithfully done, sooner or later clears away all the blocks in our relationship with God--and maybe even with each other. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Looking Up

This morning I was sitting out on the deck watching the ducks at the feeder. The smaller birds, sparrows and finches, were busy at the newly filled feeder, one on each perch. Three ducks stood below them, eagerly gathering the seeds the smaller birds dropped. I noticed that one of the three ducks had learned to look up--to watch the smaller birds and anticipate the falling seeds. It was a curious site, seeing this one duck who had figured out the mystery of the manna falling from the sky. The other two ducks never looked up at all...they didn't seem to care one way or another where the seed was coming from. They were totally focused on eating what was already there.

I found that I identify with the duck looking up...I'm always watching for God, always anticipating the blessing, always considering the source. The other ducks around me don't always understand that, and I guess it can get a bit tiresome if you're hungry. And sometimes I get a crick in my neck. :) But it's something about the way we're made--us odd ducks--and the older I get, the more I like it. :)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Wisdom from Mother Teresa

I'm reading the book There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by Dr. Wayne Dyer right now, and I'm finding a lot in it that is helpful and rings true. He speaks a lot about the need to reconnect with God when the things of the world weigh us down. One section I read gave a series of proverbs given by Mother Teresa...I want to keep them in my heart and mind as I go through the day, and I thought I'd share them with you, too:

    People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

    If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.

    If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.

    What you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight. Build anyway.

    If you find serenity and happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

    The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.

    Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the world the best you've got anyway.

    You see, in the final analysis, it is all between you and God;

    It was never between you and them anyway.

Isn't that wonderful? Words to hold on to...peace and blessings on your day! :)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oh God, Bring Peace

This morning we awake to news of violence against your children in London, O God. What a sad oneness we share with all those who know the sound and face of terror, who wander the streets in shock, who desperately search for loved ones. We can still feel the heat and ash from the terror of 9/11; our bodies have recorded the sounds of the sirens; our minds play, rewind, and play again images from that time. We ask you to enfold in a blanket of tender care and peace all those who have ever been touched by terror, Lord, because wherever in the world your children are attacked, we all hurt as one. Calm our fears and bring peace, we pray. Comfort the families and let them know your presence in a very real way. Sustain those responding to the emergency that their hearts and minds may be protected and kept clear so they know just what to do for your children.

This is not the life you'd planned for us, O God, when you created paradise and set it before us to name and nurture. You wanted to walk with us in true communion, laughing, sharing stories, loving, trusting, experiencing abundant joy and honoring our very lives by enjoying them fully with you. Enfold us all, O God, because we're suffering individually and as a world as our belief in the promise of Goodness and Mercy is shaken yet again. The darkness can cover it, but cannot put it out. Love wins, Lord. Peace reigns. We have your word that even now, in the smoke and tears and heartbreak, the kingdom of God is within us. Take our hands and help us find it, Lord, because just now the aftermath of unthinkable destruction is clouding our eyes.

May God be tenderly present in an unmistakable way with the people of London--and with us all--today.


Monday, June 27, 2005

God Doesn't Have Any Grandchildren

Friday morning Cameron and I took Christopher to Interlochen for a six-week long camp in Composition. Interlochen is an amazing and wonderful place, filled with musicians and instructors from all over the world. I feel it is the opportunity of a lifetime (hopefully one of many) for Christopher. But instead of feeling joyful and excited for him, I am walking around like there's a big hole in my heart. My face is sad; I'm irritable; I'm barely listening to people. Last night at dinner people told stories and laughed and I felt like I was in a cloud, hardly able to hear them. I realized as I said goodbye to my mom, when she looked deep into my eyes and said, "You'll be all right," that I was grieving. I am grieving. Life doesn't feel right--my son is eight hours away and beyond my reach. The fact that it's a great blessing doesn't seem to take away the hurt.

I was praying in the shower, apologizing to God for being so ungrateful and grumpy. I asked to know what was causing me such pain. Suddenly a thought flashed in my head: I'm not trusting God with my children. My pain was coming from the side of my rational mind that tells me I'm the one who needs to smooth the way for my children; I keep them safe; I encourage them and calm their anxious moments. If I'm eight hours away, how can I do that? How can I know he's cared for? What happens if he gets scared or hurt or someone's mean to him?

I remembered the phrase "God doesn't have any grandchildren," which means that my son Christopher (and Cameron and Kelly) are all God's children, just as I am God's child. God is with them in the same way God is with me--right now, every moment, in full knowing of what is best for me. God is working to draw them into deeper relationship with Him just the same way He is working in my life. God isn't a generation removed from my children, dispensing grace and love and hope through me. God dispenses His own love and grace directly to each of us, every moment, in every thought and every breath.

I feel a little lighter now, knowing Whose job it really is to keep Christopher safe and fed and happy. It's the One Who Knows the number of hairs on our heads and knows when the smallest sparrow falls. Thank God.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


For the month of June, I've been filling in for the chaplain and running Spirituality groups for the adult and adolescent inpatients. I absolutely love it. I have met so many wondering people and we all talk about the spiritual values we share as humans--love, kindness, honesty, gratitude, acceptance, caring--no matter what our religious affiliations might be. It is a time of coming together in truth, gentleness, and sharing. Healing is happening right before our eyes. It's amazing what God can do when a few of us gather...

I found the following entry in a book called, "The Language of Letting Go," by Melody Beattie. Melody is a wonderful writer who writes about recovery issues (I think she is famous for a book called "Codependent No More," although I haven't read that one yet.) But I found this entry in her book yesterday and it washed over me like a cool drink of water on a hot day...I wanted to share it with you this morning in the hopes that it blesses you, too:

    Take time to celebrate. Celebrate your successes, your growth, your accomplishments. Celebrate you and who you are.

    For too long you have been hard on yourself. Others have spilled their negative energy--their attitudes, beliefs, pain--on you. It had nothing to do with you! All along, you have been a gift to yourself and to the Universe.

    You are a child of God. Beautiful, a delight, a joy. You do not have to try harder, be better, be perfect, or be anything you are not. Your beauty is in you, just as you are in each moment.

    Celebrate that.

    When you have a success, when you accomplish anything, enjoy it. Pause, reflect, rejoice. Too long you have listened to admonitions not to feel good about what you have done, lest you travel the downward road to arrogance.

    Celebration is a high form of praise, of gratitude to the Creator for the beauty of God's creation. To enjoy and celebrate the good does not mean that it will be taken from you. To celebrate is to delight in the gift, to show gratitude.

    Celebrate your relationships! Celebrate the lessons from the past and the love and warmth that is there today. Enjoy the beauty of others and their connection to you.

    Celebrate all that is in your life. Celebrate all that is good. Celebrate you!

May God help us to open our hearts fully to receive--and celebrate--all the many blessings we are given in this day! Amen. :) k

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

French Lessons

For some reason, I took eight years of French in school. Four years in elementary/middle school; and four years in high school. My plan was to go to France with my best friend Marie after graduation. But life intervened, and I moved to Muncie to manage a pet store and Marie married a computer programmer from Vietnam. Our freshman year in high school, Marie and I would do silly things like go to Casual Corner at the mall and speak French to each other (badly, I'm sure). The salesperson would come up and ask whether she could help us and Marie would explain that I was her cousin from France and didn't speak a word of English. She would use a horrible French-American accent (which probably sound more like New Orleans than anything) and we would dissolve in laughter after the poor unassuming salesperson walked away, completely convinced we had totally fooled her.

So that's about the extent of my French ability--lots of invested time and study energy for very little gain...a dream that was never realized and an embarrassing memory of how cool I wasn't in high school. :) But this morning, I woke up thinking about the phrase avec pleasure (not sure I spelled that right), but it means, of course "with pleasure." The thought was, when we're doing something, why not do it avec pleasure? Isn't that the essence of joy, of gratitude? What about the phrase, "It's my pleasure," when someone says "thank you." Do we mean it when we say that? I want to. I want to think more about pleasure, enjoyment, life abundant. I think it honors God. And it makes the sun shine brighter.

Hey, maybe French class gave me something after all. :)

Monday, June 20, 2005

One Perfectly Enjoyable Moment

This morning as I was driving along a beautiful road with overhanging trees and filtered sunlight, I thought about what it would feel like to be so in tune with our lives that we experienced perfect enjoyment of even a single moment. Somewhere deep inside I believe that our sacred appreciation of a day, or a moment, or a hug, or an experience honors God in a way a thousand wordy prayers cannot. I have this feeling that if we were able to feel--even for the slightest instant--completely full, completely happy, completely at peace, completely whole--it would be all we would need to fill our lives with divine bliss forever. I'm not going to work too hard to find that sense of enjoyment because I think the effort drives it away...it has to emerge naturally, simply, like a rosebud opening. But I'm going to hold on to the idea that it's possible, that it will dawn on us suddenly like a rainbow in the clouds, grace of the highest order, reflecting God's smile deep within our souls for all eternity.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A Meditation on Success

You, O God, are continually about the business of creation. A bird sings, a sky lightens, a breeze lifts, leaves rustle, a world awakens, fresh and new. I breathe in the sweet world you've given us for yet another day and feel uplifted and renewed; I join with you in celebrating its Goodness. What more than this, O God, do we need for a successful day? To breathe in the wonder and gift of each new person who crosses our path; to embrace and give thanks for the moments--no matter what emotions they carry--that lead us still closer to you. Instead of running out into the world chasing plans and ideas that might ultimately prove Good, perhaps success lies in simply allowing ourselves to shine like the candles we are, burning forth in gratitude and hope, lighting the way for each other while expressing your Divine Principle, your saving grace. We participate in your on-going creation by being the loving beings through which you bring light into the darkness. Help us, O God, to recognize we are a continuing, contributing part of your creation and to relax into the knowing that our attunement with you is the only real success we ever need. Amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Help When We Need It

My dad told me a story about something mysterious that happened when I was born in a hospital in Decatur, Illinois in the early 60s. My mom had been very sick and she went into labor six weeks early. When I arrived, no one expected me to live because my lungs were full of fluid and I was unable to breathe on my own. My dad was working in Chicago at the time and remembers the phone call he received from my grandmother: Instead of saying “You have a baby daughter,” she said, “You’d better make funeral arrangements.”

When my father arrived in Decatur the next morning, he didn’t know what he would find at the hospital. To his surprise, the nurse led him to the nursery window, where he could look in and see me in an incubator—tiny, red, but still alive. The nurse told him that she’d heard that a young intern had sat beside my bed all night long, squeezing a bulb aspirator that manually inflated my tiny lungs until they were strong and dry enough to begin taking over on their own. When morning arrived, the young intern disappeared without a word—and no one on the floor knew who he was, where he came from, or where he went.

I have noticed throughout my life that in every sad, scary, or tragic circumstance, there are always people—some might say, angels—who are there to help us in one form or another. A person has just the answer we need when we’re trying to figure out how to solve a big problem. Just when we give up trying to find directions to a place we’re trying to find, we discover the road we’ve been looking for. In a moment when we’re feeling hopeless and discouraged, a friend shows up with something that lifts our spirits. We get messages of hope in songs, in prayers, in smiles, in sunrises.

It reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago in which a father and daughter are sitting on the front porch when the little girl hears the sound of a siren not far away. She looks worried and says to her dad, “I hate to hear that sound—I know it means somebody is hurt somewhere.” Her dad thought for a moment and then hugged her tight. “It might mean they are hurting right this moment,” he said, “but it also means help is on the way.”

My hope for us today is that we remember that help is all around us in the moments we need it most, and that even when we’re hurt, sick, frightened, or confused help is on the way.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

God's Prayers

This morning I was reading Carolyn Myss's book Why People Don't Heal and How They Can in preparation for a paper I'm writing on the role of religion in American medicine. She had just related a story a woman shared in one of her workshops: in the midst of a near-fatal traffic accident, the woman had an out-of-body experience in which she saw what was happening from a hundred feet above the accident. She could hear how people were reacting in the cars behind hers on the busy expressway--some were traumatized by what they saw, some were panicking about being late for appointments, and from one car about five cars back, she saw a beautiful swirl of light, coming up to the clouds and going back to her car. She realized the woman was praying for her. I loved that image and imagined someone in need suddenly receiving in a very real way beautiful swirls of light from everyone who comes to support them in prayer.

Just then, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time this morning and touched my shoulder and the back of my head. Feeling the warmth, I thought, "Oh, there goes God again, praying for us." What a wonderful idea! That our beloved Creator not only knows, loves, guides, protects, and walks with us through our days, but sends the kiss of prayer to our lives daily, moment by moment, in beautiful swirls of light and love we can experience in any moment we are willing.

Enjoy the swirls of light that come your way today!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

God's Answering Machine

I just love this poem I read in the Writer's Almanac newsletter this morning and wanted to share it with you. I think of my own voice and my face over dinner each day, with my hungry kids waiting, forks poised, and my husband hoping I don't launch into anything other than the usual, "Please bless our family and our food, and thank you for this day" kind of prayer. In my heart, I would love for that moment to be about thanking God for all the good things that have happened that day...but everyone else seems to see it as a gateway to mealtime. Ah well. Perhaps one day they will have an experience like this author had:

by Linda Pastan, from The Last Uncle © W.W. Norton.

When the young professor folded
his hands at dinner and spoke to God
about my safe arrival
through the snow, thanking Him also
for the food we were about to eat,
it was in the tone of voice I use
to speak to friends when I call
and get their answering machines,
chatting about this and that
in a casual voice,
picturing them listening
but too busy to pick up the phone,
or out taking care of important
business somewhere else.
The next day, flying home
through a windy
and overwhelming sky, I knew
I envied his rapport with God
and hoped his prayers
would keep my plane aloft.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Rugged and Old

Occasionally I bump into people I know I could never have met without divine assistance. Not long ago, I had one of those blessed contacts. It was a chance meeting with a man my father's age. In the middle of our brief conversation, he suddenly said, "Would you like to hear how I came to know the Lord?"

He told me that 35 years ago, he'd been in a bar with his best friend on a Friday night. They were doing the usual--drinking, smoking, killing time. On this particular night, the bar manager decided to open up the stage for a kind of singing contest. It was before the days of Karaoke, but something similar. Although he'd never wanted to be up in front of a crowd before, he jumped to his feet. "Come with me," he said to his friend. The friend looked at him like he was crazy for a minute and then agreed. They made their way to the stage.

Together they turned the pages on the songbook, trying to find a song they both knew. There was only one they both recognized: "The Old Rugged Cross." The man looked at me incredulously and shook his head. "I have no idea how I knew that song," he said. "I'd never been to church in my life. I had never thought twice about God before that."

He and his friend began to sing the hymn. He laughed, remembering. "You should have seen that place clear out! I think they thought the roof was going to fall in."

But then his eyes filled with tears. "You know, after we finished singing, I went back to my seat. But God was already working with me. The words of that song were sinking in. After that, I started noticing God wherever I went. That's what started it all...and I'm so grateful to him."

Thank you, God, for your consistent, constant, abiding welcome; for the way in which you touch us and reach us; for the amazing and creative ways you hold us close. Thank you for loving us so much that you come and stay with us wherever we are--in a smokey bar, stuck in traffic, sitting in a cubicle, alone in the kitchen, or in the middle of a congregation on a Sunday morning. We thank you for the softening and transforming that's happening in our hearts even now. May we be a blessing to you and to each other this day. Amen.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

New Steps

Last Friday I was walking across the Earlham campus, heading toward my car. All was quiet except for a cardinal singing in the top of an ancient tree; the snow stretched before me, a collection of interweaving and dividing paths, memories of others who had journeyed this way before me.

As I trudged toward my car, I suddenly noticed that I was very intentionally (but unconsciously) stepping into places that still offered fresh snow--I was making new footprints and not stepping into the steps of those who'd gone before. I was curious about the change in me. I remember, as a child, carefully stepping into existing footprints to avoid getting snow in my shoes, slipping on unnoticed ice, or experiencing that unpleasant sensation of stepping on ice covered snow for a bare moment and then falling through--crunch!--to the soft snow underneath.

But on this day, for whatever reason, I had mysteriously made a shift from path follower to trail maker. Looking back, my footsteps showed where I came from and how direct (and indirect!) the path had been.

May we each feel a renewed sense of readiness and confidence as we create our own footsteps--together with God--through the adventure of our day! :)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bits of Glass

I saw on the Writer's Almanac newsletter I receive every morning that today is the birthday of Anton Chekov. The last quote of the article is attributed to him: "Chekhov said, "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

I know of my work in chaplaincy how the circumstances in our lives can get broken when something upsetting, frightening, or tragic occurs. Telling someone "God loves you and is with you" doesn't help because it's far and distant--like the moon--even though I believe it is certainly true. But helping someone (and this goes for my own brokenness, too) notice where in their lives God is reflected in those broken pieces...where is God working in our lives today?...brings the realization that nothing--not illness, injury, loss, calamity, poverty, doubt, anger, or failure--can separate us from God's love. God's here right now. We just need to let ourselves look at the broken pieces and see the reflection.

Monday, January 17, 2005

First One Out There

This morning I was sitting at the table in the kitchen with a steaming mug of coffee cupped my hands, looking out at the bitterly cold morning. The sun was just beginning to light the sky. A lone duck swam across the lake. A few stars still glimmered in the west. And suddenly the song of a bird came, loud and clear, ringing out from one of the trees beside the house.

A bird? Singing? It's six degrees! I thought, as a feeling of warmth and remembering--and gratitude--swept through me. How odd and wonderful and brave of that little bird to find something to sing about when it's six degrees and the sun isn't even up yet. How amazing that God whispers in the ear of a dove to bring an olive branch back to Noah to give him a sign of land. How perfect that we can sometimes be signs of hope for each other long before our relationships are healed, our health improves, our burdens lighten. May we each be aware of the signs of hope we are for each other today and have our eyes and hearts open to receive the hope others bring to us.

Blessings on your day!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Transcendent God

The curator of a local museum, the Eiteljorg, was interviewed on our public radio station this morning, and she described a new Georgia O'Keefe exhibit opening tomorrow. She talked about O'Keefe's ability to find the infinite in the most earthy places. This reminds me of some of my favorite saints--St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross. Something about finding God in the guts and reality of our lives really moves me. It's as though the closer we get to God the more we find Him--not as a distant Sunday abstraction--but right here, in the ice on the sidewalk and the new laugh lines around our eyes. God seems to call us deeper into an embrace with our own creatureliness, our humanity, and we are so surprised--and overjoyed!--to find Him there. Our journey isn't as far as we thought.

Here's something about O'Keefe I found on the Eiteljorg's web site (art image is from Art.com)"In "Pelvis with Distance" (1943), [O'Keefe] painted the sky through the hole of a bleached pelvis bone that she had picked up in the northern New Mexico desert. O’Keeffe painted pelvis bones because she “was most interested in the holes in the bones—what I saw through them—particularly the blue from holding them up in the sun against the sky.”

“When I stand alone with the earth and sky, a feeling of something in me going off in every direction into the unknown of infinity means more to me than anything any organized religion gives me.” --Georgia O'Keefe

May we feel the stretching and spreading of our souls today, as we experience all that God delights to give us.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Well Said

I ran across this quote in a book this morning. It's actually the epitaph of Benjamin Franklin. It made me smile (and nod inside):
    The Body of

    B. Franklin,


    Like the Cover of an old Book,

    Its Contents torn out,

    And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,

    Lies here, Food for Worms.

    But the Work shall not be wholly lost:

    For it will, as he believ'd, appear once more,

    In a new & more perfect Edition,

    Corrected and amended

    By the Author.

Thank God the Author for his continual care and tender molding of us, his Works in Progress. :)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Praying for the Wounded Soul of the World

I read this amazing passage in Flora Slossen Wuellner's book, Prayer, Stress, & Our Inner Wounds and felt it was an appropriate thought to lift up in light of the tsunami tragedy and the continuing heartbreak in Iraq and the Middle East:

    "I first began to think seriously about this form of prayer when I was asked to lead a retreat for a church that had recently lost its pastor under circumstances agonizingly traumatic for both pastor and people. As I sat with the group of lay leaders in the church parlor and we talked and prayed together, I became aware that I was not sitting with just a group of hurting bewildered individuals. It was as if the group there had a personality, a soul of its own, that was wounded. I shared my impression, and we began to pray for the wounded memory of the group, as if the group were one person."

What groups are you part of? Has there been a sadness, a frustration, a hurt in your home, in your office, at your church? Is there division and heartache, loss and grief? I love this idea that we can pray for the soul of our families, the spirit of our church, the healing of our nation, the Divine Light of our world . This is prayer on a big, transformative scale, and another way to touch and bless and honor the shared life God has given us.