Saturday, December 29, 2012

Let Us See What Love Has Done

Several weeks ago, sitting in silent worship at Indianapolis First Friends Meeting, I kept hearing the phrase, "Let us see what love will do," bubbling up over and over again from my heart. I accepted this as a gift of spirit and opened my eyes, looking in love around the beautiful, simple sanctuary. I saw bowed heads. Let us see what love will do. I saw the choir. Let us see what love will do. I saw families in front of me. Let us see what love will do.

I felt full of this loving mantra, a reminder to be here, right now, in the present moment, witnessing the movement of Love and its blessing.

When I told my wonderful Writing as Ministry class at Earlham School of Religion about my experience the following Tuesday night, they quickly pointed out that this was a phrase of William Penn's, the first governor of Pennsylvania and a weighty Friend: "Let us then try what love will do." Whether I was channeling William Penn or hearing the fresh voice of Love arising in the silence, that beautiful phrase has stayed with me in the weeks since.

Here at the end the year, I find myself reflecting on the movement of Love throughout my 2012. Yes, we have had challenges and tragedies--some of them unthinkable. Yes, we have had setbacks and frustrations: some of them carried out by those elected to represent us. But are we ending the year with more Love than we began it? Has Love carried us through the weeks, smiled in the face of challenge, and graced our lives when we didn't expect--or deserve--it?

My reflection here at the end of 2012 is about noticing how Love has been at work in my life these past 12 months. Are my relationships at peace? Is there creativity in my life? Do I feel close to God--close enough to smile and say thank you, and close enough to throw the occasional temper tantrum? (I believe God understands and actually enjoys those.)

As we end this year so full of blessing and heartbreak, let's stop for a minute and consider the moments Love changed everything. And let's hope--and watch--together for more of those moments in 2013.

Peace, beloveds. And Happy New Year. :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanks, lived.

Yesterday I had such a sense of thankfulness. And the day was so completely full that it wasn't until after midnight, when everthing was cleaned up and returned to right order, that I actually took time to pray my thanks. But throughout the day, there were moments when I felt every breath was a thank you. Each happy look from one family member to another was a thank you. The oranges and blackberries on the table were thank yous. The quiet settling over my family, lined up on either side of the long banquet table, was a silent thank you.

Maybe in its heart of hearts, the pulse of an appreciated life beats thank you, thank you, thank you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

God is my marketing manager :)

Well, my *everything* manager, really. But this morning, instead of what I'd intended to do (which was write the chapter of a new book), I completely revamped the brochure I created for my spiritual direction practice. I'm really excited about the way the practice is going--plus I find it fascinating that all my experience in technology is actually weaving itself even into the life of spirit. Now we can meet virtually by Skype, Google+, email, IM, or another video-or-voice offering and share the same sense of the sacred and good, warm-hearted connection. Here's my new brochure--feel free to share it with anyone you think might be interested! Peace.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's God creating right now?

I was thinking this morning about how easy it is to get caught up in the idea of ministry. We can think it's something "out there" or "something I'll do when I retire" or "something I'd like to pursue if I have the time/money/support/opportunity."

As a person who went to seminary, I can say that I had that idea of ministy--maybe I should write it Ministry--for a long time. I designed programs. I looked for jobs. I thought about the days when I'd be free to live out that which God was stirring within me.

But the older I've gotten, and the more I've lived, the more I've healed relationships, the more I've opened to life as it arising in the moment. God is here. God is living. God is inspiring and moving us--as a community, as a family, as person-and-pet, as nana-and-grandson--to create a moment of love. Right now. This instant.

Who is around you? What is around you? What living beings are in your environment at right this very minute? You are together creating a moment of love that won't come again. That in its truest sense--in my understanding anyway--is your real ministry. All the rest is someday and wanna-do. It's not where the life of God is moving, blessing, reaching, comforting, and laughing, because that's happening in this exact, precise, and perfect moment.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

That look

This morning I collapsed into the big chair to begin my meditation time, hoping for a peaceful sense that would wash away the stress still clinging to me from yesterday's challenges. As I settled in to the quiet dark, an image began to appear in my mind's was the image of sitting in a crowded room, where Jesus was preparing to teach. I noticed the sense of quiet and stillness--is that peace?--that surrounded him like a cloud. The group still chatted and jostled, getting comfortable in their seats, leaning forward with questions, hungry for direction, for confirmation, for next steps. Jesus silently looked around the room, a small, loving half-smile on his face. He embodied such quiet!

He glanced over the crowd and, almost like a spotlight shining on buildings on a summer night, his gaze had an illumining effect. Each person he touched with his eyes grew quiet, peaceful, waiting. I felt him start to look my way and felt both like hiding my eyes and looking back. I sat still, and our eyes met, and in that instant I knew, like the woman at the well, he knew everything I'd ever done, and it didn't matter. He loved me anyway. The twinkle in his eye told me that. That delicious peace of perfect acceptance spread over me, too. I watched in wonder as his gaze touched every person in the place, and their hunger was satiated and their questions were answered.

Soon we were all sitting in perfect peace. And he hadn't said a word.

Now our meditations can begin.

Monday, April 02, 2012

A life blossoming in love :)

Years ago, when I was in my first year of seminary, the professor of my Pastoral Care to the Dying and Their Families class asked us, on the first night of class, to write out whatever we wanted to appear on our headstones. I thought that was an interesting first exercise, and the phrase I wanted on mine instantly filled my head. It was A Life Blossoming in Love. The image that went along with that saying was a vine of morning glories, lush and purple and blue and open to the morning sun.

In the years since, I had many ministry experiences--most of them wonderful--as I worked as a chaplain, a spiritual director, and now teaching at the seminary level. I feel very connected to God's goodness and the sweet, moving energy of life. But still I wonder: What's next? Should I write a big book on Eco-Spirituality that really sums up everything I feel about God and nature and our flourishing lives? Should I find a new chaplaincy position somewhere, so I could return to that amazing and unique work that I loved so much? Should I look for a position as a spiritual director on staff at a retreat center, or start my own workshop schedule...or...or...or?

I am not certain why I am always looking for the right "fit" for what stirs my spirit. Could it be a lack of trust that what's unfolding is the Right Thing? Could be. Or could it be that my spirit is stretching and yearning for that big thing that's just around the corner? Could be.

I don't really know.

But today an interesting link led me, of all places, to this article on Oprah's website: And I decided to create some mental space, go outside in the sun, and prayerfully invite my own six-word phrase to bubble up. Suddenly, instantly, I knew it, and it was only five words: A Life Blossoming in Love. I've known it for years! And it really is the hub around which my life revolves--God, family, home, and work.

I am not sure why I do so much pushing and prodding and analyzing and wondering and waiting, when I've already written my memoir. I already know what my life is about. It doesn't have to be more complicated than that. In fact all the dust clouds and questions and doubt that gets kicked up around that bigger sense of life purpose could just be my industrious crazy-making ego, wanting to feel in control of the show.

Could be. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thinking about "sinners"

I noticed something really interesting this morning. In the book of Mark, right after Jesus had walked by the tax collector's booth and invited Levi (later called Matthew, one of the other Gospel authors) to come along, he was having dinner at Levi's house. And it was a motley crew--not the typical upper eschelon of guests you might expect at a dinner party with a popular teacher. The curious thing to me is that the word sinners appears in this passage (Mark 2:15-16) in quotation marks.

I've been an editor for 20-some years, and we typically use quotation marks to set off a word used in a common way that might not be a completely accurate fit for what you're trying to say. The quotation marks mean "we don't really mean it quite this way, but this is what people call it." Like "debt-free," when they mean, well, not quite. And "low-calorie," when they are hoping you'll think the product is good for you, but they know it chocks you full of your sodium allotment for the day.

So "sinners" to me means, well, this is a word everybody uses, but we don't really mean it. The commentary in my NIV defines sinners (no quotation marks) as "Notoriously evil people as well as those who refused to follow the Mosaic law as interpreted by the teachers of the law. The term was commonly used of tax collectors, adulterers, robbers and the like."

Ouch. Notoriously evil people? But not really (because of the quotation marks). Perhaps those quotes mean "some people" thought of them as "sinners." But not Jesus. And not me.

Have you ever been in a church where the preacher spewed fire and brimstone and talked about how we're all sinners and don't deserve the grace given us? I have. It's not fun. Besides my own inner resistence to that type of spewing, I don't think it honors God to tell God's children they are inherently bad.

But think about this--wouldn't it take the sting out of that angry preacher's words if he stopped and made the little "air quotation mark" sign whenever he said the word sinners? It would for me! What a great image. I feel the tension fade away. Nobody's really a sinner, those little air quotation marks say. We are just in different points of understanding as we continue to wake up to our divine relationship with God.

So let's relax. And love. And have dinner with Jesus and the other disciples. I notice the word disciples doesn't have quotation marks around it. And that's got to be saying something.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The karma of Genesis

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I was inspired by George Muller to begin reading my Bible every morning again--I hadn't done this for years--and I am just loving this quiet study time in the early mornings. I have always loved reading the Bible and experiencing the openings the text (and spirit) brings each time I read. A few days ago I read again about Jacob and Esau and all the trickery and deceit that went on in order to secure Jacob's blessing. Rebekah had a big part in that, and poor Isaac! Lying there dying and his own family is tricking him into doing something he didn't want to do. What about the intention of the heart? What about honoring a patriarch's wishes?

It seems bizarre to me that in this early book, we are being shown that blessing can be secured by deceitful practices--that the ends justifies the means. Or that you have to be willing to do anything to make the scriptures true (which doesn't seem to me to be something that God would really want to say or intend).

This morning, reading about the crazy childbearing competition between Leah and Rachel (Jacob's wives--and, by the way, is there anyone he didn't sleep with?), I thought, "Well, this chicken has come home to roost." Jacob's deceitfulness in tricking his father, and his unholy (my word) competition with his well-intentioned older brother, seems to be appearing in Jacob's family in the competition between his wives. I wonder, in today's narrative framework, whether we would consider that Jacob was reaping what he sowed--practices aimed at self-glorification, positioning, and greed, instead of a loving, harmonious, God-blessing home.

I wouldn't want to live in that tent! I'd rather have fewer children and no honor and live harmoniously with God than trick my siblings or my husband or sister into giving up their blessing for me. But maybe...just maybe...the fact that I today would choose love over self-glory has something to do with the way Jesus turned (and turns) life inside-out, bringing right order and freedom that opens the path for love.