I Arise Today…..

"I arise today through the strength of heaven, Light of sun, Radiance of moon, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea, Stability of earth, Firmness of Rock. I arise today with God’s power to pilot me." St. Patrick

I arise today….and it’s cold! We are about to enter a stretch of very cold days. I have to admit I do love the prospect of it. There is something about knowing that it will be subzero that brings out my survivor instinct. It also, in some odd way, brings out my creative sensibilities. Perhaps it is the prospect of gathering around a warm fire or steaming cups of coffee, or the idea that one can "hole up" inside with justification. In any event, the cold temperatures awaken my desire to create…to knit a scarf, to bake a pie, to write a poem or story, to make a pot of soup, to curl up with a really good novel and lose myself in the gift of another person’s  imagination.

There is also the way in which, when properly dressed, you can walk outside and hear the snow actually crunch, sound carries differently when it is this cold. Colors take on new intensities,too. Did you see the sky last night at sunset? Vivid pink,red, orange and the sky was so blue. What a gift to behold!

I often say that humanity’s real purpose on earth is to give voice to the the beauty, the tragedy, the goodness, the awe that is God’s gift to us in Creation. We are the ones….the ones with language, with the ability to reflect, to speak or write our prayers, our poems, our gratitude for being alive. We are, in truth, here on earth to be Psalmists. While we know that all livings things have experiences of the world, we are the ones who write and tell the stories, who give thanks, who sing the songs and dance the dances. We do it first because we need to honor our relationship with our Creator. We do it secondly for ourselves because we must respond to the Holy’s movement in our lives. Thirdly, we do it so we will remember and our children and grandchildren will remember. This is our work.

So today, how will you do this work? How will you be a Psalmist? How will you tell of God’s movement in your life? The story is yours to tell…..so bundle up, stay warm, and let the Creative Spirit be your companion.


"Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world."  Etty Hillesum

These cold winter days are good for reflection. I believe we are a people hungry for reflection. We move at such a pace that we barely finish one task, one event, one relationship, before we move on to the next. Reflection seems to be missing from nearly all areas of life, even in the church. But reflection is what allows us to go the deep part of who we are, to peel away the layers of spin that bombard our senses and to get to the kernel of truth..wisdom…the Holy….that is at the heart of all.

It is so easy for me to become overwhelmed and hopeless about the places of war and violence in our world. It is also easy for me to become angry and strident about our leaders and their actions. And then I think of Etty Hillesum whose words are above. She was a young Jewish woman, full of life and creativity who was taken by the Nazis, held in a concentration camp and died there. Her writings are filled with hope and inspiration for seeing the beauty amidst all odds and claiming the ways of peace. For her, peace was more than an absence of war. It was the very way in which we move in the world. It was…it is…the way in which we live with ourselves, with our families, our friends, our enemies. It is a way of living that demands reflection.

I pray that today I may know this deep peace at my very core and that I may move in the world with a  peace that might heal a small, hurting part of this vast and beautiful world. I pray this prayer for you as well.


O.K. I admit it. Everyday I read my horoscope. Today was particularly interesting. "What did you do last year that really made you a better person? And what would you change if you could? The answers to these questions will help you spring forward, rather than drag your feet into the next month."

So, I sat this morning over my coffee and reflected back over 2006 and all that it held. I think I am a better person for many of the lessons I learned while on my sabbatical…..the art of slowing down, the gift of ripe strawberries freshly picked, quiet prayer, beautiful mountains, gazing into the faces of loved ones. I think I am a better person for having learned how to launch a child off to college and learning to live differently in your household with that change.  I think I am a better person for learning more about grace, how it moves in my life, how I sometimes ignore and then rediscover its presence.  I think I am a better person….I hope I am a better person.

I believe we all hope that we are better people with each passing year. The Wisdom texts of the scriptures were written down so people could continue to remind themselves of the Holy’s presence and movement in their lives, so they might be better people with each passing year. They were also meant to remind people of their own inner wisdom that we so often forget in the daily-ness. This hope of "being better" is really more about being wiser, finding depth in our living. More than two thousand years ago the prophet Haggai wrote in the Hebrew scriptures: "So now….think; take stock; what do you really want? You eat but still hunger; you drink but still thirst; you clothe yourselves but can’t get warm; and your wages run out through the holes in your pockets."

It is somehow comforting to me to know that the ancients shared my questions….our questions. What do I really want? For what do I hunger, thirst? The spiritual knowledge for which, I believe, all humans seek knowingly or unknowingly is not only universal but transcends time. We all seek to know and be known by the Holy, to be connected to the Mystery,to grow into "better" people, to know what our Creator’s call on our life is.  Some of us have easier beginnings, some know how to learn from our mistakes, some are still searching for the right question, some stand just on the brink of amazing wisdom.

Wherever we are on our wisdom journey, may God grant us courage and patience, today and every day.

"She will give…the bread of understanding to eat, and the water of wisdom to drink."Ecclesiasticus 15:3   

First Tulips

Yesterday I bought my first tulips of the season. I went into Kowalski’s to buy lunch and came out with orange tulips. I can’t resist tulips. I love all colors but yesterday the orange ones called to me. Some people I know force tulip bulbs in the midst of winter. I have tried that, but the time I have these days really requires that I buy this color I long for in winter. Make no mistake about it, I love winter. I love the cold, the snow, even the windchill in some moderation. But just about now-the end of January, I begin to yearn for color. And so I watch for primroses, tulips, tiny daffodills, hyacinths if I need a good scent of something as well. And I buy them.

Today I sat and looked at the stems of the tulips in the clear, glass vase. The sun (thank, you God!) was streaming in the window and the yellow-green stems were beautiful in the water. I noticed how much water they had consumed over night….a good 4 inches of water for 8 tulips. It seemed amazing that these flowers, cut off from their bulb-life source, were still drinking, still reaching toward the light, still trying to open even further into their own colorful potential. I just spent a long time looking at them, being thankful that they were in my home, bringing a different shade to the blue-white light out the window.

Knowing that just outside there are hundreds of other tulips still waiting for the right time to push through the ground made me smile. But for now I am content with January, the snow, the cold, the beauty of a Minnesota winter finally arrived and the "too-soon" tulips in my living room.

A blessed weekend to you all……

Return to the World

The Seven Whispers:Maintain Peace of Mind, Move at the Pace of Guidance, Practice certainty of purpose, Surrender to surprise, Ask for what you need and offer what you can, Love the folks in front of you….and finally the seventh: Return to the world.

Return to the world. Often in the church in particular, "the world" becomes equated with bad, evil, not-God-like. Christina Baldwin’s urging to "return to the world" is the exact opposite. She stakes a claim on our original blessings as God’s creations, creations placed in a beautiful and complex world that has much to offer and teach us – about the Holy. In returning to the world, we see the deeper patterns of creativity, the  birth, life, death, re-birth cylce of which we are all a part. In a return to the world we come to know the Mystery through which we were born and continue to be born again.

In the scriptures the Hebrew word that means "awe" is often translated as "fear". This has had unfortunate repercussions, I believe. Instead of "The awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom", we have learned fear. It is a very different place to begin and to end….awe or fear. Returning to the world can be our grounding in awe.

Outside my office window stands a huge oak tree. I am blessed to watch its birth, life, death and re-birth with each season. I learn the rhythm of the world through watching this tree. At this time of year, its branches bare, its knarled bark rough against the winter sky, it looks bold and strong in a way that it doesn’t when covered with leaves. At the very end of one long branch, squirrels have built a nest out of the leaves of this tree. I am in awe of the courage of these squirrels to place their young so far out on a limb. Over the next few months, I will watch the nest with expectation of what new life will ermerge. All new life comes from places of faith, trust, hope and courage. The tree and the squirrels are teaching me this.

Return to the world…Baldwin’s greatest intention in her small book is to remind us of the visible and invisible ways in which we are connected to one another and to the Holy. I hope that this simple introduction to her thoughts has moved you to a new intention in your own life. She ends a chapter with this affirming image:

"It has always been scary to step into the circle of firelight, to show up in the company of strangers, to ask for entrance or to offer it. Our hearts race-Will we have the courage to see each other? Will we have the courage to see the world? The risks we take in the twenty-first century are based on risks human beings took thousands of years ago. We are not different from our ancestors, they are still here, coded inside us. They are, I believe, cheering us on. "

I agree.


Love Ya!

The sixth principle of The Seven Whispers is my favorite. "Love the folks in front of you". Each day we come into contact with so many people…family, friends, teachers, co-workers. These are the people we truly love, think we love, want to love, want to at least "like". But Christina Baldwin is challenging us to fling the net of our people-loving much further. Love the folks in front of you. That means the person in the checkout line who is grumpy, the paper-carrier you glimpse first thing in the morning, the man standing at the corner with the sign asking for money, the person who cuts you off in traffic…..all of them!

I love to imagine a morning on which everyone walks out into the world with this one goal:Love the folks in front of you. Can you imagine what might happen on such a day? Baldwin says:"Loving the folks in front of us is a spiritual practice we do one behalf of our own growth and on behalf of the healing needed all around us."

What might happen on any given day if we all….even if just a few of us made this our intention? This spiritual practice of loving each person who crosses our path, I believe, would cause a ripple of positive energy- of healing- to be sent out into the world, a ripple so great we might be surprised by its effect . Bottom line, how could it hurt?

Today, may you love those folks who walk into your life….and may that love be returned.


Maintain peace of mind.
Move at the pace of guidance.
Practice certainty of purpose.
Surrender to surprise.

The first four intentions or priciples of The Seven Whispers:Listening to the Voice of Spirit are followed by this: Ask for what you need and offer what you can.

I have difficulty asking for what I need. Do you? I’m not really sure why. Maybe to ask implies a lack in my abilities, maybe it is a "control thing". I am much better at offering what I can. Sometimes I even offer more than I should. There are probably gender differences, generational differences and birth order differences in how we live out such an intention, or try to.

I do know that when I am good at asking for what I need I have a much stronger feeling and understanding of community. There is a give and take in the asking and the offering that helps remind me that I am connected to a great web of creative and inspiring people who want also to offer what they can. The asking and offering provides an intricate dance that is messier than if I "just did it myself". But in the end that dance of giving and offering, taking and receiving, is more beautiful than my stiff, controlled, solo number.

The apostle Paul likens the people of faith, the church, to a body. The eye cannot do what the ear can, the foot needs the leg, the hand the arm, and so on. The hand offers what it can and asks the arm to support it. The eyes guide the feet from pitfalls. Each part asks for what it needs and offers what it can.

It’s a beautiful image, really, this connection of which we are all a part, even when we try to pretend as if we aren’t.

Today, I will ask for what I need and offer what I can. And I know it will be enough.


"My boat strikes something deep.
At first sounds of silence, waves.
Nothing has happened;
Or perhaps everything has happened,
And I am sitting in my new life."
Waking up this morning feeling under the weather threw a wrench into the works of my day. I don’t have time for this, I say to myself. But then I remember the fourth intention of Christina Baldwin’s Seven Whispers:Listening to the Voice of Spirit: Surrender to Surprise.

Surrender to Surprise…..I usually love surprises. I am always the person who saves the present I want to open most till last so I can savor the surprise of the gift. But not all surprises bring happiness. Suprises happen to us all the time…..sometimes we call them by other names- interruptions, tragedies, illness, loss. Surprises are really those situations that show up in our lives that we didn’t plan, over which we had not control .Surprises introduce experiences  that we might not have had the courage to choose, but they chose us.

Surrendering to Surprise can be a spiritual practice. Baldwin gives three responses that we can make when life throws a surprise our way: 1. Notice what is really happening. 2.Work with what is really happening. 3.Accept what is really happening.

The gift of any surprise is that we have the opportunity to learn things we may never have in any other way. In surrendering to the surprise, we can ask "what can I learn from this?" "How might I be transformed or changed by this?"

Inherent in this intention is the belief that we are held by a loving, compassionate Spirit who will be with us in the surrender, in the learning,in the joy and pain of growing. Depending on the relationship we have with the Holy is something we do with each breath we take. Choosing to live into and surrender to life’s surprises allows us to walk humbly in that relationship.

May the surprises of this day bring gifts of growth and openness to your life……

Why We Are Here

Maintain Peace of Mind……
Move at the Pace of Guidance….
These are the first two intentions in Christina Baldwin’s The Seven Whispers:Listening to the Voice of Spirit. The third intention is: Practice Certainty of Purpose. She basically says that this intention is our commitment to figuring out "why we are here" and "what we are going to do about it".

I believe this is a particularly difficult concept for 21st century people. We have so many messages coming at us telling us to be like other people, live like other people, work like other people, look like other people. It becomes nearly impossible to come to some clarity about what my true purpose is and if I can’t find clarity there, it makes it even more impossible to do something about it! I’ve spent alot of time trying to live and work like other people but the reality is that God only calls each of us to grow into our own best selves, to live up to our own potential not that of another.

Baldwin says"The purpose of life is not to maintain personal comfort; it’s to grow the soul."

To grow the soul……how can we spend time this day in a way that grows the soul? For each of us it will be different. For some it will take silence. For another, deep prayer or reading sacred words.  For another walking in the beauty of this winter day. For yet another, working at the Dignity Center helping those who live on life’s margins. For yet another it will be snuggling with a small child reading a story.

However we do it may God grant us wisdom and patience this day as we seek to come to know "why we are here" and "what we are going to do about it." As we make this an intention, may our souls grow!

Pace Yourself

Yesterday I mentioned that while looking for a book, I found a small card with the Seven Whispers written on it. These come from a book The Seven Whispers: Listening to the Voice of Spirit by Christina Baldwin. It is a powerful little book, one perhaps that Spirit led me to yesterday. The gift of her insights seem to be something I particularly need to be reminded of right now. I hope others might find them helpful also.

The second "whisper" or intention is "Move at the pace of guidance." This nudged me to think about what was guiding me these days. Urgency? Details? Restless energy? Expectations, mine or others?
Baldwin describes "pace" as the speed at which one might walk with a three-year-old, stopping every several steps to inspect the newest discovery. Wow! What a concept!

I remember once walking to work and noticing small drops of blood on the sidewalk. The drops of blood then became a paw print, probably a dog’s. I became very focused in that moment and actually began to think about how a child would follow the prints, creating a story about what had happened to the dog, where it had gone, fashioning both a happy and a sad ending to the story. It was in the shock of seeing the blood and in giving my attention to the moment that led to a very creative walk and what became a very exciting day. My normal, hurrying pace was replaced by the pace of a child, full of imagination and wonder.

Baldwin writes:" When we move at the pace of guidance, we have time to question and time to listen for answers before moving on. When we move at the pace of guidance , it occurs to us to wonder what plans the Divine might have for us, in the midst of the plans we have for ourselves."

What is guiding my pace today? What is guiding yours? Perhaps listening to the Voice of Spirit will cause us to walk differently, to stop and listen with our child ears, to notice with wide-eyed wonder. Perhaps we can, as Baldwin suggests, see "this day as a living, breathing, being of energy and power, with which we can develop a capacity to transcent the details?"

Today my prayer is to move at the pace of guidance…………