Seeking Truth

"Be a seeker of truth". My horoscope again. Yes, that was the final pithy line in an otherwise mundane horoscope for today. Truth. What is truth for you? For me it not simply the opposite of "lie". I often think of phrases like "speak your truth" or "speaking truth to power" which imply that while there are facts, things that can be proved or not, truth goes much deeper than that. For me truth implies something greater than fact, something personal, coming out of one’s experience. When I speak my truth it comes from being a white woman, privileged, educated, of a certain economic status and of a certain generation. My truth is influenced by the experiences of my life and my view of the world.

When I read today’s words meant to guide my day I was reminded of The Four-Fold Way of Angeles Arrien. Arrien, an anthropologist, author and educator wrote this book to offer some of the wisdom of indigenous cultures to the developed world. In the book she outlines the four messages that help humans to live in harmony and balance with our environment and our own inner nature. These messages are:"Show up and choose to present, Pay Attention to what has heart and meaning, Tell the truth without blame or judgment, and Be open to outcome."

For many months, as I went into what I anticipated might be a difficult meeting I would write these messages on the paper in front of me. Show up,Pay attention, Tell the truth, Let go of the outcome. It was a very helpful practice for me and helped me to move through the meeting in an authentic way, in a kinder, gentler way, and to allow the Spirit to do what work needed to be done in that setting.

At some point of that practice, it became clear to me that this is how Jesus moved through his life. He showed up….in small towns, in cities, in temples, on hillsides. He paid attention….to the powerful, the powerless, the needy, the boastful. He told the truth….his truth…from his understanding of what it meant to be a prophetic Child of God. And he was open to the outcome……even when it was frightening, tragic and led to death.

As we enter this Holy Week, may each of us, in our own way, come to know what it means to be seekers of truth……our own truth……as those who continue to tell this important story, as those who continue to live out this important story. May each of us come to know the story of Holy Week as one that leads us to greater truth.

Have a safe and blessed weekend……

Counting Blessings

We have a slate carving in our church entry that is engraved with words attributed to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. While it is unclear who actually said the words, they are known to be John Wesley’s rule by which he lived his life.

"Do all the good you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can as long as ever you can."

This piece of art has now been turned into some lovely cards that can be purchased as one way of helping to fund our Dignity Center, our ministry to transient and homeless individuals. I have one of the cards sitting on my desk and my eyes fall upon it with regularity. I hadn’t realized how often I must have been looking at it until -like a song stuck in your head- I noticed I was saying it over and over, like a mantra. When I think of all the inane songs that sometimes keep banging away in my brain, I am thankful for these words cycling around. As I walk the halls of the church, preparing this space and that for worship this week and Holy Week to follow….do all the good I can. Driving home tonight in rush hour traffic, inching my way onto the entrance ramp amid cranky drivers….in all the ways I can. Meeting a friend for coffee after I leave the office….in all the places I can. Making dinner, driving to a sporting event, spending time with my son and my husband… all the people I can. Going to sleep and awaking again in the morning… long as ever I can.

I should count my blessings, I suppose. These words- instead of something, say, like those in "Dancing Queen" or "It’s a Small World" which only tend to make you want to scream, might actually move me into a state of grace, into loving action. I can hope…….and pray.

Living Words

Congratulations to Sarah McCraney! Who is Sarah? I read of Sarah in a newsletter I recently received. She was honored for 65 years of perfect Sunday School attendance. She is 71 years old. Her attendance record had only been broken by the births of her three children – she took the Sundays after their births off. Except for those three Sundays,Sarah had  been in attendance at Sunday School since she was six years old.

Reading about this milestone, I was reminded of my Saturday nights as a child. After Saturday supper, both my parents would take out their Sunday School books to prepare for the following day. This practice made up the fabric of my childhood……playing hard on Saturday, grocery shopping, supper, studying the Sunday School lesson, baths….lights out. Sunday morning had its own special rhythm. It included going to church and then Sunday School for all of us. The Men’s class met in the back pew- still does. The Women’s Class met in a side alcove, they talked more, were "louder", so they needed privacy-they still meet in the same place.When I visit,  I  recognize some of the faces but there is also a great cloud of witnesses that linger in pew and alcove…my Dad among them.

It is a different time. People’s lives are busy. Saturday night is no longer a prep time for Sunday morning. Sunday morning is not always a time when the whole family heads to church. I won’t lament that. People find ways to nurture their spirits, learn the Bible stories, connect with church friends.

But there is something to be said for the weekly time set aside for Sunday School…for children and youth…but most especially for adults. Over the years the stories from scripture change as we change, they  take on greater meaning given our life circumstances, the state of the world. Over 65 years, I am sure that Sarah has seen the scriptures take on different meaning as her understanding and experience of God has deepened. There have been times when the lesson was only an exercise and other times a life saver. On those three Sunday’s she was absent from her spot, I am sure food arrived at her home probably accompanied by gifts for the newborn, prepared by her classmates. She was -and is- held in the Circle of Love that is her Sunday School class, those who share their faith, study the scriptures and become Living Words.

"Keep my words and store up my commandments with you; keep my teachings as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart." Proverbs 7:1-3

Too Much, Too Soon?

What a day yesterday was! It seemed unbelievable that it was over 80 degrees on March 26th. It was too warm for many…Minnesota blood warms up slowly. It was just right for others….those who have their summer clothes at the ready were out in full force. Whether it was too much, too soon for you or not, it was a wonderful opportunity to glimpse the things to come.

Here are a few things I noticed… grass cropping up along dirty freeways…..tulips pushing up through the soil…..a worm wiggling on the sidewalk…..a young boy peddling his bike minus the training wheels with his mother running close behind……toes painted red… cream being devoured……the smell of grills fired up…..robins, an eagle, gulls and other small birds……ants making their way indoors…a sense of promise and hope everywhere. And then there was the sky at sunset….orange,pink,purple,bright blue. Quite a show! 

Spring does that, doesn’t it? It spreads itself out with arms as wide as possible and seems to say: Here I am! Look at me! Am I not beautiful?! Spring is the extroverted season that says, "Notice me! I want your company."

As we approach Holy Week, it is good to remember that the word Lent actually means "spring". We walk these holy days toward the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus and the rebirthing of the Earth. What is our task? To notice…….to be mindful of how the Holy is calling us toward the resurrection places in our own lives…….to be awed by the continual rising of promise and newness……….and to be thankful.

Keep awake!

Sleeping Out

On Friday night as nearly 200 people of all ages gathered at Hennepin Church to stage an All Church Sleep Out, the goal was to raise awareness to the plight of the homeless on our streets. Another goal was to raise funds for the Dignity Center, an outreach ministry that offers help to brothers and sisters who live on the margins. We ate together, worshiped together, sang, built "homes" out of boxes, pitched tents. We listened to life stories of those who once lived on the streets, made sandwiches and care kits for Dignity Center guests.

It was a full night. People stayed awake keeping watch over those who slept outside, chatted with old and new friends inside, found comfortable and not so comfortable spots to sleep, placed a stone as a marker that they had participated in this moment, asked God to bless our intentions.

The evening was only a simulation….each of us knew we would leave, go to the warmth of shower and bed, eat a full, nutritional meal, find comfort in the riches of our privileged lives. It was the intention that seemed most important to me. Those who chose to participate had told people what they were doing, asked for pledges, prepared what they would bring, given up a Friday night, chosen discomfort, asked to be changed somehow by the experience, hoped to have their hearts opened to others in new ways.

As I awoke on Saturday morning, I made my way to the East entrance of the church.The fog was still hanging over the boxes and the tents.Sleepy, sore adults were gathering, seeking coffee. Children still filled with the excitement of sleeping in a strange place moved about in their "feety pajamas".The teenagers and young adults, more accustomed to longer, later hours and odd sleeping arrangements looked the most at home.

Earlier in the evening we had read of Jacob sleeping in the wilderness, taking a "stone for a pillow" , dreaming that the Holy One speaks to him, reminding him of the Divine Presence which travels with us wherever we go. In Genesis it says, "Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely God is in this place- and I did not know it!"

Unlike Jacob……I knew that God was in this place……and I was filled with gratitude….and humility.   

Tikkun alam

In the Jewish mystic tradition of Kabbalah, the Creation story begins with God’s creating the world by filling a "container" that will hold the universe. God continues to fill and doesn’t stop pouring until the container itself explodes and the universe-and God- gets broken into tiny pieces flying all over the place. In this tradition it is the work of humanity to take the shattered pieces and Tikkun alam,  "repair the world", remembering that God is also contained in the broken pieces.

I have always loved this Creation story. It speaks of a God who got carried away with Creation and the Holy that lives in even the tiniest of its pieces. It is probably why I have always loved certain kinds of art…..collage,weaving…anything that takes smaller pieces and brings them together to make something bigger, more whole, more beautiful.

The world has lost just such an artist-one who look the tiniest of pieces and created artistic order. In today’s paper the passing of Lillian Colton, famed State Fair seed artist, is reported. At ninety-five, Lillian spent years taking the tiniest of seeds and creating portraits and pictures using only natural elements. It was a Johnson family tradition to try to guess who Lillian would immortalize in seed for this year’s Fair. Lillian, who was often present at the Fair near, sometimes talked with viewers, other times worked diligently on yet another project.

I don’t know anything about Lillian’s motivation for her work. Growing up on a farm, it might have just been a natural thing to do. But I know for me, the beauty of it was somehow connected to "tikkun alam", the work of taking the small,individual shards of seed and bringing them together to create a wholer, fuller picture. These seeds-which contain the ability to grow and even bring life-are in truth filled with the goodness of God.

How might we go about the work of "repairing the world" if we remembered that indeed the Holy resides in each and every seed, atom,cell,plant,creature, human,relationship? How might we go about taking the smallest step in repairing the world if we remembered that in that action we also come to know God more wholly and fully as well?

Today, I give thanks for Lillian’s long, full life….and for her yearly reminder of how the tiniest of seeds can come together to make the fullest of pictures. May I, may each of us, have the courage to help "tikkun alam", in our own unique ways.

Have a blessed weekend…….


"Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror up to where you’re bravely working. Expecting the worst, you look, and instead, here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see. Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings."
                                                                                Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet, 1207-1273

I once thought it would be wonderful if life was always beautiful, joyful, easy. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer more than 13 years ago, I remember the days when I walked around with the feeling that my nerve endings were on the outside of  my body. Everything seemed so bright, so beautiful. I was so acutely attentive to being alive that it was intoxicating. I remember looking deeply into the eyes of the cashier at the grocery store, thankful for her smile, her kindness. She did not know me. She had no idea what was going on in my life. She did not know that my fear of dying was driving me to such total aliveness.

I learned over the next few months, that I couldn’t live like that all the time. Our bodies, our spirits, our minds, need more of the ebb and flow of emotion,energy and presence to life.  We frankly need the mundane and ordinary to provide a balance. Rumi is saying, I believe, that the Holy comes to us in both the closed fist and the outstretched hand…….but mostly in the softening place in between, the place that gives movement and flight.

Many times I have been paralyzed by clinching my fists too tightly, holding life too close. I have also been paralyzed by opening my hands too widely, taking on too much. In these ancient words I am reminded once again that growth in our life, particularly our spiritual life, is almost always "both/and" and very rarely "either/or".It is in that "both/and" place where the expanding and contracting brings about flight and our wings can take us to new and exciting walks with God.

Loving the World

I will readily admit to being a Mary Oliver" groupie." I look forward to her appearance in May here at Plymouth Congregational Church.  Her poetry has inspired me since I first read her work almost ten years ago. It was at about that time that I began to feel as if there were too many words coming at me….too much exposition….too much, too much. In walking the spiritual path, I was learning that less is more. At the same time so much of our church life is built around words…explaining, expounding. It was at that time that I was drawn to the simplicity, the brevity of poetry. Mary Oliver’s words became-and continue to be-sacred text for me.

Yesterday, I was in our church library and saw her newest book entitled Thirst. I opened it hungrily. I was not disappointed. The first poem called Messenger began with this line:"My work is loving the world." Nearly all of her poetry reflects this love and her sense of vocation. Her sparse words gives voice to my understanding of my own work……loving the world. Loving the planet….its beauty, its fragility,its sheer gift. Loving humanity…my family,friends, strangers….with our similarities, differences,disagreements, consensus. Loving the Holy……that which connects us all.

I often forget that this is my work. These past few days I’ve been in an unexplainable funk. I’ve mostly been feeling despair at the state of the world and a certain sense of powerlessness and voicelessness. Oliver’s words to me:" Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished."

So today I will try to remember… stand still, to be astonished by the on-going nature of Creation, the spring that is waiting to be, the goodness that sometimes lurks in the shadows, the Holy that holds the beautifully intricate Web, lovingly, hopefully.

Today I will remember my work.

Half and Half

Happy Vernal Equinox! Today most of the world experiences equal amounts of light and dark…12 hours of sunlight, 12 hours of darkness….half and half. It is a pivotal point, a point of balance. Some say it is the day when an egg will stand balanced upright. Who knows?

Whether eggs will balance or not, it is certainly a day when we can recognize the beauty and order of the Universe. It is reason to be thankful and hopeful that, while other activities of humanity may be spinning in ways that seem out of control, the work of Creation and Creator continue to move with purpose and intention….heading toward spring, the rebirth of the Earth, the beauty of color returning after cold and snow, gray and clouds.

J. Philip Newell in Celtic Treasure:Daily Scriptures and Prayers has this version of the Genesis story:"On the fourth day God said,"Let there be lights in the heavens," So the wind carried fire on its wings and scattered light through the skies. There was a great light to rule the day and a gentler light to rule the night. And there were glittering galaxies beyond number. The sun, the moon and the stars moved in harmony. They guided the seasons. They marked the days and the years. They shone on earth as signs of heaven. God saw that it was good."

Great and Gentle Light, today we are held in your balance. As we move through this day, washing dishes, driving carpool, meeting deadlines, all the ordinary events of our lives, we move in a harmony unseen, yet guided, marking our days and our years, shining the light of heaven upon us…….and it is very, very good.


I have reason to travel along Douglas Avenue with great regularity. Driving from Hennepin Church toward Lake of the Isles, on my way to hospital calls, nursing homes, or simply to eat my lunch by the lake. Sitting in the sun, watching joggers, walkers, and geese, makes lunchtime seem like a vacation…short but still a nice break. Along Douglas, every so many feet there is a yellow sign that boldy reads "BUMP" and signals the wise and cautious to slow down…..a bump in the road is about to appear. Sure enough, a raised area in the road of about four to five feet causes the car to bounce, thud, or make generally angry noises if not approached with care.

Today as I was coming back from a peaceful lunch, I was caught by an idea…..wouldn’t it be grand if life had "BUMP" signs. Bump…..a change in your life is about to happen. Bump…..illness ahead. Bump….argument on the horizon. Bump……relationship on the skids. Bump…… can fill in the blank. It would be nice to get a really direct message that a bump in the road -or life- is about to happen. But it rarely works that way. Instead, we are caught off guard, with little planning and find ourselves floundering with the "what now?", "what next?" "what if?" that follow the bumps.

Bumps cause us to slow down long enough to know where we truly are….to live in the present moment….to take a deep breath, plant our feet, become grounded again. Those "what" questions can be the place of real creativity. They can make the bumps seem almost like gifts. The bumps can be the wake up call we need to change course, think in a new way, try a different tactic, or simply stand still for awhile.

The sciptures are filled with people responding to life’s bumps and bruises, life’s twists and turns. Think Moses….Esther….Jesus……Mary…….all living faithful lives, being open to God’s movement, caught up in the dance of the Holy Spirit. Easy lives? No. Faithful? Yes.

My mother used to say "life is not always fair or easy,but it is always worth it." I think she’s right…bumps and all.