"I find it shelter to speak to you."  Emily Dickinson

An acquaintance gave me one of the daily calendars with poems, inspirations and sweet little drawings meant, I believe, to start your day in a positive, lovely place. This Emily Dickinson quote appeared on June 21st. I routinely miss looking at the calendar for several days in a row, only to read quickly, tear off the day and dispose of the sheets. When I came upon this quote, I tore it off and tucked it into one of the books I am currently reading.

I have no idea in what context Ms. Dickinson made this statement or to whom. All I know is it is a statement that holds so much……trust, intimacy, understanding, reverence, respect, comfort, security, to name a few. What a compliment to have someone say this to you!

Saving the quote has caused me to think of the people in my life who provide shelter when I am with them. I have several friends I can put in that category….those who spread their arms wide, listen with pure hearts and open minds, those who don’t judge but simply hold my words, my very presence, with love. Certainly many in my family create a shelter when we speak with one another. We listen with ears that have been informed by knowing the subtle nuances only partners, mothers, fathers,siblings and children recognize after many years of living together.

This image of shelter reminds me of Psalm 91 and the song "On Eagle’s Wings" that is based on the words of the psalm. "You who live in the shelter of God, who abide in the shadow of the Holy. You say to God, You are my refuge, the one I trust." The psalm tells of someone who is in danger in countless ways. But when the writer remembers this shelter of the One who surrounds their life, this presence who hears their voice, they are filled with peace and trust that their voice is heard, they are held in love.

Shelter……it is one of the basic needs of humans. Whether built of stone or wood, cloth or mud, we all need shelter. We also need the shelter of those who hear our stories, witness to our lives, listen deeply to our voice. May each of us know this shelter of another. May each of us be this kind of shelter for another.

"And God will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of God’s hand."

Enjoy the sunshine this weekend……………………

Soul Friend

"Listen to your life. All moments are key moments." Frederick Buechner

Once a month, I go into a quiet, beautiful little room with another person. We sit in soft, comfortable chairs. She lights a candle and we sit in silence for some time. She welcomes the Holy One into our midst and she prays a short prayer. Then I begin to tell her what has been happening in my life since we last met. She listens. She listens not to try to help me fix some psychological or emotional problem but to help me hear how the Sacred has been at work in my life. She asks a question here and there. She makes an observation. She might quote scripture or another sacred text. We end our time in prayer. I leave, sometimes with as many or more questions as I came with and sometimes feeling as if I’ve had the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. It is holy time.

Today we call such a relationship, spiritual direction. The ancient Celts called this relationship, "annam cara" or soul friend. It is a great gift to have someone listen to your life. This soul friend relationship is different than a partner or spouse, even another friend. Those people hear us with a different kind of love, a different kind of listening based on shared history, shared life experiences. A spiritual director is someone trained to listen deeply for how God is moving in the life of another. More importantly they are trained to help the speaker really hear how God is moving in their life.

In our fast paced, deadline based world it is so easy to keep moving only hearing the swoosh of traffic, the background banter of the radio, the flip and flop of feet rushing by. Our  monkey chatter brains keep us moving form idea to idea, thought to thought, fear to fear, anxiety to anxiety. It is easy to believe that God is not in it with us.

Each month my soul friend helps me stop,look and listen to the pulls, pushes and gentle nudges of the Divine.  She helps "keep me honest" in how I choose to live faithfully. She often prays that God will meet me "at my workbench". I always grin inwardly at that image. It makes my work seem much more physical that it is, much more earthy.

For all who are sitting at their workbench,whatever your work may be, may the Holy One sit beside you and bring you peace.


I am feeling troubled this morning. I have been privy to a deep unkindness and it is nagging me, causing me to stew and fret about what I should do, what I should say, how I should be present to it all. Once again, I am reminded of how powerfully we are connected as human beings, sometimes even when we don’t know it. One person says or does something in a mean spirit and its ripples flow out into so many other lives. I am reminded of the Native American concept of the Sacred Web of Life……one pluck and the entire web vibrates, sometimes for great good and other times for irreversible damage.

Each day we make choices about what we will do, what we will say, how we will behave in any given situation. We go from a meeting to a phone call, sometimes unconsciously brushing past another person with little regard or awareness for what may be going on in their lives. We flippantly make a comment……or try to make a joke…..only to cause hurt and pain to another. In anger, we say things we may later regret.

As the created beings who have the gift of language, we are a powerful lot. If only we might use the power of our words for goodness, for kindness, for instilling hope and generosity and ………genuine love, genuine peace. What difference might that make in the world?

The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes in Creating True Peace:Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community and the World: "We (can) become aware that our mind is like a garden that contains all kinds of seeds: seeds of understanding, seeds of forgiveness, seeds of mindfulness, and also seeds of ignorance, fear and hatred. We realize that, at any given moment, we can behave with either violence or compassion, depending on the strength of these seeds within us.When the seeds of anger, violence and fear are watered in us several times a day, they will grow stronger……When we know how to cultivate the seeds of love, compassion and understanding in us every day, those seeds become stronger, and the seeds of violence and hatred will become weaker and weaker. We know that if we water the seeds of anger, violence and fear in us, we will lose our peace and our stability. We will suffer and we will make those around us suffer. But if we cultivate the seeds of compassion, we nourish peace within us and around us. With this understanding, we are already on the the path of creating peace."

Note to Troubled Self……make sure you are watering the right seeds.

Rest Area

One of my favorite Rest Areas is the first one as you cross the Minnesota/Iowa border into Iowa. It is a wonderful red barn. It has the usual amenities….rest rooms, soda machines, a dispenser with really bad coffee, display maps and information about Iowa. (I will note the unfortunate addition of a casino that now sits very near by, also in a "barn" building.) The big, red barn says clearly "This is who we are. This is what we are about." People drive up in their cars, vans, and RVs,  move in and out, on their way to or from….someplace. But first they needed a rest.

Rest Areas are often placed in a particularly pleasing spot along the highway, a spot that seems to say "When you remember our state, remember this." Many are well groomed with picnic areas and places to walk dogs and other travel companions. Children can stretch their legs, run around and get their sillies out before they need to be strapped back into their car seats for the next miles of a trip.Stiff bodies, too long constrained, can remove shoes and let toes wiggle in the grass.

We all need Rest Areas… for all the logical reasons….a bathroom break, a cool drink, a hit of caffeine. But in the larger scheme of things, we all need Rest Areas. Those places where we can stop and slow down, rethink our schedule, perhaps cut back on this leg of the journey or decide to speed up to get someplace sooner, even choose to change drivers.

Often along the highway we will get the warning…."Rest Area: Exit Two Miles. Next Rest 38 Miles." It would be great if life worked that way. Clear direction about where the rests will be, when we can take them and when they will not be available. I don’t know about you but it has rarely been that clear for me. So,I guess the lesson is we simply need to visit the Rest Area when we can, when we need to, when it seems wise and healthy…….unsure of when the next rest will come.

Are you in need of a Rest Area? It is supposed to be a hot, humid day. A good day to think about a rest. Need permission? Here it is. Rest.

"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished and rested from all the work. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work done in Creation."   Genesis 2:2-3

Harvesting Wind

Driving down Interstate 35 through Iowa, looking out into the corn and soybean fields, one cannot help but be impressed by the wind turbines standing straight and tall on the horizon. There is a majestic nature to their very presence, the blades turning slowly, making the watcher aware of the invisible……wind. I cannot even fathom how they really work.They are pure mystery to me and, it seems, pure economic and ecological genius to those who own the land on which they stand.  The whole idea of ‘harvesting wind’ to create energy, electricity, is a powerful concept, a powerful metaphor.

In the Pentecost story told in Acts, the Holy Spirit is described as a rushing wind. That wind blows through the people and their lives are forever changed, their community is infused with energy….. electricity….. and their faith becomes a source that draws people to them and fuels their lives. They move from being a group of ordinary people to an extraordinary community. In a sense, they also were ‘harvesting wind’.

Do you remember those little pinwheels you had as a child? A straw or stick with a colorful paper or plastic wheel which you’d blow on or hold into the wind, watching the air catch the colors and turn them into a spinning, whirling blur. It was such a simple toy….but what fun! The invisible source…..sometimes caused by your own hot air….caused this static thing to become beautiful movement.

Perhaps that is what the Spirit longs to be for us…..that invisible Source that causes the static places in our lives, in our communities, in our world to become beautiful movement. Like the wind turbines hovering on the edges of our vision, or the pinwheel in our hands, the Spirit continues to offer energy for our lives. All we need do is remember to go to that Source.

" The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is
with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3


My Mother likes to tell the story of how, when hugely pregnant with me, she sat down and ate strawberries….all the strawberries my Father and Grandfather had just picked. She couldn’t stop herself, she says, and attributes this hormonal induced binge to my passionate love of this early summer fruit.

I have just returned from spending a bit of time on my knees in a form of prayer…..kneeling on straw, my hands moving swiftly and firmly under the green leaves of the strawberry rows, harvesting this precious red, berry. Carried out to the field by tractor and wagon, we pickers lined up, our brown waxed boxes under our arms, waiting to be assigned our row for kneeling and plucking. Instructions:" Knees are the only way to go. Don’t try to bend over….you’ll only hurt your back. Leave a little of the stem and crown on the berry it helps them last longer. Enjoy…..pick as much as you want and call for another box when you need one. When you are finished, plant a red flag so the next pickers will know where to begin."

We each walked toward our row with anticipation. As my friend and I picked, we talked, continuing the conversation we began in the car. The longer we picked, our "neighbor pickers" began to join in the conversation. We laughed and talked as our fingers became stained with the juice of the berries. In less than an hour, I had three full boxes of luscious, ripe sweetness. I stood up from my row and saw how very little I had traveled, how much was left for another person. I  think I could have kept picking all day.

But now the work really begins. These gifts of the Earth must be washed….gently, of course. Jam will be made, perhaps a pie, and others will be frozen for a time in January when I will reach into the freezer and pull out…. a memory of June 22nd, a cool morning, a hint of rain in the air, a good friend at my side, fruit falling quietly into my palm.

Still others must be eaten…..right now.   After all, the apple, or in this case the strawberry doesn’t fall far from the vine!

"God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And it was so. God saw everything that was made, and indeed, it was very,very good.’"  Genesis 1

Have a fabulous weekend……………


"Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your weary souls."  Jeremiah 6:16

Last weekend I had two very different experiences of walking. I had reason to visit the Mall of America, the closest mall to our home. Now I am not one of the people who dislikes MOA…it is, what it is…and I do the majority of my "mall" shopping there. I did,however, become aware of how difficult it is to actually walk slowly there, to just "window shop".  The mall walkers, many of whom are walking for exercise, set a certain pace as they weave in and out of shoppers. The shoppers themselves also walk at a quick pace, the direction of the walkers divided just like the highway….right and left, not much crossing over. You go against the traffic at your own peril. It seems a shame in some ways. I know that the window dressers have spent great time and effort creating the window pictures, hoping, of course to lure us in. It seems lost in the pace of it all.

The next morning I went to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market and had a completely different experience. Those who walked the aisles stopped frequently, to talk, buy,ask questions or just to look, to admire vegetables, a baby in a stroller. The flowers were so beautiful, brilliant with color, almost impossible to take in….which may have been why there is so much stopping and starting. Sellers offered tastes of sweet peas, fresh strawberries,chocolate, organic cheese and fresh egg rolls. Another bottleneck occurred around those booths. No one seemed to mind. They either waited for a taste or till the human traffic picked up its pace again. The pace of walking at the market fit in the category of "moseying". No one seemed to have much of any place they needed to be……except right where they were.

I’m not sure what to make of these different experiences. It was just something I noticed, something I was aware of in the often unconscious act of walking. The Mall certainly has its place in the grand scheme of things and I will continue to shop there. But I know I really prefer those paths that connect me with the work of those whose hands have been plunged deep into the richness of soil…. those whose lives, connect with the ancient ways of seed and growth, goodness and bounty, food and beauty. It is there I find rest for my soul. 

Anticipating Solstice

"Brother Sun, I greet you, companion of my day. You are icon of the burning God. You are creature of her blazing hand. You are messenger of her flaming love. You are child of her scorching fire. I offer you my shadows. I turn my face to you like every greening thing. Search me with your fervent gaze, that I may blaze and yet not be consumed, thou burning fire, thou Brother Sun."  Jan L. Richardson

Heads up, literally,…..tomorrow is Summer Solstice, June 21st. What are your plans? Tomorrow marks the end of spring, the beginning of summer, the longest day of the year. It would be easy to let this day slip by like any other. It is, after all Wednesday, that mid-point between last weekend and next weekend. Instead I invite you to celebrate this day as many will around the world….those not so tied to clocks, the busyness of work, those not so removed, perhaps,  from their connection with the miracles of Creation.

For so many years, particularly in the church, we didn’t speak of Summer Solstice, this day held sacred by humans since before Christianity or institutionalized religion. This happened for all kinds of reasons. Over the last decades, however, we have  ‘re-discovered’ the gift of this celebration. This day, when we experience the most Light and the least darkness, can be an opportunity to stop and reflect on where that Light has shone in your life. It can be a time to take stock of the blessings that have graced your daily path and to give thanks.

Tomorrow, if you were to walk outside at noon, the Sun will be nearly directly overhead. You will have a very small shadow… will be bathed in light. It might be a good time to take a moment to offer gratitude for the ways your life has been blessed. Friends…………work….. creativity….home…. beauty….play…. adventure……travel…. faith…..hope?  It can be a small but powerful act. Absorb the warmth of this offering of light and greening, growing power that is pure gift.

The Celts, who joyfully celebrate the Solstice, would offer a prayer of greeting on this day, this one written by Caitlin Matthews: "Glory of the Day-Star, hail! Lifter of the Light, Burnisher of the Sky. Gifts of love to earth are bringing, Summer’s shimmer, dew’s delight. Dancing be the heart within us, open be our souls to bliss, Courage vanquish every shadow, Greet midsummer with a kiss"

Happy Solstice!.


Alright. I admit it. I stole it. I was standing in line at my favorite bakery and I was perusing the bulletin board announcing yoga classes, daycare openings, a yard sale, and several notices of upcoming neighborhood meetings. Nestled among them was a postcard for The Space, a gallery and creative workshop in New Richmond, Wisconsin. The postcard was for an exhibit that actually happened in May entitled "A Place at the Table". The question that followed the title was "If your life was a table, what would your chair look like?"

So, I couldn’t help myself. I took down the card….it was outdated anyway and would soon be thrown in the trash. On the card was a chair, resting on velvety, green moss, surrounded by grapevines, that wound up the legs and back of the chair. The seat of the chair was covered with nails. Yikes!

If my life was table, what would my chair look like? I love questions like this. It probably stems from my earlier life in the theater where I spent countless hours in class being a sizzling piece of bacon or a gently flowing stream. These kinds of questions allow us to open our imagination wide. They require that we don’t think in a linear way but in metaphor, to think playfully rather than logically. So…………..

I would hope that my chair would be comfortable, soft, yet sturdy, built to last. I think I would choose a deep green upholstery with maybe a tiny understated leaf pattern……to represent growth and hide the dirt. By this time in my life I would like the chair to be worn on the arms, where my hands had rested and those of my children. Maybe the arms would be a little soiled, a memory of a graham cracker or an apple juice spill. The chair would have to also be a rocker…..there is nothing more calming and centering than the smooth glide of a rocking chair mirroring our heartbeat, our first womb home. This rocker would also have to be roomy….so someone else could join me if they needed to….or if I needed them to. My chair would need to be near a window so I could see all the seasons unfolding,watch the birds at the feeder, the chipmunks playing,snow and rain falling, and give thanks for each. My green, leafy, velvety chair would also have to be light enough for me to move now, when my arms are strong but also easy in years to come when they have lost some of their power .My chair would have known laughter, some tears, a sleepless night here and there, a lost dream or two and lots of miracles. It would have been present for all the important holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, all of our birthdays, and would hold in its fabric the love that family and friends have shared.

It’s Tuesday. Kind of an ordinary day. So, let me ask you a question. If your life was a table, what would your chair look like?

Gospel Stories

"Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that to go on living I have to tell stories, that stories are the one sure way I know to touch the heart and change to world."   Dorothy Allison

Gospel…..meaning ‘good news". We refer to the first four books of the Christian scripture as the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In these books, these authors, tell of the ‘good news’ of Jesus through their own life experience and world view. Scholars will point out the similarities, differences and obvious "agenda" of each of these writers. Make no mistake about it….these are as much their stories as they are the story of Jesus and his followers.

Over the weekend I was privileged to help host Jeffrey Barnes, an actor and playwright who tells his own good news story.. His show Remember Who Made You was staged at Hennepin and as I sat through the performances I was once again struck with how each of us, whether we realize it or not, carries our own gospel story waiting to be shared with the world. We each have experiences that illuminate our understanding and experience of how the Holy One has moved in our lives. Unlike Jeffrey, we don’t always tell our story to an audience……and often not even to ourselves.

Human beings are innate storytellers. We need look no further than the walls of caves adorned with animals, scenes of battles and conquests, elaborate dances around fires, scenes of sacrifice and honoring, to know it is true. We have stories to tell and the world needs them…..especially our ‘good news’ stories.

Each day we can hear, if we want to, the unfolding life story of countless celebrities and their struggles and strife. I am not sure how helpful that really is, to us or to them. But each person has their own experience of those over-reported, always dramatic stories and if in some way good comes from hearing about these famous people, may that good be blessed.

My question is, what about the rest of us not-so-famous people? What about my gospel story, your gospel story? How will the Gospel According to Bob, or Susan, or… fill in the blank.….be told? Whether you write it down in a journal or simply make a mental note of how your story is unfolding, your experience is important. Whether you tell it to a friend or to a stranger,it is a story that needs to be told. Telling our stories, with all their struggles and pain, doubt and questioning, revelation and insight, helps us weave ourselves together as a people, help us not only to remember who made us, but to remember who we are. Telling our Gospel According to………..touches hearts and has the power to change the world.

Can we hear your story….please?