Today is a day to be savored… sounds as if the next several days will be similar…. beautiful sunshine, brilliant blue skies, grass freshly painted green from the recents rains, temperatures not too hot, not too cold. Camelot days…..days to savor. Of course, each day is a gift, we know this. Twenty-four wonderful hours to be held gently, to be experienced in all their fullness. But days like today are meant to be enjoyed slowly, with intention, with our eyes…and our hearts…wide open.

The fact that we will be receiving these beautiful days on a holiday weekend seems we are, as some of my friends from the South say,  "twice blessed." The beauty of the weather and the extra time to enjoy them. Twice blessed…..what a wonderful statement.

When I was a senior in high school I became spellbound with the poetry of e.e. cummings. I loved his writing and the fact that he wrote using only lower case letters. This was not, however, taken lightly by my English teacher when I began handing in papers following his lead. But it surely must have been a day like this that led E(dward) E(stlin) to have written the following famous words:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky, and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday, this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

I offer these words to you….perhaps they can be a prayer to begin your morning or end your day. These are days to savor……may we take hungry, thirsty, intentional, grateful bites.

Have a fabulous weekend…………

Off Center

I picked up a recent issue of Women’s Press, a local newspaper dedicated to women writers, women’s issues and advertising targeted toward women’s products and services. One of the columns featured the question: "What pulls you off center?" I found it to be a compelling question. What does pull me off center? What is ‘center’? What gets me back to that center?

I have noticed that the rhythm of my week often begins ‘off center". Mondays….this is probably true for most people…may begin fairly centered but as the day progresses, the centeredness I may have achieved on Sunday becomes clogged with lists, details, things to be done, and I can find myself starting to spin off center. Monday flows directly into Tuesday which, for me, usually holds lots of meetings in which my lists grow longer, the details thicker, until by Tuesday evening I can feel as if my head is twice as large as it was on Sunday…I’m ready to topple over with the weight of it. Does this ever happen to you?

Over time I have come to know that this is just how it is, how it will be, and have adopted some self-talk to "let it be". I rest into it, not fighting the flow of it. Wednesday becomes the day when I can make my way systematically through what needs to be done and usually, by day’s end, I have waded through the piles and righted myself. Ahhhh…..

That feeling of being off center can come at any time….when things don’t go as planned, when illness strikes, when ‘things’ are lost or misplaced, when children are upset or disappointed,and on and on. Deep breathing always helps…..getting in touch with my life Source….slowing down my accelerated heart rate in the process….and coming to rest in the Great Land of Perspective. In this land, my center is calm and steady, sure in the words of Julian of Norwich that "all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." Perhaps not how I planned….or how I wanted….but well.

What pulls you off center? How do you right yourself?

"Heal our inner sight, O God, that we may know the difference between good and evil. Open our eyes that we may see what is true and what is false. Restore us to wisdom that we may be well in our own souls. Restore us to wisdom that we and our world may be well." J. Philip Newell

Guest House

"This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond." Rumi

Lately, I have been a part of several circles that have been discussing the concept of hospitality, of welcoming, particularly as it relates to the church. If you are a part of a church community, you know that, like most communities, they are often organized around similarities rather than differences. We tend to hover with our own kind. It helps us feel safe, right, and is, frankly, less messy than inviting everyone to the party. There are less arguments over theology, less conflict over how finances are distributed, fewer questions about who gets to do what, and most importantly, we all agree on which hymns are best. This arrangement makes life simpler.

Unfortunately, this may not have been what Jesus had in mind. At least for those in the Christian church who find our model for leadership in this radical proponent of hospitality, we are missing the mark by sticking with sheep whose fleece is just like ours. If we follow his lead, we’d be opening our doors to the lepers, the prostitutes, the outcasts, the poor, the homeless, the odd, those possessed by all manner of demons. It was his way…or some might say, The Way.

Welcoming is risky business, but then again Jesus was about risky business. Inviting every person into our community brings both gift and challenge, but ultimately an opportunity for a fuller picture of the face of God. Inviting every experience into the ‘guest house’ of our lives opens us to growth, to a new way of encountering the Holy, to becoming the person we were meant to be.

What kind of newness is knocking at your door this day? What unexpected visitor has come for tea? The invitation is to welcome them in…..all of them…and be open to their guiding. To do so may lead to ‘some new delight’!


It is a holy week…..actually twelve days……here in Minnesota. It is the week of the Great-Minnesota -Get- Together, otherwise known as the State Fair. Now I recognize that not all people see it as a holy week…some find it annoying, tacky, silly…and still others don’t even notice that it’s going on. But, for me and my family, we would be there every day if we could. In fact my husband and I love the Fair so much that we have dreamed of taking vacation and working at the Fair….all twelve days!

Now before you get a misguided view of my love for the Fair, let me explain. It is not the thrills and chills of the Midway that attracts me or even so much the food on a stick. I am, instead, drawn by the cows and horses, the goats and sheep, the pigs and even the amazingly huge boar. And that is not to say anything of all those fresh faced teenagers who care for these fantastic animals. Curled up on sleeping bags next to their wards, applying makeup while sitting on a hay bale, playing cards as a thousand pound beast sits at your feet, how can a person not fall in love with that?

In the horticulture building, I could spend hours poring over the giant, orange pumpkins, the perfect, purple eggplants, the shiny red, ripe tomatoes. The honey room…how is it possible to have so many different colors?….pulls me in with its sweetness. And the row after row of luscious jams and jellies, perfect pickles swimming in vinegar, green beans, miniature pickled corn, all back lit to create a palette of brilliant color that dazzles the eye.

The relationship of human to seed, of human to egg, of creature to Creator, is the message of the Fair for me. Those who offer their animals, vegetables,and fruits to the Fair, do so with at least a tacit understanding that they are a part of the vast miracle that is Creation. Most notably, they do this on our behalf…we city dwellers who may have forgotten where our food comes from,how soil and seed come together to keep us alive, how animals sacrifice their very lives for our sustenance. During the Fair, if we allow ourselves, we are reminded of the great cycles of life of which we all are a part. You can’t put that on a stick!

Barbara Kingsolver in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:A Year of Food Life understands this kind of amazing connection." From the outlaw harvests of my childhood, I’ve measured my years by asparagus. I sweated to dig it into countless yards I was destined to leave behind, for no better reason than that I believe in vegetables in general, and this one in particular. Gardeners are widely known and mocked for this sort of fanaticism. But other people fast or walk long pilgrimages to honor the spirit of what they believe makes our world whole and lovely. If we gardeners can, in the same spirit, put our heels to the shovel, kneel before a trench holding tender roots, and then wait three years for an edible incarnation of the spring equinox, who’s to make the call between ridiculous and reverent?"

State Fair…ridiculous or reverent….you decide.


A couple of weeks ago I heard a story on MPR about a poet named Sally Crabtree who lives in England. Sally was hired by the National Rail Service to soothe the tempers of those who wait for sometimes tardy trains. Her work is to show up on a train platform, set up a poet-tree….a metal tree that has various and sundry items hanging from it…and invite bystanders to choose something. She then proceeds to entertain those waiting for the train by creating an impromptu poem about their item, perhaps people standing by, and what ever else strikes her fancy.  It is difficult to imagine something happening like this in the U.S., especially on purpose, at the direction of big business, to somehow make the patron feel better while at the same time perhaps being inconvenienced. "The purpose of poetry is to delight." says Crabtree.

I loved that statement and I loved the idea that someplace, someone is being employed to ‘delight’. What a glorious goal for one’s work! How might our work be done if, at least one of our goals, was to delight….those who walk into our office, our store, our restaurant, our home, our church? "Allow me, if you would, to delight you with this proposal." "Please, try this soup…I hope you find it delightful". "Welcome to worship today. May you find something that lifts your soul and delights your life." You get the picture.

Crabtree’s notion about poetry’s purpose is correct, I believe, but I also think poetry draws people in because it is a minimalist art form. In a world that throws more words at us that we can take in, where talk radio and talk television shows drone on and on about a subject for numbing hours, to come face to face with a few words that express our deepest feeling seems like a life preserver tossed to a drowning person.

So, today, I hope to be a person of few words…but well chosen ones…words that might perhaps bring delight to somone who needs them most.

"Enough. These few words are enough. If not these words, this breath. If not this breath, this sitting here. This opening to the life we have refused again and again until now. Until now." David Whyte


There are few words to describe the heat of a southern Ohio summer. Visiting home these past few days reminds me of the power of heat in the nineties with a heat index that pushes the experience into the one hundreds. I know there are places where it is hotter, more humid, but the last two days have reminded me why people are meant to slow down, rest, drink plenty of ice cold(sugary) drinks and take an afternoon nap……it takes a lot of energy to exist in the heat!

I have fond memories of my great-grandfather’s farm,especially in summer. It stood in the middle of a large plot of land, cornfields for as far as the eye could see. The approach to it was a long lane that was flanked by a canopy trees. The house itself was a fairly traditional two story white farmhouse. Behind the house stood the "out buildings"….the chicken coop where I would help collect eggs, a shed for feed, a two seater-outhouse, all facing a grape arbor that spanned the length of all the buildings. I loved running down the path of that arbor….vines and grapes climbing high above my head… felt the main aisle of a grand cathedral.

But the best building of all was the summer kitchen. It stood at the entrance to the arbor, white wood, a screen door that creaked and slapped shut as people came in and out. In the summer kitchen, was a wood-fed green and yellow cookstove and an icebox. The purpose of the summer kitchen was to keep the house cool during hot, humid, southern Ohio days so sleeping would be easier. Children and adults would sit around the table, talking, drinking sweaty glasses of sweet iced tea and eating a hot midday meal…..another tradition despite the wisdom of such a meal. Then at some point in the afternoon, my cousin and I would be taken inside for naps, our bodies exhausted with running and playing in the heat. My napping place was the daybed in the dining room. From it I could see my great-grandfather’s brown horehair chair in a corner of the living room. Next to his chair was the rack with his pipes and the smell of cherry tobacco wafted into where I was to begin my afternoon sleep. I remember feeling like a princess on that bed.

Microwaves have now replaced a summer kitchen and people don’t eat a hot meal at noon in summer, if ever. But the need to slow down, to give in to the heat of a summer day, still has its appeal and wisdom. There will be many days ahead for striving, for getting things done, for seeing how many hours of work can be packed into a single day. But for now, I plan to drink plenty of iced tea, read a good book, let me eyes flutter a bit in the heat and finally give in to a nap. Seems the sensible thing to do.

Oversize Load

Traveling across Interstates 70 & 74 the past two days, I have been surrounded by semitrucks carrying any number of cargo with large, bright yellow signs declaring "Oversize Load". As if this wasn’t completely obvious! There were the usual trucks carrying other trucks and cars on their way to dealerships. There were those with half of a trailer home…..followed a mile or so later by the matching half. There were trucks carrying large signature yellow and green John Deere farm equipment and those carrying other large earth movers in the traditional screaming shade of yellow. One truck carried several small military humvees, painted only a dull light brown, waiting, I guess, for the rest of their camouflage to be added at another location.

The most interesting and surprising were the trucks that carried the grain silos, tipped horizontically, shining silver bullets, zooming at 70 miles per hour down the open road. The irony of them moving at such a speed through all the corn and soybean fields made me laugh. Their sisters and brothers, all grounded and full watched their movement from the farms nearby.

In addition to the large sign which read "Oversize Load", each truck was decorated with flashing yellow and red lights. Red flags jutted out from the cargo, waving frantically in the freeway wind. The silos, in particular, were accompanied by smaller jeeps,one leading the way,another bringing up the rear, lights flashing. They seemed so small and helpless as heralds of these large silver cylinders.

Oversize Load….I think of all the people I know who are carrying more than seems reasonable these days. Friends who are dealing with illness and uncertainty. Still others who are heavy with worry over children and grandchildren. There are those who shoulder the responsibility of aging parents, difficult jobs, dwindling resources. Teenagers and young adults walking into a world that throws so much, often too much, at them at one time.

At times like this, wouldn’t it be great if people were surrounded by flashing lights and signs saying "Oversize Load", be gentle and kind with me today? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were smaller vehicles leading the way and following to protect and keep us safe from everything else on the road? Wouldn’t it be helpful if those around needed to slow down a bit and become aware of all that others were carrying?

Given the fact that we can’t decorate ourselves with flashing or warning signs, maybe the best I can do today is to be aware….of the eyes of those I meet, the way shoulders are rounded, the tone of voices, the energy projected….and remember that some are carrying an Oversize Load. I’ll try to give enough space, perhaps even a little protection, say a prayer, be kind, generous and careful. Hopefully, it will make a difference.


"You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-over and over announcing your place in the family of things."   Mary Oliver

Over the last week I have seen two large flocks of geese flying in formation, beginning their migratory process. Seeing them is a reminder of so much….the end of summer’ beauty…the descent into fall and winter…shorter days…more darkness..snow and cold. It is also a reminder of the patterns of movement, not only for those that fly, but also those that take wing.

We leave today to return our son to college…a migration of sorts. All over the country, parents are loading massive amounts of stuff into their cars and heading off to places near and far. The children they have known in new ways over the past several months are heading back to be changed and shaped in still different ways by new knowledge, new friends, triumphs, disasters and the sheer passage of time. It is a bittersweet journey. Our hope is that they will find ways to "love what they love", that they will open themselves to the world that "offers itself to your imagination". We hope that in the formation in which they fly, they will be a leader at the head of their "v" formation and will also know the comfort of flying in the safety of those that support them, those that protect them from too much wind and rain.  We hope that their experiences will be more exciting than harsh.

These are the hopes that parents have held for hundreds of years, some of the ones that were held for us. In those hopes, in that freedom, lives the reality that we know many homes…our birth home…our school home…our spiritual home….our creative home….we are always heading toward some new kind of home. And the other reality is that the world does go on…in new ways…in ways that are painful and also exhilarating, in ways that teach us harsh lessons and those that fill us with awe.

And so the migration begins….may all those who fly far away from their place of comfort and safety…..hear the call announcing their place in the family of things….and may they each find new paths toward home.


Living in the city, the stars are often obscured by the light created by our human living. I thought of this last week when we were encouraged to get away from the city in order to be able to see the meteor showers that took place on Sunday and Monday. The lights of malls, buildings, stadiums, airports, all blur our ability to see the magic of constellations, of meteors blazing across the sky. Seeing these flickering lights, so far from Earth, yet huge, serve to help us remember how small we are in the scheme of things,I believe .In observing the Big and Little Dippers, in locating the North Star, we are reminded that we are a part of a huge story being played out every day….and in reality, we are in the back row of the chorus. I don’t know about you, but this realization can provide a certain humbling perspective for most of the urgent and important tasks of my day.

A friend who recently returned from Argentina marveled at the constellations she was able to observe there…."stars I can’t see here!" she said. Being in a different place in the world also provides the perspective that, indeed, my world,our world is not the center of everything….only a small part of an amazing and ever changing story being played out throughout time. It can be a comforting thought when deadlines press in, when there is the implication that civilization as we know might halt if some task is not accomplished….immediately.

My mother used to quietly observe me when I would get myself whipped into a frenzy over something I felt I needed to do, had to do, should  do. "A hundred years from now, you’ll never know the difference." she would say. Of course, I hated when she said this! But the statement had the ability to stop me in my tracks, help me gain some perspective, cause me to take a deep breath. Her words provided the reminder that, while my living and actions are important, they are really a part of a picture, a story, so huge I cannot fathom it.

At a meeting on Monday night I asked someone who I know watches the night sky,who observes the constellations and is just a general star-gazer about the meteor shower. I asked if he had observed them through one of his telescopes. "No," he said. "Telescopes are no good for seeing meteors. You need to be able to see the wide-ness of the sky to see the showers. You have to see the big picture. Telescopes are only for seeing the small picture." As he said this he made a tiny circle with his hand and I could only see the flitting of his eyelashes through that small space.

The poet Wallace Stevens writes:" Light the first light of the evening, as in a room, In which we rest, for small reason, think…. The world imagined is the ultimate good. This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous. It is in that thought that we collect ourselves, out of all the indifferences, into one thing; Within a single thing, a single shawl wrapped tightly around us, since we are poor, a warmth, A light, a power, the miraulous influence. Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves. We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole, a knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous. Within its vital boundary, in the mind. We say God and the imagination are one…..How high that highest candle lights the dark. Out of this same light, out of the central mind, We make a dwelling in the evening air, in which being there together is enough."

May the stars shine brightly upon you all this weekend………………


The freeways in the Cities are wild these summer mornings. On my commute today I was trying to make it to the office for an early meeting. As I passed the airport, the VA and came toward the dreaded Hwy. 62 & 35W intersection, traffic stopped. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel, began some deep breathing and settled in for a long wait. I noticed several cars pass on my right, exiting at Cedar Avenue. I decided to follow. I was already going to be late….I could be late and at least still be moving.

Passing Lake Nokomis I watched runners and walkers crossing over the water that shone brilliant blue in the morning sun. Bicyclists sped by…..wisdom on wheels on mornings like this. The drive became gift as I traveled through neighborhoods I rarely visit, bungalows nestled on tidy lawns, flower boxes overflowing with the fullness of August blossoms. Turning onto East 26th Street I drove by more run down houses, lawns rubbed free of grass, debris littered the sidewalks. A different look at our city.

And then, there is was. An abandoned church. Boarded up rounded, cathedral windows, pale blue paint on the front door, chipped cement steps.  And the words someone had painted on that door: "I hope you live the longest life."  This message scrawled across the lonely, bedraggled door, words of blessing I would have missed had I decided to snake along the freeway.

I hope you live the longest life…….I wonder who painted those words? Who felt compelled to offer such a hopeful blessing along a street that lacks care,one that seems surrounded by trouble and despair? This graffiti artist, paint can in hand, chose to anonymously offer kindness and hope in spite of everything around them. Unlike other graffiti we see along walls or on signs, these words sent a beam of light shining into the street, into the hearts of all who would see.

The prophet Jeremiah, speaking on God’s behalf, to a people who walked in exile so long ago wrote:
For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with
Somewhere in the city another prophet walks, offering blessing and hope….."I hope you live the longest life."