Bent Backs

"And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi,"Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favor. So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers.  Boaz said to the reapers, "God be with you." They answered,"God bless you." Ruth 2(selected)

Today I began my morning as many laborers do. I rose early and put on clothes I don’t care much about. I loaded my car with boxes, filled my coffee cup and headed to the field…… to pick strawberries. It was a beautiful summer morning, not too hot, not too ‘buggy’. Arriving at the field I found myself surrounded by would-be-farmers of all ages. Small children moved slowly, accompanied by parents or grandparents who guided them in their picking. Men and women picked side by side.Those who owned the farm moved among the pickers exchanging pleasantries with the workers. Each of us were picking these berries for the joy of it, for the experience of harvesting a bit of our own food, for the glory of the morning and because we could. We each left the field with the ripe, red berries scenting our cars with their sweetness and the stain of their color on our fingertips. Whether we made the realization or not, we were a privileged people.

As I drove away from the field, my eyes fell back upon the rows of green where the juiciness of summer      lay hidden under leaves. The sun was beginning to warm the patches and I could see the heat reflecting off the ground. Within a few hours the experience of picking these luscious berries would not be nearly as pleasant, the pickers not nearly as comfortable. Across the field, dotting the landscape were the bent backs of the workers.

And then I thought of all the bent backs that bring food to our tables. The workers who fill the fields across this land, gleaning and harvesting fruits and vegetables, many for wages that are below what any of us would work for. These workers are not people who are privileged to ‘play’ farmer as I did this morning. These are the ones who bend their backs to pick the berries I eat in January. These are the ones who kneel in the dirt and soil for long hours while their children work beside them or sleep in shade nearby. These are the workers who toil in the fields because it provides a life and livelihood for their families.

For me, this morning was a gift. I knelt and picked fruit I did not plant or tend. I give thanks for those who brought the strawberries this far and for the privilege of picking them. I pay homage to all those who day after day bend their backs to feed this nation, this world. Blessings be upon you.


Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.

‘Pooh!’ he whispered.

‘Yes, Piglet?’

‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. ‘I just wanted to be sure
of you.’"

-A.A. Milne

Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

This is a warning: The following words may be disturbing. It began as a normal afternoon commute from Minneapolis to Saint Paul. At rush hour I never expect much….slow going, stop and start traffic, a little time listening to the news of the day on the radio. The temperature was very warm so I expected some stalled vehicles and I was not disappointed.

While crossing the bridge across the Mississippi, I noticed the movement along the side of a big tractor trailer truck. What was it? I opened my window to allow a little air into the car and got a whiff of, could it be…… ‘farm smell’? As my car inched up alongside the truck, there they were…..tiny piglet snouts poking out of the metal holes in the trailer. I could see the babies moving about, jostling for space. I was at once taken by how cute they were and heartbroken to see them confined in this way. I couldn’t stop myself from speaking to them out the window. My car moved past the truck and we continued our halting dance across 94 East.

Listening to a report on the economy, I hadn’t really noticed that the truck had moved far ahead of me. I had been distracted by other stalled vehicles and another pulled over by the police. A young man was being searched. I sent a silent prayer his way for both he and the officer. Who knows what their life holds? Soon I was involved in another slow down. This time as my view cleared I could see cars completely stopped. A woman was moving gingerly in the middle of the freeway reaching out toward the hot, black asphalt. There in the middle of the road was a tiny piglet. Somehow he had broken free through the narrow slots of the trailer. How? We all were suddenly suspended in time as this woman, who probably had never held a pig before reached down and picked up the pale pink, writhing animal. I don’t know if it was injured, just stunned or only frightened. Looking around, she gently lifted it into her car. I rolled down my window to offer my thanks…..for her bravery, her compassion. She looked equally as stunned as the little swine. What will she do with this little one?

It started out as a normal evening commute. But it became a time of prayer, a touch with adventure,a grand escape, an act of selfless compassion and a courageous rescue. Nameless woman, rescuer of pigs, blessings be upon you wherever you are.

"As God’s children, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, meekness, and patience." Colossians 3:12

Have a blessed weekend………………


"A wall standing alone is useless, but put three or four walls together, and they’ll support a roof and keep the grain dry and safe. When inks joins with a pen, then the blank paper can say something. Rushes and reeds must be woven to be useful as a mat. If they weren’t interlaced, the wind would blow them away. Like that, God paired up creatures, and gave them friendship."  Rumi

A toddler’s mantra is "Me do it!" When the experience of independence begins to dawn on us we have the need to push away from the help of a parent’s hand, a care giver’s guidance. There are other times in life when the need to assert our separateness guides our actions. We may all remember those times with fondness or with some pain. It is a natural part of becoming who we are meant to be.

But the living out of the wholeness, and the holiness, of our lives comes in the way we are in relationship with one another. The scriptures are filled with these stories, in fact begin with the very ways in which we are created to be connected with one another, Creation, the Holy. Those ways in which we seek out the wisdom of others, are nurtured by the care of others, are held in love by others, creates the soil in which we plant ourselves. Whether it is the relationship of family, which we do not choose, or friendships, which we do, our lives are lived out in and through interconnectedness. Separateness is illusion.This web is mirrored throughout all creation and out into the universe.

This reality is something to ponder as we wake up each day. It is something to hold onto as we make our way through the work and play of our days. It is something to give thanks for as we say our prayers before bedtime.

As walls hold up the roof, as ink and pen and paper create the poem, as the rushes and reeds form the mat for our rest, we are held together by all the pairings of our lives. Blessed be!

Water Everywhere

Stories of water are everywhere these days. Living in the Midwest we are acutely aware of those cities that have been devastated by floods, by rivers overflowing, by levees that will not hold back the water. For many, those in Iowa and in the farm country, these are the same people who just a year or so ago were longing for water to rain upon their drought ridden land and crops.

We are beings held together through and by water, literally. The highest percentage of our bodies is made up of water. We build our homes near water for what it brings to us. It quenches our thirst. It keeps us clean. It provides recreation and refreshment. Its tributaries and arteries bring things we need by boat and barge. When we travel to other planets and search for life forms, what do we look for? Signs of water.

In our scriptures and in other sacred stories, water is both reality and metaphor. The stories of Noah and Jonah, the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus walking across the sea of Galilee…..real water but oh, so much more. These stories remind us of the ways in which water can be dangerous and can overwhelm us….but that even in those times God walks with us. Noah reaches dry land. Jonah overcomes his fears and failures and is finally ‘thrown up’ on dry land. The children of Israel are delivered into freedom. Jesus brings comfort to the fearful in the boat.

As our brothers and sisters continue to rebuild their lives and clear the muck from what they can salvage, I pray a voice from someplace deep within will remind them of the Spirit’s Presence when they need it most. May our prayers reach across the ripples and the waves and give them the courage. May we become tributaries of prayer.

"I take a sip of simple water and with that the story of life. Its molecules have been in the rain forest, have lived in quantum compounds, have waved in sea anemones, have been the waters of baptism, have lived in our mothers, and are now on their way to ever new formations."  (from Worshipping Ecumenically)


Cherish: To hold dear; to feel or show love for; to take good care of; to protect; to cling to the idea or feeling of….cherish. Webster’ New World Dictionary

At some point of the last few days, the word cherish came to my mind. It is not a word we use with regularity. It seems almost archaic but it is a good word. I have been taking stock of things I cherish. And so I ask: What do you cherish?

Most often we think of people we cherish…..spouses, partners, children, friends, parents and grandparents. We simultaneously love these people while caring for them, protecting them. People will say they cherish time with someone…they hold the time spent with the other as more than ordinary, it is sacred in some way. We also cherish memories of important life events, special birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, or other experiences that are ‘above’ other experiences in some way.

We also cherish things. As I look around my home, I see many things I cherish. Pictures of my children, gifts from my husband, my piano, my father’s watch he received at his retirement, several books, souvenirs from trips. The list is, of course, endless. It is endless because these ‘things’ we cherish often only have real value because they are associated with a meaningful relationship or an important life experience. The longer one lives, the more there is to cherish. 

I have a drawer in which I have tucked away many of the Valentine’s, anniversary & birthday cards given to me by those I love. I clean out that drawer perhaps twice a year. As I toss many things, send others to be resold, the place in the right hand corner of the drawer is always refilled with those cards. They date back several years and each time I clean the drawer I reread the notes. Some messages have lost their meaning over time but others I can read and be right back at that moment, that day, that year. My children’s newly formed letters, stick figures of their bodies and mine, large smiles marking our faces. A sweet poem written just for me or a note meant to cheer me up after an illness keeps me clinging to these faded pieces of paper…..cherished.

What things do you cherish? Or more importantly, what do you cherish that continues to remind you of those relationships, those important days and moments that give your life meaning and purpose?

……"Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life." (from Love after Love by Derek Wolcott)


Last weekend my husband and I were driving home from yet another circle of friends that had gathered. We were full of good food and remained quiet as we rode along. I had a sense that we might be thinking similar thoughts. When we finally spoke, I was right. We were both reflecting on the various circles in which we had found ourselves over the previous days. We were counting our blessings.

It began Friday with a dinner gathering with people we had always enjoyed but didn’t know that well. We had decided it was time to ‘branch out’ and spend time with new people. The evening unfolded with good food and lively discussion. Laughter and direct questions helped keep it all honest. When the evening was over, we knew it was something we would do again. Our circle had just gotten wider.

The following day we spent time with old friends, the kind of friends who have known you at your best…and at your worst…and love you anyway. More good food, more laughter, more important questions. We left that circle to go directly to another gathering that included church friends, some who knew one another, others who were meeting for the first time. Poems and music flowed through this crowd tinged with some laughter and some very serious conversation. Oh, and of course, there was the food…..more abundance.

It was important not to let the moment go unmarked, without honor. Those times when you recognize the fullness of your life, the blessings of simple things like friends and food. Nothing we did cost us a dime except for the dish we added to the potluck. And yet we both ended the day feeling like we were the richest people on earth…….because in all the ways that matter, we are. And so we offered smiles and nods of gratitude while stamping the memory of that day into our brains to save for a time when we might need to draw on that savings account.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote: "Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy." On Sunday night, we both knew it to be true.

Life Laws

What laws guide your living? What are the commandments, the rules, that create the structure for how you walk in the world? There are those we can articulate and those that are simply so ingrained in us that they become the ‘second nature’ of what we do, how we live.

I’ve been thinking about this because our church community has been studying parts of the Book of Exodus with specific attention to Moses. We are doing this because this Sunday we will open an art show and dedicate a new sculpture based on the Ten Commandments. Many of us have been reading, re-reading, re-wording, discussing, perhaps even arguing about what these laws really mean and what they meant to those who first heard them. It seems that those who travel this spiritual path with me most often approach the study of scripture in the aforementioned way. It can make for some lively Bible study!

The laws laid out in the first ten commandments seem pretty straight forward. They were laws meant to build a group of people into a community of people. They were meant to keep people honest, faithful, respectful, safe. They were meant to help the people remember who they were and whose they were…..children of the Holy One. The laws that follow these initial laws can be less easy to follow, less easy to understand in our time. I encourage you to read through them sometime.

Reflecting on these ancient words, I thought about laws I observe at work in my daily comings and goings. I see people carrying out the law of kindness, offering help to those less fortunate, those living on the margins. I see people living out the law of goodness, opening their hearts and their minds to those much different than they are. I see people living out the law of justice, breaking down barriers of privilege and education, lifting people up from places of shame and oppression. I see people living out the law of love, offering their love and their prayer to friends and to strangers.

You may say, "Of course, she sees this. She works in a church." But I would bet that if you really gave attention to what you see every day, you might see the same, or even greater things. My mother used to say quite often that a parent’s job is to catch their children behaving well and to affirm it. Her theory was that if you do that, you have to do a lot less disciplining for bad behavior. I agree.

What are the laws that guide your life? Today might be a good day to affirm them and to practice.

"So shine the Lord’s commandments to make the simple wise; More sweet than honey to the taste, more rich than any prize. A law of love within our hearts, A light before our eyes."  Timothy Dudley-Smith

What We Love

I have a card hanging on my office door that reads: "We must absolutely do what we Love", she said,"Or we run the risk of doing nothing at all." I have placed it at eye level so I read it often….and sometimes just at the right moment in time, when I need the reminder most.

It is graduation party time and I have been making the rounds to the various garages, backyard tents, decks or patios of the recent high school grads. These gatherings are always wonderful, seeing these young adults as the center of attention, knowing the party is just for them. I love reading their letters of acceptance from the colleges that will be their homes come fall. The college letter usually sits next to the shrines of pictures, awards, yearbooks, ribbons and other ‘things’ they hold dear….soccer shoes, teddy bears, a musical instrument, a letter jacket.

At one such party yesterday I spoke with the older brother of the graduate. He graduated last spring from college and is now out in the ‘real world.’ I listened to his story of college, his first corporate job which was a huge disappointment. Now in his new business, he is finding great success. I have known him since he was small and one of the things he always loved was fish… tanks, fishing, fishing boats….fish. He talked with pride about this new business, his own business……. of setting up, stocking and maintaining aquariums. His knowledge of it all keeps him in business and his love for his work shines through his description of his clients, the fish and his hopes for what the future of his business holds.

What a joy it was to see someone who knows what he loves and gets to do it! What might the world be like if we all were able to so fully know what we love and find the way to live the gifts of that love in the world? So many of us have spent a lot of years diverted down paths of ‘should’ or ought to’ rather than the path of ‘love to’. Sometimes those things we love are the simpler things, the ones that often bring about the most happiness and, coincidentally, the least stress. 

It would be my prayer that all the graduates would have the opportunity to ask themselves the questions: "What do I love? How can I live it out in the world?" And in the asking, they will have the opportunity to choose that path that will help them live out a long and happy life……filled with love.

"What we choose changes us. Who we love transforms us. How we create remakes us. Where we live reshapes us. So in all our choosing, O God, make us wise; in all our loving, O Christ, make us bold; in all our creating, O Spirit, give us courage, in all our living may we become whole." Jan L. Richardson


Last night I sat down to watch the news. Instead of choosing a local news station or even a national one, I chose instead to watch the BBC. I would recommend everyone do this every now and then. It brings a different perspective on the world, one that seems somehow more balanced, more global. As I watched I wondered if the whole world is unraveling. I know that this is not a thought based in faith but it is what I experienced as I watched the various places around the world where the least among us, those with little privilege, little resources, seem to be moving farther and farther toward the margins,helpless.

I was reminded of something that one of my children asked once. "Why is the news always about the terrible stuff happening? What would happen if the news was made up of the good stuff people do?" This is a question we have probably all asked ourselves. And every now and then the news reports will tell the stories of those who, given difficult choices, choose the greater good. We should all take comfort in the fact that the majority of people are doing the right thing, the kind thing, the noble thing, the just thing….otherwise we’d be hearing their names on the nightly news!

When I was starting down the unraveling road, I remembered the Boy Scouts who the day before had put into action many of the things they had learned on their way to a sash full of badges. As a tornado hit their campsite in Iowa, they looked to the skies, helped one another, especially those younger and more vulnerable to places of safety. They talked one another through their fears, held hands and laid flat against the ground or found doorways and ditches. When it was clear there were injuries, they performed CPR, ripped bandannas for tourniquets, stopped blood from flowing, pulled others to safety from amidst the rubble. I am sure they also shed tears and helped one another grieve as they waited for those that didn’t survive to be attended to. I don’t think there is a badge for that unless we simply call it ‘life’.

I am thinking of the people who have lined the river and waterways waiting for the two Minnesota boys who are following the path of Eric Sevareid’s Canoeing with the Cree. I have written before about Sean Bloomfield and Colton Witte, recent high school graduates are making their way to Hudson Bay chasing a dream that was planted in them in seventh grade. As they have traveled over these weeks, people have lined the path offering food, shelter, help, but mostly encouragement and affirmation to these modern day adventurers.

When another tornado hit Hugo, Minnesota a few weeks ago, the word went out that people were needed to help with cleanup and carrying debris away. One requirement was the ability to use a chain saw. They needed 400 people…..4000 responded.

These, of course, are the big stories but there are countless others played out each day of those who, despite all kinds of odds, do the right thing, the kind thing, the noble thing, the just thing. We just don’t hear their stories. But here’s my suggestion. The next time you see someone behaving in this way, let them know you noticed. I did this this past week as I visited twin boys born prematurely. The neonatal nurse was talking sweetly as she cared for these beautiful, innocent, vulnerable ones. She stood like a sentinel when I came into the nursery until I could prove who I was and that I should be there. I’m glad for her vigilance. As I left I simply said, "Thank you for all you do." Her reply, "We love our work."

For all those in the world who love their work. For all those who do what is right, what is kind, what is noble, what is just. Thank you. May your anonymity never be obscured by the world’s need of you.

"In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."  Anne Frank

Enjoy this last weekend of spring……………

Watching Grass Grow

"The dreamy heads of the grass in early summer.
In midsummer:thick and heavy.
Sparrows swing on them, they bend down.
When the sparrow sings, its whole body trembles.
Later, the pollen shakes free.
Races this way and that way,
like mist full of life which it is.
We stand at the edge of the field, sneezing.
We praise God, or nature, according to our determinations.
Then the grass curls or breaks, or we cut it.
What does it matter?
Do you think the grass is growing so wild and thick for its own life?
Do you think the cutting is the ending, and not, also, a beginning?
This is the world."
        ~Mary Oliver

I am sitting in the middle of an orchestra. Lawn mowers are moving all up and down our street. One has a deep bass tone, a steady sound of bow on string. Another sounds flighty, high pitched like a coloratura soprano. Stopping and starting, the humans who push them, throw stray sticks and stones out of the path, interrupting the music. It is truly…almost…summer. All the rain we have had over the last days has caused grass to grow at an alarming pace. For those who make their living grooming the lawns of homeowners and businesses, it is a mother lode week. For teenagers forced to mow or those who hate the tedious back and forth of the act of mowing, it is not such a welcome sight.

The sound of the mower and the smell of freshly cut grass is something I treasure. My father was a person who loved to mow lawns. He mowed our yard and the neighbor’s. When I was small he had a regular push mower but at some point he acquired a riding lawn mower, yellow and green. When he was finished with our lawn he would move on down the street to the front lawn of the city swimming pool and mow that. While it was certainly work that needed to be done, I think it was also contemplative time for him, though he certainly would never have described it that way. He was a quiet man, a thoughtful man, and I think the act of mowing provided a meditative motion that appealed with his spirit. Back and forth, back and forth, until the grooming, or the thinking, was finished

The movements of summer are opening up all around us now. Children are staying out later each evening. I have heard them laughing and playing until after dark now that school is over. This afternoon I saw a group of boys, perhaps 11-12 years old, walking barefoot down the street, towels thrown over their shoulders, sunburned skin visible on their shoulders and faces. Bikes lay here and there, Koolaid stands are popping up on street corners.

The rhythm of summer is upon us. Though it doesn’t officially arrive until next week at the Summer Solstice, signs are everywhere. It is a season to savor…smelling the greenness of grass, the sweetness of skin touched by the Sun, the warmth of sidewalk on bare feet, the laughter of children’s voices, the music of bird song.

This is summer. This is the world. Thanks be to God!