To Glimpse

"I watch this morning
for the light that the darkness has not overcome.
I watch for the fire that was in the beginning
and that burns still in the brilliance of the rising sun.
I watch for the glow of life that gleams in the growing earth
and glistens in the sea and sky.
I watch for your light, O God,
in the eyes of every living creature
and in the ever-living flame of my own soul.
If the grace of seeing were mine this day
I would glimpse you in all that lives.
Grant me the grace of seeing this day.
Grant me the grace of seeing."
            ~  J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction:Morning and Night Prayer

There are words that are simply fun to say….words like ‘glimpse’. I often say it is a word, like so many others, that feels good in your mouth. This past week when I read the word glimpse in my morning devotions, I smiled, because it is ‘one of those words’. To glimpse is to become aware of something that you often don’t fully see. To glimpse is to be given a peek into the wholeness of something. To glimpse is to be reminded that being more fully awake and aware can bring deeper gifts.

"If the grace of seeing were mine this day, I would glimpse you in all that lives." Ah,if were it only so! If only we had the the grace of seeing the presence of the Holy in all that lives. If we walked in this grace, we would walk more gently on our planet. If we had the vision of this grace, we would treat those we meet with greater kindness and compassion. If we listened in this grace, we would be more fully present to our children, our partners, our co-workers, the stranger who bags our groceries. If we had this grace of seeing to know that all the atoms and particles of all that lives were infused with the Sacred, how might we live differently?

It is something to consider as we walk out into this day. The 13th century mystic Meister Eckhart wrote: "Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God." Perhaps today is a good day to remind ourselves to open the book….to apprehend…to glimpse.

Water Like Glass

Last week I sat on large boulders on the beach at Grand Marais having my morning coffee. If one is an early riser as I am, you learn how to make an escape without waking your fellow travelers. Tiptoeing out the door after silently making the coffee, I would make my way down the hill toward Lake Superior. I would sit and simply stare at the breathtaking scene before me…….colorful fishing boats out on the glassy water, gulls flying in lace-like patterns in the air, hoping for an easy breakfast. Besides the fishermen,only a few other people were awake walking dogs held captive by the night. One or two dogless people….also early risen escapees…..ran or walked along the shore. The only sound that graced the morning was the faint hum of the boat motors and the incessant call of the gulls.

At one point my eyes moved from the shining surface of the water to meet the gaze of a woman walking leisurely by: "It is so calming, isn’t it? So calming…." In monosyllables, I agreed. Nothing more was necessary. We both returned our vision to the mirror of water that reflected the sky and the dome of blue it created. So calming……………..

What is it about water that attracts us? Is it the deep realization that we once swam in the womb waters of our mothers? Or,like the sea creatures from which we evolved, we somehow know that we all once swam in the Womb of God? And the calmness that can come over us, does it stem from the wisdom that water is at the center of all the deepest myths that live in our memory…..all the many Creation stories from which the Holy One stills the chaotic, frightful waters and brings forth abundant life?

I don’t know the answer to these big questions. All I know is that when I sit, when I allow myself to meditate upon the ebb and flow of  the waters of lake or ocean, river or stream, something causes my heart to slow to a regular, healthy rhythm,and the pressure of the blood coursing through my veins becomes even. "It’s so calming, isn’t it?" Yes, yes it is very, very good.

"For the morning light and its irresistible dawning, for your untameable utterances of life in boundless stretches of space and the strength of the waves of the sea, I give thanks to you, O God. Release in me the power of your Spirit that my soul may be free and my spirit strong. Release in me the freedom of your Spirit that I may be bridled by nothing but love, that I may bridled only by love." J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction:Morning and Night Prayer


The news reports of the last couple of days carried headlines declaring: "Northern Lights Mysteries Revealed." This week NASA ‘released findings that indicate magnetic explosions about one-third of the way to the moon cause the northern lights, or aurora borealis, to burst into spectacular shapes and colors, and dance across the sky.’ The scientists have their reasons for trying to ‘solve’ the mystery of this amazing night show. It is the hope of developing ways of knowing how geomagnetic storms disrupt the satellites in orbit that no doubt power many of the things we now rely upon. I am….in my very, very, non-scientific mind…thinking this means things like cell phones, digital television and GPS systems.

Truth be told, I have been just fine not having any clue how it all happens. How the sky can fill with green and red and purple shoots of light that undulate and move with the grace of Fred Astaire across the sky,  while accompanied by that faint piercing hum of an other worldly music. I have been satisfied with the miracle of it all.

I still remember the first time I ever saw the Northern Lights. It was a late summer evening on what is known as the ‘upper field’ at our church’s retreat center, Koinonia, just west of Annandale, Minnesota. Walking up the hill, I noticed the humming first, a high, faint pitch that permeated the air. When I came to the top of the hill and onto the flat surface of the parking lot, people were already standing there looking toward the horizon and the ballet of color that was moving with wild abandon across the sky. No one spoke. How could we? We were held in the smallness of what it means to be humans witnessing a miracle. Since that time I have seen the aurora borealis only twice more. I pray my life has a few more opportunities left in it.

Scientists have their reasons for solving mysteries and we have all reaped the rewards of their research. I am thankful for their gifts, their education and their curiosity. But as for me, I am content with the wonder and awe of the Mystery.

"Everybody’s wonderin’ what and where they all came from.
Everybody’s worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go when the whole thing’s done.
But no one knows for certain and so it’s all the same to me.
I think I’ll just let the mystery be."  ~Iris Dement

Have a wonderful weekend……………….

Hemmed In

O God, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
You know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
If I ascend to heaven you are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there."
               ~Psalm 139

I have always loved this Psalm. Some people declare Psalm 23 as their favorite, another wonderful collection of words, but for my money, Psalm 139 is where it’s at. I try to imagine the writer as these beautiful words began to take creative shape. What was going in their life that they would write this? What amazing faith! What a deep wisdom and experience of the Holy!

I sometimes wonder about certain scriptures. What might happen if we began each day with scripture like Psalm 139 and repeated it for, say, an entire year? How would our spiritual journey be affected by such a practice? Would we come to connect with the words in ways that help them to become ‘the living word of God’? I hope so.Though I have never personally done this, the idea that there are people in religious communities and those of great devotion doing this gives me a sense of comfort and hope.

Like the psalmist, I know people who need to affirm that God is hemming them in. I am one of them. I need to be able to say to myself and others that even ‘in the bed of hell(Sheol)’ I am sitting in the nest of God. I also need to be able to be filled with gratitude to overflowing that my ascending heavenly moments are shared with the One who breathed and birthed me into being.

The Celts pray: God before me, God below me, God when I rise up, God when I lay down. God on my right hand, God on my left hand. God in the thoughts of everyone who thinks of me. God in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me. May it be so. Today, tomorrow and always.

For each of us…… for the times of Heaven and of Sheol…….may we remember that we are hemmed in. And it is good.


"Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people." Exodus 13:22

Yesterday morning I woke early. Looking out the window of a
friend’s home in Grand Marais, I saw the fog that was enveloping everything for
as far as the eye could see. I was drawn to it. Getting up and making the
coffee which would warm my hands as I cradled it in the cool morning air, I
headed just a few blocks away toward the beach. The gulls circled someplace
overhead though I knew them only by the sound of their voices. Nearly
everything was invisible in the density of the grounded clouds. I stood looking
out toward what, the night before, had been the clear, dark blue waters of Lake Superior, now sensing only its deep Presence. I stood shrouded in the fog
looking out toward the horizon, the shifting stones of the beach crunching
under my feet. I realized I was holding my breath as I waited for some sound,
something to become visible to me, some affirmation that I was not alone.

As the Sun began to lighten the morning sky, the fog gave
way and the outline of a yellow sailboat caught my eye. Out in the distance the
sound of a ship’s signal awakened my senses further. I had no idea how near or
how distant the path it was traveling on the Big Lake,
Gitchi Gumee. Someplace out there on the deck of a ship headed to who knows
where, someone may have been looking back toward me as I looked longingly for
their outline against the ever brightening sky.  I was receiving the message I had so many
times before….”Do not be afraid. You are not alone.”

The thought crossed my mind: This is often how it feels in
my experience of the Holy One. I stand in a fog, straining with the eyes behind
my eyes to see the outline of the One who is as near as the Breath I am
holding. Out in the distance that Presence, as near as my gently rising chest, signals to
me…..”Here I am, here I am.” I exhale. I inhale. Knowing, deeply knowing.

Think Day

Maggie Jackson, author of the book Distracted which I mentioned last week, writes about a unique practice at IBM called "Think Fridays". As I understand it, there are days set aside for ‘thinking’. The regular work of the day comes to a halt and people spend the time thinking, dreaming, sharing, reflecting, scheming, and generally coming up with ideas that get lost or overlooked in the course of what ‘needs to be done’ on any given day.

All I have to say is: Sign me up! Can you imagine the anticipation that must precede Think Fridays? To have the luxury…the permission…to turn your back on the stacks of ‘to do’ and open your mind, your heart, your whole being to ‘ now what?’ or my most favorite question of all ‘what if?’  I can imagine the employees coming to work that day with the same joyfulness we once felt when heading to the playground.You remember:  Swings became spaceships. Slides were escape routes. The sand was the desert…or the ocean….or the stage…on which we logged hours upon hours of creative play. One day a pirate, the next an astronaut.

What if we took the same spirit of imagination, creativity and playfulness to the workplace? Somehow I believe we would be a happier people and more productive. What if we trusted people to bring their best ideas to Think Friday….ideas that would solve the most recent problem, heal the most troubled relationship, salvage the most recent loss?

Even if, unlike IBM, it is not possible for our individual workplaces, why not adopt the concept on our own? Declare a Think Wednesday….or a Think Lunchtime….or a Think Coffee Break? Over morning coffee, for the five minutes it takes to savor the cup of joe, allow the mind to wander over unchartered territory. It could be fun and who knows what might come of the whole process?

Wayne Muller writes in his book Sabbath: God does not want us to be exhausted. God wants us to be happy. When I ponder the prospect of what might happen on a Think Day…..I begin to grin. Grins usually lead to smiles which can often lead to laughter which almost always takes us toward happiness. I’m in favor of giving this Think Day a try.

Interested in joining me?


"Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness."  Meister Eckhart,

A few weeks ago I spent time at my husband’s family cabin in northern Wisconsin. It is a beautiful place. Quiet lakes, tall pines, fresh, cool air…….and lots and lots of stillness. Each morning I would wake up early, get my cup of coffee and crawl back into bed where I could stare out the window at the morning light coming to the lake. It is my daily practice there to spend at least an hour or more simply sitting in silence, staring into the middle distance out the tiny window which creates a lens onto the water and all its morning glory.

On MPR yesterday I listened to an author who has written a book by Maggie Jackson entitled Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. In the interview she described the cost of multitasking in our culture, a cost that has been particularly leveled at our children and youth. In our effort to do more and more, we do many things at one time giving less and less attention to our work, our relationships,our home life, our next generation. This is creating a fractured, frenzied, frustrated society.

Stillness, being still and knowing, has become a lost art. At the same time that many houses are being built with front porches, it is rare to see anyone actually sitting on them….being still. The exception being one house in our neighborhood. Nearly every evening as I drive or walk by, at least one person will be sitting there, often simply sitting there…no book, no computer, sometimes only a glass on the table next to their chair. Each time I see them there I have a nearly visceral reaction. I want to walk right up there and ask if I, too, may sit." May I sit with you? I promise not to say a word."

One way out of our distracted lives which, according to Maggie Jackson, is leading us into another Dark Ages is to practice stillness. In practicing the lost art we will most surely come to encounter the Sacred. In being still, in paying attention to the breath that breathes through us as Spirit, we come to know the Holy One that surrounds and nurtures our exhausted lives.

Go ahead. You know you want to. Sit still.

Snow Globe

"You’re imaginative these days, so it’s hard for you to understand how someone could be without a dream for him for herself. Hold a powerful vision of the future for someone who’s lost faith."

I’ve mentioned before that I check my horoscope every day, in fact, it is possibly the last thing I read in the paper each morning. After my systematic reading…front page, local news, sports, business, finally the variety section, my horoscope really represents the words I am most likely to recall during the day as they were the last ones read. Today’s wisdom gave me pause….no pun intended.

I checked in with myself. Is it true I am feeling imaginative these days? Well, perhaps not as much as the horoscope would imply but I am in what I would call a stew pot of possibilities and that is energizing, which breeds creativity. But it is the second part of the daily words that struck home: Hold a powerful vision of the future for someone who’s lost faith. When I read those words the image that came to me was one of  a snow globe in which a scene is held in the shelter of the stagnant liquid until it is shaken to bring it to life with the gently falling snow. Though completely simple in its ingenuity, it is always a thing of magic.

I began to imagine all those people in my life who are experiencing uncertainty…friends who have lost jobs, others who are dealing with health issues that cause fear and anxiety, young ones who are struggling to find their own unique way in the world…..they all represent those who are living on the margins, those who may have ‘lost faith’ in themselves, those they trusted, even in whatever they experience as God. Perhaps especially this experience of the Holy One.  Each is held in the beauty of that globe waiting for the vision, the light that will help them move into a place of courage, calm, certainty.

Today I can hold out for each of them a vision of safety and wholeness and hope. I can imagine their beauty and the dream that will be reignited or that will flash forth for the first time and will send the snowflakes swirling and dancing, creating that simple magic. Today I can hold for them a vision that their tired or fearful or confused eyes are unable to see. To do this is what it means to be in community, in relationship, a part of the kindom. It is a gift to be the holder and the one who is held. Truth be told, we are always both. Blessed be.

"The kin(g)dom of God is not come with things that can be observed; nor will they say,’Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kin(g)dom of God is among you."  Luke 17:20-21

May Be

One of my colleagues shared this prayer by Ted Loder this morning at our staff meeting.

"O God of beginnings, as your Spirit moved over the face of the deep on the first day of creation, move with me now in the time of beginnings, when the air is rain-washed, the bloom is on the bush, and the world seems fresh and full of possibilities, and I feel ready and full. I tremble on the edge of a maybe, a first time, a new thing, a tentative start, and the wonder of it lays its finger on my lips. In silence, Lord, I share now my eagerness and my uneasiness about this something different I would be or do; and I listen for your leading to help me separate the light from the darkness in the change I seek to shape and which is shaping me."

I tremble on the edge of a maybe…….powerful image, powerful words. Do you find yourself trembling on the edge of a maybe this day? Frankly, I find myself swimming in maybes as I believe our country and world is as well. ‘Maybe’ is a teeter-totter word……things could go this way…or that. Who knows? Maybe is filled with hopes and dreams, with possibility and opportunity. Maybe rests in the ‘not quite’ and ‘almost’. Maybe can be a place of terror or transformation.

For each of us who tremble this day, O God, May you Be in our breath, in our heartbeat, in our waking, in our waiting. May you Be in the courage we need, in the restraint we must exercise. May you Be in our weeping and in our overflowing laughter. May you Be the creative spark that leads us to the brilliance we  need to possess. As we walk in the Land of Maybe, May you Be a light and the life that lives in this prayer. May you simply Be………………..and may we know it to the depths of all that trembles and quakes.


"All that is eternal in me
Welcomes the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.
May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more."
      ~John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

I have a bit of wanderlust these days. I have been spending time on websites looking at vacation homes in far away places. I read yesterday’s Travel section of the paper with a fine tooth comb. I find myself looking for books set in other places, places I can journey to in my imagination if not in reality. This is probably a signal that I need a vacation or at least a break but since none is really planned any time soon, I suppose the imaginary trips are better than no trip at all. It is the middle of July. Summer is moving headlong into fall and there is a feeling that if an adventure is to be had, an epiphany to be realized, it had better happen, and soon.

What brings about this kind of uneasiness? Why does this edginess bubble up now and not last week? What are the burrs that get under the saddle we ride that nag and poke until we do something about them? Perhaps it is that deep realization that ‘all that eternal’ in us begs to be experienced. John O’Donohue describes this invisible geography that invites us to new frontiers, to be disturbed and changed as a gift of every day. It is true this is present with the rising of Sun but we are not always aware or ready for that kind of living. Some days we need to be carbon copies of the one before and the one that is yet to come.

And then there are days, even weeks, …..when we are pushed to the precipice of our longings, our dreams…that place where we need to wear a badge of courage like the Friendly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. This is the place where we claim the life we love and pledge to live it despite all odds. This is the place where fear cannot find a home because Life itself is too big, too beautiful. The place where we throw our arms open wide and gather the wonder into every breath, every cell.

Among my family and friends we often ask the ‘Mary Oliver question’. "Tell, me what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" These words made famous in her poem pop up at the oddest of times but usually with great thought on the part of the one who asks.

It is a good question for a beautiful July day. A good question to give your heart to. It is an eternal question.