"In my dream
the Angel shrugged
and said,’If we fail this time
it will be a
failure of imagination.’
And then she
placed the world
in the palm of my hand."
    ~ B. Andreas, Imagining World

A failure of imagination… there’s a concept. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where there was a ‘failure of imagination?’ So many times, particularly in institutions like the church and government, we suffer from a failure of imagination. We can become so hooked into doing it the ‘way we’ve always done it’ that we fail to see the possibilities, the creative stroke of genius that is right at our fingertips. As individuals we become so set in our own way of seeing a situation that we fail to open our eyes to the gifts of imagination of others around us.

So we get stuck and we then lament why we are not growing, why we can’t find our way out of declines and seeming failure. Imagination is risky business. It is fueled by dreams and wildness and the possibility of failure. But it is also powered by the freedom to think beyond the obvious, to ask the all important question:"What if?"

What if we gave that up and tried this instead? What if we started at this time and not that? What if we open our hearts and our doors in ways we never have before? What if we allowed the little child to lead us? So many ways to ask the question.

How does this question form in your life? Where is your life begging for the power of imagination? It is a long weekend. Perhaps it is a good time to take stock of those places that are stuck in old patterns that are no longer contributing to growth. Perhaps it is a good time to let your imagination run wild…..and then follow it. It could just be the start of something wonderful. You might find the world resting in the palm of your hand.

Enjoy what looks to be a beautiful weekend……………….

At Home

"God is always at home. It is we who have gone out for a walk."  Meister Eckhart

The season is changing in Minnesota. Days are shorter. In both morning and evening, the air is tinged with the cool, crisp smell of fall. The inner leaves of the maple tree in our front yard have begun to show signs of red and yellow. And the squirrels that jump cavalierly from tree to tree now carry black walnuts in their tiny mouths. It is at these times of great change when it is particularly wise to be awake to all that is happening, all that is changing, all that is dying, all that is being transformed, all that is being born.

There is much to learn from the changing seasons. There is a comfort, at least for me, in the cycle that rolls from birth to life to death and returns to rebirth. Paying attention to this rhythm of Creation can help keep the nagging details, those situations we have no control over, those things that ‘bug’ us, in balance. By being present to the rhythm that exists in the cycles of day and night, season to season, is one way the Universe reminds us that, in the end, ‘it will be okay.’

Nicholas de Malebranche, a 17th century philosopher seeking to make sense of the work of St. Augustine and Descartes while writing about his own concept of the vision of God said:"Attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul." I know that so many times my hours, my minutes…..even my days…are spent without much attentiveness. In those days my soul is robbed of its natural rhythm of prayer. What a sad thing!

And so in these days of change, we are invited by the One who is always at Home to be attentive, to notice, to witness. Our world is changing around us and what a sorry thing it would be if we were asleep, or even worse too busy, to notice.

Winners & Losers

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The last few weeks have been filled with fierce competition. As the world has watched young people…and not so young…compete in the Olympics, we have seen many athletes rise to the dream they have held since childhood. Still others came home without medals. Since we live in a culture that so values competition and winning, it is easy to say things like "they will have to settle for a Silver medal." Most people I know would be quite happy to ‘settle’ for a silver medal or bronze or even just the chance to travel half the world away to do what they love. But no one seems to make mention of this fact.

It was, of course, wonderful to watch Michael Phelps win eight gold medals. The obstacles he overcame to get there are equally as admirable. Yet, the athletes who lost with grace are the ones who win my heart. Winning, achieving your goal with grace is one thing. But holding disappointment and perceived failure with grace is something different altogether.

Several times while watching these athletes compete a wise statement of my mother’s ran through my head. Any time I was in a competitive experience she would say to me:"Remember, everyone there wants this just as much as you do. In these kinds of things, there always has to be a winner and loser." It was a reminder to keep everything in perspective. It was not always easy to hear but it sure made the outcome seem easier to deal with.

We always want to believe that the goals we set for ourselves, those we watch our children set, those we see our leaders set, will result in the light of the winner’s circle. But it has been my experience that those times when I’ve had to ‘settle’ for silver, or even not qualified to compete at all,  also has its rewards.Most often when the goal or the dream is not achieved, something else comes along that wouldn’t have been possible if gold had been achieved. The real goal is to accept it all with the grace and humility exhibited by so many who placed long held dreams on the world stage for all to see.

Another competition is brewing in our country. One which will have far greater implications for the world than how fast someone can run a marathon or swim a lap. As political leaders of all stripes gather over the next few days to make very important decisions, may all gathered find within themselves some of the class and grace exhibited in Beijing. Perhaps then both winners and losers will reach for their best selves.


"From a single grain they have multiplied.
When you look in the eyes of one
you have seen them all.
At the edges of highways
they pick at limp things.
They are anything but refined.
Or they fly out over the corn
like pellets of black fire,
like overlords.
Crow is crow, you say.
What else is there to say?
Drive down any road,
take a train or an airplane
across the world, leave
your old life behind,
die or be born again-
wherever you arrive
they’ll be there first,
glossy and rowdy
and indistinguishable.
The deep muscle of the world."
     ~Mary Oliver

Today’s Star Tribune carried a fascinating article about crows. It seems, according to scientists in Seattle who have been studying this common black bird, that they have the ability to recognize faces. Not just the faces of fellow crows but the faces of their relatives…the human. They recognize which of us is dangerous and they respond accordingly…..with the wild cawing and squawking often heard from above.The scientists consider this an evolutionary edge." If you can learn who to avoid and who to seek out, that’s a lot easier than continually getting hurt." says John Marzluff, a wildlife biologist at the University of Washington.

I’m not sure why this should surprise us so. Perhaps it is just our general belief that as humans we are so superior that the simple crow could not possibly carry so much wisdom and intuition. I will never see a crow in quite the same light again after reading this article.  And I  will certainly pay much more attention when I hear them making a racket as a go by.  Could it mean they perceive me as dangerous?

As humans we might be heard saying, "If you’ve seen one crow, you’ve seen them all." Or as Mary Oliver says….glossy and rowdy and indistinguishable. But it may now be clear that they don’t have the same experience of us.

It really gives you something to think about. Doesn’t it?

It’s True!

When I arrived back from my long road trip over this past week, I did what any self respecting Minnesotan would do. I headed to the State Fair. This time we were able to introduce my mother to the many exciting and amazing aspects of our Great Minnesota Get-Together. From the butterheads to the cow barns, it truly is a feast.

Walking through the poultry barn, I was once again overcome with the beauty of the common, and not-so-common chicken. In nearby cages lazy rabbits slept or looked deeply into the eyes of their admirers. While my mother and I marveled at the sizes and colors of the rooster, one of the kings of the barnyard let out a whopping "Cock-a-doodle-doo!’  Across from us stood two young men, one with a camera in hand ready to photograph the beautiful bird. They both stopped in their tracks, their faces registering someplace between amazement and fear. "They really do that!" one said to the other.

Yes, it’s true. Roosters really say, "cock-a-doodle-do!" This, is of course, one of the great gifts of experiences like the Fair. Those who don’t live on or near a farm, or have never been near these animals, have the opportunity to be close enough to look them in the eye and be awe struck by something others see every day. We have the chance to see where our food comes from, who may grow it, and the link that binds us all together as eaters and growers.

Of course, not all make this connection. But I do. Which is probably why, a trip to the Fair always fills me with more than fatty food on a stick. It fills me with gratitude. Gratitude for those who have given their lives to farming…to keeping seeds, to planting and nurturing all the fields of vegetables and fruits that fuel my body. Gratitude for those who helped birth and raise chickens, cows, and pigs, those who gave them names even though they knew it would make it more difficult to give them up. Gratitude for what links we city-dwellers to those who labor and sacrifice to bring food to our tables.

It’s true. Roosters crow and farmers fuel the heart of this country. May we all do what we can to make sure it is always so and that they are held in the respect and honor that they should be.

"When the farmer comes to town with his wagon broken down, O the farmer is the one who feeds them all. If you’ll only look and see, I think you will agree that the farmer is the one who feeds them all." Pete Seeger


Traveling the highways through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and into Ohio over the last two days, I have been aware of the fields that bookend our drive. On each side of the road stands acre after acre of corn and soybeans. I was reminded of the greeting card that offers the words: Congratulations! You are outstanding in your field. The image is usually a field with one person standing alone in a field of identical items. Those items change depending on the intention of the card.

I witnessed field after field of corn. Now I know nothing about corn…its growing patterns, its different types. But what I observed is that certain fields had red tassels and other fields had golden tassels. Driving along it was like moving through a chorus line of tall red-heads on one side and equally as tall blonds on the other. I imagined them in a kick line of dance, Rockettes-style, competing across the asphalt divide.

Sprinkled among the corn was, of course, soybeans. Shorter, brilliant green, they seemed to pale in their dramatic impact on the horizon. Every now and then, however, a stray corn seed had flown through the air and planted itself in amongst the soybeans. Without the benefit of cross-pollination(I do know this much), they had not grown to maturity but they were certainly taller than the field of green in which they stood. They were truly….out standing.

And then at one point my son said: "Look, Mom. Sunflowers!" It was true. There they were. The Queen of Flowers standing in all their marvelous beauty facing the rays of the Sun. An entire field of yellow ecstasy. Outstanding!

Someplace along the road in Indiana, a moving truck had lost a part of its cargo. A rocking chair sat quietly beside the road, flanked by red-heads on one side and blonds on the other. It looked like a good spot to observe the dance of late summer. If someone had been sitting there witnessing to it all, I don’t think I would have been surprised. It seemed like the right thing to do. Outstanding!

Road Trip

"Leave your country, your family, and your father’s house, for the land I will show you." Genesis 12:1-2

Today I will begin a road trip to return our older son to college. The summer has come to an end for him and his junior year of college awaits. Amazing! It has been a good summer…a little work, a little rest, a little vacation, a little time with family, and a little time with friends. We have all grown much over the last months as we have danced often painful ,but much needed, dance of letting go.

Over the weekend I spent time with several parents who are sending their young adults off to college for the first time. The stories they told were familiar and I found myself in a place I never thought I would be. I found myself offering a calming word, a gentle reminder that the work of their children right now was to move away, to separate, to find their own way in the world. It is difficult work but rewarding in ways we never imagine.

Roots and wings. As parents we pray that we have given our children the roots that will keep them grounded as the world and their life experiences toss them about. We pray that the roots will include a deep knowing that they are loved beyond measure, that they have an invisible community that travels with them, that they always remember who they truly are, and that above all else they are made in the image of God.

In the same breath we pray that they have the wings to soar….to become not only all we have imagined for them, but all they have imagined for themselves, that they never ‘settle’ for the path of least resistance but reach beyond themselves to see the real and true ways they can make a difference in the world. We pray that the work they choose and the education they pursue will help them to follow the bliss of their dreams and will find them living out the gifts that were planted deep within them at their birth.

All this, along with the ‘stuff’  needed for college life, is a lot to pack into a car for a nearly thousand mile road trip. But it is all in there. It is the least I can do. It is the least any of us can do. Because it is what our parents did for us and what we hope our children will do for their children.

Roots and wings……………..


I have attended several funerals recently. As a child I went to lots of funerals. In a small town, when someone dies the whole town turns out to pay their respects. It is simply what you do. Now that I have occasion to be in leadership at funerals, it is a very different experience. But always a holy one. I am always blessed to hear the stories of family members and to learn new things, sometimes surprising things, about the one who has passed on. I am always interested in the hymns, scripture, or poetry the person held dear and how the family reflects on those as they talk of their loved one.

Today I attended a funeral of one our dear saints of the church. She had requested a Mary Oliver poem be read at her funeral. It’s title is "When Death Comes." The words are beautiful and evocative. They were, of course, meant to express her own thoughts, beliefs, questions. But they also, I think, became a sort of reminder or challenge to those in attendance. And knowing this person as I did, I think that could have been her intention.

"When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world in my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world."

Even in the sadness I felt at this funeral, I also felt the gentle nudging of this dear, gracious woman. A teacher to the end, she provided for each of us, if we chose to take on the task, an assignment of becoming one who is married to amazement, making something real and particular of our lives. Just visiting is not what it is about. Living is .Really living.

So as I left the service, it seemed the sky was a little bluer than it had been earlier, the oak tree outside the church entrance looked particularly lush in the early afternoon light. People’s faces seemed vibrant with the flush of summer. And the grapes I ate for lunch were as sweet as could be imagined. Tonight I plan to walk outside and take in the promised full moon,allowing it to bathe me in its light.

I am taking a course in amazement and I have homework to do. There’s a teacher I have known who I hope will be pleased with my work.

Have a blessed weekend……………………….


"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last,"What’s the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What’s for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It’s the same thing," he said.

~ The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne

Most people in Minnesota are starting to turn their minds towards summer’s end. As you drive by schools, athletic teams are in practice, a sure signal that fall in just around the corner. But for us, the true end to summer is the State Fair, that wonderful gathering of what I like to think of as the Great Potluck of what it means to be Minnesotan. From the urban to the country, from suburb to small town, we gather to celebrate the art of living in this place. That art takes many forms, from the beautiful and amazing fine art found in the State Fair Art Show, to the art of crops and animals, midway and foods on a stick.

People have been wondering about whether or not the economy will play a part in the success of the Fair this year. Will people pay the high price of gas to get here? With family budgets strapped,will the struggling economy have an impact on this summer’s end festival?

I don’t have the answer to that question but a news report today about the high cost of food…or I should say, feed….is having an impact. It seems there have been no entries in the Biggest Boar contest. The speculation is that the high cost of feed may have kept farmers from feeding these monstrous animals so much that they tip the scales at over one thousand pounds. Now I have to admit I have always felt sorry for these animals. They are so large that I don’t think I have ever seen one standing.Maybe they do, but I’ve never seen it. They simply lay there, in the heat of August, while people stare at them.

People are struggling everywhere with the cost of fuel and food. It is difficult for so many, especially for those who already have difficulty with basic necessities. But this shortage has also brought some very good things as well. Many people are biking to work or taking public transportation. Our bike trails are filled with riders of all ages. Still others are simply walking more.This is good not only for the health of the people but for the environment. Many people have risen to the occasion with ingenuity and determination.

And so what about that Big Boar? Maybe someone will eventually enter the contest. Or maybe this is the year when the idea of overfeeding an animal for sport is laid to rest. For me personally, the State Fair will not lose any of its appeal or glory. After all, the pen adjacent to the Boar is always the residence of the Mama Pig and her multiple piglets. A great sign of life and health and hope.


There are some surprising perks with my work. Every now and then, out of the blue, someone will send me a book to look at, read, recommend, or use in a class. A few weeks ago a fat envelope arrived with the book The Life of Meaning:Reflections on Faith, Doubt, and Repairing the World.  It is a book of essays compiled by Bob Abernathy and William Bole and the contributor’s of PBS’s Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly. It is filled with the beautiful writings of current theologians, professors, clergy and others who are in constant pursuit of the spiritual. Each writer reflects in some way what a life of meaning is to them and how that has changed or stayed the same over the course of their lives. I am looking forward to sitting down and savoring each chapter.

The book is not called The Meaning of Life, but instead, is called The Life of Meaning. In some way this is the largest concept we grapple with as humans. How does my life have meaning? How does yours? What defines meaning to you? How will we know that our life had meaning, that it counted for something, that  somehow  it was faithful….whatever they may mean….that we lived with doubts and certainties with a grace and openness…..and that in it all we in some way helped to repair the world? These are the questions that bring us to define the life of meaning we long for.

As I was leafing through the chapters I thought of the Marianne Williamson poem that begins:
"Our deepest fear
    is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
    is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light,
    not our darkness,
        that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
    who am I to be brilliant,
    gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
We were born to make manifest
    the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
    it’s in everyone."

Today might be a perfect day to remember these words and hold them to our heart. They might just help us embrace and live into this life of meaning.