What We Need

In the musical "Mame", Auntie Mame calls her friends together and sings the song "We Need a little Christmas, right this very minute. Candles in the window, carols at the Spinet." In response to the gloom and doom of the Great Depression, Mame decorates her house with holly, colored lights and a Christmas tree to pull those around her out of the funk they are feeling. At the end of the song everyone is happier, feels closer and finds once again something worth celebrating.

As we've approached this day, October 31st – Halloween, I've been thinking that we need a little Halloween. It is wonderful that Halloween falls on a Friday this year. Children will not need to get up early for school tomorrow. They can fall asleep in their costumes if their parents will allow it. Most adults will not be going to work tomorrow and can stay up helping categorize the candy loot until the wee hours as they talk the young ones out of the more sophisticated chocolate that has landed in their bags. We need a little Halloween to give us a break from the political rhetoric and the economic roller coaster on which we find ourselves.Plainly put, we need a little diversion, a little fun.

Halloween provides that rare opportunity for children to rule. The adults who prepare costumes and dress these children inevitably remember the Halloweens of their past…that mummy costume that kept unraveling at the Girl Scout party while doing the "Monster Mash"…the plate of peeled grapes, passed around in the dark  while a scary story was told,meant to be eyeballs….the unbridled freedom felt as we ran from door to door in the dark, parents standing just in the shadows, protection but an arm's length away. It is a night of pure fun with no hidden agenda.

It is also a night when, for a few brief hours, the children and the child-like, can don costumes that allow them to get in touch with an inner desire or confront their deepest fears. Super heroes make their way through neighborhoods fighting crime along side vampires and angels. Peter Pan flies near the witches, both with the longing to 'never grow up.' Clowns hold the flashlight while their Princess friends lift skirts that are just a bit too long, both moving toward the next door which will provide another sweet treat. And those who greet them hold memories of similar costumes and a familiar joy that really only comes once a year.

It is a simple holiday, one that doesn't ask much of us. A mask, some well placed cloth, perhaps a little makeup. A few small pieces of candy. Tonight all this will add up to some much needed happiness.

Tomorrow we can get back to the important work of elections and stock markets. But tonight….let's fly!

Have a wonderful weekend…..remember to turn your clocks back and enjoy that extra hour of sleep….

Count Them

“Blessed are those who know their need
for theirs is the grace of heaven.
Blessed are the humble
for they are close to the sacred earth.
Blessed are those who weep
for their tears will be wiped away.
Blessed are the forgiving
for they are free.
Blessed are those who hunger for earth’s oneness
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the clear in heart
for they see the Living Presence.
Blessed are those who suffer for what is right
for theirs is the strength of heaven.
Blessed are the peacemakers
for they are born of God.”

~ The Casa del Sol Blessings of Jesus

This Sunday is the celebration of All Saints in the protestant churches, the day when we name and mark those saints living and departed who have graced our lives. This particular Sunday the scripture reading from the Christian texts is what we commonly call The Beatitudes. These sayings of Jesus to the people gathered at the Sermon on the Mount are some of the most beloved words in the Bible. The reading above is certainly an adaptation by a group of people who looked long and hard at what Jesus’ words meant and what they mean. They are printed at the beginning of J. Philip Newell’s book Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation.

The poetry of the beatitudes is beautiful. But I think that one of the reasons we love this scripture so much is that in it we can find ourselves and we can be affirmed that Jesus is talking to us. He is talking to us, including us, in all our neediness, our brokenness, our strength, our passions, our dreams. He is talking to us, naming the deepest part of who we are right here, right now, and then blessing the steps we are taking, blessing our life’s journey. And depending on the day, we might see our path as one of peacemaker or one who needs our tears wiped away. It changes all the time with all the twists and turns of living…..but the blessing remains.

As I look out my window right now, the autumn day is breathtaking. As I walked into the building, people I passed remarked on the beauty of this day, how lucky we are. Lucky, maybe. Blessed, certainly. These are the days we mark and tuck away in our memory for those cold, gray, dark days of March when the bloom has worn off the winter wonder. It is easy on a day like today to know what it means to be blessed. Of course, this is not always the case and we need reminders…from ourselves, from friends, from family, from the words of the scriptures.

How are you being blessed today? What are the circumstances of your life that direct how you are walking in the world? When I was younger we used to sing a song:”Count your blessings, name them one by one.” It is a good exercise to take stock of how we are blessed. In taking stock we come to see ourselves as a part of those who seek to recognize the holy within our days, within our living. It is, perhaps, a good first step in walking the way of the saints.


This morning I heard singer-songwriter k.d.lang on Good Morning America. She made a statement that went something like:"Sometimes you just need to whisper." She was referring to her experience in a recording studio. Her claim is that 'whispering' creates an intimacy in singing that draws people in a way that full voice can't produce.

I liked this idea because I know it to be true. In fact, any good teacher, or parent for that matter, knows that whispering often gets greater attention that raising one's voice. Whispering causes people to lean in, to look you in the eye, to read your lips. Whispering causes the pulse to slow and the senses to be open. The wonderful thing is that it also causes the same reaction in the one who is listening. It seems to me that some of our fellow citizens who are running for office might take note of this and employ a whisper now and then.

While k.d. lang was singing her whispering tune, the camera panned out and I got a glimpse of her whole body. She was barefoot!  No one made mention of it. Maybe it is her common practice as a performer, I don't know. But I was drawn to the idea of this powerful singer, getting her stage persona on, her performing clothes all in place and then, like Moses beholding the burning bush, removing her shoes.

 I was drawn to it for a reason. You see, there are certain places, our church sanctuary for one, in which, when I preach, I have to remove my shoes. I can go into the service in shoes but when it comes time to preach, I walk to the pulpit, step up and remove my shoes. Only certain choir members are aware of it. Removing my shoes helps me to remember to stay grounded, to stand firm, to know that each moment places us on holy ground. It also helps me to not be swayed by the overwhelming beauty of the place, the stain glass windows, the soaring music, the immensity of space. Removing my shoes reminds me of my humanness, my small space in the vastness of it all. Clearly put, removing my shoes helps me to be humble in my words and intention, remembering that the gift of the words are a gift of the Spirit.

These are times, I believe, that call for more whispering. They are also times that might be improved with a few bare feet. It's just a thought.

Saturation Point

"Do not speak unless you can improve upon the silence." A Quaker saying

At some point yesterday, I realized I had reached it. The saturation point, that is. The saturation point for information, ideas, thoughts, words. For the last months I have been taking in every tidbit of news and conversation about the world….politics, economics, religion, opinions, arguments. Make no mistake about it, it is all, for the most part, good stuff, important stuff. But something clicked inside me yesterday and I knew that my mind was full to overflowing. I had ceased to take in anything else that was helpful. Like a sponge that had soaked up all the dishwater it could, I was beginning to feel heavy, sudsy, full. Like the ground that is too full of rain, I was going to begin to overflow my banks, to flood.

Last night I had to come home and simply turn it all off. I put on my pajamas, crawled under the covers and proceeded to look at the most recent issues of National Geographic Traveler. When I say look, I mean 'look.', no reading just looking at the pictures., like a child who had not yet learned to read the words.When my eyes could take no more, I just closed them and drifted off to sleep. It felt like a very healing thing to do.

The ability we have to be in constant access of information has its place. As a world, we are more informed than perhaps ever before. This is a good thing most of the time. But there is also the space needed for silence, for reflection, for stopping the world and simply listening to the sound of your own heart…or last night, the roar of the incredible winds outside the house. It was a contemplative time, a much needed time of 'no input', a time to create some sacred space to rest in the silence, to keep company with only myself.

I don't think I am alone in this need. I have a friend who, sometimes when I call to see if she is interested in doing something will say:"No, I need to be a hermit.". Being a hermit, keeping company with oneself often adds up to a prayerful time, a time of ultimate communion with the Holy. It is  good and a very needed thing, not only for this time, but for all time.

Secret Life


The movie version of one of my favorite novels, The
Secret Life of Bees
, opened in theaters last week. This beautiful story, by
Sue Monk Kidd, of friendship, transformation, redemption and a deep mystery has
enchanted readers for several years. I have not seen the movie yet. In fact, it
is one of those books I loved so much that I am a little nervous to actually
see the film version. But since I know my curiosity and the good reviews will
get me there, I picked up the novel again to acquaint me again with the
compelling characters.


The young girl who is the central character receives
powerful life lessons from an older woman who happens to be a bee keeper. She teaches
her ‘bee yard etiquette.’ “She reminded
me that the world was really one big bee yard, and the same rules worked fine
in both places: Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you.
Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and long pants. Don’t swat. Don’t
even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates, while
whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if
you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be


As always, my powerful need to underline in books has this
passage readily visible as you flip through the pages. Here is something to
remember. I think of this wisdom every year around State Fair time when bees
fly around anything sweet they can detect. But these words are about so much
more than bees and our urge to resist being stung. They are words to remember
whenever we are afraid….and there are so many messages meant to keep us
fearful. Resisting our fears, being smart and not swatting can get us far in
life. The idea of not even thinking about swatting takes intense practice. Remembering
the escalating effects of anger is also important. Think how many conflicts
could be solved by taking a few moments to whistle!


And most importantly, sending love. What might happen to the
world if, in every situation, in every relationship, we began by sending love? Isn’t
that at the heart of the gospel of every faith tradition? This is not a secret.


You probably won’t find many bees left in these waning days
of autumn. But bee etiquette is helpful in pretty much every situation. It
might be good to give it a try.


Have a blessed


“For at last I believe

 life itself is a prayer,

and the prayers we say

the lives we live,

just as the lives we

the prayers we say;

and it all shapes the

expresses itself in and among us,

            and for which we are guerrillas.”

                  ~Ted Loder,
Guerrillas of Grace

This morning I was searching
through some prayer books in preparation for devotions for a meeting.
I began looking through this book of prayers by Ted Loder which I hadn’t
picked up for some time. I had forgotten how beautiful the prayers were
and was once again struck by the challenging title and some of the very
challenging prayers within. 

Have you every thought of yourself
as a ‘guerrilla’? It is a startling label, isn’t it? Guerrilla
is something one associates with war, with countries far from our shores,
with chaos and the rag tag nature of conflicts uncontrolled. To be a
guerrilla is to be ‘a member of an irregular armed force that fights
a stronger force by sabotage and harassment.’ Wow!  

And yet when I look at the
ways in which Loder uses the term in relationship to prayer, it all
makes sense. To see our whole lives as prayer…communion with the Holy…is
to certainly live an irregular life. To allow our prayer to shape our
lives and lives to shape our prayer calls on us to arm ourselves with
a deep, abiding sense of God’s presence in every movement we make,
from the most mundane to the most significant. To be present to that
prayerful living means we go against a strong force of all that will
distract us, all that will sell itself to us as ‘more important’.
To be a guerrilla of grace is to sabotage the spaces of fear and despair
by offering compassion and hope.  To be a guerrilla of grace is
to upset the apple cart of injustice through the harassment of justice
and liberation. 

As I read the scriptures, it
seems to me Jesus was just such a guerrilla, always throwing the mirror
up in the faces of those who would keep people from living into the
fullness God had prepared for them. In that spirit, how can we do any
less than continue to shape the prayer of our lives, and the life of
our prayer, into an ever unfolding glimpse of the peacable kin(g)dom?


I sat in a meeting today made up of United Methodist clergy that serve churches in the Twin Cities area. These churches are small and middle-sized. Only a couple are what could be considered large. Some are thriving. Others are struggling. Some even are on the verge of closing. At one point the speaker said:" Even those churches who know that their buildings will close soon, need to understand what their legacy is. They need to name it and celebrate it."

Legacy: a gift by will especially of money or other personal property.Legacy: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. So says Webster. The word legacy is one of those truly beautiful words to say. It rolls off the tongue and sounds quite elegant. It is a word that conjures up an understanding of what it means to have a past, a past that is understood, celebrated and gives meaning to today’s living.

What does this word mean to you? Have you thought about your own legacy? What is it that you have carried forward from your past that you want to hand on to your future, to the future of your family, to the future of your faith community, to the future of your country? In the meat of this beautiful word so much lives and breathes.

I have a collection of cards that I have taped on the door of my office. Each card has a little saying that has inspired me or made me laugh. One such card reads: "I hope it will be said we taught them to stand tall & proud, even in the face of history & the future was made new and whole for us all, one child at a time." Every now and then my eyes will fall on this card as I leave my office after a long day of meetings, a long day of time I sometimes cannot account for. When I glimpse these words, I stop and think of the work I do. I think of the children and youth I come into contact with and I hope that a part of the legacy I leave will encompass these words. Taking the word ‘child’ to mean the children of God, I hope this legacy extends beyond age, beyond the walls of this place, beyond this present moment.

History can sometimes take us on twists and turns we did not choose. But a legacy that encourages us to stand tall and proud, one that empowers us to see the future,new and whole, will always see us through.

Enough to Last

"In this day, give us your strength,
Enough to last the day.
In work and play, in rest and sleep,
Enough to last the day.
Supply and feed us in our need.
Give us today our daily bread,
Enough to last the day.
The manna for our bodies, strength,
Enough to last the day.
Supplying, satisfying and full"
     ~Frances Ballantyne

Have you ever noticed that when you go camping or even on a trip, you take just what you need? Well, at least most of us do. Our family has always been reminded when we travel of what is really necessary for any given day. There is a wonderful simplicity that is held when you have just a couple of changes of clothing, a sleeping bag, a cup and plate, enough silverware to eat a meal and a good book. Even if you throw into the mix a tent, a flashlight, toothbrush, soap and toothpaste and a towel or two, it adds up to very little.

As Americans we are often shocked at the small refrigerators of people in other countries.Their kitchens are not equipped for large amassing of produce or frozen foods. Most people around the world buy what they need for a day or two at most. Living this way allows you to connect with the neighborhood grocer, the farmers at the market, your friends down the street.It is a way of living that promotes community and a reminder of the ways our lives are interconnected. I long for that at times.

We traveled this weekend and I was once again reminded of how little is really necessary for a good day, a really good day. A little bit of food, clean water, a book for passing the time, comfortable shoes for walking, a few layers of clothes to weather all the changes of season in a day.  It really doesn’t take much and yet we often spend so much of our time storing up food, money, resources for a rainy day that may never come. We don’t know. It could but we just don’t know.

So this prayer jogged my memory, and my conscience, to remember to ask for only what I need…enough to last this day. The scriptures are filled with stories of those unwise people who tried to hoard bread or money and ended up with rotting resources. It is a good lesson. The scriptures are also filled with stories of the wise ones who learned what it was like to treasure the gifts of this day, this moment in time, and to be thankful for having enough to last this day.

As for me, I want to follow the ways of the wise ones, savoring the simplicity of what is given for the good of this day. Tomorrow, who knows what will be needed? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Step by Step

“Every long journey is made
of small steps

Is made of the courage, the
feeling you get

When you know it’s been
waiting for you

The journey’s the only thing
you want to do.”

~Ann Reed

 I have the blessing these
days to be surrounded by young people who are living the journey of their
senior year in high school. They are all involved in searching for colleges,
assessing their skills, developing their dreams of their future. They also seem
to be keenly aware of all the ‘lasts’ they are living. The last time for this
sports season. The last homecoming dance. The last MEA weekend get-away to a
friend’s cabin.

It is a bittersweet thing to
observe. Here are the friendships that have sustained them for nearly twelve
years. These are the systems, the institutions they have come to know well and
in which they are comfortable. Soon that will all change. At least those that
flow in and out of our house seem to be living both the excitement and the
narrowing grief of moving from what they have known and what is yet to be. This is a lesson they will learn over and over throughout their lives.

 Right now these young people
are mired in the details of filling out college applications, taking tests,
weighing each test and paper for how it will affect their GPA. Senior pictures
have been taken and turned in to the yearbook staff. Another last. Soon most will hit send on their online college applications and the journey will unfold on the other side of their preparation.

 As the adults in their lives,
we can only try to provide a non-anxious presence. We can offer our thoughts,
our ideas, our hope, but it is their life to dream, theirs to shape, theirs to
live…step by step. In the midst of it, my prayer is that I can remember to
savor it all and to be a witness to this amazing unfolding journey.


“We cannot know what you go
through or see through your eyes

But we will surround you the
pride undisguised

In every direction whatever
you view

You’re taking our love there
with you.”

Have a lovely weekend………………………

Take Time

"She opens her mouth with wisdom and kindness is on her tongue.: Proverbs 31:26

I drive by my children’s former elementary school several times during any given week. I also glance down onto the playground in hopes of seeing the children playing, running wild, and generally having a good time…the true work of childhood. A few weeks ago I noticed that red material of some kind had been woven into the chain link fence. The material spelled out the words: Take time. I thought it was a perfect recess message. Take time each day for running wild, blowing of steam, exercise and playtime.

A week or so later I was driving by again and I saw that the message had expanded: Take time to be. How very Zen! I wondered whether elementary children actually needed such a message. Perhaps in these times of over scheduled children, they do. And then I thought maybe that the message was really for the teachers, the adults, those on ‘playground duty’ to remind them to notice these beautiful children. Why not take their lead in how it is we walk in the world?

Yesterday I drove by once more and saw a completely different message: Take Time to be Kind. Ahh…..what a good playground message. What a great workplace message. What a great life message. Kindness is a virtue meant to be spread around or written in red where we can always be reminded. Remember the bumper sticker:Commit random acts of kindness? It is a message that never grows old.

There is probably someone in your life that could use a good dose of kindness. Today might be the day to Take Time. Today might be the day to simply be. Today might be the day to Take Time to be Kind. I think we will all feel better if we follow those red letters. Care to join me?