"Then there were doors that wouldn't open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren't really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending." J.K. Rowling

At our Ash Wednesday service this week we talked about masks….the masks we wear, the masks we hide behind. We spoke about Lent being a time to take off our masks and be who we really are, God's beloved ones, created to be images of the Holy in the world. These 40 days can encourage us to strip away all the pretenses we normally live with and come clean with who we are, blemishes and all. It is a frightening thought, difficult work.

Another way to look at it is with the metaphor of the door. The scriptures are full of door images, those invitations of hospitality we either open or keep shut out of fear, intimidation, apathy, or ignorance. Lent can invite us to open the doors of our mind, eyes, heart to what is being born anew in us. This is also frightening and difficult work. It can be even more daunting when we realize that what we thought were doors to be opened were really walls we had built. Solid walls, all the cracks and crevices filled with mortar so nothing could get in. There is seemingly no way to penetrate the fortress we have built.

It has been my experience that the realization of this wall building usually comes as a great surprise. I find I am often caught off guard by the ways in which I have systematically built, brick by brick, walls that I believe protect me or shield me from another person, a particular situation, a challenge I want to deny, a gift I refuse to receive. This building is not only exhausting but keeps me from living fully, from transformation I sorely need, from being present to the Spirit's movement in my life. It creates an illusion about who I really am and whose I really am. These walls keep me from authentically being an image of God in the world.

Does this ever happen to you? Are there walls you have built that need to come tumbling down? Are there doors you wish might open that might lead you to your authentic self?

Perhaps this Lent is not a time to deny ourselves chocolate or any other wonderful thing. Perhaps this Lent is an invitation to begin to dismantle the walls we have built that sometimes masquerade as doors. Brick by brick we can tear down the buffer we have created that keeps us from becoming the gift to the world we were created to be. As plaster falls, as chunks thud around our feet, we will be invited to offer ourselves fully and wholly to one another, to our communities, to the world, after the example of Jesus who walked this path before us.

I believe this might be called resurrection.

Have a blessed weekend………

Let Go

"God does not ask anything else of you except that you let yourself go and let God be God in you." Meister Eckhart

There is a popular phrase:"Let God and Let God." I think when most people make this statement it really means that God is charge and we just have to stop whatever we are doing to be in control of our life's circumstances. I don't doubt that it is a helpful affirmation to many people and I am happy that it brings them a certain peace.

It has never been that helpful to me because it assumes just passivity on my part. Generally I have never believed that the Holy One's movement in my life invites me to be passive. In fact, it has been my experience that the presence of Spirit usually is urging me more toward action than anything else. I am not talking about a flurry of activity movement, mind you, but an inner nudge to be so totally engaged in living that I come to know God more fully, be involved in living with my whole being. Of course this can be done without much activity at all through prayer, contemplation, meditation, observation. But the Spirit's movement can also cause us to speak out in dangerous ways, to put our life on the line, to walk the path of protest and resistance, to demand justice where injustice reigns.

These words of Meister Ekchart strike me as a perfect mantra for the first day of Lent. Today as we are marked by the ashes of last year's palms, we are invited once again to look deep within for the ways in which we have failed to be open to the presence of God not only in the little things of our daily living but in the ways in which we have failed to let God be God in us. This is not a passive surrender but an intense commitment to keep our eyes and hearts open to the presence of God in our work, our homes,our relationships, our very being.

Isn't this what the story of Lent is really about? Jesus walked the path of his life so open to God's presence that he chose to go down dangerous roads confronting difficult people, speaking his truth,putting his life on the line. He went about his daily work healing, bringing hope, witnessing to Sacred in all of Creation.  In every encounter he chose to let God be God in him.

The ashes of this day remind us that we are made of the stuff of the earth. They also remind us that we are on this amazing planet for a short time. Our real work is to be about the business of letting God be God in us.

And so Lent begins………………..

Fat Tuesday

Today is the last day before we enter the season of Lent. It is commonly known as 'Fat Tuesday', a day on which we eat pancakes or other sweet, fun foods, celebrate, party, dance, make music….generally have a good time as humans do. Of course, in New Orleans, Mardi Gras, a longer and bigger celebration has been going on for the past week. Revelry, wildness, fabulous food and joyful music has been filling the streets as people from around the world flock to this beleaguered city for all the festivities.

It is a somewhat odd practice, don't you think? Before we move into the 40 days of Lent, full of introspection,fasting, prayer and soul searching, we have a big blow out of a party. But who hasn't had that one final piece of chocolate cake the night before starting a diet, before making a significant change in living? Fat Tuesday can mark a way of turning the page in a season of a year, a day when 'tomorrow will be different'.

In the Christian church Lent is meant to mirror the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted. The actual definition of the word comes from the Middle English word 'lente' or 'springtime'. Lent is the time when we clear away the debris that has accumulated over the winter so we can prepare ourselves for the new birth that awaits us in spring. Lent invites us into a daily walk of shedding…..negative practices, harmful thoughts, unhealthy ways….so what is planted in us can bring forth what rests inside. In turn it invites us to look within for the gifts that give us the courage to do our work in the world, to continue to allow our story to unfold. In essence it invites us to look for resurrection.

During this Lent, more than some others, it seems we are all begging for glimpses of new life. The last year, last months, we have seen the debris of greed and despair build up both individually and communally. Perhaps more than in years past, this Lent calls us to look inward more deeply as we search for seeds of hope that lie buried in the soil of who we are. Perhaps this year as we walk these forty days, we will begin to uncover and bring to the light what is needed to heal our relationships, our institutions, our own hearts.

'Lente', spring, Lent….the walk toward rebirth. It begins tomorrow. But tonight belongs to the revelers. Enjoy!

"Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.
" ~Martin Luther


Waking up this morning in Ohio, I made my way out of the hotel room to the lobby for a cup of coffee. The rest of my family was either sleeping or working and I wanted to begin the morning in a quiet way. I sat looking out the window onto the cold landscape. No snow covered the ground but I could tell by the steam rising from the cars outside that it was a frigid morning. The view out the window was not particularly beautiful. In fact, it was anything but….bare trees, cars and trucks zipping by on the nearby freeway, a rush hour beginning to form before my very eyes.

But I was facing east and no matter the initial sights that greeted my eye, they began to be made beautiful by the incredible ball of hot pink and orange that made its way up the horizon. At first it was only a sliver of sphere. Then over a period of minutes, right before my staring glance, the emergence of sunlight present in this globe of red. Cars and trucks continued to speed by. The other hotel guests pulled their wheeled suitcases out to their cars, their breath visible in the morning air.I wanted to run out into the parking lot shouting: "Stop! Look! The sun is rising! Isn't it beautiful?" But, of course, I didn't. It's best not to be seen as a 'little crazy' in public places.

This miracle of morning once experienced by our ancestors as pure gift is, to us in our fast paced world, taken for granted, most often ignored. It seems a shame, doesn't it?Those who once thought of sleep as a 'small death' rejoiced at waking up and seeing light be restored to their eyes, their life, their day. Oh, for the shedding of our intelligence, our understanding of how the world works and to be gripped once again in amazement….wouldn't it be wonderful?

"Have you ever seen 
in your life
more wonderful
than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--
or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things? "
~Mary Oliver


Early this week, before the fresh, clean dusting of snow fell, I was aware that we have entered that time of year when the snow that blanketed our streets and yards has melted in such a way to reveal what is buried beneath. As I walk my usual paths in our neighborhood, it is common to see a mitten half frozen in dirty snow. Down the street further a discarded bottle sticks its neck out of an icy snowbank. Once you begin noticing, it is impossible to stop until before you know it, all you see is the debris that lies beneath.

The other evening my husband and I began our evening walk as the sun was setting. This meant that by the time we returned to our home it was dark. Our eyes had adjusted as we walked and so when we came upon a black mound in the street I started to reach down to pick it up only to be stopped by his:"Don't think about it!" We walked on, the black mound a forever secret.

I have the desire to clean up the messes I see. If there is a piece of trash along the road, I might pick it up and later deposit it in a can I find along the way. The single glove along the sidewalk might have special significance and so hanging it from the bare limb of a tree makes perfect sense to me. Not too long ago we found a wallet in a mall parking lot, its contents flung with abandon around and under a car. We carefully picked up the random cards, ID's and driver's license and tried, we hope successfully, to return them to their rightful owner. It was, in part, an act of saving them from being buried beneath the next snowfall.

This season, with its ugliness and dirty face, becomes a great life metaphor. So much can be buried beneath the surface of our lives that needs to be uncovered, used, even celebrated. Still other things are beneath the surface because they bring us such pain. Digging them out of the snowbank requires confronting parts of who we are that we don't like to own.The hope is that 'out of sight, out of mind' will work. The wisdom of years most often proves this not to be true.  Those experiences, thoughts, feelings, that are buried always find a way to work their way out of their discarded home. 

May each of us have the courage today to look beneath the surface for what is buried. As we reach down to bring what we have found into the light, may we be held by the One who has promised to never let us go, the One who loves us unconditionally. Today, tomorrow, always.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have loved you and you are mine." Michael Joncas, Jeremiah 31:3

Hundreds of Ways

"Today, like every other day,
we wake up empty and frightened.
Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways
to kneel and kiss the ground."

Last night I was at a loss. Words were failing me. Reading was too difficult. Writing impossible.Prayers would not come. All the things that fill my time, fill me up, were inadequate. It had been a difficult day that had been part of a difficult week. I walked around the house aimless.

Then my eyes fell on the piano. I had not touched the keys in weeks. Sitting down, I began to play old songs, sappy, sweet songs that in other times I would laugh at their sentimentality. But tonight they seemed just right. I played and played, making every chord schmaltzier than the last. As I played a sense of calm began to take hold. I felt the stress and pain of the past week begin to loosen in my muscles. It was a moment of healing brought on by the power of 'taking down an instrument' as Rumi suggests. I played until the notes had their way with my troubles, my confusion, my pain. It was good.

A friend and colleague died tragically this past week. My community is reeling with their questions, their anguish, their grief. Many are filled with doubt, fear and a challenged faith. Walking together through this has been difficult. But this is what true communities do. They hold each other up when needed and celebrate with joy when it is called for. They listen to each others' questions with patience knowing they have no answers. They pray even when their prayers seem shallow and trust that God hears the depth of their words. And in the mix of the hands that reach out and the arms that hold, I believe, the Holy shows up. Or rather, we have the eyes to see the presence that was always lingering within our reach.

Sometimes that presence is in the touch of another or the word well chosen. Sometimes it is in the silence. Still other times it is in the sweet sound our own fingers make as they bring to life the sound of music that has the power to distract, transform, heal. All these are gift offered without price. Pure sacrament.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


Today has been a day full of meetings, all important, just stacked on top of one another with barely a moment to shift gears before the next. Ever have one of those days? They can be mind numbing and spirit drenching.That's when it is more important than ever to notice the gifts that show up in the oddest of places.

As I headed into meeting number three at a little before 10 a.m., I grabbed a cup of tea. The smell of cinnamon and spice jarred my senses as I situated myself at the table, ready to take on what the hour held. I twisted the string of the teabag around the handle of my pale green cup. Then my eyes fell on what was printed on the teabag tag: "The first and great commandment is: Don't let them scare you." It was attributed to Elmer Davis(1890-1958).

Davis was a well-known news reporter who worked for The New York Times and was also the  Director of the United States Office of War Information during WWII. He is the author of Giant Killer, a retelling of the story of David. So it is clear Mr. Davis was well acquainted with some pretty frightening situations and understood firsthand what it meant to be scared. From his fascination with David and his troubled life,it is clear he liked to take on stories that have fear as their centerpiece.

I felt gratitude to Elmer Davis for his words. They helped me think of all the ways in which we allow fear to guide our actions in the course of our daily lives. Fear seems to guide so much in our culture: Fear of losing something or someone important to us. Fear of being overlooked or under appreciated. Fear of illness or uncertainty. So many fears…..so many ways to be scared.

In the Christian scriptures, Jesus moves about his daily walk often repeating the same words to those he meets:"Do not be afraid." He says it to the rich, the poor, the ill, the young, the old, the powerful and the powerless.This voice of God in human skin walked through the world with the message of the eternal non-anxious presence: Do not be afraid.

Where is the fear in your life? What is seeking to scare you? The 'commandment' of the one who calmed the storms that threatened to overwhelm his disciples and the one who sought to tell anew the story of the the child who confronted the giant Goliath is the same.

Don't let them scare you.

"Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be
afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died
down. They were completely amazed," Mark 6


"You can't hurry love, and you can't rush puff pastry, either. You can knead too much, and you can be too needy. Always, warmth is what brings pastry to rise. Chemistry creates something amazing; coupled with care and heat, it works some kind of magic to create this satisfying, welcoming, and nourishing thing that is the base of life." Kathleen Flinn

I am reading this wonderful little memoir by a woman who moved from corporate life to living her life's dream of studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. This quote comes from the book The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. As an avid pie baker, I understand the importance of the 'chemistry' it takes to produce a flaky, delicious pastry crust. Well, I don't actually understand it but I know the environment in which a good crust is born and the ingredients that it takes to make a crust that melts in your mouth..

For instance I know that if you work with the crust too much, it becomes tough, impossible to roll out. If the dough is too warm it gets sticky and you have a mess on your hands…and the rolling pin….and the counter. If you add too much flour to take care of the stickiness, the crust will also become either tough or crumbly. There are many variables that make this seemingly simple food work.All these variables do not do well under time constraints. Rushing to make a good pastry crust usually leads to disaster. The ingredients need certain temperatures and a certain amount of time to come into their own as they come together creating something greater than their individual parts.

All these statements are true of so many things in life. We bring together people or ideas and it takes a certain chemistry for good things to grow. It takes chemistry and timing.  Have you ever walked into a meeting, maybe one you were actually dreading, only to find yourself drawn into a conversation that gets your creative juices flowing?The energy rises in the room and the chemistry begins to happen. Before you know it this person has shared an idea, another has built upon it, a thought here, a question there and voila! Something new is born. It is an exciting process and in some ways magical. Letting the chemistry work and giving the time that is required makes all the difference in the outcome.

The trick is to not knead too much….and not to be too needy.

Deep Within

 “Deep within, I will plant my law, not on stone but in your
heart….Follow me and I will bring you home and I will be your God.” Jeremiah 31:33

 Hearts and flowers are popping up everywhere as we prepare
to celebrate Valentine’s Day tomorrow. It is a holiday that many love about and others loathe. Children are preparing to take Valentines to school
today after carefully scrutinizing the words printed on their superhero and
television character themed cards, careful to choose ones that don’t give anyone the
wrong idea. Yesterday I was in Target and made note of the people, adults
mostly, standing in the card aisle, reading carefully, some laughing, some
nodding, others quickly putting back the card that was certainly not the right
one to express what they wanted to. Candy has been purchased, flowers may have been sent. Perhaps even gifts
have been purchased. All to send the message of love.

 An Internet site gives this account of the origin of this
day, though there are many opinions about why we do, what we do on February 14th.
“Some experts state that it originated
from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up
Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been
devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell
note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it
"From Your Valentine". Other aspects of the story say that Saint
Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor
Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope
Gelasius set aside February 14 to honour St. Valentine.”

 Whatever the reason for the celebration, it is clear that
the world needs more expressions of love and not just one day out of the year.
I am not speaking primarily of romantic love but the love that brings out the
best in us as we share with another person what they truly mean to us, how they
have shaped us, helped us, how they have gone the extra mile on our behalf. In
the hurried world we live in we often don’t take the time to say what needs to
be said. A simple thank you, a kind word, a ‘love note’ can go a long way to
lift someone above the ordinary,make their day, mend a broken heart, heal a troubled world. As I imagine the energy of world on a day filled with acts of love, I imagine a world that radiates healing. Can you imagine it too?

Sharing love and kindness is an act of sharing in the Holy.
It creates a connection with the One who planted the law of love deep within our hearts.
Sometimes we need a certain day, or a carefully cut out,red paper heart to be reminded to share
what we have been so graciously given.

 Happy Valentine’s Day……………..



“Standing, standing ,Standing
on the promises of God my Savior.

Standing, standing, I’m,
standing on the promises of God.”

~R. Celso Carter, 1886

 As a child I often attended the
small country church my mother grew up in and my grandmother still attended. On
a good Sunday there were probably 20 people there. My memory is not of a small,
sad church but one that was vibrant and alive. The minister served several
churches and rotated Sundays, so some weeks there was only an opening time of
prayer and hymn-singing and then Sunday School. It was always a warm, inviting
place, a community of people held together by a common faith, a shared life.
Most were folks who worked or had worked at the brickyard down the road, men who
walked together in the morning and home again at night. My mother talks of
walking with the women noon, carrying my grandfather’s lunchbox, as the women
went to eat lunch with their husbands.

“Standing on the Promises” was a
hymn often sung on Sundays. It was accompanied by Ivola on a piano not often
tuned. Jeannie Mae led the singing, her round body as wide as it was tall, her
voice clear with the twang of a country singer. Each verse of the hymn seemed
to get slower as we sang. As we settled into the familiar words, no one really
needed to look at their hymnals. These were songs sung not only on Sundays but
as laundry was hung, as diapers were washed, as supper was cooked.

I think now about the promises that
were the foundation of this little church: family, hard work, a simple life, an
unquestioned faith. When Sunday rolled around, there was no work to be done-Remember
the Sabbath Day and keep it holy-just a time to stand on the promises of God.
That and a good fried chicken dinner at noon, followed by freshly baked pie and
an afternoon nap.