Grab Me

Over the last few days I have been at my seminary alumni gathering. It is always wonderful to see people you've known in what sometimes seems like another life, catch up with them, hear the amazing stories of the work they are doing.

The first day we were able to attend worship in the beautiful new chapel that has been added since most of us were students. It was a worship experience led by current students and was centered around the theme of how, as God's people, we are all a part of a very large puzzle bringing our gifts and sharing them with the world. The words and the music were all lovely, the leaders earnest and fresh in their delivery. The central ritual included coming forward to take a piece of a large world map puzzle that graced the worship table. As gentle music played people filed forward in the way we all have been 'trained' to do and then labored over the choice of what piece of the world they wanted to take.

Near what we thought was the end of the ritual a voice from the musicians rang out:"Will someone grab me?!" I turned to see three people rush to the side of the violin player, a young man who had played so beautifully in the music we had sung. He stood, hands at his side, his head reaching a bit toward the ceiling, a smile pasted across his face. He was blind but did not want to be left out of ritual at hand and so he did what was necessary. He called out to be grabbed!

As he grasped the arm of one who had come to his rescue, I thought of all the times in his life when he must have yelled something similar. I also thought of all the times even those of us who are sighted want to…need to… yell:"Will someone grab me?" How often when life throws a dangerous curve in our road do we long to yell to someone, anyone,'grab me'? And then there are those times when the work we are doing seems so lonely that we want to know another person is there to walk with us for support or to help us see the way through. Grab me! There have been times in my own life when the situation seemed so unmanageable that I wanted to yell out "Will someone grab me?" How about you?

As we travel this gray, spring day, may the path below our feet be solid and sure. And if by chance it isn't, may we have the courage to call out for the help we need. May our words "Will someone grab me?" be answered by the gentle touch of another and may we walk together into what is just at the edge of our vision.


"Each of us has name

given by God

and given by our parents

Each of us has a name

given by our stature and our smile

and given by what we wear…….."

~The Roches, from a poem by Zelda

Each of us does have a name. Some of us love our names and others not so much. Many of us think we should have been named something else….something more dramatic, more fitting, simpler perhaps. Make no mistake;names are important. Call someone by the wrong name and watch their reaction. You can often see the wounding on their face.

The seven young people who wrote their names on a piece of paper, torn from a bag of concrete compound, and then placed that paper in a bottle and buried it, knew that names are important….their names. As they were held at Auschwitz, against their will and for no fault of their own, except for their names, they wrote those monikers for someone to find. In case they didn't survive. So they would be known and remembered. Seven young people, probably 18, 19 or 20 years old, perhaps mixing the concrete to shore up the wall surrounding the camp so it could serve as an air raid shelter. An air raid shelter not meant to shield them from harm, but their captors.

This small story in today's paper caught my eye amidst all the other harrowing and panic producing stories. These young people buried this bottle only a few hundred feet from the horrors in which they were forced to live and perhaps die. Remember us, they asked. Know my name. Know I was here, alive, young, full of potential.

Each of us does have a name, even many names. Our name given by our parents. A nickname we may have chosen to make us feel cool and special. A 'sweet name' assigned to us by the one who loves us and shares our life. We are known as mother, father, sister, brother, teacher, friend, minister,co-worker, doctor, neighbor……so many names. All important, all to be remembered.

At least two of those who wrote their name and placed it in the bottle are known to be alive today. For this I offer gratitude. The article did not actually spell out their names. For that, I am sad. I would have liked to have said their names aloud today, whispering the sweet sound of vowel, consonant and syllable into the Universe……offering it as prayer.


"A person can be as truly a saint in a factory as in a monastery, and there is as much need of them in the one as in the other. ~Robert McCracken

On Sunday Pope Benedict XVI canonized five new saints. None of these new saints are still living but their lives were deemed worthy of sainthood through the process created by the Roman Catholic Church centuries ago. To become a saint is a two step process. First is beatification, an honor bestowed after the Vatican has evidence of one miracle attributed to someone. After beatification if an individual performs another miracle the person can be declared a saint.

The church has a language all its own. Beatification. Not a word we use very often. When one searches out its definition, it is clear that it finds its root in 'beatific', an adjective meaning to make blissful, showing happiness, blessed. The noun becomes beatification and is clearly meant only for church circles as a formal investigation to decide whether a deceased person should be publicly declared to be in heaven and worthy of public veneration. Somehow there is a disconnect for me but if it all leads to sainthood, who can argue?

Here is my hope….that those people who show us happiness…. that leads to bliss…. which helps us know we are blessed….. will honored as saints while they are alive. I want them to revel in the glow of the gifts they bestow. I want them to know heaven on earth for the connections of compassion they make while they have breath. I want to name the miracles that come my way every day through the care and attention and the grace of ordinary people living ordinary lives with great love. One miracle is really enough for me but I'll take all I can get. How about you?

So here's to the beatific ones…..those walking toward sainthood every day. The three year old boy next door who runs to the window each time my car hits the driveway, knocking on the glass, face smiling, hands waving,welcoming my prodigal body home. The robin who sang a night song this past week soothing me to sleep when worries crowded my head and who woke me with an even more beautiful song when the sun rose. The man in our church community who continues to call us to the miracle of Creation held in the wings of all the feathered ones urging us to see the face of God in those who connect earth and sky. The cherry bush blooming in our front garden, soft, pale pink petals bringing the beauty of new life to gray days.The woman who continues to write me kind and gentle messages of affirmation in her tiny, beautiful script that always arrive just when I need them. So many……

The pope has his work to do. But, I believe, we do as well. There is canonizing to be done today. Look for the miracles, name them, bless them. There are saints among us…..and they are alive!

Life Saving

I have been reading Barbara Brown Taylor's new book An Altar in the World. I highly recommend it. Not only is it packed full of wonderful suggestions for deepening your spiritual life and practice but her words are always so well chosen, so poetic and beautiful.

In the introduction to the book, she tells a story of a speaking invitation she received from a priest in a church in Alabama. When she inquired what he wanted her to speak about he said: "Come tell us what is saving your life now." I shared this story at our regular weekly staff meeting this past week inviting people to reflect on what is saving their lives right now. There were some beautiful and simple answers.

What is saving your life right now? What lifeline are you reaching out for that gives you reason to get up in the morning and put your two feet on the ground? What practice or prayer is filling you with hope for movement forward? Who has looked at you and really helped you to know you are known and cherished just as you are?

The wonderful thing about this invitation is that how we answer today will be completely different than how we might have answered yesterday or will answer tomorrow. And yet the gift of reflecting on what is saving our life calls us to go to some deeper place, a place that strips away all the distractions of daily life, those things that can seem so urgent,and, instead, causes us to name what is at our core. Asking ourselves the question 'what is saving my life?' can cause us to breathe more deeply, walk more slowly, life more intentionally. And this, I believe, is always a good thing.

So today, as you go about your work, your play, your life, I invite you to reflect on what is saving your life. I invite you to ask a friend, a family member, a stranger, the same question. It could lead to some compelling conversation… that just might save your life.

"One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice-though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. "Mend my life!" each voice cried. But you didn't stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do-determined to save the only life you could save." Mary Oliver, The Journey


I have never really ever entertained the idea of the so-called 'vanity plates' for my car. While the extra cost of them is certainly a factor, I think my reluctance is more the idea that I wouldn't want to carry a particular message trailing behind me for such a long time. I am not sure I could choose wisely enough for such a commitment to a phrase.

But if by some chance I did choose to get these license plates, I might use the short hand version of a phrase that plays a significant role in telling the story in the movie 'Australia'. I am a little behind in my movie watching and just got around to watching this film the other night. Centered around the relationship of an English woman who moves to Australia and a young aboriginal boy, it is a sweeping tale of love and the pursuit of justice. As the woman learns the ways of the aboriginal people so oppressed by the whites, the young boy says to her: "I sing you to me." as a way of letting her know that wherever he goes, wherever she goes, when they need each other most, he will sing and they will find each other. As the film goes on, as she grows in her understanding, when he says these words, her response becomes: "And I will hear you."

These words have become ingrained in my psyche since seeing this film. Aren't they words we want to say and have said to us by so many? Parents want to know that somehow they can continue a deep connection even as the ones they held dear and watched grow travel far away to adventures of their own. "I sing you to me." Partners who watch loved ones leave to serve our country in dangerous places hold these words on their lips, in their hearts. "I sing you to me." Elders in places unfamiliar, lonely for the walls, furniture and artifacts that created their homes, hum these words to friends and family. "I sing you to me."  So many songs reaching out to be heard, connecting one person to another.

In 'Australia',this heart song taught by a small, brown boy to a powerful, white woman represents, I believe, the hope we all have. Someplace, somewhere, somehow, someone is singing a tune so rich and so deep that we will hear it and be found by it. In my imagination, I hear the Holy One's quiet yet distinct hum calling to each of us: "I sing you to me." And through dark days and days of great joy, through fear and trembling and rich laughter, over moments and sometimes decades, each of us will answer:"And I will hear you."

My license plates come due in October. Come winter if you notice a car carrying the message 'ISNGU2ME' that might be me. I hope to be heard.


In these days following Easter, our scriptures for Sunday worship tell the stories of Jesus appearances to the disciples after the resurrection. In every story the disciples fail to recognize him immediately. They walk along the road with him. They are on the beach with him. They think he is a stranger. They think he is a guest. The disciples themselves are living in a state of grief and fear. They are not thinking or seeing clearly. They go into their homes, close the doors, turn the keys, lock themselves in and the world out.

And then in each of the stories, Jesus says he is hungry and he is offered food……bread, fish, wine. As soon as he blesses the bread and begins to share a meal with the disciples, they recognize him for who he is. They are surprised, thrilled, and filled with joy. Their friend is among them again! In almost all the stories, he says the same thing:"Peace be with you."

I find these scriptures fascinating not only for what they say about Jesus but what they also say about us. So often when we are held in the grips of fear we can't see what is right in front of us. Those who are living with grief know this….the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a dream, the loss of a relationship….make it difficult to see gifts that are in our very midst. We find it nearly impossible to recognize the presence of the Holy who walks with us even in the darkest of times.

And then something happens. Someone offers us a bit of bread, a cup of coffee, a cookie or maybe a kind word, a smile or just the gentle silence of two people sitting together, sharing breath and space. We look across the table and the key we'd held so tightly loosens a little in our grip. The door opens a crack and we can perhaps see a light we hadn't noticed before.

In the gospel of John, the writer ends one of the appearance stories with the line: "Now Jesus appeared to the disciples many times that are not written in this book." It is one of my favorite small lines of in these scriptures. It seems to say the story continued, the story continues, and it is up to us be awake and aware of these and then to make the story our own. It seems to remind us that the appearance of the Holy is around us all the time and often we miss it.

Perhaps our work today is to offer the simplest of gifts….bread, water,our prayers… those we meet. If they have closed the doors of their hearts, or are walking in fear or living with grief, we just might be the presence of Christ to them offering them a bit of new life.

And isn't that what we are called to do?

"Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As God has sent me, I am sending you." John 20:21


"The vitality of God be mine this day
the vitality of the God of life.
The passion of Christ be mine this day
the passion of the Christ of love.
The wakefulness of the Spirit be mine this day
the wakefulness of the Spirit of justice.
The vitality and passion and wakefulness of God be mine
that I may be fully alive this day
the vitality and passion and wakefulness of God
that I may be fully alive."
~J. Philip Newell

As I have been running my Friday errands today, nearly everyone I meet has 'vitality' written all over them. In the grocery store people bent over choosing brightly colored tulips. Red? Yellow? Hot pink? So many ways to go. Strangers greet one another with smiles and nods as they allow their winter shoulders to relax away from their ears. Children are even more animated than usual, hopping around, eyes darting from one thing to another, anxious to get outside to play. Even harried parents find it difficult to be impatient with the fidgeting.

Isn't it what we all want to do in spring?Take our fidgety bodies, long held captive in layers of scratchy clothing, outside to feel the grass on bare our feet, let the sun touch our too-pale skin. Work projects that seemed so important just a few days ago seem not quite so urgent when we look out the window at the warm and shining sun. The birds are playing. The squirrels are playing. It seems even the plants and trees are playing. Why not us?

For me, these days in particular, are Spirit-filled days. They are also such days filled with such grace. Practically every good thing that is happening around me, I had no part in,did nothing to create. My only work is to be awake to the Creator's presence, uncovering, enticing, honoring the rhythm of the Creation. My job is to keep my eyes open, my senses primed, my ears listening and my heart filled with hope….for all that is yet to be. As I remain present to the ever-opening world around, I can once again remember those Spirit held places within me that have taken their winter nap and are now ready to wake up. Just like the tulips. Just like the forsythia blooming brilliant yellow in our backyard.Just like the robin who serenaded me this morning.

Vitality…..being fully alive, awake, passionate….to the spring….to the world…to myself….to the One who gently holds it all. The One who waits for the surprises only this spring will bring.

Enjoy the gifts of this weekend and….stay awake!


"Good People,
Most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.
In this circle of earthly existence
you shine
so finely,
it surpasses understanding.
God hugs you.
You are encircled
by the arms
of the mystery of God."
~Hildegard of Bingen

Seduction. That is the word that came to my mind as I have been watching the slowly greening earth. Along our freeways,the grassy area on my right can be dull brown while on the other side young green blades are being lured up through the soil. The warmth of the sun is seducing this dullness, coaxing the greenness toward its fullness.

This morning I stood for some time looking at the patches of brown and gray in our backyard garden. Then I saw the seduction happening right before my eyes. Pale green shoots, still sleepy from winter, were being enticed to show themselves in the morning light. Accompanied now by the early morning song of robin and cardinal, these early spring risers opened their fragile leaves upward, outward.

Seduction: the act of influencing by exciting hope or desire. Spring is about seduction… into the exciting hope of birth, growth, promise of new life. Spring is about all that is meant to be green coming into its fullness, its authentic self. There is an excitement of possibility that is palpable in the air as the geese honk their way back home, as the buds of the trees reach for what is yet to be….green.

And what about we humans? How are we being seduced in these warming days to the fullness of green within us? Hildegard of Bingen, that medieval mystic who was truly a renaissance woman….scholar, leader, teacher, artist, musician, composer…..often called humanity 'green'. She wasn't speaking about being ecologically sound. She was talking about humans coming into their fullness, being influenced by the exciting hope and desire to grow into all the Holy means for us.

Spring is here. The sun is shining. It is time to get green!

Useful Beauty

"Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.," ~William Morris

Last week while we were on vacation we had painters come into our house. We arrived home, bags full of dirty laundry and fabulous photos, to freshly painted, empty walls. All of the knickknacks, photos, paintings, and artwork had been removed and stored to make way for the work of the painters. Now our work is to re-decorate the empty space.

I think we are like most people in that over time we have collected far more 'stuff' than we actually need. Through the 'I must have that' or the 'I need that' syndrome, many things have accumulated. Combine that with the gifts we have been given and you've got a pile of 'more than we need.' So our job over the next days is to survey the evidence and choose what will now go on the walls, on the shelves, on the mantle. It will take some sorting and soul searching. 

But as I look outside my window right now it seems as if Creation is doing similar work. The ratty brown grass is filled with dead leaves, debris, abandoned toys, plastic bottles, and other stuff left from winter living. Some cleaning away will need to be done by human hands, picking up, sorting, throwing. Other clean up will be done by the gift of rain and spring winds, washing away, blowing, sifting. Whatever the method, in the end we will be left with what is useful to grow the greenness of summer,and power to create the beauty of flowers, vegetables, new life.

This is the joy and blessing of spring cleaning. We get to once again choose what is useful, what is really needed to make our lives full and vibrant. We also get to choose what brings beauty, what lifts us above the ordinary or helps us see the ordinary for the awe-inspiring experience it truly is. And we have the opportunity to let go of the rest….to simplify.

So now the work begins. Look. Choose. Dig.Throw. Hang. Wash. Polish. Rake. Plant. All this so when summer comes around, we can sit back, relax, and relish the warmth of the sun.

Easter Monday

I happened upon a radio conversation this morning that startled me. Two people were working up a lather about the crowds at their churches yesterday. But not in the ways you might imagine…..or I guess I should say, I might imagine. The conversation was about how the 'regular' churchgoers were upset that 'all these people go to church on Easter' that don't show up other days of the year. They talked about having to sit in seats that weren't their normal seats. One even went so far as to say that if people can't go to church on the other Sundays of the year, they shouldn't show up on Easter. I would imagine these same folks would throw Christmas in there as well.

It was a fascinating perspective. While we church professionals are joyfully counting the attendance figures for such a Sunday, it is interesting that there are those that saw the bump in numbers as an inconvenience or even an annoyance.

From my perspective it also seems to fly in the face of what it means to be the church. In fact, at yesterday's pancake breakfast that followed our sunrise service, I spoke with three young adults who were guests. They told me they had attended Ash Wednesday services with us and had really like their experience. Always wanting to learn what draws people to a new worship setting, I asked what they had liked. The young man got a funny look on his face as he said: "Well, it was clear that the people there had known one another for maybe twenty years. But they all just seemed excited to be there."

I've thought about those words many times over the last hours. I know that people 'church shop' these days,searching for the place that fits their theology, their comfort zone, their musical tastes, their commute. Statistics prove that people jump from denomination and even faith traditions in ways that are new to institutions of faith. It tends to make church growth experts crazy and builds a certain anxiety within all mainline churches. Because of this transient behavior, most of us cannot imagine what the church will be like in even ten or twenty more years.

Over the next weeks we will read the scriptures of those followers of Jesus who struggle to remain faithful after his death and resurrection. In the Book of Acts as it is interpreted in Eugene Peterson's The Message, it says:" They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful,as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. And many were added top their number."

On this Easter Monday, after the hoopla of yesterday has been put to rest, and we head into another 'normal' week of life in the church, I am glad that, at for at least a couple of Sundays out of the year, people who might not be motivated or inclined, show up. It is my prayer that they found our discipline of worship exuberant and joyful and that they glimpsed the face of God in it all. It is also my hope that if they came back again in, say twenty years- or next week, they would find the pews filled with people who still liked being here.

It may be alot to ask. But I believe we have some great role models.