I haven't been paying much attention to my horoscope recently. I am not sure why but I seem not to get to that section of the newspaper with much regularity. But as I perused the comics(Bizarro was particularly funny today), I looked down at what this Gemini might expect for the day. "The time has come to move in a new direction and see different
perspectives. To see them doesn't mean you agree, but you are in the
process of opening a door."

Well, now there's something to make me sit up and take notice. A new direction? Different perspectives? I like the sound of that. Even as the days grow darker and colder the prospect of a new direction sounds very inviting, even exciting. Bring it on!

Yesterday I sat in a meeting that could have been boring but wasn't. It was a budget meeting and several around the table shared some new ideas, new directions.  As we looked toward 2010 and what funding might be available for programs, ministries, dreams, I realized how often we humans become set in our ways. We tend to find a certain groove and stick with it. So many times that groove turns into a rut. And before you know it we are doing the same old things, over and over again, no longer remembering the excitement out of which they were born. It is sad really.

Every day we wake up with the possibility of a new day. It is ours to shape and reshape as we wish. Now certainly we are sometimes bound by circumstances beyond our control. But we do have power over our perspectives if we want to open our minds, our hearts, enough to see new possibilities, try looking through a new lens. I tend to believe this is the work of the Holy Spirit, that great Door-Opener.

So, here's the deal. If you are someone who is need of a fresh start, a new beginning, take my horoscope. As a Gemini, the Twin, we love to share, the more the merrier! Let's look for new directions, creative perspectives that can set the course for an engaging autumn.It is my prayer that the Spirit will throw open the door for what can be. And won't that be exciting?

"Ever-Present Opener,
you offer me your love and strength.
You can help me open any door.
Lead me to where my truest self dwells.
I reach out to receive the freedom and courage
you extend to me at this very moment.
Transform my life into one that reflects your love.
I open the door of my heart to you.
I open the door."
~Joyce Rupp

Before It’s Too Late

" I do not know if the seasons remember their history
 or if the days and nights by which we count time remember their own    passing.
I do not know if the oak tree remembers its planting or if the pine
 remembers its slow climb toward sun and stars.
 I do not know if the squirrel remembers last fall's gathering or if
 the blue jay remembers the meaning of snow.
I do not know if the air remembers September or if the night
 remembers the moon.
 I do not know if the earth remembers the flowers from last spring
 or if the evergreen remembers that it shall stay so.
 Perhaps that is the reason for our births–to be the memory for creation.
Perhaps salvation is something very different than anyone ever expected.
Perhaps this will be the only question we will have to answer:
 "What can you tell me about September?"

–Burton D. Carley–

Today is September 29th. We are bidding goodbye to this very significant month. A friend sent me the poem that is above and I have been sharing it wherever I can. It touched my heart and soul and I have held onto its truth all week.

September is one of the months when we become so aware of the changing and shifting all around us. Children return to school and the easy flow of summer finds a pattern, a regularity that summer thumbs its nose at. We see the change of all Creation all around us. As leaves turn from green to brown through various other forms of the color wheel, we recognize the changes in our own bodies, our own lives.

September is a letting-go month. It is a time when we are not where we were and not yet where we are going. Sometimes, as humans, we have the ability to remember Septembers past and can conjure up feelings or experiences that ground us in these autumn days. But most of the time this shedding, this storing up for winter, this heading into the darkness that September heralds, is all new once again, as if we've never lived through it before. Are we more like the tree, the squirrel,the blur jay than we'd like to admit in our human bound ego?

Or are we, as the poet proposes, meant instead to be the memory of Creation? Will how we remember this September, this glorious sun bathed, warmer than usual September, save us? I can't fully answer that question. But on the off chance that the poet is correct, I want to remember the fullness of this September with all its joys and sorrows, its sunshine and brilliant starlit nights,its letting go and holding on. I want to remember how the light played on the tree's leaves, how the children ran up and down on our block full of their freedom. I want to remember the sheer pleasure of the warmth on my back and how the clouds looked as they danced slowly in the changing sky. I want to remember the glorious taste of tomatoes and the first bite of a Honeycrisp apple.

I do not know what salvation is. But I do know that to remember the beauty of September, to learn its lessons, is worth storing up,not only for the winter, but for my whole life.The opening it creates at my center, for how it connects me with the Sacred is something to hold onto before it's too late and this September is gone forever. And that, in the end, might just be enough.

Butterfly Meditation

 Last weekend I sat and watched a monarch butterfly on the
flowers in our backyard garden. I became mesmerized by the movement of its
wings. Open, close. Open, close. Open, close. Slowly the beautiful orange and
black stained-glass patterned wings moved in this meditative way. Of course,
the butterfly was eating. I was the one using its movement as my invitation to
slow down, breathe more deeply, notice my heartbeat,find my home once again in my body.

 In yesterday’s paper I read an article about the monarch
butterfly migration from our backyards to the mountains of Mexico. Now I have to admit, in
the multitude of things that seem impossible to me, the idea that these fragile
beings fly through all manner of weather, across so many miles to make their
way to their winter home, ranks right up there in the realm of unbelievable.
While scientists, lepidopterists I learned they are called(those who study
butterflies), are still trying to decipher how these insects manage this cross country
flight, no matter what these brilliant people find out, it will still be a
marvelous mystery to me. The good news is that the ones-without-wings, we humans,
travel this great distance to be present to their arrival. To be present to the
mystery. To be filled with awe. To be puzzled by how it all happens.

One part of this article that has stayed with me since
reading it stated: “On a warm, sunny day in late January the butterflies
snoozing in branches in the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary woke up when the sunlight
fell on them. The evergreens looked like a Christmas tree adorned with orange
bows. The butterflies’ collective wings sounded like a slightly windy Wisconsin fall afternoon.”


To hear the sound of butterfly wings! What a marvelous
thought! I am reflecting back right now to my experience of watching the single
monarch in our yard, resting and eating from the last of summer’s blossoms. As
I remember the open, close, open, close of those magnificent wings, I am
imagining the sound that the soft, gentle breeze of those wings multiplied by
thousands could make. If I am quiet enough, if I am as still as, perhaps a butterfly, I can just about hear it. Ahhh….butterfly meditation.

 May I see today the largeness of your love in even the
smallest part of creation. May I be ravished by traces of your beauty in earth
and sky. May I experience the eternity of your grace pulsing within each
moment.” ~Sam Hamilton-Poore



"Star-flinging Spirit,
you stop, stoop, kneel, and embrace,
everyone and everything in need of your love and care.
May I join you today in caring for your creation,
embracing my role within the family of life."
~Sam Hamilton-Poore

I've just come back to my house after being on the Friday errand run. In the coming and going, I encountered a flock(is that what it is called?) of turkeys. Wild turkeys. Enormous birds, nearly prehistoric looking, pecking at the ground for all the bounty that falls in the autumn season. While over the last few years we have seen them with more regularity, it never ceases to stop me in my mental tracks when they show up by the side of the road.

In my errand running I happened to over hear a news report that there had been a bear sighted in a northern St. Paul suburb. Parents noticed it while they were watching as their children waited for the school bus. Who knows how it wandered into the 'civilized' neighborhoods where humans live? I didn't hear the end of the story so I hope bear and humans are fine. I also hope the bear was able to be returned to an area more conducive to its living.

It caused me to wonder what it was like, what it is like, in those places where humans and wild animals live in closer proximity. I would assume there is a respect that must be developed by humans to understand the wildness of these creatures. I wonder if the animals develop a similar respect for the often quirky ways humans order their lives. It would be wonderful if this mutual respect could be developed and then passed on to other communities, wouldn't it? It might even be something that would be of benefit in those sometimes terse and seemingly impossible human to human relationships that exist. 

In a week or so we will celebrate the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi known for his love and care for all creation, especially the animals. It is always a glorious day when the two-leggeds rise to their best selves as they bring their four-leggeds, their winged and scaled friends to church. As dogs, cats, mice, ferrets, birds, and even insects are brought forward for a blessing, I am always warmed by the love that surrounds both animal and human. There is such a feeling of hope in the room. It is a time when we recognize the Star-Flinging Spirit right in our midst. Some of us have words to express this. Others simply wag, purr or screech.

The next time I see the wild turkeys walking the path with me, I want to remember to send a blessing their way. It is a privilege to glimpse their beauty and courage in what can be a fairly routine human existence. What a gift to be sharing the earth with them!


"I have one talent and that is the capacity to be tremendously surprised, surprised at life, at ideas. Don't be old. Don't be stale." Abraham Joshua Heschel

I came across this quote in The Zookeeper's Wife a book by Diane Ackerman that I am reading for a book group I am a part of at church. Rabbi Heschel is known as a writer of Hasidic mysticism and is quoted in this book. The book tells the story of a couple who ran a zoo in Warsaw during WWII and used the zoo as a place to hide those who were escaping through the Underground. The people who were being moved to safety seemed at times to be hiding in plain sight but the Nazis seemed unable to see them. Perhaps it was because they had lost the ability to be surprised.

When I read this I thought about how much energy can go into trying NOT to be surprised. We plan, we rework plans, we set agendas, in which there is no room to be surprised. Indeed, that is often the goal. We say:"We want no surprises here."

And yet, when I think about some of the most exciting and memorable times I have experienced, they almost always involved surprise. There have been the happened upon place in a well planned vacation that delivers the true essence of a city, a country, a people. A stop to ask a question of a stranger can deliver a gift of conversation that changes a whole day. Straying from the well prepared to-do list can bring just the spark of creativity that solves a problem that has been stumping everyone on a work team.Even taking a different route to work can brings surprises that change the shape of our day.

I tend to think of surprises as the way the Spirit is present to shake up our living. Surprises jar us into the moment, the precious moment, that reminds us that we are alive. We are not in our past and we are not yet in our future…..we are here, right now, this very blessed minute. Surprises can do that even when we are not happy about their arrival.

My prayer for you, and for myself, is that today holds a few surprises. May there be a surprise or two that helps us to know that the Spirit is traveling with us on what we might, if left to our devises, turn into a dull, no-letter day through our careful planning. As the Spirit brushes by our well ordered day, may each of us hear the quiet whisper in our ear: "Surprise!"

It could keep us from being old and stale. It could make all the difference in the world.

Inner Light

"For the first showings of the morning light and the emerging out line of the day, thanks be to you, O God. For earth's colours drawn forth by the sun, its brilliance piercing clouds of darkness and shimmering through leaves and flowing waters, thanks be to you. Show to me this day, amidst life's dark streaks of wrong and suffering, the light that endures in every person. Dispel the confusions that cling close to my soul that I may see with eyes washed by your grace. That I may see myself and all people with eyes cleansed by the freshness of the new day's light." J. Philip Newell

Wednesdays are often those days in the middle of the week when I wonder where the blur of the beginning of the week has gone. It is also the day when I have the chance to look ahead and know what I might, with proper planning and good luck, have the opportunity to accomplish before the weekend. This experience could be solely mine but somehow I don't think so.And so Wednesdays can seem like a catch up day, a day to get my ducks in order so to speak. Today is one of those Wednesdays. As I try to regroup after being out of the office, away from my home, I can see the debris of neglect all around me. And so I am starting this day with a long list and a great hope.

I began my morning with this prayer from J. Philip Newell from his small book Celtic Benediction:Morning and Night Prayer. I love his words and his way of putting things in perspective for how we walk in the world. As I give thanks for the gift and the promise of this day, I feel grounded for whatever may come my way. As I offer gratitude I can also recognize those places in the world, in my daily walk, where there is darkness and suffering. In that recognition, I can ask for the ability to see the light within each person. I can allow my own light to shine forth. And then I can ask for my eyes to be washed by grace.

Eyes washed by grace. It is a wonderful image, isn't it? I pray today that my eyes may see all I meet with eyes scrubbed clean by a good bath of grace. As I go from meeting to meeting, as I make my way along the fast paced freeways, as my life brushes another,I pray that my eyes will look out toward each person I meet with eyes that offer grace. A nod that says,"It's going to be o.k.", a smile that says,"We can do this together." Isn't this what we all want? And so why wouldn't we choose to offer it to others?

This Wednesday, September 23,2009, is a day that has never been before and never will be again. It is a gift. And so, instead of simply thinking of this Wednesday as a 'catch up' day, I pray I can see it for the opportunity that it is: a day to be lived fully, richly, completely, overflowing with grace.


On Friday morning I sat on a plane that flew so close to the top of Mt. Rainier that it felt as if I could reach out and touch it. The sun was shining off the snow that makes its home on the peaks. The sky was so clear and blue it seemed as if we were all suspended in an amazing piece of art which, of course, we were. It was one of those moments in which you have the intense realization that you are a part of something very large, something full of beauty, something beyond comprehension…..something sacred.

As my son and I looked out the window at this amazing sight, I turned to him with a glint of tears in my eyes and said:"That's something that can get inside of you and not let go." He knew what I meant and gave me a smile and a squeeze. It will now be his privilege, when the clouds lift in Seattle, to see mountains with regularity as he begins his first year of college in this amazing city, this beautiful landscape. In addition to the lakes and water that have shaped him, he will now have the opportunity to be held and changed by the peaks and summits of mountains.

Each  of us carries with us the landscape to which we were born. The trees and plants we knew as children travel someplace just below the surface of our skin. The DNA passed on to us by our ancestors is mixed with the soil, water, air, and scenery they called home. As we grow and travel to other places we either find home in the soil and sights we experience or we know they are not the place for us and we move on. And believe I have met people who are still searching for that place.

It is my hope, my prayer, that our son learns to look out at the power and beauty of the mountains that now surround him and find an extension of someplace already deep within. A place that brings peace and stability. A place that helps him hone further the person he is becoming. A place of calm and a new way of defining home. While I always want him to have the lakes and prairies, the city and view of the Mississippi flowing through his veins, I also want him to find the awe and mystery of what it means to look into the distance and see that he is surrounded by these summits that are ancient, strong, larger than life itself.

The scriptures are filled with references to mountains. The psalms, in particular, sing the praises and beauty for how the Holy is known by those in the presence of mountains. "Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains."(Psalm 36) "On the holy mountain stands the city God created."(Psalm 87) The ancients also believed God lived on the mountain." In days to come the mountain of God's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, shall be raised above the hills."(Isaiah 2:2)

I am more of the mind and heart that God lives in all places. It is when we develop our sacred eyes to see that Presence that we have the encounter that brings us to the place we will call Home. And so today, with my feet firmly planted again on Minnesota soil, I look out my window and see the last day of summer unfolding. As the trees begin to evolve into their golden colors and the air is turning cooler, I am comforted by what I know. But my heart is also holding the memory of the mountain covered with snow and all the smaller mountains that ring the horizon of Seattle hoping they continue to hold and inspire the adventure of this dear one of mine.


As I walked through Loring Park yesterday I came upon a group of people staring into a rather short, small evergreen tree. The branches of the tree were sparse with lots of space in between. Nestled in the branches was a hawk, a rather large hawk, which seemed to be trying to catch a squirrel.

I joined the group of people watching this food chain life drama play out. One man with an enormous bulldog on a leash asked what kind of bird it was. After confirming that it was a hawk, we continued to stare on even after the squirrel had made its get-away, safe for at least a few more hours. The hawk seemed to be exhausted from the pursuit and rested toward the trunk of the tree.

After a few minutes of watching the hawk rest we each began to go our separate ways, to work, to school, to continue walking the dog. I left the experience with a huge grin on my face knowing I'd started my morning off with something quite special: an up-close and almost personal encounter with a hawk and a small sacred moment of grace experienced with total strangers. I carried the lightness of it all with me the rest of the day.

Hawks are visible around the Twin Cities with some regularity, sitting on the tops of light posts along the freeway, for instance.  But I had never been that close to one that was not being held by a handler. They are a mighty bird and I felt blessed to have happened upon this moment when I did. But what seemed equally as special was the sheer awe we lowly humans shared as we stood watching this beautiful creature. We, the ones-without-wings, can only imagine what it is like to soar above the earth completely on your own power. We can only dream of calmly sitting on the light post watching the frantic traffic go by or, even better yet, having the ability to  speed ahead of all the noisy, gas guzzling cars through the lift and power of wing.

And so we stood for a few moments in the middle of our busy lives observing the power and the fragility of this hawk. It seemed the least we could do on a too warm fall day. I pray the others in our little circle carried the beauty and blessing of the morning with them as I did.

once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your
eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always
long to return. " ~Leonardo Da Vinci


Yesterday as I left the church, I was stopped by the red light at Groveland and Lyndale Avenues. It was a particularly warm and sunny September day and the air conditioning in the car had not found its groove yet so I had the windows down. I was aware of the sun beating off the hot pavement of road and sidewalk. I looked over at the stone workers who have been repairing and rebuilding the front entry steps of the church. How uncomfortable it must be to do such work on these scorching days!

And then my eyes were drawn to the oddity sitting on the sidewalk at the corner, resting nearly at the curb. A box fan…..sitting there….its circular blades turning in the slight breeze that was unseen. I laughed. Was this some kind of joke? Was there a hidden camera someplace filming people's reactions to this cooling device on this unusually hot autumn day?

I observed two young men and a young woman pushing a stroller with a small child approach the corner. They looked at the fan. They looked around to see if it belonged to someone. They watched the blades turn round and round. And then, they too, laughed as they crossed the street.

As the light turned green and inched into the traffic, I somehow felt lighter than I had earlier. Who knows why this fan was sitting where it was? It could have simply been abandoned by someone who was moving. It could have fallen off a truck and been set upright by someone with a quirky sense of humor. All I know is that its odd placement made be happy. Its gently whirling,ineffective blades blew away the heaviness of a day's worth of worries.

Whatever your day holds I hope you can be awake and open to the oddities that might come your way. The strange yet welcomed compliment. The newspaper headline that causes you to stop in your tracks and read the whole article. The bird whose song interrupts what seems like a serious, not to be interrupted, conversation. The flower that is growing through the cracks of the sidewalk. All manner of things abandoned by the side of the road.

Oddities wake us up and help us live in the moment, help us remember to not take ourselves or the world too seriously. In that wake up call comes healing and, if we are lucky, a good laugh. And couldn't we all use a few more of those?

"Today isn't any other day, you know." Lewis Carroll

Gathering Gratitude

Our church is living into the theme "Gathering Gratitude" this fall. This theme has been accompanied by a wonderful image of two large hands holding a big bowl of things for which we are all grateful….a fish, a loaf of bread, a house, a book, a peace symbol, a cup of wine…..several other things fill the bowl to overflowing. And yet,our hope is that even more items will be added to the bowl as the weeks unfold. Our goal is to help each person take stock of all the the ways in which they are grateful. With our large, collective, community arms we can gather up all this gratitude and have it front and center in our lives.

As I was searching for some words, some poetry, to give hints of gratitude I came upon these words by poet Mary Oliver:"All afternoon I have been walking over the dunes, hurrying from one thick raft of the wrinkled, salt roses to another, leaning down close to their dark or pale petals, red as blood or white as snow. And now I am beginning to breathe slowly and evenly-the way a hunted animal breathes, finally, when it has galloped, and galloped-when it is wrung dry, but, at last, is far away, so the panic begins to drain from the chest, from the wonderful legs, and the exhausted mind. Oh sweetness pure and simple, may I join you? I lie down next to them, on the sand. But to tell about what happens next, truly I need help. Will somebody or something please start to sing?"

Much of our lives are lived at the 'hunted' pace, running from one thing to another, running from who knows what? So to come upon something that fills us with such joy, such gratitude, can cause our hearts to return to a normal beat, our breath to move in and out in a healthy, calming way. Such moments are pure gift, are certain sign of a Sacredness that moves just below the surface of our living. To see, to experience this sacred gift, we must keep our eyes and our hearts open with a certain purity of spirit.

And when those moments happen, as happened to me today when I saw the fragile green hummingbird flying with such joy over the red and orange dahlias in the garden, should at the very least be reason for a song. Don't you think? So much of our life begs to be a musical if only we are awake to it.

As I gather the gratitude of my life over these autumn days, I plan to do more singing. When I watch the red leaves that are already falling from the oak tree in our front yard, perhaps I will sing a blues number to match the torchy red of those works of natural art. As the days become shorter, the night skies brighter, I imagine a soaring love song might be in order. And as I see the morning fog on the warm water of the lakes and ponds hitting the cooler air, I might break into my own rendition of an aria. In it all I will be gathering gratitude.

And when I say goodbye to our youngest son this week as he heads off to college, I think I will choose a lullaby. I will choose it for him and I will choose it for me, praying with gratitude and for traveling mercies. In the rocking movement and the smooth tones of the songs that lulls us to sleep, I will listen for the Heartbeat that birthed us both and in it I hope to find comfort.