After a long and wonderful few days of Thanksgiving food, friends and family, I was craving spicy food. I pulled into the Rainbow Foods parking lot on a mission to buy the ingredients for tacos. As I made my way into the parking space, my eyes fell on a pale pink blob on the ground. Getting out of the car and locking the doors, I walked toward the shapeless form. I knelt to pick it up. I now held in my hands the soft, pink body of a stuffed bear. Well, it was not actually a bear. It was the round head of a bear with the body of a baby blanket. It was one of those infant inventions created for one thing… The creation contained the plush, smoothness babies like to cuddle. Along its edges was the silky binding that many children move slowly back and forth between their fingers to calm them. The tiny head was without anything that might come off in teething mouths, decorated only with the threads of embroidery. 

And here it was….lost to the one who needed it. My eyes scoured the parking lot to see if some frantic parent might be searching for it. Seeing no one, I gently laid its limp body on the base of the lamp post and headed into the store to do my shopping. But I now carried with me a gnawing feeling in my stomach as I thought about the child who was someplace perhaps inconsolable. When I had finished with my shopping I returned to my car to find the pink bear blanket still resting in the wash of the parking lot lights. I said a small prayer for the one who had lost their security.

Later in the evening, the tacos having satisfied that need for spice after all the sweet and hearty foods of Thanksgiving, I thought of all the ways human beings reach out for security. We do it through healthy and unhealthy ways. We have the security of our homes, of our faith communities,our economic status, of our education, of our jobs, of our circle of friends. We also seek security in our beliefs, what we love and what we reject. Most of these forms of security are outside us and have the ability to change or be lost at any moment. The real security we have is in knowing who we are and whose we are…..amazing, creative beings made in the image of God. This is a security that is not outside us but planted deep within from our birth.

Someplace a child may have spent a fitful night unable to reach out and touch that silky binding of a pink blanket. No doubt the parents also were pacing, trying to think where the special bear might have gone. Or maybe, instead, those same parents rubbed the child's back, sang soothing songs that helped the crying one find the quiet spot inside to calm itself, to ease itself into the sleep that will bring a rested morning. Perhaps the loss of the pink bear was just what the child needed to find the security of that quiet voice within that will carry them into a new day. 

"Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you. Security is the denial of life. "~Germaine Greer


This is a day for thanks.
A day in which we 
see or hear or feel
the wonders of the other
moments of the year.
This is a day for time.
A day in which we
think of pasts that make
our present rich
and future beautiful.
This is a day for joy.
A day in which we share a gift of laughter
warm and gentle
as a smile.
Above all, this is a day for peace.
So let us 
touch each other
and know that
we are one.
For these and other blessings,
we thank Thee, God.
~Daniel Roselle

I am counting my blessings today. On this Thanksgiving Day eve, I am looking around our now bustling house and counting one by one the gifts with which I am graced every day. I do so knowing that not all houses are busy with activity, not all are filled with what is needed, not all are warm, not all will welcome friends, family and food tomorrow. And so I am counting the blessings that are mine.

I have thought over the last days about how this Thanksgiving which we celebrate is as much a day about humility as it is about turkey and stuffing, parades and other traditions. It is a moment in which, we the privileged, are reminded of all we have and also all those who have little. While we gather around our tables laden with food that will sustain us, foods often more frivolous than merely nutritious, we also have the opportunity to be reminded of those who struggle to make ends meet. It is a time to say a prayer for those on the edges.

I don't write these words to be a downer but simply as a reminder to myself to take stock of all the blessings that often go unnoticed on an ordinary day. Just as a grace before meals allows us the moment to be reminded of all the things that come our way through no work of our own hands, through the movement of the Creator, Thanksgiving Day can be a moment to remember all those simple yet important gifts that are our everyday fare….food,water,warmth,a bed at night, health care, a support system of people we trust, a job that brings us income and perhaps even joy. Things that on an ordinary day we participate in but rarely say grace over.  

Many people will help feed the hungry tomorrow. Still others have given financially to organizations that will provide the Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings to those who otherwise would have none. Those who work in shelters and soup kitchens will do everything they can to make Thanksgiving a day to celebrate. God bless all who do this work. The world is a better place for their kind, caring and loving presence.

 As I gather with friends and family tomorrow, I want to do so with a heart full of joy knowing the depth of my blessing. I also want to do so with humility knowing that some of my brothers and sisters do not have the resources I do. As we hold hands to offer grace before the meal, I pray that we all will be reminded of the silent ones who exist over our shoulders, just outside the circle, who struggle with life. May we be reminded of all that connects us and how little separates us. And may we know that we are all held in equal love by the One who breathed us into being. 

Gathering Gratitude

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. " ~G.K. Chesterton

It is the week of the Thanksgiving holiday. In some ways it is an odd holiday. It centers so much around foods, traditional ones, favorite ones, ones not eaten at any other time of the year. Only in elementary school is there much talk about its origins. And even that now has the shadow of guilt as we non-natives realize the ways in which the relationship supposedly modeled at that first Thanksgiving eventually played out. So to think of this holiday as primarily historic is complicated.

But the fact of gratitude still remains. The fall theme of our faith community has been 'Gathering Gratitude.' An artist even created an image of two large arms holding an enormous bowl full of things for which we are grateful…bread, water, books(wisdom), fish, a globe(earth), a flower pot(beauty), and a peace symbol, that longed for and often unrealized state of being. It is a beautiful piece that begs the question:What would each of us add to that bowl? What are the symbols each of us gather in with our arms and place at the center of our Thanksgiving table? Family? Friends? Health? Freedom? Faith?

Nearly every day when I arrive home from work I am greeted by the young children who live next door. They throw open the door, full of their simply perfect lives,welcome me home and tell me a little about their day. I am grateful for that. Every Sunday morning I am blessed to worship in a circle of people whose love reaches out in faith to try to heal the hurts and sorrows of the world through their prayer. I am grateful for that. More than once a week I am privileged to talk for long periods of time to my mother who is still vital and amazingly funny at eight decades. I am grateful for that. As we gather around our Thanksgiving table we will do so surrounded  by loving friends who have held each other through thick and thin and the presence of our two wonderful college aged sons. I am grateful for that. 

How will you gather the gratitude in your life this week? How will you move your arms in a large sweeping motion to encompass the span of it all? How will you then place it all at the center of your Thanksgiving day? These are the questions those who began this holiday must have asked themselves. And they are still relevant today. 

Perhaps the even bigger question is: Can our arms reach far enough to hold it all?

Ultimate Dwelling

"I have arrived, I am home, In the here,    
   In the now.
I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate
    I dwell."
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Last night I had a conversation with our youngest son who is living away from home for the first time. The conversation centered around what life was like before college, what it is like now and the differences and similarities between the two. On the one hand it is so easy to romanticize the past and so difficult to imagine the future. This conversation from both our perspectives moved in the landscape of shadow that exists between trying to hold onto what was and unclench our fists toward what is yet to be.

In the end we were able to settle on the truth that what we really have is the home of the present moment. How we live with that reality makes all the difference. How we find joy in the little quirky things that pass in front of our eyes and capture our hearts. How we allow the eyes behind our eyes to see deeply into the pain of another. How we chip the ice away from our stubbornness and welcome what is new, what is unexpected, what could challenge us. How we allow our breath to keep us here, now, conscious of the very life moving in and out, in and out.  All these things, and more, open us to what it means to dwell in the Ultimate. 

Perhaps it is not your practice to have your body in this moment while your mind is racing ahead to the next worry, the next event, the next….next….next. But I know I can certainly spend a boat load of time vacating my body for the what next and the what has been. It can make for some neck snapping moments when you get called,thankfully, back to the now.

Here's the truth…..this present moment is home. Whatever you are doing right now is a sure sign that you are alive, that you are on some solid ground. It could be a mundane or a miraculous moment. It could be filled with anxiety or full hearted hope. It is not what has happened or what will be. It is now. It is gift.





Washed in Wildness

I have spent the last several days reading and living with the submissions of our community for the soon-to-be-published Advent devotional on the theme 'Welcoming the Wild One'. To read the spiritual reflections of others, to glimpse the prayers and poems that shape them, always makes me know I am standing on holy ground. I also know how powerful our community finds this resource for their own lives during this season of darkness and waiting. Working with my colleagues to put this booklet together is always life-giving to me, as life-giving as I know the words of our fellow path-walkers are to all of us.

This year's theme has been challenging for some. Wildness. What does it mean to welcome wildness into our lives? What is wildness anyway? Is it simply the opposite of 'tame'? Is it something to be feared rather than embraced? Many questions get played out in the words people offered, some finding their way to answers, while others are left hanging, hopefully, to be lived into during the slow march up to Christmas. It is an exciting prospect, an hopeful journey.

As I look outside my window right now, we are experiencing some unusual November sunshine much as we have during other days of this usually grayest month. While the trees may shine back their dullest of earth tones and the ground is covered with grass that is fading fast, the landscape might be described as bland. Yet if you are aware of the movement of birds and squirrels, of the rabbits who inhabit backyards and fields, you can see the wildness of those who are preparing for a long winter. As they scurry about, I am watching them trying to get in touch with my own wildness. As the children play in our neighborhood, squeezing the last bit of life out of each lingering fall day, I try to soak up their wild abandon for life. These are my teachers, my way into discovering what wildness needs to be embraced in my life.

Soon the Thanksgiving turkey will be a memory except for how it has affected our waistlines.The winter will descend with winds and snow and unexpected turns of temperature. We will walk once again into December and the story of Christmas. A story filled with surprising angels, stupefied shepherds, determined wise ones, two people who didn't sign up for the job they were given and the wildness of a baby born among animals. 

Stay tuned….it's a pretty wild story.


"The Moses in my heart trembles
not quite willing
to accept the prophet hidden in my being
wondering how much it will cost
to allow that prophet to emerge."
~Macrina Wiederkehr

I think I have written about Moses more than once in this space. I love Moses. I love how he was a reluctant prophet. How he felt almost anyone could do the job better than he could. How he tried so desperately to get out of doing what God was calling him to. He had the best excuses. He was not worthy, not good enough. His brother was a much better person to lead the children of Israel through the wilderness. He, after all, was  just a shepherd,not a good speaker, a terrible leader unless you were a sheep.

But God would not let Moses off the hook. God saw the potential in this mumbling, wilderness walking character and said: "I choose you." And so Moses packed up all his insecurities and his excuses and headed off into the wilderness. The trip was filled with ups and downs, miracles and disasters, conflicts and resolutions, just like life. Moses succeeded and he failed, just like life. Moses spoke his truth in the midst of grumbles and full blown fights somehow coming to claim his prophetic voice in the presence of the sounds that threatened to overcome him. 

Moses found a way to claim his inner prophet, a resident being we all possess but rarely claim. What is the prophetic voice living in the center of your chest? What message lives deep within you that only you can deliver? I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that simply said: Speak your truth, even if your voice trembles. I smiled and groaned simultaneously knowing that once again the Highway Spirit was sending me a sign. Speak your truth….even if your voice trembles.

This world, I believe, needs all our prophetic voices speaking truth with confidence and with trembling. Someplace deep within each of us is the voice that begs to be used, to be heard. Even if that voice begins with quaking, with shaking,it still holds power. Is this the day to speak your truth?

"O child of unnecessary shoes
cast them off
and stand in readiness
on this holy ground.
For the Egypt in people's lives
demands that you see the burning bushes
all around you
burning wildly
calling you
away from the comfort
of well-protected feet.
The ground you stand on is holy.
Take off your shoes!
Awaken your sleeping prophet.
Believe in your Moses
and go……" 


Bound Up

Riding along on the freeway today on my way to an early morning appointment, I was a little shocked to see a large truck piled high with evergreen trees. Hundreds of them, stacked to the top of the truck roof. These trees, obviously on their way to a nearby Christmas tree lot, were bound up very tightly in red mesh. Once I got past the fact that most of our Christmas trees are really cut before Thanksgiving, nearly six weeks before they will grace our homes, I began to think how sad they looked, all tied up like that. Now we have brought many a tree home in its mesh coat to unveil itself in the warmth of our house, but somehow, seeing them all together so cramped and untree-like, made me quite sad.

 Then I began thinking of how these bound up trees are a little like those of us who celebrate Christmas. At this time of year we are not in any way ready to open ourselves up to the wonder, the mystery, the fullness of this story that gives shape to our faith. We are folding, holding our arms close to our chest, not wanting to open yet to how this story will reshape us this year. For, if it is truly a faith story, it must be different for us this year than it was last for we are all, indeed, different people this year. And now is the perfect time, while we are still bound up in the red mesh of 2009, to begin to reflect upon how we are different, how we've grown, how we've regressed, how the Holy has shown up in the mess and the order of it all. Then, and only then, will the Christmas story really be what it is…the reminder of the incarnation…God with and within us.

Not long after I saw the truck full of trees, I ran into a shop for a quick cup of coffee. I realized standing in line that the music I was hearing was Christmas music….chestnuts roasting on an open fire….to be exact. Normally this would bug me. Let's get to Thanksgiving first! But somehow it seemed o.k. today. I listened to the gentle words of this song and allowed the sentiment of it to was over me. 

While all these signs may simply be a herald of the commercial, capitalistic culture in which we live, I made the decision to not see it that way. Instead I have decided to allow all these little signs of the Christmas to come to work on me. I have decided to take them into the preparation of our Thanksgiving meal and into the observance of Advent. I want to let each little nudge that can remind me of how the Divine breaks into our lives to soften me, warm me, until the mesh that binds me can be cut away and my limbs can fall into their rightful places, ready to welcome the Christ Child.

Then it will be the right time to claim this story once again. As I enter yet another year of walking this sacred path of life, I will hold gently the reminders of how the Holy walks at my side until I have the blessing to proclaim it once again with a resounding "Alleluia".

Have a great weekend and keep your eyes peeled for trucks of bound up trees!

Threads of the Eternal

"Let us dream of the angels that connect heaven and earth.
Let us imagine the threads of the eternal woven into time.
And let us know you among us now, O God.
In this time and every time may we know your blessings among us."

~J. Philip Newell

Lately, I have to admit, I have been letting things get me down. I have been feeling a little overwhelmed by world events, bogged down by situations in which I don't seem to be able to create change, allowing even the littlest burr under my saddle to become a big ouch. It has been my experience that once I start letting this ball roll down the hill, it simply picks up speed and all the lint and crud it can collect along the way. Does this ever happen to you?

Trying to soothe my soul, I was actually searching for another quote by J. Philip Newell when I ran across this prayer. I read and reread the line 'let us imagine the threads of the eternal woven through time'. For some reason those words gave me hope, lightened my heart. I put down the book and it felt as if a clearing was happening in my head and in my heart.

Imagining the threads of the eternal that make up our every day is a fascinating thought, isn't it? How are we held every moment by threads that have been running through the fabric of Creation since that initial flaring forth? Threads of hope, of promise, of creativity, of beauty, of sheer surprise. These threads which twist and turn and form amazing patterns hold us every day and yet it is so easy to forget. It is so easy to make our life small,relegated to tiny details that in the grand scheme of things mean very little. These eternal threads are what nudge us to remember the fact that, while we may be small players, we are a part of a vast drama. Every day it is our blessing to wake up and begin our time on today's stage. Our role today may be the romantic lead or the comic relief. We may be called on to 'save the day' or to sit quietly behind the scenes helping others remember their lines. Today we may be in a musical or a farce, a tragedy or a comedy. The trick really is to remain open, to welcome what this day offers as another opportunity to glimpse the eternal, to encounter the Holy. To play our part.

And so today, my prayer is that I, that we all, stay awake to the little and the big things that come our way. That nothing is taken for granted. No smile, tear, word or gesture is seen as irrelevant. But we all remember to look for the threads of the eternal. That we all search longingly for the Presence that brings the blessings of this day.

Purposeful Walking

I truly believe that these November days we are experiencing in Minnesota are nothing but pure gift. To have what is often the gloomiest month of the year be filled with sun, warm temperatures, green grass, the bluest sky, seems something it would be a shame not to savor. And I see people doing just that everywhere I look.

Yesterday as I took a late afternoon walk, I watched children playing at the nearby playground. They were running with such abandon on the jungle gym, chasing one another as their giggles streamed behind them as they flew. At the nearby basketball court, two young men were squeezing the last sweet moments out of an outdoor game. And countless people were walking their dogs. The people talked intently, feeling the warm sun on their faces as they soaked up some needed vitamin D for the dark winter months we know will eventually come. I swear, even the dogs seemed to be smiling! Walking further I saw two mothers allowing their toddlers to run through the woods that flank the bluff above the Mississippi River. The little voices screamed with laughter as they made their way through what, in darkness, must seem a very frightening place.

And that's when I saw him. A man walking so purposefully I was drawn to his gait. His head was held strong and straight. His arms swung with a rhythm I imagined matched his heartbeat. He was walking with sure intention toward the bluff's overlook. Crossing the street, he headed into the mowed, open, hilly area that is ringed with beautiful, old oak trees standing watch over the boat traffic that makes its way from the cold of north all the way to the warm winds of the south.

It was about 4:45 p.m. and he was headed toward the setting of the sun. His purposeful steps were bringing him closer to a magnificent view of the giant orange ball of fire that had held court over this most glorious of days. I, too, began to watch its descent in the hot pink afternoon glow of the horizon. I saw his silhouette against the sky as he planted his feet firmly to watch the end of day become reality.

I wondered what he was thinking as he walked with such purpose, as he stood in reverence at the sun's majesty in a sky that had held us all. This one man seemed to be walking for the rest of us, those too busy to stop, to notice, to pay homage to the gift of this precious day. A day never to be lived or given to us again. I hope he was saying the psalm that should have been on all our lips:

"i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky, and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)"
~e.e. cummings


Our vocation is the work we do, I believe, because we must. Sometimes we are paid for this work. Other times, this is the work we do at the end of the day, after our paid job, because it is the work that calls to our heart, the work that will not be done, cannot be done by any other person. Our vocation is the work that brings us energy, buoys our creativity, makes our heart sing, brings a smile to our face and joy to our voice.

What is your vocation? This is a different question, I believe, from 'what do you do?' many people do not have the blessing of having their paying work also be their vocation. But somehow, I think, we are all called toward something that connects us with the gifts that are planted within us through our birth, our DNA, our life circumstance, our landscape. We can perform a job but we must live our vocation.

Thomas Merton's words and thoughts on how to live life always pull me back from the brink of doing too much of what seems to be required of me to what is my vocation.

"Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just
beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already
possess. Vocation does not come from a voice out there calling me to
be something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling me to be
the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me
at birth by God."

 Today I find myself pondering my vocation. Perhaps it is the time of year, November, that drear month of least light that is conjuring up this self reflection. Or perhaps it is a time of life or even looking forward to some yet to be written New Year's resolutions. Whatever the cause I am thankful for it. Each of us probably need to do more self reflection lest we find ourselves caught up too much in the urgent while forgetting the important. Vocation is important work. It is indeed the most important work, the fulfillment of 'the original selfhood given me at birth by God.'

Wherever you are on life's path, my prayer is that you have time today to reflect on your vocation. Are you living your life by the rules, needs, demands of some outside force, neglecting the inner voice that urges you toward the work that brings you joy? Or are you holding with pride and gentleness the treasure of your true self, nurturing it, supporting it, tending it? The voice of vocation can be a quiet call. But it is always a persistent one. We can try to drown it out by ceaseless, noisy activity. But, like the One who placed this voice at our center, it is, in the final analysis, a voice that will not let us go.

Have a blessed weekend……..