"Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu said:"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." Right now, said journey feels more like 50 thousand miles. And still the work is the same: one step at a time." 

What to do with a morning that begins with a horoscope like this? That is my day's quest. When I read this daily, sage advice, I laughed out loud. The blending of the wisdom of Buddhist teaching and the guidance of the stars tickled my funny bone. But within a few minutes it brought me to a deeper place. What journey am I on right now? In my life. In my work. This year. This day. What about your journey? Where is your journey taking you?

The metaphor of journey is so rich. I do think about it often and yet I am not sure I truly live with the powerful gift of it. It is so easy to get up every morning and plan a day in which much may be 'accomplished' but few miles are traveled. Days can be frittered away, checking off the little details that nag at any life. But what about the journey? Has the first step even been taken? Or in the accomplishments, is the movement more stationary than forward? 

This stepping out is so much easier to recognize in others than it is in oneself. It is so easy to look at someone else and ascertain whether or not you think they are making steps on their journey. I can give all kinds of opinions about choices people are, or are not, making that will move them on their path. It is not so easy, or comfortable, to always be as honest with myself. The excuses come much more easily about what is keeping me from taking that important first step.

So, receiving this free, guiding advice via the morning paper has brought me up short, has thrown the mirror toward my own waiting face. Like most people, I have a few deep desires that fall into the 'some day' category. 'Some day', I'll finish that manuscript. 'Some day', I'll lose those extra pounds. 'Some day', I'll mend that wounded relationship. Some day….some day….some day…..

What are your 'some days'? What journey is asking one step from you? Given the fragility of each precious day, perhaps today is the one on which to take the first, important step. As always, I am happy to share my horoscope with anyone who thinks it fits their journey on this 'one day at a time' life.  It sure spoke to mine.


"We are aware that all generations of our ancestors and all future generations are present in us." Thich Nhat Hanh

 Today could have been called 'Mulling Monday.' I have been mulling over a statement made yesterday by a photographer who was sharing his images and his own spirituality and theology with those of us who are seeking to open our eyes to the presence of the Holy. His images were stunning, funny, poignant, breathtaking. How he was able to so fluidly articulate his understanding of the Sacred showed, not only his ability to integrate his life, but also the depth of the work he had done to get to this place of wisdom. All this accompanied by amazing photography. He was someone known by many in the community and so his ability to connect with his audience was sincere and simple.

At one point he was showing an image of a great gray owl peeking from behind a tree trunk, its yellow eye staring straight at the camera. At first glance it was difficult to see where tree ended and bird began. Everyone was staring intently at the photograph when he said: "We do not see with our eyes. We really see with our brains. That means that many of you are in this picture also. All we have experienced together is stored in my brain and becomes a part of the lens with which I saw this image." 

Can you understand why I have been mulling this idea over all day? Since I am not a scientist and he is, I have to take the science of it all on his word. But it makes sense to me. I can think of all the people who have come and gone from my life who have shaped the lens with which I see the world. Those who have shown me compassion in difficult times and have helped me see the compassionate thread that makes its way in the blood and bone of all humans. Those who have been playful, who have made me laugh and who have needled me out of my intensity to be able to see the truly silly and frivolous that exists in so many unexpected places. Those who have given me the benefit of the doubt when I perhaps did not deserve it and taught me the gift of grace. So many messages planted deep in my brain by countless people giving me my own unique lens. 

The intention of the talk was to have helped people take better nature photography. But the message we all received was so much bigger than any camera or picture we might ever take. The message was really a call to see the deep connections we have with one another even when we are unaware. And the equally deep connections we make each time we form a relationship with another human, an animal, a landscape. All these relationships form a matrix in our brain giving us a world view that is unlike any other. If we are lucky we will remember this every now and then and give thanks as we try to think who is helping us see the moment. 

I'm afraid Mulling Monday may ooze into Mulling Tuesday and Wednesday and on and on. It's alot to take in and my brain feels pretty small. Small, maybe. But very, very full.


vigil: a purposeful or watchful staying awake during the usual hours of sleep; a watch kept; the evening or day before a festival, or the devotional services held then…..Webster's New World College Dictionary

The word 'vigil' has been floating through my brain for the last 24 hours. I had the privilege yesterday of sitting vigil with a family whose loved one is teetering between this earthly life and the next. The silence, the prayers, the scriptures spoken, the stories told, the tears and the laughter, all created a nest in which the dying one was held. Each of us represented a twig, a piece of grass, a feather that created this nest that was bound together with unspoken love. We sat suspended in time, keeping watch, full of devotion. It was a holy time in which the presence of the Sacred breathed with us.

Vigil. It is not a word we use often. And yet we have all, at one time or another held vigil or have been held in vigil. Anyone who is a parent has probably spent more than one night at the bedside of a sick child. As we kept watch, we have mopped their feverish brow with a cold cloth, told stories to keep them calm and comforted, held cups of cool water to quench their thirst. As adults we can probably remember when we were younger, coming home after having been out too late, to find a parent sitting quietly on the couch, the television blinking in the darkness. Someone had sat a vigil of protection over our lives that night, having devoted their lives to watching over ours. 

Many gardeners are, right now, sitting a kind of vigil over the plants they put into the ground earlier this spring. With watchful eyes and hopeful palates, they wait for tomatoes, green beans, corn, raspberries. While the work of weeding and watering gives the human something to do, the vigil kept is about being in some kind of relationship with the living green things that will nurture human bodies. The vigil is really about nurturing the soul.

I imagine those who have relatives serving our country keep vigil. Watching the news, listening for reports of the areas in which they know their loved ones to be. Perhaps they keep a photo of their father, mother, child, sister, or brother in a special place. Perhaps they even create an altar with a vigil light that is lit in an effort of protection and filled with prayers. It is a vigil that is filled with love, fear, and great hope.

Still others I know have sat vigil over a pet that is old, ill and dying. I remember one September night five years ago as our son and I kept vigil over the family dog who had begun to have seizures. We knew in our hearts that he was dying but we didn't want to believe it. And so we lay on the floor on each side of him, reaching out our hands when another uncontrollable contraction of muscles gripped his furry, loved body. It was one of the sweetest, saddest nights of devotion, of keeping watch, I can remember. 

For what have you kept vigil? Who has kept vigil over you? Though it is a word that seems old, from another time, its action is necessary for the on-going relationships we all hold. And may it always be so.

Have a blessed weekend…….. 

Summer Practice

"In each of us dwells a pilgrim. It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred. We will travel halfway around the world and endure great sacrifices and pain to enter the sanctuary, whether it is a temple, shrine, cemetery, or library. This is the way that is no way, but a practice." Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

Yesterday I sat with my co-workers in our monthly meeting dedicated to stopping whatever we are doing and taking the time to share a treat, some time together and a few laughs in the midst of a busy work schedule. In addition to the fine chocolate and key lime pie yesterday, we shared memories of what we did in the summer as children. Since we all come from different parts of the country and span a few generations, it was fun to hear what those important summer rituals were. Bike riding. Swimming. Working on our tan.(We are wiser now.) Special resorts returned to summer after summer. Camps. Catching fireflies. Spending time with cousins, siblings and friends in a much more relaxed way and the freedom all that holds.

As I listened to those around the table tell of their summer escapades, I began to notice the ways in which their faces lit up. Smiles turned into glows. Wrinkles smoothed as faces took on the younger look of the story being told. Each face told the gift of a summer practice…..that breathing deeply, slowing down, openness of the walk of June, July & August. What was your summer childhood like? Can you remember the way the rhythm of the days changed from the structure of school to the laziness of going from pajamas to swim suit? If you don't have a vacation coming any time soon, I highly recommend the practice of remembering those summer days of running through the sprinkler, of sliding till your stomach hurt on the slip-n-slide as you wrecked the grass in your yard. Remember and tell some one.

I am not sure summers hold this kind of all out freedom they once did. We are so plugged in, so tied to work that many of us have created equally programmed lives for children. My children certainly enjoyed the camps and classes they took in the summer, the sports that shaped their days. But they also loved those times when the house heated up and the only sensible thing to do was head to the basement, turn the lights low, watch a movie, read a book, eat a popsicle and have the opportunity to drift off into a nap. Sounds good, doesn't it?

These warm, short nights, I can still hear the kids on our block playing baseball down the street. Many of them have been riding their bikes all over, hoping to find a little something to do at a friend's house or at the local coffee shop. When I see them, they have a very similar look on their faces as my co-workers did yesterday. Boredom with summer has not yet set it, but it will eventually. Right now, however, the muscles of school-focused faces are relaxed and their eyes are full of light and a certain kind of joy. I witnessed that yesterday as memories were shared.

Summer can be a pilgrimage. We can choose to walk in the way that is no way. With an openness to the gifts of sun, heat, light and enormous doses of green and color, we can change the rhythm of our living, creating a summer practice.. Sound good? No matter the enormity of the work that needs done, each of us can take a few moments to breathe deeply of the pure gift that is a summer's day. 

Ready. Set. Glow. 


If you were awake this morning at 6:28 a.m. you could have welcomed the beginning of summer. Today we will experience the day of longest light and the night of shortest darkness. For years this was something that went unnoticed to me. But now that the marking of this day has become a part of my yearly celebrations, I wonder at how this honoring slipped out of favor with, not only people of faith, but the majority of people in general. It is clear that for several hundreds of years, a celebration of the longest day and longest night, Summer and Winter Solstice, was something that was important to people.It was how they knew that life was continuing and that their God was at work. This was true especially to those who lived further from the equator where the extremes of light and darkness is so pronounced. Since the metaphors of light and darkness are so prevalent in the scriptures, it seems logical to me that marking these turning-points of the year would be important. 

The Welsh poet Thomas Telynog Evans writes:

All the sweetness of nature was buried in black winter's grave,

and the wind sings a sad lament with its cold plaintive cry,

but oh, the teeming summer will come bringing life in its arms,

and will strew rosy flowers on the face of hill and dale.

In lovely harmony the wood has put on its green mantle,

and summer is on its throne, playing its string-music;

the willow, whose harp hung silent when it was withered in winter,

now gives forth its melody.

Hush! Listen! The world is alive!

Today is a day to celebrate the mysterious and awe-producing ways our Creator God moves in the world……bringing the sad laments of black winter out of the grave and continues to bring life, held in the arms of teeming summer. How could we, how should we, miss the opportunity for praise at such a magnificent wonder? Those who once lived closer to the rhythms of the earth knew something we, in our concrete jungles and technological lifestyles, have forgotten: This world is a magnificent on-going creation of which we are only a small part. 

But make no mistake, our part is very important. We are the witnesses. We are the ones who tell the stories and prepare the next generation of storytellers and dreamers. If we take our role seriously we can recapture the habit of stopping our spinning lifestyles  long enough to notice the seasons changing, the play of light on the shadows we cast on this longest day. We can say our prayers quickly and purposefully on this shortest of all nights.

Hush! Listen! The world is alive!

Hungry and Thirsty

 "As a mother shall she meet him….
With the Bread of Understanding
   shall she feed him,
And give him the Water of Wisdom
  to drink."
~Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 15:2-3

I read an article this morning in the newspaper about a man who will be running Grandma's Marathon in Duluth this weekend. The article tells of his loss of 145 pounds, his being in recovery from alcoholism, and his training and work toward this incredible feat of running a marathon after years of abusing his body, mind and spirit. It was an inspiring story of someone who was searching for what could feed him, what could quench a deep thirst that eluded him. While his story is one of extremes of both tragedy and triumph, I believe we all carry a little of his story within us.  We are each of us hungry and thirsty for something that can often seem just outside our reach. We can go through all manner of things to satisfy that longing; some that are helpful and healthy and others that temporarily fill an empty spot at our center with what makes us feel good but does not touch the depth that what resides within. 

We are all hungry and thirsty for something. What do you long for? What gnaws at your stomach in the middle of the night aching to be filled? These words from the Wisdom texts of the Bible, that section that rests between the Older Testament and the Christian scriptures, hint at what, I believe, we all long for. Understanding. Wisdom. At our core we all want to be known and understood. By our families, our friends, our co-workers. Understood for what makes us tick, what we love, what we hope for, where we see ourselves in the big picture of the world. And we all want to grow into wisdom. Wisdom to know our place in the world,what our gifts are and how we are meant to share them, who we are and why we are here. If we are lucky we have had parents,grandparents, teachers and mentors who have helped us ask ourselves these questions in safe and healthy ways. They have stood by us as we faltered, until we have discovered our way to understanding and wisdom. I pray that has been the case for you.

And yet, we also know those who have not had this kind of nest in which to land, grow, mature. We can read the stories of those people in the newspaper as well. Those who search in all the wrong places for the bread of understanding and the water of wisdom and find themselves in deep, dark waters, often drowning in lives of pain and despair. Perhaps you know someone like this. Perhaps you are struggling in just this way right now.

This weekend we will celebrate Father's Day, a day when we honor the men who raised, shaped and inspired us. I recognize that is not everyone's experience of their father is a happy one and that this day can have its own set of complications. Others have much to celebrate as they honor or remember fathers who have shared love, laughter and lessons that are full of joy. But each of us, whether male or female, mother or father, has the potential to offer the bread of understanding and the water of wisdom to those we meet, particularly those we know are struggling to fill a deep longing that may be unnameable to them. Being a parent is not only biological but is also about circumstance and proximity. We can all be parent and mentor. And that is something to celebrate.

Sometimes life can seem like a marathon, a race that can tax our energy, resources and our very souls. But how much more beautiful it all becomes when we know that there is someone out ahead cheering us on, meeting us with understanding, offering the wisdom of their experience. Whether on the giving or receiving end, everyone becomes a winner.

Have a blessed weekend………………


"Be tough in the way a blade of grass is: rooted, willing to lean, and at peace with what is around it." Natalie Goldberg

Natalie Goldberg is a writer, poet and teacher who practices Buddhism. Her books on writing have been an inspiration to me. Yesterday I came across this quote in another book while searching for prayers of healing to be spoken in worship this Sunday. I do not know in what context she originally wrote these words. But it caused me to think about what it means to be 'tough'. Sometimes our lives require us to be 'tough' even when we find this an uncomfortable way to be, even when it goes against our nature. I think of the ways in which parenting calls us to offer touch love to children who cannot see the whole picture, who cannot understand the possible far-reaching implications of their actions. I think of leaders who, though full of compassion and empathy, find is necessary to be tough in a situation, to set clear boundaries for those they lead. I am reminded of the many times Moses needed to be tough with those he shepherded through the wilderness or how Jesus was clear with the disciples about the length to which they were to go to serve those around them. I think of our president right now as he deals with the situation in the Gulf of Mexico, a situation that may be requiring a toughness that he never imagined he'd have to exhibit.

Being tough is not, I believe, the same as being stubborn. Most of the time, when we are stubborn, we are mostly interested in being 'right'. Being stubborn does not allow us to be present to the fullness of a situation, does not allow us to have perspective on how our actions affect others or even how the actions of others affect us. Being stubborn is about holding our ground, defining our turf and rarely holds much peace.

At the times when toughness is called for, it is important to remember who you are and to be content with that. I cannot utter a guess at what a blade of grass knows or doesn't know, but I can imagine each blade feels its rootedness in the soil and has some comfort with that. I can imagine that, just as a cool breeze on a summer's day feels good to my human skin, the breeze that blows the blade of grass has an effect on its connection to the other blades around it without taking away from its own 'bladeness'. As humans this is a good lesson to learn. In the midst of any tumult or trial, to hold onto one's sense of self without being overly influenced by the feelings, opinions and comments of the other 'blades' around is the beginning of deep self-knowledge.

This deep self-knowledge can lead to a sense of peace about what is around…..other blades of grass, decisions that are difficult, big life questions, transitions we didn't choose, illness that threatens. Being able to know how our roots reach down and yet being able to lean in the winds that will, no doubt, come our way can bring the peace of realizing that we are still standing and some days, most days, that is simply enough.

Meaning to Pause

Right now I am wearing a small silver bracelet equipped with a piece of oval plastic that buzzes my wrist every ninety minutes. This is not a tracking device. I am wearing it willingly. It was a gift from two lovely women in California who happened upon these pages entitled 'Pause', no doubt, when they were googling this word/concept on the internet as they established an evolving idea. It is a bracelet they have created to remind the wearer to stop periodically to breathe, pray, center, to take a pause in whatever is pulling at their attention in any given moment, of any given day. Their creation is called 'meaning to pause'.  

 I have to admit that when I first started wearing the bracelet, I jumped and even gave a little girl-squeal when it buzzed. At first, it was shocking. This, of course, says more about me than the bracelet. In the intense ways in which any one of us move through the world, such a gentle reminder can come as a shock.  But now I have become accustomed to its gentle vibration. In fact, I actually look forward to its buzz. When I am not wearing the bracelet, I have kept it in a bowl on our buffet where I can still hear its call.

Wearing the bracelet, I am reminded of the faith traditions who are called to prayer several times a day by a chime ringing, a bell sounding, a horn blowing. The faithful are called from their workbench,stove, field, assembly line,or desk, to stop for a time of connecting with their own breath and the Breath that dreamed them into being. No matter what is happening, these people stop with meaning…… to pause, pray and remember who and whose they are. I imagine that there are those who, at times, are as startled as I was with my bracelet.  Pulled out of the intensity of their work they are brought into the present moment, always a gift.

And then there are those monastic traditions that follow the liturgy of the hours, stopping at several times a day to come together as community for prayer. Morning, noontime, evening, and compline or late night prayers.The very rhythm of their day is kept by coming to and returning from prayer. I wonder how long it would take for that kind of rhythm to get inside you so that, no matter where you are, you begin to feel the tug of morning prayer or compline? 

Most of us live what I call 'the distracted life' and yet long for something different,something more grounded, with more gentle intention,  something that connects us with the Holy in a more disciplined way. Most of us do not live in monasteries where the liturgy of the hours is our practice. There are no bells ringing or gongs sounding that remind us to take a moment to remember our own breath. And so we must come to our own place of creativity for creating the triggers we need. I had a friend once who created a practice of praying at every stop light where he stopped. It seemed to work for him….he was never in an accident while praying!

Whatever your process of prayer, however you take time to remember to breathe, I offer blessings. In these small, captured moments of intention we come to know ourselves more deeply and live more fully. And who doesn't want that?

You can learn more about the Meaning to Pause bracelet at www.meaningtopause.com.

Walking Meditation

The last several days have been jam packed with wonderful things….sons arriving home from college, beautiful, inspiring music at worship, plans for summer events, graduation parties and the anticipation of summer activities and all the plans that need to be made for them.  When you pile all this onto the regular demands of daily life it can be,  truth be told,a whirlwind. I, of course, recognize that this is pure blessing. There are many people who would love to have this manner of activity flowing into their lives. And so I don't mean for my words to be complaint, simply report.

Late Thursday afternoon I was on my way to a graduation party in between a day of work and an evening meeting. I had decided to take the scenic route along Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun in hopes of having a few moments of quiet, slower driving. Going along the lakes, the frenzy of day began to slide away as I watched joggers, bicyclists, and frisbee players enjoying the cloudy, though dry day. Young children climbed all over the playground that sits on the shore of the lake as the began to live into the freedom of summer. Walkers made their way around the lakes, talking animatedly with their companions.

As my eyes strayed away from the lake, I looked toward the back garden of the Zen center that faces the lake.What I saw caused me to nearly slam on my brakes as I glimpsed about 6-8 people doing walking meditation. Their bodies were moving so slowly that they seemed like statues except for the ever so slight movement of an arm, a hand, a head, a foot.. Their eyes were intently focused as the tiniest muscles propelled them at aslower than tortoise-like gait. The sheer beauty and silence of their pace stunned me out of the nature of the movement of my fast-moving day. I wanted to pull over, abandon my car like one who had been 'raptured' and join in their slow, deliberate, breath-filled movements. My whole body was filled with such deep longing for what they had!

Over the last several days, I have thought so many times of what I witnessed on Thursday and the deep longing it placed within me. I don't know if I'd ever be able to slow down to that kind of pace or not but I'd sure like to try. For some reason, when I have thought of those practicing this walking meditation, I have kept thinking of the insect, the praying mantis. Have you ever observed the slow, deliberate movements of these green, stick-like creatures? I remembered the summer my brother captured several and kept them in jars for our curious child selves to ponder. I would stare into their eyes, the multi-faceted lenses that seemed far too big for their faces. Why had the walking meditation triggered that in my memory?

Then today, as I was searching for a poem of healing for an upcoming worship service, I saw these words: "May my body be a prayerstick for the world." I have no idea who Joan Halifax is, or why she wrote these words, but somehow I think she must have seen humans practicing walking meditation. We must be kindred spirits. 

For all those who walk their prayers slowly, like sticks, and for those who rush by, like fireflies, may we all offer our prayers to the world, as we learn from one another the power of the walking. So be it.

Two Shoes

"Christ wears 'two shoes' in the world: Scripture and nature. Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God." John Scotus Eriugena (810-77)

I came across this wise man in reading John Philip Newell's books, Christ of the Celts and Listening to the Heartbeat of God.. Eriugena was an Irish theologian, philosopher and poet known as one of the wisest and most read in the Middle Ages.He was thought by some, but not all, to have strayed from orthodox Christian teachings as he wrote about how the entire Creation, all people, animals, beings reflect some attributes of God .He saw a day when all creatures would live in harmony with God. He based his beliefs of the Greek writings of the early Christians. And, unlike some others, he lived to tell the tale! 

I have to admit that with our church wide theme of 'Open My Eyes' I have been thinking about good old Eriugena. To think that more than 1200 years ago someone talked about Christ's two shoes….scripture and creation…. astounds me. I think of the many circles today where this statement could still get you booted out the door. And I am thankful to be in a faith community where this is not the case.

And yet, who can not look at the unfolding summer around us and not see the movement of something larger than the human creatures? I have a sweet bouquet of pansies sitting on my desk, smiling back at me. This gift from a friend has brightened my stress-filled day, bringing a certain salvation of color and simplicity that was needed. As I look outside, I see the mighty oak tree towering outside my window. Each season I learn as much about resurrection from its bare branches, buds, and leaves as I do from the gospels. It is true I would not have the fullness of God without one or the other. Like Christ, I need both shoes to give word and work to God's movement in my life.

I do not believe this is just church camp, feel good about singing under the trees theology. When I wear both shoes, I am firmly planted in the world in which God still speaks over and over again. The scriptures help me interpret how Creation invites me to give shape to faith in my time and place. It is a lovely, sometimes confusing, always transforming dance. The music changes with the seasons of both age and climate. But the partner, the Great Artist, keeps inviting.  

"May I have this dance?"