Convergence of Words

Sometimes we perceive a convergence of experience that would make sense to no other person. But when it happens to you, you know you are meant to make something of it. Such a convergence happened for me this morning. I walked into our basement to throw a load of laundry in the washer and passed through a room that once served as the ‘boy’s’ hangout. It is still equipped with toys and posters on the wall, a couch, and tv for playing video games. But over the last couple of years it has also become a home for a large bookshelf and books we rarely refer to.

As I walked through the room I saw one slight volume that was tipped out of the row, calling to me. It is a book I once read over and over. Its pages are dog-eared and yellowed. It is a translation of poems of Rainer Maria Rilke entitled Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God.  It contains, I was reminded, some of the sweetest and heartfelt words I have read. Lines like:

” I read it here in your word,
in the story of the gestures
with which your hands cupped themselves
around our becoming- limiting, warm.
You said live out loud, and die you said lightly,
and over and over again you said be.”

Beautiful, comforting and imagination capturing! But the convergence of these powerful words are simply the wave arriving on the beach.

Last night my husband happened upon a poetry slam competition of young poets on television. It was fascinating and pain-filled and hopeful. All these young people using the power of words to tell the stories of their world, our world, in ways that were so filled with truth and life in all its rawness. To see an audience of people cheer and cry and applaud for the ways in which words were chosen, shaped and delivered, sent shivers up my spine.To watch these young people harness the power of words and use them to tell of their deepest longings was, indeed, inspiring.

The beginning of this wave of words had begun on Tuesday when my book club, of which I have been blessed to be a part for 25 years now, made a pilgrimage to Mankato, Minnesota to the home of author Maud Hart Lovelace, creator of the Betsy-Tacy series of books. These books which harken back to a time of greater innocence still capture the hearts of young girls, helping them understand the complexities of friendship and the joy and confusion of growing up. I know this is true because accompanying us on our tour through these recreated houses of life in the late 1800’s was a young girl and her family who had flown from Virginia to make her own journey to ‘Betsy’s’ house. She had been pulled across thousands of miles by the words imagined and written by an author who believed in the story she had to tell, of her time, of her life.

And so today I am sitting in the convergence of the gift and power of words, others’ words and my own response to them. Something in me says this is one of the things it means to be human. To take the words that come at us, words of both terror and beauty, and to make something of them. It is how we interpret our world. It is one of the ways we make sense of our faith. It is also one of the ways in which we come to name the movement of the Holy in our lives.

What words are calling to you today? Whose words are capturing your imagination? How are the words you read or hear making a home in you? The words we embrace and allow to weave their way into our way of walking in the world must be chosen well and guarded wisely. They shape the story we tell ourselves and the one which will be our legacy for generations to come.

It behooves(what a great word!) us to choose well.

Have a blessed weekend……..



This morning I gathered with a group of colleagues to brainstorm about our church theme and emphasis for the coming year: Practicing Beloved Community. We spent time thinking about the many ways these words can be illuminated, studied, embodied in worship, lived out through our meals together, extended into the other communities of which we are all a part. It was fascinating and enlightening to listen to what these words mean to each one gathered around the table. Like most things, this phrase meant often very different things to different people. Perhaps that is just another important learning about what it means to be in community!

Beloved community is spoken of or at least implied in the gospels. It is, I believe, what Jesus hoped to create among those who followed in the Way. It was also what the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, hoped for when he instituted the Holy Clubs, small circles of people who gathered for prayer, study and mutual accountability. Both wanted people to make visible the invisible lines of connection that binds us together as the people of God.

But it was Martin Luther King Jr. who said what I believe to be one of the most challenging statements about the art of being community, and, make no mistake about it, it is an art.In speaking of his hope for the movement for justice in our country which he helped birth, he said: “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”

Beloved Community. It might be easier to think of how we can make quantitative changes in our lives than to think of a change in the quality of our souls. This is a a much more challenging quest. Exactly how might we do this?

I am not completely sure but somehow I think the key might be held in the very word ‘beloved’. To be beloved by definition means to be a ‘much loved person or a dearly loved person’. To be ‘beloved’ is to recognize that we are first and foremost a loved being. As people of faith, we can say that not only does this gift pertain to us but to all. Being beloved community means recognizing that each dear one is equally loved by the Sacred and our role is to try to extend that love to ourselves and to all others. To do this is a soul changing experience.

Who is beloved to you? How are you the beloved of another? How can that love be extended in grace to all? What does the Beloved Community mean to you? When have you experienced it?

These are very big questions. That is why I am thankful for the practice. The every day getting up and going out into the world kind of practice that allows me the chance to have ‘do over’ after ‘do over.’ As I continue to keep this phrase before me, my deepest hope is that in the practicing I may make a tiny dent in improving the quality of my soul and that the beloved ones continue to grace my path

Blessed be.



Message Tree

“God, why do I storm heaven for answers that are already in my heart? Every grace I need has already been given me. Oh, lead me to the Beyond within.”
~Macrina Wieherkehr

Several times a week I either walk or run a route that takes me along the pathways of Cherokee Park and the bluffs that line the Mississippi River. The sidewalk moves through residential streets on one side and the dense trees that form a canopy through which, if I’m lucky, I will see barges or riverboats moving on this powerful body of water. Over the last year or so I have been aware of particular tree near where the path ends at the High Bridge that pour Smith Avenue into downtown St. Paul.

Sometime last year I noticed a large zip lock plastic bag tacked to a towering oak tree. I walked over to the tree and read the note inside. It was a plea from the parents of a young man, asking him to come home. I watched as the seasons changed from summer to autumn to winter and back to spring. Nothing changed within the plastic bag. From that I had made the hopeful assumption that the young man had, indeed,been found.

But this week as I was running down this same path, this time in the heat and humidity that has marked this summer, my eyes were distracted from my route by several items placed on and around the tree. Tacked now to the trunk is a large yellow ribbon looped as so many are that symbolize a certain cause……AIDS awareness, the fight against breast cancer, to name only two. Written in marker on the ribbon were words of love, again with the signatures of “Mom & Dad”. Another plastic bag was hung just below the ribbon. Inside was a hot pink post-it note with the frilly hand writing of a young girl. Also a lovely picture of a sunset over a lake. At the base of the tree,ringing the ground, was a bouquet of yellow roses, a package of Sour Patch Kid candy, a can of Monster energy drink, and a hand painted red wooden heart with the word ‘forever’ painted in shaky white letters.

It is difficult to know what to make of this Message Tree. Its presence along this well traveled path fills me with a deep sadness and many questions. Who is this young man? More importantly,where is he? Why did he leave these people who obviously care for him? Why this tree to hold these messages? Has he seen their pleas?

Seeing this outpouring of care toward this person causes me to think of all those who are lost, whether by choice or by chance. It reminds me of the many who are not physically lost but are spiritually or emotionally making their way through a dark and troubled land. It also stirs up the times in my own life when I have felt like I was wandering in the wilderness, unable to find any kind of signpost to guide my way. Has this ever happened to you?

Being lost at one time or another is a common experience of growing up and growing into wisdom. Many of the great stories and myths that have shaped us and brought meaning to our lives contain a thread of being lost, of trying to find a way home. Along the path are often guides or signs that give hints and hope to the wayward traveler. Sometimes these are actual signs or even animals that point the lost one in the right direction. Sometimes there are angels to protect the lost soul. Other times there might even be the voice of God to give direction. All of these stories always end with great learnings about the self and the wisdom the journey has offered.

And so, on this day, I offer my prayers for all who are lost. For all who are wandering, trying to find a way to the home for which they long, may there be guides and signs to guard the path. And particularly, for the young man whose name is written on the yellow ribbon that has made its home on the oak tree along my daily path, may you be filled with the Beyond within. And may you receive the blessing of this tree so full of messages just for you.

Overly Responsible

Late last week I found myself in blueberry heaven. Nestled in the rolling hills and rich, green valleys of southern Wisconsin lies Rush River Farm. It is a wonderfully idyllic place filled with row upon row of luscious blueberries and bright red currants. The white farmhouse and sturdy red barn welcome city immigrants to taste the goodness of farm living and working for a few hours at a by-the-pound fee. Colorful prayer flags fluttered in the breeze as pickers bent and reached between scratchy branches to turn their fingers blue with the fruit that hangs suspended in clean air and blazing sunshine. Conversations floated over the hedges, children’s squeals and laughter danced in the air, and birdsong both real and recorded(to scare away the winged ones) provided a soundtrack for our work. Looking out across the field a wide assortment of hats moved methodically down the perfect rows.

Picking berries is a kind of prayer for me. On Friday I was still in that place of ‘thank everything that is thank-able’ that I wrote about earlier in the week. And so I was quietly thanking the plants and planters, the tenders, soil, water and sun for providing this bounty. I was also thanking a Creator who dreamed up such a wild process by which we live, a process that calls us to be in tune with the often forgiving land that feeds us.

Picking can also be an obsessive kind of activity as I was reminded when a woman made her way down the row beside mine. Carrying her loaded down basket of berries, she stopped to add a few more to the dark blue mound. “I just can’t stop myself!” she said. ” It is just greed, I guess.” I agreed that it is difficult to know when to stop. We laughed and she headed to check out. I returned to creating a larger pile of summer’s abundance.

I thought then about her statement about greed and realized that for me it is not so much about greed. It is about responsibility. A responsibility to not waste any of the gift of this plant that offers itself to me. I want to save and enjoy each berry offered. What if no one comes who will pick this one? Or that one? What if they fall to the ground, uneaten, and die? Which, of course, some will. But that is a part of the whole amazing cycle of which human, plant, earth and creatures are a part. What I am unable to pick will also become food for another human or the birds or insects or make its way into the soil as next year’s fertilizer. It is a wonderful miracle.

Because I was still in that ‘thanking’ place, I thought of Jesus’ stories about farmers and seeds and not worrying or being overly responsible for things out of my control. I also thought about the psalmists, many of whom made their lives by being thankers: These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”(Psalm 104) 

I left my picking experience with several pounds of dark blue berries and a heart overflowing with gratitude. A gratitude that will be refueled each time I open the freezer and pull out a bag of fruit offered to me from the gifts of earth on an exquisite July morning. Thanks be to God!


Check out Rush River Farm………



This past week I received a letter from Douglas Wood, the author of such wonderful books as Old Turtle and Granddad’s Prayers of the Earth. I have been a fan for some time and we have invited him to be our guest at Hennepin Church on October 9th of this year. He was confirming with me the details of the day and sending along a contract. Tucked inside the envelope was also a bookmark sized paper that had a list of suggestions on ‘How to be a Writer.’ As I read the list I was filled with laughter, with a sense of hope and even a glint of tears.

I have read this list over and over in the last few days. I shared it as a devotional with our staff on Tuesday. The list includes things like…..Wake up….Attend sunrises….Skinny dip….Pack light….Learn to stop stepping on rakes….Notice how unusual everything is….Do the thing you fear…..and on and on. At one point I actually decided I would adopt one thing per day to focus on and see where it might take me.

Of course, I do want to be a writer so I welcome any ‘how-to’s’ successful folks like Wood can offer. But mostly I realized these suggestions were equally as helpful in how to just be a good human being, a good ‘I love this life’ kind of human being. Which is what, if I am honest, is what I want to be most of all.

So on Tuesday I took up this suggestion: ‘Know that The News is not the world.’ This one came in quite handy given the crazy making news coming at us fast and furious from any number of media sources. Listening to the reports of greed and corruption in England, I reminded myself of the gentle, gracious, fun-loving people I have met in that lovely country. I thought of the waves of God’s Presence that have washed over me as I have walked the emerald green countryside and rocky beaches. I remembered the healing power of stone circles and groves of trees that connected me with ancient wisdom that transcends the momentary flourish of powerful people behaving badly. This is the world. I felt blessed to be reminded.

Tomorrow I plan to take up another point on the list: ‘Thank everything that’s thank-able’. I have been thinking about it all afternoon, planning my strategy. And here is the rub-what isn’t thank-able? When I wake up in the morning, a thanks goes to the bed that housed me and the light that greeted my waking. A huge debt of gratitude to my feet and legs that hit the floor, oh yes, the floor that is but one in the home I love. Thanks for being the nest that I get to fluff day in and day out. Down the stairs to put on the tea pot….that’s filled with clean water I needed only to turn on and place on a fire that was mine at the flip of switch. My heart overflows with gratitude.

But I am getting ahead of myself. If you are out and about the Twin Cities tomorrow and see a woman roaming the streets speaking thanks to stoplights and construction workers, smiling at orange-faced daylilies or geese swimming by, be kind. I am busy giving thanks.


Surrounded by Hope

If my life today had been a movie, its title would have been ‘Surrounded by Hope’. It seemed everywhere I turned I either heard or saw the word hope. Not a bad message to have washing over you on this steamy, July day.

The not-so subliminal message began while listening to a CD of a lecture by church historian Diana Butler Bass. In describing a book she had recently read on the subject and study of happiness, she quoted the author as saying there are basically three things that need to be present in a person’s life for them to describe their living as happy: Meaningful work. Meaningful relationships. A sense of hope in the future.

While I was listening to this CD, I was making my rounds of some Twin Cities hospitals as I visited church members following surgery or illness. As I continued to listen to Bass speak, my eyes fell on a mural painted along a wall on the freeway: Hope is Life. Colorful swirls of paint flew out from this roadside message making the words seem to dance in the deathly heat rising from the asphalt. Hope certainly had my attention now.

Moments later MPR radio host Kerri Miller announced that Bishop John Shelby Spong and Sister Joan Chittister were going to be on her radio show talking about, what else? Hope! I began to think there was some kind of cosmic conspiracy drawing me into its vortex ready to brainwash me to the virtues of hope. But then I woke up and told myself that I was not the only person needing this message, needing to have this unwieldy word unpacked. So I looked at the other drivers in their cars and began to believe that they too were receiving the same message: Hope. Hope. Hope. We were, all of us, linked by a common message. It made me feel, well, hopeful.

It is fair to say that the last few weeks have been not quite so hopeful. With both our state and federal governments unable to play well with each other, it has led to some dismal conversations around supper tables and at coffee shops. As the people of Africa once again are gripped in a horrific drought and we see images of children dying in the arms of parents and caregivers, it is easy to move into despair. When we allow ourselves to think about the vast extremes of weather around the world which points to the kind of climate change scientists have warned would happen, it can cause many of us to place our heads in our hands in grief. For me personally,all this global pain,accompanied by several situations in the lives of friends and in our church community, have created a climate where it could become easy to be taken to the depths.

So for whatever reason the Universe decided to open my eyes to hope today. Not only did the word show up in countless places and conversations. It also showed up as I witnessed a hospital worker in navy scrubs walk into the quiet, candlelit chapel and sit down to pray. Its face was shining forth in the gardens planted by the Sisters of St. Joseph where I had a meeting today. Flowers planted in circles, vegetables reaching toward heaven, neatly tended soil shown forth the work of both Creator and co-creator. In a moment between meetings, I held a baby we recently baptized. She proudly showed me her shiny, new tooth and boldly waved goodbye knowing we all believed her to be both beautiful and brilliant and, most certainly, loved.

Hope, I have come to understand, is not something we have or don’t. It is something we choose. And so today I choose hope? What messages are you choosing these days? For what do you hope? If what the book that Diana Butler Bass was quoting is true, our ability to hope is directly tied to our ability to be happy. Are you willing go choose hope, to be happy, and to have the courage to help your hopes take wing?

It seems to me the alternative is not so promising. So, I’m in. Are you?


“The wonderful thing about simplicity is its ability to give us contentment. Do you understand what a freedom this is? To live in contentment means we can opt out of the status race and the maddening pace that is its necessary partner. We can shout “NO!” to the insanity which chants, “More, more, more!” We can rest contented in the gracious provision of God.”
~Richard Foster, Freedom of Simplicity

Every morning I receive an email with a short piece of prose or poetry from a website called ‘Inward/Outward.’ These writings never fail to nudge me and fill my spirit. Today’s offering was no exception. These words by Richard Foster hit me with their full power.

Contentment. Now, there is a word we don’t hear often or, at least, not often enough. Its pursuit seems, in so many ways, counter-cultural, at least in our American way of seeing the world. To be contented must mean we are not working hard enough, our goals are not high enough, our desires not full enough. We are taught from a very early age to ‘never be contented’ with what we have but to strive for more….whatever more means. It is the way we reach beyond ourselves toward a success that is planned just for us by some unseen force we cannot name. This is the message that sometimes gets labeled ‘the American Dream.’

Now I don’t want to give the idea that I have anything against the creation and pursuit of goals, of making a good life. To create a comfortable, safe, productive life in which we pursue what we love doing, are surrounded by people we love, in which we have our basic needs met, is what I believe we mean when we talk about the ‘common good’ for all. It is a way of life that understands that ‘more’ is not necessarily better. Understanding the simplicity  of ‘enough’ in our lives can lead to this experience of contentment.

Perhaps I was drawn to these words because for whatever reason I had a full body experience of contentment this past weekend. It was not a particularly profound experience but one I did take note of. My weekend was simple, not too many things going on. I did a little work around the house, replanted some flowers in a window box, took a trip to the farmer’s market and then sought relief from the heat inside the house. At one point of the afternoon I walked to a neighborhood coffee shop and did a little writing and spent time with a novel. At one point of this experience I realized that my body had relaxed into the soft leather, low-slung chair. I looked around at the other people present. One man was nursing a cup of coffee while playing solitaire on his computer. A woman and her young daughter were having a sweet, intimate conversation, their heads close to one another as they shared this time on a sweltering Saturday afternoon. Another couple, a man and woman, were engaged in a quiet conversation I heard bits and pieces of that showed their genuine concern for one another. The ceiling fans whirred overhead as my iced coffee glass produced moisture on its surface. I nestled even further into this comfy chair recognizing the pure contentment I felt.

All was not completely right with the world or our country or even our state. All was not even completely right in my own life. But I was still contented. Contented to have what I needed, to be able to read a good book and have a cool drink to ward off the heat. Contented to have enough provisions that I recognized God’s movement in it all. My prayer is that, each day, all people may have a glimpse of just such contentment. Enough of a glimpse to embrace a simplicity that leads to a life of contentment and freedom for all….one day at a time, one life at a time.

Blessed be.


Summer Reading

Winding my way around Lake of the Isles one day this week, I caught a glimpse of two people lounging leisurely on a park bench. The bench was not really facing the lake but was positioned under an enormous oak tree whose shade created a canopy over the couple. Each held a book, hard cover, and they sat reading as if they had been walking along and the only right and sensible thing to do was to sit down and read for a while. I knowingly smiled and breathed more deeply as I passed them by.

The evening before I had read an essay by author Pat Conroy about the powerful joy of summer reading. He told of the summer reading lists he assigned himself as a child and how he continues to do that well into his later years. It was a practice he shared with his mother and sister. In the summer heat and humidity of his native South Carolina, these three lovers of books kept a stack from which they each drank liberally, sharing their insights and reviews with one another as the lazy, warm days unfolded.

I can relate. Many summers of my childhood were spent setting a goal of reading through a particular series or genre. From biographies to mysteries to romance novels, the summer was made even more luxurious as I was accompanied by characters and places foreign to my own life experience. It was like taking exotic vacations from the comfort of an easy chair. I still do this. While winter is ripe for curling under an afghan with a good book, summer time reading always seems to be blissful.

Books have the power to shape our lives in profound ways. I listened yesterday as our youngest son, now twenty years young, prepared to attend the midnight showing of the final Harry Potter film. He and friends were preparing their costumes and entering into an excitement that had accompanied not only the opening of the movies but also the arrival of the the newest book. He spoke of how these books had shaped and defined his childhood. “And now it is coming to an end.”‘ he said.

Indeed it is. Not only are the books ending and the films completing their cycle of life but most of those who began this journey as children are also coming into a new cycle of life. My hope is that these readers who squirreled away in their bedrooms to read the ever growing number of pages in this series, continue to find new authors, new characters, that capture them with such fervor. No doubt the ways in which they have been shaped by the adventures and pursuit of goodness of this boy wizard will always remain an inspiration tucked away in their memories. But other stories will, over time, capture their imaginations and their hearts. It is the deepest hope and desire of all authors to do just that.

There is a saying in Talmudic literature that says God created people because God loved stories. As humans who live stories both tragic and comedic, I can’t help but believe the Holy is never without a good tale. As humans who are shaped and inspired by the imagination of writers, poets and storytellers alike, there never seems to be enough of a good telling to satisfy our longings.

And so I give thanks today for all those who continue to spin the yarns that entertain and uplift, that offer wisdom and redemption, whose words preach caution and offer hope. May each of us find the perfect book, the best story, to keep us company through these summer days. May we find the cozy chair, the shaded bench or the well laid blanket that will allow for a respite from the work and obligations of life. And as we sink into the words that are before us, may we imagine the Spirit’s presence moving from the page to our heart, offering a connection with author and reader that has never been before and may never be again.

A holy, reading moment.


Sowing Seeds

“I have tasted the fruit of the earth, O God.
I have seen autumn trees hang heavily with heaven’s gifts.
I have known people pregnant with your spirit of generosity.
Let these be guides to me this day.
And may Mary who knew her womb filled with your goodness
teach me the wisdom that is born amidst pain.
May I know that deeper than any fallowness in me
is the seed planted in the womb of my soul.
May I know that greater than any barrenness in the world
is the harvest to be justly shared.”
~J. Philip Newell

Yesterday morning I began my day with these words from Celtic Benediction by J. Philip Newell. This small, beautifully illustrated devotional book is one I return to over and over again. My experience of it yesterday did not disappoint.

You see, one of the scriptures read this past Sunday was the parable of the sower and the seeds. For those unfamiliar with this story, it is one in which Jesus once again uses imagines and experiences common to those first hearers of his good news. He tells of a sower, a gardener, who goes out to sow the seeds of his garden. Some of his seeds fall on soil in which they cannot find a home and the birds make quick lunch of them. No fruit or veggies to be born from those seeds! Some of the other seeds were thrown into soil that was rocky where their roots could not find the depth they needed to grow deeper as well as taller. The sun drew them out but then scorched the plants they bore and, again, there was no harvest. Still some other seeds fell into an area where there were lots of thorns and the thorns choked what ever had been able to grow. Finally, some of the seeds found a home in soil that was just right…..soft enough to burrow into, not surrounded by plants that would hinder their growth, in the place where there was enough sun and moisture to grow into their fullness.

This is a story that has a myriad of interpretations. The number of sermons preached on this text must be astronomical. I tend to believe this is one of the reasons Jesus’ lessons to us tended to be through storytelling. Depending on wherever we are on life’s path, no matter the circumstances, we can find a morsel of truth or challenge or hope that seems directed specifically to our life’s situation.

That is just what happened on Sunday when an unusually small number of people showed up for our 11:00 worship service. Rather than trying to continue on as if we were a mighty number, I had people pull their seats closer together and we spent time reflecting on this story and what it might have to offer our lives and our world. Reflecting conversationally about times we had planted seeds that grew well, we gave thanks for those seeds that matured, usually through little effort on our part as seeds are wont to do. We also took time to talk about the times when we had planted seeds that had failed and what lesson that might have offered us.

Finally, we prayed for the seeds that we believe need to be planted in our world. Those that will bring about healing, hope, justice, compassion, love. Each person had a sense of the deep needs of our nation, our neighborhoods, our families and our faith communities. We firmly held to the belief that ‘deeper than any fallowness in me
is the seed planted in the womb of my soul.’ Like all gardeners we were reminded that there is a movement of Spirit that is pure Mystery and we’d be served well to connect with that which we cannot see,but certainly feel, as often as possible. It is then that we can gently touch, and be touched by, ‘the harvest to be justly shared.’

What seeds are longing to be planted in your soul this day? What seed do you have to offer the world, for its healing and for your own? Each of us is a part of this powerful on-going story of planting and harvesting. May the One who is the Great Gardener walk with us showing us the finest and richest soil in which to plant the seeds that only we can plant.


Kneel Down

” In these times when anger
Is turned into anxiety
And someone has stolen
The horizons and mountains,
Our small emperors on parade
Never expect our indifference
To disturb their nakedness.
They keep their heads down
And their eyes gleam with reflection.
From aluminum economic ground,
The media wraps everything
In a cellophane of sound,
And the ghost surface of the virtual
Overlays the breathing earth.

The industry of distraction
Makes us forget
That we live in a universe.
We have become converts
To the religion of stress
And its deity of progress;
That we may have courage
To turn aside from it all
And come to kneel down before the poor,
To discover what we must do,
How to turn anxiety
Back into anger,
How to find our way home.” 
~John O’Donohue 

Nearly every conversation over the past several days has unsurprisingly turned to the state of our Minnesota government’s inability to make decisions and work together. Our United Methodist bishop, Sally Dyck, asked all churches over the weekend to pray for, not only our leaders, but all those men, women and children who have been plunged into fear and uncertainty over the loss of jobs and services due to the state shutdown. Yesterday at church the prayers were all accompanied by furrowed brows and looks of complete confusion. The sense of helplessness to affect change is palpable.

This morning a friend pointed out this poem of John O’Donohue. Its words hit me square in the solar plexus. I have to admit that over the last days I have been imagining a moment at which all the people in Minnesota would intuitively decide that “enough is enough”. They would get up from their kitchen tables, their desks(if they are still blessed to be sitting at one), get off the bus, leave the library or the restaurant, open their car doors, and walk directly to the lawn of the State Capitol building. They, we, would stand there in a silent protest for all that is being left undone, for all that begs for creative action, for ways in which the common good is being violated. Perhaps it is the ‘sixties spirit’ of my adolescence that has been fanned, allowing me to once again see how large numbers of regular citizens can and do make a difference.

But as I played out this image in my head I realized what I was really seeing mirrored a painting of John August Swanson entitled ‘Festival of Lights.’  You can view it at his website In this beautiful painting of people seeming to come from the very stars themselves, the figures stream from the mountains carrying a single candle that illuminates their faces. Over hills and valleys they move, appearing to come from the ends of the horizon, forming a wave of face after beautiful face. The faces are not smiling faces but they are strong and committed.  Perhaps they are carrying the anger reflected in the poem as they try to find their way home. It is a powerful image.

Frankly, I can’t imagine how this will all turn out. But I do believe it is going to take some deep listening on everyone’s part. Some deep listening and trying to understand what it means to work for all the people and not just some. It will take some anger that is well placed and an ability to rid oneself of the seduction of the distracted life. Not only for our elected leaders but also for those of us who put them where they are.  And it will take the kind of illumination that is portrayed in this beautiful piece of artwork…single lights coming together to form something greater. All this and the ability to kneel down before the poor and see ourselves.

Finding our way home is going to take all the light we can create…..together.