Practicing Awe

I have been thinking a lot these days about the word practice. As our faith community continues to live into the joys and challenges of ‘Practicing Beloved Community’, our theme for this year, I am finding that I have ample time to ruminate on the meanings of these three seemingly simple words. Lately, I have been stuck on what it means to practice.

Over my lifetime, I have practiced many things. I have practiced the piano and the French horn. I have practiced running. I have practiced patience as a parent, a spouse, a coworker, a friend. I have practiced prayer. The thing about practicing is that there is the underlying understanding that one may get better but will never perfect whatever one is practicing. This will certainly be the case with practicing beloved community. Our hope is to get better at being community, of becoming more and more beloved with and toward one another. The reality is that we will never be perfect or even very good at it. Practicing always keeps us hopeful……and humble.

The last three days I have been practicing awe. It is a noble endeavor made easier by the view from the windows of the inn where we are staying on Whidbey Island. Our windows face Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains. Depending on the typical cloud cover that is the personality of this part of the world, we are treated to an ever shifting glimpse at this gift of Creation and Creator.

On the beach outside the inn sit two wharfs, one old and abandoned and another the entrance and exit point for those who make their living providing fish for the island and beyond. The worn and rickety wharf, no longer in use, seems to be home or resting place for gulls, pigeons, ducks and one enormous heron who sweeps past us with regularity as if to remind the other birds who is king of the hill. His call is unlike anything I have heard before. Deep, guttural, like the smoky song of an aging jazz singer.

As if all this weren’t enough to ground my practice of awe, a lone seal swims back and forth in front of our deck. Moments after we arrived in this beautiful place, I noticed him. His head popped up above the frigid water and seemed to look right at me, welcoming me to stop, look and listen. His gentle, fluid movements through the water provide a cautionary message. “Be still and know.”, he seems to say.

And so while I have, as always, brought books and work along that could occupy my time on these languid days, I have found myself just watching him. At times we seem to be looking one another square in the eyes as he challenges me to practice awe. Awe at the beauty around me. Awe at the fact that I did nothing to create this beauty or sustain or maintain it. Awe at my own ability to perceive the opportunity as the gift it is. Awe at the call to prayer and connection with the Holy this experience offers.

Like my brother Job before me, I am often filled with self importance. I can move through my life with an urgency that makes me believe my work is more grand, more important, than it is. It is then that the Holy speaks to me with the words showered on those who think too highly on their human selves:
But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In God’s hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all humankind.”

These are some words that can guide the way to awe. Today I will continue to practice awe over and over, not with the hope of perfection, but of the assurance of humility. For one more day, I will have the view of mountains, water and seal to guide me.Perhaps the awe practiced here can continue to keep me awake and humble.

May it be so.


Falling in Love

I have come to believe there are many levels of prayer. By this I don’t mean that there are different levels of importance to the One who hears and receives our prayer. I mean, instead, that there are different levels of how our prayer has the potential to change us, transform us, make us more responsible to our living. While I still believe that Anne Lamott’s notion that we really only pray two prayers: “Help me! Help me! Help me!” and “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”, I do believe there are prayers we pray that can have an impact on us and the world that are bigger than anything we intend. Many times these efforts to commune with the Holy are formed in words. Other times they are birthed through sighs so deep they seem to come from a place within yet beyond us. Prayers that change us can also come in the form of screams or tears or belly laughs. Prayer always, I believe, comes to us on breath: ours, a friend’s, a partner’s, a child’s, the wings of a bird, the undulating of the Universe.

When prayers find words, words that continue to call us to ourselves and our relationship with the Sacred, we often like to commit them to memory. Prayers like the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer come to mind. While stored away on the hard drive of our brain, we may be able to pull up the words and repeat them at the perfect moment. The words may be the same but we kid ourselves if we think we are the same each time we repeat what we have memorized. When praying these long held prayers, is always wise to pay attention to the way certain words or phrases take on a new life, mean different things,nudge us in certain ways, surprise us or feel like a burr under our saddle.

Yesterday at a brunch we attended at Seattle University, we read the words of Jesuit Pedro Arrupe(1907-1991). We read his words as a prayer. They were words that reached out and grabbed me, begging me to pay attention. His words are worthy of committing to memory. “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love. In a quite absolute, final way, what you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Reading these words with a room full of people, framing them as a prayer, was a powerful experience. As we finished sharing the breath of these words, something shifted in the room. It was filled with a possibility that had not been there before. Each of us brought our life experience, our age, our various connections to this institution to these words. Certainly those in the room who had chosen the life of religious orders knew the depths of falling in love with God. Parents and guardians in the room knew what it meant to fall in love and stay in love with one another and with those young ones sitting by their side. The young adults who graced the tables, full of possibility for what their life might hold, are only beginning to grasp the gifts and responsibilities of falling in love. Somehow praying these words together united us all in a hope for a falling in love that will continue to affect everything regardless of where we are on life’s path.

And so today I am surrounded by questions. Questions which I also offer. What have I fallen in love with? What have you? What seizes my imagination? What seizes yours? How has this falling in love shaped my life(and yours) in ways that helps heal the world? How has what I am in love with helped me walk in holy paths? And you?

These are all good questions for an autumn Monday. I invite you to them.I invite you to fall in love this day. I can pretty much promise, it will affect everything.

Blessed be.

I Have Had Singing

Last night we were blessed to hear a choral concert by the Seattle University choirs. In town for Family Weekend, it is an opportunity to glimpse the life our youngest son has forged for himself in this rainy city, within this community shaped by the gifts and graces of the Jesuits who founded and have a strong presence in the way life plays itself out here. As parents, we have always been impressed with the ways in which community is at the center of institutional and educational life here. It has been a joy to watch our son be embraced and enfolded into this nurturing circle.

While the music was all lovely, one song in particular caught my attention. The title was ‘I Have Had Singing.’ The lyrics were more word painting than poem, speaking of a life that had been full of tremendous ups and devastating downs, as most lives are. The final analysis was that the person whose story was being told in the lyrics deemed it a life good because it had been filled with music, because there had been singing. It was a wonderful piece of music and very uplifting. What’s more it was clear the students were engaged and moved by the music as well.

I, too, grew up having singing. Growing up as I did in a community whose roots were Welsh, singing was a part of school, church and community. Singing was a badge of local pride. In fact for as long as I can remember there has been a little card on my family’s refrigerator: “To be born Welsh is be born privileged. Not with a silver spoon in your mouth but with a song on your lips and poetry in your soul.” Just writing that makes me smile and connects me again with the sentiment of these shaping words.

To have singing is a wonderful thing. However, it seems to me as if there are fewer and fewer places where people can ‘have’ singing. In some places there are some community choirs but many schools are cutting music programs leaving public school choirs threatened. Churches are another place where people can have the opportunity to have singing. The unfortunate thing is that in many cases even churches have turned over the singing to the professionals, paid singers who have been trained in the fine art of vocal technique. This leads to beautiful choral singing but can often keep all those who sit side by side every week from having the gift of joining their voices in what can be a life-saving act.

Life-saving? I believe it is true. When one person joins their voice with one or more people to create music, it is a reminder that we do not travel this Earth alone. It is a reminder that in all good and beautiful and truthful acts, we are connected by invisible forces that continue to open us to being part of a larger whole. Whether the sound is beautiful or common, it is an affirmation that to breathe together, to give voice together is to celebrate life and all that is possible. What could be grander?

I think of all the cultures over time who have sung together to give voice to their joy, sorrow, fear, pain, anger, hope. Around fires people have gathered to layer one voice upon the other creating a harmony that seemed impossible with mere words. With the fire lighting their faces, they saw their reflections shining back and problems were solved, divisions mended, a way forward became possible. It seems to me the world could use more of just such hopeful action. What do you think?

One need not have what may be described as a beautiful voice to inspire change in the world. Think of Bob Dylan. One may not need a trained voice to gather people around, creating a circle of hope. Think of Pete Seeger. One need only to begin. First a hum. Then a deep breath and a few notes sent out into the universe. Before you know it people may just be attracted to join in. It is worth a try.

Whatever it is that you ‘have’ that lifts you above the pain or obstacle that threatens to overwhelm, may you have it in full supply this day. As for me, I will be blessed to also say “I have had singing.”


Changing the Course

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Leads me to your door.”

For the last several weeks, people in the Twin Cities have been seeing orange. It seems nearly every stretch of road has some form of construction happening. Large swathes of freeway will be closed for days at a time. Orange cones are arranged in straight lines along lanes or, even worse, seem to form some kind of snake-like effect that tests your eyesight and anxiety level. Even following the posted speed limits in these construction zones, I still have worries for the brilliant yellow and orange clad workers. The whole situation seems fraught with danger. Of course I am thankful that things are being updated and repaired before the snow flies. Goodness knows that once the pavement begins to freeze and thaw there will be potholes to contend with. And I am also thankful for the jobs that have been created by all the work of this construction.

However the last couple of days I have decided to change the course I use to get between the Cities. While commuting with my husband one morning along the East River Road, I realized that there was virtually no orange visible except the beautiful leaves that still cling to the trees or have fallen to the path that perches above the flowing water of the Mississippi. So the last couple of days, instead of creeping inch by bituminous inch along the freeway, I have taken to the more winding and scenic road.

Passing by lovely homes whose windows must provide a year round vision of the changing seasons makes for a very different commute. All along the path I am privileged to see runners, singly and in groups, getting a healthy start to their day. Bicyclists and I share the twists and turns of this lovely path. Their often colorful and stretchy clothing brings yet another surprising addition to my drive. Tuning my radio to different stations allows me to create a sound track for all this movement……runners, walker, bikers, people and dogs. A little jazz. Some Mozart. It is my secret that I have created a movie in which we are all playing a part.

One would assume that this change of course would mean leaving earlier, that it would take more time to reach my destination. Not true. Though I am perhaps not taking the shortest distance between two points, the drive takes almost exactly the same amount of time. Void of orange cones and reflective outerwear, this drive twists and jogs but I continue to keep moving, at a slower pace, but still going forward. Plus I arrive in a much calmer and happier mood.

The whole experience caused me to think of the many times I have continued to push ahead on the same, slogging path, stopping and starting creating only frustration about my hoped for destination. Or the times when the only view open to me was the sight of cold, hard surfaces, like bumpers, obstructing whatever lay ahead. How many of those times I have continued on, over and over and over again, never taking the opportunity to change my course! I have done this individually and in many of the circles in which I travel. Has this ever been your experience?

Changing my course these last few days has reminded me of the importance of shaking things up every now and then. Of going by way of a different road. Of choosing to veer from the accustomed paths. It is important in almost all we do.

If there are too many orange zones in your life these days, I invite you to make a left or right at the next turn. Try a different way to work or home. Try a new path to the same old problem, the continually nagging question. Who knows what might happen? If nothing else, for a few days you will be able to enjoy the new scenery. And that could make all the difference.


A church is a group or people collapsing into God and collapsing into one another.”
~N. Gordon Cosby

This quote from a sermon given by N. Gordon Cosby was featured on a daily meditation that arrives in my email box in a similar way that Pause arrives in many of yours. When I read it, I laughed and nearly cried at the same moment. Laughed because it is so true at its deepest core message. Nearly cried because we rarely remember that this collapsing is what we are always doing. This is our work.

I have spent my life in the church. I have spent the majority of my professional life working in the church. From the time of my birth I had a place of residence in a wooden pew, nestled by both my mother and father and the rest of the faith community. Even in my college years, when many young adults found other ways to spend Sunday mornings, I was often in church. Over the last 27 odd years of my living, I have worked to create an environment in which people have the opportunity to collapse into God and into one other. Somedays there is an actual full bodied experience of this happening. Other days are messier and less complete.

I have a general belief that people show up at a church for many reasons. Out of duty. Because it is engrained in their bones to do so. Because they are searching for something larger than themselves and a way to connect. Others are looking for friendship or a circle of people whose reason for coming together is different than their work, school or social life. Almost always people are, at some deep level, looking for meaning…..theirs, the world’s, the scripture’s.

It is not new news that most mainline Christian churches are not filled to the brim in the way they were, say, in 1950. Many, most, struggle to make budgets that will support the buildings many faithful built in that flourishing decade or ones earlier. Many, most, try all manner of ways to stand on their heads to invite, coerce,nearly beg people to come into their doors. They, we, try with honest hearts to tell the story of how the Holy has moved through our lives. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail miserably.

Of course, given a world in which much of how we structure our lives is centered on an open market of supply and demand, there have been people who have turned the dwindling membership of the church into a business. We have church growth experts and conferences. We have books that can tell us the sure fire way to turn the tides of falling membership around. Many are boxed in slick, bright, eye-catching colors and promises and those of us in the ‘biz often flock to them. Money exchanges hands in hope and desperation. On both sides of the equation, people barter with the best intentions, in good faith.

The more I continue to make my life in the church, the more mysterious it all is to me. I have watched faith-filled people be a balm for one another in beautiful, compassionate ways. I have also been present to some down right hate-filled and painful encounters. In some ways it is a wonder that the church has existed as long as it has. When I watch words and dogma and even scripture be used to divide and exclude, it makes me question why we continue to try in all the ways we do to be what we call the church.

It is usually at just one of those moments,when it seems more sensible to walk away, that I am witness to someone collapsing. Collapsing into the grace of a holy moment, an outstretched hand or a whispered prayer. Collapsing into a hope that seemed unimaginable or a despair that could not be held alone. Collapsing into what someone can call God.

It seems to me that if we can hold onto this image of the vulnerability we all carry as we live our days, we might be able to get past all that keeps us from being church and from becoming the spiritual beings we were created to be. If we can all remember that being church is an on-going collapsing….into God….into one another….we all might worry a little less about growing, whatever that means, and more about holding on for dear life.

Lured to Begin

It is funny how a person can go on a search for one thing and actually find another. This happened to me this morning as I searched one of the John O’Dononhue books that line my shelves. I was searching for a poem of his to send to a friend whose mother is dying. I was searching for words on comfort and death. But what caught my attention was something completely different.

Instead, what caused me to abandon the morning paper and sit down in a chair, were O’Donohue’s tender, reflective words on beginnings. “When we arrive into the world, we enter this ancient sequence…..Beginnings often frighten us because they seem lonely voyages into the unknown…….Goethe says that once a commitment is made, destiny conspires with us to support and realize it……A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us…..There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could.”

All these sentences taken from several paragraphs lured me into thinking about the challenge and treasure of beginnings. I thought of all the times in my own life when I have sabotaged beginnings by procrastination, excuses, and even sheer laziness. All these actions are driven to some degree by fear, aren’t they? It is easy to never begin so we never have to fail or we never have to succeed….because who knows what might happen to ‘the way we’ve always done things’ if we actually succeed? Who knows how our living might be changed and then what would people think? How might we be called to move differently in the world? What might we become responsible for or to? So many questions beginnings can stir up!

But the sentence that grabbed me most was his quoting of Goethe. The assumption is that once we make a commitment to a beginning, there are other forces of energy that are attracted to that commitment, forces that actually support us and help us move through toward the ‘what next’ a beginning always signals. It has certainly been my experience that this is true. If I make a commitment to a call for newness in my life, and if I am open to the signs and green lights along the way, I begin to sense that an action that seemed to be begun individually becomes supported collectively. Sometimes this comes in the encouragement of another person or in the more mysterious ways things seem to fall in place along the path.

Destiny? Fate? Coincidence? The movement of the Spirit? You decide. I just know that as I look back on the beginnings I have made there is a clear and certain sense of being surrounded by something larger than myself that opens the doors or closes them. That provides the insight or question. That makes the knot or extends the rope in ways that are unexplainable and sometimes unimaginable. That becomes, again if I am awake and open to it, a companion for the journey.

What to make of being lured into these words on beginnings? What to make of them on this day, at this time, when I was searching for words of comfort about death? Certainly, it is almost always true that for something to begin, something must die or be released. And even in these words about beginnings, I see some comforting wisdom about death.

And so the questions which will surround me this day might be: What is beginning for me? What needs to be released and allowed to fall into the gentle arms of Mystery? What fears do I hold that are keeping me from paying attention?

Beginnings are happening with the rising sun of each day and with each inhalation of our precious breath. These questions of beginning are not just mine. If you feel a beginning rising in you, I offer these questions to you and welcome your own questions about beginning.

May we each be lured in our own way and may we sense that wise companion at our side.


Gratitude of Crows

From a single grain they have multiplied.
When you look in the eyes of one
you have seen them all.

At the edges of highways
they pick up limp things.
They are anything but refined.

Or they fly out over the the corn
like pellets of black fire,
like overloads.

Crow is crow, you say.
What else is there to say?
Drive down any road,

take a train or an airplane
across the world, leave
your old life behind,

die and be born again–
wherever you arrive
they’ll be there first,

glossy and rowdy
and indistinguishable.
The deep muscle of the world.
~Mary Oliver

Tucked deep inside this morning’s newspaper was a column dedicated to people’s questions or observations about birds. It is a regular column that I rarely read but for some reason this morning I was drawn to it. The first question and answer was about a sighting of what someone thought was a Western bluebird that probably really was an Eastern bluebird. Since I am sure I would not recognize either one I read on.

That’s when the words that have been following me around all day jumped off the page. A gentleman had written in about an experience he had had with a crow, several crows, actually. He had been in a canoe on a lake when he noticed a single crow caught up in a tangled line. Moved by its predicament, he worked to free this black beauty of a bird,allowing it to fly off and then canoed out of the lake. While putting his canoe on the truck, the relieved crow flew and perched on the roof of his truck and stayed near it on the short drive home. When he arrived at his house, he heard the crow calling and soon a gathering a black wings perched in a nearby tree calling and looking his way.

His question: Do crows have some ability to offer gratitude? The writer of the column, the expert, wrote that this is a behavior that is not unlike those reported to him before. I recall at some point of last year reading about how crows, being quite intelligent beings, have the ability to recognize the faces of humans. They can be heard calling loudly at the sight of certain people. Interesting, isn’t it? If they can learn to know the features of a human face, why couldn’t they also call their kind together to offer gratitude for a life saved? The thought of it has given me a warm feeling on this dark and rainy day.

The idea that I cannot know the true abilities of a crow or any other of God’s creatures is at the forefront of my brain today because I have spent the last two days in what was called cross-cultural diversity training. It was an opportunity to reflect on my own culture, values, beliefs, truths, and the general way I walk in the world. In that reflection, I had the gift of hearing about the cultures of others and their walk in the world. It was a chance and a challenge to see what it means to be traveling this great and wonderful earth together and to take in the joys and what can be the sorrows of it all. It was deep and often difficult work. It was work that called each present to recognize our sensitivities and prejudices. It was also a time for learning to listen, really listen, and the importance of this often neglected sense. The fact is, it was humbling work, because it was a reminder of how often I fall into the ‘everyone sees it like me’ frame of mind. Sound familiar?

Reading the article about the gratitude of crows brought home how little I know and understand about much of this world home of mine. The work of the last few days opened me to the many ways I so often misunderstand my fellow two-legged companions and yet how much I want to share the road with grace. When expanded out even further to the four-leggeds and the winged ones and those who swim, makes for a true cross cultural experience of living. If crows can offer gratitude, how much more so should I? To the otter I watched skimming the surface of the water bringing me such awe. To the ginger cat who will greet me when I arrive home tonight. To the geese flying overhead announcing change. To the big, black dog who will wiggle and run when he sees me as if I am the greatest sight in all the world. To each blessed human being who is a gift in my life.

Perhaps I need to take a lesson from those crows and gather myself up, maybe call a few friends together, fly to a high place and sing deep gratitude into the autumn air.


Comedy and Tragedy

Story is the mother of us all. First we wrap our lives in language and then we act on who we say we are.We proceed from the word into the world and make a world based on our stories.”
~Christina Baldwin

Yesterday I was surrounded by stories. During our Sunday worship, we were blessed to have author Douglas Wood share his lovely story of Old Turtle and the Broken Truth. It was wonderful to watch children and adults crane their necks to look up at the screens that held the now, bigger than life illustrations of this picture book. Seeing their faces concentrate on his telling of a story that holds wisdom on one level for children and meaning on other levels for adults was a beautiful experience.

While being present to this one big story, I was of course also present to so many others. During worship our third graders received the gift of their Bible from the church. It is a celebrated milestone for these young ones who have now become mature enough in their ability to read that they can begin to wrestle with the stories that rise from the pages of this sacred text that guides our faith tradition. For many it will be a lifetime wrestling. An acceptance. A rejection. A reworking. At times a white-knuckled hanging on. At others a gentle letting go. The stories that shape us are like that.

And of course, there were the stories of the people who decided to show up at church on this particular October Sunday. Many of the life stories of those around are ones I know, at least, in part. Having been blessed to serve a church for the number of years I have this one, I can look out across the pews and see the joy and sorrow that is woven into the fabric of the community. It is a gift. There are those I have laughed with and cried with, those I have watched fall in love, those whose weddings I have performed, and those I have helped say goodbye to loved ones. So many stories.

Looking out across the community there were also faces of those I did not know. I did not know if they were visitors or simply people I had not yet had the privilege of meeting. A yet untold story for me. Their faces caused me to wonder what they thought of this diverse, even ragtag group of people pulled from their beds on a beautiful Sunday morning to be present to celebrate how the Holy might grace their lives. Had they arrived with an expectation that was being fulfilled? Or was this another search that had ended in disappointment? Ah, another story.

Somedays I become aware of the immense play in which we are all engaged. All these characters moving through a specific time in the history of the world in a production for which none of us auditioned. We were cast by virtue of our birth. Sometimes we find ourselves in a comedy that is light-hearted and uplifting. Other times we are engaged in a drama that breaks our hearts and causes those around us to weep. Often it seems we are in a farce, characters bumping into one another in over-the-top prat falls and doors that lead to no where. No doubt every life story contains them all.

Where is your life story taking you these days? Is it something you notice, this story you are playing out? Can you, if you take a deep breath and pause a moment, see the presence of the Sacred with you, moving beside and through you?

Here is my prayer: May the Holy One bless all our stories this day. May we awaken to the movement of the Spirit who continues to urge us on and walk with us through the comedy and tragedy that is the telling of every life story.

It has always been so and will no doubt continue to always be.

Pure Gift

It has been wonderful to watch the outpouring of love and gratitude for the life of Steve Jobs. This genius of innovation,technology and so much more seems to have lived a life committed to creativity and a dedication to dreaming his way into the future while bringing, and sometimes dragging a large part of the world with him. Listening to the words of those who knew him and those who have been influenced by him has provided a glimpse into a way of remembering someone who brought so much changed to the ways we communicate over the last decade. His death at such a young age is sad and makes me wonder, if he had been able to live longer, what new things he would have created.

All his innovations are amazing, I am in fact, using one of them at this very moment. But when I think of Steve Jobs I am most inspired and challenged, not by what he created, but by words he spoke. I am speaking of his commencement address at Stanford in 2005. I had read it several times over the years but as it has been replayed and quoted all over the Internet this week, I have once again been confronted with its deep truth.

He wrote: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Speaking to a group of, no doubt, high powered college seniors with their lives unfolding in front of them, he spoke of death with a courage I have rarely heard preached from pulpits. Some there may have thought it a downer to talk of such things on this special day. But I hope they now recognize the gift he was offering. He spoke of looking at himself every day in the mirror and asking if he was doing what brings him happiness, what gives him life, what he was meant to do. He spoke of how death is the greatest gift life brings because it calls everything into question.

There is such truth in his words. I have found myself over the last few days, while at least metaphorically looking into a mirror, asking those questions. I have found myself enlivened by the prospect of abandoning what, in the face of death, would seem senseless and silly. Instead I have thought about what brings me life, what makes my heart sing, what I might regret never having done. With this lens so much of the dogma of what we ‘should’ do, how we ‘should’ be, falls away.

Of course, at our core, we all know the truth of this. But in the day to day going about our lives, it is so easy to forget. It is so easy to do this and that only to realize you have used up the majority of your day accomplishing tasks that can equate to gerbil wheel activity. It is something to consider about, isn’t it?

This week I have been thankful to the brilliant living of Steve Jobs who once again called the question. With his living and with his dying. May each of us have the courage and the will to approach each day with the sure knowledge that it is pure gift. A gift not to be squandered.

Blessed be…..

Spending My Life

How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”
~ Annie Dillard

We are being treated to an amazing string of beautiful fall days. The sun and warm temperatures are making Minnesotans, accustomed to complaining about the weather, act a little sheepish. What happened? Why are we being granted such days? Is it only a trick to make us weak for the winter that is to come? No matter the reason, the days have been glorious and it feels like there is a need for perpetual thanksgiving.

After spending yesterday trying to soak in as much of the beauty as possible, I was sitting inside a restaurant with windows all around. I was facing west as the sun began to set for the day. Right before my very eyes, it was as if a painter from the Impressionistic Period hauled out all their watery, pastel colors and began to create something that might be entitled ‘Ending to a Perfect Day’. I watched as the white clouds began to turn pink and then a deep lavender, swirling around the brilliant yellow of the setting sun. It was like being trapped on an easel used by Monet. The watery, feathery edges of the colors faded gently into one another. As the sun moved further below the horizon, the colors became more vibrant. I held my breath with what seemed like a miracle being created right before my eyes.

As I sat, enraptured by this sight, a young father brought his children to stand at the window’s edge. The children, all younger than seven or so, stood spellbound as he knelt beside them, encircling them with his arms. There we were, five people witnessing the stupendous ending to an equally stupendous day.

This morning I had an early meeting which had me on the road for the sunrise. I looked out my rearview mirror at the morning sky. “Here we go again!” I thought. The sky began to shift with these liquid colors yet once more…..yellow, pink, lavender, pale blue…..all swirling in on themselves. I watched as the big ball of yellow made its way above the cityscape. It was held in the luscious colors that ringed its setting the night before as it ushered in another day.

I thought of the words above by Annie Dillard. I had scribbled them on the back of my checkbook a few weeks ago after reading them on a kitchen magnet in an art store I had stopped into. ‘How we spend our days is of course how we spend out lives.’ It is so true, isn’t it?

I have to admit that so many days I allow the way I spend my life to be eaten up by little, mindless details. Things that in the big picture of living are fairly unimportant. Other days I can spend my life fretting or worrying over issues I have little control over. Still other days I can spend my life being torn up by jealousy or gossip or comparing myself to another person or my unrealistic view of who I ‘should’ be. Is this really a way to spend one’s life?

As I reflected on the ending of my yesterday and the beginning of my today, I felt pretty good about how I was spending my life, at least for the last couple of days. I had been bathed in beauty by the great Artist and I had had the good sense to pay attention. I had been privy to one of the greatest shows on Earth, the sunrise and the sunset, of just one of the days of my life and I had noticed.

Please dear God, may it always be so.