Grand Scheme

A friend gave me a beautiful calendar over the holidays. It was created by the Sisters of St. Joseph and is filled with not only beautiful artwork but equally beautiful poetry. Each day contains a thought or affirmation to take with you as you go about your walk in the world. Here is just a sample: ‘Examine your life-are you loving it?’Work from your heart.‘Work like God – no task too humble. No scheme too grand.’(R. Doughty)Commit to a daily meditation practice.’Embrace courage like the Magi.’

I have this calendar in a place where it is present to my morning ritual of getting out the door. As I make lunch, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, and comb my hair, this calendar of invitations is never far away. I am happy to say that most mornings I have the good sense to read the wisdom that is written in the tiny inch-square space that makes up an outline of a month. A month of my life. Thirty or more days that are pure gift and never to be lived again.

Somedays when I look at the little box filled with words I am amazed at how much I needed the message that was right there for the taking. As I walk away from the calendar I tuck that little seed into my mind for germination. Truth be told sometimes I never think of the exact words again but the seed is there just the same. Work from my heart? Gotcha. Embrace courage like the Magi. I’m on it. Am I loving my life? Well,am I? (Are you?)

Having these little post-its clinging to me all day can counteract the other lint that can get stuck to my body on a normal day. If I have had the radio on in my car I can have all manner of negativity riding on my clothes, trying to seep in to find a place on my skin. Messages of greed and scarcity and never enough.  Advertisements for all the things I need to be ‘my best’, ‘most beautiful’, ‘successful’ self. Coarse and angry words flung from one person to another without thought for the damage they produce. Even if the words were not aimed at me, I have now been privy to them and they live in my psyche. Before I know it they could creep into my heart. What then?

Have you ever thought about all the words and messages that come your way in any given day? Are they messages that build up or tear down? Are they words that call you to your best self or do they allow you to align yourself with all the angry messages so often spoken? Are the phrases that cling to your coat ones that help bring about the common good?

I am thankful for this calendar which reminds me that I have a choice as to what guides my daily walk. I can choose to work like God and be a humble mover in the world. I can also make a choice to try to create a grand scheme to dismantle the harsh and hurtful words that can make up our public discourse.

In these final days of January, before I turn the calendar’s pages to see what February holds, I am going for the Grand Scheme. I invite you to join me…….



State of the Union

In keeping with our upcoming theme for Lent of ‘Breaking’, I have been scouring books of poetry and prayers. I have been searching for the words that can define the brokenness that is a part of what it means to be human. I have also been collecting words that speak about the ways in which the breaking that inevitably happens in individuals and communities, is also the place where transformation and light shines through.

This afternoon I opened a book by biblical scholar and theologian Walter Brueggeman entitled Prayers for a Privileged People. It was a book that had been passed on to me some time ago and I had not had a chance to look through it yet. The first page I turned to was a prayer called “The State of the Union”.  How odd is it that I turned to this prayer the night after the president delivered this message? All day long as I had been driving from one place to another, I had heard the speech replayed and also took in some of the many commentaries. Some, of course, thought the speech brilliant while others found it contemptible. Such is the nature of our public discourse lately.

I won’t quote the whole prayer here but will just refer to one line that reached out from the page and grabbed me by the throat: “We will embrace the buoyancy of the speech with gladness and with great dis-ease, because we know better. We know better because our Lord has told us about the lame and the blind, the hungry, the homeless, the poor, the prisoners, the ones who thirst. And we are in touch, by our baptism, with them.” 

Over the years I have done a fair amount of thinking and reflecting upon baptism. Probably even too much time trying to make sense of the words we have attached to this sacrament held tightly by many, loosely by others, not at all by some. Seeing the reference to baptism in a prayer about the state of the union address was just so surprising. Certainly, not all those who are a part of this great nation practice this ritual or recognize its significance to those of us who do.. While most faith traditions have some form of welcoming people in or even absolving them of past wrong doings, baptism specifically is held by those in the Christian household. The phrase in the prayer continued to nag at me.

Later in the evening, I was thinking about what it is that I have come to hold most prominently about baptism. In this act of community, we affirm that what makes up most of our physical being, our bodies, is water. We are 60-80% water, depending upon which statistics you read. We all know that we can survive a long time without food but a very short time without water. We need to constantly be returning to our earth ‘home’ its most significant element: water. We all also entered this world after swimming in the water of our mother’s womb. In baptism, we can claim that the Holy One affirms this essential element that is our form, our sustenance and our being and delights in our birth and presence in the world. In baptism, we affirm that we are a ‘yes’ of God in the world.

And so, as we continue to grapple with what it means to be a nation with such differing ideas of who we are, one thing that can truthfully be said is that we are connected by the fact that we are all people made up of the same elements. Our skin may look different. We speak different languages. Our life experience has caused us to have a world view that defines the way we articulate our political, social and economic views. We call what we believe to be the ‘More’ in different ways or not at all.

But the water that flows through our veins and muscles, that feeds our thirst and keeps our bodies going is the state of our union. Whether we name the ways we honor this as baptism or something else, or whether we think of it seriously or not, is in some ways moot. The water that flows through me, water I see as a gift from God, is the same as that which flows through the homeless man standing at the corner,sign in hand, and the executive looking out from his penthouse view on the city at his feet. The water that flows in our rivers and oceans and is absent from those in countries sick with drought unites us all in need and want and abundance. Each time another new one slips from the waters of birth into the world, another brother or sister joins the union.

And now the question becomes how will we honor and hold in trust this state of union to which we are all a part? Whether we choose to be or not?

It is a sobering and exhilarating thought.


Thanksgiving Service 10:30 a.m.

On my daily drive to work, I pass by a church whose message sign sits in a prominent, very visible place along a winding and scenic drive. It also is poised right at a crossroads of stop signs. It is ‘prime real estate’ for advertising what is going on in the life of this church. Many churches would be envious of such a good spot for attracting people, for telling their story. This particular church sign does not have any of those catchy and sometimes controversial messages meant to stick in your brain all day. It simply advertises the time of the worship service and education hour. It also has the message that its ‘Thanksgiving Service’ will be at 10:30 a.m. It has had this message since November.

Now I realize to admit that this has been driving me crazy says so much more about me than it does about this church. I am reminded of all the times in my own church when events or services have been listed incorrectly. There is always someone…..usually more than one….who calls or emails to let me know about it. And then my mind also goes to the idea that they have been missing telling people about all the other things that have been going on SINCE Thanksgiving Day. I want to know who is in charge. See. This clearly is about me and my control issues!

Last week as I once again passed the sign for Thanksgiving worship, a thought crossed my mind. What if instead of allowing this to bug me, I would see it as an opportunity to think of everyday as Thanksgiving Day? And at 10:30 a.m., or at least when I passed the sign, I would offer a prayer of gratitude? This would help me create an order and intention out of what is, in my opinion, a neglected opportunity.

I began to think of all the things that happen each day for which I am grateful. The first steaming cup of coffee. Oatmeal smothered in brown sugar and those enormous blackberries I happened upon at the market last week. The laughter and playfulness of the children standing at the bus stop outside our house. The snow covered nose of the big black dog that shares our home. A warm car. The luxury of seat heaters. Smart wool socks. The smile of the person who is stopped at the same red light and happened to catch my eye. Trees that stand strong and tall against the rising, winter sun. The colors of the morning sky……black, blue, pink, violet, gold. My own two legs that move me through my day. The presence of my family moving in their own distinctive ways through the house in the morning.

All this gratitude and I have barely moved into the first hours of a day. A day that promises to be full of things I have planned and those that will surprise me. It made me think of one of my favorite songs by Minnesota singer/songwriter Ann Reed whose final lyrics are:

“A day that’s remembered
In a small, sacred space
Walking toward balance
Praying for grace.
Gather my blessings
Like the gifts that they are
Place them quite gently in my grateful heart.”

Which of course is what the seemingly neglected church sign had caused me to do. I had created a Thanksgiving Service in my grateful heart. It wasn’t November. Or the designated fourth Thursday of that month ‘set aside’ to give thanks. It was an ordinary day like any other. But my heart was overflowing.

Makes you wonder doesn’t it? Maybe that church is not being neglectful at all. Just sneaky. Maybe they are trying to help people see every day as Thanksgiving Day.

Well, they got me.


Gift of Winter

The cold has finally descended on Minnesota. There is not much snow to speak of but the temperatures have conspired to remind us where we live and what we are made of. This morning as I walked out to roll the garbage can to the curb for its pickup later today, I had that feeling of my airways freezing that I have yet to experience this winter. I smiled as much as my frozen cheek muscles would allow. So, I suppose it is time to settle in and remember the gifts of cold, frosty winter life.

Yesterday morning at our house we were offered just such a gift. As we were busy getting ready for a full day ahead, my husband paused on the landing of our upstairs hallway. “Did you see this?”, he asked. Unsure of what he was talking about I walked the few steps into the hallway to catch a glimpse. He was standing by the window that is directly at the top of the stairs. The window glass, itself a kind of victim of winter’s harsh winds, was swathed in what at first glance looked like lace. It was so incredibly beautiful and intricate we both just stood there taking in this gift of winter. Its patterns seemed impossible. How could something so beautiful be created without intention?

Now there was a question to carry around for the day! I have no idea how ice crystals or patterns form. Whatever Science class I took back in the day that explained this probably went right over my head. I was busy anticipating English class or choir. Yesterday morning I regretted my single mindedness wishing I understood how the combination of water, condensation, cold air and sun could create such an amazing pattern, such a work of art.

You see, the pattern not only looked like lace but also like a tree. A tree in the forest of the Winter Queen. The patterns had formed as if painted on the glass with some unseen hand who knew just what we needed to wake us up on a frigid morning. Just what we needed to send us out into the world with praise on our lips and awe in our hearts. Just what we needed to remind us that there is a creative Hand in the world that is not ours.

Later in the day I thought of all the other patterns in this wide and wonderful world that may seem to be without intention. The center of a tulip for instance as it breaks forth in fireworks or a newborn’s feathery eyelashes. The way in which the sun can reflect off one of the cut glass ornaments I keep hanging on a curtain in our living room, creating tiny rainbows all over the walls just as the sun is setting each day. The rivulets of water that spin and then spiral over the rocks in a stream.

It is easy for me to get caught up in the things I can understand and make sense of in some ordered way. But every now and then it is good to have a wake up call that reminds me of all the wonders I cannot, and will never be able to understand. That is where awe walks in to take up residence and I am once again reminded of being a tiny part of a Universe that continues to expand and amaze. In that instant I am reminded of my work here: To stay awake. To notice. To be amazed. To tell the story. To be filled with gratitude.

There are many experiences that can remind us of the treasures of winter. For those of you reading this who are also experiencing the first, true rush of freezing temperatures, my hope and prayer is that you are offered a gift of winter this day. Keep your eyes and heart open for the lace that is being spun all around. If we have eyes to see.



“Waking up this morning I smile,
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
And to look at all things with eyes of compassion.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Sitting at my desk this late afternoon, I read this prayer. I did so with a certain sense of loss. Perhaps I smiled when I woke up this morning. I can’t remember. I am certain that my feet hit the ground running. The list that was spread out before me this day already having its way with me. Did I take note of the fact that this day, these twenty-four hours were new, were before me, were pure gift? Did I make a covenant with the day to live fully? I know I meant to do so. I know in my heart I meant to look at all things with eyes of compassion. But as I think back about the day that will quickly come to an end, I can think of the many times I did not do so. Reading this prayer, with so much of the day behind me, made me aware of all that may have escaped my notice and care this day.

The afternoon sun is setting and the winter clouds have been moving in. The parking lot outside my office window has few cars and I can see that the cars driving by now have their lights on. Another day has nearly passed, never to be received again. I am reflecting on what I have to show for my living this day. I have accomplished some tasks and met with some wonderful people. We have made some decisions and created some plans. It has been a normal, somewhat uneventful,day.

Over the last few days I have been thinking of the gift of each day. Nearly eighteen years ago now, I had a brush with cancer. This is the time of year when I always go for a yearly physical and for the few days after, while I wait for test results, I walk with my feet in two worlds. The world of ‘normal’ and the world of fear. Over the years I have gotten better at walking this path but there is still that moment when opening an envelope is accompanied by a pounding heart. Yesterday was such a day. Yesterday ‘normal’ was a welcomed word.

When I think back to the days after that diagnosis, I always remember how beautiful the world seemed to me. How each day was so precious, so full of beautiful people and miraculous moments. I remember thinking that it was probably impossible to walk around with such intense awe for the world. It seemed to me a fine line we walk between such outright love for living and a kind of madness.

In the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s prayer, there is not the intensity I experienced nearly two decades ago. Instead there is the quiet appreciation of the unique gift that is ours with the beginning of each day. The invitation is to a commitment of being present and knowing that we walk the path with a gathering of people and beings whose vulnerabilities are immense. So compassion becomes our words and actions just as we hope to have that mirror of compassion reflected back at us. This can become the vow we make with ourselves, our families, our co-workers and the countless strangers we pass by.

Today some will receive the message of ‘normal’. Others will begin another journey. My prayers go with them…….







Check Out

Lord! when you sell a man a book you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.  Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night – there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.”
  ~Christopher Morley 

Over the weekend I finished a novel I had been reading. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is the intricately woven story of one particular book, the haggadah which is the story told at the seder meal, and the many lives that had touched it over time. It was a valuable book. A beautiful, illuminated book. A book that had taken on a life of its own over time. Throughout the more than 600 years of its life it had come to mean many different things to  wide variety of people. Many people had protected it with their lives. Others had tried to destroy it. The central theme of the book was a search for the path this book had traveled. It was a fascinating read and I commend it to you.

Because I am a book lover extraordinaire, I loved this story on so many levels. I was taken with the number of people, the various hands into which the book had fallen. It caused me to stop and think about the library books I have read over the years. I remember so vividly the old ‘check out’ system of the library. The one where there was a paper card at the back of the book with other people’s names written who had read the book. As a child and teenager, on my visits to our library(which were numerous), I loved looking at who had read a book before me. It was always a treasure to find that someone I thought of as ‘smart’ or ‘cool’ had taken out the same book that I had. Do you remember this now by-gone system? As I think about it now, I miss this connection with the others whose hands have held a book. Being able to see those names was a kind of literary voyeurism.

Of course, I am very entwined with a book that has had a similar journey as the one told about in this novel. The Bible. Its words and pages are ones we attempt to explore every Sunday in worship. Some Sundays we do a better job than others. Like the haggadah in Brooks’ story, it is a book that means many different things to a wide variety of people. It is certainly one which people continue to delve into with joy or skepticism, with hope or mistrust.  It is a book that has caused wars and also helped to bring about peace. It has been illuminated by artists and shunned by those who find its contents false and fanciful. People have also chosen to die for this book or at least what they believe it represents.

On this past Sunday I had the privilege of meeting with a group of people for a look at one particular story from the Bible. We were following a process that is meant to, not only study the scriptures, but also build community through that reading and conversation. It is a wonderful give and take of telling and listening, of being open to hearing the places a particular word or phrase connects with one person and not with another. The process invites people to be open to listening deeply for how they hear the voice of the Holy in the ancient words.

As we were engaging in this process, I was struck once again with the gift of these ancient words. Words not trapped in time but having the ability to jump off the page and nag or comfort. Words that connect us with all the other people who have wrestled in ways similar and very different. For me this is what we mean when we talk about the ‘living word’. These phrases and syllables are not held in a vacuum but are offered to those who want to ‘check out’ the book and see what it might have to say to a single life. Or a communal life. In a particular time and place.

We are shaped by many books, by many stories. If we are careful we continue to carry the words of these books within us so we can call on them at the needed time. Some are simple stories, ones we have known since childhood. Others are complex and rich, tales that create the on-going myths that define our humanity.  What are the books you have held that continue to hold you? What stories are etched on your palms and heart?

In these snowless, winter days, what better time to take stock of all the phrases that have contributed to our life stories, that still fill us with living words?

Epic, Churchy Words

To dare the incarnation; to take the road in silence.
To know the ascension; to will the resurrection.
The song shimmers in the golden people.”
~Aidan Andrew Dun, Vale Royal</strong>

It is always I wonderful thing, I believe, to discover a name you don’t know, a person whose writing or work has not come across your radar screen before. I was looking at a book of Celtic reflections last week and this quote from a poem by Aidan Andrew Dun was on the opposite page from the one I was reading. I was taken by the intentional, I assume, use of words that are so firmly planted in traditional Christian speak. It was a surprise to find these words in writings that were not meant for such a singular audience. After doing a little research, I learned that Dun is a poet who makes his home in London and that these three lines are from an epic poem he introduced at Royal Albert Hall which led to him being named the ‘voice of King’s Cross’. Goes to show that it is always wise to read your work in great places!

There is so much in these three lines and less than twenty-five words. There is affirmation and challenge. There is wisdom and a deep seeded hope. There is a belief and a faith expressed. And all of it brings so many questions to my mind.

In this season we in the Christian household call Epiphany, we are poised between Christmas and Easter. We have just walked through days in which we sometimes quite flippantly use the word ‘incarnation’. God-with-us. God-in-flesh, even. The notion that God can be, indeed is, embodied in flesh is a concept that still boggles the mind. Whose flesh? Only the flesh of Jesus? My flesh? Your flesh? The flesh of those we love and also the flesh of our enemies? Even those who do not share our way of expressing faith? Even those whose lifestyles are different than ours? You can see how the poet is bold to use the word ‘dare’. Do we dare to be an incarnation of God in our world? Do we dare to be present to that incarnation in the other?

Perhaps the only way to really be able to take up that challenge, that hope, is to ‘take the road in silence’. Perhaps it is a practice of stopping and listening more and being less ready to plead our case for whatever banner we are flying this week. In this action we might all be more awake to and aware of the veritable plethora of incarnations in our lives. Like pilgrims in search of the holy grail, if we are silent enough we might see the treasure that finds its home right before our eyes.

In silence, being present to the incarnation, we also then might come to know this dance between heaven and earth that is the gift of the every day……ascension. I think of the many times, nearly every day when something or someone slays my heart with a little bit of heaven. The brilliant full moon of this last week, for instance. How it seemed to pull me toward it, begging me to come closer, to ascend by at least recognizing my small, but important, place in the Universe. Or the flashing eyes of a five-year-old I encountered on her birthday. So full of promise and ripe with potential to find her place in the history of the world. This dance between having our feet firmly planted on earth and the push to levitate is an on-going waltz.

Bodies of holy flesh, clothed in silence, rising toward heaven willing “resurrection”. Isn’t this a sort of definition of what it means to be human? Resurrection, the rebirth from the daily deaths, the daily brokenness and wounds that plague us yet also give rise to the shimmering of this golden people. It is a rhythm we see mirrored in our sacred stories and in the patterns of Creation.

All these ‘churchy’ words could be off-putting until we open them up and walk around in their meaning, their intention. On further reflection, it is easy to see that they are ‘our’ words, not just ones meant for doctrines or confined to ancient interpretations. They are words that tell our story, our epic story. Always have and always will.

May this weekend find you embodying the Holy, cherishing the silence as you dance between heaven and earth as you will resurrection. And always, always shimmering.

Listen to the Whispers

This morning I was perusing some bookshelves in our house searching for book I thought I may have moved to another shelf upstairs. Over the holidays we have been moving books around to areas of the house that may make more sense. Since I have taken over a spare bedroom as an office space I wasn’t sure whether or not I had moved this particular book upstairs or not. While my eyes were traveling down the row of much thumbed through pages, I reached for a book i have only barely paged through.I lifted off the shelf. Stretching Lessons:The Daring That Starts from Within  by Sue Bender found its way into my hands.

This was not the book I was searching for but perhaps it is the one I needed to find. Over my steaming bowl of oatmeal topped with blackberries and walnuts, I opened to the first short essay. Here are just a few of the lines that jumped off the page at me: “PRACTICE ENJOYING. DON’T PRACTICE STRUGGLING.” “ Unlearn the habit of trying. It’s not about trying-it’s about allowing.” “Listen to the whispers.” “There’s a different between hard work and unnecessary suffering.” “I want to learn about ease.” All this and more in the span of three short pages.

The book is a collection of short essays, more reflections really, on the author’s working habits, writing habits and her desire to live more fully, more joyfully. Like most of us she had learned the lesson well that work must be hard. That to truly be successful at what you do, suffering, long hours, extreme self-sacrifice is involved. At the age of sixty-six, she set about exploring whether or not that is really true, really necessary. Any of this sound familiar to you?

As I said, this book jumped off the shelf at me, I was not looking for it. As I began to read and take in its message, an encounter I had yesterday came flashing to mind. I was speaking to a trusted confidant about some of the challenges and opportunities that are happening in my work and my life right now. As usual my hands were flying around as I spoke. When I had finished my impassioned monologue, the patient listener quietly said,   “Maybe you need to stop struggling so against all this. Maybe you need to open yourself to what might be the gift in it all.”

She then showed me the movements I had been making with my hands as I spoke. My arms had been outstretched and stiff, my hands up, palms facing out. The perfect stance of the traffic cop who wants to stop traffic in its tracks. No one, nothing was getting past that stance. She then suggested that I soften my arms, round and extend them a bit and place my palms up as if to received the gift of whatever may come my way. How different my body felt. How different my mind and spirit felt when I realized that I had been the greatest contributor to the struggle and stress I was feeling.

So, as I begin this day, I am walking into the world with my arms outstretched, ready to receive what comes my way. When challenges arrive, I pray to keep my arms and hands in this same, soft position, if not literally then spiritually, so I may be ready to receive……and then offer the gifts I have for the work that needs to be done. If you, too, are struggling against obstacles that are bruising your spirit, stealing your joy, I offer this suggestion for a new way of moving in the world.

Enjoy…..allow…..listen to the whispers.

Searching for Meaning

Last week the magazine from our Seattle son’s university showed up in our mailbox. It is always a lovely periodical and I enjoy reading it. It is a combination of alumni news, current activities at the school and a subtle pitch at fundraising. It always seem well balanced and reading it provides me one of those umbilical cord moments mothers need when their children are living far from home. Reading it I somehow feel closer to the life he is creating.

One of the events they were publicizing was an event featuring poet Mary Oliver. Those of you who have read these pages know that I am a hopeless M.O. fan. The event is called ‘The Search for Meaning: Pacific Northwest Spirituality Book Festival.’ Can you hear me drooling?

Reading about the event further I saw that the planners defined the event as ‘attempting to create an annual gathering place for all people of good will to discuss their values, the ways they create meaning in their lives and the dreams they have for a world of greater kindness, peace and justice.’ Going on, the reporter explained that the creation of this event ‘is a good indication of how many of us believe we can have profound differences yet talk and learn from each other, while finding new ways to build a common life for us and our children.’ Something in these words went right to my heart, in a good way. I breathed a deep, calming breath that people would come together around such a wonderful and noble goal. It piqued every cell of hope within me.

Perhaps I was so ready to receive this message because I had earlier been listening to a bit of the debates between some of those who hope to be president. President of a country that was founded on the bold notion that we are a nation of people with profound differences and that is not a weakness, as the debaters implied, but actually our great strength. And the strength of this is in listening,learning and creating ways to build a common life for all children that is founded on kindness, peace and justice in ways none of us in our single mindedness could envision alone.

As I write this, I have just finished worship planning for this Sunday, a day when we will once again remember the work and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We will combine the hopes and dreams of his words, ones we now know so well we sometimes forget to really hear them and the impact they had at the time they were spoken. His message was one that called all of us to embrace the diversity of this nation and all the goodness that might come to  birth through it. The scripture for the day will be Psalm 139, one of my favorites:

O God, you have searched me and known me,
You know when I sit down and when I rise up…….
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?…….
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Each time I read this beautiful, ancient poetry, I am reminded that these words have come to express the Holy’s movement in the lives of all humans. Those who look like me or you, believe as we might, see the world and all it holds in a similar way. But it also applies to those who are very different, who name God differently or don’t claim a God at all, those whose lives have taken them down roads we can not imagine, roads we might not have the courage or strength to endure. The psalmist and Dr. King both offer to us a way of embracing the gifts of each individual as we come together to build what he named beloved community.

As we go forward into this week and this year, may we each remember that we are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully. And so are all those we pass on the street. May we remember and listen and learn from the diverse voices and lives of our world as we continue to find ways to build new ways for a common life for us, our children and our children’s children.

Blessed be.


A Huge Thank You

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.”
~Jan L. Richardson, from The Painted Prayerbook

Today I am marking a very special anniversary. Special to me at least. It is on that MIT have slipped by me if our web designer and tech guru had not made me aware of it. A few weeks ago he walked into my office with a funny smile on his face. “On January 5th you will have been writing Pause for five years. That’s more than a thousand posts, you know.” We both looked at one another with a surprised and puzzled look.

Since that time I have been thinking about how this daily reflection began as a daily Advent post which simply invited people to stop in the midst of some of the busiest days of the year to check in with their spiritual life. It was aimed at the church community I serve and no doubt reflected whatever theme we had chosen for that particular season. I fully intended to stop writing it when Christmas rolled around and the dark days of Advent were over.

But what happened for me during those days and weeks was amazing. I found that I had discovered another way to pray. By staying awake, as the Advent scriptures urge us to do, I had glimpsed the multitude of ways the Holy shows up in the everyday experiences we call our lives. Not only had I glimpsed it but I had been transformed by these encounters. Transformed in ways I could not have imagined and still have little language to describe. It was then that I realized I could not stop writing. I could not stop inviting people to press ‘pause’ for a few minutes of nearly every weekday with the hope of setting aside at least those few moments to check in with themselves and with however they choose to name the More. After years of trying to contrive a daily practice of prayer, that practice found me. It was as if the Spirit said, ” Now you’ve got it!”

And so five years, a thousand posts and one book later, here I am celebrating and feeling such gratitude to those of you who have taken the time out of your days to read and often respond to things I have written. I thank you for reading and for, in a sense, praying with me. I thank you for the stories you’ve shared and the questions you’ve posed. They have made my life richer.

A person never knows what will happen when they take the first step on any new endeavor, on any new journey. It is wonderful that this celebration which I hold today falls on Epiphany, the day on which those in the Christian household honor the long journey of the Wise Ones whose travels took them places they never imagined. As I begin the sixth year of this journey of staying awake, I invite you to join me. Join me as a reader, as a watcher, as one who welcomes the twists and turns of their own sacred journey. But also feel free to respond or send your ideas of what you’d like to see in these pages. I welcome you input, your insights, your own encounters with the Holy.

Thank you for praying with me……..