Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

These days have found me furrowing my brow, full of questions. It seems as the summer unfolds more and more fully around me,from left and right, from morning till night, there are so many things about which I feel, well, ignorant.

This realization began, I think, with the Olympics. As I sat and watched the opening ceremony my Anglophile spirit was lifted far above the ground. I loved the music and the telling of a part of Britain’s rich history which included places I feel blessed to have seen with my own two eyes, places that tug at my heart strings. And yet with the entrance of the teams the ignorance set in. How can there be so many countries I have never heard of before? How can I consider myself a world citizen and not know the names of the homes of my fellow travelers? As I watched these gifted athletes proudly wave their flags, I felt chastised by my lack of knowledge about their homelands.

On a more local level, I have been observing something else that has me scratching my head at all I don’t know. In the yard of an apartment building near our house there have been the most amazing mushroom-like formations that have grown out of the ground. They are huge and have formed a sweet, little half circle under a tree. Some are nearly as big as a dinner plate. What caused them to come into being? In just that place? In these days? Was it the heat teamed with the drenching rains we’ve had? Or is there something in that soil that causes them to be? As I have observed them now over several days, I have imagined seeing them with the eyes of a child. Surely fairies must live under something so exquisite, so unique!

As if my head was not full of enough questions, this morning’s experience took the cake. I had not been awake for very long when I became aware of the shrill and constant sound of crows cawing unlike I have ever heard before. It was so loud it was disturbing. The sound was coming from a tree near a backyard neighbor’s house. Coffee in hand, I walked outside to see if I could get a sense of what was happening. The crows filled the tree. Every now and then one or two of these black beings lifted off the tree and circled in the air only to swoop right back and perch on another limb. I saw no other bird and no other animal under the tree, either of which might have given rise to such a ruckus.

For more than ten minutes I stood watching and listening to this chorus of crows. My mind was racing with questions. Why were they all gathered in this particular tree? What was causing them to cry out with such intensity? How had they known to gather? Why don’t I know more about the behavior of this common bird?

For some reason these experiences have provided a backdrop of reflection for me. Most of the time we travel in the world in circles where we have some expertise. Either through education or training or experience, we go about the tasks of our day having a pretty good idea of what it happening and why. Many times this translates into an ability to go from task to task, moment to moment, day to day, without much forethought of what is truly going on in the world around us.

And then every now and then something happens that reminds us of all there is yet to learn. Out of the corner of an eye we have a glimpse of something new, an adventure yet to taken, a question that begs to be answered. In those moments we are invited once again into the realm of the child where newness is alive and possibilities seem endless, where nothing is rote or routine.

Sometimes all it takes is the pronouncement of the name of a tiny island unheard of till that very minute. Or the sight of a stupendous, ivory fungus. Or the brilliant song of a gathering of crows.



“I bow to the one who signs the cross.
I bow to the one who sits with the Buddha.
I bow to the one who wails at the wall.
I bow to the OM flowing in the Ganges.
I bow to the one who faces Mecca,
whose forehead touches holy ground.
I bow to dervishes whirling in mystical wind.
I bow to the north,
to the south,
to the east,
to the west.
I bow to the God within each heart.
I bow to epiphany,
to God’s face revealed.
I bow. I bow. I bow.”

~ Mary Lou Kownack

A friend forwarded this prayer-poem to me from the website of wise woman Joan Chittister. Last week I had been looking forward to hearing this nun who lives on the edge and tries to bridge people of so many communities. She was to have spoken at Westminster Presbyterians Church but had to cancel due to illness. I pray God’s healing presence upon her.

The gentleness of these words astound me. For the most part I don’t think we use the word ‘bow’ very often. In our postmodern culture it is a term we might think of as passé. It is either an ancient term relegated to religious practices of another time or only seen in those rare times when royalty is present. Those of us blessed to live in places where individuals of Eastern ancestry are present may have experienced being bowed to. It is a humbling experience.

In reading these words recently published as ‘A World Prayer’ I imagined each of the people and groups of people represented in each line. What would happen if we honored all this vast variety of humanity with an equal bowing? How might our world be different? It is a rich and wonderful idea.

Many of us did not grow up in places where there was much diversity of faith traditions. Most of us continue to walk in the world with others most like ourselves. It is just the nature of what it means to be human. And yet, if we are blessed with the opportunities to see people live out their faith in ways unfamiliar to us, we come to understand our own traditions in even deeper ways.We also come to have a greater gentleness toward the struggles and intolerances of our world. At least this is what I believe.

Recently I had a conversation with my mother who is in her eighties. I can’t remember how the thread of the interchange began but at one point she began to talk about how she has come to understand that others around the world know and express their experience of God in a myriad ways. We talked about how easy it is to build the hard edges of ‘our way’ into the only way. But, she said, ” Who am I to deny others their experience of God?” My heart swelled at these words.

I have walked this path with those who sign the cross and those who sit with the Buddha. I have watched my children play side by side with those whose relatives wail at the wall. I drive and walk past neighborhoods where people in clothes that seem exotic to me touch their foreheads to the holy ground. I have seen those who whirl like dervishes and I have longed for what they were having in their dance. I am honored to live in a part of the country where the native ones honor the directions.

And so I bow. To the One who breathed each of these revelations into being. I bow.

Sounds of Silence

Earlier this week I had the privilege of co-leading a retreat focused on prayer and yoga. We held this event at our church’s retreat center on Lake Sylvia west of Minneapolis. Several months ago as we began publicizing the retreat I became excited by the diversity of people who began signing up. Those who signed on for what was a fairly openly described experience represented a variety of ages and church experience. Several made a point of telling me that they had never done something like this before. I marveled at their courage to simply arrive and see what would happen.

One part of the retreat was to spend some time in silence. It was not a long time as retreats go but it was more silence than most people engage in every day. After our morning worship we invited people to leave the chapel in silence, spend the next two hours without an input of words except those they may overhear spoken by those who were in the same space but on a different retreat. Folks could walk, swim, boat, pray, journal, or sleep. It was their choice. At the end of the two hours we would meet up again over lunch which would be eaten in silence. At 1:00 p.m. we would gather and break the silence and talk about what we experienced. In order to not appear rude to those who were co-existing with us but still talking, many of us wrote on our name tags: ‘I am spending the morning in silence.’ We all then headed into our morning, lips sealed.

I have to admit that the most difficult part of this exercise was lunch. Sitting at a table with others, eating but not talking, made for a challenging time. And yet when I gave myself over to it, I began to notice things I might not have had I been in conversation. First of all, I noticed the taste and texture of my food. I actually spent time paying attention to it! I also noticed the colors of the different individual foods that made up the art on my plate. It seemed to me the red of the tomatoes and the purple of the onions, the green of the lettuce and the yellow of the lemonade in my glass all seemed more refined, more intense. When I wasn’t distracted from the way the food looked by the conversation I was having, the food itself took center stage.

Another thing I noticed was the ability to hear snippets of conversation from the tables of talkers who were also eating lunch. Laughs and giggled sounded louder, the clinking of silverware on plates made musical sounds. One little boy declared loudly, “I am so happy!” It filled me with joy. I noticed that the pitch of the sound made by the ice tea dispenser was one half-tone off from the lemonade one which rested next to it. They made a lovely little tune when pushed quickly between the two. It made me laugh.

At 1:00 we gathered in a circle to talk about our experience of silence. It was interesting to hear the many ways people had spent the time, how they had ceased to create words. One person did say they even began to talk to themselves inside their head! We are such social creatures. A common noticing was how long the minutes seemed to unfold so leisurely, so slowly. For some this was a joy, for others more of an anxiety. Nearly everyone found something good within the experience. Most also found eating in silence the most challenging. It seems we are hard-wired to want to socialize over food. Not a bad thing at all.

This experience caused me to wonder about the hermits of old and those today who spend the majority of their waking hours in silence. I am sure I romanticize this life choice, the idea of spending your days seeing the colors in their brilliance, hearing sounds that get drowned out by the execution of words. I am sure the loneliness must be deep which is why it takes a certain person to give their life to this way of walking and being in the world.

But I am thankful for the glimpse at this spiritual discipline that has sustained itself for hundreds of years. When we are quiet long enough we begin to hear the deeper hum of the Universe which invariably connects us, I believe, with the Creator of the vastness of which we are all a part. Those moments when we can stop the words and the constant input of sound allows the gift of our own heartbeat to be the rhythm to which we move. Those times of silence and stillness when we walk silently through the ever unfolding minutes of each hour can provide the opportunity to feel and hear the rise and fall of our own expanding lungs.

These experiences, breath and heartbeat, give rise to praise of the purest sense. And for that I am grateful.

Common Good

Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~Margaret Mead

On Friday night I participated in a truly American phenomenon. That is North American phenomenon. My husband and I drove just short distance to a small town in southern Minnesota to attend an outdoor baseball game played by the Miesville Mudhens. We has done this a couple of years ago and had found it to be such an uplifting experience that we vowed to do it every summer. Somehow last summer passed by and we did not make it. But we agreed that this summer would be different.

Heading south on Highway 61 we drove through the corn which bookended the pavement on both sides. Though the corn was of varying heights, something we puzzled over, mostly it was five feet or more and tasseling. The farms that housed these crops rose like beacons across a landscape of green. Riding with the top down on our convertible, we gazed with admiration at the hard work of others on the behalf of all of us, human and animal alike.

Arriving in this sweet little town that consists mostly of two restaurants, one church, a cemetery, a few houses and one beautiful ball diamond, it feels as if you are driving into a movie set of every tear-jerking baseball movie ever made. The fact that, if a player is skilled enough to hit a home run, they do so into the tall stands of acre after acre of corn, is the whipped cream on top of an already fabulous sundae. People from all around come to these entertaining and well played games. The players play for the love of the game and it is a joy to watch young men doing something they love simply for the admiration of a crowd gathered to cheer them on. Children of all ages chase foul balls to return them to the concession stand for a treat. There is no endless supply of baseballs the way there might be in the major leagues where players are paid enormous sums of money to extend their childhood love into adulthood. No, for a candy bar or can of soda, a returned baseball hit foul,makes its way back onto the field for another go.

As is the tradition, this game began like all others. The announcement came that Krista would sing the National Anthem from the field. We stood, as we have been trained to do, and faced the flag that rose out of the corn on the third base line. As the young woman began to sing this impossibly difficult song, she held a cordless microphone and stood just behind home plate. No accompaniment of organ or recorded music gave her the pitch. She began low so as to, I imagine, be able to hit that high note at the end of the anthem.

That’s when it happened. The microphone began to cut out. About every third or fourth word was missing because the sound system was not doing its work. Being the caretaker and nervous person I am when people perform, I felt my anxiety begin to build. “Stop!”, I wanted to say. “Fix her microphone and let her have a do-over.” I had imagined, you see, this young woman practicing over and over in the confines of her own home, ready for her big moment.

But instead of the snickering of the crowd one might imagine at such a time, or even the announcer providing a do-over, something amazing happened. Slowly one voice began to join her. And then another, and another until the whole gathered body of people in the stands took up the song. Any evidence of the failing sound system was rendered moot by the grace and compassion of a group of people come together on a hot summer evening, in the middle of corn field, to watch America’s pass-time. We all reached that dreaded high note together and sounded wonderful!

My heart swelled with joy at this act of helping one person save face and shine in this spotlight moment. The experience once again renewed my confidence in the power of a few individuals to work together for the common good. In light of the news that had shaken us all on that same Friday, of one individual’s senseless violence in a Colorado movie theater, it was a welcome reminder that goodness still prevails.

May it always be so.



I had not noticed any ‘vanity’ license plates for some time. At least, not any that caught my attention and made we wonder about the driver behind the wheel of the moving message. And then on Thursday I saw two within minutes of one another.

Driving along the East River Road on my way to the office I waited while a car turned into the pathway in front of me. This silver SUV carried the letters ‘Justblv’ on its hindquarters. For several miles I followed this imploring message until it drove straight toward the University while I turned west. I wondered about the owner of the vehicle. What beliefs were they encouraging others to? Was this an echo of scripture or one that encouraged us to clap our hands to conjure up fairies like in a Peter Pan kind of believe? Was it an affirmation to believe in one’s self in an effort to keep on keepin’ on or to attain some goal? The seven letters sent my mind reeling.

Several miles down the road a black station wagon pulled into the lane in front of me. This cargo car’s message? ‘Free2Be’. Of course the children’s book from the sixties written by Marlo Thomas came immediately to mind. Free To Be You and Me</strong>. Dismissing this as the intended message, I thought about what compels a person to pay the extra money for a plate with this particular message. Perhaps they are a libertarian. Or an anarchist. Maybe the car is driven by an ‘old hippie’. Or maybe they just want to remind us all of our democratic rights to practice who we are in the land of the free and the brave. Who knows?

Going through my day with these two messages playing tag with one another, I thought about all the times what some of us ‘just believe’ clash with the ‘free to be’ of others. I think of my own belief system that has changed shape and evolved into something different than it once was. The life experiences I have encountered and the places and people I have known have caused what may have once been bedrock I thought unshakeable to be sculpted into new ways of believing. I hope it will always be so.

Which I suppose is where the ‘free to be’ comes in. If we hold the world gently, if we concede that we are, will always be, expanding our understanding of what it means to be a world citizen alive at such an interesting and changing time, we will always be fluid in our beliefs. This is not to say that there are beliefs that will ever go away. However,what these are may be different for different people……ahhh, that free to be thing again.

So on this warm, sunny, summer day I would like to say that I am free to believe in a few things, a few things that I believe may heal the world. Like kindness. And the power of welcome. The satisfaction that comes from a warm slice of bread fresh from the oven. The beauty of color…in flowers and faces. The sweetness of a child’s giggle and the smile of the big black dog. One hand that holds another. Rain gently falling on an earth that begs for it. The gift of a well told story. Friendship, blessed friendship. The river flowing to the ocean. Music that makes me weep and urges me to dance. The sense of being held by One who will not let me go no matter what.

So many things in which to believe. Just because I am free to do so. What a gift! And what about you? Where are you planting your belief these days? How are you living into your freedom to be?

May the Spirit dance among us all filling us with the freedom to grow and change and reshape for our own healing and the healing of the world.

Hovering Prayers

There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake and listening
to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and falling
wave upon wave on the long shore
by the village, that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.”
~R.S. Thomas, 1913-2000

Perhaps it is these heat-heavy days and nights that caused me to choose this poem to begin our worship this past Sunday. The images within it remind of some of these summer nights when, fans whirling by my bed like an airplane before take-off, I open my eyes and feel the night around me. Most times I am able to go quickly back to sleep. But there are times when thoughts come and hang in the warm air that will become the next morning.

I may have shared this poem before in this space. It is one I happen upon now and then and remember how much I love it. While I believe the poet is speaking about his relationship with the Holy which I share, it always reminds me of my childhood imaginings of the people that live on the other side of the world. Maybe all children ‘live’ in the small world of their own home, their own neighborhoods, families, town or city. By that I mean that their, our, image of what life is does not travel far from what they can see and hear at the moment. I say ‘our’ because I believe mostly we all live this way, regardless of age, with the lens of what the world is like firmly focused on the world in which we presently find ourselves. In our early days as a species it is what kept us safe and on-going. In some places in the world, perhaps not too far from your own home, this is still the case.

But it is the luxury of those who know safety to imagine what the world outside their own view is like. As a child I spent waking and nearly-sleeping hours wondering about places I had never been before, places across oceans and in countries where faces looked different than my own, where sounds and rhythms of the day did not match my simple comings and goings. Some of these places I have now been blessed to visit, others will probably only ever exist in my imagination or what I can can cobble together through books and other media.

What appeals to me about this poem is thinking of other people awake in the night praying. I imagine this mist of prayer rising from the bedsides of all those in house and hut, under stars and on beaches, in high rises and country side, laying awake while offering prayers. Prayers not only for those whose lives are like their own but also for those they also can only imagine. I can see this mist rising to create a cloud that hovers over us all. Prayers of protection and comfort. Prayers of gratitude and celebration. Prayers to soothe a mother’s aching heart and give courage and hope to a father’s worries. Prayers to heal the earth and honor all those who journey with us. Two-leggeds. Four-leggeds. Those who fly and swim. Those who slither and crawl. All held in a cloud of prayers offered by those we know and those we will never meet.

It is a comforting thought to me. And an image that makes falling asleep in the summer heat not only bearable but blessedly joyful.


“I often use the word “joy” when describing fireworks. It is a considered word, deliberate in choice. Not just amusement, entertainment, astonishment, but joy. Our art makes us all into children again for a while. We become one in our experience for the moment; lost in the sound and color and light. We see large forces, stronger than we could ever be, yet beautiful in their effects. Sometimes violent, sometimes restrained. Delicate beyond imagination at times, coarse and rude at others.”
-Bill Withrow

On the Fourth of July, I, like the majority of people stood in rapt attention as fireworks burst into the sky above. I have to admit that I am a great lover of fireworks. They make me laugh uncontrollably. The sheer over-the-top nature of them just seems to go someplace within me that can only respond in laughter. I also have to admit that that laughter sometimes even turns to tears. Tears of joy. Those who know me well would not be surprised by this but it might seem quite odd to others.

This past Fourth as I watched and laughed, I actually began to think about why I have this reaction. There is, of course, their beauty. The brilliant reds, blues, shocking whites and gaudy greens. Then I thought about how each colorful explosion seems destined to out shine the shower that preceded it. There are also the silly sounds…the booms, crackles, hisses and what can only be described as a ‘swirly’ sound that accompanies the ones that look like giant noodles plummeting toward the earth. While the sounds might be big and loud, they also have a certain playfulness about them.

Fireworks are also fleeting. It was this overall reaction on which I settled. Fireworks speak to the in-the-moment kind of extravagance that can fill you with joy. They light up the sky and then fall to earth in a matter of moments. To spend such resources on this fleeting enjoyment seems decadent, something only the wealthy can indulge in. In many ways this kind of expenditure would often set me on my high horses but I am so glad I simply don’t go there. I just allow the creativity of people who know how to make these explosives and design their interactions to give me the gift of this momentary joy.

Thinking about that fleetingness,I was reminded of all the other things that have such a short life. While these things don’t make me laugh out loud, I am aware of how quickly they pass by, burn out, disappear. To think that I don’t stop and pay attention to them with the fullness I do with fireworks made me wonder what I am missing.

Things like the purple thistles in my backyard about to mimic the firework display. Soon this national flower of Scotland growing will loose its luster and go to seed, gone out of our sight. And what about the fleeting nature of the children we know who are becoming adults before our eyes, losing the sweetness of innocence as we all must do. What have I missed by not looking into their eyes with greater intention. And then there was this morning’s sunrise and its shadow partner sunset. Why did I not get up from where I was and be a witness to both. And of course there is this moment, this hour, this breath, this day. All fleeting, all here one minute and gone in the next.

Gathering at the fireworks as we did, to stand with others to ooh and ahh at the sky show, I thought of the sky show available to me each night. Stars and satellites. Moon and Milky Way. Light years away yet visible if I stand still and watch. Never the same as the night before or the night to come. Fleeting.

This life, this precious, fleeting life, is ours to observe, witness, watch and live. If we take the time, we can be astounded and filled with awe. And if we are lucky we just might laugh until our whole face lights up the sky.


Blue Green Hills

Later, after I had been on many different farms and met many different farmers, I had to concede this point. A farm is a form of expression, a physical manifestation of the inner life of its farmers. The farm will reveal who you are, whether you like it or not. That’s art.”
~Kristin Kimball, The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love

A week ago I spent six hours driving through the farm country of Wisconsin. In fact my travel time equaled twice that much but it was the first six hours that continue to stay with me. Leaving home not long after the sun had come up, I headed east into its continual rising. The fields unfolded upon themselves like a crazy quilt of the many shades of green. Deep forest green. Lime green. Soft, sweet-pea green. Emerald green. A fanciful yellow green. All moving and dancing in the morning mist as it rose off the warm fields.

Nestled in this blanket of green were the many barns and houses that call this palette home. Red barns and white ones. Those in perfect condition and those bent and breaking from years of work and neglect. Many houses looked idyllic and others wore faces of sadness and loss. Dotting the spaces between fields and structures were cattle, bison, horses and sheep, each adding another dash of color to an already vivid painting.

For six hours I drove in almost complete silence with Seattle Son sleeping in the seat next to me. Normally I would have had the radio on, would have needed some other sound to keep my attention on the task at hand which was to drive safely and arrive in Rockford, Illinois where I would meet up with my mother. For some years this has acted as the half way point between here and Ohio, her home, and the beginning of a little Minnesota vacation for her.

But something about this particular morning held me in a nearly mystical state. The unfolding beauty and the promise of fields in various states of growth seemed to pull me into them. I drove, drinking in the color, the possibility, the ways in which each farm oozed smoothly into the next, much like a watercolor artist allows the moisture of the brush to blur the hard edges that can define field and building, animal and landscape. I drove allowing the gift of this beauty to wash over me, feeling as if I was enfolded in one amazing hymn of praise for creation.

Over the last week I have been reading the book The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. This memoir chronicles the author’s movement from life as a city dweller to the life of farming. It is not a particularly romantic story but one of hard work and immense commitment to connect to the land which brings us food. Since I can tend to have a certain soft-heartedness about farming and farmers it was a good reminder of the difficult and wearying work others do on my behalf, so I may live. From reading this book I know I could never be a true farmer, at least one who must deal with animals and the butchering of them. I do not have the stamina nor the stomach for it. I might be able to grow the vegetables but could never wield a knife the way Kimball learns to do!

But these particular words from her book which I have printed above struck me as a part of what I experienced on my early morning drive. The art that was revealed to me as I drove through the Wisconsin countryside told me much about the artists whose homes were a part of the painting they awoke in each day. I imagined their lives and wondered. Do they think of themselves as artists? Do they know that there are people driving by as I was who see a beauty in their lives which they may have ceased to see through the sweat and toil? Do they look out over all they’ve planted and see not only the resources that will feed their families but also something that reveals their deeper lives, their deep connection with their creativity and their Creator?

I pray so. Because for one morning in July I drove and experienced true worship. For that and the beauty, I am so very grateful.


Guest House

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning is a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

We began our worship with these words this morning. They are powerful ones, challenging ones. Yet also words filled with such grace. Though I thought I may have used this poem of Rumi before, clearly, people today heard them in new ways, ways that connected with them right where they are living now. I knew this to be true because so many asked for copies so they can spend time with them.

What might it mean to be a guest house? I have reflected on this question all week. Normally we think of guest houses as structures made of wood or brick. Rarely do we think of our very being as a guest house, a place where the welcome of our life resides. And yet here we are traveling the world in this flesh and bone, blood fueled body that houses our thoughts, our experiences, our loves, our dreams, our possibilities, our failures, our deep pain and our immense joy. Sometimes all at once!

Being a guest house means putting out the welcome mat for whatever and whoever shows up at our door. This past week we have had the blessing of having house guests in our home. Family from states away have spent time with us gracing our home with their presence. We planned for them and prepared for them. We looked forward to their arrival and said our goodbyes with a mixture of melancholy at their departure.

But we all know there are guests that show up at our guest house, in our lives, that we did not plan for, did not invite, guests for whom there was no way to prepare. I am thinking now of one of our dear ones in our church who was visited by an illness that took her life more quickly than any of us imagined possible. This guest brought with it grief and sadness and a loss that will never be filled. It also brought with it a knowledge of the wisdom carried in her body and spirit that has left us all better for having known her and for that there is a deep, deep gratitude. As I think on the ways in which her gifts for justice and mercy and joy washed the world with her smile and presence, there is no doubt in my mind that God is in both the loss and the thanksgiving.

As the poet says, ‘each morning is a new arrival’, an arrival that may surprise us or frighten us, fill us with happiness or break our heart. It seems to me the real gift is in remaining open to what possibilities might arise from the ‘guests’ that arrive at the door of our lives. In that openness the Spirit has room to dance and create more than we might ever imagine.

And so my prayer is this: May the One who breathed us each into being grant grace to this body, yours and mine, and make of us a humble, rich guest house.


Splendid Love

The heat of the summer is upon us. Arriving home yesterday after a few days at the family cabin in northern Wisconsin, we were confronted with a wall of heat in our house that seemed impenetrable. Time was spent turning on air conditioning and moving fans from place to place as we tried to get the air cooled down in a house that had been shut up creating a sponge for the temperatures high outside. Doing this I thought of all the places around the world where this kind of heat is the norm for much of the year and how their relief from the scorching temperatures is not fueled by such luxuries as air conditioning or even fans powered by electricity. I also thought of those within our own country, my own city and neighborhood who do not have the privilege of escaping the heat in the ways that I do. So much to think about….so much for which to be thankful.

Today is the 4th of July, a holiday in which our country celebrates its independence from another country that once ruled it. In this celebration we often speak of freedom and liberty and proudly wave the flag we have come to call our own. This celebration is now often overshadowed by picnics and fireworks and leisure activities that have little to do with focusing on this independence which most Americans like to count as a core value. The 4th of July can be a time when we lift up our patriotic heart or it can be another day to have a bit of rest and relaxation at the height of the summer, in the midst of the heat that accompanies July. Most often it is a bit of both.

In the email reflection I receive daily came this quote from Pablo Casals:”The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” I don’t know anything about the people who choose what reflection appears on a particular day, I just know that I almost always connect with what is chosen. Today was no exception. I thought of all the ways in which I love this country into which I was born, the many ways its core values and beliefs have been woven into the fabric of who I am in ways that were intentional and often unspoken on the part of my parents, my teachers and those who shaped me. This love of my country for all it has given me is a splendid thing, a splendid thing indeed.

But I am also acutely aware that in the time in which I live there is the great need to allow this splendid love to pour out across borders, to let it freely enfold countries that are similar, like the one from which we originally won our independence, and others that are drastically different. This global world in which we now live calls upon us to do and be something our founders never imagined. We are being called upon to be world citizens as well as citizens of any one particular country. This has happened through the creation of such devices as the one on which I am writing these words and through which I will publish these words for people worldwide to read. It is a humbling and splendid thing. It has happened through our ability to travel to foreign lands in ways generations before us would have found miraculous. It has happened as we trade goods and services with countries half a world away from the place we call home.

In no other time in history have we been so aware of the ways in which we are not only countries, beloved countries, but also traveling on a planet on which we are intricately woven together, one country unto the next. This tapestry is woven with threads of water and air, with soil and the food it produces. We are living at a time when a great sharing is called for if we are to live as responsible citizens of the world, a generation that desperately wants to offer at least as a good if not a better world for their children.

Today as we celebrate our independence, my prayer is that we allow the love, the splendid love, which we have for these United States to spill over to all the countries of the world. May we see our future and theirs in new ways, ways that depend upon one another. For our own healing and the healing and hope of the world.