Come, come, whoever you are
Wonderer, worshipped, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Our is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times.
Come, yet again. Come, come.”

If truth be told, I probably do far too much thinking about what it means to be church. I recognize that there are folks who could tell me exactly what church is though I might not agree with their definition. This naming might take the form of those who see this gathering of people as sharing a set of particular beliefs, affirming certain words and principles that don’t fit well in my mouth, much less my heart. There would also be others who would define church with all the things we are not…..not welcoming….not inclusive…..not open…..not accepting….not in touch with this 21st century world in which we find ourselves. Though I may understand how they could come down in this place, I don’t think this negative view is any more accurate than the definition which is so full of certainty.

Perhaps it is because I came to give myself over to ‘church’ when I was very young, in those adolescent years when your heart is so ready to fall in love. And I did. I fell in love with church. I spent a lot of time there. In youth group on Sunday evenings and at gatherings with other people my age who had this sense that being together, questioning together, trying to understand how the world worked and making meaning of it, was somehow tied to this thing called church. My parents didn’t push me. In fact, I think they sometimes worried about my desire to spend the time there that I did. I went to church on Sunday morning, participated in worship and then sometimes during the week would go back to the building and practice piano or organ there. A lot of people would have found this very weird.

But somehow, at some point of this impressionable time of my life, church became the place it seemed to me the ‘wonderers, the worshipers, and the lovers of leaving’ all found a home. It seemed to me a good idea to stick with a group of people who would keep feathering a nest for all the diversity of humanity who might show up at any time. The really cool people. The not-so-attractive. Those who didn’t have much and those who had more than was necessary. Those who got good grades, those just scraping by and those who had given up a long time ago. This is who showed up and more and we all just tried to make sense of our lives and some deep held belief that we were connected to something, Something, that was bigger than who any of us was individually or collectively.

I have called this ‘something’ God or the Holy or Spirit. Others may name it differently. It has always seemed to me that those of us who show up to be church have a sense that we are a part of some bigger story. Some of us find that narrative in the scriptures. As those who make their home in the Christian household, we look to the epic tellings of our Hebrew ancestors and then try also to figure out how Jesus and his rag-tag group of followers fit into who we say we are, who we try to be. We try to live into a tribe who ‘is not a caravan of despair’. It’s big work, difficult work, confusing work, inspiring work and the main work I have come to believe has the power to transform the world.

Personally, I have broken my vow to this community over and over again. I know that this will no doubt be my pattern for the rest of my days. But through it all, I find it a great joy to get up every morning knowing, deeply knowing that this place and people I call church is also the home that continues to say “Come, yet again. Come. Come.”

And in that invitation I hear the voice of God.


Super Moon

God said, “I command light to shine!” And light started shining. God looked at the light and saw that it was good. He separated light from darkness and named the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.” Evening came and then morning—that was the first day. …
Genesis 1:3

There are experiences that connect us, those times that remind us what it means to be these fragile, blessed ones who walk upright on the earth. These are experiences that strip away all the things we usually believe divide us. Sometimes it can be as simple as a knowing glance between two parents as they watch a child do another amazing feat. Sometimes it is the way your heart tugs in your chest when you see an act of unkindness toward another that has also been an unkindness you have known. It can be the sound of a particular piece of music that weaves the strands of your life back in time to people and places you once knew, to another way you knew yourself. If we allowed ourselves, these invisible lines of connections could make up the food that feeds our day.

Last evening I was privileged to be in one of those moments where perfect strangers gathered with the expressed purpose of being filled with awe. As last night’s full moon was known to be rising, groups of people began to filter toward the shore of Lake Superior to watch what had been called a ‘super moon’, make its way out of the water and into the sky. We had all gathered to be in the presence of what seems like miracle. A small gathering of people sat in deck chairs while two musicians sang with the accompaniment of their back up singers……the many gulls that flitted and flew over head. Other human ones made little nests for themselves in the rocks still warm from the day’s other bright light, the Sun. Some of us leaned expectantly on a fence. Whether singing or talking or pointing a camera, we all kept our attention on the horizon which was to offer the true gift of the day.

Not more than an hour before we had made our way to watch this ‘full moon rising over Superior’, I had received a text message that simply said: “Boy king born.” My husband knew I would want to know that the royal watch across the pond was over and the baby had, indeed, been born. Passing on this information to my travel companions we all breathed a sigh of relief and joy. It is a funny thing to not know these people whose lives unfold in the world’s view but to care about the birth of their child. Another one of those great connectors…..birth.

The night before I received a phone call from Seattle Son telling me of the death of one of our dear friends, someone who had helped raise him, someone he called his second mother. We sat and talked, miles separating us but entwined nonetheless by one of life’s great threads, death. We shared stories and memories and the blessing of having known such a generous and compassionate person. We felt the distance of miles but not of heart.

I often say that some days are simply fuller than others. Some days we are filled with the deep knowing that our days are precious gifts not to be squandered, not to be taken for granted or lived lightly. These are the days when you walk into the full body experience of the beauty and terror of living taking the deepest breath you possibly can, trying to etch the miracle of it all someplace in your brain so you will always feel the gratitude that threatens to drown you.

Of course, this kind of constant awareness is impossible. It might also drive us mad to walk around in our daily walk with such a sensitivity to the miraculous dripping out our pores. The mundane may be what keeps us sane. Doing the laundry, driving in traffic, organizing our sock drawers may just be what we need to keep us from lifting into the air filled with bliss.

Last night I held the news of both birth and death within me. I stood looking at the waters that have filled me with awe over and over again. I joined in the congregation of those who came to have one more dose of this miraculous life. It was what reminded us that we are all in this together. Breath to breath. Birth to birth. Death to death.

And sometimes we are blessed to see a full moon, a Super Moon, rising.


Tears Understood

“If this is not a place where tears are understood, then where can I go to cry?”
~Ken Medema

It is common knowledge among those who know me that I am a crier. My tears come easy and often. My mother has often said that I could be hired out as a chief mourner my tears flow so easily. I cry when I am happy as well as sad. The tears pour forth when I am in the presence of beauty as well as when my heart is breaking. If tears cleanse the eyes of impurities, I must have the healthiest eyes around!

There was a time when I was embarrassed by my easy tears. I saw them as a character flaw, a sign of weakness. But recently I have been thankful that I find myself in a variety of communities where tears, particularly my tears, are not only accepted but understood. Some have even said that this emotional response provides some kind of open space for others to do the same. I hope this is true because I truly believe there is great benefit in the ability to have a place where our tears are at home without judgment.

Growing up I recall going to many funerals. Living in a small town you know everyone and everyone knows you. When someone dies, it is not unusual for people to attend any and all funerals. As a child I was quite accustomed to being in the presence of adults who showed their emotions. I saw both men and women and children cry, people I knew well and those I knew only through the adults in my life. This mournful crying was a part of what it meant to be community, connected through living and through dying.

One Sunday during worship several years ago I remember becoming emotional while singing a particular song. I tried to hide this deep feeling. After the service one of our members came up to me and said words I have thought of so often. “Don’t ever apologize for crying. Your tears are the work of the Holy Spirit.” Her words have stuck with me and I think of them every now and then, especially when tears appear unbidden.

On Saturday we drove into the countryside of Wisconsin to pick blueberries. For most people this would not be a cause for tears. But as we walked into the rows of succulent blueness, looking out over the green hills rolling into themselves like ocean waves,the sheer beauty of it took my breath away. Joining the other pickers who had come to harvest this midsummer sweetness, the emotion welled up in my throat and I marveled that I was blessed to be a part of this marvel. The tears that pools in the corners of my eyes did not surprise me.

This morning I awoke to the sounds of gulls swooping and singing over the harbor of Lake Superior in Grand Marais. Making my way to the water in the early light of the day, the promise of another summer day arrived in all its glory. The water glistened with the yellow glow of yet another twenty four hours of pure gift. Watching the boats head out into the horizon that seems like the expanse of ocean even though we know otherwise, I once again had this feeling of immense gratitude that this life is something I am blessed to live. While no tears appeared, the emotion filled my whole being and I would not have felt embarrassed if the tears would have flowed. They would have seemed an appropriate response to such beauty.

Do you have a place where tears are understood? I pray so. We each need a place where it is safe to shed the tears that well up in good times and in bad. It might be the awesome realization of what it means to be a part of this Creation, this blessed earth home. It might be the sadness that rips a heart apart. Or it just might be a visitation of the Spirit that causes eyes to well up, spill over and connect us once again with the One who breathed us into being.



With rock piles and signposts, mark the way home, my dear people. It is the same road by which you left.”
~Jeremiah 31:21

Summer is the time of travel. Even if folks aren’t going on vacation or literally traveling, the rhythm of days is often varied enough that it feels like a different path. Perhaps it is that ‘school year’ mentality that is planted in us at an early age that causes summer to become the season of freedom, of blessing, of out-of-the-ordinary. We allow even the most regular of activities to become a little lax, slowing down, playing more than we normally allow. Summer becomes a kind of excursion all its own. It is good, very, very good.

At some point of the last few months the words of the prophet Jeremiah have been showing up all over the place for me. We have read them in worship and I have stumbled over them in other summer reading. Frankly, I’ve always loved this book of scripture so I am always excited when these challenging and poetic words fly across my radar screen. And these short but powerful phrases above, from the end of this ancient text, capture my imagination.

First of all, they remind me of the towers of stones I have witnessed on travels to Scotland and Ireland. These piles of stones called cairns can be seen dotting roads and paths and can be glimpsed on the ledges and tops of hills and mountains. Their presence is meant to mark experiences that people had along the way. They are ways of pointing out to others that something important has happened in just that spot. These building block statues both mark the place and point the way. They can become a language for telling others that the travelers that preceded them had indeed been there and were now, perhaps, on their way home.

The other part of this scripture that draws me in is the statement: “It is the same road by which you left.” I think of how often we believe we need to leave home, leave ourselves, or our families, to find that vista that is just beyond our view. There is something about being human that gives us the wanderlust to always believe whatever it is we seek is out ‘there’ someplace. Why is this? Most of the stories that shaped us, those myths of the hero or heroine’s journey prove that this urge to set out for a land of promise in which we will be transformed is not far from the surface in any of us.

Myth aside, I remember when our first son was born. I remember thinking as I held him and looked into his beautiful, perfect face, that he came into the world with all he needed to become his true self already planted within him. It would be our privilege as parents to watch him blossom and come to know the gifts that were already stitched into his cells, his personal DNA. We could help create a map and offer tips for the journey but he had his own compass. I believe this is true of each of us though individual circumstances of environment might alter the ability for some to evolve into their fullness. We have all known folks who are burdened with a life that seems too difficult, too fraught with obstacles. I pray God’s blessing upon them and on their labored journey.

Each of us, blessed in our own uniqueness, are always winding our way toward that place we call home. Sometimes this is a literal place and other times it is toward some peace we long for within, some place where we can softly settle in and not struggle so. I imagine the people Jeremiah was writing to had similar experiences, similar longings. All of us, in this human body having a spiritual experience need those rock piles and signposts to mark our way. With each step we remember that the way home is often the same path we left. In that realization we find the way and call it holy.



It used to be
That when I would wake in the morning
I could with confidence say:
‘What am ‘I’ going to
That was before the seed
Cracked open.
Now Hafiz is certain:
There are two of us housed
In this body,
Doing the shopping together in the market and
Tickling each other
While fixing the evening’s food.
Now when I awake
All the internal instruments play the same music:
‘ God, what love-mischief can ‘We’ do
For the world

On Sunday morning we began our worship with these words of the Sufi poet Hafiz. We almost always begin our morning together with poetry and song. Often the poems are chosen to fit the theme of scripture that will later be read. Other times the words are meant to welcome and ground people in the moment, in the community. To stop, be present, let go of whatever has dogged us already that day and be in a different time and rhythm for at least the next hour. Whatever has been pressing can almost surely wait for at least that long.

This Sunday’s poem was chosen to offer a bit of a light spirit, a smile, a chance to realize once again that being light-hearted with others in worship can go a long way in healing the soul. It was also meant to remind us of the ways in which we never travel life’s path alone even when we think we want to do so. Even when we think we are capable of it. Even when we think we must. This gift of an incarnational God will have none of that. Flesh and bone, blood, water and spirit. This is how the Holy shows up. Even when we forget or want to turn our pretty little heads.

Over the last weeks I have been in the presence of folks who have been knee deep in remembering that this journey we call life is not a solo act. I have been blessed to observe and participate in the care it takes to be young and old. The fragility of these earth homes, our bodies, is a miraculous thing and frightful at times. From babies to elders we need each other to make so much work….eating, sleeping, playing, laughing, crying, caring. Often this looks like burdensome work until its laced through with love and grace and mercy.

It is always at these times, these fragile times, when we have the opportunity to notice the presence of the Holy not just moving in a situation but actually in ‘us’. We find courage and hope and strength we never knew we had to carry out acts we had hoped to never do, didn’t think we had the power to do. This is ‘love-mischief’ playing with us. Sneaking in and causing us to remember once again that this stage we play on is one big chorus number not the solo performance we imagined.

What love-mischief are you being called to on these warm, summer days? How are you remembering once again to play well with others for your own healing and the healing of the world?



All of our dreams are laid out and measured
Arrows and pins and a rainbow of threads
Like hope on a string, sewn into the linings
For the courage to face the unknown ahead.”

~Mary Chapin Carpenter

Last night we went to hear Mary Chapin Carpenter in concert at the Minnesota Zoo. It was a simply gorgeous night, not too hot, not too cold. There were no bugs and people were in the euphoric state Minnesotans get when the weather is exceptionally nice. People had those looks of “Well, aren’t we just the luckiest people on earth?” on their faces. It was a slice of summer that will live long in my heart and one that will, I’m sure, be remembered when winter turns our skin and spirits cold. The music was lovely and Mary Chapin’s easy going, relaxed manner gave me a glimpse into this song-poet I have long admired. Her humility shone through in both her older music and in the new song she referred to as a ‘walk out onto the edge’ to sing it for people. Her lyrics are filled with depth and metaphor which always hits me square in the solar plexus.

But another person on stage captured my imagination in a fuller way. In a semi-circle around the back of the stage were several guitars, some six string, some twelve, which Mary Chapin switched to for each song. Those guitars were gently handed to her by a man whose job seemed to be tuning. He would hand her the next guitar after having placed his ear on the body of the guitar and turning the pegs to get the strings just so to produce a tuneful strum. Sometimes, if the music happening on stage was fuller, louder, he would need to step behind the tall stacks of speakers and sound equipment in order to hear the quieter sound of guitar strings. His title was Tuner.

As I first began to watch him my thought was ‘I want a tuner!’ I want someone in my life who waits in the wings to make all my work play in tune, someone who moves in the edges to hand over whatever it is I need to make my own personal version of song. I want someone who fixes the strings just right so I can play, sing, in the manner I’d like to think I can. Of course, this two-year-old near tantrum thought made me laugh. At myself. At the pretentiousness of it.

This morning with clearer eyes and the dust of the magic of last night still hanging on me, I am still thinking of this tuner. What a responsibility! To be the person who has each guitar all ready and set for the ‘star’ to do her thing. I wonder about the times it has not worked out. But I also have been thinking about all the people in our life that do this work. Those folks who throughout my life have been moving at the edges of my fumblings, encouraging, informing, creating, challenging, inspiring, so I can do what I know to be my life’s work. There have been family members, teachers, co-workers, neighbors, friends,strangers who have provided the tuning needed for the moment when my particular music is being made. Can you think of the folks in your life who act in these ways, allowing you to sing your song?

A fact we often forget in our daily living is that none of us do anything alone. None of us creates even the simplest movement without the benevolent sacrifices of others. Our food? All gifts of earth and faceless workers who labored to feed us. Our movement from place to place? Brought to us by the back-breaking labor of construction workers, engineers, those who dream vehicles and understand how chemicals cause asphalt and roadway materials to work. This is to say nothing of bridges and safety workers all tuning on our behalf. And these invisible lines of connection only point to two of the acts we employ each day on the stage where we play out our lives.

The Tuner was never introduced by name. He did his work with grace and elegance moving quietly in and out of our line of view. But I know, and I am betting Mary Chapin knows, she could not have done her work, the work to which the Holy has called and blessed her, without his work. May each of us, no matter the song we must sing, give thanks this day for all the tuners that move in our lives.


Tiny Window

Always go forward on the path of obedience as far as you know it until I intervene, even if it seems to be leading you where you fear I could never mean you to go.”
~Hannah Hurnard, Hind’s Feet on High Places

In a book of Celtic writings given to me as a gift, I came across these words by an author I did not know. Doing a little research I learned that Hannah Hurnard was an author of Quaker background who wrote many books in the early 20th century, was born in England and lived as a missionary in Israel for some time. She walked first in a fairly traditional world but seems to have ventured off that path into a variety of healing ministries that, at the time, seemed unorthodox. It was fascinating to follow the little thread that opened me to the writings of this poetic and inspired writer.

What struck me about these writings was her frankness about the confusing nature of this path we often travel in the spiritual life. The idea that we could actually be led to places we might never imagine the Holy meaning us to go is not foreign to me. I have lived it. I have watched others live it. The truth for me is that I rarely have a clue where I think God might be calling, am almost always wrong about my hunches, and dig my heels in at nearly every turn. Like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, I flap my arms first this way and then the other trying to choose the path at the fork in the road. Sound familiar?

Which is why reading these words and thinking about Hurnard’s message gave me much to ruminate on over the 4th of July holiday. You see, I was sitting in one of my favorite ‘staring’ places when I read her writing. This place involves a tiny window that allows me to see only a fraction of what is a beautiful, peaceful lake in northern Wisconsin. When I am blessed to be in this place, I can spend hours (seriously!) staring out this small open space as boats, birds, swimmers, water-skiers move in and out of my field of vision. There is something powerful about not being able to see the whole picture, only what moves in and out of this 2 x 3 foot window to the world.

The truth is I am kind of a big picture person. It is in my nature to see one thing, one image, connect it to the next and yet another until, before you know it, I have the Google World Map of images floating in my mind. This gift has its purposes and over the years has served me well. But sometimes having only the tiniest of views can be a great opportunity. To be in the present moment. To practice patience and trust in not knowing what is on the horizon. This tiny window provides this kind of spiritual practice.

If we are honest with ourselves most of us would admit that we are often fearful about where our spiritual path may be taking us. How the Holy calls us to change, grow, move, let go, is almost always life changing. Think Moses. Ruth. Jacob. Mary. Jesus. Sometimes these ancient wisdom figures of our faith had the big picture. But most of the time they were only privy to a tiny glimpse of where they might be heading, where the path was taking them. They were being led in ways and to places they never dreamed they would be meant to go.

And so it is with us. To be human is to be on a journey that keeps unfolding,most often, in spite of all the plans we make. Surprises, challenges, joys and sorrows greet us at every turn. Sometimes the best practice is to spend time looking only out at only a tiny part of what the world is offering. The bigger picture will emerge when we are ready.

And that will be time enough.


Wild Walking

How we walk in the world is varied, a simple and complicated path which we hone over time, understanding the steps more and more as we go. This morning I took a walk in the early hours before heading into the bulk of my day. The beauty and peace of the summer day unfolded like the gift it was. I noticed other neighbors heading out into the morning, some with pets in tow, others with the sleepy-headed look of their younger selves falling around them. All walking.

Today’s steps were made in a brand new pair of running shoes, shoes that kept surprising my eyes with each forward motion. The new shoes were unlike any I have chosen before but were necessary given some pain I have developed in my right heel. I have been trying to do all the right things to care for these precious feet that keep me moving and I remembered that my shoes were perhaps over a year old, old for running shoes, and were run down in places that may have contributed to the pain I was feeling. What set these particular shoes apart was the vast array of color. Neon pink, orange, yellow, green, woven in a rainbow against a gray backdrop. They are completely unlike anything I have purchased before.

In the past, I have chosen understated running shoes. Gray. Black. Nothing that would call attention to my feet or my exercising presence. But these shoes not only feel good but also scream: “Watch out! Someone’s moving!” I tried very hard not to buy these shoes. I tried on all the more sedate ones that sat side by side with my Vegas shoes but the others did not feel quite as good, were not as comfortable. So, I bit the bullet and walked to the checkout with my flashy shoes. I stifled my desire to apologize for buying them.

And then today, as I walked I realized I felt lighter, more relaxed and confident in my steps. These crazy looking, wild shoes made my feet happy! I began to think about walking and the ways we move in the world. There have been times when ‘walking’ under the radar was the right thing to do. Gray is the perfect color for doing this. You can slip into and out of situations in gray shoes. There have been times when my confidence was low and bringing attention to entrances and exits was not a place that felt safe. A pair of black shoes, basic, is one way to walk in safety. Have you ever had experiences like these?

But these colorful shoes which now adorn my feet and help me plant them firmly on the good earth seem to have a different purpose. They keep me looking down, aware of the path I am traveling, keep me present in the moment, instead of too far out in front of where I need to be. So here’s what I am wondering: Did I choose these shoes or did they choose me? Are these colors meant to teach me something about my walk in the world? I am sure some of you are rolling your eyes right now. Shoes have lessons to teach us? Maybe they do or maybe they don’t but my sense is that if we are open to it, almost everything thing, every person, every place, has a lesson to offer.

One of my favorite scriptures is found in the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says God:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.

So what paths are calling to you this day, ancient or otherwise? What shoes will you need for the journey? May your steps today offer lessons that will inspire and heal your soul.


Water Play

The water I give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
~John 4:14

The re-entry from vacation has been slower than I anticipated which has kept me from these pages over the last week. Perhaps it was the coming and going from three different time zones and the experience of the long, Solstice light in the Land of the Midnight Sun that did it! Anyway, I think my rhythms are evening out and I have once again firmly planted my feet of Midwestern soil.

This planting-on-ground has not kept me from reflecting, as I have over and over again the last days, on the power of the presence of water. Being in so many places where water was the backdrop for lives being lived has caused me to think a lot about water and its ability to create something quite magical, or spiritual, in we who walk upright. In Seattle there is the constant presence of Puget Sound with ships and ferries spiriting people to and from distant, yet visible shores. As we cruised in both ocean and fjord, the water became the dance floor on which we glided through mountain scenery. When this crystal, clear water became dotted with the aquamarine blue of icebergs, we knew we were in a place where glacial water had become a land mass all on its own. A fragile and threatened land mass but solid, nonetheless.

What is it about water that calls to us? Of course, our scripture stories are full of water experiences. From our beginning story to our exile stories to those of boats and fisherfolk and walking on this unstable element, water weaves itself through the stories that bind us together as people of faith. Water is what we use to welcome and seal those into the community through baptism.

These are all big water presences. But it is the playful nature of water that has continued to travel with me over the last days. Back in Seattle toward the end of our travels, we spent time in the large green area that rings Seattle Center. In the middle of this green space is an enormous fountain, a fountain that sprays and spurts at intermittent intervals, always offering surprise. It is a sunken fountain with slanted walls that are great for running down, for escaping up. Which is what we observed children of all ages doing. Running toward a huge dome at the center, these people rushed to touch the fountain’s center and then turn and run back as quickly as they could before being sprayed by the gushing water. It became a game to outfox the fountain!

And what were the people doing as they ran both toward and from the water that almost always soaked them? Laughing! At the top of their lungs. It was a complete experience of watching people at play. The water became the vehicle for playfulness to overtake these travelers, day campers or anyone who just happened by. It was such a joy to watch and the laughter was contagious.

I thought of these running and laughing souls over the weekend when I read my horoscope: “Lucky things are born in the spirit of play. What starts out as a toy or game will develop quickly into something with a more substantial effect- perhaps a business or lifestyle.” I’m not so sure what ‘business’ this kind of watery play might birth. But I am certain that those who take a certain time in the presence of water inform the lifestyle they are creating.

Water can bring us to awe and mystery. It can also bathe us with a renewed sense of the Spirit. It can calm our hearts and soothe our souls. And many times the full, rush of water can cause us to laugh and play with our original childlike selves.

Summer is the perfect time for water play. Go for it!