Healing Journey

On Friday, I was in the presence of healing. I was not in a hospital or a church. I was not at the bedside of someone who is struggling with illness. I was not on my knees in prayer though the whole of the day felt like one, long conversation with the Holy. So,perhaps, it was prayer.

Instead, I was in the front row pew of my car traveling the highways and back roads of southern Minnesota. My husband and I had decided to do a little road trip for the day. Travel down the Minnesota side of the river and then cross over into Wisconsin and make our way home from the view of our neighboring state. But before we made it to the river, we took the rolling roads of farmland and small town,our eyes soaking in the possibility, the promise of what is yet to be. It was like watching the act of resurrection in its infant stages.

For as far as the eye could see fields unfolded, their soil in various stages of readiness for planting. In some the rivulets of blades were visible and I imagined the farmers having driven through the land with hope tucked in their jean pockets. Other fields were marked with last year’s corn stalks nubbed off and sticking up like a bad crew cut on a young boy’s head. But even those fields held the promise of ‘not yet’ but soon.

In one field, we saw the gathering of a whole herd of what I have always called ‘Oreo cows’. I do not know their proper name but they have the look of an Oreo cookie….black head and upper body, black rump and tail, with a creamy white strip in the middle. They were too beautiful to pass up so we had to pull off and take some photos. In our stopping we noticed the numbers of young ones, new to the world, lying down for a morning,drinking from their mother’s undersides. There appeared to be a set of three snuggled up together…triplets? The adults in the group clearly were uncertain about the two-leggeds who had stopped to take in their sight. Looking at us with their enormous, brown eyes they began to move their community further away and down into the field to safety. But this was not before we got a good dose of healing and hope from their effort at continuing their species and also a nice experience of humor and awe that they exist at all.

This healing journey came after the longest winter, one that still does not want to leave us. Rain flecked with snow falls still as we make our way into May. And so the healing comes from the wisdom of those who do not know the calendar date but continue their push toward new life regardless of numbers assigned to days. These are the ones who feel the pull of seasons in ways undefined in human terms.

Like the pelicans that flew overhead in Friday, flapping their prehistoric looking wings and carrying their comical beaks along the springtime sky. These amazing white birds twisted and turned their way along the winding river route, periodically landing for a rest on the still frigid water. One would dip down, land, float and a few of its friends would do the same. To keep it company? Who knows. It was a beautiful and peaceful sight to these human eyes.

This road trip had the words of Wendell Berry’s poem floating through my head. Berry, a farmer by trade and a writer as well captures the gift we experienced:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

And so it was. Freedom. Healing. Hope. Possibility. Imagination. Wisdom. All from those who have no words, who have no way of communicating the goodness and promise of the Universe except by being.

And that was more than enough.


Sleepless Nights

It is rare that I have sleepless nights. Unlike many friends and family, I am a ‘good’ sleeper. Some time ago I convinced myself that sleeping is a choice. This works for me though I know it does not for others and my heart goes out to you. I have heard the stories and seen the fallout from other’s sleepless nights. And to those who do battle with bedclothes, I say…peace…peace…peace.

Right now I am methodically making my way through favorite author Barbara Brown Taylor’s newest book Learning to Walk in the Dark. As always her words draw me in and create images that stick with me all day. I say I am reading it methodically, one chapter a day, because otherwise I would devour it like a cheap chocolate bar and it deserves more. Since the book follows the movements of the moon from waxing to waning stages, it also seems the right rhythm. The book celebrates the importance of darkness in our lives. How we need it. How it challenges us. How it nurtures us. Something we often forget or even deny.

It was the following set of sentences that grabbed me a couple of days ago and put me in the same camp as my insomniac frIends. Though I may sleep well, mostly, these words were truth writ large: “By day, I am a servant of the urgent. Nothing important has a chance with me. I am too consumed with the things that MUST be done to consider whether or not doing them even matters. But in the middle of the night I do not have so much to do. Once the lights are off and I am lying in my bed, the dark angel knows right where to find me. I am a captive audience.”

Recently I have started to wear one of the popular FitBit bracelets that monitors and records the activity and calories burned in my day. Another feature of this bracelet is that it also records sleeping patterns. Times awake. Times restless. In the morning I log onto my computer and get a colorful reading of the patterns of my nighttime life. A lovely blue is the backdrop and shows when I am actually sleeping. This is interrupted by an aqua line for times when I have tossed and turned. And then there are hot pink lines when I am awake. Seeing this allowed me to know that while I see myself as a good sleeper, the truth is that I have a more active sleep-awake life than I had known.

Reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s words and seeing the colorful painting my sleep patterns created, woke me up to the times in the night when I was indeed a ‘captive audience’. Each night there is no doubt a time when something that happened at the office that day replays itself and I see how my words could have been hurtful or graceless. At some point of the hot pink line on my sleep pattern, I am in mother-worry-mode, a place that has painted its color on my life story for more than two decades and one that will probably never be without color in my nighttime work. Still other spans of the night I am held captive by the things I forgot to do or those I must remember to do tomorrow….when I wake up….after I have gotten a good night’s sleep. Indeed the dark angel always finds me even if I am a ‘good sleeper’.

What to do with this nighttime activity? Wiser more well-trained and educated folks than I have tried to answer that question. For me, breathing helps. Being aware of the breath that carries me through some of my hurried days, slowing the rhythm, the in and out of animating spirit, takes me to the resting place that is one of the gifts of the dark and is one of the gifts of sleep.

And breathing is a form of prayer, isn’t it? Connecting with the Breath that breathed us all into being and rocks us into the sacred rhythm of the night, helping to take away the aqua and hot pink lines that pattern our bluest night and bring us into the rest that will fuel our days. In that place we will try with all our might to make meaning of all that fills the minutes and hours……and for that we need a good night’s sleep.

Sweet, peaceful, sleep to you……



Easter is an over-the-top day of fullness. Many of us rise early, “while it is still dark” as the scriptures describe, and gather for worship at near sunrise. Worship for those of us who make a home in the Christian household is also over-the-top. Big music. Big words. Big crowds. Big. All this is as it should be. We are after all declaring the biggest story of Life and the inability of anything, especially, death, to overcome the urgency and pulse of this Life that breathes through all Creation and has done so from the beginning. Big.

This ‘bigness’ is usually accompanied by gathering with family and friends, meals filled with traditions that cannot be tampered with and all other manner of activities….egg hunts….walks to look for burgeoning signs of spring….doses of longed-for sunshine…..naps. Fullness.

Yesterday, in between the bigness of a morning filled with worship and the meal that was to come, we took a leisurely drive around a couple of the Twin Cities lakes. Like prisoners released from winter confinement, people were streaming along the walking paths. Dressed in everything from Easter finery to shorts and halter tops, it was a sight of freedom, colorful freedom. With our windows rolled down to let in the sounds of birds and shouts of children riding bikes, we overheard this short interchange between a mother and her young son.

“Mom, what are we gonna do when we get home?”,the boy yelled as he brought up the rear of a procession of the family making their way around the lake. “Sit.”, answered the mother. There was no response to what may have sounded like a preposterous idea to this youngster. We laughed out loud!

Sit. In the midst of what had already been a no doubt full day, the answer to what would be next on the agenda was simple. Sit. I loved this mother for her attention to what was probably needed most.

Most of us are pretty good at filling our days with long lists of what must be done even on days that are not made of the fullness of Easter. It has been my experience that there is a certain level of addiction to busyness and when we are presented with the opportunity to ‘sit’, it can be a twitchy, troublesome time. Days off can be stuffed full of the household tasks that nag us. There are always bills to pay, laundry to be done, exercises that beg to find a home in our muscles. This is to say nothing of the stack of books and articles that have piled up for the’when I have a moment’ time.

This experience of mother and son reminded me of a a few sentences I had read earlier in the week in a Lenten devotional by Jan Richardson: “Can it be that stillness is a journey, too? Can it be that waiting offers its own road, one that, instead of propelling us outward, spirals us inward? Is it possible that waiting is part of how a way is made for us?”

I am imagining those early followers of Jesus making their way in the days after they have found the tomb empty. Someone might have asked the question “What are we going to do when we get home?” Because I love Mary Magdelene so, I can imagine her saying, “Sit.” Sit in the stillness and come to some understanding of the journey. Sit while we come to rest in our inward wisdom. Sit until we can allow memory and grief to hold hands. Sit as a way was being made for them.

After the bigness of Easter comes the rest of our days. How we walk those ordinary, not-so-over-the-top days, tells the real story of resurrection. What are we going to do when we get home?

For awhile, I plan to sit.



Sometimes you just know when you’ve done something right. There are so many other times when you second guess yourself or you feel like if you had done something with a little more this or a little more that then you would have hit the mark. Other times you are quite certain that whatever it was you had hoped to do, you were so off that the bigger hope is that no one was looking, that what you had focused so intently on was so insignificant to everyone else, that you can slink back into your private hole and just wait for the dust to settle. Yesterday I had one of those ‘done something right’ experiences.

When we began our Lenten walk together as a faith community more nearly forty days plus or minus a few, we chose to embrace the theme of ‘Holy Way’. In our words, prayers, reflections, sermons, music, intentions, we would try to unpack what it means to walk in a holy way after the example of Jesus. It was and is a noble endeavor, one that is of course impossible to ever attain. We would also try to help the community visualize this and embody it in some way.

As the theme began to unfold I was reminded of the act of walking the Stations of the Cross. While this is more often an Episcopal or Roman Catholic tradition, who is to say that United Methodists could not also benefit from this way of entering into the story of Jesus’ last days? Seriously. So we decided to invite people within our community, artists and those who like to create, to take the traditional messages of the different stations and see them with new eyes. We asked them to create a ‘station’, a stopping off point along the Holy Way, where people might reflect on the story of Jesus movement in the world, and in their own lives, in new ways.

As the stations began to arrive at the church, to say I was overwhelmed with the depth of them is such an understatement! What was created by an array of generations was beautiful, touching, raw, despairing and hopeful. A perfect set of descriptors for this terrifying and miraculous story.

Yesterday our Holy Thursday services centered on people walking the stations…..walking one kind of Holy Way. Those who attended walked singly or in groups, reading aloud the words that described the message of each station and then praying the prayer: “By the power of your Holy Way, O God, help us to love and change the world.” Pausing at each unique station, created by people they might know, the worshipers became pilgrims. Like the countless people who have labored to unpack and understand, embody and employ the sacred story, these travelers saw things in the Passion story they had not seen before. Things not preached to them from a pulpit by those ‘trained’ in theological reflection. Instead, the message came through the lens of those who wrestled to make the gospel message real, alive, inspirited in this time in which we all live.

As these stations of the cross were created,theology became practical, real. The movement of God became present, not in some dusty place of tradition, but in the headlines and back rooms of every day living. Questions were asked. What does Jesus’ courage and despair mean in my life? How does crucifixion happen today and to whom and what? Whose tears are shed? Where is the passion for the way of love in our time? What can this mean for how I, how you, walk the holy way of our lives? Where am I entombed? Who is rolling away the stone? How are we, all of us, rising from the dead places that are in speech of us?

In creating these stations, people embodied the gospel story and offered that to others. In walking the stations, people allowed the gospel message to seep into the cracks and crevices of their prayer, their path. For me this is one way the Word has become flesh….and dwells among us. The blessing of this will carry me through this Good Friday into the glory of Easter morning.



Food Holds Memory

Food holds memory. We know this and need only think of the times when we are ill and know we would be healed if only we could have a taste of our mother’s signature cinnamon toast or chicken noodle soup. We know this because we realize how important it is to have certain foods for certain holidays and if we don’t have them, if someone forgets or has the audacity to try something ‘new’, it will be impossible to have the celebration in its fullness. We know this because there are cravings deep within us that rise up at what seems like the oddest time and then we think of an aunt long dead or a meal that seemed perfection in some strange little restaurant we frequented as children or with our first college sweetheart.

It is amazing to me how many times at memorial and funeral services the person whose life we are celebrating is remembered through food. The food they made. Those they loved. The ones they scorned. The ones they tried desperately to make and never succeeded. These stories of cookies and birthday cakes, of hot dishes and campfire meals, never fail to bring smiles, laughter, and eventually tears. Food holds memory.

In the Christian household, today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy, one of those ‘churchy’ words that can create insiders and outsiders pretty quickly. The Latin ‘mandatum’ which means commandment. Today we read the scripture that is a big, over your head reminder that food holds memory.

Jesus had come into Jerusalem with confidence and courage. He stood fully in his understanding of who he was as God’s child. He continued to preach and teach radical love, acceptance, and welcomed all those on the margins. He spoke against the political power of the time. And he had run out of time.

So what did he do? He called his friends together for a meal. He took ordinary, yet extraordinary, gifts of Earth….bread and wine and shared them with those who had walked with him, prayed and laughed with him, fished with him and created healing community with him. Simple foods, yet when shared with friends around a table, infused with love and fear and hope, became miraculous memory. I love that this is what he did, that this is how the story goes. I love it because I understand it, have lived it. Haven’t you? And that the memory that that food holds has been handed down, over and over, to us.

Food holds memory. Artist and poet Jan L. Richardson has a poem that begins:

And the table will be wide.
And the welcome will be wide.
And the arms will open wide to gather us in.
And our hearts will open wide to receive………..

And ends:
…..And we will become bread for a hungering world.
And we will become drink
for those who thirst.
And the blessed
will become the blessing. And everywhere
will be the feast.

On this day, we might say that to gather round the table with friends is ‘mandatum’, a commandment. May it be so. Food holds memory.


Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3

Yesterday we waved our palms in worship as we began this week those in the Christian household call Holy Week. During this week we will once again tell the stories of Jesus’ last days and we will try to make sense of them once again. Over coffee and donuts after worship, I listened to a full-of-life teenager tell us that she loves the Good Friday service but she doesn’t like the music because it is too sad. In some ways it was a throw-away comment between bites and other trivial conversation. But later I thought that this is one of the central lessons we encounter if we pay attention to this season of Lent. The grief and sadness of life holds hands with the hope and promise of it. And if we are engaged in reflecting on this we have the opportunity for some kind of movement in our spiritual walk.

This particular Lent has been full of this hand holding. There are many in our community who are walking the grief road. Loved ones have passed from this life into eternity and they are grappling with how grief and hope dance together. Others are trying to absorb the shock of illness and the fragility of these earth homes we call bodies. Fear and uncertainty thread through the ordinary moments, the metered breaths of their days. The world news doesn’t help, holding us in a suspended state….planes lost, fathers and children missing, yet more violence by guns wielded in places we have called sanctuaries….supposed safe places.

All this had a particular scripture streaming in and out of my thoughts this last week. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…..for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These words we often recite for the sweetness they sprinkle into a room have a greater power than we often admit. Placed on the lips of Jesus as he taught a gathered crowd, they can be a balm. This seemingly random thought that flowed through the stream of all the other things that filled up my brain became just that. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…..blessed are the poor in spirit……”

To be honest I don’t know that I have ever given much thought to what these words really mean. But this Lent, these forty days, have provided a canvas on which ‘poor in spirit’ has been painted. Being one who has what in one personality evaluative tool is called the ‘strength of empathy’, I have found myself knowing in a real way what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’. Being present to those whose grief and sadness is so real, I have found it taking up residence in my own life. The richness of spirit has become wanting.

And so, like those who love the ritual of darkness and light of Good Friday, I am also in full recognition of the sadness. But this blessing of Jesus….blessed are the poor in spirit….is not finished. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven….completes this phrase we can find so healing. This poverty of spirit comes to us all and at different times for different reasons. Perhaps the gift of this blessing is that we are provided the opening for heaven….how ever we imagine it….to shine in.

This has certainly been my experience. As the lives of those who have passed were celebrated and witness was made to their living, the light of the Holy shone all around. As illness made itself known, friends and family have circled the wagons and prayer has begun, meals have been prepared, people have been reminded once again, as we all must be, that this living is precious beyond knowing. Each time something is lost, something is also found. And slowly, over time, and with attention, the impoverished spirit is renewed.

Perhaps that is as good a way as any to begin this week we call holy. Over the weekend, my heart was full with much. Driving near our house with the window down I came near a small pond of water. The spring peepers were singing their song of newness. My spirit was lifted.


Weeping Willow

Willow weep for me
Willow weep for me
Bent your branches down along the ground and cover me
Listen to my plea
Hear me willow and weep for me……”
~Jerome Kern & Otto Harbach

There is something about the weeping willow tree that has always drawn me in, tugged at my heart. Earlier in the week I was walking around one of the many Twin Cities’ lakes and found myself awestruck at the beauty of this tree in its springtime form. Not yet visible are the chartreuse leaves dangling on thin, whip-like branches. Instead the strong trunks hold golden ribbons that waved in the still cool breeze coming off the icy-patched water. They shimmered with possibility in the light. Possibility of their summer weeping form that was hidden in the now golden branches. I was stopped in my aerobic tracks to simply gaze at them.

It would not be safe to say the weeping willow is my favorite tree. There are too many trees that share that space. But I once remember my father telling me it was his favorite tree so I am sure that sunk in someplace and found a home in me. He was a man of few words and to have said such a thing seemed important. Not long ago in some of my reading about the Celtic world, I learned of the great importance the willow has for this bloodline from which I have sprung. The tree is seen to contain the energy of intuition, dreams and vision. Watching its branches flow in the wind it is certainly easy to understand how those whose lives are more given to such ideas could derive this notion.

Of course, I am still living into this Lenten theme our community has embraced of “Holy Way” and so many things that might seem ordinary get illuminated in the light of these words, this concept. Later in doing a little research on the weeping willow, I learned that the willow tree is flexible and can bend, unlike other trees, without breaking. It has the ability to adjust and adapt to life rather than fight it. The willow grows very large and can grow from a solitary branch that has fallen into a watery area. It not only lives in less than optimal conditions but thrives. Sounds pretty holy to me.

This Sunday we will once again hear the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the day we have named Palm Sunday. Those of us who have hung around in the church for a long time know where this story leads. As he continues to be true to his understanding of God’s call on his life, Jesus will stand his ground in less than optimal conditions. Though the world around him may cause him to bend and adjust and adapt to a system that lacks understanding and grace, he does not break in his deep knowing of the way of love. For those of us looking on, it often seems an impossible task, even a senseless one. But he continues to walk the Holy Way he not only imagines but understands to be the way of God’s movement in and through him. A way that could transform the whole world.

Others will not make the connection, will not see this same unfolding when they notice the weeping willow in its spring form. But this year that is what I saw and so, like the Celts, the tree offered me a glimpse of intuition, dreams and vision. These trees planted so close to the lake they seem to be nearly floating have their roots going deep and hanging on for dear life. A life that will give birth to green out of gold, and soon will blow in the wind and show us the movement of summer breezes. They will become a living testament of the wisdom of blooming where you are planted, of standing your ground, of thriving in less than optimal conditions, of spreading beauty and love into the world.

And this year they will offer me one more vision of the Holy Way.


Precious,Precious Life

On Friday evening I saw Thornton Wilder’s classic story “Our Town”. It was a lovely, simple yet innovative take on this tale of the ordinariness and extraordinary nature of life. While it has been staged by high school,college and professional actors for decades, its essential wisdom continues to sneak up on those who watch its unfolding. The home town of Grover’s Corners lives in each of us and though the small town, turn of the 20th century touch points might seem sweet and from a far-gone day, the truth that lies at the heart of the story does not. In three acts, Wilder brilliantly reminds us that our life’s journeys are pure gift not to be taken lightly.

It is the young girl Emily whose final monologue ends the play that takes all we have seen in the hour or more before and sums up the play’s message. She finds herself in the cemetery fallen victim to the glorious and dangerous act of childbirth. Looking back on the life now yanked from her she speaks to her mother, also dead, whose grave is near hers. “Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Let’s really look at one another! It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners….Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking….and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths….and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every,every minute?”

These words never fail to reach out and grab me and like a new convert at a revival, I pledge to be awake, aware, attentive to the details and beauty of my every day living once again. Have you had such experiences? Perhaps it was a brush with illness or death. Perhaps it was an overwhelming experience of beauty or love. Perhaps it was seeing a newborn placed in your arms, one you promised to watch so closely, so intently that you wouldn’t miss a day or moment of their growing, their living.

But life has a way of tripping us up, doesn’t it? Of placing things like laundry and cleaning out gutters and washing up dishes in our path. There becomes the minutiae of the every day that can numb us into sleepwalking. We can make these acts, which could also be holy moments if executed with intention, into the things that must be done before we have the time, or the inclination or the spirit to get around to ‘really’ living.

This week as we in the Christian household begin our slow walk toward Palm Sunday,then Holy Week and finally Easter,we will once again hear the familiar telling of Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem. I wonder about how he felt as he made his way with this wayward bunch of friends into what would become the final days of his life. Did he try to urge them to be awake to the preciousness of life? Was he aware of how each moment with them was a gift? Did the bread and wine they shared taste better than it ever had before? Did he notice the color of their eyes, the lines in their faces, the fear in their eyes? Did they notice his? I wonder.

Lately, I have been in the presence of many families who are engaged in the acts of final goodbyes. It is holy and sacred time. As these loved ones share the stories of their beloved who has passed from this living, the telling is rarely of profound or momentous accomplishments. The stories I hear with greater regularity are those of times around kitchen tables or on cabin decks. They are the stories of favorite foods or silly songs shared while fire danced on faces, illuminating the beauty of the simple. They are tales of kindness to a child, compassion to an elder, gentleness across a neighbor’s fence. This is the stuff of life and in the end what we cherish most.

“Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every,every minute?” May we all treasure something small, something simple today. If only for a moment.


Wisdom of Seasons

For the most part, I am a creature of season. Whatever the current season in which I find myself is my favorite. In summer I love the long days, green and colorful landscapes, foods fresh from the garden. In fall, the colors draw me in….orange, red, gold….all fall in my color palette and I love being surrounded by the vibrant, warm shades that also fill my closet. Spring breaks my heart with its promise. Mud turning to grass. Buds working overtime to reach for the Sun, to open to beauty and color and hope. And when winter arrives, the snow falling and temperatures inviting a slower rhythm, the gift of going inside both literally and spiritually, always draws me in and helps me to find that still, quiet center that holds me through all the seasons. This full display of birth, life, death and rebirth is a gift I treasure living in the Midwest.

No one needs to go too far these days before the conversation turns to weather. It is a signature of Minnesota-speak any time of year but it has been particularly present these last weeks. I have not yet spoken to another human yet this morning but I know when I do that the majority of the conversation with be about the weather. When snow falls in April,more than ten inches in some places, it is guaranteed to be the main thrust of nearly every verbal encounter that happens today. This large dumping of snow combined with the slate of freezing temperatures we’ve endured the last months has many people weary, woeful and down right angry.

But really, what is there to do? It is a lesson in letting go, isn’t it? There really is not a single thing we can do about the weather. It is one of those amazing life lessons of knowing what we can control and what we can’t and as our recovery friends will tell us ‘the wisdom to know the difference’. So even in this winter that will not end the rhythm of it all has something to offer.

That said many of us have been practicing acts of hope that allow us to thumb our noses at the snow and cold that has taken up residence outside our doors and also in our bones. Of course there are those who have escaped to warmer climates. They have wriggled their toes in the sand and allowed the reflection of the sun off water to bring color to their faces. But others, like those in my household, have brought promise to their lives by bringing home cut flowers all winter to break up the portrait of whiteness. And even better is the practice of forcing bulbs to connect us with the unseen work that is being done far below the snow and frozen ground outside our windows. For the last few weeks we have had daffodils pour forth yellow into the frigid air we are breathing. Purple hyacinths have emerged from their bulbous form sending not only color but a sweet scent into our nostrils. Tulips have also sprung up from pots, red and white with green coats shielding their blooms unfolding slowly, slowly until they form their sunburst that brings a smile to even the dourest face.

Just inside the doors that lead to our deck, the same opening that will soon be our entrance to spring and summer fresh air, sits a huge pot of tulips. This gift from friends came home with us as an offering of love and affection over the loss of my mother-in-law. At their arrival they stood stick straight, green shoots at attention like soldiers whose feet had been planted in black quick sand. No sign of bloom or blossom could be seen. But even in the darkest, coldest of winters the Sun continued its work of life-bringing through the glass of the door. Warm rays pierced that same door that shelters us from wind, rain and snow, pulling, pulling the very promise out of the bulbs which began their work in the darkness of basement walls.

In the last week this transformation came to completion. Each morning we noticed first one and then another opening its face to the light. What a welcome gift! Like parents watching a child grow and become itself, we watched as the tulips made their way into the world. In doing so they have given us such joy and hope for the next season while we remain fully inside these wintry days.

The snow will melt. The cold will disappear. The ground outside will soften and life will once again pulse. Another season will evolve carrying its own lessons, its unique gifts. For now we are invited to remember the rhythm, the sacred movement, that exists in each. To remember and harvest the wisdom of holding on,of letting go,of all we can control and all we can’t.


Holding Hands

We are built for relationship, we humans. We gather ourselves in couples, in families, in tribes, in working groups, in nations. Someplace deep within we know that the ability to reach out and hold onto another hand gives us security to cross the street….to face a fear….to celebrate….to mourn….to show our love. Feeling our unique, God-shaped fingerprints pressing against those of another stirs something deep and real and true in us. We can breathe more fully, feel more whole.

These groupings of relationships help us to share a history and to build a common story. Anyone who has ever attended a high school reunion sees this phenomenon come to life as people, now often far-flung, come together to be reminded of the genesis of their story. You can see people slip easily into the place they once held in the common story being played out. While everyone may have changed in countless ways, may have experienced things uniquely their own, when we return to one of our first tribes, we take up the role we once were given or chose. The class clown…..still funny. The shy, quiet kid who always waited to say just the one sentence that made everyone stop and listen…..still on the edges waiting their turn. Something about being together around the fire that once warmed us not only reflects who we have become but also who we once were. There is generality in this description but my experience tells me it also holds truth.

And when families gather, especially if they have found new homes away from their original circle, the same thing can be true. It always amazes me how at some point of a visit with my own family of origin I begin to feel once again my place in the make up of who we are. I go in carrying all the baggage of the life I have created away from them but soon I have slid right back into my first-born, only daughter role. I don’t mind it. I just find it interesting.

This week I had the gift of being present as family gathered to celebrate the life of my mother-in-law. Cousins who hadn’t seen one another for some time circled round to remember, to grieve and to share in the witness to a long and beautiful life. Stories were told. Memories were shared. Tears were shed. Laughter rang out. I watched from the edges as the stories gave birth to other tales, memories of childhood experiences shared around tables and in backyards, over birthday cakes and cookies created from family recipes, sugary treats that now sat on a platter at the center of this circle, minus one. Manna for a tribe that had wandered in the wilderness until finding their way to one another yet again.

It reminded me that for those of us who find ourselves in the Christian household that this is what we do each Sunday when we gather. We circle the wagons of the tribe we have chosen or that chose us and we once again tell the stories, share the memories and re-member who we are. During this season of Lent we have been walking around in the stories that shaped not only the early followers of the Way but also those that had shaped Jesus in his growing years as a Jewish boy. Circling. Telling. Re-membering.

This Sunday we will once again hear the graphic and fabulous story of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones. This early resurrection tale reminds us that we are often pulled apart, separated, dying of thirst, dead. Until….until the Spirit breathes over us and through us and in us and then things begin to happen. Bone and muscle and sinew come together and we are animated for life. We come together and find the hand of the newly resuscitated just within our reach and we hang on for dear life.

And maybe this hanging on for dear life is really what it is all about any way. These relationships we form help us to hang on for all we are worth to the preciousness of this life. Sometimes we may resent the role we have been given but the hand, the warm hand that holds ours, always brings us comfort, a sense of belonging and a reminder of what it means to be human.