A couple of weeks ago I was at a dinner where someone made the statement that  ‘the only constant is becoming’. I quickly wrote it down on a piece of paper and tucked it in my purse. But this concept….this truth….has been traveling with me ever since I heard it. While we often say the only constant is change, ‘becoming’ has a different feel to it, doesn’t it? Often we can push back against what we perceive as change, but becoming……now that is a different thing altogether. Becoming fits right up there with blossoming and evolving, with emerging and unfolding. These words carry such promise.

Right now there is so much to visibly notice that is becoming. I have kept my eye on the irises reaching their long, leggy stems toward the sky. Like green arrows they are shooting up from their winter home. At their green ends a hint of purple is in its own act of becoming…..becoming the dainty flower that will offer its fragile, fleeting beauty to the world. It is this human’s blessed work to be witness to its becoming.

The month of May is the time to attend graduation parties of those young ones whose lives we have watched unfold. Many we have known since birth and we have watched their movement from infant to toddler, from gangly children to petulant adolescent. And now their becoming has brought them most often to a place of confident young adulthood, ready to take the next steps along a journey that lives in the imagination. Each has chosen the next steps of becoming, choices that will surprise and challenge, choices that will confound and trouble. 

Becoming is the currency of living. It is also the legacy of creativity and what we were all called to by our very birth. It is the ground into which we were all planted. Like the irises that are reaching toward the sun in their becoming, we each reach for those elements that guide us toward what is pulling us toward blossom. Books we cherish. Friendships that companion us. Silence that connects with soul. Art that inspires. Landscapes that remind us of our origins. Relationships that fill us with love and humility. So many contributions to our becoming.

This past week I have been at the annual gathering of United Methodists around Minnesota. It is always a wonderful time to see friends and colleagues, some not seen but at this one time in spring. It is a time of worship,reports,connection, legislation, voting, speaking, listening, singing and laughter. There are also tears of grief as we remember those who have served churches and who have died in the past year. And there are tears of joy for those being ordained into ministry in the church. It is a few days when we can recognize, if we are aware, the becoming that has happened, is happening,to this institution and the lives of the people who bring flesh and blood to its created structure. Some of the becoming is welcomed, hoped for…….and other forms of becoming are ones that many push against and seek to reject, want no part of.

And yet becoming continues. Whether we like it, long for it, reject it or resist it. What might our lives be like if we leaned into the becoming that is presenting itself right now? How might we wake up to the becoming that is planning its arrival? One of my spiritual mentors, Anne Lamott, throws these words of becoming out for us to ponder…..”Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?

Whatever path of becoming is calling to you, niggling its way into the soil of your soul, perhaps the ultimate question is ‘How alive am I willing to be?’ Indeed…..whether iris or graduating student, whether church or individual lives…..being alive, fully alive seems the real, deep act of this becoming work.

So…..How alive are you willing to be? Becoming is happening. How will we give ourselves to it?


Fallow Time

Fallow. This is a word that floated into my mind yesterday. I have no idea where it came from but knew it was significant. Most often the word is used to describe farmland……. land that is ‘plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility.’ It has been some time since I sat down to add to these pages or taken up any of the creative work that fills me up. The spring has been coming to our days but I have found myself in a place of distance from it. It has been unclear what that is about and so I have been sitting with it, trying to make sense of what it might be that has caused me to remove myself from some of the very things that bring life. Certainly putting words together on a page is one of those life-giving activities and yet I have found myself pushing away, choosing instead to do other things, anything, that would occupy my time and my thoughts. Has this ever happened to you? But as the word ‘fallow’ floated to the surface of my psyche, I realized it was what I had allowed for in the creativity that often marks my days.

Usually when these experiences come, the tendency is to think that something is ‘wrong’, that something must be ‘fixed’ in order to get the wheels rolling again. As the word ‘fallow’ was offered to me yesterday, I realized I did not need do a thing. It seemed such a relief that I actually quickly wrote the word down so I would have its memory, its companionship. I carried it with me throughout the day and allowed its presence to expand within me. I said it over and over….fallow, fallow, fallow.

We live in a world that demands constant production. We are pushed by many outer forces to be doing something at all times. Each day can be filled with so many tasks to be accomplished that we can find ourselves in a perpetual state of disappointment. That outer push creates a home even in our inner lives making it difficult for us to simply sit and be, to take the time to ‘do nothing’, to allow for our mind and spirits to be unsown for a time, making room for creativity to germinate. Fallow time. 

In the scriptures, we read the commands to allow fields to go fallow in the seventh year. From these fields will spring new life and the poor will be fed says the writer of Exodus. And the Sufi poet Rumi writes:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing………..and rightdoing there is a field……..I’ll meet you there…….When the soul lies down in that grass………..the world is too full to talk about.

Have you had the experience where the ‘world is too full to talk about.’? Perhaps some fallow time is in order. Perhaps a respite from all that pulls at your time is the prescription. Perhaps allowing the soul to lie down in the grass beyond any idea of what is right or what is wrong with the world, your life, your day, your desires, your hopes is what is called for.

I am imagining what happens to the soil of a field allowed to go fallow for a year. As the plowed, unsown soil soaks up the warmth of the Sun and embraces the rain as it flows down into its deepest places, nutrients begin to restore. The gentle winds of a year and the storms that rearrange the smallest of particles create a new chemistry for what will come in the year ahead. I can imagine the soil breathing in, resting in the elements that nourish, renewing for growth that is yet unimagined.

And so it is with us. When the soil of our souls is allowed a fallow time, new life will begin to find form, form we could not have had the energy or imagination for without the time of rest. 

So be it.


Summer List

If you were busy enjoying the beautiful weather over the weekend, you may have not known that summer arrived. That is, in the Celtic calendar. The season of Beltane arrived on May 1st…May Day in some cultures….and is with us until the end of July. So….happy summer! While our mornings and evenings are still cool and do not feel so summer-like, all one need do is keep a window open and be awakened at 4:30 a.m. to know that the seasons have definitely changed. Whether you call it full-on spring or just plain summer, is up to you.

For many years I have used a small devotional book that follows these Celtic seasons. It is simply called Celtic Devotional and is written by Caitlin Matthews. Each of the four seasons has both a morning and evening prayer practice but also outlines some suggestions for approaching each season. I was particularly drawn to a few of the suggested intentions set forth for Beltane….the season of summer.

They begin: Regularly assess your motivations and your use of the gift of life. I don’t know about you but sometimes my true motivations get obscured by all manner of things……obligation, habit, pleasing others, stubbornness, magical thinking to name only a few. Why do we do the things we do? And what might our days be like if we paid particular attention and were truthful about our motivations. Would this lead to a more honest look at how we use the gift that is our very life? I somehow believe it would.

The suggestions go on: In this busy season, make time for proper soul-nurture. Of course this is an intention for every season. But somehow, in summer, it has been my experience that we can tend to schedule ourselves at the big smorgasbord that is this glorious season without taking the needed time to reflect, to be still, to be silent in the face of all that is being revealed to us. How are we living with the rhythm of summer rather than running full speed into what will soon be autumn? How is the power and presence of Sun’s movements calling to us to slow down and be present to the ‘gift of our life’?

Walk and meditate outdoors for at least a half-hour every day. I did this yesterday. I will confess that I most often walk outside with my phone, using the exercise time to catch up on phone calls. Yes, I am one of those people…..walking along talking to an unseen person. But yesterday I walked with only myself and the grand array as company. I walked like a toddler….or a dog….noticing every new addition to the landscape. Trees are slowly turning from their yellow-green springness to a darker green that spells summer. Tulips, crocuses, daffodils, azaleas…..and oh, my…….the magnolias! One house on my path had white, pink AND lavender lilacs….each with their own sweet scent. 

As you travel through the country of Summer, relate your spiritual journey to the bright gifts of this season. And how could we not, if we are awake, if we are present to all the glory that is everywhere? To see the possibility in each seed that is planted, each flower that is emerging from the tomb of earth that is winter. To gaze at a dandelion and declare it not weed but beauty and beacon for the honeybees that feed us all. To watch the path of the Sun and allow the Moon to bathe us in its ever-changing light. All these speak to the grace and mercy that is gift of the One who breathed us all into being and travels with us in both the darkness and the light of our lives.

The final suggestion: Create a spontaneous dance that physically expresses your kinship with the universe. It seems the only sensible thing to do, doesn’t it? So, welcome to summer. May it find each of us dancing for the gift of our life and the gifts of the life that is bursting forth all around us. I hope to see and do a lot of dancing as the days of summer come into their fullness.  Won’t you join me?

Great Artist

O Spirit, breathe among us here; inspire the work we do.

May hands and voices, eye and ear attest to life made new.

In worship and in daily strife, create among us still.

Great Artist, form our common life according to your will.

~Ruth Duck

A couple of weeks ago now I was taking a break in the late afternoon before I headed into some evening meetings. It was one of those rich, spring days when you could feel the energy of newness, of transformation in the air. Buds on trees throbbed. Grass was pushing up through the recently frozen ground. Overhead some birds sang sweet tunes while the geese honked from their communal formations heading……somewhere. People moving around Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis had an extra spring in their step as they walked, jogged and rode bikes.Free of multiple layers, they were rediscovering what air on skin felt like. Dogs held their noses in the air or darted from place to place honing in on every new scent that was emerging. I

It was a haven of creative energy and just when I thought it couldn’t get more so, I saw a young man swinging a elongated paint brush on a long pole. The paint he was wielding was going onto large canvases laid on the ground. I watched from my car for a bit as his movements created a kind of meditation. His painting movements were more dance than pure strokes. His earbuds were obviously providing some music that only he could hear and he matched his movements to the sounds. It was a fascinating thing to watch. I marveled at the amount of effort he had taken to haul his canvases outside, to carry several buckets of paint. And I was inspired by his ability to focus on his art at hand, all the while surrounded by a current of spring awakening. 

Finally, I got out of my car and walked over to get a closer look at his work. I asked him if I might take pictures and he said yes. I smiled as he continued his painting, his dancing, his creating. Somehow it felt as if I, too, had become a part of this art which was being created. In addition to his painting, he also needed the seeing eyes of another. I simply stood and held the space for awhile and then said thank you as I went back to my car, back to the meetings ahead.

Later I began to think of all the artists…..and that is each and every person…..I encounter every day. Each of us creates a certain kind of art with our lives. Sometimes it is through the food we prepare, the words we say, the friendships we nurture. Sometimes it is in the children we tend, the seeds we plant, the animals we care for. Other times the art we create is in the home we open to others, the prayers we say, the kindnesses shown. While many paint on canvases, others paint walls and stripes on highways while some draw smiley faces on brown paper lunch bags. Other artists I know hold hands at bedsides and offer a gentle presence that becomes a healing balm. There are all kinds of artists because living is creative work.

What art are you creating today? How might the most menial task of your daily walk be transformed if thought of as art? Those of us in the Christian household often speak of the Holy as the Great Artist just as Ruth Duck did in the words above. We also say we are made in the image of this One. And so, if we believe this to be true, our title as artist comes naturally.

Today’s artwork may call for large canvases or tiny palettes. Whatever the medium, may the Great Artist be companion for all the artists……..and that is all the people….. channeling the creative energy found in these spring days.