Well, I am kind of behind on my Lent ‘word-a-day’ practice but that is often the nature of any spiritual practice. Some days, weeks, years, a person can be so faithful to the process and then…boom…said person is not. Most often there are very good reasons for falling of the wagon, so to speak, and I am going to claim that my own fall was driven by important and good tasks that kept me from sitting down to wrestle with the daily word offered to me by RethinkChurch.org. Mostly it was the distractions of daily life which is most often the case, isn’t it?
Today I am going to combine yesterday’s word ‘celebrate’ with today’s word ‘thirst’ because, for me, they are lining up together nicely. ‘Celebrate’ has been the consistent word offered up for Sundays in this practice and serves as a reminder that the days of worship in Lent are meant to be a kind of oasis from what has traditionally been a time of sacrifice and penitence. That is the thought though maybe not the reality.

Yesterday, I was in a mood to celebrate given the fabulous stroke of weather we had had on Saturday. Nearly 60 degrees in Minnesota in February! But my heart of celebration came from the fact that I was still basking in the afterglow of having attended a program with author Parker Palmer and singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer on Saturday afternoon. I was still wearing their wisdom, creativity and good spirit like a colorful Easter bonnet. It was such a relief to hear gentle, kind and gracious words flowing from their mouths, words that sought to bind the audience together in hope and a pursuit of the common good. Words like: ” Democracy is a non-stop experiment in the strengths and weaknesses of our political institutions, local communities, and the human heart — and its outcome can never be taken for granted. The experiment is endless, unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us. But so also is the heart’s alchemy that can turn suffering into compassion, conflict into community, and tension into energy for creativity amid democracy’s demands.”

I had a great ‘thirst’ that had grown within me for this kind of wisdom, for this kind of creative, thoughtful thinking that opens the heart to what is best within us rather than picking at the scab of a real or fabricated wound that serves to frighten and divide. Palmer’s words caused my heart to celebrate the goodness and the power of what it means to be human, made in the image of all that is Holy, and gifted with possibility beyond imagining. His fine words woven together with Newcomer’s sweet and yet fierce lyrics made for a thirst-quenching for the soul. If you do not know either of their writing, I commend them both to you as a balm for these times in which we live.

Celebrations are often relegated to special days…birthdays, anniversaries. But there is much to be celebrated in the sheer kindness of a word well chosen and the sweet sound of a song offered with a full and grateful heart. In a song Newcomer has written about a local diner, she sings: “Here we are all in one place…The wants and wounds of the human race…Despair and hope sit face to face…When you come in from the cold.” And isn’t it so? Most of us hold despair and hope in our outstretched hands simultaneously. We long for someone to come along who will help tip the balance toward the hopeful hand.

On Saturday that happened for me. In the presence of these two fine people and the others around me who were caught up in the great spirit of their words and music, we loosened our grip on despair and allowed hope to be our loving companion. Our thirsty hearts and souls were refreshed and there was a renewal of spirit once again.

It was…and is…a cause to celebrate.




When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”~Rumi

I know people who are filled with joy. They seem to have joy bubbling up in a never-ending supply that, if you are wise and fully present, you can allow it to was over you in a baptismy kind of way. Just stand near enough and before you know it, their joy has become your joy. It is a ‘joy’ to be in their presence and I always leave better for the encounter.

Have these people known no hardship or not been whacked by all the many thuds and thumps life can dish up? Are they oblivious to the world’s troubles? Have these people been spared the every day pain and the sorrow of loss? No. In fact, when I think of these people I can also begin to name the illnesses, the deaths, the losses and the meanness that has seemed to follow them. Their lives, like all of ours, has seen its share of sadness and despair.

The difference is that these people have not waited for joy to come knocking at their door. They chose it. They have chosen joy as a lifestyle and a way of walking in the world. It is a creative act, choosing joy. It is something that takes a certain lens for seeing the world full of possibility even when the calendar or the bank account or the morning newspaper would say otherwise.

Choosing joy, for me, is saying I am connected to something larger, something more, Mystery itself and therefore I will always have an anchor even in the most unmoored place. Those who chose joy see beauty and live in awe that they are alive at all. That they get to see the sun rise and set once again and declare that miracle enough. 

I don’t believe that joy is the same thing as happiness. Being happy has so many variables. So many things can happen in any given day that can threaten my happiness…the weather, a bad lunch, a mean word spoken in my direction, a sense of failure…too many to mention. The Buddha said: “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” 

The shadow of joy is one I want to stand in. How about you? There will always be worries and hardship. It is the way of the world. But to choose joy…now there’s a life I can commit to. Today’s word for Lent is ‘joy’ and I choose it.



Shelter me, O God…hide me in the shadow of your wings…Psalm 16
There are places in which we feel a protecting arm that goes well beyond the structure itself. There are places that create such a sense of safety and connection that they seem to radiate from some warm and beating center out into the fullness of all the times that can threaten to overwhelm. These are places we find ‘shelter’. Today’s word for the season of Lent is ‘shelter’. Just saying or writing the word seems to bring a certain sense of peace…a calming to any racing of heart…an allowing of breath to go deeper and to lengthen in its inhale and exhale.

Shelter is one of the core needs of every human. From our earliest days as cave dwellers to the castles and houses we came to build, a shelter from the elements, from all the storms of life, is something we work mightily to build and protect. When people lose this shelter for whatever reason, all can seem lost and the world shifts on its axis. We see the results of this at nearly every street corner in nearly every city. People denied shelter can take on a haunted and hunted look, reminding those of us on our way to the safety of our own shelters what it means to have none. It is sobering, humbling.

The psalmists of the Hebrew Scriptures speak often about shelter: “Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings.” “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” ” I would hurry to find a shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest.” ” For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent.” These writers of the real life experiences of the ancient faithful put the need for shelter and its pursuit front and center. The ways in which those who sought shelter and then found it always brought the people closer to an experience of the Holy.

Shelter can be a literal place. But I have also known shelter in the presence of another person. Have you? There are people in my life whose very being becomes shelter to me from all the storms of my ordinary, simple life. They are the people who welcome no matter what I’ve said or done, what I have failed to do or how much I have messed up. Their very skin and breath becomes the kind of shelter that speaks of God’s presence in flesh and blood. For this I am grateful.

It is impossible to entertain the notion of shelter without saying a deep and fervent prayer for all the refugees fleeing places where shelter became impossible…people fueled by courage and fear and an immense hope that shelter was not only possible but something they became willing to stake their lives on. Crammed in boats and floating on treacherous waters they have sailed…are indeed sailing at this very moment…toward a place of shelter.

May God grant them safe passage and a welcome that heals what has gone before. And may that blessing radiate out through the Universe, our first shelter, offering us all a sense of peace.





Where there is no vision, the people perish.~ Proverbs 29:18

Vision. In many organizations there is often much talk about vision. Groups create ‘vision statements’ that will hopefully guide their work for the future in some intentional way. Some look for a certain individual to ‘cast a vision’ that can then be adopted by others and acted upon. We often want to surround ourselves with ‘visionaries’, those people who can help us better move into some unseen future.Vision…”the ability to think about the future with imagination and wisdom”…”a mental image of what the future could or will be like.”

Today’s word for Lent is ‘vision’. I find it to be a complicated word and a challenging one. Perhaps we all want to possess a vision of what to do, how to live, what plans to make, who we would hope be become. Others may prefer to allow others to make those plans and simply go along for the ride. Often it is a little bit of both. We each want to be able to imagine what may lie ahead in our lives and we also want to execute that imaginative plan with wisdom and not go willy-nilly along the way. The specifics of casting a vision can often be tricky. Just when you think you have a fool-proof, iron-clad plan for the future something comes along to rock your world. An illness…a misstep…a force that had not been spinning in your circle before, arrives uninvited…and the vision, the plan, gets knocked off kilter. 

It has been my experience that holding a vision lightly might be the best practice. Even as the writer of the Wisdom book of Proverbs states: “Without a vision, the people perish.”, it might also be true that a vision held too tightly, too rigidly might be as challenging as having no vision at all. I imagine any vision statement worth its salt has wiggle room to move, to breathe, to evolve, to respond to the unforeseen experiences of life. 

I think of all the characters in the scriptures who had a vision for their future, a vision most believed was a God-given plan. Moses. Ruth. Abraham. Sarah. Mary. Paul. Jesus. The vision they each had for how the future would unfold was different than what eventually played out. But the vision of faithfulness was what really catapulted these characters into their respective futures. And perhaps that is the biggest difference. A vision of faithfulness to compassion, justice, kindness, inclusion, and eventually love will never fail. Though the details of the vision may get muddled and mangled, the end result is true and perhaps part of an even larger, cosmic plan that is often difficult for us to see. 

What is your vision for this day? This week? This season of life? This year? Are your hands gripped around it or are they gently open to the imagination and wisdom woven into its texture. May the Holy One be companion to the vision and to it eventual unfolding and may the vision always find us faithful



It was inevitable, of course. There would come a day in Lent when I simply could not, did not get to the word-a-day practice I have been following along with many photographers.,musing one word to produce an image that tells a story of a single word. This practice or challenge depending on how you look at it was going well…and then yesterday I simply did not get to it. The irony? Yesterday’s word was ‘live’.
So today I am going to combine yesterday’s word with today’s. Because it is Sunday today’s word is once again…’Celebrate’. Each of the six Sundays leading up to Easter Sunday has this same word for reflection. Last week I noted that each Sunday in Lent is meant to be a ‘little Easter’, a celebration.

As I think about the word ‘live’ I am reminded of the quote attributed to Albert Einstein “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” The first time I heard those words I remember feeling a sense of deep knowing wash over me. Yes. And since I am in the camp of the second statement it was as if a door was flung open. Miracles weren’t just the stuff of ancient story or Hallmark channel movies. No. Miracles are the stuff of the every day, of every living.

Though Lent is often relegated to being a time of penance and sacrifice, how much greater might its observance be to our lives if we became more and more open to the miracle of our living. If the practice of reflection on the life of Jesus became a practice of our living, of our unpacking the miracles present in his message-living to us of compassion, justice and unconditional love. To embrace this miracle laced living would become a life of celebration, wouldn’t it?

What keeps us from seeing the miracle of living in the every day? For me it is distraction, mostly, I think. And anxiety. And envy. And maybe even greed. Certainly competition and comparison. Each of these removes me from facing the beautiful and the terrible that give our lives texture and interest. Jesus was known to have said something like ‘I have come so you might have life and have it more abundantly.’ Life in abundance is something we all hope for, isn’t it? What would that abundant life look like for you? 

When it is over,this season of Lent is meant to find us at a deeper spiritual place than when we began. If we pay attention and stay awake to its gifts, these days can help us ‘live’ more fully, reaching deeper into our spiritual well. In that reaching, our thirst for a more abundant life might become our own experience of resurrection. 

And that would indeed be a cause to celebrate.



 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Today’s word for Lent? Love. It was inevitable that this word would show up for reflection during these holy days. It is the crux of the gospel, the single message of Jesus that we strive to embrace, to live day after blessed day. Sometimes we hit the mark. Most often we fail or fall someplace in the muddy middle.

These words from Paul’s letter to the people in Corinth are the most popular reading at weddings. It seems obvious. And yet, as I always point out in the message during the ceremony, these are not words intended for a couple standing at the altar. They are words meant to be a guide for each and every person, partnered or single as they interact with their fellow human companions. They are words Paul hoped would ring in the heads of a community hell bent on being snarky with one another, of being in competition and in tearing one another down. In that context, these words are full of challenge to our 21st century ears and could be a guide for our own particular time in history.

Love. Yesterday I had the privilege of witnessing love in a profound way. I walked into our sanctuary to find two people sitting quietly in the front pew looking forward toward the pulpit and the organ. A metal walker sat to the side and these two white-haired people were sitting, fingertips touching. As I greeted them, smiles spread across their faces. They were eager to tell me that they both had been baptized and confirmed in this sanctuary. They also had been married in the same room…67 years ago on the day. They had come to see, to remember, to mark the anniversary in the place their married life together began. We talked about where their lives had taken them and they asked quick-fire questions about my life, as well. Clearly, one of the things this couple held in common was curiosity and a deep interest in other people. I could imagine that this was only one of the many common traits that had been woven through their 67 years together. They snapped my picture on their smartphone and immediately texted it to their children. To mark the moment and one of the steps along their anniversary day.

But it was their love that shown forth and their love that confronted me. A love that was patient as one or two of the stories one told was repeated. A love that was kind as they filled in the missing words or memories for one another. A love that was filled with grace and giving and a deep sense of how their life together was precious. They asked if I would pray for them which I humbly did. And as words formed on my lips, I knew it was something so much greater, so much deeper, so much More that held our hands together than any prayer I could muster on the spot. It seemed that time itself was suspended.

Paul’s words may have been meant for a community of people. But it was clear to me that these famous, sometimes overused words, had became a real and present truth in their lives. And I was blessed to be in their presence and the presence of so great a love. All on an ordinary Thursday.



For all the ways in which I found the word ‘mighty’ difficult yesterday, I find today’s word…refuge…a piece of cake. Come to think of it, sometimes a piece of cake is a perfect experience of refuge! Continuing this journey of a-word-a-day in Lent, I will be particularly interested in the photos people might post to give a visual to the word ‘refuge’. Personally, I find this word so easy because I feel as if I have given so much intention in my life to finding places of refuge…places that create shelter and protection for the nurture and care of the soul. The places that have been this refuge for me are sometimes ones I have sought out with great passion and planning. Others simply appeared and offered themselves. 
We all are people of landscape whether we are aware of it or not. There are places where we feel more safe than others, places that tell us quite quickly that we have found a good place to build a nest. I have known refuge in places far-flung…the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland is never far from my heart and s sheltering place to me. I have known refuge on Papoose Lake where my husband’s family has a cabin. Staring at glassy water and hearing the sound of a morning loon provides soul shelter. I have also known refuge in the rolling, green hills of Ohio, along the fickle waters of the Mississippi River and in a certain gold flowered chair that sits in my home office. All these and more are places of refuge, places where I have known the warm and welcoming sense of being held by something greater than myself.

The psalms in the Hebrew sciptures are filled with both images and the actual word ‘refuge’. I can imagine those early writers of such heart-filled and passionate songs calling out to God: “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm after psalm declares with great conviction that refuge can be found in the presence of the Holy. A presence available to all people.

Yes, refuge comes in places and in landscapes that provide shelter for those times when fear or confusion shake us to the bone. But there are also the people who are refuge. You know them, don’t you? The ones we call in the night when the dreams and crazy-making thoughts of darkness threaten to overwhelm. The ones who love us even when we cannot love ourselves or imagine we are lovable. The ones who reach out and pull us close and form a circle of shelter…a place of refuge…from all that life can throw our way. The ones whose names are on our lips and etched in our hearts when we say, when we breathe the word ‘love’.

Wherever we are today, there are those walking past who may be seeking refuge. If we are awake and aware, we can see it in their eyes, the ways in which they dart to and fro looking for a safe place to land. We can see it in the way they clutch their arms across their body to protect their heart, their soul. For there is only a one letter difference between refuge and refugee. Something to think about. Today our action might make all the difference in the world to some one. Perhaps we are being called to be a sheltering place for someone. May we have the grace to notice and to know. May we be ready to be a refuge.



The mighty one, God, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.~Psalm 50:1

Of all the words that are on the list of those to reflect on during these days of Lent, today’s word is one I have found most difficult: Mighty. And because I have found it challenging and troublesome, I believe there is probably some lesson to be learned, some wisdom to be garnered by spending time with it. Mighty.

Mighty….having or showing great strength or power. : very great. The scriptures are full of phrases that speak of the Holy and other biblical heroes and heroines being described as ‘mighty’. Abraham…David…Esther…Jesus…Paul…to name only a few of those assigned the title of ‘mighty’. Of course, there are also the mighty seas, the mighty wind that sweeps across Creation, the mighty eagle soaring, the mighty mountains rising out of the desert. Not all things ‘mighty’ are of the human nature. In fact, it may be easier for me find comfort in the mighty nature of the nonhuman. Another thing to spend time with on a personal level.

Perhaps my discomfort comes from the ways in which those we have named as ‘mighty’ have, at times, wielded power over another and ruled at times with violence. These characters in scripture are not exempt from such behavior and yet they are not necessarily called ‘mighty’ because of the destruction they created but instead by the ways in which they turned the tables over for justice. That is a kind of mighty I can embrace. 

I think of the ways in which children dress as superheroes, donning capes and stances of power and strength…mighty. Their imaginations carry them outside a world ruled by adults to the place where, though small, they can overcome whatever they perceive as evil and threatening. Places where they could save the day and be bigger and more powerful, creating change in their world. Aren’t there days when we all wish we might be able to do the same only for real but still with a really, cool cape? We also could be called Mighty on such days.

The psalmist praises the Creator for the power with which the day is birthed and for its sun’s setting…mighty. This is the kind of mighty we will never attain. Faced with such power and strength our mighty acts are in the noticing, in the looking, in the reflecting on what it means to be present to the pure gift of living, of passing from sunrise to sunset yet once again. Another mighty act is to honor how it will not always be so.

What mighty acts would you accomplish if you could? How would you muster up great strength and power? What would you do with it? No capes are being given out and the chance of flying or leaping tall buildings with a single bound is probably not an option.

But the act of simply being a blessed human on this Earth is available every day…which could be as ‘mighty’ as it gets.



Go. G-o. It is one of the first words we might have learned to read or write. Simple, short. Knowing how to sound the hard ‘g’ and round our lips into a perfect ‘o’ we may have begun our long and often confusing and rewarding journey with language, with communication in all its ever-evolving forms. But it may all have begun with two letters and a command. Go!
Today’s word on the Lenten journey is ‘go’. For some reason when I saw the challenge of it staring me in the face I began to think of books. I remembered the early reader we spent time hunched over with our two sons: Go, Dog, Go! The enthusiasm and silliness in this memory of this ‘go’ inspired book made me feel warm all over. And then there is the recent book of Harper Lee’s: Go, Set a Watchman. Regardless of how readers felt about this follow up story to To Kill a Mockingbird, it did send many rushing to the Book of Isaiah to look in the 21st chapter for the title’s reference. Seems Lee was calling out for someone to be a moral compass in the story, something the writer of Isaiah says every community needs. With the way our world is moving these days, I tend to agree. Of course the question is always…whose moral compass will we follow when the voice cries ‘Go!’

My mind also when to the opposite side of the equation and thought of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ poem ‘ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.’ This poem which uses the images of light and darkness to symbolize life and death was written for his father and seems to give credence to an obituary I once read. It described the deceased as ‘going kicking and screaming into the great beyond.’ The truth and honesty of these words startled me while also making me chuckle. Do NOT go gentle when death comes to call but instead ‘rage, rage against the coming of the dark.’, says Thomas. 

There are signals that tell us to go…..green. And those that tell us to wait, to not go…red. Yellow for the limbo of in-between. There are people and situations to which we want to enthusiastically answer the call to ‘Go!’ There are also those who create unrest and fear in us, situations which stir up a deep wisdom that tells us to stay put.

Where are the places in your life that are ‘go’ places these days? What inner voice is urging you forward? Where are the places that are filled with caution and the desire to wait, rest, see what might happen before moving? Paying attention to both can be a full time job, can’t it?

Often at the end of our worship services something like these words written by Harold Babcock are said: 

And now may we go forth

in the certainty of faith,

in the knowledge of love,

and in the vision of hope.

And in our going, may we be blessed

with all good things on this day

and forevermore. Amen.

Seems to me like a good enough way to reflect on the word ‘go’ to me. And a fair benediction for any day.



The bright, winter sun comes slicing through the window making pools of golden warmth on the floor. Our yellow tabby cat, aptly named Gabriel for the angel-winged pattern that graces the space around his eyes, moves with intention to settle into the shaft of light. Settle. This is today’s word in the Lenten journey. Settle. How will the photographers interpret this word, show its movement, its action/nonaction? I wonder.
When Gabe does this movement into the light that moves slowly across the floor, I am always filled with envy. I, too, would like to settle into the always moving, expanding light. I, too, would like to allow my body the act of simply being in the gift of this warm and nurturing place. I have often even remarked out loud to him something like…”Well, of course, that is exactly what you should be doing.” I am envious of his ability to settle into the moment and follow the path of the day as it makes it visible journey from light to dark. 

Most often the kind of settling I am more familiar with comes in being ok with the lesser of two or more choices. I settle for a sandwich with mustard instead of mayonnaise…fewer calories. I settle for waiting for the movie to come to a theater that has discount prices rather than seeing it the first weekend. I settle for a quick walk rather than a longer time at the gym. These are first world settings, I am well aware.

But our cat Gabe’s kind of settling has always been something I have relished watching. It always makes me think of how, as humans, we want to follow the light. We want to find that place where we can rest, where we can settle down and just be. But life gets messy or the light shifts and we either have to move or risk being in the dark. This is a never-ending dance, isn’t it?

When I think of the scripture stories we might hear in these days in the Christian household, these days we call Lent, there are many in which the people wanted to settle down in the light and glow of being around this Jesus. They wanted to just hang around in the path of his light and go along for the ride. But life intervened and things got messy…and then scary…and then down right dangerous. They soon figured out that to survive they could not settle. They actually had to take his message within and allow its light to become a part of their deepest self. And, in truth, it was his intention all along.

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” Jesus says these words in the Gospel of Thomas. 

Settle? Where are you with this word? Chasing after the light or becoming the light? All good questions for Lent.