Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

It is quite a night.

I just got word from my friend Susan that she has a new grandson. Born on New Year's Eve.

And my niece Hannah is marrying her longtime love Mike tonight in Connecticutt.

And I left Camp Christian where 60 plus young people will be enjoying a retreat this weekend and "prayer around the world." And I am sure a celebration tonight.

And Lisa Baluk is at Kobacker in hospice care tonight. She told me that she sees angels in the room and soon she will be leaving us.

And in an hour I go to church for a new year's eve party. Alyce and Reagan, my 8 year old granddaughters are coming for the party and spending the night.

And at 11:30 will will have a watch night service and at midnight I hope to be having communion. Bringing in a new year in the best way I know how to.

Happy new year - to the babies who are coming in to the world and the saints who are leaving and to all of us as we play and pray and embrace life.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Grief and Joy

That is where I live these days. I live in grief and in joy.

It is interesting that you can carry both of these emotions - strong emotions - within yourself. And of course we do. We all do.

I will start with the grief. Yesterday I spent some time with Lisa and her parents and husband talking about what she wants for her memorial service. That in itself will tell you how remarkable this young woman is as she courageously faces the end of her life. I have been blessed to be a part of "team Lisa" as we have walked with her through the past 3 years of her living with stage 4 breast cancer.

What I have observed through this is how much she has touched the lives of so many people. Our healing team has provided reiki and prayer and companionship to her and everyone of us has been affected by her faith and her loving and giving spirit. I hear stories about the care of her doctors, nurses and now hospice caregivers who all "fall in love" with Lisa as they come to know her. She is a fount of wisdom - and we have received notes and emails throughout with uplifting quotes. Perhaps the most important is the Willa Cather quote - "Where there is great love, there are miracles" and while the cancer has not gone away, there have been countless miracles.

Lisa spoke at our church about a year and a half ago. She told about her experience of God through encounters with the swans that came to the pond outside her parents house. Everyone who was present remembers this. Three months later the cancer came roaring back and there has been all kinds of chemo. However, blessings throughout - like trips for her and her husband to Disneyworld and Hilton Head and a recognition of the care her wonderful mother Trixie has done for her. And in the last months Dawn Blevins has written the story of the swans in a children's book and I look forward to reading it. Remarkably, one of the hospice workers is an artist and may do the illustrations. And so her story will go on.

So, there is a joy in being part of knowing Lisa. And there is a joy to Christmas and being able to be with my children and grandchildren today as we will have our Christmas celebration and tomorrow with Chuck and his daughter and grandchildren. I have lots of family and lots of family joy.

And as I wake today and feel these feelings, I just am awed by God at work in the midst of it all. Always I pray that during these days that Lisa can live without physical pain and find joy in experiencing the love of all of us for her.

And I know that we cherish every day that we get with her.
Grateful, grateful, grateful for it all.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

I am up too early and getting ready for the big day.
For me, the big day - the big night - is Christmas Eve.
A time to tell the story in songs and in scripture and in symbols.

Sunday I preached about "wonderin." And I said "I wonder about our wonder." I certainly know about wonder in children. I remember being a little girl who could hardly sleep the night before Christmas, so excited about what the morning would bring. I remember the big surprpise - the big reveal - Christmas morning when after breakfast we came to the tree that had so many more presents under it. It was wonderful.

And I remember being a Mom trying to help the girls have that same experience of surprise and delight and wonder at what Santa and family members brought. This year I can only imagine the wonder of Reagan, Addie, Alyse and Jackson - my grandchildren who are aged 5 - 8. Wonder years.

But as we get older, does the sense of wonder fade? That was my sermon on Sunday. For myself this year - the answer is NO. There has been something about singing the songs and seeing the nativity that has really grabbed me. Sometimes I get convicted by my own sermons and this last week was one time - talking and thinking about "coming to the stable" - that event where you know that you are in the presence of the Lord. This season I feel like I have been coming to the stable often. I have been to the stable in my prayer triad as we have shared our struggles and dreams and blessings, in our Bible study, in the home of Lisa who is facing the end of her life. I have come to the stable in hearing people tell their stories and seeing God at work in the midst of an ordinary life. I have come to the stable as I have watched the generosity and goodness of the members of the church. And it does fill me with wonder. And awe.

And so, here I am on Christmas Eve morn and praying that tonight's service will in some way bring people to the stable - to a place of mystery and love and hope as we celebrate again this blessed and wonder full event.

May this be a blessed (and Merry) Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pearls of Wisdom

My name - my real name - is Margaret. Same as my mom, my grandmother and my daugher Marnie. A good name - in fact, a great name. I keep learning more and more about what it means to be Margaret.

Some time ago I learned that Margaret means pearl and I have ruminated on that for some time. Margaret is a person of value - a Pearl. And a pearl is found in an oyster - a miracle. I found this description onlin

"The formation of a natural pearl is almost a miracle: a fragment of something that the oyster accidentally ingests gets embedded somehow on the inside of its shell, and the oyster surrounds that something with countless layers of mother of pearl to produce a rare and precious jewel."
A pearl is formed as an object intrudes in the oyster. And the friction somehow creates a beautiful gem. There is something that speaks to me about this.
At the center of the pearl is the hurtful thing from which it gives protection.

Of course, in a parable Jesus said: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." (Matt. 8: 45, 46)

In 1897 William Worcester wrote: "This is one of a series of parables which liken the kingdom of heaven to many different things. Each parable points out some special quality of heaven. And what quality of heaven does this parable reveal? Its peaceful security from all things that offend; the consciousness of our own weakness, and of the power of the Lord to save."

I marvel at the ways in which this spiritual journey leads me to face my areas of weakness and shaadow and as they become incorporated into my consciousness, there is a comfort and a peace and - maybe? - a beauty. But there is more

My name is Margaret, I am a pearl who does not wear much jewelry - a cross, a watch and a ring. (Note: I love it when other people are "bejeweled" !) What struck me recently was that as a pearl I am just one on a string - mostly I think of a pearl necklace with a series of pearls which look similar. And I thought at the churches I have served - I have been one of a series - each holding their place to do what God places before us. Recently someone told me that i had been her "seminal pastor" - that there were others that came before and since. And that is a gift - but often someone else was the seminal pastor and I was the one for a particular season.

I have found such comfort in this thought as well. My competitive nature seems to be fading as I am realizing that I am called to a role at a time for a season. As a pastor, as a grandmother, as a friend. I don't have to be the most memorable, the best, the outstanding. Just Margaret - just the pearl for the time.

So, I offer these pearls of wisdom. They seem universal to me but at the same time I have to say:
It is good to be Margaret!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Star Seekers

This is the name of the Retreat that I led yesterday at Camp Christian with my friend Kay McGlinchey.

I have been leading Advent retreats for almost 20 years. I started doing this in Bowling Green and usually went to the beautiful home of Judy Conibear and we had a morning retreat. They were always focussed on a theme of the season and provided times of silence and times of sharing. What I learned was that if people are willing to spend time away from their normal responsibilities and life (Retreat!) and you present a beautiful setting and some time with God's word and silence - God shows up. Something happens.

When I came to Columbus, I brought the retreats to Camp and they extended to a whole day - from 9 - to 3. And then we added the option of the "slumber party" - coming the night before just to relax in front of a fire and talk.

Every year you never know who is going to come and how everything is going to work - but it always does work. And this year we had 15 women and two leaders and it was a great blessing. Some of the highlights from the retreat included

1. A "Body prayer" to O Holy Night - which was just a wonderful way to begin and allow ourselves to let ourselves go and open ourselves to God

2. We each wrote down one thing we were seeking for that day and each person prayed for another during the day. That was a blessing to me as I prayed for Brenda from BG who I love so much and then when I found out that Marcia from BG was praying for me

3. A lectio divina on the text - the 2nd chapter of Mattew as the wise men were seeking the star. It just opened up as we heard the words several times and asked different questions. Seeking the star is a metaphor for the spiritual journey and it speaks to the reality that sometimes the star is hard to see. One aspect that spoke to me was that at the beginning of the journey there is always passion and in the midst of it there can be confusion and questions. But there are markers along the way and joy when they came to the Christ child. And then.....they go back home another way. What a great image for how we get changed throughout this life of seeking.

4. An hour of silence and several different possibilities of activities, readings and writings. I took a walk around camp and found that my own mood and vision improved during it - suddenly what seemed like day gray and barren at the beginning of my walk became beautiful and haunting as I continued around the frozen Lake. Beautiful.

5. At one point the women divided into triads (three wise men - three wise women!) for sharing and prayer. What I heard afterwards was that many found shared experiences with each other. Many did not know each other before they came, but they found they had much in common. And the right people seemed to be with the right people.

6. A great and creative and simple craft. We made beautiful stars using 6 pieces of paper. That was all we needed - and glue. (Bonus: Marsha Mueller is in charge of crafts and I am able just to participate) And someone afterward commented on how we were able to take something very ordinary and make something beautiful. Like God does with us sometimes.

7. Communion was so meaningful to me. The elders were two women from two churches that I have served - Marcia and Gail and I was touched throughout their reading, praying and serving.

We do these retreats every year and it seems that God gives us the theme at some point in the fall and the people who need to be there are there.

I feel blessed by God to be able to have this creative expression.
And tired today.
And happy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I just finished doing a reiki treatment for an old friend of one of our members. This is a woman who suffers with anxiety and has trouble sleeping. Her hands were broken out from stress.

We talked about what this would entail - the music, the candles, the laying on of hands, the prayer and - as always - have the disclaimer that it can't hurt. Afterwards she said that her headache was gone and felt so much peace. She was already starting to worry about how long the peace would last - but she felt peace.

Tomorrow I will do a reiki treatment for someone who is having knee surgery next week and Sunday two of our members will do reiki on Lisa who is now in hospice. Two days ago two members of our reiki team did reiki for a young man who had back surgery yesterday.

I am awed by the gift of reiki - the gift of being able to do this particular prayer form. I first learned it in August of 2002 from Sister Breta at Our Lady of the Pines retreat center in Fremont. Now they are no longer able to offer instruction or reiki treatments because the Bishop (?) of the diocese has forbidden it.

So that makes me even more grateful that I was blessed to learn it in a Christian context and have had so many opportunities to do reiki for people. What is most wonderful about it for me is that there are no words - we just do what we have been taught. We cannot control anything - we just lay hands as we have been taught and somehow something happens. At the very least people feel a sense of being loved and at the most there is genuine verifiable change - a headache gone, back pain noticeably diminished, a sense of freedom flowing through a person.

Now, I feel a sense of peace. It is a wonderful respite in the middle of a day of work to be in that kind of holy place.

It is a blessing to serve a church where this kind of ministry is flourishing. Anyone can have a reiki treatment here - no cost - just schedule.

So, anyone who is reading us 614-888-3444 - and make an appointment. It can't hurt!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So this is Advent

I always am aware that Advent - the 4 weeks before our celebration of the birth of Jesus - is a mixed bag. And it surely is this year.

The mixed bag is this: on the one hand, it is the "Christmas Season" and we are getting ready for this holiday and that is kind of fun. I like Christmas carols and Christmas cookies and the whole thing of actually thinking about the people I love and buying them something. That is nice.

On the other hand, the days are shorter and darker and colder and there is a sadness underneath the celebration. We are going into winter. I sat in my living room this morning and looked out the window at the bare trees and the snow flurries and all the cars in my neighbors driveway and felt sad.

Part of my sadness of this season is the knowledge that one of the sweetest young women I have ever met is now in hospice care. She has battled stage 4 breast cancer for 3 years and it is time to stop taking chemo and prepare for leaving this earth.
And she is - in the most mature and thoughtful ways. I feel honored to be part of the people who get to spend time with her now and feel an undercurrent of sadness.

At the same time I went to "breakfast with Santa" at the YMCA on Saturday with two daughters, 4 grandkids and one very happy husband and felt blessed beyond all deserving.

I cannot make sense of all of this. I do remember Bob Versteeg from Bowling Green would always say - that Jesus came for the people who are suffering. And so we wait for our celebration of the birth of our Lord that reminds me that we are never alone in any experience of life on earth.

And for me, this time seems very much to be about living in the present and enjoying the gift of every moment of every day.

So, this is Advent.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sermon - Song of Zechariah

I have not posted a sermon for a while. This begins the season of Advent. The song of Zechariah - Luke 1: 68-79

It is called a canticle - the first of three in Luke The song of Zechariah - Benedictus
This is the context: - Zechariah is a priest who had a visitation from an angel promising him the birth of a child to his wife Elizabeth. That baby is John (the Baptist) Zechariah and Elizabeth are an old and faithful couple who have been childless before now – so this is a miracle.
When he receives this news he is dumbfounded and he is struck dumb - his speech is over until after the baby is born
So this song - which come from the Holy spirit - contains words, ideas and images that have been inside of him. Words to express the wonder of what has happened and is happening
Luke 1:68-79
68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.
78By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This has been called a symphony of praise to the God who is, who has been and who always will be working among And you can divide it into two parts – looking back and looking forward –
The first verses are a song of freedom as Zechariah looks back and remembers our God who has a history of rescuing his people. Picture the Red Sea – and we remember Moses who said – Let my people go– and God’s activity bringing them from Egypt to the promised land. Throughout Biblical history God’s hand is present and evident, God speaking through his prophets, guiding his people,
But the key to this freedom is the freedom to worship God “that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days”.
It is not freedom from – but freedom for – freedom to be with God because it is in being with God that we find our life – ourselves, our purpose, our hope. And if you don’t believe me think about a time when you worked too many days and did not have the time for reflection – and what happens to you.
So –Zechariah looks back in awe at the ways that God has redeemed his people over the years – and then he looked forward and saw what God is doing and will do – this is the promise
- God has made a promise to Elizabath and Zechariah, to Mary and to Joseph and to the world. The promise is the light in the darkness – the coming of the long awaited Messiah
And John has a role in this promise - to prepare the way for the Messiah who is to come.God will be incarnate (enfleshed) on earth and Zechariah, his family and his faith are part of the coming of the Lord And as we approach Christmas – let us remember what is the most important part to this celebration – it is that God comes to us as we are in our lowliness
It is not that we are on a ladder – growing better and better every day and as we do we get closer to God It is that God comes in the midst of the muck and mire of life – to some very unlikely people – in an out of the way place – to a stable and in the form of a vulnerable baby. Every one of the elements is an important part of the story
The Song of Zechariah is about God’s freedom in history and God’s promise in the future.and then we ask the question – what does that mean to me? Today November 28. 2010? Three images from this text, three words that speak to me. .
1. claim your freedom. A free God is at the center of our existence and the center of his story is the birth of Jesus – who is the freest person who ever lived. Our Messiah comes to rescue us from our enemies so that we can be free
Biblical history is about God who frees his people from the Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans –but maybe these are metaphors for the kinds of freedom that God wants for us. God want to set us free? And the question is “how free are we?” How free are you?
Eugene Peterson writes – “Our churches are attended regularly by the inhibited, the obsessive compulsive, the fearfully defensive.” He writes that while we in America aspire to freedom that when he looked at the people he was pastoring he say people who were very unfree:. Some examples:
Buying expensive security systems to protect our possessions,;…. Anxious about the future economy….We are bound by family systems, ….. in the grip of technology, … living with secret compulsions and addictions And this Christmas season comes with so many expectations about what we are to do and buy and look like – that they can lead us into joyless busy-ness that does not lead to any kind of freedom
How do we claim our freedom? What does that mean.?
When I live in faith I live freely. When I set God at the center of my life, I realize vast freedoms and surprising spontaneities. When I center life in my own will, my freedom diminishes markedly. I lived constricted and anxious.”(Peterson)
Freedom comes through faith – faith is strengthened through worship – at home and together – we claim our freedom to be the people God created us to be – as we spend time with God
2. Prepare the way for others. Zechariah sings to his son “you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways”: That is what the Zechariah story means to me – it is a man who is part of a plan of God’s life. He has his role and it is what it is. Fathering and raising a child. And that child is going to become the preparer of the Lord. Each of us has a preparation role in the life of another. We each have intersecting roles in each others lives. As we are guided by God, our “preparation” helps others to find their way to the manger or to experience our Lord.
Life in Christ sets us free for grace. Our God is continually giving, and God guides us into giving. In fact we are most like God when we give. There is in the unfolding of our lives a mutuality that develops.
We need to remember 2 things
a. there is no even distribution of burdens in this life
b. there is no even distribution of strengths
We are preparing for the Lord to be experienced in the lives of others as we engage in acts of compassion and caring – guided by our God. We are preparing softening their hearts so to speak so that he can be known. And remember this – acts of giving are not like pebbles dropped in a pool that make a few temporary ripples and then sink to the bottom inert….They are not pebbles – they are seeds planted in the soil of life and they will come up one day.
We are part of the story of the coming of Jesus – and our preparation is through grace filled, God guided giving.
3, Waiting for the dawn.

78By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Final Image in this canticle – and the image makes us remember that the darkness – the dark nights, the cold night, the longs nights are part of life but the morn does come.
Or another way to say it is this – anyone who looks for quick results in seed planting is going to be disappointed. If I want potatoes for dinner tomorrow, it will do me no good to go out and plant potatoes in my garden tonight. There are long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reading.
And so as we begin this holy season of Advent – we may not “feel the Christmas spirit” or be in the mood for any kind of gift giving or receiving. We may feel dry as dust and empty and tired. This is a season for some people of despair, darkness, and depression. The days are getting shorter and darker and colder. And it is so easy to seek a respite in entertainment, or violence or some kind of numbing activity.
The spiritual journey is one that recognizes that there are times of darkness – but in the midst of them God is present and working and YES –preparing us for newness and the inbreaking of the dawn.
And you know what you need to do to make the sun rise – nothing – but wait for it and trust it will come.
Waiting for the dawn is a wonderful metaphor for all of us this season who are waiting… waiting for God to show up in some tangible way, waiting for healing, waiting for hope. The dawn will come, God will come.
Our theme for this season is songs of the season – and I hope that you will spend time with our God every day and listen to the words of some of the familiar songs which may remind you of the words of this canticle – by Zechariah
Our God has freed God’s people from their enemies. May we center ourselves on God first
Our God wants us to work with God to prepare others to receive God’s presence. May we through our own acts of kindness plant seeds of faith all around us
Our God wants us to know that there is waiting and that in the waiting we can trust God’s love, God’s presence, God’s freedom.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This week on Oprah

There is so much I love, admire and respect about Oprah. And I have been trying to watch her regularly since we are on a countdown to her last shows.

However I have to go on record as saying that there is one of her shows that just gets on my nerve - it is the "Favorite Things" show.

I remember watching the first one many years ago and kind of liking it. Because I thought it was about her favorite things - this is the T shirt she likes, the pj's, the slippers, the cup cake. It personalized her and some of those things were affordable and maybe I would like them. In fact, my friend Mary Anne did give me a pair of PJ's that were on her show and I DID find them soft and warm.

BUT Now that it is a yearly institution it has gotten bigger with more screaming and more and more the sense that these are advertisements for the company that is donating the items for publicity. And so when I see that it is this show - this year it was TWO shows I choose not to watch.

And following those two shows she did a show on the Dominican Nuns in Ann Arbor. From the material to the spiritual in 24 hours! Through my Wellstreams program and through spiritual direction itself, I have been blessed to know and be friends with several nuns. There is no question that life is a good one. But it is a life of not dwelling on the kinds of "favorite things" that Oprah is celebrating in the other shows. In fact it is a freedom from the kinds of "favorite things" that make us happy for a while and then.....

Anyway, I am returning from preaching at Oakleaf the sermon that I preached on Sunday - Philippians 4: 4-9. And one of the points was that there is joy in the Lord that the world (the material world) cannot take away. This week on Oprah reminded me of that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I am just returning from a poetry reading.

Every week I go to Oakleaf retirement community next door to the church to preach in a worship service led by our church. I have come to know Yvonne Hardenbrook, a resident there who happens to be a poet. She told me today that she had a reading so I went to it. What a gift to my soul.

Yvonne is in her late 70's I think. She has had significant health issues - most notable back problems that have caused her pain and forced her to be unable to walk easily. She lost her beautiful singing voice some years ago and has many limitations on the life that she used to lead.

She is a poet and has written beautiful, evocative poems about so many of her life experiences. I sat in the activity room with about 15 senior citizens who were all enthralled by her words.
She wrote a poem about the death of her son at 6 years of age
She wrote about being in a psych unit following surgery
She wrote about being on a double ferris wheel and compared it to her first sexual experience
She wrote about playing hide and go seek as a child
She wrote about her mother making her father remove a bathtub full of stagnant water from the front yard.

And I looked at these grey heads and lined faces remembering their own lives and pain and joy and felt blessed to be there.

Yvonne had given me a book of her poems a year ago and so I include one of her poems here. She read this today.

What We Miss Awake
by Yvonne Hardenbrook

What we see
is never all there is.
We drowsily salute the bright-edged
clouds of dawn, in full sun
close our eyes. Again
at sunset we comment on the flame,
say nothing of the subtle
easter sky.

What we miss awake
we see in dreams, distorted
for paid seers to explain
If not drreams then letters,
your words of love I saw and never
recognized. These forty years
the ink has dried on pages folded
tight and ribbon-tied.

They spillinto the fire, the ribbon
last. I tell you, I did not see
till now the face of love.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Rich and Full Life

That is what I often say about my life - it is rich and full.
This weekend is certainly a prime example of that. And the richness had more to do with my being present (but not in leadership) in several worship experiences.
I went to a funeral and wedding and at our church, I did not preach.

The funeral was for a young man who was a great buckeye fan. we were encouraged in the obituary to wear buckeye attire (game against Penn State later that day with OSU won). I wore my red Ohio State sweatshirt. The funeral was different and wonderful. It was not necessarily "Christian" but very spiritual in its own way. It included some scripture but many songs (on CD) to reflect his love of music. It started with the OSU fight song and then we heard "Morning has Broken", "On Eagle's Wings" and "Turn, Turn, Turn." At the end his sister did the Ohio Script. you had to be there because it all worked and was meaningful.

The wedding was for a young couple that met in my home a couple of years ago at a Bible study. They are part of the Advance Conference camping program for young adults. I did not officiate but did a reading from "Tuesdays with Morrie." I loved watching the way that Allen Harris does a rehearsal and a wedding. I am still learning (like to tell the bridal party not to drink until after the wedding!) The wedding was at Northwest Christian Church where I was ordained. Lots of memories for me.

Yesterday at church was "Consecration Sunday" when we invite the congregation to make a financial pledge to the life of the church for the coming year. Charles Montgomery, our pastoral associate preached a tremendous sermon. He ended with a "Youtube video" about a runner (can't remember his name even though I saw it twice!)
who got hurt during a race and limped to the finish line with his father coming out of the stands to help him. Both times I found myself in tears.

The one special thing that I did was a baptism at the 5 PM service of Connie who has just joined our church. It was all about new beginnings. What was most powerful to me was that she is afraid of the water, but she went into the baptismal and trusted me enough to put her under for a second. Words can never express what this feels like and what it means.

I write this on my day off. Today I will see my spiritual director and then Chuck and I are driving to Toledo for calling hours for Harv's sister and then to attend the funeral mass tomorrow.

It is good to have a morning to just be - to ponder and reflect on all of this. What I have learned for all of us with our rich and full lives - we have to have some margins to just be and rest and allow our souls to catch up.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hating Cancer

Today we got word that Harv's sister, Karen, passed away. She discovered that she had cancer right after Easter and now she is gone

And I also got word that a young woman in the church who has stage 4 breast cancer is going back on chemo which is a disappointment because she was hoping to be in a clinical trial. That may yet happen.
She has had cancer for three years - she is 32 years old. She has been in too much pain for too long.

And then I think of my sister - gone now for over a year and a half
and my sister in law Carol
and my mother
and my father

I hate cancer. I hate the pain, the hair loss, the various forms of suffering
I hate way that we move - all of us - between hope and resignation and despair and hope and fear and never stops

I hate cancer

Please pray for Karen's family and they grieve the loss of this woman who died too young
And please pray for Lisa and her family and she suffers and we all hope and pray for miracles
And please pray for whoever in your life has cancer.

Contemplative Living - WW

At the invitation and encouragement of Kim Veatch I started weight watchers about six weeks ago. This is common knowledge because I even used this program as an illustration in a sermon.

What I keep learning about the contemplative life is that it is requires people to be present to themselves. To live mindfully.

Without a doubt I have behind me a lifetime of eating mindlessly. I have a gift for devouring a bag of cheez doodles (my drug of choice) in the shortest time imaginable. The worst times for me are when I get home from work before dinner and after meetings at the end of the evening.

BUT weight watchers has stopped that. I am tracking points and aware of every mouthful. And so, not surprisingly, I have lost weight. (9lbs so far!)

It has been helpful to have companions on this journey and knowing that usually I will see Kim, Lisa, Pat, and Gerrie at the meeting and hear from Marnie immediately after. There is mutual understanding and support. There is also that check that I write every week for $11 that keeps me aware of not wanting to waste my money.

But what strikes me most of all in this process is that it is slow. Sometimes the loss of weight is only 2 oz - and sometimes it is 2 lbs. Slow.The contemplative life is living slower and mindfully and slowly there are changes - not just in weight but in appetite.

I know lots of people who have done weightwatchers and it was successful for them. I also know others who have done this program and 5 years later gained back the weight.

It is all about the daily decision to think long term instead of instant gratification. And to seek to live in the present.

This is not the weight watchers life - this is the spiritual life.

It's not easy - but it is worth it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life Review

The other day when I was spending time with my good friend Oprah (my spiritual discipline this fall is to spend an hour with her every day while I can! :) Jane Fonda was on and promoting how important it is to do a life review.

She said that we need to go back and remember what happened and what we did and actually feel the feelings. All of this is so true and what i keep learning through spiritual direction.

It is helpful to have a companion in it. Today I visited one of our shut ins who is 93 years old and got to hear some of her story. What was interesting was that our conversation started - as it often does with people who are 80+ - with real concern about what is happening in their life. And her family has got some brokenness - a brother and sister who don't speak to each other, a granddaughter going through a divorce, a son who is alienated from his son. And then there is the brokenness and divisiveness in the media that is played out all the time. It seems like the first reaction to all of these issues for older people is to say - it wasn't that way in the past.

Until we start talking about herpast. And then remembering the divorce of her parents and the blessing of grandparents who helped to raise her. Remembering the time when her husband was in the war and she was on her own with children for 2 years. Remembering some very lean times financially and probably emotionally.And looking back she remembers that somehow she survived and they survived and even thrived.

I think it is easy to look back generally only at the high points and forget the difficulties and the strength that you found in the struggle. So that, when the next generation goes through their own version of difficulty and burden and struggle, we think it is something new and insurmountable. But of course, the God got us through our storms will get them through theirs.

A life review - maybe a systematic appraisal of where you have been and what you have been through. But often a conversation that touches on some of it and helps us to remember.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

G. O. D.

So I am coming into church this morning and there was a man sitting on the step outside of Fellowship Hall. Are you going to the meeting? He asked me.

No, I am the pastor - and I can let you in.

And then he talked about the fact that he used to have a key, but after a friend died, he stopped coming for a while.

We talked about grief and loss and I told him about how people sometimes don't want to come back to church after a death - too much sadness, too many tears.

And then he shared a story about God giving letting him know that the person was there - and he mentioned a butterfly, a fortune cookie and a tract from the watch tower. And he said G O D - Glimpses of Discernment

And, of course, what we see as God - others can so easily see as co incidence.

Then I came to my desk and read the meditation for today from Richard Rohr.


The mystical gaze happens whenever, by some wondrous “coincidence,” our heart space, our mind space, and our body awareness are all simultaneously open and nonresistant. I like to call it presence.

One wonders how far spiritual leaders can genuinely lead us without some degree of mystical seeing and action.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that “us-and-them” seeing, and the dualistic thinking that results, is the foundation of almost all discontent and violence in the world. It allows heads of religion and state to avoid their own founders, their own national ideals, and their own better instincts.
Lacking the contemplative gaze, such leaders will remain mere functionaries and technicians, without any big picture to guide them for the long term. The world and the churches are filled with such people, often using God language as a cover for their own lack of certainty or depth.

So I start this day with his prayer
When you can be present,
you will know the Real Presence.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Holy Fool - Male Spirituality part 2

At the workshop today we got a diagram of the journey of transformation that men go through.
And it is different from women, although there are some similarities
From Age 1-32 - Men are on the heroic journey - period of idealism as he experiences his own power possibilities. "Necessary egotism; not in love with God, but with the idea of being in love. Duty responsibility, hard work, delayed gratification, black and white worldviews. Exhibits immature and potentially dangerous righteousness."
There is more than this - but you get the picture.

Between 32 and 50 men experience the crises of limitation - a time of inner loss of meaning, sometimes accompanied by failure...confrontation with one's limits, paradox mystery."

50 - 65 - some men go on the wisdom journey - looking to the spiritual because the old rules don't work any more

Some men go on the "embittering journey" - with confrontation but no enlightment (grumpy old men?)

And Later on the Wisdom journey - some men become the holy fool. "The mellow grandfather who can hold the paradoxes together because God has done it in him....Being human is more important than self image, role, power, prestige, or possession. He can lead, partner or follow when necessary. He has it all!"

I write all this because I came home from my workshop to Chuck - the Holy Fool.
He has spent time at church today vaccuming the pews and the sanctuary; he has been to the thrift shop and bought Christmas presents (for only 1$ for John and Jackson!)
He is right now working with six kids from across the street - making them ice cream and giving them pop after they helped him in our yard. He paid them (borrowing the money from me!) These kids are all from Sierra Leone. And Chuck has bought them toys and thinks about what he can do for them all the time.

He won't read this blog, he certainly won't ask me about my workshop on "Male Spirituality" and he probably won't pay attention tomorrow when I preach.
But he is a Holy Fool.

I am a blessed woman.

Male Spirituality -

I have just returned from a workshop on male spirituality and it certainly has me thinking about the men in my life - especially my brothers, husband, sons in law (counting Erik now) and grandson.

This was required for my Wellstreams program and also open up to the community. There were about 16 women in attendance and 6 men. That is par for the course when you "talk" about male spirituality. Because male spirituality is very different from female - and usually involves more action than talk. Which is why churches are so full of women. And it is a problem.

We have been reading a fascinating book called "From Wild Man to Wise Man" by Richard Rohr. He writes this

"In almost all cultures men are not born; they are made......The boy had to be separated from protective feminine energy, led into ritual space where newness and maleness could be experienced as holy."

We had a lot of conversation today about male initiation rites - when does a boy become a man? And for a woman, the initiation rite is often her period. It is so clear. Not so for a man - especially these days.

We learned about the initiation rites of native American - kidnapped from their mother, a vision quest, learning wisdom from the holy men, a blood sacrifice and then they are placed in the world - as hunter or shaman.

And what I have learned over and over again is that so many men don't have mentors or father figures to guide them. We know that the appeal of gangs and even military experience fills that need - that father hunger. But too many men are not being led.

All of which made me think about Jackson and how good it is that he has such a strong bond with his grandfather, Thomas. Thomas is teaching him how to be a man - even though he is only 5 - there is something very good about that relationship.

We also learned about the male archetypes - that first men tend to be warriors, then lovers, then kings, then magicians. Very interesting - all of it. There is balance to each of these archetypes - for example king archetype out of balance is either a tyrant or he abdicates his power. It has helped me to reframe some of my understandings of some men in my life. And it may help me to become more compassionate.

There is much more that I am ruminating about on this subject - like the fact that when Jackson hits puberty he will have 20 Fold increase in testosterone. Wonder what that will look like?

All in all, I know this - men and women may share a common humanity but we are put together in very different ways. And we need each other but we also need to claim our own identities as men and women. In other words, there are times it is good for men to be with men and women to be with women.

Food for thought. All of it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Family Fun Festival

Saturday was our third annual family fun day - because we had it in the fall we called it a festival - but whatever you call it - it was a success.

What is really cool about this for our church is the way that God is working through us. This all started as I had the elders read a book about three years ago - "I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church" by Paul Nizon.

One of the biggest points of this book was that we have to "BE BOLD!" and try new things. A few months later, two members - Kim and Gerrie - went to a fundraising conference and presented an idea that we would do a fair/ festival for the community.
Over the course of planning that, however, our focus changed and instead of charging people and making money - we instead designed a day of free events for the community.
And so this year we had
- free inflatables for the kids to play on
- free games to play in the front yard to win tickets
- free bingo inside
- free crafts
- free prizes with the tickets
- free school supplies
- free coats.

The only money that we made was through our silent auction and our lunch - which was cheap - hot dogs, pop and chips for $2.

This year the YMCA beside us had an event at the same time which led people from one place to another. We were busy and not too busy to have interaction with people. I was so happy that so many people in our church participated that day- we had 42 people on site during the course of the day.

So.....this is what a church is supposed to be all about. A place where families can come and be together. A place where we can reach out and get to know our neighbors. Our hope, of course, is that some who don't have a church (we're not sheep stealers!) will think of us when they decide to worship. We will see.

It was a great day. And the spirit of the Lord was there.

(PS - the weather was iffy- and people were anxious ahead of time - but the rain did not start until 4 PM when we were all packed up!)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Word about Grandsons

As a mother of daughters, there is something very special about grandsons for me and today I get to be with 2 of them.

This morning I went to see Jackson, age 5, play soccer. And i joined Jackson's family - a very big family - including his mom and dad and sister Alyse, his aunt Marnie and Erik, cousins Addie and Reagan, and his aunt Eileen, and his Aunt Lindsay and Unclle Erik and cousin Avery and his Grandpa and Annie, his Pawpa and Nana and me - Ogram! That's a lot of family for a little boy - but we got quite a show.

This kid can play soccer and it was so much fun to watch him. He is aggressive and pretty good with the ball and completely unafraid get into the fray. He took the ball from midfield and scored a goal! And the whole time he is engaged, smiling and having fun. It was a wonderful way to spend time this morning.

Chuck wasn't with me because his grandson Shane is down visiting from Toledo. Shane is a senior at University of Toledo and just came to spend time with his Grandpa. They played golf this morning and went to a Greek Restaurant for lunch. We all watched footbal this afternoon, had dinner and played - quiddler and rummi kub tonight. Now we are watching the end of the Auburn-S Carolina game. Shane has a personality as easy going as Chuck's and is always pleasant and fun to be with. He is patient with Chuck and appreciates his quirks (like collecting hickory nuts when he is golfing) with good humor. It is a real blessing to have a young man in our life who seems to genuinely love to come and spend time with us.

As we were playing tonight he was reminiscing about playing pounce with Mom Mom - my Mom so many years ago. So, I guess this is a time that we are making memories.
For all of us.
So, a

Thursday, September 23, 2010

God says YES

A friend in Wellstreams showed me this wonderful poem
This is MY GOD!

God Says Yes To Me
by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and God said yes
I asked if it was okay to be short
And God said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and God said honey
God calls me that sometimes
And God said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
Who knows where she picked that up
What I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

From The Palm of your Hand, 1995
Tilbury House Publishers

Monday, September 13, 2010

Re - Ignition Sunday

Sunday was my first Sunday back leading worship at Karl Road Christian Church. A Sunday that we called "Re - Ignition Sunday." Many people wore our red T shirts which saw that we are "Ignited by God, Changing our World" and it was a very packed service and I think - inspirational.

For me, it was good to be back and I got two important responses from people: we are glad you are back and I like your hair. My hair is a little different now - streaked blond and longer. I am just enough of a "girl" to want some affirmation on my appearance!

We recognized Eileen Connor - who is my daughter's sister - who did a beautiful mural in one of the rooms for her senior art project. She is a gifted and generous young woman and it was so good to have the church family absolutely show their appreciation to her. We also recognized Bertie Dell who served as interim pastor in my absence.And the church gifted me with a beautiful stole in recognition of 25 years of ordained ministry. All of that was wonderful.

However, Bertie ceremonially tapped me on the shoulder as a way of saying that she no longer was pastoring - and that I was back and she said, "Now you're in charge."
Little did she know that "Margot in charge" is the title that i have given to some of my most negative dreams. The notion of Margot being in charge is what really messes me up - internally. That is what leads to my compulsive workaholism - thinking that I am in charge.

I write this and pray that as I am coming back again and want to pastor in the most healthy and grace filled way. And for me, I can't think of myself as "in charge" any more. I have to remember always that this is God's church and that while I may be a pastor, preacher and leader - I am not "in charge." It is not all up to me.

Anyway, I am happy today to have a day off to ponder everything and to rest and remember how Good God is to me. Everyday.

Monday, September 6, 2010

This is pretty cool

I just noticed that i have a new follower - Jesus Christ.
How about that?
I thought I was following him and now it looks like he is following me.
Who knew? Pretty cool!

Sabbatical Reflections

This time away from pastoral responsibilities is almost over and I look back in gratitude and awe at my life during these last 3 months.

As I began the sabbatical I had a lot of conflicting emotions. I was always grateful for the time that I was given but also felt somewhat guilty. Wouldn’t everyone like to receive a summer like this.
And there was also anxiety about the church in my absence.

As I prepared for the sabbatical I named three aspects to it: renewal, remembering and preparation. And it really has been exactly that and looking back I am awed as seeing the hand of God at work during this time.

The renewal has come gradually. But a key element for it was a silent retreat – 6 days away from my daily life and devoted entirely to God. And in that time I was able to mourn the loss of my sister, to face my need for control and to receive God’s unconditional love. I heard God’s voice and it was as clear as day saying these words: “Let me Love You.”

The remembering was, I believe, inspired and guided by God. It began in May with a weekend with my girls as I remembered my life from mid twenties to mid fifties. But this summer I went backwards to the places of the early years of my first marriage, my college days and my childhood. What I have seen in this was the blessing and the call of God throughout my life. I could also see how I have grown through my struggles and through mistakes. God’s grace is abundant and God has led me to become this woman that I am in this time and place.

The preparation has been gradual as I have remembered the power of the call to ministry. Several things stand out for me.
• I went to a workshop on shame and hope at Chautauqua and learned again about the power of love and started to become excited about returning to that unique role of being a pastor – which is essentially loving a congregation.
• I went to First Community Church and heard Dick Wing preach and recognized how meaningful and important good preaching is. Sundays are relentless for the preacher as it comes around every week – but it is such a creative process. I feel ready to go back into the pulpit this weekend. .
• I read books – most especially A Failure of Nerve and want to become more mature in my leadership. To quote Edwin Friedman:
“What is essential are stamina, resolve, remaining connected, the capacity for self regulation of reactivity, and having horizons beyond what one can actually see.” YES!
And interestingly we become self differentiated as we are able to face our own story and our own dynamics from our family of origin. Tied right in to my times of remembering!

Through the summer I have also had opportunities of ministry with various people: People we have visited, people who have crossed paths with me, the 2 folks I direct every month and the community at Advance Conference. That has been a blessing for me – to look back and see that this has not all been about me – but God has used me to companion others even though I am not officially in role as pastor.

Maybe the most important part of what has happened is that I have had a sense of moving from my usual compulsive life to a more contemplative way. It has been really lovely to have time – to not have to hurry from this to that because of the next meeting or appointment. The time has changed something inside of me, I think. I hope.
Yesterday I had a vision which I am still processing that speaks to this. I am reading a book, Bio Spirituality, for the wellstreams class which starts tomorrow and practiced “focusing.”
In a time of deep prayer I asked myself what was preventing me from happiness right now. And as ideas came up, the most pressing one was fear of the future – the fear of “going back into it” the way I came out of it. And then an image came – of being in a clothes dryer – just tumbling around. What a disturbing image that is.

After a while I pondered the other way that clothes are dried – on the clothes line. A piece at a time, drying in the sun and the breeze, slowly. And that is what I desire for my life. That is what God desires for my life. That I can slow down and still have the same result – but with care, contemplation, and trust in God.

It has been a good summer and I feel ready and excited about whatever God has for me to do this fall.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week 12

It is the last week of my sabbatical and God continues to bless me in so many ways.

First of all, a great blessing in the last few days has been time spent with my granddaughters - Reagan, Addie and Alyse. They are growing up to fast - 2 2nd graders and one first grader. And wonderful, interesting girls. Love hearing about school and teachers and riding the bus and all their adventures. It is pure joy.

Second, I have started seeing some folks from church to prepare for my re-entry and it is obvious that all has gone very well in my absence and people have had some remarkable experiences this summer that has led to their spiritual growth. I feel blessed to learn about that and I look forward to what is coming.

Third - my reading has been prolific and satisfying. I did finish the third book of the trilogy - "The Girl who kicked the hornets nest." Loved all 1800 pages of the three books. As I am in a mode to be looking ahead to the life of Karl Road Christian Church in the future I have found 2 books that have been really helpful:
"A Failure of Nerve" by Edwin H Friedman and "Pursuing the full Kingdom Potential" by George Bullard. And I got my books for this term at Wellstreams and have started reading"Bio Spirituality" (by Peter A Campbell and Edwin M. McMahon and it is really engaging and helping me to keep going deeper with God.

Finally, I am attending to my health concerns with a visit with my doctor and new medications, a colonoscopy on Friday and then the 2nd eye surgery next week.\

I am filled with a sense of gratitude for this time and want to enjoy every moment.
I am writing this quickly as Chuck and I are going out on a date - to the movies this afternoon - to see George Clooney ( I heart George!) and a last lunch before serious fasting for the procedure on Friday.

God is good - all the time. But especially you know it on a sabbatical!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cataract Surgery

Well, one eye done and in two weeks the other.
Many people have had cataract surgery and there is no question that it is easier than it used to be. When you had to stay still for over a week.

Everyone told me that it is no big deal. And in many ways it wasn't. My doctor's office is extremely organized and they certainly know what they are doing.

However, it is still surgery.

What happens is that you are put to sleep for 4 minutes in which they do something to your eyes. Something that deadens half of your head and makes your eye open. I think.
My theory is to not learn too much about exactly what they are doing.

All I know is that when I woke up I was in the operating room. Which was okay - I closed my other eye and prayed and waited for the doctor. Who, I think was late. So I could hear the nurses and techs talking quietly and Carrie Underwood singing "Jesus Take the Wheel."

I took that as a good sign and resumed my prayer.
Finally the doctor came and they started.
At this point I realized that I had to have my eyes open and see what was happening. As he started I could feel my heart really start pounding
So I start in
"Jesus take the Wheel"
Breathe in Love
Breathe out Anxiety
Breathe in love
Breathe out anxiety.

And I did start to calm down.
Everytime this thought came to me: "They are operating on my EYE!" I would say to myself - breath in love and breathe out anxiety.

But that thought kept coming in.
THEN I heard the doctor saying "They are stuck together. i can't get this."
And I am wondering "What is stuck?" Then I morph into the prayer for him and for the cataract to release - and praying God's guidance on him. And if you could hear this prayer - it was pretty impressive.

Then he tells ME - that they are trying to get the cataract out. And I say "OK" like it is no big deal and resume my praying

Again the thought comes - "They are operating on my EYE!"
But finally he asks for the lens and then it is over.

And the rest is Okay - I get orange juice and a cookie. (cookies are my comfort food) Chuck drives me home as I have a patch on my eye and half my head is pretty numb.

Today I went to the doctor, he took the patch off and there is brightness to my visioin that is new. And I can see twenty twenty out of that eye. Amazing.

Two weeks from now I go through this again. I'm not going to say it is no big deal - but I will say it is worth it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This and That

I came home from Advance Conference last night very tired and very satisfied. The last keynote that we heard was by Amy Gopp who is now the director the Week of Compassion for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is a world traveler with a heart for others and a truly inspiring speaker. she started her talk with this quote:

I felt in need of a great pilgrimage
so I sat for 3 days
And God came to me.

Here are some quotes from her talk on spiritual growth and compared it to growing vegetables and flowers.

"Growth is a process - often not easy or thoughtless"

We need to know what to plant where,when to deadhead and how to week. "New life can't happen until that which is dying is clipped off."

There is such a thing as "root rot" when we water something too much and don't know when to back off.

She told a wonderful story about visiting a woman in Haiti and saying to her "I will pray for you." and then the woman responded: "I will be praying for you because it is far more dangerous to have too much."

"God won't grow your garden for you."

Anyway, I just write all of this because it is ideas that I am still chewing on.


My reading has been consumed by two books and soon I will buy the third. They are "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl who played with Fire." These are the books of the summer and I loved them both. The character of Lizbeth is so quirky and the plots are so well constructed that I just have gotten lost in these books. No wonder they are on the best seller list.


I went to the movies tonight and saw "Eat Pray Love." I had read the book and really enjoyed it. Here is what is good about the movie - Julia Roberts is really pretty and so Is Javier Bardem. And actually so are the places that are highlighted - Italy, India, and Indonesia. Much of what made the book interesting was not in the movie - or hinted at. So, not a great movie - but good enough and reminded me of the book and what I liked about it. I would give it 2 stars if you read the book. 1 star if you didn't.

2 weeks left of my sabbatical - I am determined to enjoy every moment.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A word about Advance

I am sitting in the office of the Admin building at Camp Christian on the last full day of Advance Conference. Advance is the camp for young adults - ages 19-29 which is a very special camp. Not many churches offer a week like this.

I have been coming here as "faculty" for over 12 years and for the last few serve as "co director" with Allen Harris. The other people who are faculty have really become friends over the year - not to mention Audrey who is here too.

Even though I am on sabbatical this week is part of my summer. It feeds me in so many ways. I really love being with the young adults and learning about their lives. many of them are in transition - from home to schools, from college to grad school, from school to job, from job to 2nd job. So much happens to us in our twenties.

The theme for this week is about our personal relationship with God. Monday Allen and I did a keynote on the roles of God - creator, sustainer, redeemer. My part was to do a "Cosmic Walk" about the universe (creator) and then to teach about how God and LOVE redeems our wounds. Later key notes have been about fear, sin, and "why Jesus" Today Audrey's is about our relationship with God. Following this talk, we meet in small groups and discuss among ourselves. It is so rich and full for me - the talks and the talking! One of the blessings of my long relationship with camp is that I am with young people in their 20's who I remember as 12 year olds! It is all amazing.

Anyway, saying prayers for Audrey today. I love that I get to be with her and see her in this role. She is a wonderful speaker and I know that her keynote will bless me as well.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

We are home again after a lot of traveling over the past few months. We are home.

Our last trip was the completion of the memory trips for me. At least I think so - I still could go to a few other places I have lived - like Cranford and Madison New Jersey, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Birmingham Michigan, Pittsburgh Pa (don't remember I was 2!) and Salt Lake City - (don't remember I was 3!) Which of course says - that i have lived in a lot of places during my 61 years of life.

And somehow I wonder if all of this has been ruminating on identity and where is home? When people ask me where I am from, I often don't make much of a response. I lived a lot in West Chester Pennsylvania - but graduated from high school in Michigan. My parents retired to the outer banks of NC where they are buried. After 30 years in ohio, maybe I am now from Ohio.

I spent Saturday night in Scranton Pennsylvania where Chris Connor and I lived from 1972-74. It was for us a place of firsts - our first time away from parents, his first REAL CAREER job, and the time when we became parents as Kacey was born in Scranton (is that why she loves "The Office?") I worshipped in the church where she was born - Covenant Presbyterian Church. It was also the first place where I volunteered to work with youth. It seems to be usual for me in these trips - my memory is not real good. I did not remember a whole lot - except that this was such an important time in our lives. Scranton is not the most attractive city in PA - but for us it was very special.

Then I spent three days in a beautiful Bed and Breakfast in West Chester PA - The Faunbrook Inn. It was 200 years old and decorated exquisitly and a very special place. Wayne and Gail and Geoff and Vicki joined us in a time of remembering our childhood together. Our parents lived there three times and we journeyed to each house. The first one we were lucky enough to get to go inside and remember much about our life there. We also went to the church where I was so active as a youth and went by the old High School. It was all good.

What these trips have meant for me has been to give me a real sense of gratitude and grace. The gratitude was that I was part of the Gersen family and had parents that really sought to give us the best life they could. In one house it took us a while to determine which were the boys bedrooms and which were the girls. Finally, we realized that our parents had taken the smallest room - which was a pretty good symbol of their understanding of parenting. They taught us a lot about life and love and family and now as I am able to be with my brothers at this juncture - I am grateful for all of it. (but always wishing my sister was here!)

The grace comes when I remember some of the challenging times I had growing up - particularly my junior high years when I felt like an alien in school and with friends. The grace is the healing that happened over the years and the lessons - the compassion - that I learned BECAUSE I was the outsider. There is still much to ponder.

As we left West Chester Gail gave me a gift that was so appropriate. She and Wayne came to us from a Buddhist retreat and the gift she gave was a "beggging bowl" that she had bought there. This is what it says on the outside: "I am home" and "I have arrived."

And so, home has been many, many places for me. But now today I sit at 1812 white pine court and know that I am home. I have arrived.
I am here.
God is here
We are here together.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lily Dale

Yesterday I went to Lily Dale with Chuck and Jim Bane and his wife Holly Harris. It was a great adventure.

Lily Dale is a spiritualist community about 30 minutes from Chautauqua. I recently saw an HBO documentary on it and thought it would be interesting to go and it was.

We got there at 10:30 just in time for the healing service in the "Temple." It was a service that started with a prayer and then 8 men and women dressed in white offered healing to anyone who was there. We went in rows - we were in the very back. Their healing was essentially reikli and it was very similar to what we do at our church and it was very peaceful for me. Jim and Holly also enjoyed it and Holly said that she experienced a healing in her neck pain. We sat during the healing treatments and we had the option to be touched or not. I liked it!

Then we had lunch and went to "Inspiration Stump" to hear some messages from the mediums. Lily Dale is similar to Chautauqua in that there is a gate fee - $10 per person - (Chautauqua's is about $65 per day!) There are 40 registered mediums in the place and you can go to their house and sign up for a reading. I had hoped to have a reading, but I did not want to spend more than $25 - and the ones I saw were $60 or $70. When we went to inspiration stump (which was very similar to the vespers spot at Camp Christian) the mediums would do readings - if the person wanted - from the audience. We got to see 4 mediums and probably 15 readings during the course of the hour. Most of the readings seemed very hit or miss to us. As open as I am to all things spiritual - I have a very strong streak of suspicion and the readings were -in a word - disappointing.

At the same time, you were aware that there were people in the audience who desperately wanted word from someone who had passed "to the other side." So, it was not funny so much as sad for me.

I sat next to a man who told me HE was a medium (but not registered here) who came for the energy that he received in Lily Dale. He described himself as a "medical intuitive" who had been able to identify blood clots and cancer that brought people to the doctor.

All of this is interesting to me - and we enjoyed our time there. We went to the books store and learned that there was a lot of dismay with the community at Lily Dale about the HBO documentary. But, as I told the proprietor of the store - it did bring us there!

Anyway, as always - something to think about.
Just one more interesting experience during this sabbatical summer.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I just have a minute to write this because I am on a computer at the library, but i would like to give a flavor of what life is like here at Chautauqua.

This is my 15th year of coming here for a week during the summer and every year I wonder if it is going to be the last - because of the price - but when I get here I wonder how I can ever give this up.

We are staying at the Disciples House on the third floor. We share kitchen and dining room space with others but it is all okay. There is always a real community feel to the life here.

One of the blessings of this week is that Jim Bane and his wife Holly Harris are here. My friendship with Jim goes back to seminary (we both celebrate 25 years since ordination this summer) and we never run out of things to talk about.

This morning I got up took a walk, had breakfast, went to morning worship and then sat on the front porch reading a new book. I have already read three books this week and now am starting "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." There is a lecture right now on education which i am missing. At 12:15 I will meet Chuck in the amphitheatre for a 30 minute organ concert and then we will get on a trolley to go intown (Mayville) to go out to lunch. Often we just grab a sandwich in the kitchen.

I want to be back by 3:30 when I go to a class on "Shame and Hope" taught by a doctor and a psychoanalyst. I have already been to 2 seesions and it is powerful and just absolutely fits into what i have been learning in spiritual direction (plus it will preach!)

Then we will have dinner and go to the ballet.
This is a typical day at Chautauqua - walking, reading, learning, and being with friends.
And did I mention that it is beautiful? To have a week every year when you are in a lace that values intellectual and spiritual growth is a terrific blessing for me.
That's all for now.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am six weeks into my sabbatical with six weeks to go. Halfway.
Still in Phoenix - coming home on Tuesday.

After six weeks, I do feel rested and I have definietly let go of responsibilities at church in my head. Life goes on without me, ministry goes on without me and I can trust in God's work always.

Sunday morning is definitely different during a Sabbatical. I got up this morning at 6:15 and walked around Susan's neighborhood. It is so different from home - the palm trees, the sky, the flowers, the heat - but it is, of course, beautiful. And it feels to good to walk - to move my body.

Then Susan and I sat drinking coffee and talking and reading the Sunday New York Times. Chuck comes in to offer to make us smoothees. It is so relaxing. Soon I will take a shower and we will go to their 11 AM services at her church - Beatitudes UCC - an open and affirming church right across the street.

Then lunch out and then? maybe a nap or a book. Or a museum. Sunday is very different on a sabbatical.

One of the understandings that I have reached during this first half of the sabbatical is that I need to have real sabbath in my life when I go back to work. Friday night both Susan and Ken were so happy because it was "the weekend." I have not experienced "the weekend" delight in 25 years - that is, the regular expectation of 2 days without work - or three night and two days without work. I have had only one day that I could count on - Monday. not even Sunday night. So, this time away and being with people who work hard too but who have the opportunity for weekly renewal has made me think long and hard about my own schedule. Something new will come of all of this, I am sure.

this past week in Phoenix I have started to have some ideas (inspirations!) about sermons ideas, themes, projects, etc. It just goes to show - that rest brings creativity and insights. All good.

So, looking forward to church today and to whatever more is ahead for us in the beauty of life in Phoenix.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Phoenix - Joan Rivers

I was so happy to get to the see the documentary - "Joan Ricers - A Piece of Work" last night.

I picked Susan up at work and we went to a little French bistro before the movie. Interestingly, in our conversation before the movie she was talking about writing and how much she enjoyed writing. Susan is now the editor of the Home and Fashiion section of the Arizona Republic and she is, I am sure, a good one. But she is in her heart a writer - that is what gives her life.

Watching Joan Rivers is seeing a 75 year old woman who knows that working is what gives her life. At the very beginning of the documentary - which is about a year in her life - she makes it clear that she does not want an empty calendar. She loves to work. And the stand up as really a form of acting in the role of "Joan Rivers" - a persona that is different from the person who is joan Rivers. The most compelling part of the movie for me was the question of passion versus compulsion. is it a passion that makes her want to work or is it a compulsion that fills the empty part of herself. And it is probably both.

All of this makes me ruminate on work and the passion that drives me to work and the lines between work and compulsion. What I know is that I have a passion to create places and times for people to experience God. I cannot control the experience - but I really love the process - of Bible Study, retreats and Sunday worship. I think about it all the time (except right now!) and love it all. This morning - Friday - I woke up and thought that usually on Friday mornings I am puzzling out the sermon organization in the early mornings before rising. That has been a pattern for years. Passion? Compulsion? Probably both.

So it seems to me we often live in this tension. It is so important to have something in our life that gives us life - writing, stand up, ministry, teaching, parenting, etc. We are blessed if we have found that passion that gives us life. At the same time - there is always the question of whether that passion has gone over into becoming a compulsion - that takes away from the rest of our life.

I feel blessed to have this time for reflection on my life and the blessings and the challenges.

It all feels good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Phoenix - Heard Museum

Chuck and I have had an interesting visit to the Heard Museum in Phoenix.
The "Heard Museum of native Cultures and Ar" was founded in 1929 by Dwight B and Maie Bartlett Heard to house their personal collection of American Indian artifacts and art. The brochure says: "The museum has earned a national and international repotation for its thorough and sensitive representation of Native cultures and heritage, ezpecially in the southwest." All true.

We learned a lot today. First of all we learned that there are so many more Indian tribes than we ever knew. As we read their stories and saw artifacts from the different tribes there were always these similarities - people who lived close to the land who were pushed off by Europeans, Spanish, Canadians. The story was all the same. farmland taken away, water re routed, their way of life gone.

We learned about Indian children being taken away (kidnapped, really) to go to boarding schools where they were not allowed to speak their language or even keep their birth names. Instead they were given a new name, new clothes, and a new way of living. There were stories about tribes being sent to detention camps and just moved away from home. On a summer of memory trips - it is helpful to remember that not all of our history - either personal or national - is comfortable.

At the same time, we learned about a simpler way of life and saw the amazing beadwork, pottery, carvings that these people did. We went on a tour and learned not only about the way that some items were made - but the way they are still being used. And I found myself thinking about the whole nature of creativity and how people want to tell the story of their lives in so many ways - and often art is the most satisfying.

Chuck is here and I asked for his comment on our visit and he said - "It (the museum) was outstanding. We raped the Indians - we put people in reservations that did not deserve it." I think it raised his consciousness (?)

So, I guess you could say that this was a pretty good way for us to spend a Thursday in Phoenix (106 degrees - it was air conditioned!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We just returned from a trip to Sedona and it was memorabl.e

We got there Sunday night and on our way to Susan and Ken's timeshare stopped at the "Chapel of the Holy Cross." Several people had mentioned it to me and I really wanted to see it. I had no idea what it was - a beautiful chapel high up in the red rocks of Sedona. It was beautiful and holy. It is a Catholic place of worship and we could enter the sanctuary, sit on the pews, listen to the meditative music, light a candle and look out on the mountains and the blue Arizona sky. Words are incomplete in describing the experience of being in that space - but I can only say, it was what I needed.

I had been to Sedona before and this time I really wanted to go to some of the vortices and experience them. I did not just want a tour explaining the history and geography, but I wanted a spiritual experience. We booked a trip through a company called "Earth Wisdom" for Tuesday morning. We - was me and my friend Susan. Leaving our husbands behind for this. Our guide was a 40 year old man who has renamed himself "Gabriel Masterson." And we really enjoyed him and best of all - our tour was only Susan and me. In an open jeep with Gabriel.
We went to two vortex sites - at Cathedral Rock and Boynton canyon. When we were there, Gabriel gave us time to meditate and pray and journal while he played the flute. It was so perfect. i bought his flute music - and will use it myself in meditation. Like the trip to the chapel, it all was what I needed as I continue to experience healing and feel like God is calling me to rest in God's spirit.

At one of the restaurants where we ate one of the waiters said that Sedona itself is a vortex - meaning a place of holy energy. And maybe that is true. There is something that happens to my soul as we make the drive from Phoenix and start to see the magnificent red rocks of Sedona.

I also have read a couple of books that were really meaningful to me during this trip to Arizona. The first was "The Wonder Worker" by Susan Howatch. It is the 6th of a series of books by her writeen over about 20 years about spiritual directors in England. This book really spoke to me about spiritual direction and it was at the same time a real page turner with wonderful character development. I loved it.

And in about 24 hours I sat and read through "This is Where I Leave You" by jonathon Tropper. Susan recommended it and it is not only hard to put down but hard to stop thinking about. It is funny and smart and insightful and deeper than you first realize. The wit of the book hooks you - but it is so much more than that. I really recommend this book!

So, we ae back in Phoenix for about 5 more days of rest, reading, movies, and 500 rummy with old friends. it is good to be here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Another Memory Trip

This time I took a trip by myself - with no one to reminisce with - just Chuck as my #1 companion. Always ready for a road trip.

I am going backwards in my life and visiting places where I have lived. So this weekend I went to the places of my young adulthood - and visited my colleges. I went to Hanover College for three years and met Chris Connor. We married after his second and my third year of college and transferred to University of Cincinati where I received a BA in English and he earned a marketing degree.

Hanover College is, I believe, the most beautiful college campus in America. It is on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River and it is absolutely picturesque. As I walked around this weekend I had a flood of wonderful memories - of life in the dorms, fraternity and sorority dances, playing field hockey, drinking coffee with friends. More of my memories were about campus life - than studying - but that is who I was during those years. Looking back, I also realize how important it was for me to find a small place where I could fit in and feel like I belonged. My senior year of high school we moved from PA to Michigan and it was a hard time for me of feeling lonely and alienated. So, these three years at Hanover were restorative. One of the thoughts I had was of gratitude to my parents for the gift of being able to go to college at all - let alone this place.

In Cincinnati, I found myself thinking about the first years of marriage and how difficult it was to be away from the friends and support of Hanover - but also how good it was in forming that bond between a husband and wife in the beginning. Chris and I "owned" a capital dry cleaning franchise for a year as he finished up his last year of college. That building is gone now - but I could see where it was. And for me, I learned that hardship of owning your own business. That dream was one I have never had again. I remembered our struggles with his parents in asserting our identity and now at my age I am grateful for their forbearance with us - two young people who thought we knew more than we did.

These were important years in my life. This was the beginning of adulthood as "home" became a room in a dormitory rather than my parent's house. I met the man who is the father of my daughters and my husband for 15 years. He may be my "ex husband" but also my first love and it was good to honor that memory and relationship. I also made a friend - Susan - who has been a touchstone and keeper of my secrets through the many years and moves since.

Alot has changed in the 40 years since I was a student and a young wife. There are new buildings on campus, there are places that have been razed and of course, that first marriage - though a good one for a long time - is over.

But looking back is so helpful - to see the many blessings of my life and the ways in which grace has been at work.

I look forward to the final memory trip - to West Chester Pa with my brothers as we go all the way back to our childhood together.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Living in the Now

Is difficult with my granddaughters.

Alyse and Reagan spent the night last night and soon we will be playing upwards in the dining room together.

I look at them - the daughters of my daughters Kacey and Marnie - and am often in a state of wonderment. They are 7 years old, soon to be in 2nd grade and long legged gap toothed beauties.

I peek at them when they are playing outside. They talk and talk and talk about a life that they will not share with me. Alyse starts to climb a tree, they both discover blackberries and they touch each other with the familiarity of the friends/ cousins that they are.

We played "Rummi cub" last night and I remembered playing that game with their mothers and Audrey 25 years ago. I look at them and remember the toddlers they were with such a delight in each other and so much laughter about God knows what. I see on their beautiful faces flashes of the luminous women they will become as well as the attitudes of adolescents that come and go. And when they went to sleep last night they needed still their horsy and blanky. Who are these little girls?

And who am I as their Ogram? A woman who is blessed beyond all deserving and living in the past and the future and sometimes the now.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Let me, Let Me Love You

This is a song that I wrote on my silent retreat. It was in response to hearing God say to me - Let me love you. What I experienced was God as a lover - who longs to love us and have us know that love. So, this song is God speaking to me.

Let Me, Let Me Love You

Let me, let me love you and
fill your soul with beauty
open up your eyes and see me all around you.

Let me, let me love you and
fill your heart with mercy
open up your ears and heart the angels sing

"You are my Beloved
and I need to show you
that there is a way for
you to walk more free

You are my Beloved
and i want to give you
everything you need for
days of joy and peace"

Let me, let me love you
linger now and listen
wait and trust the treasures
that I have for you

Let me let me love you and
fill your life with goodness
open up your hands and take my gift of grace
open up your heart and take my gift of me.

Silent Retreat

I returned yesterday from a 6 day silent retreat at a Franciscan retreat center in Tiffin, Ohio. It was a wonderful week for me and offered a time and a place for soul renewal.

I had never done a directed silent retreat before - I had done 3 days of silence in a hermitage twice - but this was very different. First of all, I was part of a group of retreatants who spent the week together mostly in silence. And that was a great blessing to me. Most of the people I did not know - they were Roman Catholic sisters - but I was familiar with one woman from Columbus who I really like and will continue to connect with after this. Everyone except she and I were Catholic.

The retreat was led by two nuns - one was sister Breta, my former spiritual director from Fremont and a protestant laywoman.

We began the week in worship on Sunday night in which we shared our desire for the week. Mine was for soul restoration. We each had our own room with a bed, a desk, a comfortable chair, dresser and sink. It was quiet and private and perfect.

Every morning began with the convent bells ringning at 6 AM and then we had optional contemplative prayer at 7 AM. I participated in that 4 out of 5 mornings. We had breakfast at 7 AM, lunch at noon and dinner at 5. There were two rooms available - one if we wanted to talk and the other was for eating in silence with music in the background. I ate 2 out of three meals in silence. Always breakfast.

I met with my spiritual director, Nancy, every morning at 9 AM for an hour of either direction or reiki. I received reiki twice that week.

The rest of the time I "spent with God." - which means prayer, walking in the beautiful grounds, sitting in contemplation, reading scripture, reading devotional books, writing, It is hard to describe a week like this. It is definitely a time of slowing down and resting. I took naps every day - which is something I never ever do in my "regular life."

What happened to me over the course of the week is that I confronted my grief about the loss of my sister last year in a very real way. I also was able to recognize and pray about (confess) my work compulsions and other compulsions that have driven me so much. All of this was possible because of the setting and the time. The most important revelation for me was being able to hear the "voice" - the voice of the holy saying some very important words to me. Among them were the words - "let me love you." So often, our faith is about us loving God but our love is always responsive to God's love for us. And so, there was this peace and clarity as the voice said - "let me love you - let me show you how much I love you." And God did.

I wrote a song about it which I will share in my next post.

My desire is that the peace that I feel right now will continue as I continue the practices that were so helpful - silence, walking, writing, reading.

God is good All the time

Sunday, June 27, 2010

End of Week 2

As I write this I am getting ready to go to The St. Francis Spirituality Center in Tiffin for a 5 day silent retreat. This is a requirement for my course in spiritual direction, but I would be doing this anyway. I have not done a 5 days of silence before, but I have done three and found it to be wonderul. I look forward to it - especially because I will get to see my old spiritual director, Sister Breta.

The last few days have been a time of rest and quiet for me at home. Chuck left yesterday on the Megabus to see the Hughes family and his son Brian in Chicago. I have been spending a lot of time of my back porch, reading, writing and just being.
It is hard to get used to not working and just being. At the same time I am very aware of the luxury of all of this. My neighbors are in the process of moving right now - they have to vacate their home at the end of the month and still do not know where they will be living. Another neighbor has a son who will soon be going to prison for drug dealing. And always I am aware of those - like Lisa Baluk - who are suffering through cancer. Different people in different seasons of life - and I sit on my back porch in this "Sabbatical Season" grateful and yet conscious of the suffering around me.

During the past two weeks I have read two wonderful books of fiction - Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Stout. and In Country by Bobbie Jo Mason. One of the blessings of the sabbatical has been the chance to read and savor these books. Maybe because of that, I ended up in tears at the end of each. I heartily recommend.

I finished "The Naked Now" by Richard Rohr which I have been slowly reading devotionally for about 6 weeks. I am going to take it on retreat today because it has in the appendices spiritual practices. Often, I do not take the time (or have the time) to sit with them, so I welcome this.

This morning I went to church. It was a blessing, as church always is but, of course, very different to go as a stranger. When I worship ourside of Karl Road Christian Church I want to worship and not be in an "evaluative" stance. And I did this morning. Having said that I did notice three things - that no one offered me a bulletin, no one spoke personally to me (except "peace be with you") and I really missed communion.

There were several parts of the service that were really appealing to me. There was a solo by an older man (in his 80's?) who sang "Because he Lives." He sand with great faith and I realize how much I enjoy worshipping with the saints. The great blessing of church for me has always been the intergenerational aspect and I loved this solo. Their mission group from Nicaragua gave a brief talk about their trip - they got back last night. It was in many ways the typical report as middle class youth have their eyes opened to third world poverty and all of the team was touched by the deep faith of the people. What struck me about it was that whole idea of how we each do our part - which may not be much - but is important. As slowly we (the church) makes a difference in the lives of people around the world and our own faith is strengthened.

The preacher was very good and spoke about picking up the mantle of being who we are. And I always need to hear that.

Finally, at the end of the service - after the closing hymn - they were welcoming new members. As the congregation sat to do so - I left! I was not responsible and could leave early!

That was a good feeling.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shakertown - Day 9 and 10

People kept asking me - why are you going to Shakertown and my answer was "Chuck wants to " and so we went.

And it was perfect for us - what we needed and really made me consider a lot of things.
It was a nice bookend to the beginning of this trip - our visit to Gettysburg.

The Shakers were (and are - there are 3 living Shakers in Maine!) a group of Christians who felt called by God to live in community. They started in England in the last 18th century but came over to the US to start a group in the Albany NY area. Three of their members were in Kentucky - Cane Ridge in 1804 during the great revivals that happened there. These revivals were the beginning of Barton W. Stone's conversion which helped begin my denomination the Disciples of Christ. For the Shakers it was further proof that they were living in the Millenium - that Christ would come again soon and that their job was to prepare for his coming. And the community of the Shakers was that preparation. It was a group of people who were egalitarian, pacifist, celibate (that's the one thing everyone knows about the Shakers!) and living in a worshipful working community that was always striving for perfection. And so Shaker furniture is still widely regarded as were their seeds and songs. Their worship did not have a minister (egalitarian) and it was characterized by music and dancing. They are known as mystics.

Wednesday Chuck and I went to many lectures plus a demonstration of Shaker music (we danced too!) We stayed at the Inn and ate two meals there.

There was much to admire about the Shakers - their community was caring and kind and there was a place for everyone. During hard times, people had a better life there than on their own. I had always heard or maybe assumed that they died out because of the celibacy - no one is a born Shaker - everyone is a convert. It was no cult - because they made it hard to join (have to be 21) and easy to leave.

It turns out that there were other reasons why it died out. (the last Shaker from KY died in 1923) There were some issues about who is going to be in charge. Even though they were egalitarian - they were not a democracy. The elders in charge - 2 men and 2 women - were selected by the leaders in NY. The leaders chose the leaders and they lost a lot of people over the years over this.

The times changed as well. After the Industrial Revolution, men could make more money and have more autonomy doing other work than farming. Over time, there were more women (widows from the civil war) and not enough men to do the work.

And the leaders and the kinds of people that were drawn to the Shakers changed over the years. In the beginning, it was some very faithful and devoted and intelligent people. At the end, sometimes people would want to come for the winter and then leave when the spring planting had to be done.

The Shakers in Kentucky had a good run - from 1811 - 1911. And that may be enough. The Shakers foundation was formed in 1960 that bought back the land and put together the Inn that we stayed at and all the lectures and displays. It is fascinating to consider these people and their dreams and their commitment to what they believed God was calling them to do.

And so, I am left to ponder all of this. I see the Shakers as having the same issues as the church of today. There seems to be a theme here - about the "seasons" of our lives. It was a time for this kind of communal living, perhaps. And everything does not have to last forever to be successful. We all live in the tension between the needs of the individual and the community. And then there is our idealism - as our notions of perfection bruch up against our humanness.

The Inn where we stayed was quiet and peaceful. We watched no television and just allowed the beauty of the place to nourish us. (plus some delicious buttermilk fried chicken!)

One last thought - the civil war. They were pacifist and lived on Rte 68 where soldiers passed by. They were known for their kindness and generosity - so they were left alone to feed and to help heal the soldiers who came along - both sides.
Like I said - much to admire about these people.

Asheville - Day 7 and 8

We spent two days in Asheville which were wonderful.

I have heard a lot of about Ashville because Audrey's partner Caroline loves it so much and her desire has been that they would live there. After visiting it, I really can understand why.

Chuck and I met Audrey, Caroline and Caroline's dad at the Early Girl Eatery downtown and had an outstanding breakfast there. The part of town that it is in is really cool -arty and creative. We walked around afterward and Chuck and I even bought a picture at the "Woolworth Walk" (a renovated Woolworth store - now full of consignment art) for our kitchen. The atmosphere was just so alive.

Sunday afternoon Chuck and I went to the botanical gardens and spent an hour by the river reading the paper and just relaxing. Sunday evening we went to Beth and Dave's where we spent two nights. On Monday Beth gave us a real tour of the city.

Beth and Dave moved to Ashville from Columbus. They are in their fifties and after some significant deaths in their lives realized that they wanted to live where they wanted to live - and it was Asheville. After a year renting, they found their perfect house and that is where they will live for the rest of their lives. At least that's the plan. Since they moved there Dave has found a position working as a engineering Prof at UNC and Beth is just enjoying her life.

What is notable about them is how very happy they are and how stress free their lives seem to be. Their driving has been reduced tremendously. Dave walks to work and Beth walks to exercise, to shop and just to walk. They have no working TV (we could not watch the last day of the US OPEN!) and little time is spent on the computer. Instead they read, visit with friends and neighbors, garden, enjoy the city. And this city has much to enjoy. I was very intrigued by the drum circle every Friday night down town as well as the many music opportunities. They are interested in "simple living" and are a real advertisement for it. What I told them when I left Tuesday morning was that I noticed that they have a lot more "margins" in their lives than I do. This is something that I need to ruminate about.

Anyway, remember Asheville NC - clearly a great place to live and to visit.