Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Morning

In a half hour I will be driving to church for my last morning of contemplative prayer in the sanctuary. It has been a gift that I gave myself during this season - a daily discipline of time in silence with God. Only one person has been with me regularly - Ruth. And during this time her partner got sick, passed away and we had his funeral. So the mornings of sitting with her through it all - have been so important to both of us. Who knew when this was planned that such a momentous event would happen during these four weeks?

This has been a pretty hard Advent for me as pastor as I have tried to walk with people in some really difficult circumstances. We have watched the deaths of a baby, a 56 year old man and a 99 year old woman. There are folks with financial problems, with issues with children and elderly parents. We have marriages that are going through struggles and of course, all the people with seasonal affective disorder. And also, the shootings in Connecticut that have caused all of us more pain than we know. This is life in the local church, of course, but for some reason, this Advent has seemed just more challenging.

That may be why I did not put up the regular Christmas tree but instead opted for a 4 foot pink tree that Chuck got in a storage unit. I put it on the table in front of the window with silver bulbs on it and have presents piled underneath it. I think it is different and quirky - Marnie said it was pathetic. Anyway, my mantra during this season has been that I have been "getting it done." And I have - Cards mailed, sermons written, services planned. And now it is Christmas Eve.

I cannot help but think about other Christmas Eves when I was a child and even a young mother and there was so much more excitement about it all. Today, I will pray with Ruth, plan Christmas Eve service, write the homily and look forward to a quiet Christmas.

But actually, as I write this, I hope for more tonight. Planning Christmas Eve worship is always a puzzle and a mystery. We want to hear "the story" and at the same time we need to hear it in a new way in order for the good news to break through our complacency about it all. Or maybe I am speaking for myself after 20 plus years of planning Christmas Eve services.

All I know is that I want this service to bring a sense of hope and peace and especially joy to all of us. This really is about the light in the darkness and the hope of new life - no matter when in our lives.

My prayer for this day is that I will be open to God's creative spirit and that tonight transcends all of our efforts and we really can experience "Emmanuel" - God with us.

We need that. I need that.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Letter

I send out fewer cards every year - but this is the letter than I am including this year.

It has been a very good year for Chuck and I and we look forward in anticipation to whatever surprises God has for us in 2013.

Dear Friends
As I write this Chuck’s cookie making stuff is all over the kitchen. He is getting ready for his annual “Christmas Tea” at the end of the week. He and his friend John have been doing this for the past 8 years – an hour for people to spend time together over a cup of tea. Chuck and John are always dressed up in vests and ties and are our wonderful hosts.

. We are blessed to be in good health (correction: Chuck says “fairly good”) and have a full and rich life here in Columbus. Chuck has added one new endeavor this fall – he has been buying the contents of storage units. It is so perfect for a man with his gifts for fixing things up, wheeling and dealing and giving things away. Our garage, back porch and basement are pretty full these days – but it is really fun to be part of this “treasure hunting.”

My life as pastor of Karl Road Christian Church continues to be busy and satisfying. I am very pleased that this year our church did intentional study around the issue of homosexuality and we now have a welcoming statement naming ourselves as a church of radical hospitality. My learning has been that if the church does not speak about this – our silence gives assent to those who would exclude and condemn the GLBT community.

The family is all doing well and the grandchildren are growing into really wonderful and interesting people. One of the highlights of our family life was the marriage of Shane and Brittany this spring and I was honored to officiate. It was a beautiful and very fun wedding.

My hope for all of you is that you have a blessed holiday season. We celebrate the one who came to show us a way of life that is full of compassion, peace, hope and joy. My prayer is that you are able to receive it all this year.

Merry Christmas!

Love Margot and Chuck


Or vulnerable.

That is how we are whether we like it or not. As I prepared my sermon for yesterday I said - and believe - that the horrific killings in Connecticut lifted the veil for all of us. And revealed our condition - vulnerable. Always.

We like to now talk about gun control (yes!) and mental health issues and school security. And they are important and changes are probably necessary. But at some point we all are very vulnerable all the time. I remember when there were the church killings in Knoxville and I thought that someone could come into my church at any time and do the same thing. We have "ambassadors" to protect us - but really - a person with a machine gun?

And then there are the health issues that we don't know about. For both my parents and my sister the cancer came seemingly out of nowhere. And what can you do? Chemo, radiation, prayer, but we are all vulnerable.

And maybe that is why I love Jesus so much. Born in the most vulnerable way - in an animal trough away from home. You know the story. And his life was a life of non defensive living and yet courage to speak the truth and compassion to reach out to all people.

And he shows me that I can trust God through the worst of what life has to offer. It is not avoiding pain but getting through it and continuing to live. Forever.

I watch people whose response to pain and loss is self protection and anger and unending grief. And I know about stages of grief - but I also know that it is easy to get stuck.

I think the answer is always to to look for the light, to wait for the healing and to know that even after the death of precious children our life must continue. There are more blessings to come as hard as that is to imagine right now.

We are vulnerable - always - and we are alive.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Expressions of Faith

I have a couple of minutes before I go to church to pray to consider a very full weekend.

My Advent Retreat was this weekend and it was wonderful, satisfying and very tiring for me. We have a "slumber party" on Friday night and 7 women joined me at the lodge to just sit around the fire and talk. No agenda, no program, just conversation. It is a good beginning to the retreat except that i often have trouble sleeping at the lodge.
I got to really catch up with some women from my old church in Bowling Green and that is always a blessing.

The retreat itself was called "Hope for the Holy Days" and 21 women attended for the day. As I pondered the whole idea of hope and some scriptures from Isaiah that gave hope, I also understood that we needed to recognize the areas that needed hope. And the human condition of feeling alienated, dead, alone, and empty. There are three important parts to the retreats that I do - the first part is allowing people to just be in silence and reflection. They have the gift of scripture and Camp itself as they can walk and pray. The second part is allowing us to get together in small groups and be able to pray for each other. Over the years I keep hearing how important that has been to women. And finally in the afternoon we do some sort of craft that helps us to visit and express our feelings in a tangible way. This year the craft was a snow flake ornament and everyone had the freedom to do whatever they wanted with it and the creativity was awesome.

The last few weeks in the church has been a time of grief for many people and as I looked out over the group of women I knew that just getting away for a day with others who valued the spiritual life was a gift. So, when it was all said and done, we really did find hope in our being together. It was a HOly Day.

And then yesterday morning we had worship and somehow I pulled together a sermon. But Sunday morning I was extremely tired. And wondered how to get through the day.

Sunday night we had a program that was called "Acts of Faith present The Meaning of Christmas." Acts of Faith is a signing choir that is based at our church and every year they put together a program. This one was outstanding and featured other signing choirs and choirs. In addition, Carol, our music director sang a solo of O Holy Night. The church was packed and it was very diverse - actually more black than white. And it was full of spirit. There was a miming group from a Baptist Church that was just wonderful. By the end of the evening my spirits were revived and my tiredness gone! It was really a testament to the power of the holy spirit.

So, as usual, I say - God is good, all the time.

I am grateful to be in this life where I have access to very different expressions of faith - from silent meditation, to formal worship, to a spirit filled evening like last night. It all gives me life.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I am here to be with you

That became my mantra after a silent retreat this fall.
It seemed like it said everything.

I am HERE - on this earth - to be in conscious contact (communion) with the source of all life.

And I am HERE in prayer - to be in conscious contact (communion) with the source of all life.

And it is easy to say and hard for me to really do. Be HERE.

So often I am somewhere else - thinking ahead, pondering the past, wondering what to do next.
Distracted by sounds, by my body, by my inborn resistence to be HERE>

I write all this after a time of contemplative prayer in the sanctuary this morning. As I sat there, with a candle lit, after reading a devotional, and in silence.

I was present - or at least trying to be.

The question of this day was - "What do you have to let go of for this season?"

And always I wonder about that. I am taking something on - which is giving God my time every morning.

But the question is: can I give God my attention? Can I be here?

I am working on it.

And hoping always for growth.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Sunday in Advent

Today is the first Sunday in Advent and I feel like I need it. Advent. That 4 weeks of preparation for our celebration of the birth of Jesus.

I woke up this morning to a full house with Addie and Reagan sleeping in the prayer room and more and more "stuff" from other people's storage encroaching in my living space. The girls are here because Marnie and Erik are at a destination wedding in Florida. The stuff is here because Chuck keeps on keeping on with the storage unit purchases. And until I put my foot down more and more of the "treasures" find their way onto kitchen and dining tables, corners in the family room and now almost every space in the back porch.

Advent is traditionally a time of preparation and the preparation that I need is to make space. Physically, mentally and make space for God in my life.

I have added some activity to my calendar which I hope will ultimately be space with God in community. I intend to pray at the church every morning from 8 - 8:30. I did that during Lent and found it to be personally helpful. Few people joined me, but it was an enforced discipline of "space and time making"

I also will start two "Christmas Care Groups" which will be times for lectio divina Bible study and prayer and conversation. I have no idea whether anyone will come, but I felt led to offer this.

What is interesting to me is how easily it is for everything to start to encroach on me so that I feel increasingly disconnected from God and from my best self. And it does not take much to be back "on track" or into a place of "attunement."

and so Advent, the opportunity to reflect and wait and prepare myself and others

always wondering what God will do with me and with us during these seasons.

Something new and interesting, I am sure.

I am getting ready.

Here is what Madeliene L'Engle wrote about Advent

Come in your naked, newborn might.
Come, with bolts of lightning hurled.
Come in your flaming, burning power.
Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come;
Come speak in joy untamed and wild.

And in the words of Richard Rohr:

This is what Advent means: to be chosen and upheld by God, to be filled with God's delight and Spirit, to bring justice to the nations, to not shout or break a bruised reed, to not snuff out a smoldering wick, to not grow discouraged until we establish justice, to hold God's hand and be God's promise, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness (Isaiah 42:1-9).

Advent is here - let us prepare ourselves again this year.

Come, Lord Jesus Come

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I did my first webinar last night and probably my last.

I enjoyed the preparation for it. The subject was "Having Difficult Conversations" and someone suggested I lead it because our moving into intentional diversity as a church has led us through some difficult conversations.

What was ironic to me as I worked on the project was that I realized how much I really dislike having "difficult conversations." My history has been avoidance if possible.

But I also recognize that I have grown over the years and have learned that these conversations can often be illuminating and life giving.

I started the webinar by sharing two writings: Ephesians 4: 1-16 as Paul writes about leading "a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

I also ahared the wonderful prayer/poem by Teihard de Jardin about trusting the "slow work of God":
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.

And that led me into talking about and describing what spiritual maturity looks like and how important it is for all of us to continue to grow spiritually and that will help us to actually engage difficult conversations.
As a pastor (but really everyone!) I need to be aware of how I block difficult conversations because I do. Sometimes by ignoring problems and other times by placating people instead of confront and other times by controlling the discussion.

My other points were about recognizing our own anxiety, becoming self differentiated and humility. We are able to enter into conversations if we don't think we have all the answers.

I am not going to put the entire webinar in this blog but I will say that by the time I was done I really was able to understand that living in the present moment - without judgment - is the most helpful part of our being able to hear each other and find ways of connecting on what we agree about and understanding the areas of disagreement. All of which is very difficult because of our tendency to want to protect ourselves.

The entire webinar was recorded and it will be online on the website of our regional church

Now the other thing I learned is that a webinar is a very challenging way to share information for me (Margot) because it is in a vacuum. I prepared the powerpoint and the talk and sat in my office and gave it. I could not see anyone's faces and everyone else's computers were on "mute." When I was finished we asked for questions and there were none.

And so, there was a closing prayer and I signed off and that was that. Usually when I do sermons and retreats and Bible studies I am looking at people's faces and getting energy from their response and presence. This was so different and very uncomfortable for me.

And it brought home to me why it is that I am so resistent to "meetings" that are on a computer. I know they are efficient and mean that people do not need to travel to be "together" but I like bodies in the room! I get energy from others.

And so, probably, no more webinars for Margot - but I am always available for retreats and seminars. In person.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Guy Ghj Ghj

This is a picture of my granddaughter Addie who was part of a Thanksgiving play at her school on Tuesday. I was invited to come and sat with three other adults in the front row.

Addie is, at home, a clown and a cut up. She is very friendly, outgoing and the one I can depend on to hug me every time she sees me. At school she is quiet and diligent in her work and very shy. She is like her mother was and actually, she is like I was.

The whole experience of being there took me back to being a little girl in a school and not feeling quite at home. Wanting to fit in and not wanting to do anything that would call attention to me in the wrong way. I guess this must be universal. (Except for those kids who always have their hands up - wanting to be noticed!)

After the plays we went to the cafeteria to have a feast which had been supplied by the parents. Several classes were together in the same space with teachers and parents and grandparents. It was really noisy and I realized in that moment that I had really changed over the last few years. I imagined Kacey and Lisa, who teach elementary school, and that this was normal for them. But for me, it was ALOT and I was no longer used to the noise and the energy.

Addie and I ate together and we talked. I learned afterward that I "embarrassed" her because I talked to the boys across the table from us. But really, she was the one who told them not to drink out of the drinking fountain because someone had farted into it.

Anyway, I felt blessed to be invited, to remember my own childhood and to be part of Addie's world for just a moment. I know it is not always easy to be 8 years old any more than it is always

easy to be 63. It was good to feast together.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Stress Free Thanksgiving

That is my hope for everyone today. Certainly I am having one. What a blessing.

I think back to many stress FULL Thanksgivings. There have been many reasons for that:
- I remember Thanksgivings in the Gersen family and there was always stress around whether or not the turkey was done. And was everything going to come out at the same time. My Mom was an anxious hostess and put a lot of pressure on herself - which of course we all got to experience. Last night I watched Top Chef and one of the chefs prepared a turkey that wasn't completely done, so it must be a universal stress.

- I also remember Thanksgivings when I was a young Mom and worried about the behavior and eating habits of my three girls at the table. I felt responsible and anxious myself.

- And then there was the issue of football and whether to watch it and who was going to clean up? I think I grew up in a family where there was guilt but not clear enough assignments or something.

But now, I am a Grandma and best of all I am married to Chuck. Once he came into my life the Thanksgivings all became much easier. Now he smokes the turkey and it was ready yesterday and it will be delicious today.

I have gotten to the point where I want everyone to be happy doing whatever they want. If the kids don't want to eat - that is fine, if other want to watch football, that is fine, and certainly if I am needed in the kitchen - I know that someone will let me know.

So, this morning I spent time in my prayer room experiencing gratitude for the ways in which my life is easier on every level. Thankful that Kacey and Audrey are together in Lynchburg, Virginia and that my brothers are together in Hanover, New Hampshire and that I get to be with Marnie and Erik and his family in Columbus.

And it is peaceful, stressless and really a holiday.

I am aware of the blessing of maturity and the abundant life that i have been given.
My prayer is that this day is blessing for all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thoughts on a Monday

The problem is that i have not written in a long time and there are some things I wanted to note in this blog. So, I think I will just list them and then hopefully I will become more disciplined and write more frequently.

1. I will start there - discipline. I really want to be more disiplined and there is something about Mondays - my day off that encourages me to believe that I can and I will! So, I made my bed today, exercised and so far have not eaten like a pig. That's a start. But what I know is that if I look at journals I wrote 35 years ago - there was still this desire to be more discipline. Starting there - some things never change.

2. With my Wellstreams Peer Group I listened to a CD of Richard Rohr last week on "Emotional Sobriety" which is where the 12 steps always lead. He believes that we need to detach from our emotions which feel like truth but make us over responsible.
Here is some of what he said:
"You are not your feelings, you have feelings."
"Feelings are seductive - there is something nice about replaying and justifying them"
"Feellngs are the ego in the dance of attachment."
Ken Keyes wrote: "So much more suffering comes into the world by people taking offense than by people giving offense."

So, the answer to this is detachment or rewiring our brains and the way we do that is through contemplative prayer There is much. much more about this - but I continue to learn that I need to pray more and not allow my obsessive thinking and feeling to lead me into the paths of numbness. I am hoping this is making sense as I write it. I was going to do a whole blog on but...

3. Last Saturday I went to a workshop on the Bowen Family Systems Theory. I learned again that it is helpful to see the patterns that have been passed down generation to generation. It is about the way we see and encounter the world. We each made a diagram of our own families and it was interesting to me. Here is a quote from that: the luckiest child in the family is the least focussed. Hmmm.
Anyway, there are 8 concepts that he touched on in the presentation, each of which helps affects us: differentation of self, triangles, nuclear family emotional process, sibling position, multigenerational transmission process, family projection process, emotional cutoff and societal emotional process.

There is so much to learn here - and I felt like we dipped our foot in the pond.
It did ultimately relate to the information from Richard Rohr in that he talked about the human brain and our maturity which comes - again in detachment.There are three brains - reptile, mamalian and neocortex. And the mamalian and reptilian brains react quickly and can easily get us into trouble. The more reactive we are the more we maintain anxiety in the system.

and so we need to become imaginative and problem solving and able to differentiate ourselves. And again at the end of the day I learned that contemplative practice makes us a less anxious and therefore more differentiate and mature presence.

And I think I will stop here because I find myself back at where I started - talking about discipline. I am trying to spend more time in contemplation - because I know intellectually and experientially - that the more contemplative I am, the more at peace I am.

The prayer room is cleaned up - I think I will go and pray.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Spiritual Awakening - Step 12

I have a sense of completion this morning.
Yesterday was my final sermon on the series on the 12 steps and we also had our last meeting of the small group that has met on Sunday evenings.

It has been a really good experience - both the preparation for the preaching, the sermons and the small group. I have watched several people have real AHA moments as they have begun to live into the grace of God. A spiritual awakening for some, I suppose.

The last step of the 12 steps is:
"Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message (to alcoholics) and to practice these principles in all our affairs."

What struck me about this was the realization that the great spiritual awakening are not from a small group discussion, a book or a worship service. They tend to come from experiences of failure and suffering. It all reminds me of Richard Rohr's great book - Falling Upward - about the second half of life. You have to live long enough to know that you are powerless and then experience the presence of the Holy One to have a spiritual awakening.

Step 12 is really about being alive. Keith Miller wrote:

“One of the paradoxical bedrock truths of the 12 step program - and the Christian message - is that we stay spiritually alive only by giving away what we are receiving."

Richard Rohr talks about our need to breathe out and breath in.
Inhalation and exhalation - a person will suffocate if she just keeps breathing in. I hear people's resistance to going deeper in their spiritual journey because they name it "Navel Gazing" and then they stop there. But the message is really to look inward and to see what you need to see - and eventually when we go deep enough we experience the unconditional grace of God. And then give that to others. Breathing in and Out! And it is not first one and then the other - because it is in giving the message of grace to others that we understand and appreciate it ourselves. It is "Both And"

But finally Step 12 reminds us that it is all a process - a journey and it all takes time as we continue to work the steps. Spirituality and spiritual awakening is not magic, or technique or formula- it is miracle and it is mystery. It is a life of gradually giving up control and trusting our God.

As we finished the book - "Breathing Under Water" the group wants to keep meeting. I think in Advent I am going to put together a group for contemplation and creativity for the season. There is definitely a hunger within us all for meaning, purpose and authentic community.

I have certainly been blessed this fall by this study together.

God is good - All the time.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Mystery

Or should I say - "Living in the Mystery"

This morning I stood by a man's bedside and prayed as he passed away.
There is such a mystery there - passed to where? What happened after that moment when the breathing definitively stopped.

He passed. Over.

I have been with several families - and with my own mother - in that moment and it is always strange. Because there is uncertainty - is he or she gone? Yes. And then the "Now what?"

After the hugs and the tears and the platitudes and the prayers there are the details to be considered. About calling hospice and funeral home and notifying people.

And then there are the details about travel arrangements and calling hours and the service and the cemetary.

But eventually there is the Now what - about how to live into life on earth without this person present. Because everything has changed and you are just now starting to learn that.

Which reminds me of the other mystery - not the end of life but the beginning. One of the most special blessings of my life was that I was able to be in the delivery room with Marnie when both Reagan and Addie were born.

Birth has a lot of the same dynamics as death. There is the waiting, there is the wonder of that moment of seeing a baby take its first breath and there are now what questions?

There are details about birth certificates and bottles and diapers.
There are the notifications about the arrival of this miracle and the visits from friends and family.

But eventually there is the NOW What - of how we are going to live our lives with this new person present. Because everything has changed and we are just now starting to learn that.

And so the mystery of life - is really the mystery of living through the inevitable changes of arrivals and departures. The mystery of who you become when you are a mother or a widow. Because people in our lives change us when they come into our lives and when they leave.

And so today I pray for Ruth whose life changed radically this morning. I know that she is surrounded by the love of family today, but that she will have some hard times ahead adjusting to her new life.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 46 - because it speaks of these times:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging


He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress

My prayers are with her today.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Keeping Vigil

I just returned from the home of one of my parishioners who is dying.

And the family is keeping vigil.

As I walked toward the condo I passed a beautiful pale yellow butterfly. It seemed like a sign from God. This is a holy place.

And it is. Those times and places of waiting for a person to pass over.
To be with God.

The home is not dark but light and painted a light green. The wife sits on the couch next to her grandson's wife. Another grandson sits nearby reading the notebook from hospice. A great granddaughter plays outside with her grandpa.

Monique - a young woman who works for hospice sits beside the bed.
And he lays in the hospital bed in the middle of the living room - peacefully sleeping. He is no longer talking - just resting. He has a morphine drip and we believe that he is not in pain. He is just waiting to literally pass away.

We sit and talk about our own experiences of keeping vigil - as Monique talks about her father's dying and I share about my mother. We encourage
his wife to sleep - I say "how about a power nap?" She is afraid that she is going to miss something. But she is tired and resigned and sad and ready. She is waiting. Keeping vigil.

I have been with many families at this time and always there is a unique peace about it. We are no longer talking about healing and operations and medication. Just waiting and wondering when.

But being together as a family. That is what is so important and wonderful about all of this.

I am the pastor who comes and stays for a while and listens and prays. Sometimes I say or read scripture. When I pray - thanking God for the peace of this time and the blessing of our faith - there are tears.
It is hard and it is holy.

It is a glorious autumn day and as I drive back to church I marvel at the beauty of the trees. And see blessing in all of it - the butterfly, the people of hospice, the caring family, and the gift of faith.

And the peace that passes understanding.

End with a quote from John 14

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

how glorious the trees look -

Monday, October 15, 2012

Improving our Conscious Contact

Continuing in the 12 step series - the way to freedom.

And we are on step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
and step 11 - sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God. praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.

And my emphasis this week has been on the "Improving our Conscious Contact."

Every week when I see what is the theme for the week, I start to live it out in bold relief in my own life. And this week was like that - recognizing how far I am from living consciously, in awareness, prayerfully.

The heart of my sermon was a story that I first heard about watching "Morning Joe" and then read online. It was the cover story on Newsweek - Heaven is Real. A neurosurgeon wrote about his experience when he was in a coma for 7 days in 2008. He has a certain kind of authority as a scientist that gave the narrative authenticity and power.

What strikes me about all of these kinds of after death experiences is that too often we use them to give us comfort about dying and fail to see the gift that is available to us in the present. And the gift is the "conscious contact" we can have with God.
Those moments of clarity, strength, knowledge, and awareness that come throughout our lives.

I think the born again stories that people tell are always interesting - but just a beginning and too often we stop there. And just don't understand that our choices in life can help us to get a glimpse, hear a voice and truly get a sense of the holy EVERY day. I believe this with all of my heart and find hope and a sense of anticipation and expectation as a person who values the spiritual life.

And so - to quote Richard Rohr - "the rational mind is good for things like science, math and turning left or right - but it is at a complete loss with the big 5 - God death, suffering, love and infinity" He also writes that how you pray determines how you live.

I know that prayer is really an stance of openness throughout our lives. It is more than sitting quietly in a room by yourself and together holding hands in a prayer circle. But those things are important. There is value in personal prayer time, reading, journaling. And there is power in prayer together in community. But I also know that prayer is living with our eyes wide open and seeing God at work in our lives, in the lives of others, in the beauty of creation, in everything!

As we continue on this 12 step journey, the 12 steps really do help us to identify the things that stop us from being connected - we can call it addiction, sin, noise, busyness, compulsion. Lots of things. But they are real and they prevent us from living the best life.

And so, on this Monday morning I am blessed to have time to process this, to read a book for book group, to take a walk at Sharon Woods, to have lunch with my husband and to know that - potentially - all of this activities can be prayer. A way of improving my contact with God.

May it be so today.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Storage Wars?

I don't watch the show but I am now living it - sort of.

I remember living in Bowling Green, coming home from work and seeing the garage open and thinking "I am married to Fred Sanford"
That was a joke at the time - but now it is true.

Chuck has discovered the auctions around Columbus that sell the contents of storage units. And, unlike on TV, they sell some of them cheap!!
So, in the last 10 days he has purchased the contents of 5 units - paying from $5 to $15 for each one. Cheap.

And he is really having fun. The garage is full and he is constantly sorting things and sending things in various places. Some of the goodies have included: a george foreman grill, two rocking chairs, beds, cabinets, an Ipod, and lots of toys and clothes and books. He has taken books to half priced books, clothes to goodwill, and lots of stuff given to friends. He is going to sell some things on craigs list and at a craft and vendor fair at church.

I am writing about this today because I have so many thoughts about it all. It speaks to the fact that we all have too much stuff. I don't have a storage unit - I have two closets in my bedroom and a basement with too much of my stuff.

It also reminds me of how hard life is for so many people. It is possible that this storage is here because someone was evicted or foreclosed on and had to move to a smaller space.

What I know is that we are the recipients of someone else's loss. It is strange to go through things and find pictures, baptismal certificates, diplomas, court orders, etc. And you wonder what is the story behind the circumstance that had these people put their treasures in storage and then not pay the rent. It is for the most part, a mystery and there is a real sadness about this for me.

And on the other hand, I do love to see my husband so happy and he is doing what he does - giving things away and recycling if he can.

Chuck is a man of many interests and they do come and go. This one is here for a while and I am enjoying his passion!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reconciliation - Or Making Amends

It gets harder and goes deeper every week as we continue with this series on the 12 steps.

This week we ended up going through 4 steps at once because they were so interconnected.

Step 6 - Ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Step 7 - Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings
Step 8 - Make a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them
Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

What I learned as I reflected on this was that reconciliation and making amends is a lot more than saying "I'm sorry" (or "My Bad!) It really seems like these 12 steps link to the Christian message as they really call us into spiritual maturity.

And so my sermon was essentially about the way we have to grow in our character in order to become people who can make amends - or build bridges back - as relationships go through difficult times. And I spoke about how we have to grow in: honesty, humility, courage, compassion and vulnerability.

There are a couple of things that stay with me after this weekend.

1. How long this all can take - to recognize that we have hurt another person and then be willing to make amends. God reveals our sins to us over time.

2. We have a God who forgives - but the "karma" of our mistakes remains and we must still go back and repair the bonds that we have broken.

3. We cannot do this work on our own. The book reference Jesus wonderful parable about the wheat and the weeds and this is what Rohr wrote:
if you try ot pull out the weeds, you might pull out the wheat along with it. Ask God to remove - don't dare go after your faults yourselves or you will go after the wrong thing or more commonly a clever substitute for the real thing."

The small group I am leading is really enjoying this book and our discussions. Every week someone else seems to have a breakdown or a breakthrough or something. It is hard to describe - but all in all I am glad we are doing this book and I am doing this series.

What I continue to recognize is that culturally we are encouraged to be strong, and move on, and not dwell on mistakes of the past. But, of course, they don't go away and relationships suffer because of our inability to ask for and receive forgiveness.

The 12 steps are about two things - making amends and keeping ourselves from hurting others further. is that all? That is everything.

And so we continue!

Monday, October 1, 2012


I continue this journey through the 12 steps and it challenges me.

This week I preached on 2 steps -
Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Step 6 Was entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

In my sermon I essentially made three points and told three stories.
The points were
1. We live in a world in need of forgiveness
2. Confession is good for the soul
3. We are called to be a community of forgiveness.

All of which is true and hard.
The hardest part of confession is first seeing within yourself what you need to confess and it is often not what it appears on the surface.
In fact, the surface stuff - like smoking and drinking and overeating - hardly need to be confessed since everyone can see it.
The hardest parts is facing the way our fears or our ego gets us into that place of taking control way to much (or trying anyway!) The hardest part is facing our immaturity that keeps us wanting what we want with no concern for others. The hardest part is facing our judgmental nature or our sloth or our self centeredness. As I write this I realize that there are a lot of hardest parts - no wonder we rarely do this confession thing.

When I went to the workshop by Richard Rohr he said that the #1 confession from Catholics to their priests - confessing that they missed mass. Nobody wants to go too deep, do they? Not me.

But I gave us all homework in our small group this week - that we would find a soul friend to whom we can confess one character defect or sin. Jesus said - "The truth shall make you free" and it is also true that the truth can be very hard to speak and to hear.

And so, I guess I should do it too - I will not be seeing Loretta (my spiritual director) soon - so I have to find a soul friend and then I have to confess.

Interestingly one of the questions for reflection yesterday was this: "Are there any character defects you have discovered that you enjoy and are not sure you want God to remove?"

Yeah, that is part of the problem.....

So, this morning I ruminate and wonder what God is going to reveal to me this week and who God will give me for confession. I only know that this process is one that over the years has led to changes within me - that have made be freer in many ways.

Richard Rohr writes: "Only mutual apology, healing and forgiveness offer a sustainable future for humanity."

There is hope for all of us - as we continue on this journey to freedom.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Searching and Fearless

Step 4 - is a searching and fearless moral inventory - or a struggle.

The story that i used in preaching this week was Jacob wrestling with the angel/man/God in the night. And the word of the week was struggle.

I struggled with the whole idea of the searching and fearless moral inventory. To look deeply at ourselves takes a lot of courage. Richard Rohr wrote: "I am convinced that some people are driven to addictions to quiet their constant inner critic - it only gives them another thing to hate themselves for!"

And so a searching and fearless moral inventory seems to invite judgment against ourselves that can so easily lead to despair. What do I do with the mess that is me?

This weekend i was blessed!!!! to go to a workshop led by Richard Rohr. He is truly one of my great mentors in his writing and his lecturing and traveling will stop in March. So Friday and Saturday was a gift beyond compare. He spoke - without notes for the most part - Friday Night and 4 times on Saturday. He was wise, funny, and extremely real.

One of the things he talked about was how so many people's idea of God has not grown past - "Santa Claus" - making a list and checking it twice and going to find out who is naughty and nice. And that kind of theology means that some people are in and some are out and you better watch out! With that God my inventory will be superficial and fearful.

But I have grown to understand God as the complete source of love and grace. And that our task as humans is to receive the love that God is giving us and then to give it away. That is our source of happiness. In fact, sin then - is what we do to block receiving the love and giving the love away.

With a God who is all love, it is a lot easier to do the necessary struggle of self examination. Richard Rohr calls this "shadowboxing" as we have glimpse the parts of ourselves that we do not want to see - "our unacceptable self by reason of nature, nurture and choice."

What I loved about this "searching and Fearless" moral inventory is that it is about seeing. Seeing what we may not want to see about ourselves -and "if you see rightly the actions and behavior will eventually take care of themselves."

I find such hope in this. And I trust that as we continue on this journey through the 12 steps that God is giving us the courage to see and to trust that God can help us to become less blocked, less defended, more whole, and full of love and spirit.

Two further thoughts from Richard

From the book:
"The goal is actually not the perfect avoidance of all sin, which is not possible anyway, but the struggle itself and the encounter and wisdom that comes from it."

From the workshop:
"Grace increases by usage....say yes to the first grace, you open yourself up to more grace. if you will not allow God to love you in your unworthiness, you do not grow up - becoming merciful and gracious. You never meet love and you never become love."

It is a lot to ruminate on.
But it enables me to say and live by this:
God is Good all the time
All the time God is good.

Monday, September 17, 2012


This was my week of exploring the third step of AA - or spirituality anonymous.

The third step is made a decision to turn our will and life over to God.

And the word for that is to "surrender." Which is not at all a welcome idea. Richard Rohr writes: "Surrender will always feel like dying, and yet it is the necessary path to liberation."

I had that experience that sometimes happens to me - that when I care deeply about the subject, I have a lot of trouble putting it into a sermon. I have first hand experience with "surrendering" and I know that it is easier to talk about than to do.
And when I think about the times that I have finally given up - and it is often giving up my ideas of how things should be or how I should be. and they are often wrenching and painful but they invariably lead to freedom.

What was interesting to me is that in all of the books I am using for this series - they talk about codependency at this juncture of the program. If we are going to turn our will and life to God we stop trying to control everything and everyone.
And stop trying to meet everyone's needs. Again, I have first hand experience with being codependent and I know that often we are the last ones to recognize our own controlling nature.

So, the bottom line here in this whole idea is that we have got to get in touch with what is going on with ourselves. And that, of course, is the whole point of everything - not just AA - but the Christian journey. If we are serious about it, we will continue to allow God to show us what we need to see right now.

When I was on Silent Retreat, I spent some time with Mary - a statue of Mary in the beautiful grotto at Our Lady of the Pines. She surrendered. To say yes - to giving birth to anyone is a surrender of your whole life. Let alone this story of God's angel who tells this "favored one" that the holy spirit is going to come upon her. She surrendered to giving birth to Jesus - or another way of saying it - she gave birth to love.

I shared this prayer with the Sunday night discussion group. I received it from Debbie Brenneman at my peer group meeting. It is written by Jeremy Taylor.

Love Prayer

Oh God(dess)
Grant me Love!

Please make it simply
Make it crack and melt the hard places
Where I am so sure of myself.

Make it stiffen and enliven the weak places
Where I am uncertain, ignorant,
and secretly afraid.

And please make it horribly "inappropriate"
So I must really know you in myself,
Myself in you,
To give up everything that it not love
(Because it is so hard to do it willingly....)

I pray this
Knowing it will ruin me.

Let me be ruined by love,
So that I may come back to you
Without pride, or stupidity,
- or pretense, or opinions -

or any sense of separation -
Like a lover
Hungry and ecstatically full
All at the same time!

Final quote by Richard Rohr
"We have been graced for a truly sweet surrender, if we can radically accept being radically accepted - for nothing! is easy to surrender when you know that nothing but Love and Mercy is on the other side."

Monday, September 10, 2012


I started a sermon series on Sunday on the 12 steps of AA as it relates to our spiritual journey. And it certainly does.

I have been interested in the 12 steps for a long time and at one point was part of a 12 step group - "CoDependents Anonymous" which was helpful to me at the time.

Keith Miller wrote a book called "Hunger For Healing" which was about the 12 steps as we approach our "sin" or separation from God and I did a small group on that in Bowling Green and here at Karl Road. I also did a group about 6 years ago on a book called "Addiction and Grace" by Gerald Miller and now I am using "Breathing Under Water" by Richard Rohr.

A verse in the Bible that has always been pivotal to me was from Romans 7:

8 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

To me this captures completely the dilemma of being human and wanting to do one thing and doing the exact opposite of what really makes us happy or is healthy for is. It feels like "powerlessness"

And that is the theme of this first week - identifying areas in our life in which we are powerless. And of course, that is most of them. But we sure like the illusion of control. That we can control more than we can.

Anyway, this is a beginning of going deeper into self awareness that might lead to greater faith and even changes within our lives. This first step is definitely the hardest - But the truth of our lives is that when we contront and accept our powerlessness - we are able to turn ourselves over to a higher power and really find peace in the midst of what used to be turmoil.

There are a couple of quotes from the book that I wanted to put in my sermon - but they did not fit. They are:

"Until you bottom out, and come to the limits of your own fuel supply, there is no reason for you to switch to a higher octane of fuel."

"To finally surrender ourselves to healing, we have to have three spaces opened up within us - and all at the same time: our opinionated head, our closed down heart and our defensive and defended body. That is the work of spirituality - and it is work."

And so we begin by praying about our powerlessness - that leads us into trusting God and finding that God is trustworthy.

Richard Rohr writes:
"Let me sum up, then the foundational ways that I believe Jesus and the 12 steps of AA are saying the same thing but with different vocabulary:

We suffer to get well.
We surrender to win.
We die to live.
We give it away to keep it.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Awed by God

This is a title I could use for so many posts - because I truly find myself living my life awed by God.

It is Sunday morning and I am getting ready to go to church for Labor Day worship. I am not preaching - instead Melissa and Sarah Beth will talk about "Faith in the Workplace" - how their faith affects their life at work. I look forward to it.

We can start there. Tuesday morning - which is always the beginning of my week - I looked ahead to the freedom of not preaching and the extra time that it gives during the week and wondered who to visit, whether to go to my regional minister's mother's funeral on Friday, what the week would look like

It was at 9 am that I looked at my cell phone and heard a message from Sharon Daniels that Bob was dying. Sharon is a former parishioner in Bowling Green and over the years since we lived there has remained a friend. She and Bob have gone on cruises with us and Bob and Chuck talk and golf. Sharon's minister was going on vacation - taking his oldest to college this weekend and Bob was dying and what was she going to do.

I called the minister and we decided that I was going to do the funeral. It has been almost 9 years since I served that church and it seemed right. And for me and Chuck it began a very holy week. I worked at Karl Road Church Tuesday morning and we drove to BG (2 hours drive) and arrived at hospice literally a moment after Bob took his last breath. The whole family was there and their good friends Marcia and Ernie. We were able to just be with Sharon during those next 5 hours. I remember when my mother died and how strange it is immediately afterward - just to know what to do. Because in many ways there is nothing to do - you have to eat and start to tell people and just process that this has happened. And that is what we did. We went out to eat and watched the video from their 50th anniversary and looked at pictures and talked a little about the funeral. We laughed and cried. I was just glad to be present. And grateful for Chuck who was with me. We returned home Tuesday night.

There was some planning of the funeral over the phone and via email. Thursday night we drove to Catawba where Mary Ann and Bill have a condo on the lake and it was what I needed and Chuck needed. Mary Ann and I walked every morning for years when I was in BG and we had not seen each other for about 5 years. To say it was a blessing to be with her and Bill is an understatement. It was a gift - and I thank God for her hospitality and her love.

Friday I went to BG and met with the family and started to work on the funeral. I went back to the church where I served for 13 years and worked in the secretary's office. It is all very strange to go back to a place that was home that is different and yet the same. I saw a number of people and was able to catch up. Everyone was so happy that I was doing the funeral and so was I. Even the funeral director was surprised because when I left I had been clear that I was unable to come back for anyone. But these circumstances seemed to be God led.

Bob Daniels was really an ordinary man - in that he did not graduate from college, worked at the phone company, retired at 52. He came from a large and poor family.
And Sharon shared how very difficult their first years were for them financially.
However, Bob had a big heart and really loved to help people. He loved baseball - actually all sports - and coached and traveled. They were members of lots of organizations. Anyway - over 400 people came to the calling hours and over 200 to the funeral. And at least 150 at the funeral lunch that was an hour after the funeral. It was an outpouring of love.

I actually wrote the funeral address gradually - beginning it in Columbus, working on it Friday afternoon at the church and finishing it Friday evening at Mary Ann's.
And I felt - as I often do - that God was guiding me throughout it. What really struck me at the end was the "poverty" of the beginnings of Bob's life and the enormous "wealth" - in love and friends at the end.

And then Saturday at the luncheon both Chuck and I were so happy to see so many people that we knew from our years in BG. Everyone was older - including us - but we all told each other how good we looked. I heard a lot of stories of what has happened in the meantime and felt blessed by the way people shared their lives with me. For some folks - it was clear - it was really good to touch base with me and what we were together. I felt overwhelmed and blessed by the afternoon.

And at the end - of course - exhausted by it all.

But in reflection I see God's hand through it all - bringing me to people that needed me, bringing me to people I needed, giving me words that gave comfort and clarity, bringing a community together to help a grief stricken family and to celebrate a life that was lived well.

I say this so often - I am awed by God and the way that God leads us and feeds us and comforts us.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

After School Activities

I am sitting in marnie's dining room with Addie. I picked Reagan and Addie up from school today because their regular babysitter had an emergency.

When we got to their house we looked at the list on the table for them.
Both girls have to "do all homework" and then help with laundry, set table and finally relax and have fun.

What I have learned is that Addie has a lot of homework. first she had to read for 20 minutes ....both Reagan and I sat reading while she did. I finally finished Diana butler bass book "Christianity after religion" which was kind of a disappointment at the end. It was a good book in describing how our religious lives have deconstructed...everything is changing. But I did not really see what remains. But that is another blog

Right now Addie next assignment is to write for 10 minutes. Her topic assigned is "sick.". She proposed to write about going to Macdonalds and ordering food that everyone calls "sick" and then everyone gets sick. I guess that is okay when you are 7, she then has math to do after that.

Reagan only had 10 minutes of reading which she did immediately.

Now while I am writing solidarity to Addie who is writing, Reagan is playing on her brand new IPod.

So, this is their life everyday. I don't remember doing any homework when I was in grade school....but I also did not have the temptation of I Pods and computers and tv that these kids have. I remember playing outside with kids in the neighborhood. I also had a Mom at home

Then I think about when my kids were this age and wonder what they were doing in the afternoon. I know I did not have the level of organization that Marnie has.

Anyway, this afternoon is a blessing as I help guide Addie in shaping a story about throwing up at Macdonalds

Glad to be pArt of their lives and know that we are all trying to do the best we can as life and roles continue to evolve.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Let Something Essential Happen to Me

I love this prayer by Ted Loder

O God
Let something essential happen to me,
Something more than interesting
Or entertaining
Or thoughtful

O God,
Let something essential happen to me,
Something awesome
Something real
Speak to my condition, Lord,
And change me inside where it matters,
A change that will burn and tremble and heal
And explode me into tears
Or laughter
Or love TJAT throbs or screams
Or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence
And dares the dangerous deeds

Let something happen to me
Which is my real self, God

O God,
Let something exciting and passionate happen in me now.
Strip me of my illusions of self sufficiency
Of my proud sophistications,
Of my inflated assumptions of knowledge
And leave me shivering as Adam or Eve
Before the miracle of the natural-
The miracle of this earth
That nurtures me as a mother
And delights me as a lover.

The miracle of ,y body
That breathes and moves,
Hungers and digests,
Sees and hears;
That is creased and wrinkled and sexual
Shrinks in hurt
And swells in pleasure;
That works by the most amazing messages,
Of what and where and how,
Coded and curled in every cell
And that dares to speak the confronting word

O God
Let something essential and joyful happen in me now
Something like the blooming of hope and faith
Loke a grateful heart,
Like a surge of awareness
Of how precious each moment is
That now, not next time
Now is the occasion
To take off my shoes
To see every bush afire,
To leap and whirl with neighbor,
To gulp the air as sweet wine
Until I've drunk enough
To dare to speak the tender word:
"thank you"
"I love you"
"you're beautiful"
"let's live together forever now"
And "I'm a fool for Christ's sake"

Friday, August 10, 2012

The blessing of silence

It is impossible to explain. You have to experience it. One of the clearest ways in which God speaks is in silence.

And to experience a week of silence is a gift beyond words.

Today I sit in what is called to rose room and just close my eyes and pray in the silence.

My prayers are different on the 5th day of a time like this...I don't know how exactly, more peace perhaps...more comfort...but different.

I pray for my family and for people at church...Pat and Luanne and June and the Scott family.

And I pray so many prayers of gratitude for Gods work in my life and in this world.

Most of all, I pray that I might receive today ....this has been a week of "going deeper" and what Inhave learned is that going deeper involves preparing myself by stripping away what gets in thenway of receiving.

The grace...the healing...the love...the guidance

It is there for me and for all


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Being with God

I write from "OurmLady of the Pines" retreat center where I am enjoying day 4 of a six day silent retreat.

Silent except for one hour a day of spiritual direction and then a little bit of talking last night with my friend Debbie. That is how I found out there is wi fi here and that is why I am able to write this. So there you go.

Many people have asked me what you do on a silent retreat and, honestly, it is a lot like vacation except for the focus...which is on being with God. We each have our own rooms with a single bed, sink, desk, and chair for reading. We share bathrooms. I am in room 23 .off on an end wing and now I of the rooms without wi fi:)

We have breakfast at 8 , lunch at noon and dinner at 5:30. We eat in silence and mindfully...that is to say slowly and prayerfully.

During the day there is one other scheduled occasion...time with our spiritual director. I meet with Susie at 11 am. I usually start the day with a morning walk and then I write in my journal and read. I have been reading (and finished) Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr. I sometimes go sit on a bench on the grounds or on a wicker chair on the porch. I have been writing quite a bit.

For the past 3 days I have gone swimming which has been refreshing and powerful for me as many images come up as I am swimming or just floating. Water is a profound metaphor on our spiritual journey,

One of the tools that Susie gave me was "praying backwards through the day" which is a time of reflection...not only on what has happened during this day but my feelings that have come and gone. It is in our feelings tha t God speaks most profoundly to us and this is an opportunity to reflection and explore what God is doing with me.

My desire for this week has been to "Go Deeper" with God and the book that I have read is about the 12 steps and our relationship to God. I have found myself naming and praying about some of my addictions. What is interesting and helpful is that some of them are not available to me this week- no TV, no computer games, no late night snacking, Helpful to be in a place that fills my soul with those things that are real- like beauty, nature, music, silence and not the poor substitutes I fall back on.

This morning when I woke up (after 8 hours sleep!) I realize that I have not been waking up with a "bounce" like I do at home. And what I realize is that it is because I am not "doing" like I usually do. In fact, I imagine that if I were Susie, I would be waking up with a bounce at the prospect of doing spiritual direction. It is very different for me tombe on the receiving end....just being and receiving.

And so I titled this blog entry...being with God. This is a gift and a discipline to have time away and an empty calendar so that I can be and receive.

And I am definitely receiving ...healing for my soul, and rest for my spirit and guidance for the living of this precious life God has given me.

I just sat quietly and listened to a CD called "Surrender". Here is what I wrote down

I will teach your ways of deliverance for souls yearning for love

My soul sees the giver.

Make me what you will. MI place myself at your altar

May it all be so

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chautauqua Reflections

I am home now from a week at Chautauqua Institute and full of joy at one of the best weeks of my life.

As I reflect on this time at this special place, I realize that this week combined everything I love.

I love to learn and there are lectures here every day - twice a day and often about issues that I am very interested in. This week the theme was "Digital Identity" and I have lots of notes about the issues that involve our increasingly wired world. One of the things that is clear is that it isn't about whether it is good or bad - the advent of internet technology IS. And we need to recognize that it is and the ways in which we can use it and detach from it and not allow it to use us. One thing that I take away from this as a warning is that everything that is free on the internet (google, facebook, amazon, etc) means that we are the product and not the consumer. Anyway, more to process about that.

I love to be in community - especially when I am not in charge. We stay at the Disciples House and Dave and Betty are the facilitators of a wonderful intergenerational community of people who live together for a week. We share kitchen space and eat alongside each other. We sit on the porch and talk and we worship on Sunday mornings. I feel blessed every year to meet new and very interesting people during this week together.

I love my family and my friends and my greatest joy is bringing everybody together. That is surely what happened this week. We brought 9 year old Alyse and Reagan and met Audrey here. Plus my brother Wayne and Gail came, plus my friend Mary and her friend John, plus Jim and HOlly Bane. I cannot overstate what a blessing it was to watch everybody interact. I espcially enjoyed watching the girls and Audrey discover Chautauqua itself. There is too much to do in a week - and it just is wonderful.

So, Saturday morning I set at the computer and prepare to get back into life at Karl Road - (a wedding and a sermon to consider today!) but remain on a distinct high from this wonderful, blessed week.

Anyone can go to Chautauqua - and it is for me - heaven on earth.

God is Good.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

At the peace pole

Every morning there is a circle of people that come to the peace pole at Chautauqua from 8:55 to 9:00 a.m.

I went Monday morning and heard Karen Armstrong speak about our call to compassion.
This morning a Lutheran minister led is through the time of prayer. MVery to worship, prayer, she shared st Francis prayer and then a prayer by Oscar Romero.

We then held hands and sang Let There be peace on earth
I held Audreys hand and Mary woods. Across from me stood my brother Wayne and Gail.

it is good to start the day this way.
Let there be peace on earht.

Let it begin with me

Monday, July 30, 2012

Alone together

That was the title of the first lecture of this week at Chautauqua. The theme for this week is about living in a digital world and all the implications of that. MSherry Turkel is a therapist, writer, researcher on the Internet and she spoke about the effects of the Internet on us. Really fascinating

.we make our technologies and then our technologies make and shape us. I heard stories of a class that decided the only way to stop texting during class was to literally collect the phones. Because the pull of the desire tomcheck our texts (find out who "wants" me)'and to respond was too strong if the phone was in my hand.

There are people who
1, would rather text than talk. ( you know who you are)
2. Don't feel secure in their feelings un
Ess they are shared
3. Want to conrol that to which they give attention and therefore text through meetings, funerals, meals etc. Never fully present

Wemare alone together...connected and yet hiding
We sacrifice conversation for mere connection and get used to being shortchanged.

Her bottom line completed resonated with everything I have learned through the Wellstreams program
1, we need to be able to be alone with ourselves and in touch with reflect because that is where creativity comes from
"if we don't teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely"

Solitude is a good thing

2,we need to be able to have know and be known, to listen and speak
There is amdifference between connection and conversation

And so, here I am at Chautauqua, a place where I receive both...times of solitude and wonderful conversation. We sit on the front porch and talk about the lectures, the worship, our families, life, church, everything. It is rich and beautiful and I am blessed beyond all deserving

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In response to Violence

This is my letter this month for our church's newsletter.

All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished. ~Marshall Rosenberg

Dear Friends
Like you I have been horrified by the violence and deaths that occurred in a movie theatre in Colorado last week. The news media continue to follow up with stories on the background on the shooter and the heroism of the victims .There are myriad “explanations” for an incident that remains shrouded in mystery.
We are Christians and so we struggle with the questions that come up with acts of violence and the reality of evil in our world. I remember on September 16, 2011 preaching a sermon which I titled “Jesus Response to Evil.”
And my “answers” remain the same. We cannot deny that there are forces that work against life in this world - and we have to be vigilant in working for life. We cannot forget the ways in which humans can choose death and division - whether we are talking about the holocaust, the specter of racism, or a glorification of violence.
We must show a different way of living in this world - a way of peace and understanding. Our Non Violent communication workshop this winter was an eye opener for me and I will continue to offer ways for us to grow in our own personal understandings about compassionate living.
We have to trust that God is at work still in the midst of the mayhem. Our free will means that we have the ability to destroy and we cannot blame God for that. But God’s ways are miraculous and even in the darkest times we will continue to see the light at work bringing healing, hope and new life.
Let us all continue in prayer for all the victims of this event - include the shooter and his family. How tragic it all is.
I hope to see you in church this summer as we celebrate the living God of hope and new life.

Yours in Christ

ps for bloggers-I am not a gun person, I don't own and never will own a gun. I have never shot a gun and I will never understand why anyone needs an assault rifle!

Monday, July 23, 2012


Saturday was Seth Stout's ordination and it was quite a day.

Seth had asked me to preach it and I found myself very anxious about it. Preaching an ordination means that preaching in front of my peers and regional ministers and it brings up all my insecurities

But besides the all about me stuff - ordinations are really important. This is a time in which a person is being consecrate - set apart - for Christian ministry. It is holy.

And so, last week I felt pressure and at the same time a sense that God would "come through" and give me what I need. The process is always interesting and somewhat daunting but in the end it is exhilarating. And that is what happened.

I had one sleepless night in which out of desperation I found myself re reading "The Naked Now" by Richard Rohr and then everything fell into place. I actually wrote the sermon in about three hours and spent a little bit of time after that tweaking it. But when it came down to it, I said what I felt God gave me to say.

And the ordination itself - the service was touching, joyful and amazing. Seth is gay and this - for most of us - was our first ordination of an openly gay man. There was such a sense of appreciation by Seth's church and our church. One of the most wonderful parts of it was when Seth himself sang - "It's a brand new world" and the congregation spontaneously clapped and sang along. I hope it is a brand new world.

And the rest of the story, of course, is that after this he wants to find a church to serve. And it will be a daunting search I am sure. Until he does, he will work for us part time and so we are the beneficiaries of the exclusion of gays and lesbians by many churches.

But my hope and prayer is that this glorious day represents a new day - that is just beginning.
May it be so.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 4

At the outer banks....what could be nicer?

I write this as I lay in bed beside a sleeping Addie at 4 pm. I have been reading and snoozing and this really feels like vacation

Here are some highlights of this time

Mornings on a deck with coffee and my journal looking at the sound, watching the gulls and being here. Eventually everyone starts to wake up. Chuck or Erik fixes breakfast. We play games.

Days at the beach. It is hot but there is a breeze. Comfortable as Chuck and I sit under an umbrella and read and I watch everything....sea, sand, people, waves, grandchildren,

Memories of my life throughout the day. Remembering thebeCh with my grandmother, with my mother, watching my father fishing, being a teenager here with my brothers and sisters. It truly feels
Ike the circle of life as I am blessed to have been a granddaughternhere and now am a grandmother.

Feeling connected to family as we live together for a week and just enjoy each other. My niece Jill is here with her friends and it is a blessing to see her. NI visit my parents graves and remember them as I drive past their last home on Ginguit Dr.

Books...on tape, paperbacks, on my I pad. The blessing of reading and allowing myself to spend time with characters and sometimes escape from "real life" and sometimes through their stories reflect on the meaning of life.

A very quiet 4th of July this year at
Arade and
Rob ably no fireworks

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A memorable trip!

I write this from the Comfort Inn in Richmond Virginia after a good night's sleep. After the most taxing, frustrating amazing drive we have ever had to the Outer Banks.

We have been there so many times that we no longer consult a map when we plan the trip. We usually stop in Richmond at Chucks sisters home and complete the trip the next day. That was the plan. Our only choice is whether to go south ere 33 to Charleston or east on ere 70. We went south.

Friday night there was a big storm in Columbus and for many people the electricity was out (like Marnie and Kacey) but not for us so we blithely began our trip at 8 am. About an hour in I told chuck I wanted to stop at mcdonalds to get coffee and we kept finding that the restaurants were closed electricity because of the storm.

Then, about 10 miles from west Virginia we were literally stopped in our tracks by a sign that said road closed- both to the east where we were going and to the south. Probably trees on the road. No detour sign, so we got out maps and went north following the rover until finally we got to Parkersburg. We estimated this cost us about 50 miles. There was a long line of people at one gas station in a small town we
Assed, but we were confident because we had a full tank of gas and we were heading south.

As we kept going to Parkersburg, charleston, beckley still no coffee for me because no electricity anywhere. But I kept thinking that we are going south and soon there will be some. Chuck is getting more and more nervous as our gas tank is emptying.
Once we were at a quarter tank we started trying to go off the highway and we wou
D see the tell tcale signs of nonworking traffic lights and have to turn back to the highway. Driving, me hopeful, chuck increasingly anxious. It was when the yellow light came on that I began to worry. More trips off the highway to no avail. Finally at exit 139 off rye 64 we saw a sign for Citgo gas and knew this was it. Either we would get gas there or stay there and wIt. What we had seen along the way was people just stopped at gas stations waiting. That would be us.

Amazingly, they did have gas because they had a generator. And a little store selling food and a bathroom. We waited about 45 minutes and felt enormous relief to have gotten the gas tank filled. Enormous relief. They only took cash, but I brought plenty and so, blessed. There were people working and organizing all of us travelers too. Itmwas amazing. I heard stories of other people who waited in p,aces where people were less organized and fighting. This was great.

So we continued on our way. Marnie and Erik and the girls were also going to Richmond. They left 2 hours after us and we were able to warn them not to go the way we went. They were now running out of gas so we told them about exit 139, tueymwere in line and then I mentioned that they only took cash and they had one dollar with them. They left from their house with no electricity and expected to use an ATM which was not working..
At this point we were 40 miles down the road and so we turned around and came back to where they were waiting in
Ine- the line was even longer for them and we delivered the cash. She did give me a bag of cheese doodles, so it was a fair trade. :). Anyway, enormous relief that they were going to be able to continue.

So we we ton our way and after about a hundred more miles found another gas station and by this tome was actually able to charge gas.

Meanwhile in Richmond we got word from chucks sister that THEY were without electricity and so through text and phone calls to Audrey in Lynchburg (also without electricity!)we were able to get a motel here.

Then we got word through his sister that another storm was coming to Richmond just as we were 9 pm. So the final leg of the trip was me driving in lightening and rain and trying to find this comfort inn. Truly an exhausting day and yet.....
Grateful for those wonderful people who enabled us to get the gas
Grateful for my daughters who worked together
Grateful for a great book on tape that enabled chuck and I to be distracted for hours
Grateful, grateful, grateful

It could have been so much worse and after all, we are going on vacation

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Testimonial

I was on the phone this morning talking to April Johnson who is the head of the Reconciliation Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) told her about our participation in the BREAD organization. Last year we received a grant for BREAD and we will be asking for more money this year.

We have been part of BREAD - a social justice network in Columbus for about 4 years and it truly has made a difference in our church and in my own life. One of the blessings of this past year was that I got to go to Florida for a pastor's conference and I still refer to the notes I took at that time.

Anyway, I ended up writing a testimonial about Bread and sending it to her this morning so that she could use it in her writing about the work of Reconciliation. I thought I would share it here. Our "year of appreciation" I appreciate BREAD!

ear April

I thought I would just write a quick testimonial as a pastor to express on paper what a blessing it has been for me to work with the BREAD organization in Columbus Ohio.
Karl Road Christian Church is one 54 faith communities that work together to “do justice” in the city of Columbus.

We all know that we are called to to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God but I know is that as a church we are better at “mercy ministries” more than “doing justice.” At our church, for example, we have after school programs, a ministry to AA, we give food to the hungry, we give away school supplies and coats in the fall. And this is all important, but in so many ways, it is just a bandaid. We may be touching or even changing someone’s life, but we are not tackling the systemic work of justice ministry.

Through working with others in the BREAD organization we are able to be part of a movement that may actually change the system - whether it is predatory lending to poor people, institutional racism, or unfair housing practices.

But it is actually more than that. BREAD has transformed me and members of our congregation. Our “year” with bread starts in the fall with small group meetings in which we talk candidly about the social justice issues that affect us personally in our daily lives. It is an opportunity for fellowship and deep sharing about the condition of people’s lives. We have truly become closer in community just from going to these meetings. Through this process we discern the three most important issues in our congregation.

Later our representatives will join the rest of the faith communities to discern what is the most important issue for BREAD to explore for the year. In January the research team studies and eventually identifies a workable solution. The culmination is our gathering in May with thousands of other BREAD members to show our power and get the attention of the public officials to work on the solution.
That “Nehemiah Action” meeting is always informative and inspiring.
One of my members has said that she reads the newspaper differently now that we are part of the BREAD organization.
Bread has changed us and it certainly has changed me. What I have learned is that the work of “doing justice” is slow and it cannot be done by one church or one denomination. It is really important for us to be able to work together with other like minded people of faith as we seek to make stand against the “market forces” that puts a price tag on human beings and says that some are worth more than others.

In February I went to the clergy conference that was sponsored by DART and was greatly inspired and encouraged. This is what I learned:
We are called as pastors to educate our congregations to become justice factories with Jesus kind of anger. It requires a toughness, perseverance and the willingness to work with others.

And so, BREAD has been a blessing and a transforming agent to me and to my church. And I recommend this kind of social justice organization to other churches.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Remembering Nora

Yesterday I saw that Nora Ephron passed away at the age of 71. This morning as I watched "Morning Joe" people talked about how much she had meant to them as a person and as a writer, director, etc. As they talked I realized how important she had been to me.

She was 8 years older than me and I first discovered her writing when she wrote a column in Esquire Magazine in the 70's. I loved her right from the start. She wrote with wit and you felt like she was your best friend and older sister. The first column I read was about "Upstairs, Downstairs" - a PBS series very popular at that time. And she noticed things and it just felt like a conversation between us girls. So - in my 20's - I read her every month and felt like she understood and spoke to me. Later she put all those columns into a book called Crazy Salad which I read too.

She lived a life that perhaps I dreameed of - writing and being friends with newspaper people, politicians and writers. She married Carl Bernstein and he cheated on her and they had a messy divorce. She wrote about it in the book Heartburn which also contained recipes. I read it as I was going through and coming out of divorce. In retrospect she really was a model of how pain can be redeemed in the telling and the humor and the raw honesty of it all. I remember seeing the movie on a date - about a year after my divorce - and it was almost too raw for me at the time. But she was authentic and so talented.

Of course, I liked her movies - when Harry met sally, sleepless in seattle, you've got mail..etc, etc. But what i like the most was her writing and getting to see her on tv sometimes. The last book I read was "I Feel Bad about my Neck" which was about aging. It was, of course, witty, honest and real. My sister in law - who I love and looks beautiful with her white hair - often asks me why I don't let my hair go gray. But I paid attention to what Nora said - that is the way that most women age themselves. So in honor of Nora I will continue to keep whatever this color is that my hair is and trust that it makes me look younger :)

I have been mentored more by writers than anyone else - and often I reference the religious/psycho/ spiritual writers like Joan Chittister, Eugene Peterson, Scott Peck etc. But Nora Ephron has been a model to me for over 40 years of what it is to be a woman who is truly engaged in life.

RIP Nora.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Inspiration in the 90's

No, I am not talking about the temperature - it has been in the 90's today. I am talking about the inspiration I have received from being with some very special women who are in their 90's.

There is a conversation that many of us have when we become people of a "certain age." And it is conversation about aging and what is changing with us - our sagging skin, our fading memories, our hearing. Just getting up off the ground is now more problematic than it was 10 years ago.

And then there is the conversations about the future - when we see people who have lived "too long" - because of dementia and just a general sense of unhappiness.

Well, for the last two days I have been wtih two different women in my church who are 95 years old - which makes them 30 plus years older than me. And they are living a life of joy and gratitude. And it gives me hope and maybe will shut me up when I start complaining.

One woman, Dorothy, lives with her daughter. Last month they took a trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon and she was delighted to share her pictures with me. Her conversation is all about her family and how happy she is with everyone. Now, this is not a woman who has not had suffering and sorrow - one daughter died of cancer and her son is mentally handicapped. But she has continued to live and grow and embrace the life that is hers. She is still "working" - doing typing on the computer and very diligent about keeping up with that family via email. She also loves to make greeting cards and calendars on the computer. What a blessing she is.

And the other woman, Anna Margaret, lives in a nursing home. I sat with her as she was finishing having her hair done there as she does every week. She greeted by name and with great affection every person - resident and staff who came by. She spoke to me about her "mission" which is to love people. She is a former teacher whose whole life has been about people and now in this time and place she continues.
She is so grateful that she is no longer on oxygen and today she was even able to go to Utica on bus trip and to get ice cream. Like Dorothy, she too has had struggles in her life - but continues to focus on the present and the blessings of her life now.

Dorothy told me that she is the oldest member of her family but she still has a brother who is living in Florida - but he continues to live in the past - reliving the war and other events. She and Anna Margaret live in the present- active, engaged, appreciative.


Friday, June 15, 2012

An Hour with God

I think that is what I titled it.
I decided that twice a month this summer I wanted to offer people time spent with God - time just to rest in God's presence and open ourselves to God's spirit.

And so last night was our first night. Two people came and it was exactly what I needed.

We spent time with Psalm 63 and especially these verses:

O God, you are my God, I seek you
My soul thirsts for you
My flesh faints for you,
As in a dry and weary land where there is no water

After listening to some music we heard these words spoken several times over the course of our "hour"
And asked questions and wrote and pondered about
- our yearning for God
- our times of experiencing having our dried up spirit watered
- and who in our life needed that blessing right now

As always I plan these kinds of experiences never knowing how God is going to speak to me in the midst of it. I found myself focusing on the words - "I seek you" and felt like God was saying to me: "I ahve been waiting for you."

Here is the prayer that came to me at the end of the time:

Dear Lord, as I read these words over and over again I remember more and more those dry and weary times that you have helped me through.

And I am grateful to you for your steadfast love, your protection and your light in the darkness.

Today I sit in awe and remember that your spirit is here - within me and among us. You constantly bless and cleanse and heal me. You gently are moving me. You faithfully water my soul.
O God, you are my God
I seek you today.
And I find you.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Quiet Please

For the past few months I have noticed that my voice has been getting hoarse or husky. And frequently on Sundays by the end of the day my throat actually hurts. So, I finally went to the doctor.

And my doctor thought the problem was acid reflux, so I have been taking medication that has not solved the problem. So, after a visit to the ENT Doctor I know I have strained my vocal chords and need to refrain from screaming, whispering and singing.

I am not a screamer - but the third time I say something to Chuck is always a little loud - so I am giving that up. And I am not much of a whisperer. But singing - I really like to sing.

Yesterday was the first Sunday with the no singing and I found it to be difficult. And constantly had to literally stop myself - because it is what I do and love to do. Last night we had an amazing service in celebration of Deric's 30 years of doing music and I could not sing then which was even more frustrating.

I also am trying not to talk so much. I told Chuck that I really don't talk that much and he almost laughed at me. He pointed out the long weekly phone calls I have with my friend Susan and Geoff and the random calls from the girls and my Wellstream friends.

So, what i am learning is this - what a gift it is to be able to sing and to talk freely without thinking about your voice. What a tremendous gift it is.

But for now, my discipline is to be mindful of my speech and try communicating in other ways - like this, I guess.

Silence is golden - says some. Is difficult - says me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Holy Spirit

I am getting ready for Pentecost this Sunday which is our celebration of the gift of the HOly Spirit.

God keeps showing me the various ways in which spirit is working in different people.

Sunday night we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast. In the morning we had breakfast with the other three couples who were staying there. One of them was a married couple who talked about their story of being led into a new life together. She had been a nurse and he was an executive in accounting and she used the term "call" to describe her desire to start a business in Grove City. It is a essentially a meeting center or party house where they host all kinds of celebrations like weddings, parties and even funerals. She talked about the joy for her of being the place where people come to make memories and celebrate. I heard the work of the spirit that guides us into that sort of life decision.

Before we left, we talked to BJ who is the owned of the B and B. He shared his story of how much he hated his job for 40 years and then bought this property and slowly restored it and it became the place of hospitality that it is now. I asked him about the Civil War memorabilia and he said that was a passion of his too. But another passion is that he travels all around the world working in 3rd world countries - building homes and doing whatever needs to be done. He has worked with Habitat and Doctors without Borders and with a friend has started his own very small mission to Central America that is in the Hocking Hills. An awesome story and I felt the spirit all over the place.

This morning I got word from Audrey that Sharon Watkins, our General Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is going to give her a writing for her "Easter Project." This project has so clearly been spirit driven. As Audrey started with this idea - she wondered if she could even get the 50 writings that she needed. Then she wondered if she could get any denominational leaders - like regional ministers and of course, Sharon herself. And it has grown and grown. Now every day she is publishing 2 writings because she has more than enough. There is talk of a book being published out of these writings. Sharon at first said that she would write, and then that she would not and now - this morning - in the last week - YES she will and she will have her husband write too.

I am awed by all of this and feel blessed to see and sometimes participate in the work of the spirit.

God is good, All the time.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Reflection on Appreciation

I woke up this morning in the Robert E, Lee Room in the Georgian Manner in Logan Ohio. We spent one night there in the beautiful Hocking Hills of southern Ohio.

It is a beautiful setting. The Georgian Manner sits on Lake Logan. It is a large home with a spacious front porch with white rocking chairs overlooking the lake.
Chuck and I spent hours in those chairs last night and this morning, reading, talking looking at the beauty of the day. Watching heros, swans, ducks, geese, butterflies. The longer I sat, the more I saw, the more I appreciated.

And this morning waking up in this room I began to notice the myriad details of this home. It has been lovingly and painstakingly restored by the owner, BJ. He said he bought it and thought he would put in 18 months fixing it up - but it took 7 years. He is a Civil War Buff and the rooms all have antiques and memoribilia from those years. In the Robert E. Lee room there is a portrait of Lee, an antique rifle, a map of the western seat of the war. In the corner there is a dressmarkers torso with civil war uniform and a hat. I could go on and on about the lamp, the carpers, drapses, marble topped dresser, and this is only one room.

What occurs to me is that this is the result of someone's passion, creativity and inspiration. And I get to appreciate it.

And what I am recognizing is that appreciation is almost a decision to live in a way of life. It is about taking time to reflect, to notice and then to appreciate what is there. Somehow, I see appreciation as the fruit of our spiritual life - it happens when we stop, breath, look, notice.....and find ourselves awed.

My sense of appreciation today is much more than this beautiful Bed and Breakfast. I have time to reflect on the last few days at church and recognize how much creativity, inspiration, love and goodness has been part of our life together.

We had a wonderful meal on Saturday night and a great worship service Sunday morning to celebrate the 50 years of ministry of Karl Road Christian Church And as I reflect on it I appreciate:
In the table decoations done by June and Dottie and Barb
In the lovingly put together picture frames done by Kim and Jim
In the warm and welcoming emceeing of Alan at the meal
In the care that Marsha took in compiling a book about these 50 years
In the wonderful food prepared by Thom
In the heartfelt sermon by Herb on Sunday

So much care by so many people. So often I heard - "The devel is in the details" but as I look at a beautiful B and B and reflect back on a memorable weekend I know that God is truly in the details.

And when it is all said what I keep learning is that taking the time to look back, to reflect, to notice....leads to appreciation....and leads to a sense of abundance.