Monday, May 30, 2016



I write this from Phoenix Arizona.  I sit at my friend Susan's computer and reflect on the events of yesterday.

On Sunday i preached at 2 services at her church - KTIZO - a new church start here in Phoenix.  It is a very different kind of church.  They purchased a building on the west side of Phoenix and are an open and affirming UCC church who does significant ministry to the homeless who live in the neighborhood  as well as regular outreach in Nicaragua The congregation is small and very diverse and extremely welcoming.  I really enjoyed preaching and being there.

Sunday night we went to a really fun event: Caberet and Cabernet.  It was an evening to raise money for a new keyboard.  The talented young musicians that play  Sunday morning put together a program of singing and playing that was incredible.  We heard aca pella singing, some gorgeous solos and upbeat dance music.   We drank wine and listened  and participated in a silent auction and a pie auction.  We purchased 2 pies and last night had a piece of an outstanding caramel, cranberry and apple pie.  And I got a painting in the silent auction.

This is it.   I was drawn to it immediately because of the mother and child depiction.  There is something that really spoke to me.

 Ted, the minister had big $10 initially, I countered with $20, he came back at $30 and Chuck wrote in $35.  And then Ted got distracted by everything else and WE got the painting.

Afterwards I learned the backstory.  This church offers water stations to homeless people twice a week and one homeless man does "dumpster diving" for art.  He brought this picture to the church because he thought the church might like it.

It is a print - #62 of 200 and looking at the back of the picture we identified the painter - Irving Amen.

We went online and found one print for sale on Ebay for $150.  So, according to Ken and Susan we have purchased an investment.

For me, it is just one of those beautiful serendipitous events that happens in the church :  a church that reaches out to the homeless, a homeless man that gives back, a blessed woman who makes a donation and receives a beautiful piece of art to remind her of all of this.

And so, on this Monday morning, Memorial Day I am - as always - awed when I reflect on the way in which God brings people together and hope and beauty into this world.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Grace In Aging

This is the name of a book that I am slowly reading and finding to be really helpful these days.

What it is saying in a nutshell is that  as we age our  slowing down and dismantling our work identity enables us to focus more and more on the inner life.  And that is when we can find peace and wisdom.

There is - within all of us - a hunger for awareness that is more than our own little lives but the activities of making a living can tamp down that desire and tell us that we don't have time for "naval gazing."  And the culture continues to promote the virtues of the "outer life" - job, appearance, material possession, financial security. And promote the myth not only that we can make it happen but keep it forever.  Which is all part of the  big lie.

As we get older, we can no longer deny the basic impermanence that is life.  Nothing stays the same.  Yesterday I went to a concert and watched beautiful Reagan play the Viola in the middle school orchestra.  I was with Marnie and Addie and at some moment I flashed on Marnie as a toddler and marveled that I have seen all these changes just in these people that I love.  Nothing stays the same and there is joy in change and sorrow.  There just is.

The grace in aging is seeing the impermanence and just accepting it.  Too much of life is trying to keep everything the same and clinging to our ideas of how it should be and our attachments.  Kathleen Singh writes:

"We double the suffering of a human life with our attachments and aversions, our lack of equanimity and our lack of wisdom about the way things actually exist.  We magnify it, we life in "suffering squared."

I read these words and I sort of get it- certainly it is easier to see in others than in myself.  One of the great learnings for me of these last few years is realizing that my mind cannot always be trusted.  My mind can be overactive and see only part of the picture of events. She writes - "The ego comes to be recognized, without a doubt, with no more denial, as an unreliable refuge."

Thoreau wrote this:

It is remarkable how easily and insensible we fall into 
a particular route, 
and make a beaten track for ourselves....
the surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men;
and so the paths with which the mind travels,
how worn and dusty, then must be the highways of the world,
how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!

Kathleen Singh writes about a "greater power that is frightening in its utter mystery."  The blessing of life - not just the one who are aging - but the life of every human being is hearing and responding to the  call to go deeper  into relationship with the Holy One.  For me at this time in my life, the words "Let Go" keep coming over and over again.

So I keep reading, keep having times of silence and solitude in my "sitting practice" I keep writing and find that slowly but surely the chaos clears and I begin to find grace and beauty in very ordinary moments of my life.

there is much we can do
to open ourselves to receiving His favors.
 - Saint Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Is it just me?

Am I the only one who finds myself waking up at 4:30 in the morning and wondering what is up with that?

Is it acid reflux that reminds me of what I shouldn't have eaten last night
Is it God calling in the night
Is it just one of those things

I feel like I bounce around in my head at times wondering what is important and what is not?
wondering what is a sign and what is just something that is happening
what is an invitation and what is an incident.

and waking up at 4:30 in the morning is just another example of that for me.

So I turned this morning - since i am up - to one of the scriptures of today:

1 Corinthians 2:12-16

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 
And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. 
Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 
Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else's scrutiny. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

What  I know is that there are times for me in which it was really clear and I actually did discern God's presence and movement.  And then there are times like this when I live in that place of questions, doubt and still faith.  Wanting to be taught by the spirit and to have the mind of Christ.
and trusting that even in this moment of confusion God is still with me and loving me as I struggle with all kinds of forms of resistance in the midst of a real desire to live in the spirit.

I have been slowly reading The Grace in Aging: Awaken as you Grow Older and want to be walking what the author Kathleen Singh calls "The Noble Path."    She writes
"It is an incredible moment in the life of a human being, a turning point of boundless impoertance, when the percentages of the wish to awaken and the wish to continue sleepwalking shirt from fifty/fifty to fifty-one/fourthy-nine.  May we all reach the point where, as Anais Nin put it: "the risk to remain tight in the bud was more panful than the risk it took to blossom."  At that point we enter a noble path.

I think I am on that path - and unfortunately it leads me into times like this - of looking, listening, wondering and trusting that in the midst of every moment God is here and inviting us to stretch ourselves to grow and wake up and be alive.   

Even at 4:30 in the morning.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Feeling full of life on a Saturday morning

I start this day in gratitude as I look back on yesterdays blessings.

 I started the day walking at Sharon Woods with a friend.  I cannot describe in words the beauty I experienced - from wildflowers along the walk way, to the trills of the birds, to the sighting of several turkeys and cardinals and ending with gazing at the lake.  How do describe what a walk like this does to the soul?  I can't.

The book that has surely captured me these days is The Grace in Aging: Awaken as you Grow Older by Kathleen Dowling Singh.  I have already sent it to two friends and continue to read it slowly, underlining and savoring it.  Here is a poem from that book

Aging, illness, and death are treasures 
for those who understand them, 
They're Noble Truths, Noble Treasures,
if they were people,
I'd bow down to their feet every day.
 - Ajaan Lee

I realize that this call to awaken and go deeper continues to invite me to practices that slow me down and guide me to reflection and peace. 'It surely heals and expands my soul.

And then last night I went to a wedding of a beautiful young woman who I came to know through Advance Conference.  There were so many from Advance Conference that I had watched over the years - now married with children and careers.  And I sat with old friends and colleagues in ministry who shared the wonder of having been part of their lives.  The wedding was noisy and full of laughter, dancing, great food and fun.  And filled my soul!

This morning after reading and praying I did housework listening to a podcast by Parker Palmer.  He talked about the breathing in and breathing out of silence and engagement, rest and action, and I realized that was my day yesterday.

He ended with this poem that I loved and want to keep here as a reminder of this awakened and vital life that can be ours.

Hope," by Victoria Safford.

"Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; 

nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;

nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through);

 nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.”
 But a different, sometimes lonely place,

 the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, 

the place of resistance and defiance,

 the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be;

 the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle
 And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see."

Monday, May 2, 2016


And I hope - some beginnings.

There are several endings this month that I am having to get used to.
1. My 30 week retreat in daily life ended on Friday.  No longer will I be meeting Janice every week for spiritual direction and feel locked into an hour of prayer, reading and writing daily.
2. My women writing for a change ended last week - and so no longer am I thinking all week about what to write and preparing myself for the meetings on Monday nights.
3. The Good Wife ends this Sunday.  For years now, Nicole and I have faithfully watched this show together and responded noisily to every exciting thing - whether it was the boots that Kalinda wore, the sudden shooting of Will Gardner, Alicia's hair and makeup or the steamy love scenes this season with Jason.  It has been a great show and I will miss it!

So - what is the beginning?  I have been listening to a wonderful book Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner and it is really speaking to me about how important daily writing is to hearing what she calls "the voice" and I would call the spirit. What I have experienced over the years is a real clarity and "knowing" that came out of time just spent writing in a journal.

So, as I look ahead this seems to be a pretty good start to finding the next step on my journey. This book quotes so many of my favorite authors - Julia Cameron, Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne LaMott and is showing me - or reminding me - that it is in writing that I do come to a deeper peace and understanding about what is happening in this moment as well as a sense of what may come.

She writes: "Writing focuses your attention so clearly on the wisdom within that you cannot help but feel guided and loved."  That has been my experience for over thirty years - and often I resist taking the time daily to just write.

So,  that is the beginning for me.  Finishing this book and beginning again to take seriously the gift of journaling.  As She wrote I say this:  "Here I am.  Take my hand.  I am ready, willing and worthy."

And I will trust that this may be a new beginning as I write and listen.