Have More

“I waited in a world of magic
smells of good food, the street lamps, the
smoke coming from chimneys,
the candles burning in windows, the snow.
Angels feasted, as I did, on existence and God
kept saying, “Have more of what I made.”
~Catherine of Siena

In Florence yesterday, it was as if the Holy kept whispering in my ear….”Have more of what I made.” Over and over again, around every corner, down every street, in every face that approached, there was beauty. “Have more of what I made.” The smells of good food and the smiles on faces as they tasted the rich flavors of their gelato…..have more of what I made. The light falling on golden buildings creating sights that seemed to be paintings come alive as if by some spiritual force unknown, but seen. Art everywhere. Everywhere. Have more of what I made.

We began our morning gazing skyward at Michelangelo’s David. There are no words to describe the sheer presence and power of this sculpture. Leading up to the marble statue, there are other blocks of stone, unfinished pieces by this artist who lived to be 89 years old. Unheard of longevity for his time but it seems it would take more than a hundred lifetimes to produce the magnitude of art which he created. These blocks of stone represented his understanding that the statue, what was to be created, already existed in the stone. His work was to simply carve away what was not needed in order to reveal to the world what was hidden. This metaphor for our own lives was not lost on me. What must be chipped away in order to reveal what beauty is hidden in the soul?

The day was held in color and texture, in sight and smell and sound. Coming around one corner, we found ourselves on a piazza. People stood all around as a young woman, in jeans and a black t-shirt, held a microphone. Sitting nearby a young man sat with an accordion. Her gorgeous soprano floated out over the piazza, the opera that was born in the very air around becoming a presence in the open sky. The notes rose heavenward and as she finished the aria, our eyes glazed over with tears of gratitude and awe. So much beauty.

At day’s end, I reflected on the beauty that had been my food, literally and figuratively, during the day. The question became, ” Is it possible to have too much beauty?” Is it? I don’t believe so. I do think there comes a point at which one needs to step back, open your heart once again, and simply hold the beauty as it finds a home in you. I wondered, as I always do in such situations, if the people who make these places home begin to not notice, to take the beauty for granted, to not really see. I pray not.

Have more of what I made. Catherine of Siena is said to have placed these words in the mouth of the Sacred. Certainly that was my experience yesterday. It was as if all the beauty, all the goodness, all the possibility of human creation was spread like a feast before me. My only work was to pay attention, to notice, to be filled with wonder and to lift up my grateful heart.

And so I did.


Sounds of Silence

Yesterday I had the privilege of being in the presence of the Holy. In the scriptures, Elijah is called by God not through anything remarkable, like an earthquake, but through the sound of sheer silence. We often think of the Sacred’s presence as something large,perhaps get-your-attention loud, something that shakes us up and this can be true. But most often, I believe, that the connection with the One who breathed us into being comes in our quietest moments, in those times when the sounds of machines, motors and our ever busy minds grinds to a halt. This is what happened for me yesterday.

Far up the mountain in Cortona, Italy sits the Monastery of Le Celle, the place of the cells. This architectural gem is nestled in the terraced stones and vegetation is a place where St. Francis met and formed those who wished to follow in his footsteps. Walking inside the tiny chapel carved out of stone where he prayed, an almost instant calm washed over me. Behind the simple altar was the cell where he slept and lived out some of his days. Friars still live here and the gardens that feed them and their guests were ripe with vegetables and flowers. Signs in many languages reminded people of the importance of silence. And so we moved through doorways and over bridges in the silence that shaped, and shapes, the lives of these people given to simplicity and prayer.

Silence teaches us many things. Silence can bring us to the present moment. Silence can allow the sights before our eyes to be magnified, richer, more clear. Silence can allow us to hear and become aware of our own precious heartbeat. It can also allow us to be open to what might come across our path that can be teacher. Silence is the place where our creativity often has its beginnings, the place where an idea or a piece of art is born. In other words, silence is very important, vital.

These ancient followers of Francis and of the Way of Jesus understood deeply the power and the need for silence in our lives. This monastery, now tended by friars and others, continues to be a place where people come for retreat and prayer. It is a place to pull away from the sounds that want to capture our time and our energy. It is a place of exquisite beauty and immense peace.

Walking the damp and green path that led down from the monastery, I crouched in the woods under a tree which seemed ageless. I allowed the silence to envelope me in its wisdom and I rested. Rested from all I might have been worrying about. From all the troubles of the world. From my own self-doubt and short-comings. The silence became my teacher.

Sitting under the tree, I realized that while the silence may have captured my attention, the space where I rested was not completely silent. All around me the birds were singing and calling to one another. Their songs were clear and melodious and spoke of joy. I smiled. Francis would have been pleased, I think, to know that this 21st century woman was being serenaded by the winged ones he so adored, in whose presence he glimpsed the Face of God. Their song…..and his……gave me a peace that was rich and deep and full. And the joy that he knew so well became mine.

My gratitude is overflowing.



Devotion. Devotion is not a word that gets tossed about in my daily round. At least not in the sense that I have experienced it over the last few days. As we have made our way through several small Italian towns, I have been witness to and receiver of people whose lives are full of devotion. Many are devoted to hospitality, welcoming the many pilgrims that arrive in their midst, uninvited yet present. They can be seen preparing food, cleaning up, planting or tidying gardens to create a beauty that has times been overwhelming. There have been those who are devoted to caring for a sacred site, one that they had no part in creating, but are now apprenticed to the work of the welcoming those who have traveled great distances, some out of hope, others in longing, a few out of curiosity, many as a life-long dream. These devoted open doors, say words of welcome,care for ancient relics, held by the holy ones whose name now graces the entrance.
Over and over again I have seen it play out.

And then there are those whose devotion has brought them to these places. For many the stories told are fact. For others they are legend. For all there becomes a truth that goes deeper than reason or any pattern our minds might structure as truth. It is the deep knowing that we each experience when there is a connection that is made between our living and the movement of the Holy. Deep knowing that sometimes cannot be articulated and may even sound absurd to the casual by-stander. This does not negate the deep knowing. In most cases, it simply affirms it.

Yesterday as we walked the streets of Assisi, I saw stream after stream of devotion. Pilgrims from around the world walked in silence and knelt in prayer in places where St. Francis and St. Clare lived simple, devoted lives. Feeding the hungry. Healing the sick. Offering welcome to the stranger. Celebrating the goodness of all Creation. Their lives were real and their work was real. Today hundreds of thousands walk up steep hills and down uneven pathways to be witness to the lives they led and the hope they had for the world. As I walked about in the beauty and the simplicity, the grandeur and elegance, I thought about what they might have made of all this. Would they have been pleased? Or would they have been troubled by the large cathedrals that now carry their names? These simple, even austere faithful, who were more at home in earthy terrain and common company would no doubt be surprised at what has become of their life stories, their living.

These two saints which draw people to the landscape that shaped them spent their lives pointing people toward God. They did this through their actions and only sometimes their words. And yet people, the devoted, are still flocking to this hill town more than nine centuries later. This seems miraculous to me. Standing in lines, sometimes very long lines, to be able to pass by the resting place of both Francis and Clare, I walked in the silence of the devoted from countries all over the world. As we moved slowly surrounded by candlelight and frescoes telling out the scriptures, color dancing all around, I was drawn into the devotion and began to consider my own devotion. To what do I give it? How does that devotion shape my actions and my words?

Saint Francis wrote: “Such love does the sky now pour, that whenever I stand in a field, I have to wring out the light when I get home.”

May it be so.



Wolves. I am thinking of wolves. Walking in the footsteps of St. Francis in Italy today, we heard the story of Francis making friends with the wolf that plagued the small medieval village of Gubbio. Legend has it that the young monk learned that a wolf was terrorizing this beautiful little town, frightening people and killing other animals. Francis, being a lover of animals and an even greater lover of peace, walked up to the wolf and talked to it, telling it of his care and asking it not to harm and frighten again. It seems that Francis did something right because the wolf became a friend and never frightened the people again. Walking the twisting and turning cobblestone streets of this precious place, I could only imagine what might happen if a wild animal was believed to be lurking someplace around a corner. People would be on constant alert. Anxiety would rule. Irrational thoughts would begin to multiply. Mistrust would be the food of people’s daily living.

In preparation for this journey, I had been reading much about Francis and all the beautiful stories that surround the living of this 13th century person whose work was simplicity, goodness and the care and love of Creation. But it was another story of wolves that also captured my imagination. This Native American story is a cautionary tale of a wise one telling a person in distress that basically as humans we have two wolves that live inside us and they are always in battle with the other. One is the Wolf of Fear. The other is the Wolf of love. When the distressed person asks the wise one how do you know who will win the battle, the sage simply says, “Whichever one you feed.”

For me these two stories of this often misunderstood creature of the forest are good dance partners. Whether the story of Francis and the taming of the wolf is true or not, the message of the story is. As people in the village fed their fear, their lives were always perceived as in peril. No corner was approached without trepidation. No child was believed safe. No aged one could leave their house. The villagers were feeding the wolf of fear and as long as they did, they were already captive to the wolf.

But as Francis came along and chose instead to approach the wolf with love and understanding, things begun to change. The villagers began to loosen their grip on life and opened themselves to the beauty around them. They moved through slender alley ways and greeted their neighbors, soaked in the sunshine and enjoyed their children playing in the square. Instead of fear, the pomegranates and chestnuts so prominent in the area became the food that delighted. Once they stopped feeding the wolf of fear and instead, after Francis’s example, began to feed the wolf of love, everything changed.

A highlight of yesterday’s travels was meeting Father Francesco, an older monk whose work is to welcome pilgrims and worshipers to the tiny Church of the Vittorina. He greeted us with a smile and a presence that made us feel we had known him forever. As he shared the story of the art and all that had happened in this 9th century building, time stood still. The frescoes of stories from the scriptures shared space with the influence of the Romans who once made a home there. The walls revealed partial images of frescoes held beneath newer ones, shaken into the present by the earthquakes that are common in the area. Father Francesco stood calm and joyful among all this. Welcoming strangers. Being open to the beauty around him and holding the stories and history warmly together.

As we left his church and his presence one of our fellow pilgrims asked if he might bless us. And he did. While his words may have been foreign to us, the intention was clear. Father Francesco, like his namesake and the one whose work he continues, offered words and a sweet smile to which we all said “Amen”. He sent us on our way having fed the wolf of love within him and within each of us.


Holy House

Each day is a pilgrimage.We forget this while brushing our teeth or making a peanut butter sandwich. Each day offers gifts unimaginable and challenges worthy of the human heart. We don’t take this into account when we look back over the events of any given 24 hours. We treat the minutes and hours as if they are retrievable which they are not. We gloss over and forget to pay attention to the beauty that walks up to us and looks us in the face begging, begging to be seen.

These last weeks have made me aware of this pilgrimage life as I and others have been preparing to venture off on an intentional walk to places we do not know well, seeking to be transported by place, people and the depth of what it means to be held by committing to be together, by learning from one another and placing our hope in the transformation that comes from being open to the movements of the One who breathes throughout time.

As I write this, I can see outside my window the silhouette of Messaggio Della Santa Casa di Loreto, The shrine of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy. I am in the company of 26 pilgrims who have chosen to pay attention to the gifts of walking the sacred paths walked for centuries. We are trying to offer our own intentions to the pathways some of those known by the Christian a household as saints…..Francis, Clare, Catherine. We are doing this as a way to be more attentive to the way this One has been named and claimed, witnessed and shared throughout time. It is the work of privilege. We know this and we are not taking the journey lightly.

Today’s journey took us to this exquisite cathedral that is said to be home to the house of Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus. This small stone home, perhaps once a cave, is believed to have been carried by angels from Nazareth to this small Italian village on the Adriatic Sea. Pilgrims have come here for centuries to pray, to gaze at the Black Madonna that sit at the center of this shrine, and to find a touchstone from the past that brings meaning to the present. While the story itself may sound fantastic to our 21st century ears, I can say that the place itself holds something that continues to draw people of all ages to its walls. It was a sight to behold.A small room held in the center of a large cathedral. Simplicity among baroque fancy, gold-gilt and beautiful paintings. Something womb-like,strong and calm at the center of a large, active community.

This warm afternoon as I watched pilgrims from the other places around the world and those with whom I was traveling move through this sacred sight, I was once again overcome with the power of beauty and the depth of story to captivate the human imagination. In silence people walked among paintings and mosaics, past statues and wood carvings. Some stopped to pray with the religious who make this place home and place of ministry, those wearing the simple brown robes of ones from another time. Still others knelt in prayer or lit a brilliant, blue votive candle to send their prayers dancing in the flicker of flame onto the walls of the sanctuary.

What was the common denominator among us all? Certainly not language. Probably not economic status or politics. It is doubtful whether it was even the supposed beliefs of this faith tradition we claim to share. My sense is that the common factor that had drawn us all to the same place at the same time had much to do with the need to affirm our connection to the More, to once again say I am a part of a story bigger than my individual self, larger than the single details of a day. Like Mary who said “yes” to the movement of the Sacred in her life, we longed to make room for a little of her home in us. Some days it may seem as if angels….messengers of God….make that blessed delivery, full of miracles and acts that are void of reason. And yet, still it happens.
We closed our day with the words of Francis, another one who walked a path looking for the ways the Sacred showed up in the details of his walking around, eating and sleeping life:

Our hands imbibe like roots,
so I place them on what is beautiful in this
And I fold them in prayer, and they
draw from the heavens

And so it is. And so it was.



Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention-the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forget to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.”
~Marie Howe, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time

Several weeks ago now I wrote in this space about hearing this poet speak on the radio and how I was drawn in by the title of her book, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time. After ordering it right away, I waited while it took longer than most books do to arrive in the mail. This made me smile. We are so accustomed these days to having things show up with lightning speed that the fact that this book took several weeks amused me. Perhaps we should have to wait longer for such loveliness…….the appreciation becomes so much more.

Countless times people talk with me about prayer….not knowing how to pray, wondering what prayer really is, what words to use and what words not to use, does it ‘work’, now it does so. Often I am at a loss as to what the ‘right’ answer is to their questions because I not only do not consider myself an expert on prayer but also I always feel as if they are searching for a definitive, correct answer that I believe no one has the power to give. The formulas exist…..wise people have written and described practices of prayer……words have been offered by others to help us along in our prayer life……but basically I am of the ‘there is no right or wrong way to do this’ camp. There is simply your way, my way.

This poem gets at what is most likely the real problem we have with prayer. Time…..too much, too little. Distractions….too many to count and our tendency to follow the next shiny thing that crosses our path, that leads us away from being still enough to connect with that Breath that moves through us, that holds us, that fills us every blessed moment with Life just as the mystics promise. They were, are, the ones who experience time differently, are able to focus on the rise and fall of the Life Force in ways that bring that connection we all long for but miss in our distracted ways of forging ahead in the moments of our days, which, of course, become our lives.

This life, with its days and nights filled to overflowing with the ‘complaints’ we mount up, can be all we have to let sift through our fingers at the end of the day, as we drift off to sleep. Often we have allowed the connection to slip past us, the rising and falling of Breath, going nearly unnoticed, used only as the fuel to propel us forward into the next activity, the next detail to cross off our to-do list. Our days can become ‘a story we forgot to tell.’

Unless…..unless….for one moment, or two, we stop the flitting, the frantic movements that give the illusion of living and allow the One who breathed us into being to be our focus. We make that connection, that deep connection that holds us, that has always held us even when we are fickle and look the other way with our important and busy lives. In and out we breath…remembering who we are, why we are here, all the beautiful and fragile lives with which we travel, the terror that can grip us and the world, and the gentleness and love that is available, always available, with each connection with Breath.



Many Gods

The last week has had me traveling in the Pacific Northwest, a time to celebrate a significant birthday with a dear friend and also spend time with our two wonderful sons who now call Seattle home. The landscape of this area speaks to my heart……vast expanses of water, mountains ringing the horizon,warm days and cool evenings…..all settle well on my Celtic soul. Plus the very experience of travel is enlivening. In a few short days, I stored up sights for the eyes, the smell of water rich with seafood and the sounds of languages and lifestyles more exotic than what usually comes my way.

One early morning while walking the almost vacant streets on Pike Place Market, I heard a statement that has been ringing in my ears and will not let me go. What a gift it was to watch the farmers unload huge bunches of yellow sunflowers and a myriad of brilliant, rainbow-hued dahlias, many the size of dinner plates. These laborers worked side by side with fishmongers and an array of artists setting up their booths for what would be a busy day. The streets were freshly washed, still wet in places, the grime and evidence of yesterday’s happenings gone. A new day ahead for everyone. Tourists would soon arrive and marvel at the beauty, the quirky, the artistry of this well traveled street and all it holds.

Over the palette of this morning activity one young man’s voice rang out as he moved a rolling vegetable cart into place, its colorful and healthy contents ready to dazzle passersby. “We had to go visit one of our other gods. We are not monotheistic.” Holding my cup of coffee purchased from the ‘first’ Starbucks to warm my hands against the chill of the morning, I was stopped in my tracks by his words. These were not, at least to me, trivial words shared over morning preparation. I kept repeating them over and over in my head so as not to forget them until I could get to a place and write them down. Balancing coffee and journal and IPad on a ledge, I jotted down his words on my Starbucks receipt. And then I began to think about what he said.

I wondered at these other gods. What did he mean? Where were these gods? To what Mount Olympus did he travel on a weekday in Seattle? Was he alone….it didn’t sound so….as he had used the plural ‘we’? Who was part of his worshiping community? What did that worship look like? How did he come to worship this god?

As I chewed on his words at the beginning of a new day, his statement soon took me to other places. Perhaps this young man, simply making early morning conversation with a co-worker, was making a truer statement than any of us have the courage to speak. Even those of us who claim fully and boldly to be ‘monotheistic’, those who claim one God with a capital ‘G’ spend much of our time worshiping other gods. I know I do. I worship the god of fear and anxiety, the god of judgment and my own truth. I take my worship to the feet of these holies with great regularity. I offer my presence, my gifts, my service with a devotion that is nearly priestly.

This is to say nothing of the god of ‘stuff’, of possessions, I worship. I don’t know about you but I take my adoration to the mall, the check out line and pay with good money in an effort to buy the very thing that will make me whole, fill me up, bring about perfection, wholeness, that will make me appear more beautiful or acceptable. When the stuff I have worshiped becomes too numerous, I organize it and pack it into boxes and label it in order to make room for another trip to the cathedral of consumerism. It can be a fervent religion, this.

Gods come in all sizes and shapes. We can make our nation a god also, worshiping a sense of nationalism that can often shade our eyes from things we might do well to see in a brighter light. I have been a part of the institution of the church long enough to recognize the many ways those who call it home can also worship its existence instead of the God it is meant to adore.
Those of us who make our way through the scriptures of the Jewish and Christian households can point to many times when the people were warned against creating gods out of gold, gods to a variety of deities. When reading those stories it is often easy to take them lightly, to think they have nothing to do with me, with my life.

But on one particular early morning a young man’s voice and the words he spoke woke me up to the many ways gods are created every day. Monotheistic? I don’t know but I do know that it is always wise to pay attention to what is pulling at the heart, what is longing to make a home in us, and what is worthy of our worship. For this reminder, I am grateful…….


Important Experiences

Storytelling in general is a communal act. Throughout human history, people would gather around, whether by the fire or at a tavern, and tell stories. One person would chime in, then another, maybe someone would repeat a story they heard already but with a different spin. It’s a collective process.”
~Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Sometimes you have an experience that you know is so much more than the actual activity that is happening, the activity that is seen by onlookers who may be pass by. This is probably so more often than we are aware because, truth be told, we walk around not in the present moment but in the troubled past or the longed-for future. But sometimes, sometimes, you are in the midst of an experience and some voice within says so loudly…..”This is important. Pay attention.”…… that even the most deadened soul perks up and does just that.

Yesterday I had just such an experience. I am visiting Seattle, one of my favorite cities and the now-home of our two sons. I had made contact with someone whose mother is a part of our church, someone who has a successful cooking business near Pike’s Place Market. She has a job which sounds, at least to me, like a dream come true. She takes people through the Market as they choose food to buy and then helps them prepare it. The activity is communal…..around food and a table and the fire that cooks and is their center. Like people throughout time, they gather to cook, eat, be warmed by the fire and the presence of one another. In this activity, they are fed in both body, mind and spirit and who they were before the meal becomes something more. Something more.

Diane, the chef, shared stories of her work and the people she meets in this work. As someone whose early education was anthropology, it was clear to me that she knows exactly what she is doing. This ancient act of gathering round the hearth beats within us and it is something that cannot be fueled by fast food. It is the slow act of cutting and slicing, stirring and kneading that is required. It is the creation of nutrition and beauty. It is the looking across the table into someone’s eyes, seeing their expressions change and take shape, sometimes in the light of literal candlelight fire, that helps us remember who we are and the stories we are telling with our lives. For it is around these fires, these tables, that our human story is remember, reimagined, retold, reaffirmed.

Several times during this encounter in her beautiful kitchen of black granite and blonde wood, tears were present as stories were told about where certain pieces of depression glass and Fostoria glass cake stands came from. Stories of how she came to be doing work she loved, work that she believes is making a difference in the Universe flowed freely between us. The way in which her values and commitment to gathering people round the table and the fire shapes her every moment was both inspiration and challenge. All was pure grace.

Yesterday, as I was processing what I knew was an important experience, one on which I am still reflecting, I thought of the communion table to which we invite people in the Christian Household of which I am still a part. That image and experience of gathering around the table, has many layers, some which are more important to some than others. It is a table that is meant to help us tell our story, to remind us why and how we have gathered round the fire of our faith for all these years. I wonder if it always does this. My sense is that most often we forget to bring our own human stories, our own important experiences, to the telling. I know that is true for me.

Yesterday I was present to an important experience whose impact is still working its wisdom in me. Its transformative qualities will emerge in their own time. Like any good meal, this takes a certain rhythm that can’t be driven but must unfold. Warmed by the fire, held in beauty, nourishment will arrive. And the story will be told.


Many Colored Tree

There is a tree I am watching these days. It sits in the yard near the church where I work. Unlike some of the trees in the neighborhood, trees that have had long lives watching the changing face of this urban area, this tree is newer, younger. It was planted to replace some others that were taken down in the sweep of progress and renovation. It is a maple tree and so it also has the gift of showing us the pace of the changing seasons. However, this tree seems to be trying to hold two worlds within its limbs. One side clearly shows forth the green, vibrant colors of summer. The other side is a rich, red, shining brilliant into the crisp and cooler days we have been experiencing. Like the Janus face of comedy and tragedy, this tree is holding two seasons.

As I have been watching its leaves theses last days, I seem to remember that this was its behavior last year. I have no idea what chemistry or ecology or botany is at work. I only know that it makes for a fascinating show of color and an equally fascinating thing to reflect upon. Like the tree, most of us are feeling a little melancholy at letting go of this beautiful summer. It has been filled with all the goodness these warmer months hold out to us…..bright blue skies, a more leisurely pace of living, time spent outside with friends and family, an opportunity to soak up sun and bask in the color and beauty that gives way to gratitude. All these to be stored up for the winter, like the ever-fattening squirrels that also are running frantically around our green spaces. Like this two-toned tree, most of us are not anxious to let go of this lovely season.

And yet there is also beauty in the red and orange the tree holds on its other side. Its colors invite us to the coolness of autumn with its new wave of foods and tastes…apples…pumpkins…squash….all mirroring the colors of the very landscape around us. It is as if the landscape dips down onto our plates and paints a picture of itself. Plus there is the letting go that fall demands and the trees teach us this important life lesson we can never fully embrace. And so each autumn we get another chance. As the trees let go their leaves, we are invited to let go of those things which may have been born in the warmth of summer but must be let go for our growth, our healing, our own good. I have a few that might fit this description. Do you?

Over the next weeks, the maple tree which seems to be in a battle with itself will eventually let go all its leaves. Both red and green leaves will have reached their fullness and will fall to the earth below. If workers are not too quick in raking them up, these leaves will have the opportunity to nourish the ground and the roots of the tree that has been their home. Thinking of this I am reminded of a poem by Nancy Wood that I often read at memorial services which speaks of this amazing cycle of which we are all a part:

You shall ask
What good are dead leaves
And I will tell you
They nourish the sore earth.
You shall ask
What reason is there for winter
And I will tell you
To bring about new leaves
You shall ask
Why are the leaves so green
And I will tell you
Because they are rich with life
You shall ask
Why must summer end
And I will tell you
So that the leaves can die.

I will continue to watch this tree of many colors allowing its wisdom to bless me. I will continue to marvel at its beauty and to look for the lessons it might teach me. Like the tree, each of us in always involved in a summer,an autumn, a spring and a winter. Sometimes those seasons are more visible to us than others.

Whichever season is most visible in you this day……blessings, blessings, blessings.


Gospel Clouds

“God writes the Gospels not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”
~Martin Luther

Our teachers come to us in many forms. It is that time of year when new student-teacher relationships are being formed. One of the gifts of social media is seeing all the first day of school pictures that arrive in my Facebook feed. There are the sweet faces of those headed off to the first day of kindergarten. There are also those less than happy to be photographed photos of students headed out for the first day of junior high. There are even a few photos of patient high schoolers indulging their parents in this yearly tradition. If you look closely you can see the spirit of the kindergartner still present in that young adult face and petulance of the adolescent. Each one, no matter the age, is headed off to form relationships with those people who will become teacher. And any good awaiting teacher knows that among those students who arrive in their classroom will be one or two who will also be a teacher to them.

Most often we think of other people as teachers. I know I can name a long list of those human ones who have been the wisdom holders, those who have made the journey of life full and rich and filled with purpose. Some of these folks have been in the profession of being a teacher. But many, perhaps even most, have not been. They have been the people who have shown up in my life at just the right time, said or done an often simple thing that has made all the difference. Many times it has not been words that have provided the lesson but their very presence that has been the gift.

Other times our teachers are not humans at all. How many times have you spoken to a dog or cat owner who tells of the lessons they learn from these four-leggeds? I am certain that those who work and live with other kinds of animals can also tell stories of what it is they learn from these beings without words yet holders of wisdom. I know bird-watchers who can talk for hours of the lessons of the winged ones. As they speak their faces light up with something just shy of conversion.

Over the past days it has not been human or animal or fowl that has been a teacher to me. Instead it has been the clouds. There are certain times of the year when clouds seem to be more brilliant, more vivid than other times. These September days are one. Perhaps it is the interplay, the relationship, of the color of the sky and the clouds that makes it so. I don’t know. I just know that, if you have been paying attention, you will also have noticed the clouds…their formations, their shapes, the colors that they seem to pour forth into the blueness.

On Tuesday, I lay on my back in a boat looking up at the clouds dancing in a clear, azure sky. Big puffs of white that seemed set, painted in one place, surprisingly moved slowly, slowly into new shapes more fascinating and beautiful than before. Every now and then a small piece of the cloud would slip away and float all on its own, its feathery shape undulating with its own purpose, now unleashed from the larger form. Other times a small slip of a cloud would remove itself from a larger cloud and dance and move across the sky until it disappeared altogether. Gone.

Yesterday, on an evening walk, I turned the corner and walked onto the High Bridge that connects St. Paul and West St. Paul and suspends itself above the mighty Mississippi River. The Cathedral rose out of the horizon with its sister architecture, the Capital, in all their showy splendor. But last night, last night, they were upstaged by the clouds. The nearly setting sun was shining through clouds that turned pink and lavender and purple and orange. They seemed to want to draw all Creation into their beauty. Standing suspended above the earth as I was, I gave thanks for the Gospel not written in words but offered to me in that moment. A Gospel….the good news…that the Holy is an ever-working Artist whose work is the stuff of the ever day. Some place in that wisdom was the the lesson that I am….you are….also a part of that beauty, that good news.

It was a good lesson to learn.