Growing Up

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”~E.E. Cummings

Today’s calendar message held these words by E.E. Cummings. Or more correctly e.e.cummings. I read them and marveled at their wisdom, at how I am still, daily, mustering up this kind of courage. Perhaps it takes a lifetime to do this. I hope so and others might agree since I don’t believe I have mined all the facets of who am I. Have you? Especially if the definition of growing up is living into an authentic self that was born with us into the world but may have been coaxed or beaten or shamed out of us at some place along the years. Growing up into who we really are seems our life’s work and I hope to give myself to it every day, turning from the voices that might want to convince me of some other ‘self’ I am ‘supposed’ to be.

Seeing these words of the poet and writer who shunned the capital letter brought me back to a growing up time of my own. I recalled a specific day when I was a senior in high school taking myself and life quite seriously. At the time I was writing and reading lots of poetry including e.e. cummings. I am sure I was staring off into the distance much of the time in a way I was certain real poets did, searching for that perfect source of inspiration. I was probably just shy of donning a beret to create the perfect image of a serious artist who was going to ‘be somebody’……’someday’.

At this time I had also dropped my upper case letters in favor of the style of Mr. Cummings. I have a vivid memory of receiving a paper I had written for English from the hands of my teacher, Ms. Elcess. As she handed the lined, white notebook paper back to me, minus any capitals, she simply said, ” You’ve been reading e.e.cummings, I see.” The paper could have been covered with red marks around all the letters I had not capitalized but instead this teacher simply smiled, affirming this stage of my growing up with grace and affirmation. I still remember the heat moving into my face and my cheeks turning rosy as she moved on to the next student and returned their paper. While my face may have been blushing, in that moment I felt noticed for a pursuit, a passion, and my love for poetry only deepened. And I must admit my love for Ms. Elcess did, as well. 

This growing up to become who we really are takes many twists and turns along the way. While in that high school English class I was only imitating the poet and what I thought a writer’s life might be, this teacher’s noticing of my deep desire and longing made a difference. It helped nurture who I hoped to be. I am full of gratitude for her and for this envounter that only took a moment but has lasted decades. 

I have heard more than one artist courageously speaking aloud what they hope to become in an effort of repeating it, claiming it, until it is so. “I am a poet.” ” I am a singer.” ” I am a painter.” ” I am a sculptor.” ” I am a chef.” “I am a composer.” ” I am…….” Of course, after the saying it, we all must engage in the practice of whatever it is we wish to bring to the world. A poet who doesn’t write poetry is not a poet, after all.

This becoming our true self, our authentic self, our God-created, hoped-for self, is a courageous act we make every day while we have breath. Hopefully, along the way, there are those who notice and affirm our unfolding and help us to strive and reach toward what grows us up, what brings joy and wholeness. 

Ms. Elcess……wherever you are……thank you.


Hard Hats

And you will have confidence because there is hope; you will be protected and take your rest in safety.~Job 11:18

The last few weeks I have spent a lot of time driving. Between a trip to Kansas City, a retreat in western Minnesota, a vacation in northern Wisconsin and a couple of day drives to witness the amazing colors that are showing themselves this autumn, I have logged a great deal of windshield time. All this is fine with me. I love driving and taking in the rolling landscapes that have become home. The Midwest can be a particularly stunning sight during these days of harvest and migration.

While the landscape may be stunning, the highways are still under much construction. Nearly every place you drive, whether city or rural, has some kind of road construction. Roads are being torn up, repaved, rerouted,or actually created. Orange barrels and cones are adorning black pavement. Large yellow equipment greets you at every turn. And along with these accoutrements of construction are the people that make it all happen. Those who work long hours. Those who stand in the hot sun, the driving winds, the rain and the cold. Those who come to work clean and leave dirty. Those who, I imagine, also go home at the end of the day bone-tired.

These weeks I was aware of all those people who work so tirelessly on our behalf so we can have a smoother, safer, sometimes speedier drive. As I drove past them I was certainly aware of their hard and perhaps tedious work. I periodically offered a blessing as I remembered to do so. I did this because I am sure they are often the butt of irritation and anger as people get frustrated with having to wait, of being delayed, of having to slow down. Generally, we humans can be an impatient lot.

As I looked at these workers, I began to notice their commonality……hard hats. Hard hats. Those heavy plastic toppers that protect heads and often shine forth the name of the company that signs the paychecks of these workers. These less than attractive head coverings are a necessary part of their work attire. Each worker may have chosen the clothes they wore for ease, durability and even style, but the hard hat was standard issue. Everyone must wear one.

I have never been in any line of work where hard hats were required. That doesn’t mean one would not have come in handy at times. I’m sure nearly everyone can imagine a time in their work life when the protection a hard hat, real or imagined, would have felt good. I imagine there are teachers, lawyers, doctors, cashiers, who might welcome a hard hat on any given day. I am sure there are parents waking up this morning who might like the protection of a hard hat for all that might be flying their way. Likewise, there are children waiting for the bus who would welcome a hard hat for the difficulties that greet them in the classroom and on the playground.

Some time ago our church produced a Christmas production called ‘The Nativity’ in which we turned our sanctuary into a theatre for the telling of the story of Jesus’ birth. This required putting a large, wooden stage over much of the front of the room including the organ console. However, we also needed the organ to be played during the production. So every night, our organist would don a hard hat and climb down under the stage to sit on the bench at the organ and play Christmas music…..wearing a hard hat. I still chuckle to think of it! He never imagined, I’m sure, that his work would ever require this kind of head gear. 

Today I give thanks for all those whose work requires a literal hard hat. This is most certainly work I do not understand and could probably not accomplish. And for all those whose work this day might have them longing for the protection to their head and their heart…those who must fight off angry words, difficult decisions, harsh people…..I pray an imaginary hard hat upon you. May it keep you from all harm and send you home intact.  


Peaceful Heart

While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more freely in your heart.”~St. Francis of Assisi

Sunday evening we celebrated the Blessing of the Animals service at church. This has become a tradition in our community and is always filled with such joy as people bring the whole of those who reside with them, the whole of their family. This year’s gathering of critters included not only dogs and cats, guinea pigs and mice but also a lovely, salmon-spotted corn snake but also a boa constrictor who traveled in a brown, leather satchel. It is always a humbling experience for me as people offer the names of their pets…..Lucy….Ricky…Polkadot…..and I place my hand on their heads, or whatever part of them that seems reasonable. ” May God bless you and keep you safe.May you always be a faithful companion all your days.” Many times these precious, vulnerable ones look knowingly into my eyes and we have some kind of holy connection.

We celebrate this day and offer this service of blessing because it falls near the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi known for his attention to all Creation as a reflection of God’s presence in the world. Francis has given much, not only to his own faith community if Roman Catholics,but also we Protestants. His message of simplicity and humility, his urging to ‘listen to the birds and learn from them’ is embraced by those inside and outside the Christian household. Last year at about this time, it was a privilege for me to travel with a group of pilgrims through the places in Italy where Francis lived and served and died. To see the devotion people still have for him was humbling.

I stumbled upon the quote above which Francis was said to have spoken. “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more freely in your heart.” I thought of all the times my words have spilled out proclaiming all kinds of peace-filled phrases and yet my heart was anything but peaceful. I thought of all the people I know whose outside demeanor speaks one thing while inside they are a churning kettle of many other emotions. Anger. Fear. Anxiety. Despair. To proclaim peace with our lips which most of us want desperately to do while holding some other contrasting inner message is a great burden. We humans are a complex lot and can often walk around carrying much that is invisible to the world. There is a quote attributed to Philo of Alexandria: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” And so it is.

How did Francis keep a balance between the inner and outer messages? How did he encourage it so in others? I imagine spending time in silence and contemplation helped especially in the exquisitely beautiful places in which he was blessed to live. Of course, there was the attention to the song of the bird, the scurrying of the squirrel, the sight of a morning sunrise. There was the opportunity to watch the olive trees drop their fruit and the wildflowers blooming in the fields around Assisi. His understanding of God’s presence in all Creation must have informed his inner, peaceful heart.

What informs our inner, peaceful hearts? How can we proclaim peace not only with our lips but also carry it in our hearts? Perhaps Francis still has much to teach us…..if we have the ears to hear.

May peace fill your heart this day……and may your lips pour forth peace into a world that needs it so desperately.



Yesterday morning I rose early as I do nearly every Sunday morning as I prepared to head to church and lead in a series of morning worship services. It has become a part of my Sunday morning pattern to listen to Krista Tippet’s ‘On Being’ radio show as I get ready. I feel as if she, and whomever is her particular guest that morning, are my companions for preparing my heart and mind for all that the morning will hold. It is a centering experience for me. Her quiet voice and gentle rhythmic questions pulling wisdom from a well chosen guest become the backdrop for my day.
Yesterday morning’s guest was Mary Catherine Bateson the author of Composing a Life, a book I read long ago, and now know I want to pull out and read again. Bateson is the daughter of anthropologist Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. A quick internet search could render several quotes of this author and student of humanity. But it was one sentence she spoke when describing the millennial generation that grabbed me: “Many feel they are on stage without a script.” This is one of her observations about this group of young people raised in the shadow of 9/11 and those that we have such hopes for in our world. 

This was an image, a metaphor, that so connected with me. Since my early career was spent in the theater world, for years I had the recurring dream of finding myself on stage, in a play, but I did not know what script was being performed. It was a vivid dream, one in which my behaviors varied as did the other players on the stage. Sometimes in the dream I froze and tried to stay in the background, be a part of ‘the chorus’ rather than at the center of the action. Other times I simply went with the flow, observed, tried to listen well enough to see if I had ever known the story, the lines, being played out. No matter the way in which I played ‘my part’ I almost always awoke with a sense of anxiety.

All day yesterday I thought about Bateson’s statement:”Many feel they are on stage without a script.” I thought of this generation upon whom we have heaped such a great deal of hope and whose behaviors seem to confound so many. I thought of my own two sons who fall into this group. I wondered if, to a degree, each generation has always felt this way. I also thought about how each season of our lives brings a certain quality of being onstage without a script.

What I remembered from those dreams was that the times when anxiety did not rule supreme were the times when I employed some of the gifts of improvisation….an acting style that is often script-less or minimally so. The guiding principles for this kind of acting are….be in the moment, in the present moment…..listen well…..say ‘yes’ to the other actors by responding to the story they are offering. To do so keeps the actors engaged in the eventual outcome of where the story leads.

I am thankful for yesterday’s early wake up and this sentence that has captured my imagination. It was good to remember those dreams, the feelings they conjured and the gifts they brought.

Mary Catherine Bateson also said: “Of any stopping place in life, it is good to ask whether it will be a good place from which to go on as well as a good place to remain.” In the scripts we are invited to act each and every day, this is great wisdom. Is this a place that is leading to someplace else? If this a place to rest and remain for awhile? Is this a place to abandon altogether? 

Perhaps someone you know is on the stage without a script searching for what their role is in the unfolding story. Perhaps you are that person. May you find the wisdom to be fully present. May the gift of deep listening be yours. May you find an authentic ‘yes’ someplace within that allows your story to further unfold in the world. 

It is a story that is needed. Of that, I am sure. 


Creative Living

If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.”~Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

On Tuesday evening I had the amazing privilege of meeting and introducing Elizabeth Gilbert when she spoke at Hennepin Church. This was one of those crazy opportunities that comes along that you didn’t expect nor plan for but there it is. It was a great collaboration between the fine people at Magers & Quinn Books and Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality. And I think all of us who had been on the planning end were overwhelmed with the joy that the experience brought not only to those who attended but also those of us who had been creating lists and handling details for months..  

Her topic was creativity and more specifically living a creative life. By this she did not mean taking up painting as Grandma Moses did or giving one’s self over to learning the piano at an advanced age. Instead, what she was calling each of those present to is the life that is in concert with the Divine Spark that moves through all of us and throughout all Creation. It is the life of co-creation we have with what is deepest within us that brings us joy and in turn brings joy to the world. 

In very amusing and even hysterical ways, she outlined many of the fears that keep us from living this creative life. And they are numerous. She in no way offered ways to ‘get rid of fear’ but instead encouraged embracing fear for the teacher it is while also not letting it have the greater power in the creative life. Her words struck a chord at some point with nearly every one who was listening. Watching heads nod in agreement as she was forth coming with her own fears was a gift to behold.

We need truth tellers in our lives and Elizabeth Gilbert offered this to those who showed up on Tuesday. Her willingness to share her own insecurities, her own foibles, gave people the opportunity to let their shoulders relax and their furrowed, worried brows to smooth out. In many ways we are often surrounded by a barrage of messages that are anything but true, messages that create a palette of a public relation’s effort to keep us marching to the drum of fear and self-loathing. It is driven by so many efforts…..perfection…..other’s insecurities turned toward us…..old messages planted by parents or teachers or a world gone crazy with a false sense of what is beautiful. It is a wonder any of us can get out of bed in the morning!

But for those of who sat together on Tuesday listening, laughing, nodding, agreeing, remembering the true wonder in which we were all….all…created, we were granted a reprieve and encouraged to claim once again the goodness spoken by the Great Artist at each our birth. ‘If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.’ We ARE creative beings, made in the image of the One who breathed us each into being. Will there be fears and missteps in this creative life? You betcha! as we say here in Minnesota. But that does not negate this eternal promise of living in this co-creative relationship because the world needs us to do so.

Today is a new day….a sunrise of perfect gift. On Wednesday morning I woke up with my mind and heart broken open with the possibility of the creative life offered up yet once again. My gratitude is palpable and I am up for the challenge. Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert for being a voice of reason, of humility, of authenticity and of inspiration. 

And what is your creative life calling you to this day?


Good Thoughts

We carry messages around all the time and we drop them into the middle of group of people sometimes with little or no thought. Often we throw these messages along the sidewalk as we pass, and leave them on the table at the restaurant where we just had lunch. Sometimes these messages are actual words we speak and sometimes they are waving energy that pours off us spreading positive or negative shocks to those we pass by. As humans we are bundle of messages all the time. With just a glance we can have a child feel like they are royalty. Or a different glance can cut away at self esteem and break an innocent heart. The messages we put into the world are life altering and most often we underestimate their power. 
Last week while driving down a country road lined with apple orchards and brilliant, red barns, we came across someone’s attempt to be clear and intentional about their messages. Along the road flanked by prairie grasses stood a sign with the painted words ‘good thoughts’. On the edge of the sign was a hook and above the hook was painted the word ‘be’. Hanging on the hook was another painted, wooden sign that simply said ‘flexible’. The sum of the message? A good thought is ‘ be flexible’. We stopped the car so I could get a closer look. I was interested to see if there was some other message printed on the other side of the ‘flexible’. It was empty. Clearly these were one-of-a-kind signs that were changed out every now and then.

I have thought about this sign and the sign maker ever since. I imagined a workshop someplace where a person is using up all their old paint left over from house projects to send a ‘good thought’ into the world. I imagined the person thinking of all the words that might follow ‘be’. Be.. kind….be….gentle….be…loving….be…helpful…be…still….be…humble….be…honest….be….funny..There was an endless string of good thoughts that might follow the word ‘be’.

I wondered at how this person had come to plant this sign and its invitation in this pastoral scene. What led them to do such a thing? Perhaps it was the realization that, if we are sending messages all the time any way, they might as well be bold about it. The idea made me laugh and also filled me with a deep sense of gratitude. Then I imagined someone driving down that road, perhaps wound tight with all kinds of anxiety or worry, trying to be in control of one of the many things we humans believe we can be. And just when they needed it most, a sign appears….be flexible. They might see the whole thing as glimpse of divine intervention.

What messages are you hoping to round the corner and see? What message do you hope to deliver this day? Maybe we all should go digging in our garages or wherever that left over paint is kept and we should all start painting. Good thoughts….good thoughts…….be….be good thoughts.

It couldn’t hurt.


Stone Builders

” Do you know about ‘cans’?”, the young man asked, his eyes alight with something near to a religious fervor. He had just emerged from a bank of cedar trees, tall, green and said to be 500 years old. He seemed to need to say something to someone, anyone. And as we happened to be there at his emergence, we tried to understand his glowing face and seemingly odd question. 
“You mean, like the film festival?”, I fumbled, trying to make a connection. He shook his head clearly not understanding where I was going with this game of charades. “You know, like the rocks, stacked on top of one another! Down there”, he pointed, “there are hundreds of them.” 

” Oh, cairns.” I said. “Yeah! Cairns!”, he agreed as his eyes and smile grew wider, happy to share something that seemed amazing to him. He simply shook his head in wonderment and seemed happy to have someone understand. Taking his experience with him, he headed to his car while we made our way along the path to share in this experience of a stranger who had had his eyes opened in some new way.

This was an experience my husband and I had while traveling this week in Door County, Wisconsin. We had pulled into a state park in this beautiful, autumn landscape and our first encounter was with this young man. Something about his face will not leave me. He was someone who looked more like he might recite rap lyrics rather than be overwhelmed by the sight of stacked stones. And yet his need and willingness to fold us into his experience keeps warming my heart. The look on his face reminded me of descriptions of mystics I have read, descriptions of their encounters with the Sacred.

And, indeed, the site was breathtaking. A long beach filled with white stones, common in this area, all stacked with varying heights and artistry. I stood on the beach and just took them in and something moved so deeply inside me that I knew it struck some ancient chord. Like the young man, I, too, was having my own experience of Mystery. Of Beauty. Of Wonder. After the initial awe, questions fluttered in my mind. Who was the first person to build? Why? Was it someone calling on their own ancient and deep knowing of placing a stone and then another and another to mark the place where something important, something holy, had happened? Did they somehow attune their heart with that of the biblical Jacob who placed a stone and said, “Surely a God is in this place?” Was each tower a prayer…… or a work of art, which is just another form of prayer, isn’t it? 

I had no answers to the questions that roamed and danced through my logical brain. For the experience of this beach of stacked stones…..cairns….was not one that called upon the logic of the intricate,human brain. Their power came from the visible presence of knowing that so many had walked the beach before and had left a marker that they were there. Their power came from a recognition that as humans we have the ability to take whatever is present to us and to create something of beauty and to make meaning of that creation. To walk among the stones and to see the ways in which some were piled higher and more precarious than seemed possible gave me courage to make my own symbol, my own cairn, that now stands among the hundreds that will continue to be there. That is until the winter winds blow fierce or the waves crash onto the beach from stormy waters, toppling those most fragile creations. At that time, many will go crashing to the beach floor spreading the time, energy and hopes of the builders onto the earth and into the waters. In another season, others will arrive and try their own hand at building, at creating, at honoring the place where earth and water and sky come together.

And as they do, some will say “Surely God is in this place.” And so it goes……..



Gemini Future

It has been a long time since I have written about my horoscope. While I read it nearly every day and sometimes pay attention to it, I haven’t been moved to expand my thoughts and experiences of the messages for some time. But today, today, I just couldn’t resist. “Small steps lead to big things. Today’s step will include exchanging a first greeting with someone who will change your entire future. Be ready to introduce yourself.” 
Wow! As I read these words offered as wisdom for those of us born under the sign of the Gemini twins, I found my antennae perk up. This was a message urging me to pay attention to each and every person I meet today. Because who knows….maybe this is the person who will ‘change my entire future.’ The words are an invitation to be present to each person I encounter, to give them my full attention in a way in which I will listen for….look for…their deep calling. This is big work! 

Reading the words I think of all the times I stumble through a day and simply nod to those I meet or, even worse, look straight through them without noticing. How can I do this? Especially when I know how it feels when it is done to me. Have you had that experience of knowing full well that the person you are speaking with is a million miles away? That they are not really listening to what you are saying or, even worse, not seeing you really at all? It is a feeling that makes you feel worthless and unimportant.

And yet, how often do I do just that? I take my purchases from the woman working at the check out without looking at her, without noticing perhaps the pain in her eyes from something I can only imagine. I brush by a child on the street and don’t bend to receive the smiling joy that children offer so freely. How often I rush past those family and friends that I greet on a daily or weekly basis without stopping, without being present, to the love my heart holds for them. 

The truth is, I believe, every person we meet has the potential to ‘change our entire future.’ The encounters of the every day can lean our future into a more compassionate, a kinder, more joyful life. I believe this to be true because I have catalogued memories of such encounters with strangers who have looked at me with knowing eyes, as if they could see within my soul. I believe this because I have been present to the loving words or the equally loving silence of so many. These are future-changing experiences.

As humans we so rarely claim the power for goodness we have. We live our days, which is our life, rushing from one task to another as we leave our fellow human beings in our wake. We live our days, which is our life, asking forgiveness for the sins of omission for all we have failed to do when most of the time what is asked of us is so simple. Be present to the holy, hurting, hopeful ones who travel this planet with us. When we have the courage to do this, turning away from the urgency that our culture creates, we indeed meet those who ‘change our entire future’. 

And future changing is a reciprocal experience. As I am changed, so is the one who has greeted me and back and forth, over and over. It is how it works. But first, I need to be in the moment enough to even know it is happening. To engage in the breathing, heart-pounding presence of the beloved ones with whom I share the path.

Today I am giving myself to being awake and aware of those I meet. I am going to ‘ be ready to introduce myself’ to all who will change my entire future. Someone, most people, will change my future in some way. Even if just for this day. Because I have encountered their God created self, I am blessed. And blessing is a lovely way to have your future changed, don’t you think? Gemini or not, I invite you to join me.


Word Search

A few weeks ago now I attended three days of amazing words, music, thoughts, ideas, images, all of which I am still trying to integrate and process. I was privileged to be at a gathering where author and theologian Barbara Brown Taylor and poet and Celtic minister and wise man John Philip Newell spoke and held space for others to do the same. The days were so full and rich. It was like pulling a chair right up to a huge buffet, utensils in hand… plate, no tray…..just gorging myself on beautiful and profound words. Blessed and privileged reigned.
Several days after someone asked me how the event was and what I had really ‘gotten out of’ listening to people talk for that long a time. It was a legitimate question. I engaged this person in a conversation that moved to the question of why people go to these kinds of events. While we had a fun time in our talk, we both left somewhat unsatisfied, I think. 

But the conversation and the question has lingered with me. I have kept coming back to the intention of the question and trying to move toward some answer for myself. Why is it that we go to hear people we read, those we see as experts or teachers? Why do we, in the presence of those people, take copious notes, hanging on their every word? What is it we hope to find as we listen?

Perhaps we are ever-students. That is one reason. Perhaps we have a need to surround ourselves with people who might have ‘worked harder’ or ‘studied longer’. Perhaps we have the sense that if we can bask in their light we will not have to do our own work, our own study. These are all possibilities. But I have come to believe that we really attend events like this because we are trying to unlock the word search that is at work within us at all times. Mostly we walk around with one of those comic-strip bubbles above our heads waiting for our deepest thoughts and longings to find the right words that make sense of our living, our experience. We cannot do this work, most days, on our own. We need the company of strangers and friends to help us search out the words that listen us into our knowing. We need those people who have searched or stumbled onto the very words that form the deepest expressions that lay lodged within us.

Barbara Brown Taylor has done much thoughtful work about the role darkness plays in our unfolding spiritual quests. “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”, she writes in Learning To Walk in the Dark. This speaks to my experience though I might not have been able to say it so poetically or truthfully. And coming from a faith tradition and a culture that values so strongly light over darkness this is wisdom to treasure.

Watching the unfolding news of all those fleeing this week from the lands in which they were born, hoping to find welcome, hoping to find a new place of belonging, I am struck with an awesome humility. Listening to our country and all the others try to make sense of what this welcome looks like and how it will be offered, I wish I could have searched out these words of John Philip Newell’s that would be ready on my lips:

To the home of peace

to the field of love

to the land where forgiveness and right relationship meet

we look, O God,

with longing for earth’s children

with compassion for the creatures

with hearts breaking for the nations and people we love.

Open us to visions we have never known

strengthen us for self-givings we have never made

delight us with a oneness we could never have imagined

that we may truly be born of You

makers of peace.

We spend our lives roaming in a giant word search puzzle. Barbara Brown Taylor puts it well…..“No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggests that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it. The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.” 

I am thankful to these two wise ones for the wisdom they have offered me, for the way their words have awakened something sleeping within my spirit. May this day have us finding the words we need. And may we even find that they are our own.


Glory Index

Maybe the bush was burning all the time and Moses didn’t notice…..Maybe the miracle is when you stop and pay attention. ~ Francine Prose
Many things have kept me from these pages over the last weeks. Some of them have been important while others were the frivolous acts of the every day that are easily forgotten. The act of sitting down to write, something that brings me joy beyond measure, got pushed further and further back until it became easy to not do it at all. Whole lives are filled with such actions and it is a sad and perhaps even sinful thing. Sinful is not a word I use lightly so I am paying attention to the fact that it slipped so easily from my mind into my fingers and onto this page.

And paying attention is, after all, the point. The point of this living, I mean. Which is what drew me to the quote above whose source was the ever present calendar of lovely pictures and words that graces a space my eyes fall easily on several times a day. “Maybe the bush was burning all the time…..” Moses, called out by God despite all his human qualities and slow speech, had perhaps walked by the burning bush many times but he simply didn’t notice. And then one day he did. It happens to all of us at one time or another. We are awakened by what has been in front of us all along. A person whose gifts have been quietly being offered day after day. A sight, full of its own beauty, which we have walked by and ignored. A word or a phrase that we have heard or even spoken without noticing its meaning, its fullness, its true intent. 

If we aren’t careful, our days can be filled with endless tasks that lead only to the ability to mark another day off the calendar. This is dangerous work. Bushes are burning all around us and our real work, just like Moses, is to notice. It is the kind of work that can have a person flinging their to-do lists aside and sitting down to pay attention to all the miracles that are happening in the smallest and widest spaces of each and every day. It is the kind of work that can propel a person into walking into a wilderness, into being present to seas parting. It is the kind of work that can have a person accepting bread that falls from the heavens. Yes, stopping and paying attention is radical and life changing work.

While these last weeks have not been filled with writing for me, they have been filled with noticing. I have been noticing how this particular summer seemed more amazing than others I can remember. The days more comfortable, the colors more beautiful, the air fresher, and the sunsets more stunning. I thought perhaps it was just me but then over the weekend I read an article in the Star Tribune that confirmed my feelings. The article reported on something known as the Summer Glory Index, a tool devised by Kenny Blumenfeld, a climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. A ‘Glory Index’! Who knew? Apparently there is an actual tool that measures temperature, humidity, all those factors that lead to what makes for an exquisite summer day and which is declared glorious.

I would like to believe that there is a ‘glory index’ for nearly everything. When I heard this term which was new to me, I was reminded of an old hymn whose one line I have always liked to sing….”changed from glory into glory” the words ring out. The idea that each creation,both human and otherwise, is created and moves from one state of glory to another is such a beautiful idea and I believe it to be true. Everything finds itself someplace on the ‘Glory Index’. And like Moses, our real work in the every day of every day is to notice the glory that is always present.

The season is now turning. It is time to pay attention. It is time to get to work.