Saturday, December 5, 2009

Broken Things, Part 2

I held the broken vase in my hands and searched for the seams. Surprisingly, the wings had broken off in pretty whole chunks. The first wing had lost one piece; the second wing had lost two. I started with the first wing, grasped broken wing-tip and reached for the Elmer's.

The directions said, Spread heavily - weight or clamp, wait 35 minutes. I squeezed on the glue, then wedged that piece into its original place.

And then I held it.

And held it.

I felt like Horton the Elephant sitting on his nest, patiently, obediently. There was nothing else remaining. The house was quiet and I was alone with my forlorn, once-beautiful work of art. I sat holding the piece in place, both my hands needed. I sat breathing, humming a little. I held the vase together - for 35 minutes.

I realized it's not the fixing that's difficult. It's the holding. None of us wants to have our hands tied up that long. It feels a bit wasteful and foolish when there are so many other things to be done.

But the piece held. And I went on with the next wing. Twice more I sat for half an hour, breathing, holding, waiting. At some point I realized what I was doing was a kind of prayer.

And that's all I need to do when a thing is broken. Sit. Wait. Hold. Breathe. Believe, if at all possible. Believe.

When a thing is broken, the question to ask is not: "Can it be fixed?" but:
"Who will hold the broken piece?"

Who will realize the value of what was once beautiful? Who will hold this thing lovingly, gently? Who will wait for it?

Who will hold the broken piece?

I found out my hands could do this thing, and I was as delighted with the repair as if I'd been the original artist. For there is a gift in this. A wholeness. A bird waiting to take wing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Broken Things, Part 1

My daughter sculpted a tall, ceramic sea-green vase with a hummingbird perched on top. It sat on the kitchen table holding a spray of lilies, and we all admired it. Then one day in the bustle of living it was knocked over, and the hummingbird's graceful, rosy wings were broken.

We kept the vase and broken wings on a shelf. Every time I walked by, I felt a sense of loss. Could it be fixed? Probably not. If the wings were glued back on the bird, the vase would be too heavy and awkward to allow the broken pieces any support while drying.

Then one evening, home alone, I passed by the vase again and just knew I couldn't let it sit broken. I remembered how adults in my family long ago would fix the odd tea saucer or knick knack. They didn't use Superglue, or School Glue, or Glue with Glitter. No Blue Gel or fancy scented goo. What we had was "Elmer's Glue All." I hunted some up.

First Rule of Fixing Broken Things: You don't need a high-falutin' adhesive. You probably already have what it takes. And help is closer than you think.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stress and Convenience

In life there are a lot of things we can't control - and so we worry. But what about the things we can control? What about the clutter that is entirely unnecessary? When our minds our full of trivia, doesn't that promote a sense of overwhelmedness?

Three weeks ago, my cell phone contract expired, and I decided to try living without it. What I felt, almost immediately: less stress. No worrying what that missed call was. No groping for the phone while in the check-out line. No wondering whether I'd left my phone on in a class or a meeting. Shopping, errands, car drives, began to feel more calm, focused. There was a new quality wherever I went: the quality of silence.

Many of our conveniences ultimately add to stress rather than take it away. The technology that enables me to always be reached, always be available, can also make me feel vulnerable and prone to interruptions.

The idea of always being available is an illusion anyway. We all have moments when we can't answer the phone, or hold one more thing in our hands, or stop a conversation, or ignore the highway on which we're driving.

And being more "available" can also mean being more exposed. I see this with my Internet connection. I can always be reached by email, but I can't always respond, and checking my mail when I don't have time to reply simply makes me feel bogged down. Through Facebook and my blog - my thoughts are out there, available to everyone. But are my thoughts available to me?

As a sensitive, creative individual (and I do think creatives tend to be more sensitive), I need time outs from such exposure. Confirming this, I've noticed that weekends at our new cabin - without Internet - give me a sense of protection, of breathing room. I don't have to talk to the whole world, and it doesn't have to talk to me.

To be honest, it's hard for me to kick these fun little buzzy little habits of connectivity. I could use the alibi that I need these things. That I or my kids might have emergencies, for one thing. But what I realize is: the most urgent thing is to be calm and present. That is the greatest protection against emergencies. (And I do check phone messages when I'm away from the phone during a school day.)

So now I'm wondering, what are the other stresses in my life disguised as conveniences? What else can I train myself to cut down on?

I'll keep you posted. (Unless I'm offline, that is.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Follow Me, Me

For fun, I decided to be my own follower of this blog. (Yep, see, my own little face there under "followers.") When I thought about it, I realized there might be something to that. Do we ever think to follow ourselves? I don't mean, to follow the meagre, selfish ego-selves, the "old selves" we too often present. I'm talking about following the new and true self - that part of us which is "hidden with Christ in God."

It's so hidden, in fact, it's hidden from ourselves. It is hard to believe how beautiful and light-filled we really are, deep within. And the more we struggle and fight and let the selfish, outer self take over, the more that spirit gets denied and ignored.

Those deep stirrings of truth, love, wonder. That's the real you. So hey. Go on and follow you, you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Do-Be Do

The other day I reached the end of my doing. I was trying to do many things, and not happy with the results. I was falling behind on work tasks, phone calls, house chores. Library books were overdue; emails were unwritten. I wasn't getting to my writing projects. Then I remembered something ve-ry, ve-ry clear and sweet and simple: my life is for being, not doing.

It is not a profound truth, but one that few of us continually grasp. I have to learn and relearn it over and over. I measure my day and life by how much I accomplish, and when the gears are sticking or stopping I think I've missed my purpose, let God down somehow. This is not my life, nor anything close to it.

My life is for living. Breathing, experiencing. Communing with the Divine and all the underlings of the Divine. (Divinderlings, if you will.) Some days, weeks, months, just don't turn out to be very productive - the way I think they should. But when I relax into being and let my true purpose radiate, something wonderful always shows up. I begin again, getting to be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weak + Foolish = Amazing

I was thinking today about the miracle that is my life.

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong" --that's 1 Corinthians 1:27, NASB.

When I look at where I've come from, and all my flaws, I just know the angels must be watching and shaking their heads. "How did such a weak and foolish one ever find such joy and peace?" It's not my background, credentials or achievements that fill me with this deep sense of rightness and acceptance for my life. It is the unconditional love of the Eternal One. I accept that love and let it move beyond me, to all my fellow weak and foolish ones.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Daily Bread so much more wonderful when we accept that yesterday's bread is gone, tomorrow's will never get here, and this rich, dense, crackly loaf set before us is all that we need.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ordinary People Who Know Things

Clemie and I were sitting together in our prayer group, and I was complaining that I didn't understand why more people don't pray. I guess I was a bit frustrated. Clemie paused, looked off in that casual blue-eyed way she has, and said in a soft voice, "You know, God's had some experience with this..."

Which reminded me that if I'm going to take on all the failings of humankind, I should at least consider God's approach. Infinite patience, everlasting love, and certainty that ultimately, regarding the pray-ers and the doubters and everyone in between, all will be well.

Friday, July 24, 2009

God In The Box

It's safe for ages 3 and up. Oh, very, very safe! You'll know you have a genuine God-in-the-Box by this: the only time God pops up is when you turn the handle. A jaunty tune plays, always the same, one you have memorized. The face has only one expression: a benign smile.

You're a little possessive of your God-in-the-Box and don't like it when someone suggests another way to play. It makes you nervous when someone suggests that possibly, the One in the box might be other than you've always thought. Maybe that One would prefer being elsewhere.

Your life is as tidy and bright and square as the box you keep God in - and about as useful. Yet you understand that some places are not appropriate for your God-in-the-box, and you oblige by leaving it at home, say, when going out to dinner, or grocery shopping, perhaps, out among needy people.

As soon as the time as right, though, you can always crank the handle of that God-in-the-Box. And--thank God-in-the-box! You can easily press God back down when you're done with him.

Do you have one of these? How's it working for you?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Seek First the Kingdom

The Echo Within reminded me how God works through our own personalities and gifts, and I thought with a chuckle of a little question/answer game I've been playing for a few years.

I love to ask, "What does the kingdom of God look like - in me?" For when I recognize it, then I know what direction to take. I know what to seek. It's not always first impulse; no, not at all. Sometimes I want to religious-cize things and create some grand scheme that has nothing to do with who I really am, how I'm made.

I might assume:
I should be taking mission trips. That's what committed folks do.
- or -
I should be on a church committee for ________ (fill in the blank).
- or -
I should be attending functions, like all these other nice people.

By contrast, I'm learning to ask:
Where is the place - in me - that God reigns?
What sort of place is it?
What does it:
look like
smell like
sound like
taste like
feel like - ?

For me, that kingdom has to do with teaching others - specifically, teaching creativity, which leads people to a greater trust in the Creator. That kingdom has to do with caring for my family - cooking, listening, taking out garbage, cutting flowers, walking with my husband. And that kingdom has to do with writing stories both real and imagined, creating art with words and other tools.

Making assumptions about what some other God-place looks like, or should look like only gets a person off track.

You're the you God wants to work with, just the way you are. That kingdom of God? It's in you, remember. You won't know what to look for, if you don't make some inquiries and check out the space.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Where Glory Starts

Sign seen on a Pentecostal church along the highway, somewhere in Washington: "Revival Glory begins in you."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Finding Your True Calling: The Echo Within

The first thing is to take a look at the beginning of things. The Genesis story of creation, according to Robert Mulholland, according to Robert Benson, presents a picture of God bringing the world into being. But the Hebrew word rendered in English as "creating" is a word that means "speaking." In contrast to the idea of God shaping, sculpting, or manufacturing the world, as we tend to imagine, God spoke it. And not only did God speak the universe alive, but you and me as well.

Benson affirms that each of us has been spoken into being. There was a particular speaking, a particular word that meant Lisa, or Jeff, or Andria. If you want to know who you really are, what you should do in this world: listen for that word. It is still echoing within you.

What I love about Benson's insight is how it runs opposite of popular thought. How, we tend to look for answers about ourselves, outside ourselves. (The line that flashed through my head just now was Supertramp's, "Please tell me who I am.") We want someone to affirm us - a parent, a lover, a therapist even. Failing that, we may seek God, but do so scrunching our eyes at the clouds, looking up, way up, trying to scrutinize the inscrutable. Somewhere out there is some key to my life and everything I'm supposed to do. But really, how can I possibly decipher this distant and untouchable message?

We have removed God so far from our own daily existence, we have no idea how close that echo really is. Within. Benson writes, "It is the voice I depend on to warn me and rebuke me, to cheer me on and to wake me up, to settle me down and to lift me up. I know and trust and count on that voice for many things. I also know that voice sounds a lot like me."

We've become much too afraid to connect to any voice within us. We count any such voice evil, or at least dubious. Learning to listen is our main job, then. But keep in mind: God is mixed up within us.

Yep. I heard a minister say long ago, "God is so involved in our lives, there comes a point we don't know which is God and which is us - and that's a good thing." Intertwined with us. Radiating love and hope and good things. Peaceful, too, is that voice.

Don't worry so much about getting you and God mixed up: just practice listening. Robert Benson says,

"We must learn to listen deeper and deeper, seeking out the true voice within us that echoes the Voice of the One Who made us."
And he presents this gem from Thomas Merton:

"For if I find Him, I will find myself, and if I find myself, I will find Him."

That voice is an echo that never ends, a beginning you'll never get over.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Approaching The Echo Within

When I was twelve I joined the Missionettes - a girls' club in our church. Encouraged by leaders, I read the Bible from cover to cover, memorized verses, memorized specific sequences of verses (such as "The Romans Road"), and garnered badges and praise for being a fast reader. Through the years, growing up a preacher's kid and performing ministry in a non-denominational church, I continued to read the Bible fast and often.

I've stopped doing that.

These days, when I come upon words I love, poetry that nourishes me, or transformational wisdom - such as the Bible - I read as if to savor. I don't want to get through it quickly. I want to take in every crumb, and let it become a part of me. I read painstakingly, absurdly slow.

In such a way, I'm currently reading The Echo Within, by Robert Benson. It's a book that is beautiful-true. I approach the understandings like new fallen snow - one doesn't want to trample. I survey the scene, and take in the moment. I postpone the time when I'll have to make footprints from front door to driveway.

Ah, but that time has come. Presently (don't you love the word presently?) I'll be sharing the book, and letting others in on the conversation.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dark Veil

From a journal entry a couple years back....

Praying just now, I didn't know there was a thin, dark veil shading my mind. Then I saw all my sadness and darkness, and it was nothing but cloth, and behind the cloth shapes were moving, shapes bright and true. What the mind-veil was hiding were the truths of my soul.

Sometimes the truth gets covered. I don't realize it's there. I think the flimsy muslin is deepest darkness and reality. My moods, mistakes, momentary doubts and disappointments are not reality; there is something on the other side.

Look to all things light and bright beyond the veil.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Look for the Hook

How can I discover God's plan for me?

All I have to do is find the fishhook, those places where I am happily caught. I can ask: Where has God's love hooked me? For it is upon this glorious sharpness that I am suspended, surrendered, lifted by peace. --CJ Krug

Thursday, May 21, 2009


"Love is like a fishhook. A fisher cannot catch a fish unless the fish first picks up the hook. If the fish swallows the hook, no matter how it may squirm and turn the fisher is certain of the fish. Love is the same way. Whoever is captured by love takes up this hook in such a fashion that foot and hand, mouth and eyes, heart and all that is in a person must always belong to God. Therefore look only for this fishhook, and you will be happily caught."

--Meister Eckhart, from Meditations from Meister Eckhart

Monday, May 11, 2009


I have a lot to say to God, or to myself about God, in my journal. But when it comes to sharing these insights, understandings and whimsies with others, I clam up. I can't talk about that. I can't blog this. Folks might disagree. Besides, I'll sound dumb.

Too embarrassed to sing along with the music I hear.

I start to wonder, if we are created to work together, to sing together, to create harmony - and I believe we are - then, what happens if some of us refuse to sing, out of shyness, awkwardness and doubt?

It makes for a pretty unbalanced choir when various singers, perhaps the whole alto section, refuse to open their mouths. Meanwhile, those tenors are belting it out, and everyone watching thinks that if you're in this particular choir, you must be a tenor. Yep. They're sure you sing those same exact notes as the other guys. And how will they know different, if you don't add a squeak of your own music?

Harmony isn't about singing the same notes, but striking a chord that blends and beautifies. If I'm silent, or pretending to be a tenor when I'm not, or standing in a corner complaining and critizing, I am not doing my part to contribute to faith on the planet.

In all the ways we can, we need to be singing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Loving the Cat From Hell

There's a quirky story entitled "Bananacake" in February's The Sun magazine. The author, Sparrow, recounts the tales of his family pet, a white rabbit named Bananacake. He speaks of a spiritual guru who advised him to provide "service to animals."

The story reminded me how we are interconnected with animals. Our pets impact us - even those which seem to have little value, for we have taken them into our care.

This morning I was petting the cat I hate. See, we all kind of hate Molly. My husband, Paul, calls her the Cat from Hell. She's sixteen, and cranky as the dickens, mewing constantly unless she's held. Sometimes she'll even cry loudly at our bedroom door at 4 in the morning. Half of our family is allergic, and at times our eyes tear and noses run. Her long, luxuriant fur, which we once admired, sticks in the fibers of our clothes, gummies up the washing machine - even clings to the window panes and the microwave door. We didn't always hate Molly, and I started wondering what to do about it.

I thought about finding her a new home. Then I remembered the skinny old cats staring from their cages the last time I visited the animal shelter. What I came to see - and it sounds kind of corny - is that I have a commitment to this kitty for when she's enjoyable and when she's not, when she's young and adaptable, as she once was, or old and demanding. Molly is my tiny object lesson for loving - even if that means ignoring cranky sounds or using the lint brush for the third time in a day. So, this morning, when I took her in my arms, I loved her much more than I hated her. I stroked the sparse white hairs of her chin and spoke kindly. When we love the unloveable - even a cat - we become love in a small way. We are being the love-bringers God created us to be . . and it's so right and happy a feeling. It becomes easier to do, for the joy.

There will be many chances in my life to love the unloveable - and indeed there have been these chances already. I see much room for improvement. I'm reluctant to settle down to loving, knowing I'll get nothing out of the bargain except a linty sweater and a continued earful of meowy complaints. But the love - the love! In whatever direction it runs, to me or through me, it is just as wonderful. For the sake of simply loving, it is worthwhile.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Beyond Belief: David Wilcox

David Wilcox reminds us there is more to the spiritual life than living in our own "theological gated community." He points out, Jesus would be anywhere but inside those tidy gates.

It bears repeating: "Faith can't be a fortress arrogant with pride/come walk here beside me with the humble ones outside."

David Wilcox is one of wisest songwriters I know, who understands what it means to live a creative spiritual journey.

Are you living inside or outside those gates?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Face Talk

"Bless, O Christ, my face,
Let my face bless every thing."

An ancient prayer from the Celts, collected by Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Where Have You Seen God?

Eight or nine years ago, when I worked for First United Methodist Church, Pastor Edsel used to gather the staff round the Conrad Room table every Wednesday noon. He'd start our meeting by asking, "Where have you seen God this week?" One by one, we'd share a conversation, a movie, an event, a story, a joke, a surprise - anything we felt or noticed that reminded us of God's presence. The funny thing was, I began to think about the question earlier and earlier every week. I'd review the days, realizing that so many ho-hum, ordinary things were really those moments of seeing the Creator. If I hadn't been asked the question, I wouldn't have captured, noticed, or shared those encounters.

So I ask you. Where have you seen God this week?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pain Can Serve

When our bodies are sick or injured, it's an opportunity to listen to them for a change. We make so many demands of our bodies, and they do what they're told, almost all of the time. I'm amazed when I think how God inhabits my physical self: setting my heart to beating moment by moment, conducting an orchestra of muscle movements for each step I take. This is not something I should be taking for granted.

Which of course I have been taking for granted.

With my recent running injury I see what a miracle it is that I've been walking, hiking, moving unthinkingly throughout my life, straining those feet down there, those slim tendons in my ankles and calves, those finely crafted heels.

A couple years ago I lost my voice, off and on for several weeks. After a number of doctor visits, my wise naturopath asked, "One more thing I need to ask you. What is it you're not saying?" My body knew that I was suppressing my voice - there were statements I wanted to make through my life and writing, but I was pushing them away. Not long after this awareness the laryngitis cleared up.

This isn't woo-woo hocus pocus. Peoples all over the world have listened to illness this way for thousands of years. Once we tapped into some science, though, we westerners became too smart for all that stuff. We shunned our Creator and all the wisdom intricately laid within these amazing earth-ships that carry us through the atmosophere.

Most of us don't cultivate appreciation for our bodies. But we do notice those parts that make noise and start to hurt. A little pain, then, can be a good servant if it leads us to listen to the truth - and to appreciate what we have. Least, I'm making that choice today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Anybody Everybody

"If the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then it isn't good news for anybody." --Rob Bell

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Programs for Happiness

I love the wisdom of Father Thomas Keating as he talks about those things we strive to do and have, which we are convinced will make us happy.

I was reviewing my life and the latest of my own programs for happiness. There is The Thin Program. This program is all about calorie counting and careful discipline, and tells me that if I fit into my clothes well, I will be happy.

The Exercise Program is related to the above, but emphasizes how far and fast I can run, how fit I am, how much stamina I have. The program promises that if I am fit, I will be happy.

The Publishing Program. This is part of my Amazing Writer Program. A while after I get something into print, this program gets uneasy and cries, "More! More!" If I am published I will be happy.

The Fashionista Program. I do collect cute clothes. I adore interesting jewelry. I've been known to fuss over my hair. All these are components of the Fashionista Program, complete with the oath: "If I look good all the time, I'll be happy."

The Successful Offspring Program. This program started back when my children were precocious adorable babies, and I got their overflow attention when they did cute things. This program offers: If my kids are superachievers (or at least above average like the children of Lake Woebegone), then I'll be happy.

I've also got the Fulfilling Marriage program, the Impressive Career Program, the Witty and Charming Personality Program and the Beautiful House Program. Here's one beckoning me now: The Insightful and Well-Followed Blogger Program.

Oh! I almost forgot my favorite program of all: The Everything Program! This one says that if I can run every one of these programs, then I will be happy.

I want programs to distract me from the heartache of loss that living has brought. To make me feel good enough to earn God's favor. To distract me from my inadequacies and shortcomings and... my very yearning for God.

Our entire society is fiddling with its programs. But fulfillment comes from being, from living and loving - not from doing, earning and possessing. My happiness springs from the Eternal One, who doesn't require I perform, only that I acknowledge the Holy Presence.

I don't care how the inner programs lie to us, or how the external forces dazzle. Turn off these commercials, whenever you find them, and you will exercise true spiritual awareness.

Here's my prayer...

God you know my programs don't work. I strained something in my ankle while running, so there goes program one and two. My kids need my support and love, not my expectations of achievement. House? Dusty, in program ten while I'm striving over program eight. I'm here. You're here. You accept me just like this, and You are all I need. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Scared and Sacred

I noticed yesterday the word "scared" becomes the word "sacred," by moving the "C" one letter over. Step back from what you see ("C"), don't keep it so close. Take a broader view, and your points of fear can become holy moments. --Christi Krug

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

There Is No Getting Things Right

My friend Tamara shares today's thought, which was inspired by a conversation regarding Pema Chodron's book, When Things Fall Apart:

For the spiritual person, there is no getting things right or getting them wrong. Right and Wrong are simply two extremes. Life, with all its subtleties and experiences, doesn't fit into such categories. So don't think you're ever really going to get anything right--the only thing you can do is try your best and keep your heart tender. Hafiz says it well in the poem "Now is the Time:"

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.

Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child's training wheels
To be laid aside
When you finally live
With veracity
And love.

Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon.

My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?

What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time for you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I Learn How

In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.

No Starting Over. Again.

"Tomorrow I will start my diet." This is never true, points out my student Barb, who is writing a brilliant, funny book on weight loss. Same with the statement, "Tomorrow I will start my new book." These are just lies we tell ourselves. We aren't capable of starting over, because we never feel "new and improved."

There is a sense that we must be perfect now, or at least pretend to be perfect. And we think we could be, too. If only.

But it all flows into one. Yesterday is part of today, and yesterday's flaws were integral.

The failings and lessons and slippages of yesterday are beautiful in the light of redemption. To redeem means to recover, to offset. It's not about wiping everything out; what redemption does is transform the way we look at everything. Our lives can be just as they are, the rough spots, the smooth. We see how it's all offset by love.

Today's shortcomings are all right. No need to insist on a brand new tomorrow, a demarcation of day or hour.

We humans, too, can be recovered. Don't throw them out! Nevermind the flaws. They can be salvaged.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Telling God's Truth

For years I spent a lot of energy trying to perpetuate the lie that I was "perfect." It wasn't something I was conscious of, but I did work very hard at it. I was driven by a need to create this impression for family, church, and even for myself. I drove myself crazy.

I think of Jack in "The Importance Of Being Earnest," a terrific show I saw Friday. Jack's mythical identity gets in the way of his happiness - when those he loves find out he's been lying. He discovers how telling the truth is painful, especially when one has relied on false realities for an artificial sense of well-being.

I love the St. Augustine quote, "Truth belongs to (the) Lord, wherever it is found." When we get involved in the Truth, God gets involved in us. God isn't interested in our pretenses and defenses, no matter how convincing we play them. When we are brave enough to say, "This is how it really is," the curtain closes on our little playact, and life can finally start.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Are You Salvaged?

It has quite a ring to it, doesn't it?

I think we should replace the question, "Are you saved?" with "Are you salvaged?" That way, askers would think twice. Would I really want to go up to a person and ask if he or she realizes he or she is a broken-down piece of junk? Would I ask, have you been salvaged?

My point is to recognize that we all have flaws and problems that could send us to the scrap heap. I shouldn't fuss over yours. I should be paying attention to whether I've been salvaged.

Thank God for salvagation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Richard Rohr writes that Jesus was asked 183 questions, but he only directly answered three. Evidently his job description wasn't to answer every question.

Be willing to look beyond the questions. What is driving us in our need to ask so many questions?

The questions themselves, we can let go.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ordinary People Who Know Things

The other day, I was in a conversation with Susan. I could just picture the trees. She talked about how she loves to go up among the trees at Mt. Tabor, standing, breathing, opening her arms. She might stretch herself tall and imagine herself a tree. Most of all she will just be.

Daily she serves her community, L'arche, in countless acts of beauty, showing God's love. She is known by many as Sister Susan. But Susan knows her life isn't about doing, but being.

Susan said, "I don't have to do anything to be me."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Small Things

I planned to make it a workday and tackle the house, shopping, cleaning and organizing. In my transformed environment, I'd write a chapter of one of my books, or engage in meaningful reading or prayer. Do something important. It turned out, I spent the day waiting in line and cooking dinner. It felt like such a waste. In the evening I blew a sigh at the kitchen counter, noticing the fortune cookie Lisa had given me a few days earlier. I broke it open to this fortune:

"We can do no great things; only small things with great love." --Mother Theresa

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ordinary People Who Know Things

"Religion is the Undoing of God." --my friend Carla

Saturday, February 7, 2009

There is No Starting Over

As a kid I hated messing up. Whether I'd neglected my chores or broken a rule, or skipped Bible study, I agonized about getting in trouble in our fundamentalist Christian home. In my mind, I had to start over. I was forever starting over.

My Dad said, "Why do you always think you have to start over?" But I was convinced I needed a new day, a new week, a new arrangement of bedroom furniture, a new outfit. Anything to help me in my new start.

This kind of thinking was perpetuated by church culture, wherein we were taught that being "born again" was all about a new start. Here I was, born again, but it wasn't enough. I needed more new starts. (Nevermind the fact I was only 13, or 16 or 18.) Every altar call, crusade, church camp experience, New Year's service - these were all new starts that I depended upon desperately.

These new starts were always tenuous, temporary and shaky, but I couldn't help trying.

The fixation with starting over is not just in the church, but has saturated our society. I love how it was expressed in a terrific play I saw some time ago, How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found, brilliantly performed by Portland Center Stage.

Charlie is an advertising executive with a stressed-out psyche, a maxed-out credit card, and an empty life. He encounters a fraud artist who can help him create a new identity with all the necessary identifiers, licenses, passports. Charlie becomes convinced that leaving Charlie behind - in essence, disappearing - is the answer to everything.

As humans, we're convinced that starting over means changing our identity, and it's the answer to the pain we experience in life. If we can just be somebody else, get a new "us," life will be better.

It's so hard for us to see God in the life we already have - that He meets us right where we are, as who we are, with all the shit we experience. But this is what real life is. Anything else is just trying to disappear.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today's Tears

This morning, I was moved to tears by the prayer and benediction at the inauguration of our 44th President. This evening as my husband and I were reading mondegreens, I laughed so hard I couldn't hold still, and the tears were again tickling the corners of my eyes.

Experiencing the spectrum of emotion is a workout for the soul. Every pore opens and breathes. Blood tingles as it makes it course.

I remember a conversation I had with my parents a long time ago in which we talked about emotions. I hadn't had these parents very long (I didn't acquire them until I was eleven), and I'd somehow gotten the idea that it was wrong to be emotional. Even at eleven, I had learned to deny and push down my feelings, and to keep them in hiding. "Being 'emotional' doesn't have to be a bad thing," said my Dad. "It just means you are having feelings, and expressing them."

Much of our church traditions have balked at emotion. Churches have been mystified, bewildered, and afraid of feelings. Somewhere we got the idea that it is wrong to feel things. In certain circles, at certain times, in certain denominations, emotion has been accepted: but if you go outside their parameters, you may be labeled "out of control."

Sometime after that conversation with my new parents, I was given the book I Love the Word Impossible, by Ann Kiemel. She wrote that Jesus laughed with her, cried with her. I was in awe. Would I ever feel that free, to laugh, and cry, and be close to Jesus?

Well, yes.

But it would take some years of practice.

And that's fine. Practicing emotion is not a problem: there are always new chances to feel.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Profound Ordinariness

I've been waiting for something profound to happen in my spiritual life, so I would have something profound to say here.

News flash. Our spiritual lives are not made up of profound moments, but ordinary ones. This is why I say "ordinary things will save us." I must remember that the Divine Presence is with me when I'm typing an email or pilfering chocolate chips from my baking drawer (meant for cookies!) or washing the water pitcher - that is when I'm closest to God. I must recognize that being human is what I'm here for - and it's temporary, and I might as well enjoy it with my Creator.

I like how this was expressed in the book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield. He explains that breakthrough spiritual experiences are wonderful - but they are not what make us strong, spiritual people. Dazzling encounters seem to be the ultimate thing. But inevitably, these experiences are followed by the drudgery of chores, earning a living, paying bills. Kornfield says you can take any reknown spiritual leader and plunk him or her down in the U.S. with a mortgage and a family and then, suddenly he or she wouldn't be so guru-like. This is the greatest challenge: to deal with the pressures of what you and I deal with every day. Living well in the ordinary is what will make or break us.

What's God doing with me today? Loving me just the way I am, and sorting laundry.