I drove halfway across the state of MN today to watch my daughter fly.

Rachel is a senior at the U of MN Morris.  She is a biology and environmental science double major.  As part of their graduation requirement, students are asked to prepare and present a lecture on a topic.  The lecture is to last forty-five minutes or so, with ten minutes for questions from students and faculty.

I’d be hard pressed to say exactly what her paper was on.  It had to do with how it is mercury is spewed into our environment and taken into the most basic lifeforms and transmitted up the food chain to humans.  It was informative (who knew that all those chemicals and the ways they bond would translate into tremors for the health of creation) and it was clear to me that she not only knew a lot, but was excited to share it with her peers and instructors.

How is it that this is so?  How is it that we gestate and give birth, raise and love, bless and send, and observe flight?  How is it that children morph into adults who have such passion for their worlds and such conviction that they can create better and saner ways of encountering it than the generations that preceded them?  How is it that a mom can bounce across the state and land in her daughter’s world and watch there a miracle unfold?

I’m in awe.  Somehow that girl ended up in my life.  Somehow I got to hold her and sing to her and breathe the air she breathed and now, in flight, she thinks to invite me to share the loft.

Blessed am I among women.

fur love

We have unpaid ministerial staff at our house.  Unpaid, unless you count bread gulps, mountains of Purina, and catnip baubles.

The heart ground of our clan is Zoe, our black lab (mostly) dog.  She has not always been appreciated.  While a puppy, she was BAD.  Furniture still bears witness to her penchant for tearing and ripping and chewing.  She was wild and excited most of the time.  We wondered what kind of crazy lunacy led us to take on a puppy with three small children.  There were thoughts of throwing in the towel.  But we prevailed, figuring that we didn’t want our kids to get the message that if they misbehaved, they would be shipped off to another home.

Thank goodness for that.  As she has aged, Zoe has blessed us beyond the price of any piece of furniture or vexation.  She is the first to greet anyone coming home; tail wagging and a slipper or shoe in her mouth as gift.  She is the warm heart always available to my children.  When tears and the huge challenge of living have swept them through the years and some of that challenge had to do with parents, Zoe was the go-to for steadfast and uncomplicated love.

She smells, yes.  She gets wild about garbage trucks and newspaper deliveries, yes.  And she is teacher of love.

The cat?  Well, that’s another story.  We got Ball as a chance for Jamie to have “his own” critter.  Foolish was that notion.  Because as we came to learn, cats are no one’s own.  They are their own.  And so it is with Ball.  He is insistent that he be treated with a flow of food.  He makes the dog cower because he is one bad hombre.  And yet, when the day has been long and the soul wrung, Ball finds his way to laps and shares his warmth and rumble.

I read in the morning’s paper about what goes on in designer puppy mills.  It sounds foul.  What I know is this:  the dog that was born under a trailer in rural Duluth and the cat that was taken in from a shelter in Minneapolis are grace in our lives.   In the choreography that is life in our home, hearts walk on four legs.

earth praises

It’s Earth Day.  Today on the calendar, anyway.  But the reverence and mindfulness meant to surface on this day toward the gift of the cosmos must become so much a part of our being that we know each day to be Earth Day.

On this day we stop and give thanks –

For the places in our childhood that taught us awe and holding:  the lap of trees and the loft of sitting above the ground in the midst of the music of leaves.  The lakes that taught us to trust their hold as we relaxed and learned to float.  The mud crafted into pies and cakes and flung.  The stars singing a song of belonging to a child flat on back in the midst of the awesome “what is”.

For the places in our adult life where we are reminded that God’s artistry is life blood:  the cabins, the woods, the tree buds that promise that winter will leave for a time, the smell of growing and green and its partner the decay and crisp of fall.

For the awareness that all that is has been wrought from the imagination and heart of God and we are witnesses to the fragile and precious gift that is creation.

May we tend it with reverence.  May we tend it with gratitude.  May we breathe with our creator the breath of life upon this world.

heart stuffs

In the flurry of life it’s easy to loose your heart wisdom; the kind of wisdom that reminds you that good friends are without price.

I spent Sunday night in the company of two women who have long been beloveds.  We have been busy, we three.  Two of them run their own businesses:  one a yoga studio and one an elder relocation service (hands on help for elders as they move from one home to another).  And me, well, I do the dance that is ministry.  Between us we have eight children and four grandchildren.  There are partners and there are consulting gigs and for one a recently published book and for another, a nationally published article (that would be me). 

We haven’t been together for three years.  It got to be known that this was near criminal, so we met in a retreat center where we had time and space and trees and stars and no agenda beyond hearing each other’s hearts and holding same.

I am blessed.  I am blessed to be connected to women who know and hold me and who allow me to know and hold them.  I am blessed by the awe I feel at their beauty.  I am blessed by the ways they are woven threads of grace in my life.  I am blessed by deep laughter and free tears and breathing the same air with them – no matter how far the miles may separate us.

We all breathe.  And the blessings are.

urban dance

Yesterday was spring at its finest here in Minneapolis.  True, there are barely buds on the trees, but oh, the sun was glory.

Cooper and I had a date.  A long afternoon of revelling in play.  We walked from Minnehaha falls down to the river, we stopped at a most urban site for a quick dinner, and then we hopped the light rail to the Metrodome for a Twins game.

My man loves baseball.  I love him.  So I’m thinking the “if a=b and b=c, then the a=c” thing should apply.  It does, just not with the same fervor.  For the likes of me, the game on the field is (ok, meaningful) prop for the game in the crowd.  The play last night was thrilling. 

We were surrounded by Minnesota theatre:  The costumes, the set, the Scandinavian chorus, the lines, the music, the ritual foods, the drama and the comedy.

A pop fly came our way.  It bounced off the deck above us and caromed to an area two rows behind us.  I ended up with a foot slamming into my shoulder because a man two rows back launched himself into the air to score the ball for his child.  He did.  I have the tread marks to prove it.  And what did that child of about seven years of age do?  Once the drama subsided and bodies were untangled, he burst into sobs.  The bullet ball and the heroic leap and the glare of public scrutiny and the thrill of the hunt were too much for him.  Sometimes getting what we fervently hope for is more than we can take in, no?

A row in front of us was an Angel’s fan.  She seemed intent upon boisterously cheering for her team whilst in the midst of Twins territory.  She had a stuffed monkey Angel’s mascot that she danced through the air as she whooped.  Twins fans accepted her exuberance with grace.  Though I did hear some muttering about harm coming to that monkey….

On the light rail crammed with blue and red jerseys, I took up the muse of those of us who are aging:  “My, how times have changed….”  In a crammed train with people clinging to straps for stability there were two children of elementary age.  They were seated.  Around them were some advanced in their years.  When I was a girl, it was unthinkable that the young would not assume that the seats were best used by those who have racked up more years.  How do we as parents and teachers balance child-centered with child aware-of-others?  How do we as village raise our children to be aware of the village?

And there was this.  The Twins were getting slaughtered.  The lead of the opposing team seemed insurmountable and my sad man wanted to leave before the game was over.   That seemed so wrong to me.  We’d be quitters!  So we stayed.  And there was a grand slam miracle and the place went nuts and I thought thank God for crowds who show up and cheer for men who make obscene amounts of money to hit a white ball in order for us to enjoy community theatre.

It was a great day.

go and tell

I have a dear faith sister who is serving in Sierra Leone on mission for the ELCA.

When first I met her she was serving a big steeple church in Lancaster, PA.  She was ground for that church and willing enough to be a resident of Pennsylvania and yet there was a yen in her that would not be stilled.  She felt the tug of a land and people she had experienced years before. 

So she is there now.  Serving the movement of Jesus in a place far from her roots.  Learning the ways of life apart from rhythms and ways of being  that mark the seasons of a parish pastor in the States.

It is her first Holy Week there.  Serving in a liason role without a parish to guide, she is guest and participant but she does not set the table for worship.  She wrote to we who are her clergy sisters and asked that we might send her our sermons and the thoughts we are sharing with our communities.  It would help, she told us, to feel across the many miles some semblance of  being enfolded in the story as she is used to feeling it unfold.

It is the wee hours of morning here on Easter.  In a few hours I will be in the midst of an Easter-seeking crowd of church folk, greedily gulping the sounds of timpani and organ.  We will do what we do on Easter:  greet each other with the shining joy of the resurrection, marvel at the beauty of our children, and throw our hearts into singing hope.

And across the world, the party will have already unfolded.  With Kate in their midst.  And that, perhaps, is one of the most powerful Easter witnesses of all.  The disciples are enjoined in that long ago garden to “go and tell” the good news of the risen one.

My sister Kate is doing just that;  in her powerful, grounded and Spirit filled way she is doing that.  My prayer is that she knows the power of Christ holding her in the new, rolling back the stones of loneliness, breathing through her courage, blessing her witness, even as she will bless my own in the hours to come.

We carry the Christ.  One to the other.  We are the people of the Risen One.

blessed and broken

Last night on Maundy Thursday we gathered as the broken and the blessed.

On a Thursday night as the world swirled around us, we paused for a time and remembered a story of which we are an ongoing part.

We acknowledged how badly we need each other.  There is no purchaseable gimickry that can replace the warmth of the Holy shared face to face, hand to hand, heart to heart.

We participated in remembering the story of Jesus and how it was he gathered at table with his heart folk.  We participated in owning our own sometimes inability to allow love to touch the vulnerable places of our being.  We thought a bit about how pride keeps us from allowing ourselves to be tended in the ways taught to us by our faith.  We knew in that time that we are broken and we are blessed by coming together and feeding each other the stuffs of attention and compassion and bread.

For all the natterings about relevance surrounding the institution of church, I say: come to dinner.  Because for an hour or so last night, the lonely were held, the tired tended, and the seeking found.  All because we paused and fed each other the bread of life.  Our love, broken and blessed as shared meal was conduit of the Holy.  Truly, we shared bread for our journey.  And it was good.

techno humility

I bought a toy that is smarter than I am.

Wanting to be able to carry my calendar and phone and email with me in one easy package I bought a Blackberry Storm.  I was excited about this purchase, and had thought about it a good long time.

My son’s response to the news?  “That’s great mom!  Good for you!  I am SO glad I’m not at home.”

Why, you might ask, is my son delighted to be away from me during this time of building relationship with new technology?

I am a techno lover and techno dunce, both.  It is a most annoying combination, particularily for those who know things and begin to want to run when they see me coming.

I can picture it.  How cool it will all be, my whipping out of my small worker  of wonders.  What I didn’t imagine was that I would have to learn how to use it, and that the learning would be tedious and frustrating and that I would want my son who knows these things instinctually to be at my side, patiently and gently coaxing light into my befuddled brain.  The way I liken it to him was it took HOURS and DAYS for him to learn how to ride his bike or tie his shoes.  And who was the patient guide into the thrill of the new?  Me, his mother.  But somehow, that logic has no charm for him.

So.  Here I am.  All geared up with nowhere to go.  Trying not to beg those who know things for mercy.  If you know how to work these things and can bear dunderheads, I am your humble student.  Or, I can wait to really cruise with my new toy until Jamie comes home from college.  He doesn’t have to know what I don’t know. 

I’m worried that if I confess, he won’t come home.

wonder of wonders

I forget from year to year.

Every year, our church is able to give thousands of dollars to aspiring young musicians.  The scholarship was set up by a member who was legendary for music cultivation in our community.  She wanted the name of her family to live on in the hearts and rhythms of life even after her death.  And so, every year the call goes out to area high school students that they are welcome to come and audition for a Groth music scholarship.

They have to have a 3.0 grade point average.  They have to want to make music and the sharing of it and the making of it as their vocational dream.  And they have to be really dedicated by the ripe old age of seventeen or so.  Because the competition is tough, and the challenge to rise to the top real.

Honestly.  Reading the applications alone is enough to make a person weep.  I do.  Those of us on the selection committee are invited to see what it is these young music makers have done with their days.  We find they have done amazing things.  They have played in venues grand and in nursing homes.  They have studied with music teachers and a 3.0 is no issue for them because for many of them there is a straight line of “A” in the grade column.  They have played in churches and they have taught children and they have shared themselves and their gifts oh so generously.

Part of the audition is an interview, so we can get a sense of what it is they long to do with their music.  The poise and passion shared is glory.

I think of the hours and thousands of dollars and bucket fulls of hope their parents have poured out in order for their children to practice their art.  I think of the hours spent in solitude, rehearsing over and over scales and phrasing and technique when friends are calling and sloth is enticing.

What I want to say is this:  the future is held by these young wonders, and we are in good hands.  When I am tempted to forget, Groth auditions roll around and I am swept into the world of wonder once again.  I like it there.


OK.  I am not a TV fanatic, but I confess a major exception to that rule.

When my children were growing up, we had a ritual.  Every Thursday night we would grab popcorn and other good treats and retreat to our second floor TV room.  It was on the second floor because we lived in a drafty old Victorian in Duluth and after dark the first floor was no darn fun.  So we made our nest upstairs and turned with anticipation to ER.  It was our favorite. 

Last night was the end of the series.  I rushed home from a meeting and caught the end of it.  And truth be told, I was all sorts of choked up when I heard the theme music played for the last time and was taken with the camera as it panned out from the familiar.

It was those long ago nights I was remembering in my emotional core.  The days when my children were all in the same place at the same time and what mattered to them was that their parents were nestled in with them and together we were warm and safe and together.

The camera pans out.  Children grow up.  Nestling delights for them are not of the parental variety.  Family configurations change.  One drafty house is traded in for another (when will I EVER learn?). 

The bittersweet ache of endings that is the background music of our lives is ever playing.  It did last night across this nation as the cast and crew of ER took its last turn on camera.  And that music wove into my heart and awakened there memory and longing and awareness that scenes are never static. 

Change is.  And the savoring of what was?  That is, too.