how it is

Blending families is not for the faint of heart.

I married a man who has three children.  I have three children.  We came together when said children were launching into life.  They were and are young adults fine of mind, body and spirit.

When contemplating this blending adventure, I drew pictures in my mind of a doubled tribe happily meshing into a glorious larger whole.  Our children, who already liked each other immensely, would take to the shared roof adventure with great gusto.

And so they have.  But not in the ways my imagination drew.

What we are discovering is that each group needs its time.  So this weekend, Cooper has travelled to Kansas City to be with his three children and mine are gathering here for a trip to the holy land of the cabin.

For a weekend, we will live rhythms of family we have known for decades.  Of course there will be cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  Of course it will be hard to get Jameson out of bed.  Of course we will sit under the stars and feel awe.  No one will have to be explained into shared memories and jokes, and the delicate work that is weaving the new will be given over to relaxing into the old.

Years ago I would have counted this parallel play as indictment of the new.  Now I see it as healthy and celebratory relishing of the power of growing up in a stew of shared assumptions and ways of being.  In psycho-speak, we’re affirming differentiation. Relishing the apart does nothing to malign the new.

So, when Leah steps off the plane from Denver tonight, we will load three siblings, a dog, a cat, and a humming mother into a Jetta (it’s a good thing we like each other and the dog will not be wet!) and make the trek to the cabin.  For a weekend, we will be teasing, savoring people who have shared so much life, love, and struggle.

When Cooper joins us on Sunday, he will be washed with the same and the glow from his own time with his babies will shine from him.

That’s how it is.  Thanks be to God.


Tribe and heart are amazing things.

I come from a line not so different from many.  In the growing-up years of the generation before me, feelings were kept tightly held.  Like all things kept in the dark of self, contained feelings made for inner roil and outer censorship.

And then, through the soul-task that is living, feelings get named and shared and lives and hearts are changed forever more.

As she lay dying of cancer, aware beyond a doubt that her days were numbered and her heart desirous of open, my aunt said to her adult daughter four words that thrum yet in my soul:  Love is a miracle.

Love is a miracle.

Miracle is.

I stood tonight at the airport waiting for the arrival of my son.  He has been in New Orleans working for AmeriCorps.  I haven’t seen him since Christmas.  As I waited I was witness to the arrival of a man coming home after serving for over a year in Afghanistan.  I watched miracle as his family swooped him up and held onto his precious and whole flesh.  Theirs were not the only weeping eyes.  Those of us who bore witness wept along with them.

And then my son was there and my arms were filled with his sweet being and my heart near broke with the miracle of loving.

Love is a miracle.  We get to live it.  My aunt spoke its power to her beloveds and her words bespeak the ways she became willing to apprentice herself to the art of unclenching.

It is art for the courageous, this thing called loving.

My tribe is courageous.


There are thousands of preachers gathered in the metro area this week.  The annual Festival of Homiletics is underway, and the great names in the world of preaching are gathered to feed those who feed flocks weekly.

I am finding myself overwhelmed in a way strange to me.  I’m not overwhelmed by the shining stars whose work I admire greatly.  I am taking in their words and notions and finding room for gratitude.

What I am overwhelmed by is the sometimes huge feeling thing that is serving as a mouthpiece of the gospel.  I look around me and see people who have given their lives to bringing to voice teachings timeless in their power and transformative in their reach and what I see are tender and hopeful and vulnerable and a trifle beat-up folk.

I am one of that number.

We serve the movement of Jesus in a time complex and challenging.  It has ever been thus.  We read books a plenty about how to cook up church in a way that will be palatable and maybe even delicious to a starving-for-meaning world and we scurry and fret and what we (and that “we” would mean me here) so often experience is a sort of Holy amnesia.  We are so busy trying to be God that we forget that God is in the midst of things and God has it.  The church will be what the church will be.  We just need to be open and set a nourishing table of grace.  God will provide.  So we say.  So we sometimes believe.

Lives have been given over to the preaching of the Word.  We want to do it well.  We tremble at the task.  We enter pulpits and pray to make room for the amazement that is grace and we are human and so much tender courage in one place is overwhelming.

Pray for preachers.  We want so much.


Today we celebrated the life of a brother.  The Rev. Jim Dodge lived life with an honest and searching heart.

At his funeral today we named our love for him and the real challenge that is living as people fully aware of the power of grace.

And we sang and prayed our gratitude for having known such a one as Jim.

One of the traditions of the UM church in MN is that at funerals for our colleagues, we sing as a clergy choir.  This tradition never ceases to humble me.  When it came time to sing for our brother and from our own need to witness, the front of the church became packed with people who have opted to give their lives over to ministry.

I’m proud to be one of that number.

And, I am so grateful that our lives are held by the hand of the Holy and we walk our days in the company of so much that is good.

The squirrely and painful days are real.  But oh, to be able to come together and name our gratitude is soul tonic.  The grief is real, but it is shared and stirred into a huge pot of grace and for that on this day I breathe thanks.

God speed, Jim.  And, thanks for your touch on the lives of the so many who call you teacher and friend.

head on a pike

I woke this morning to half-page headlines:  Bin Laden is dead.  Beneath the headline was a picture of jubilant Americans thrilling to the news that the shadowy nemesis was dead.

It is cathartic, this news.  The most powerful nation on earth has brought to justice the cypher of treachery that cost the lives and complacency of the world.

I find myself torn in the midst of all of this.  Extremism brought down those buildings and extremism planted fear in our hearts and full-body searches to our airports and extremism brought an awareness that a way of life lived mindlessly by many is deeply hated by so many more.  Bin Laden was the poster boy for extremism run amok.

And now he is dead.  And the streets of the Land of the Free are places of jubilant delight because now we have the corpse of the man who has come to epitomize evil.

Who are we?

We are people humbled by the efforts of Americans who spent years risking life and limb to ferret out Bin Laden.  We are people sigh-breathing because the notion that with all the power of our nation we could be thwarted; that notion was galling. We are a people happy to create larger-than-life heroes and villans, both.  We are a people desperate for a sign that our convictions are godly and our hearts true.

And we are a people sick of heart that while there have been evolvings aplenty through the centuries, we still seem to long for the heads of our enemies on a pike outside our city gates.

So yes, the headlines proclaim a victory.

And yes, as followers of The Way the benchmarks of our ethical success are measured by the ways we live beatitude lives.