I am trying not to sink into either anger or despair.

At the state and national level, politicians are taking aim at the misguided and seemingly flat-out evil they can readily find in those they have identified as enemies:  elected leaders of the opposing party.

This impasse in sensibilities has huge implications.  We have borrowed from our children’s future in order to buy a short-term fix at the state level.  At the national level, the jousting for ideological bragging rights may result in untold catastrophe.

All this while the chasm between the rich and the poor grows ever more immense.

We are not a “Christian” nation.  Clearly we are not.  Scriptures are a recurring drum- beat calling us to awareness of the plight of our brothers and sisters.  That plight is our business, it is our concern, it is our call to heart action.

What is the best instrument of redistribution?  Many, and rightfully so, insist that government is an inefficient manager of playing-field leveling.  So, consequently, government ought not be trusted with such.

But if not the government, then who and what and how?  Those who insist on downsizing (and the downsized are seniors on fixed incomes, children who didn’t choose to be born into poverty, and people shaken by health crises) have much to say about what isn’t working: government.

The same voices seem to believe that government does work to mandate decisions about intimate life decisions.

Evidently in such thinking, government cannot be trusted with ensuring that each child born in this country has access to fullness of life, but it can be trusted to enter bedrooms and bodies.

I am afeared.  The rhetoric saturating our nation is all about finger pointing.  It’s a great diversionary tactic; it feels good to take aim and fire at another while the tender dream of “justice for all” burns itself into extinction.

There is enough for all.   Economists have named it, and in the unsoundbited portion of our tender souls, we know this to be true.  God has promised ongoing care and nourishment for creation.

So while children are starving in Somalia, elders are wrangling vulnerability in Minnesota, and assets are stockpiled by the increasing few in our nation, we could choose to stop the slashing of he-said-she-said and work with what we have.

We have enough.  How will we see it shared?  We move toward becoming a nation grounded on Christian values when we ask that question and work with what we have – our government, our churches, our hearts – to live into the power of communal care.




rhythm change

On Sunday eighteen of us leave for a Boundary Waters Canoe Area adventure.  There will be thirteen youth and five adults.  We will base camp outside of the BWCA the first and last nights in order to be together.  For two nights, we will be groups of nine apiece in the BWCA.

I have been part of bringing youth to the BWCA for thirteen years of my fifteen years of ministry.  It never fails to move me.  Watching youth unplug and open to water and stars is a holy gift.

For the last seven years, my partner in crime has held camp together.  He is great with kids, handles me well (ask anyone, it is a necessary skill involving coffee provision and humor), and sets a powerful tone for our communal life together.

This year Alex isn’t going with us.  He is ill with some confounded thing so he needs to remain home.  I’m missing him already.

We settle into rhythm in our lives.  We find partners who make us better leaders and better people.  Often we take them for granted, these co-journeyers.  In their company, we take up our parts and know the good of our companions and adventures are embraced with a sense of confidence and gratitude.  When the rhythm changes, we notice.

This year, I am partnered with other great adults who have participated with me in these camps for years.  We’ll do fine.

But we will miss the sarcastic and steady presence of he who needs healing.



How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

My 21-year-old son has returned home after a year of adventuring in New Orleans.  He did a stint with AmeriCorps.  Through his work, he learned the lives of children very different from his own.  And, he learned things his mother doesn’t need to know.

So he is home for a time.  Plans are afoot for an apartment where he can revel in friends and music without parental controls.  But for now, he is home.

Every morning as I pass his room, a head pops up.  It is the head of our lumpy and ancient black lab.  She is happily nestled in the bed of Jamie-saturated clothing carpeting the floor of his room.

She looks up at me as I pass as if to say: “He’s home.  He’s my boy.  Sleeping in his scent is of course what I would be doing.”

It makes my heart flip, this sight.  Through the comings and goings of my three children and Cooper’s three children, Zoe greets each returning child as though they are the best present ever.  Her devotion to them is a thing of beauty and power.

In her brown eyes is liquid love.

How does Zoe love us?  Let us count the ways.


elemental wonder

“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The Lord has made both of them” (Proverbs 20:12).

Sometimes it feels like the advertising industry and our culture conspire to keep us distanced from our bodies:  we perfume them and pill them and manipulate them (and why the use of the word “them” when our bodies are our very selves?) to remain compliant and (yeah, right) controlled.

And then we step away from all that and become students of our flesh.  For me, becoming reacquainted with wonder is one of the huge gifts of embarking on a Boundary Waters trip.

Suddenly, with the first water-dipped paddle, awareness grows that this “thing” we walk our brains around in is an essential and elemental miracle.  And, it is fragile and capable of amazing feats and aches, both.

I have just returned from a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota.  I went with eleven other women from our church (two groups) for four nights.

Looking at maps and planning routes is part of the fun – sort of like looking at travel brochures, only better, because imagination is the only visual available.  Tales shared by others about great routes or lakes are guidance.

And then, after months of imaginings, the route unfolds before you.  The remembered weight of a canoe balanced on your shoulders is reality, and the real work of carrying your house and provisions in a pack is commenced.

This trip featured some awful portages (a portage, for the uninitiated, is a trail connecting one lake with another).  They were rocky, steep, muddy and many, and we did them with a goodly chorus of laughter and muttering.

Our destination was a lake six portages in.  We set up camp in a gorgeous spot and savored our efforts through the torrential thunderstorms (five plus inches of water during one of them!) and hot days.  Our return trip was full of white-capped winds.  It was not pretty.

We worked.  We lived.  We laughed.  We were so blessed to be creatures aware of the wonder of bodies able to lift and move and we were able to relish days during which we let go of agenda and life swirl.

Sitting around camp fires, sharing meals under a minuscule tarp with rain sheeting from the sky, enjoying conversation circles while bobbing in a crystal lake, waking through the night to the movement of the moon, and marking the wonder of ankles that support, knees that bend, arms that propel and bellies that laugh is elemental wonder.

Savoring the uniqueness of the Holy as it lives in each person in the group is reminder that we carry within us essential grace fired by the imagination of our Creator.

I return from BWCA trips so full of gratitude.  Immersion in elemental wonder revives and reminds.

The swirl of life is real.  So too is the amazing wisdom and strength of the flesh.


Recently I have reconnected with a cousin.  As such things go, she was grouped with my older siblings while I was only too happy to frolic with her younger siblings.  We grew up together in parallel play sorts of ways.

And now, years between us don’t matter much and years gone by don’t matter much. What matters, I am finding, is that we grew up together.  It is a precious bond.

When in her company, I find myself utterly moved by the glimpses I get of her mother. Her mother and my mother were sisters of the titan sort; each strong, each strong-willed, each poetic of soul, each imprisoned by the oughts of their day and each beautiful in a timeless way. My cousin’s mom died a few years back and it shook us all.  How could the world be without the regal and self-minimizing presence of that woman?  How does a life force like that encounter finitude?

It hasn’t, not totally. Because my aunt’s daughter carries her mother in her being.  It is gift.

It’s that way, isn’t it?  We carry within our cells the essence of the woman whose heart beat established our elemental rhythm.  Sometimes it is struggle, this maternal legacy. The refrigerator magnet I gave to my mother years back featured a lovely 50’s era über housewife with a tray of steaming cookies and the message said: “Oh *&^%!  I turned into my mother!”

We take the elemental real that is our mother and her way of being in the world and we learn from it and adapt the parts that rub us raw (therapists are happy to help with this, thank God) and we sort and discard and add and we weave an essence that can be mother to us.

When we see her in others, in ourselves, and in kin, we give thanks for the day when our souls are free to pay the sorts of homage that are due.  We are able to laugh about the ways the beat goes on.  We celebrate the tenacious power of the echoes of our mothers that will live always.

Surely my aunt lives in my cousin.  Surely my mother lives in me.  Surely I give thanks.



humanity vow

Sometimes reading the morning paper is a remarkable dunk into the absurd.

Today was.

It was reported that presidential candidate and US House of Representatives member (from MN) Michelle Bachman has signed an Iowa Christian group’s “Marriage Vow”.  Part of the rhetoric to which she joined her name includes a statement that has me head waggling yet.  Offensive is an understatement:

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American president.”

The document also calls for banning same-sex marriage and pornography, as well as maintaining that women and children’s safety hinges on (and only on? my question) heterosexual marriage.

Hmmmm, where to begin?

We are to know, according to the document and according to the rhetoric washing over us relentlessly is that the answers to our considerable social problems are best handled sans government.  Which is befuddling, given that considerable time and effort was taken by our government (with an impending and eventual shut-down of our state government hugely real) to maneuver an amendment calling for marriage as available to only a man and a woman.

What the document signed in Iowa seems to imply is the reason for the crumblings of the American dream is the erosion of a one man one woman family.

The quote above seems to imply that if only we were back in the days of slavery, well then children would have two parents (never mind that they were owned as property and could be sold at the whim of the “property” owner).

If only one man and one woman were married women and children would be safe!  Never mind that women continue to make nearly 1/4 the salary of men.  Never mind that the realities of physical violence against women are real both within and without the bonds of marriage.  Never mind that nearly 1/5 of the children in our state live in poverty and that the guidelines for what makes for poverty is $22,000 for a family of four.  1/5!

I don’t know if the 1/5 have a man and a woman present in their home.  What I know is that we are an increasingly broken people.  What I know is that while our children go without food and early childhood education and live with the stress that is the daily reality of poverty, the issue, it seems to me, is not mandating what gender their care givers are.

The “Marriage Vow” is a dodge.  My opinion.

The issue, it seems to me, is who are we as followers of the Way?  Who are we?

I’m reading a great book:  How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.  In it, he speaks of how it was St Patrick was able to share the good news of the gospel by way of how he lived, how he spoke to others, how he stressed the inclusive and expansive grandeur of God evidenced in the good of earth and humanity and when oh when have we heard that voicing of what it means to be a follower of Jesus from our political “Christians”?

We live in a time when a barrage of rhetoric is meant to shut down the asking of questions, the naming of pain, the noting of increasing disparity, the mining of the teachings of our faith that would have us to know that the kingdom of God is not created based upon the one sure foundation of one man and one woman joined in holy matrimony.

The kingdom of God is created when we each; each of us different, each of us passionate about the vision preached by Jesus, each of us willing to claim a common desire to cease this nutsy-making rhetorical mud fight (gee, am I mud fighting here???), each of us willing to look around us at the faces and lives of the neighbors who are children of God and see what is real and respond in the ways taught by Jesus.  Those teachings are pretty clear.

Marriage is based upon living partnership in such a way that the fragile is tended.

Our “Marriage Vow” ought consider the fragile family of God’s beloveds.

What is needed, it seems, is a “Humanity Vow”.  It is the vow we claim as our own when we claim kinship with the Christ.

God grant us the courage and the heart for the living of these days.








In her book Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes shares folk tales resonant with power.

One such tale, shared in a chapter about women’s need to cherish and steward the juices of creativity, she speaks of the need to sit in the lap of a trusted other in order to be rocked into a sense of rest and re-creation.  Sometimes what is needed is the “there, there, there” of tending and hold.

It has been such a time for me, these days of vacation.  I have felt the “there, there, there” of embrace from a lake whose smell is life for me, from echoing loon call, from unstructured days and from time spent with clan people who make my heart stretch with almost unbearable gratitude.

Books have been inhaled, stars admired, cribbage and monopoly games have been won and lost (when did my children become such consummate capitalists?!) and I have felt the stirrings of a desire to re-engage with the considerable richness that is my vocational life.

But oh, I want to remember the sense of Holy holding when the temptation to book my life crazy takes hold.

Our lives, each of our lives, are held in the embrace of the holding “there, there, there”.  Holy shelter is not finite nor bound by vacation calendars or locale.  The arms of grace are longing to enfold and bless in ways that lead us to co-creation of the good, the healing, the deep-breath-being that is mindfulness.

No matter where we believe ourselves to be: stuck in traffic, in despair, in the sometimes wrench that is reading the newspapers.  No matter.  We have but to breathe and remember the expansive lap of grace that holds us, pats us, stills us, enlivens us, and asks us to do no more than we humanly can; God being our guide, our witness, our shelter, our lap.

Remind me in a week that this is so.