varied and dense

The Holy Spirit finds ready kindling in the bellies of pastors.

My partner is a pastor. I am one too.

Last night Cooper offered a mini retreat at his church.  Twenty some people came out for an evening of faith sharing.  He got home after ten, set the alarm to get up at six and now he is unloading food from a truck for their church’s monthly food distribution.

On this day I will meet with a couple to plan their wedding and talk about their hearts.  I’ll follow that with a hospital visit and phone calling, come home and write a sermon and then attend a dinner for our confirmation students and their parents and mentors.

Tomorrow we at RUMC will be in the presence of five amazing youth as they speak for themselves their intention to live in the grace of God in the way of Jesus.  At our second service we will all savor the power of our discipleship, and then it is off to a party and then and then and then we will motor off to our place of regrouping:  the cabin.

It is a varied and dense thing, this art called ministry.  It fascinates and calls me yet.

I’m preparing to spend time with new clergy in a retreat setting next month.  The stated topic is “margins”.  How do we as clergy maintain margins in this thing that is living our vocation?  How do we give and give and give knowing that we must also receive receive receive?  How do we balance the exquisite juggle that is parish ministry with the needful time spent apart from it?

Sometimes the belly fire falters.  Like all others whose work is woven into their bones, clergy wonder if we can muster the energy and hope that keeps us setting alarms and dreaming programs.  We wonder if the world is just too busy to sit open before the immensity of possibility and grace.

And then we encounter eyes that light up and puddle, hearts that hunger, and transformation that invites and the spark that felt falterish gets lit anew.

Mostly I thank God for seeking my partnership in the stirring of hope.

In a world tangled and seemingly bent upon savaging, I am part of a movement that proclaims the power of holy and human love.

For today, that is enough.



I’m still digesting the feast laid out by poet David Whyte yesterday at a gathering held at Hennepin Ave UMC.

In talking about the wild learning project that is living and loving, he spoke of the power of forgiveness.

Whyte said that if a friendship has lasted over the years, each individual has had opportunity to forgive and be forgiven through the years.

In order for relationship to be, forgiveness is a crucial ingredient.

What gift it is to greet and name forgiveness as necessary in relationship rather than trying to dodge the reality that there will be bumps and hurting through any companionship that is real.

The acknowledgement of the sometimes heartbreak and disappointment that is living in relationship is a unique gift given by the teachings of Jesus.

According to an insight shared by some wise person I encountered in my reading, while all religious traditions teach a version of the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you), Christianity is unique in that Jesus was specific about how it is we are to practice the soul art of forgiveness.

I’m grateful for that.

This morning I sat over coffee with two women I have known as friends for over twenty years.  As I took in the gift of their being I was aware of gratitude for forgiveness given and received.  I can’t remember that we’ve gotten into major scrapes through the years, but I know that hurts and challenges have accompanied our relationships.

Yet there we were, the forgiving and the forgiven, reveling in the miracle of years lived in each other’s company.

Being human is no solitary pursuit.

Soul gifts come in the stretch and song of loving.

Forgiveness frees, teaches, and waters the tender bungle that we are.

Thanks be.






Outside the sanctuary, the first snow flakes of the year were slopping.

Inside the sanctuary, there were hundreds gathered.  We were there, pilgrims that we are, to listen to the heart of poet David Whyte.

Whyte wove a web of invitation to each of us to examine the temporary names we live under and add to them a name which honestly speaks the soul longing that thrums within each:  Pilgrim.

As pilgrims, we know our call to “set out beyond ourselves” as we learn to ask more and more beautiful questions about this journey that is our life.

In reflecting on the grand mystery that is life, Whyte quoted his dear Anam Cara, John O’Donohue, who said that “The great miracle of life is that there is something rather than nothing and that you are a part of that something.”

In the sanctuary of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church we who gathered were keenly aware of our being part of the great “something”.  As Whyte read his poems (the latest collection is entitled “Pilgrim” and is soul companion song), he left at the end of each reading a deep silence.

In that silence sang the longings, losses, and hope-beat of each heart present.  We were woven by reverence for the sacred scripture that is life lived courageously, openly and cracked-open painfully.

In the silence was the “something” sung through the ages.

It sings yet.


Tomorrow my eldest turns 28.

I was 28 when she happened into my heart.

I look at her face and savor her being and realize gratitude so exquisite it pains my heart.

Leah’s was a scary delivery.  Not too many details, I promise, but by the time they had decided it was time to deliver her via surgery her vitals were compromised and as they put me under in the midst of great consternation all I could do was pray.

When I awoke there was this baby.  A girl baby healthy, blond-fuzzed, inquisitive and somehow grounded and she was alive alive alive and my heart has not ceased its gratitude song since.

Parenting is a most holy act of stewardship.  Our days are marked with the unfolding of miracle celebrated in the mundane: smiles and steps and words and hugs.  Small hands held in our own grow to reach out into the world touching in ways powerful and unique.

This morning I shared birthday brunch with my three babies and the birthday girl’s beloved.  Leah’s posse basked in her beauty and celebrated her being.

Following the feast, Leah and I went shopping for suitable clothes for a woman newly hired in a job tailor-made for her (she is working for Woman Venture, an organization that provides support for women starting businesses).

As we walked together on an amazingly fine October morning, she put her hand in mine.

Oh, for a thousands tongues to sing.

we’re ok

I spent part of last night in the company of our future.

I was at Minnesotans United for All Families for a phone bank training.  There were some fifty of us in a big room.  There were many places we could have been.  We were there.

We were there on National Coming Out Day in order to make phone calls to voters.  With a scant few days before the election and air waves being inundated with increasingly fear-provoking ads, the need for heart touching is great.

What I saw as I took part in it all was that I was easily one of the oldest people there.  I sat with my two daughters.  Around me were couples, singles, and a wonderful assortment of the kind of young people I would LOVE to have in the pews of the church I serve.  They were there because they do not want the constitution of their state to be contorted by discrimination.

I am hopeful.  With all the anxieties of this election season, what I saw last night gives me a great sense that there is a generation coming up behind us that knows the power of civic engagement and knows how vital it is to be attentive and engaged.

It’s about love.  It’s about love for country and love for the gift that is living democracy and it is about the living of love in families and last night that love walked into the room in the hearts of those who care enough to take action.

Join them.  Join those who were surprised a minister would be present.  Join those who speak up and have conversations via phone or in person.  Find a phone bank or invite a friend out for coffee or write letters to the editor and pray pray pray that love might live in a Minnesota that values justice for all people.

Maybe, just maybe, if the church of Christ Jesus speaks for love, those present last night might see their way into faith community.

We need them.  They have much to teach us.

fear and trembling

While on pilgrimage in Ireland, I fasted from news.

I didn’t log on or pick up newspapers.  It was intentional.

I’m invested in this upcoming election.  Beyond the electing of the President and others running for office (no small thing) are two issues that seem to me to define who we are as Minnesotans in community:  the (anti) marriage amendment and the effort being made to restrict access to voting.

Should Minnesota voters vote “yes” on either issue, the numbers of people who will be uninvited from living in community is staggering.

I cannot comprehend that the love of same gender persons who make family together is so  “dangerous” that Minnesotans must contort our Constitution to legislate oppression.

I cannot comprehend that Minnesotans would willy-nilly make it more difficult for anyone who stirs themselves to care about our public life to make their voice heard at the polls.  Reading the fine print of implications of this voter restriction is essential.  The people affected are the young, those serving our country, the elderly and the disproportionate numbers of non-whites who do not have a photo id.  The statistics concerning past voter fraud are laughable.  There are few cases proven.  There is no sinister band of folk seeking to rig an election through voter fraud.

There does seem to be a move afoot to “protect” the state of Minnesota from those who are not straight Scandinavians.

See what I mean?  I’m concerned about these issues and the impact the vote will have on our sense of who we are together.

Already I’m making plans for where I will be on election night.  It feels immense, this time of casting of votes and defining of values.  I am checking in with my children, each of whom is phone banking and door knocking as the day of casting ballots nears.  I want to be sure they are in good company on election night.

As for me, I’ll be at the home of dear friends.  We will eat jello and share the decisions made by our neighbors.

In the meantime, I’ll remember the ten day news fast as gift and as reminder; the world commences without my heart being pummeled by newspapers and defining votes.

And, I’ll bring my heart and my voice into conversations and prayer for the opening of hearts here in Minnesota.


soul song


I am newly home from a ten day pilgrimage to Ireland.

The trip sought to stimulate questions provoked by land.  How is it place shapes soul?  Do  rocks and stones indeed cry out story?

Indeed they do.  The group visited sites where intrepid souls carved out space in which to worship and learn.  Centuries ago, the building blocks of shelter from the wind and cold were heaved out of the land and placed one upon the other and within that stone womb life stirred.

Those on pilgrimage stood in shell after shell of worship space.  Many of them no longer had roofs, since conquerers throughout time have had a keen sense that spiritual questing often leads to resistance of civic power used to oppress.  Worship site after worship site had been sacked by powers seeking to silence the sound that can not be stilled: the keen and croon of soul.

We who journeyed joined with that song; the song of soul seeking voice, witness, community and healing.

We listened to the wind and the song of the stones.

We sing on.