A New Look


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When we are very familiar with something, be it a place we inhabit or a text from Scripture, we can slide over the experience with only half a mind and miss the significance. Take Psalm 23, the great Shepherd Psalm, for example. Many of us fall back on that text when asked to recite something from Scripture because it is the one that jumps most easily to our lips, so occasionally it helps when praying to adapt the translation in order to  wake us up to new depth.

I am not a fan of changing words just to be trendy and sometimes updating takes the reverence out of a traditional text for me. Not so with Stephen Mitchell’s interpretation of the Psalms or Lynn Bauman’s translation and commentary (which I use frequently in the morning). Two suggestions in Bauman’s notes gave me pause this morning. You might use them as you reflect on your favorite translation.

  1. Imagine that this psalm does not refer to the world outside you, but speaks to an interior space or place within your own being. As you do, mark the shifts in relationship between yourself as a “sheep” needing guidance, and God as shepherd guiding you. Note also the changing landscapes of the soul as you are led through this inner pilgrimage.
  2. Which part of this journey holds the most significance and poignancy for you at this moment in time? Meditate on those words throughout the day. Ask yourself…”How do I need the care and guidance of the Shepherd at this time in my life?” (Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p.55)

Dawning Light


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I’m aware again today of the power of intention and the necessity of determination as well. I was awake, you see, at 4:45am but determined to take advantage of the 90 minutes still available to me for the rest that early morning sleep affords. With that in mind I did my best to let go of my mind’s busyness and today it worked! When I heard my alarm at 6:15 I was grateful and recognized a welcome “start-up” line floating through my consciousness. It was as if Kahlil Gibran had come himself to invite me to the day. To wake at dawn, he said, with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving. (from The Prophet, On Love). 

With that gift, I was propelled out of bed and companioned at every step on the staircase to the kitchen with a “thank you” that just kept rolling effortlessly along. Thank you for this day, thank you for my feet that uphold me, for my Sisters still asleep and for the quiet, for the potential in this day at the office, for a clear sky…thank you, God, for everything I see and for the gift of sight…That may strike readers as simplistic and unrealistic but underneath that gushing waterfall of words is a deep knowing of the pain and suffering that exists in the world. The grace of today is that the suffering does not blot out the joy and gratitude for the life, the love. 

It is somewhat like the experience that we see and hear reflected in the reports of the Bush family as they take their father/grandfather through the ceremonies of the next two days. The loss of this man to each of them and all of them – and to the country – is immeasurable. To allow his rest from the labors of his life and to celebrate what will remain in memory is the reward for letting him go into light.

May we each find reason to give thanks this day.

Word into Silence


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In his book, Praying with the Earth, John Philip Newell punctuates prayers  of different kinds with quotes from the Bible and the Quran. I found a strong pull this morning toward a silence prompted by those “one-liners.” I thought the experience was worth sharing;

>Wait for God. Be strong and let your heart take courage. (Psalm 27:14)

>Where your treasure is there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)   

>Remember God deep in your soul with humility and reverence. (Quran – The Heights 7. 205)



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Yesterday as December roared into being, I was without internet service. Today, I consider that fortuitous because the first Sunday of Advent seems an auspicious day to begin what I had suggested as a practice for the 13 coming months or even 13 weeks to Lent (See blog post “Postscript” – 11/24), considering one word for each. The first word on Joyce Rupp’s list is charity.

Charity is a word whose definition has morphed over time. In an internet search I was mildly surprised to find that the first definition was “an organization set up to provide help and raise money for those in need.” Following that, in the manner of a thesaurus were the words aid, welfare, relief, handouts, largesse – and later -philanthropy, social conscience, benevolence, etc. A third definition included “kindness and tolerance in judging others.” It was only far down the page and with a heading of ARCHAIC that I found what I was looking for: love of humankind, typically in a Christian context. 

Coming from the Latin caritas, the word is grouped in theological parlance with faith and hope as one of the three basic theological virtues – those most foundational to relationship with God and others. Interesting to me was a small chart graph of the declining usage of the word charity from 1800 to the present. 

Perhaps in our practice for this week or month we should consider all these meanings. Ramping up our solicitousness for the poor and unfortunate might include going beyond writing a check (but still including such donations). We might choose to smile and/or greet people as we walk through a shopping mall or stand in the checkout line at the grocery store.  What about visiting someone in a hospital or nursing home or volunteering at an after-school event? 

At the top of that list and part of any choice is the way we offer our service. It is the pure openness of heart that accompanies our actions. Love for the sake of love and not for a return on our investment of time or money or ourselves is the best way to grow in charity in any form.

What will you do to deepen the charity of your being this month/week? 

Come and See!


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While not the gospel reading in today’s lectionary, there is a short passage in the Gospel of John (1:38-39) that I find heartwarming and particularly engaging. It imagines a more personal invitation to those who became the first disciples of Jesus than what we read in Matthew’s account when we picture Jesus walking along by the Sea of Galilee, calling to two sets of brothers with the command, “Follow me.” (4:18-22)

The set-up of the story is the same. Jesus is walking by the fishermen and something in them knows to follow him. As they do, Jesus turns around and asks, “What are you looking for?” They counter with the question, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” to which he responds, “Come and you will see.” And so they do. It was Andrew, brother of John, who is credited with that interchange and today the Church celebrates his willingness.

Had Andrew and “and another disciple” not been alert when Jesus walked by, they might have missed the opportunity of a lifetime, or perhaps it was just a little “test” of their fitness for the job. Some of us are probably more comfortable with Matthew’s remembrance of that moment. It’s sometimes easier to be told what to do rather than asking questions that might seem a bit invasive. The last line of the passage from John says, “So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.” Their decision. A much more mature encounter, wouldn’t you say? 

Creation Speaks


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I clicked on my phone this morning to see what time it was and was greeted with a Washington Post article on climate change, the result of a wide-ranging study with dire predictions. If I had harbored any hesitations about the legitimacy of such news, they would certainly have been quelled by the scholarship of the report. For me, however, it was just more evidence of what has been patently obvious over several years of watching what is happening to Earth, our Mother. The clearest conclusion in the study is that humans are responsible for the underlying causes of much of what is happening and it is up to us to work toward reform in our use and abuse of the goods of the earth.

As I read, I heard Psalm 19 echoing in my head and heart and I was struck by a question forming in response. Listen, please!

The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of God’s hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech; they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world…(vs. 1-4)

Are we listening?

Risky Business


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Sometimes words fail to express what we’re trying to convey, simply because our words are reflections of some personal experience, unique to us – or so we think. Often, however, when we take the risk to share something we are certain that no one would understand, we are shocked into a recognition of how similar we are. This is another arena in which we find that practice is the only way to grow. If we never step out of our comfort zone(s) we will likely not come to understand ourselves or others in the deepest ways possible. 

There is, of course, the possibility of misunderstanding or rejection in our willingness to open ourselves to others. It seems to me, however, that the benefits of risk in this way generally outweigh the disappointments if we take our time and pay attention to the growing edge of disclosure in our relationships. I’m not referring here to youthful experience of trial and error with the “best friends for life” that we read about now in our high school yearbooks, although some of those relationships do remain tried and true. 

In one sense it seems more difficult to maintain deep, mature relationships in this fast-paced, mobile world. Looked at another way, one could see it as easier to keep in touch if we’re willing to use the technologies that permeate our culture like Zoom, Twitter, FaceTime, etc. but that in itself is a challenge for some of us. 

I guess it’s all a question – like everything successful seems to be – of conscious work, balance and letting go…Sometimes we are pleased and sometimes disappointed but in both situations we have an opportunity to grow. At this point in my life, that is enough to know.



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Sometimes it’s just the vocabulary of a line or two that snaps us open to possibility. Occasionally there is a convergence of small events that sparks a new knowing. Let me give this morning’s example. 

In the semi-darkness of the kitchen as I poured my coffee, Sister Paula mentioned yesterday’s blog and the essential nature of what Dave Peters had written about intention that I had quoted. Ten minutes later, settled in my chair looking out at a tree stripped of any sign of life and then back at a blank computer screen, I picked up and read Lynn Bauman’s enthusiastic translation of today’s lectionary psalm. 

Come sing to God, O earth, sing out this song anew. And bless God’s holy name in praise, for day by day we are renewed, restored, refreshed again by glory’s light. Proclaim good news among the nations of the earth, tell all the peoples everywhere God’s work, God’s ways, the wonders that God does…This is your God, bring all you have and offer it in honor of that sacred name. (Ps 96: 1-3, 8)

At that moment I recognized that I had been moving on “automatic pilot,” slipping deeper and deeper into a place of inertia. I didn’t need to search for explanations, blaming the weather or the political climate or anything external. I just knew that the discipline of intention had somehow leaked out of me and left me in that state. As I resumed reading the psalm something in me began to lift and let me know that today needs to be different.

O, heavens rejoice with fullest joy. O, earth express your deepest praise. O, oceans roar in satisfaction and delight, and lands from sea to sea join in. You trees on earth and mighty forests deep, shout out to welcome God’s return. For God has come to us as fairest judge to settle all our wrongs with right. (vs. 11-13)

No compromises today will be tolerated. No excuses will be good enough to give in. I’m due on my meditation mat right now, then to the shower and soon to work, all with determination and deep gratitude.

What Is Spiritual?


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I read a paragraph a few days ago that made me smile and deserved the post-it flag that I pasted to the page. It’s from the book that sets out The 12 Steps to Joy and Happiness, written (with enthusiasm and joy) by David Peters, longtime friend and board member of The Sophia Center for Spirituality. I want to share it here as something that seems self-evident but which takes constant attention to develop as a conscious attitude. Here is what Dave says.

What makes an event spiritual? It all lies in the intention that we have going into that event. Without that intention, no matter how the event appears on the outside, it is a waste of time. Appearing to be in prayer for the purpose of appearing to be in prayer is a negative. Intention is the key for something to be spiritual. A spiritual event is spiritual because a person intends it to be spiritual. The person has an intention to bring God to that event consciously so that joy and love are there. God is rarely mentioned in most of these events, but the essence of God – love – is present and flowing over all. Reading these thoughts can be a spiritual experience if that is your intention. (p. 53) 

I think Dave has captured an essential truth in the second to the last sentence. Isn’t it possible to intuit the presence of God in people whose way of living manifests God – even if the name of God is rarely mentioned? It is truly love that speaks louder than words.




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As travelers begin homeward journeys after celebrating Thanksgiving and those of us who enjoyed blessed companionship at home find ways to re-prepare turkey and “fixins,” Joyce Rupp offers a prayer. It is only one paragraph but holds a wealth of reflection should we accept the invitation of the 13 qualities that could take us far down a road of spiritual growth. Practicing one a week for 13 weeks would take us to the cusp of Lent. One a month, if the starting line was December 2, would span 2019 in fine style as a response to the holiday we have just observed. Why not write each one on a post-it note or index card and display it on the refrigerator or the inside of the exit door to your home and watch for how it affects things during its turn as your practice? What can we lose? What will we most certainly gain?

Sower of Seeds, you have placed in our hearts the potential for many gifts of your love to grow and ripen. Charity, authenticity, mercy, honesty, humility, forgiveness, loyalty, patience, understanding, courage, kindness, faith, respect, and other qualities reflective of your goodness dwell in our interior fields and garden…(Prayer Seeds, p. 181)