“Intention, wholeheartedness, vows, passionate commitment, zest for life.”

Zest calls to mind lemon, and lemon calls to mind a tart, sparkly addition for flavor to food or drink. A scent that awakens. Life.

Without zeal, is there life? Without committing to being, and committing to something greater than yourself, can a person truly be alive?

My commitment is to Jesus Christ. I am a follower of His, a disciple, using a “religious” term. A disciple is a student, one who follows Jesus closely. It is said his earliest followers, those who walked the earth with him, followed close enough to be dusted by the sand off his sandals. That is close!

What or Who have you chosen to follow, to commit to, so that your life might have wholeness, meaning, zeal?


“Humility, self-esteem, therapy, finding own wisdom and purpose.”

You are other, greater than, known and yet unknown. You are God, beyond the pale. You are God, Creator, of all, all within and beyond the world I know. And you are God, my creator. I marvel at the the breadth, at the beyond limits of your creation, and at the specific. Me, created by You.

As I am Yours, created by You, claimed by You, I can not be less than You call me to be. To be less is to deny Your creation. Yet, limited by my humanity, I can only strive to be…I can never achieve all there is, I can never claim every moment, every opportunity. I can only be me, as I can be me, in the moment, responding to the love in You.

So, I step – sometimes hesitantly, sometimes with great conviction – on the journey, on the path of Your creation. And with each step I discover me, in relation to You.


“Reading mystical poetry, wishing rituals, expressing desires, Tantric sex”



Yearning….I’ve been yearning this past year, waiting for a new call. It’s not that I’m unhappy with the people where I’m serving. In fact, saying goodbye will be painful. It’s just that I have an ache, a longing, a yearning. The Holy Spirit is calling me elsewhere…and I don’t know yet where that elsewhere is.

In the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) the call process, moving from one position in a congregation to another congregation, relies on the Holy Spirit. I’ve filed my “papers” – a multi-page summary of my experience and self-perceived skills and strengths. Congregations seeking a new pastor are required to complete similar papers of their own, after a period without a pastor, after gathering a call committee, after a period of self-evaluation and vision setting or reviewing. Within 65 geographical areas bishops and/or their staff are responsible for playing match-maker. Relying on the Holy Spirit to guide the process. Waiting for the Holy Spirit is being in the present, living in the moment, and simultaneously being attentive for a still, quiet voice that may be stirring up desires, creating yearning.

I’ve had my papers filed for about a year, and have had a number of interviews with congregations. Two were very close. I fell in love, and have had to let go. I’ve had to spend time praying about, discerning what I’ve loved about each congregation, and have used those experiences to help me more deeply understand the desires, the yearnings I am feeling.

This past year, this process has taught me to be attentive to my yearnings. I think too often we are so driven, so focused on achievements for the day, week, month that we don’t take time to listen, to really listen to the deep yearning within us. We all have deep yearnings, and I believe in a core yearning shared by all.

In Psalm 42, the writer calls out with a yearning heart:
As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.

May you find time, take time to listen to your heart, to the yearnings that may be buried deep within. Listening, responding to those yearnings brings us closer to God, and to abundant life.

X – The Mystery

“Not knowing, mysticism, attending the dying.”

In the Lutheran church (ELCA) it is common practice for a two year “confirmation” program. Usually 7th and 8th grade students meet weekly, or for extended time monthly. They typically spend a year studying the Old and New Testaments, and a year studying Luther’s Small Catechism. That includes topics like Baptism, Holy Communion, Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.

In April, in the last month of a two year cycle, an 8th grade girl very seriously asked me, “Have we learned all we need?” I chuckled and said, “No. You’ve learned enough for now.”

I firmly believe that we can not know all there is to know about God. I also believe that knowing, and by that I mean following, Jesus Christ, we can know enough about God. And following Jesus Christ takes a lifetime.

With our fast paced, access to all information at the touch of a screen (even my tech-phobic husband will say “look it up on your iPad” if we wonder aloud about a fact), we’ve become dismissive of the mysterious. We don’t embrace mysticism. Faith is to be a set of rules, followed. Holy Scriptures are read literally. If we can’t see, touch, taste, smell, experience in a way easily understood, we dismiss.

So, I’ve come to accept that much of a life of faith isn’t meant to be clearly defined or categorized. We are to be open to the unknown. Open to the un-knowable. And, in being open, we open ourselves to the presence of God, experiences of Holy that are beyond – beyond classifiable.

I can’t fully explain what it means to feel the presence of God. However, I have had moments that transcend ordinary time, moments that are Holy, almost too tender to speak of. At times, I meet others who also, haltingly, as if embarrassed dare to voice their experiences, their moments of Holy. And we look at each other and know. We’ve experienced the mystery.


Awareness of senses, curiosity, seeing with the eyes of a child, reading nature poetry, curiosity, recognizing ‘ah-ha’ moments.”

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19:14 NRSV).

Jesus may have been talking about how children do not have power or authority in worldly ways…but maybe he was also commenting about how children have eyes of wonder.

Children, unless they’ve been abused as to not see, have eyes of wonder. They are able to look anew at all of the life around them. They can find joy in the simplest; playing with their own shadow, bubbles, a butterfly flitting about. When was the last time you watched a child explore? When was the last time you observed a child taking delight in discovering something new?

The spiritual practice of wonder is finding that child within us, inviting her out, putting aside adult concerns like time management and productivity, and finding wonder in the world around us. Plan a play date with your inner child. Go outdoors and lay on the grass, look up at watch the clouds. Let your senses feel the green blades, the breeze tickling your skin, the warm the of sun on your arms and legs. Wonder at a nearby pair of birds flitting about. Wonder at the spring blossoms breaking into bloom. Smell deeply the fragrances. If you’ve been blessed with rain, stand outside, letting it fall all over your body. Splash in water puddles. Follow your mind wherever it might wander in the immediate, gently pulling it back to the present should you fall into your adult concerns.

Let your mind think “isn’t it amazing?”….without trying to categorize or answer or understand. Embrace your inner child.


“Vision quest, right livelihood, leadership, mission statements, ethical decision-making.”

March to May….a three month delay in posting. Maybe that says something right there about me and visioning.

So much has been made of the need for vision.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carroll

Where there is no vision, the people perish” Proverbs 29:18a

I’m not a vision-making kind of woman.

I don’t day dream much. I don’t imagine what life might be like “if”. I tend to focus on what needs to be done, here and now.

And yet…I walked a mission/vision team through a year long prayer process to create a ten word mission statement that now is on our church header. I organize my monthly report to council using the statement, and I use it to ask, when considering an action, “what does this have to do with our mission?”

I also have “my” bible verse; Micah 6:8. “What does the Lord ask of you, oh mortal, but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with the Lord.” My “vision” is that the verse guides my thoughts and actions.

Even as I own NOT being a vision kind of person, I will admit – heck, I will proclaim – that without a vision, it is so easy to go around in circles, or to wander aimlessly. Your vision doesn’t have to be drawn out in detail, day by day, month by month, but can you answer, “what am I doing with my life and my gifts? What do I want to do with my life and my gifts” How can I get from here to there?” A vision of your life, an acknowledgement of your gifts and how you are – or might- use them, will help you avoid being swayed away from your authentic self. A vision will help you make decisions, to become the you God desires.

When we feel helpless…

I haven’t blogged in a while…and rarely reblog, but this post struck home. I shared yesterday w/my daughter, on her 19th birthday. Maybe that is why this is hitting home…We can do something!

Grace Notes from the Chair Behind the Pulpit

Who can say why or when an issue will touch a chord deeply within us?  Certainly not me. Who can explain why one issue gets kicked up a notch and into the global consciousness and not another?  Again, not me.  But something about the issue of 200+ girls, ages 15-18, being kidnapped from their school dormitories in Nigeria has done just that.  (And, yesterday, another group of girls was kidnapped, even younger.)  If you don’t know this story, you should.  If you want to know why it matters to you, check this out.

Maybe it’s the upcoming Mother’s Day that caused this to run deep within my soul.  I grieve with those mothers whose children have been stolen and are being sold as child brides for the equivalent of $12.  TWELVE DOLLARS???  That’s what a girl’s future is worth on the African market?  I grieve with the mothers whose…

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“Affirming commonalities, solidarity actions, building community, humanitarian outreach.”

On February 9th, almost a month ago, I created the title for this blog post. Consistency with the spiritual practice of blogging about spiritual practices = fail. Yet, I will finish wading through the last practices in the alphabet, and finally be freed of my commitment. Consistent = no, committed = yes.

Writing about Unity on Ash Wednesday feels right, rich with possibility. What is more community building than a public acknowledgment of unity in our mortality? This planet of humans may have disagreements, we may have disagreements wherever two or more are gathered, yet we share one trait – this life as we know it is finite. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I’ve spent time this morning reading comments about Ash Wednesday and Lent. There is a trend for “ashes to go” in urban areas. People, many who do not worship regularly, can receive ashes (and absolution?) on street corners, where clergy and laypeople gather, with small bowls of burnt palms and dusty thumbs, ready to trace a cross on any willing forehead, and repeat the words, “you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

As a pastor, and as a pastor not raised in the church, this tradition of the imposition of ashes is…curious, and complicated. Increasingly, we as a society seek control. Control of our lives, control of our time, control of…well pretty much everything. We celebrate individual freedom. We strive to achieve, to succeed, we work to create a meaningful material legacy. Ash Wednesday is an annual reminder that all is for naught. A reminder that our efforts, fierce as they may be are a Sisyphean task. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Ash Wednesday also marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. 40 days the church encourages reflection and practices to deepen one’s faith. A season of time that mirror’s Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, resisting temptations. Christians were encouraged to give up habits; these days we are also encouraged to add on habits that are life affirming, faith strengthening. Unifying….even as we remember “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

The Cultural Significance of Ash Wednesday #ashtag

Thoughtful reflections on Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent

Draughting Theology

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where the Tuesday that falls 47 days before the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox is celebrated as Fasnacht Day.  I can remember school lunches featuring something akin to “fasnachts” (German donuts) that were covered in powdered sugar.  Beyond the fact that having donuts at school was a rare treat, most of us gave little thought to why this was a day to eat such things.  Certainly, none of us was aware that fasnacht is German for “fast night,” not as in a speedy night, but the night which begins our fast of Lent.

As I grew older, and began to become aware of certain traditions in life, the annual Shrove Tuesday pancake supper at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church.  The Pankeys and the Logans would take up a whole table and gorge ourselves on pancakes, sausage and apple…

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“Healing self and relationships, purification, fasting, mind training, self-inquiry, rituals for change, seasonal festivals, the Medicine Wheel.

I wasn’t raised in the church…I was a “none” long before “none”s were noticed. Maybe that is why I love seasonal festivals; I love the church calendar.

Being Lutheran, the church where I serve God follows the Revised Common Lectionary. We follow the church calendar. Right now we are in the season of Epiphany, the time of church year emphasizing the Light of Christ breaking through into the world…following the season of Christmas. And yes, Christmas is a season, not just a day. And the Christmas season begins Christmas Day, not the week before Halloween, though retail displays might witness otherwise.

I love the ebb and flow of the church calendar…beginning with Advent, we prepare for the birth of Jesus by a time of clearing, a time of preparation that is less about baking and putting up decorations than it is preparing spiritually for the in-breaking of God With Us – Emmanuel.

Epiphany ends with a hinge; Transfiguration Sunday – we celebrate with the Gospel reading of Jesus going up to the mountaintop, being transformed, anointed, claimed by God the Father. The church moves into Lent, a season of 40 days to remember Jesus spending 40 days in the desert, being tested, before he begins his public ministry. Lent has been traditionally a time of sacrifice, a time of giving up, so that we also might be tested. Lent is evolving into a time of reclaiming Christian identity.

Lent is followed by Holy Week: Palm/Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil. Each service follows Jesus’ steps beginning with his entry into Jerusalem with the people waiving palms and crying Hosannah, to remembering the Last Supper – Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus saying, “this is my body, this is my blood.” On Good Friday the church remembers Jesus dying on the cross; it is good because in his death Jesus overcame death. The Saturday Vigil, celebrated in the evening, is the traditional time of baptism for those candidates who have prepared over a one or two year period. Easter services traditionally begin with sunrise, the time Mary and the other disciples discovered the empty tomb and the risen Jesus.

The season of Easter (yes, it is a season and not just a day) end on Pentecost, the day the church celebrates receiving the Holy Spirit. The remainder of the year following Pentecost until Christ the King Day, the last Sunday of the church year, is Ordinary Time, or Sundays After Pentecost. This is working time for the church, when we re-learn how we are called to live as God’s people in the world.

During these seasons, year in and year out, Christ’s followers are transformed, we are reminded who we are called to be, how we are to live, and ever so slowly God’s Kingdom breaks through into the world.