Lent 2017: Yes to Enjoying the View

The things that move me are inevitably the moments when suffering and beauty meet--the dual wings of agony and ecstasy. One without the other and we get nowhere.

Emily recommend Ellen Bass' poetry to me. Her collection "Like a Beggar" came in the mail today, and I'm smitten. Here's some lines from her poem "Relax." Drink them up.

The Buddha tells astory of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs halfway down. But there's also a tiger below.
And two mice--one white, one black--scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
The she eats the strawberry.
So here's the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you'll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles in a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You'll be lonely.
Oh, taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

Lent 2017: Yes to Longing

Yancey is living in Seattle all year for his paramedic training. As many of you know, we see him every 7-10 days for about 12 hours. We are halfway through, and definitely surviving. But it's hard, and mostly I'm reminded of how much I like to be around him. I'm more relaxed with him, more flexible, more engaged. After 22 years of marriage, it's nice to notice that. Still. Again.

Here's a poem for him.

Play Date

Two big poodles, one brown, one white,
are happy to see one another--
sniffing, wagging,
straining on leashes
like they just won the dog lottery.
Their owners chuckle,
chat for a minute,
finally coax them apart.
The dogs, looking backward,
aren't nearly done.

You know I'm going to make this
about you and me,
my love.
About how I want to be with you
all the time,
how uncooperative I am
when we're forced to keep walking.

Lent 2017: No to Suffering in Silence

I was at a client site today--a huge bureaucracy in downtown Seattle, the kind that has a committee for every possible eventuality. There were posters everywhere about "What to do in Case of Emergency." The first item, big at the top, was:

Yell for Help!

I laughed. Below that were all the other things about 911, fire routes, etc. I thought it was funny that we need to be reminded to yell, but then I thought again. There must be a real reason we need that reminder. How many times do I suffer in silence? How many times do I consider NOT asking for help some kind of heroic act? How many times do I work overtime to solve things myself or expect others to read my mind when I'm sad, frustrated, or feeling left out?

Rumi says the need brings in what's needed. The mother's milk comes when the baby cries. The suffering, the crying out, is the impetus for abundance.

Did anyone here the NPR story today about the depressed woman whose boyfriend had just broken up with her? Her sink was piled with dirty dishes and her house was buried in snow after an epic snowstorm. She could function just enough to get herself to work, and posted something on Facebook about needing help. A co-worker who she barely knew came over with her husband while the woman (Laura in the story below) was at work. Here's a bit from the story:

LANTZ (Narrator): Yeah, it was bad. Ruthie went inside to plug in the snowblower, and she saw the pile of dishes, so she washed them. She noticed the floors, so she mopped them. Laura was still at work, but when she got home that evening, she couldn't believe her eyes.

LAURA (Protagonist): It felt like I could say help, and it wasn't weak to need their help. Like, it made me feel strong again.

LANTZ: Laura says that what Ruthie and Bill did was a jumpstart for her. But for them, it was natural.

R. BROWN (Good Samartian): If there's something you can do to help somebody or do something, you don't let that pass because you can't go back. You can never go back and try to help her again on that day.

LANTZ: Laura says when it comes down to it, Ruthie had no idea what she was going through, but she acted anyway.

LAURA: She just needed to know that my dishes were dirty and that there was some soap right there. And she could just pick it up, and solve that problem. So it really has made me, like, want to be somebody who picks up the soap.

Come on! Isn't that a beautiful story? It's tempting to read it as a story about the helper (which it partly is), but it's really about the receiver. Ruthie would have never been able to give if Laura hadn't been vulnerable enough to ask for help. Giving can't happen without receiving--we give others a gift when we let them in and tell them what we need.

Yell for help! Then be ready for the water to come pouring from the spring.

Lent 2017: Yes to Shining your Crazy Light

I listened to this podcast today (thanks for the tip, Emily), and heard this (from the Gospel of Thomas, a Biblical apocryphal book of non-canonical sayings.):

"If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."


A couple years ago, I had an image that has profoundly guided me. I was stuffing produce down the chute of my juicer--beautiful, bright carrots, apples, celery, ginger. The juice was plentiful and nutritious, but the juice cap wasn't open, and it was clogging, overflowing all over the counter, staining the floor, uncontrollable and undrinkable. The message from the universe was, "Get out of the juicer and into the cup! If you don't, it's a mess."

Since then, I've redone my consulting website and given out hundreds of business cards. I found a way to be a spiritual teacher in my work. I started painting. I started writing what was in my heart, especially lots more poetry. I started seeing a therapist and dismantled my membership in several groups, both as a participant and as a facilitator. I set boundaries or walked away from relationships that didn't help me love God and myself more. I stopped wondering if I was okay and stepped into my flawed giftedness. I said "Yes!" to shining my crazy light.

All of that juice had to go somewhere. And if it didn't? What we do not bring forth will destroy us! Presence isn't a luxury. It's what we need in this broken world, now more than ever.

When we say "Yes" to this invitation, we're saying "No" to safety, indifference,  victimhood, complacency, stasis, all the stories about ourselves that have always WORKED for us. We're saying there's something below those stories, something below the way we hustle for love or attention or success or belonging or freedom. It's our Essence, and it's dying to be uncovered.

What's in you that's dying to come out? How can you bravely and lovingly call to it? What's stopping you?

Lent 2017: Yes to Soul Friends

Emily and I just spent a much-needed weekend together. She's moving to Palo Alto soon for a chaplaincy program at Stanford, so sleeping in her little studio on Capitol Hill together seemed especially sweet. She doesn't know what will happen after next year, and it's hard to imagine not being a short road trip away.

We always talk about the fact that we're connected on the Spirit Highway, and we trust that. 1,000 miles won't change it. AND there's something precious about the face-to-face, rambling, start-and-stop conversations that proximity affords.

I could write a book about our friendship (and maybe someday I will), but in my Lenten theme of Yes's and No's, Emily and our soul friendship is one of the great Yes's of my life. The poet Elizabeth Alexander says, "Poetry.../is the human voice/and are we not of interest to each other?"  Emily and I are blessed with an endless fascination of one another, an endless interest in what's stirring in the deepest places. Among the topics covered in the last 30 hours:

  • The Divine Feminine
  • Christian Wiman and his line, "And I said to my soul, be loud."
  • Rob Bell (of course)
  • The Enneagram (with countless bullet points underneath this favorite heading--negative emotions, the 3 centers of intelligence, how the arrows get more attention than the wings)
  • Work, calling, and vocation
  • How church can bury the soul
  • Knowing when to move on
  • Writing
  • Death and dying
  • Krista Tippett and how we love her and think she talks too much (A favorite subject of mine)
  • Generational wounds and healing
  • Paul Ryan's powerpoint and the way he's conveniently forgotten that insurance is, by its definition, a risk pool

I love you, sister.

Lent 2017: Yes to Soul Maintenance

This is my tenth entry, and time for a little Lenten check-in.

As Parker Palmer says, we're good at creating space for our brains to show up. We're sometimes okay at creating space for our bodies to show up. We suck at creating space for our souls to show up--that part of us that longs for MORE, that part of us that knows what sorrow is and so longs for more joy.

Here are few Lenten reflection questions if you're brave enough:

  1. What gifts are trying to offer themselves up to me? How can I get out of the way and accept them?
  2. What suffering needs to be experienced before I experience more freedom and groundedness? What support do I need to walk into that suffering?
  3. In what ways could I be exhibiting indifference toward the world around me? What does my soul tell me about that when I listen?
  4. What embodied tenderness and affection is available to me? How can I say "yes' to that?
  5. What commitments or obligations aren't life-giving anymore? How can I walk away from them?
  6. If I were to have an encounter with the Divine right this instant, what message would I hear?

Lent 2017: Yes to Partnership

This is my colleague and friend Laura. She took this photo on a snowy walk a week ago.

A year ago, we started meeting once a week to talk about work (we're both Organization Development consultants/leadership coaches). I had low expectations (usually a good idea) and was hoping we could talk shop, share ideas.

Instead, we've taught several workshops together, coached one another, and just had a love-filled open house for an office space we're now sharing. She called to check in today, and I said, "Why are things so easy between us?! I feel like whatever we put our hands to turns to gold." She said, "I think that's because we are both operating out of our Essence."

Bingo. I call myself a Collaboration Junkie, and am always longing for connection, intimacy, partnership. And I've tried a lot of work partnerships that have taught me something, but left me wanting. When I step back, I wonder if I just wasn't settled enough in myself. I hadn't dropped down to that place of Essence, that place beyond personality, beyond preferences, beyond opinions and ego. Not that I'm there now (I wish!!), but at least I know that's where I want to be. And that turns out to make all the difference.

Lent 2017: Yes to being in our bodies

Wyatt got invited to practice with the high school basketball team tonight. Even though the invite came very inconveniently during my office open house and 10 minutes before he had to be across town, the look on his face was, "You can't let me down here." Thanks to my parents who raced out of there, came home to get his basketball shoes, and delivered that kid to his version of heaven.

Loretta and I caught the last few minutes, and it was the highlight of my day. Yes to being in our bodies, to all the physical, earthy moments that offer themselves up to us. What a thrill.

King of the Court

I'd wither out there
in that land of shirts and skins,
covering the court in a few giant strides
every eye on you and whether you can stop the shot
or make it, your bony chest heaving
with pure concentration and delight.

Son, I don't have to tell you
you're king of this court. There's nothing--
nothing--I'd rather do than lean against the wall,
tired, car keys in my pocket,
and watch your electric aliveness ,
see you being in that body that came from mine,
that came from the fires of the universe
and will someday return to them,
probably with a basketball in hand.

Lent 2017: Yes to Yes

I have lots of no's. Most of my friends would describe me as a boundaried person, and that's been helpful in my life. Helpful in managing my time, in avoiding relationships that are harmful, helpful when I need to defend my values or make hard decisions.

But the invitation to me as I get older is, "RELAX! Relax into the okay-ness of life. Have more fun. Don't take yourself so seriously. See that there are many right ways to do things, many good paths to many good destinations. Don't find security in a 'no' when the universe is giving you a banquet of 'yes.'"

And the Sufi poets (Rumi, Hafiz) have helped me with this. Saved me, really. Here's something from Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. Say yes to yes!

Every Movement

I rarely let the word "No" escape
From my mouth.

Because it is so plain to my soul

That God has shouted "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
To every luminous movement in existence.

Lent 2017: No to Sectarianism

"Sectarianism is belonging gone bad."

Heard that on this podcast on my way to work this morning.

And what is sectarianism? Good old Wikipedia says it's , "a form of bigotry, discrimination, or hatred arising from attaching relations of inferiority and superiority to differences between subdivisions within a group. Common examples are denominations of a religion, ethnic identity, class, or region for citizens of a state and factions of a political movement."

Oh boy. More than anything, I want to belong. I want to be known, be welcomed, be understood. And difference is the HARD way into that. It's much easier to be around people who look like me, people who think like me, people who have similar stories, similar political leanings.

God, I refuse to just say what I'm against. To retreat into my beloved group of like-minded folks. Help me find my belonging in something much deeper than opinions, geography, language, race, religion, or worldviews. Help me know, with every fiber of my being, that I belong to you and to this vast human race. Amen.

Lent 2017: Yes to Being Down Here

The only thing I get in my inbox every day are Richard Rohr's meditations. You can subscribe here if you want this thirst-quenching stuff. Today, he says,

...true power is circular or spiral, not so much hierarchical. It’s here; it’s within us. It’s shared and shareable; it’s already entirely for us...God’s Spirit is planted within you and operating as you! Don’t keep looking to the top of the pyramid. Stop idolizing the so-called “Top 1 %.” There’s nothing worthwhile up there that is not also down here. Worst of all, it has given much of the world an unnecessary and tragic inferiority complex.

There isn't anything at the "top of the pyramid" that's worth the struggle. The only way to be "successful" is to dig into who we already are, what we already have. Anyone that's constantly talking about how much they own, how often they win, how much they've attained? Big red flag. Don't follow that person anywhere.

It's said that Catherine of Genoa, a Christian mystic who lived in the 15th century, ran through the streets shouting out her discovery--"My deepest me is God! My deepest me is God!" This is one of the truths that's most profoundly guided me the last 5 years. What we need isn't outside us. It's not a religion or career or political win or completed bucket list. Our power, our worth is already inside us, and it's only the path of descent that will get us there. Downward mobility, going deeper into who we already are and not being scared of what we find there. You in?

Lent 2017: No to the Domination Narrative

Totally inspired by three things today: 1) My pastor's sermon on what can happen when people come together 2) The chapter on Palm Sunday from The Last Week by Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan and 3) Rob Bell's podcast on counter-narrative.

Jesus' parade through Jerusalem on a donkey was happening the same time as Rome's imperial procession on the other side of the city. From Borg/Crossan: "Jesus' procession proclaimed the kingdom of God; Pilate's proclaimed the power of empire...Two processions entered Jerusalem that day. The same question, the same alternative, faces those who would be faithful to Jesus today. Which procession are we in? Which procession do we want to be in?" And which narrative are we buying into? The narrative of Empire and Domination, or the narrative of Peace and Inclusion?

That's where this poem comes from. I think you can guess which procession I'm in. Though I'mfearful, full of mixed motives, and second-guessing myself most the time, I want to be entering through the wrong gate.

Coming in through the Wrong Gate

There is no press release.
Nothing's gone viral.
No glossy posters
or monogrammed hats,
no tour buses or theme songs.
It's pathetic, really--
just a donkey, some branches ripped from trees,
total illegitimacy.

But still, they are coming,
pouring out of every forgotten crevice
in this besieged city--
peasants, cripples, children.
Zealots, immigrants, castoffs,
the blind, deaf, dumb, diseased and disgraced.
Farmers, beggars, women,
dogs, pigs, roosters,
dusty, clear-eyed, determined
to upend this old domination story
and start telling a new one.

Lent 2017: Yes to Giving Without Worry


Caution: I'm about to write about something that I'm very opinionated about.

I guess it's all about the pope this season, but did you see this article, "Give Without Worry"? When people ask him, "Well, what if the panhandler spends the money I give him on alcohol?" the pope's answer is "If a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that’s O.K. Instead, ask yourself, what do you do on the sly? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?” Then he *&#!ing goes further and says the way of giving is as important as the gift. You should not simply drop a bill into a cup and walk away. You must stop, look the person in the eyes, and touch his or her hands.

Can I get an amen?!

My daughter Loretta has been my teacher in this department. She absolutely cannot abide the idea that we would turn a blind eye to anyone asking for help. (This photo is her on the trail to school a few days ago. Come on.) So, for the last 5 years, we have given to almost everyone who asks unless we literally could not figure out something. We carry $5 Starbucks gift cards and granola bars in the car for folks hanging out on on-ramps. I carry dollar bills for people spare-changing on the street. Recently I offered to buy a man a meal and he said, "Ma'am, can I be honest with you? My sign says 'Anything helps,' but I really want money." So I went to a cash machine and got him money.

Did he buy pot with it? Maybe. Did he spent it on a hotel room when he can go to the Lighthouse Mission and sleep there for free? Maybe. Did he buy fancy dog food when he could stand in line at the food bank and get some generic stuff? Maybe. But what business is it of mine?! I love it when the pope says, "What do YOU DO on the sly?" Busted. Buy a $75 sweater when I absolutely do not need it. Waste food. Pay every month for Hulu, Comcast, Netflix, Amazon so we can have unlimited choice in our leisure time. That homeless man doesn't demand accountability from me about how I spend my money.

When I give a down-and-outer a $1 bill, her life is definitely not transformed. The transformation happens in ME, when I look her in the eye, when I square up with my own privilege, when I really think about what kind of life i want to model for my children.

Peter Gomes, in his immensely helpful "How to Keep a Good Lent" (download the PDF here), says, "Contrary to popular perception, Lent is not private and personal. From ancient times it has had a communal, public, even civic dimension wherein the faithful are encouraged to good works and deeds of public charity and private philanthropy. Lest you become too private and self-absorbed in Lent, you should find a way in which you might give time to some or work or kindness which is not only for yourself." I love his "SHOULD" in there. He's not apologizing for it! And in case you need more convincing, there are stacks of research that say doing things for others is one of the only things that make us reliably happy.

The way I've come to see it, the spare-changing folks downtown are giving us an opportunity to be generous. We don't have to go to Africa or send shoeboxes to Guatemala (though it's wonderful if you do). Just because these folks technically have a shelter where they can lay their head or just because they might receive a disability check or go to the needle exchange doesn't make them less "deserving" of our generosity or of being treated like the precious humans they are.

So go ahead. Give without worry, and enjoy it!

Lent 2017: Yes to Reminders

When I was in "baby jail" 10 years ago, stuck in an endless loop of laundry, goldfish (and grad school!?!), I had two mantras on the white board in my little kitchen:

Go outside whenever possible.
See my world (and messy house) through eyes of love.

I took those down years ago, but they're hard-wired into me. I still live by them. Mostly, I suspect, that's because they came from ME and not a self-help guru or a cute calendar.

By now, you know that I'm a huge fan of reflection. Much of the time, we seem to romanticize the past, race through the moment, or fear the future, forgetting the discipline of reflective practice. Yes, we have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but how much better if we're not on auto pilot while we're doing it! And we surely won't learn anything if reflective practice isn't part of the journey.

I still make lists and paste them up around the house. My mantras change from season to season, but I keep finding that I NEED reminders of what's important to me, what I value. What are yours?

Lent 2017: No to Moving On

Sometimes, when we have the discipline to make space in our lives, we're making room for sorrow, grief, or longing. No wonder we stay busy.

My pastor's Ash Wednesday homily was about lament. She said she was giving up faking it for Lent, that she isn't going to act like she's fine when she's not, that she's going to resist the cultural expectation that we "move on" from grief and loss.

Loretta and I went up together to receive ashes. Loretta was all about it, reminding me just how much we need these physical rituals. The mixture of palm ash and almond oil was marked in the shape of a cross on our foreheads, my pastor looked us in the eye, and said, "From dust you came, to dust you will return. You are God's beloved." Try staying dry-eyed through that!

I've always loved that Ash Wednesday is about death--no beating around the bush. We came from dust, we'll return to it, and in-between, our life is made richer by love and letting ourselves mourn.

This Lenten season, I'm saying "No" to moving on--no to staying on the sunny side of life or encouraging others to when what really needs to happen is sorrow or repentance.

God of life and of death, if I turn around and really face this world of ours, I'm overwhelmed with its beauty and its pain. I'm sad about famines, heat waves, melting ice caps, and disappearing islands. My heart breaks to think about families who fear deportation, sneaking around to buy groceries or use an emergency room. I can hardly believe the rise of hate crimes in this country--over 90 bomb threats to Jewish community centers in the last 8 weeks, for instance!

Even before I resist what's going on, even before I wear t-shirts and make phone calls, I am hereby SAD. Though your beauty finds me every day--in my children, in the mountains that surround my town, in poetry--I refuse to be prematurely cheered up. For this 40 days, I'll stay right here, not moving on, trusting that these tears somehow help usher in a different reality. Amen.

Lent 2017: Yes to Making Space

Jesus had to go out to the desert to be alone. Some days, it almost feels that drastic. (Especially when the pumps at the gas station now blare media clips and there are ads pasted onto the floor of the grocery store. Ack! Leave us alone!)

When my kids were little and we lived in an 800 square foot house, the only place that could be mine was the mantle above the fireplace. Children couldn't reach it, it was too narrow to hold file folders, too inconvenient a spot to set coffee cups. At the beginning of the month, I'd create a little tableau up there with a branch or blossom, a quote, something to mark the season or get me through to the next one.

More recently, I am living in the lap of luxury with a new office I'm sharing with my colleague Laura. We've just set it up in the past six weeks, so I've been thinking a lot about space, place, and what that means for our yes's and no's.

You might have a little ribbon of a mantle. Or a place on your dresser or a full-on mediation cushion. You might have a quiet moment in the car before you start the ignition. Whatever the case, our souls need room to breathe!

What's your "yes" to making space? Denise Levertov would remind us, "Emptiness is a cup/and holds the ocean." Get ready to be filled.

Lent 2017: Yes, No, or Go with the Flow

Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Lent is the 40 days before Easter, means "Spring," and remembers the story of Jesus fasting for 40 days in the wilderness before his persecution and death. I heard recently that more people attend church on Ash Wednesday than on Easter. Could that be true?!

If it is, I have a guess as to why. There's something in us that knows, despite everything popular culture tells us, that we need to pay attention to suffering to be whole. We can't stuff ourselves on the dessert section of the buffet forever or we'll get sick.

Lots of folks acknowledge this reality during Lent by giving up sugar. Or alcohol. Or Facebook. All of those might be good practices, but the Pope suggests we fast from indifference to others. Gotta love that guy. He quotes Christian mystic John Chrysostom who says, ""No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great." Crap. Good point.

I need that discipline--a fast from indifference to others. The Pope goes so far as so say that we're experiencing a "globalization of indifference," and I've felt it myself as a barrage of fresh news stories rolls across my feed every day and I feel weary.

I've done a lot of thinking in my life about what I say "yes," to, what I say "no" to, and when it's time for neither--just to go with the flow. The way we manage our calendars, our energy, our relationships, and our money shows what's important to us, what we're indifferent to, and there are always choices to make. What do we say "yes" to? What do we say "no" to?

I'll be writing every day for Lent. (Or doing my very best.)  And it will be largely be around this theme of "Yes, No, or Go with the Flow." I can't believe I'm doing this to myself, but it's my "yes" during these crazy times, a way to embrace imperfection, stay engaged, create a little hollow of meaning and sanctity, and say "no" being just a consumer. I'm a creator, too, and I know of no better way to resist indifference than to make things.

I hope to notice during these 40 days where my energy is going--to not run away from suffering, to keep caring, to walk with Jesus through the desert when he was tempted to save himself with money, power, importance, and influence. (Not that any of us every struggle with that 2,000 years later.)

If you're not a Jesus Person, please come on this journey with me anyway. For a long time I've been unsure about who Jesus was, but that hasn't kept me from being inspired by him and changing the way I live because of it. I've got more questions than answers, and I think that's the way I like it.

All or Something


After writing every day for Advent, I dropped off the face of the earth for awhile. I'm not one of those bloggers that spends time apologizing for that, and I've been very absorbed in my bricks-and-mortar life. But I do have a confession to make. I'm an all-or-nothing person, and there have been lots of things I've wanted to say here, but their possible imperfection or not having photos or feeling overwhelmed has kept me. My recipe index is broken (sorry!) and it will take hours to redo. (Hint: use the "search" feature.") I barely write about food anymore. I forget to take photos. I need to put in a widget for email subscription. So I tend to avoid the whole thing altogether. Helen Palmer says my Enneagram Type (a ONE) falls victim to a "Scorched Earth Policy"--if it's not perfect, burn it down! (For more on the Enneagram, come to my workshop in Bellingham on March 25! Shameless plug for a tool that's changed my life.)

So here I am, on a Friday morning, avoiding doing my taxes, finally sitting down to say something. I've just come through possibly the busiest 8 weeks of my life, still in my year of single parenting and enjoying the fact the everyone and their brother has asked me to coach them or consult to their organization or help them write a paper. It's been thrilling and fulfilling, I've felt plugged into Spirit, and every day has brought in what's needed. I'm also exhausted, miss being outside, and miss my friends. And have worried that I'll lose some of them during this time.

But despite my busyness and my "all-or-nothing" illness, what continues to inspire me is the everyday diligence of those around me. I was with a group of grocery store employees yesterday, and I had asked them to be collecting stories of interactions with customers that were meaningful. COME ON! They had me crying 30 seconds in. One woman is a checker at a grocery store in military town. For her early morning shift, she knew she'd see a stream of young men coming in to buy flowers. She stocked her checkstand with boxes and tissue paper and determined that she'd take the price stickers off every sheet of cellophane that came through her line, no matter how long it took her. By the end of the day she was covered with stickers and bits of leaves, but she said, "I knew I was making a difference." I'm crying again writing about it.

One store manager recounted a story of a customer carrying her bakery cake out of the store. She tripped and fell, her cake was wrecked, and she got a bloody lip. He went to sit by her while she was waiting for her cake to be redone, and cracked some jokes that made her laugh despite her embarrassment and frustration. He said his goal for the day had been to "make a friend." And that's just what happened.

I've also been thinking about the Women's March, both drafting off the energy there and feeling a little lost about next steps. It occurs to me that I'm a writer and facilitator, and now's the time to be doing my thing, perfectly or not. To that end, here's another poem.

And wherever you are today--taking your kids to basketball practice, drafting a proposal, transporting sick patients to the hospital, wiring a house, cooking a meal, cleaning your inbox--may you notice YOURSELF in all your little moments of diligence, and may you feel loved.

Postcard from the Protest

We make signs, my children and I,
about love and Girl Power,
and find there's 10,000 others in our town
who've made them, too.
Considering what we're protesting,
we should be laughing less
and it should be raining.
But there is sun, and lightness,
and babies and singing,
and we belt out a few rounds of
This Land is Your Land,
and if you look around,
there are some tears, including mine,
and I'm remembering those on this gray morning,
and thinking of all you marchers
making coffee, going to work,
keeping the song alive
from California to the New York Islands,
this song of hope and sadness,
of loving and living in reality.

Last Day of Advent 2016: Song of Marys

"Something is wrong, I know it, if I don't keep my attention on eternity. May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream. May I look down upon the windflower and the bull thistle and the coreopsis with the greatest respect." (Mary Oliver)

Writing here every day has helped me pay attention, helped me be "tiny but useful." Thank you from the very bottom of my heart. And here's one last Advent poem, inspired by Mary Oliver, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and being with you, my amazing readers, for these last four weeks.


All I can do is stand
in the stream of my own life,
the collection of identities
I was born into and the
collection of stories I am becoming,
and all I can do is
not run away from what I find there--
daily failures, my suffering
and the suffering of those I love,
the drive to survive,
to live and die telling that truest of stories,
how you, Lord,
found me, how you grew in my womb,
and how I never stopped saying,
Holy, holy, holy,
this world,
and holy, holy, holy,
sharing it with you.

Advent 2016: Advent Shores

When I was 19 and a freshman at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, I took a Modern Poetry class from Dr. Delaney. I remember standing in line at the little stucco bookstore and spending a fortune on the required texts--R.S. Thomas, Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas, and Denise Levertov's Evening Train, which is dog-eared and sitting beside me right now. These lines from The Tide have surely appeared here before:

Clean the littered beach, clear
the lines of a forming poem,
the waters flood inward.
Dull stones again fulfill
their glowing destinies, and emptiness
is a cup, and holds
the ocean.

I love these lines so much. I might want them read at my funeral. They have sustained me many times. Especially in this post-election season when I'm feeling loss, loneliness, and heartbreak, I hear these themes:

We can't be filled until we're emptied. The tide can't rush in unless there's an empty beach. We won't get the goods--relationship, purpose, connection, peace--unless we let ourselves experience emptiness. We Westerners hate to hear this, but we're about to learn the hard way.

The waters flood inward. The real riches available to each of us have little to do with what's outside of us and everything to do with the inner lives we cultivate. When our health, mental capacity, popularity, or retirement accounts run out, it's only the life of the heart that's left.

Our destinies are glowing. Not in the sleazy "health and wealth" or "power of positive thinking" kinds of ways, but in the way that Love Wins. In the way that, when we live examined lives and are faithful to "clean the littered beach," we can fully become ourselves.

Big things happen in small spaces. "...emptiness/ is a cup, and holds/the ocean." When the clearing and emptying happens and when we don't rush to fill it with work, affirmation, possessions, and busyness. our souls become vast oceans full of possibility, life, motion, crests and troughs.

Tomorrow is the last day of Advent, so I've got to pull one more reflection out of the hat. As I've told several of you, I sit down about 9:00 each night, open my laptop, look at the cursor, and trust that something will appear. The beach has seemed empty many nights, but the waters have always rushed in. I've learned to trust that will happen--some experience or moment during the day will become "glowing".

Thanks for patrolling these Advent shores with me. It's so beautiful to see the tide come in and go out.