Monday, December 28, 2009

A Bright New Idea

Our daughter Rachel has been with us over the Christmas holidays, and has hatched a bright new idea for the new year which I want to share with you. She is starting a blog about trying something new every day for a year! She is going to do just that, and blog about her experiences. Her blog will include lots of pics and short film clips, and those of you who know her know that it will be very entertaining and lots of fun to check out. You might even want to join her (I do) in trying something new each day, and now and then letting her know your experiences and ideas. She would welcome that.
Just go to and see for yourself what she is up to. I can vouch for the fact that she has been working really hard (okay, obsessively!) to get her blog up and running. We have been having fun brainstorming ideas of new things for her to try.
Another great idea Rachel gave me is based on the book (a Christmas present from her) titled "TWENTY NINE GIFTS: HOW A MONTH OF GIVING CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE" by Cami Walker. The author lives in Rachel's condo complex near the Hollywood Bowl in LA and Rachel met her pool-side one day and found out about her book.
It is a most inspiring story, written by someone who was suffering a bad case of MS, and found, to her amazement, that the simple act of intentionally giving in some way to someone every day was incredibly healing as well as rewarding. (See more about this at I am thinking maybe I could combine the two ideas by giving in some way that would also be trying something new each day for a month. Even the effort of "29 gifts" would be a new thing to try for me, and maybe for you too. It sounds like a lot more fun than the usual list of New Years resolutions which seldom get carried out anyway.
I think we all do a lot of giving and trying of new things anyway, but we are not aware and intentional about it, and this just gives us the reward of greater consciousness. The secret of success in this effort is probably to keep it simple and realistically something we can and will do, in harmony with our self-knowledge. And if giving and trying something new expands our appreciation for ourselves, our lives, and others, that is great gain, and practically guarantees a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dreams come true

Is it just my imagination, or is the song "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" played out here more often than in Michigan? People here get a wistful look in their eyes when the subject of a white Christmas is brought up---a wistful look I seldom remember seeing in the eyes of a Michigander!
But, maybe the dreaming of a white Christmas paid off for the people in Sedona, Arizona.
At least for a little while, early this morning, the landscape looked like a classic Christmas card.
Snow on pine trees and roofs and streets! Even on big cactus plants and red rock mountains.
As I walked with Leo, the snow crunched beneath my feet, and the air had that fresh, cold, almost-fragrance of new-fallen snow. Even though Christmas is still a couple days away, it certainly made it seem present. When I got home, I put on my favorite Christmas music and sat gazing out the window at the snow-powdered scene as I listened, sipping a good cup of hot coffee, and feeling quite content.
The snow, of course, is surface stuff when it comes to Christmas. And sometimes its okay to just be on the surface of things, as long as I remember that surface snow/stuff melts away, like the snow did today. If there is something beautiful beneath it, that will be there. If there is something ugly, that will be there too. All the snow does is cover up, for awhile. And it leaves me with the question I invite you to ponder too. Is there something in my life, or yours, that is being covered up by the surface stuff, the "snow," which might be good to take a longer, deeper look at? Feelings that are coverups for unmet needs? Good resolutions buried under a surface layer of busyness? Surface religious practices hiding a big void? Surface smiles hiding a deeply buried sadness? Christmas sometimes has a way of "surfacing" such things, snow or no snow. And that can be a blessing. So-----white Christmas or no, merry or not, may it be a Blessed Christmas that goes a lot deeper in our souls than a dusting of snow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Shadow of the Past

Have you ever thought much about your distant past? Your ancestors? Their lives? What they have passed on to you? I know that is not part of what I was taught growing up. I saw a few faded photos of great-grandparents, heard a tidbit or two from an uncle who had done some research into the family tree, and that was about all.
Since then, I have learned that in many cultures, down to the present, ancestors are a very important part of people's religion and spirituality.
A well known Buddhist monk writes that the first thing he does when he comes home after a trip is to go to his home altar, where there are pictures and symbols of his ancestors, and greet them. In China, in Africa, and many other places, ancestors are considered to be alive and important to relate to properly on a regular basis. They are simply in "another dimension" (whatever it might be called) but certainly not absent from the lives of their descendants.
I have gotten a better personal feel for "the ancestors" in my time out here in the Sedona area. This is an ancient land, and there are many places where the remnants of the ancient peoples who once lived here can be seen. There are scholars who agree that this is a place the ancestors of the Hopi people once lived. They left behind them ruins of their dwellings, rock art picturing what was important to them, shards of pottery, arrow heads, and such. They also left behind them the imprint of their spirits. It it is possible to feel their presence in certain places, like the one I visited yesterday, called Palatki.
I am not the only one who is deeply moved by the spirit I feel in the places they once lived in this area. The forest ranger who welcomed me to Palatki clearly felt what I felt as we shared our experience of the place. There is a very deep peace, a stillness that speaks to the soul, and a sense of mystery that defies words. As I was approaching one of the ruins of a house built against a cliff (pictured above) I felt an inexplicable sense of grief, and tears came to my eyes. Then I got a vivid picture in my mind of an old Hopi woman sitting in the door of the house-ruins at which I was looking. She was weeping, watching her people leaving to migrate northwards because of a prolonged drought in the area. She knew she would never see her loved ones again. And she also knew it was her sacred duty to stay behind and care for the land as she had all her life, doing what she could to tend and gather medicine plants, do sacred ceremony to honor the spirits of the land, and pray for rain and people to return.
I do not know how or why this vivid "memory" came to me, but it had a strong impact.
Maybe I have been in Sedona too long. Stuff like this happens around here. But no. I love being here, and I am willing to live with whatever mystery I encounter without having to figure it out or explain it away. Suffice it to say that I feel a new kind of connection with the ancestors who lived in this area.
I remember reading that Chief Crazy Horse, of the Lakota people in South Dakota, who fought a losing battle against the white man's encroachments, once was scornfully asked by a white soldier, "Where is your land now?" He stretched out his arm and pointed to the horizon in all directions and said "Wherever my people are buried." Yes.
My experience (and that of many others) is that certain places carry the memory of the Ancient Ones very strongly. Sedona is one of those places.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Listen to the Grand Mothers!

I have been told by reliable sources that in the days when the first white settlers came to this country, there were Native American tribes which had a Council of GrandMothers. Their wisdom was sought by the people in all important matters. They wielded considerable power in the governing of the tribes. In fact, if the Council of GrandMothers felt that the current chief(s) were doing thing detrimental to the well being of the tribe, they could depose the chief.
In our European and American cultures in the past couple of centuries, grandmothers have not had much status. Older women were and are often derided, ignored, trivialized, and disrespected in many ways. Their wisdom and strength are seldom valued as they should be.
If one looks at the world as it is, one could hardly say those running it are doing a good job! How many of today's leaders might not be deposed by a wise Council of GrandMothers for doing things detrimental to their people and to GrandMother Earth?
Recently, I had the privilege of attending a meeting at which thirteen indigenous Grand mothers from Alaska, Mexico, the Grand Canyon area, Brazil, El Salvador, South Dakota, Tibet, Nepal, and other places all offered their blessings, their wisdom, and their prayers to a large standing room only audience at the Creative Life Center in Sedona. These women have been traveling all over the world, and their message is what one might expect from truly wise people: the importance of caring for the earth and living with future generations in mind; the necessity of settling differences peacefully; the need for sharing resources generously so that all might have a decent life; and the truth that the human race is one, and an integral part of all that lives. These truths were all told and sung and prayed in different ways, with great impact. These women have met with the Dalai Lama, and other world leaders, for they are determined to call people back to the wisdom they hold in their hearts from many generations and cultures.
I, for one, can easily imagine a world headed in a much better direction if grandmothers made up at least half of all the leadership of government, business, education, health, etc. etc.
Most of them have the years of life experience and hardship, the love, the faith, the good common sense, and the "no nonsense" approach necessary. They are not invested in warfare, weapons sales, drug sales, political conflicts, and the preservation of the status quo. They want only what is best for everyone. I can't imagine one of them authorizing the development of chemical warfare, or an economic system that allows the few to get rich and the rest to struggle to survive. And I am sure they would make big changes in our health system!
Its time grandmothers were given the authority they deserve to set things right! They can do a lot more than they have been allowed to do. Maybe the human race will have a better chance of a bright future if grandmothers are once again listened to---really, really listened to.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In praise of walking

I have been walking now for almost my whole life. I have always loved walking, and still do.
My sister Judy lost her ability to walk in mid life, due to the affliction of Multiple Sclerosis.
Since then, I have often dedicated walks to her, often with tears, and gratitude----walking when and where she could not.
While I am out here in Sedona, I do even more walking than I normally do. A couple hours a day(or more) is normal for me here. Sometimes it is one longer walk, sometimes two shorter ones. I find it a fine way to pray, to reflect, to get my creative juices flowing, to heal, to strengthen, to enjoy incredible natural beauty---and more.
The pictures I posted with this blog are all about the benefits of walking. One is of a shadow of me walking at the end of a day in a big field near a campground we stayed at on the way out here. Another is of a favorite path of mine through pine woods at MorningStar Retreat center near LeRoy, Michigan. It is like the aisle of a cathedral. The floor is clear of everything but fragrant pine needles and some patches of soft, emerald green moss. On both sides stretch straight rows of towering pine trees, like the pillars of a cathedral. When I walk this path, I feel I am walking deeper inside my soul as well as deeper into the woods. The third picture is recent. It is of husband John, daughter Rachel, her dog Howie, and our dog Leo on the path ahead of me on the beautiful Brins Mesa Trail. The late afternoon light was golden, and the path reminded me of the "Good Red Road" of Native American tradition. The silence was very deep and complete---no traffic noises, no people noises, only those of nature: whisper of wind in the pines, a few soft chirps of birds nearby. Nothing else but the sound of our own breathing and footsteps. Silence like that restores my soul like little else. I could sit and listen to it for hours, and will, the very next chance I get! I recommend it to you if you can find such silence anywhere near where you live.
The dogs, of course, love walks too. And Leo keeps John and I walking more often and further than we otherwise might.
I am currently working with the book "The Vein of Gold" by Julia Cameron. Here are a few quotes about walking from that book which I found particularly fine.
"Solvitur ambulando...It is solved by walking... (St. Augustine) !
"Walking is the the most powerful creative tool that I know. Although it has fallen into disuse in our hurried times, it may be the most powerful spiritual practice known to humankind." (Julia Cameron)
"I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." (John Muir, explorer, conservationist, nature mystic)
"Walking with our souls is really walking with our souls. Our internal horizons stretch with our external ones. We walk into expanded possibility. If you can bear it, the soles of our feet lead us to the feats of our souls." (Julia Cameron)
Have you taken a walk lately? Try a gratitude walk, a moaning groaning walk if you are sad, a reflective, pondering walk, a sensing walk in which you deliberately become aware of what you are sensing, one sense at a time. Its a most sensible thing to do!
An old Irish blessing begins with these words I offer to you in blessing as you walk...
"May the road rise to meet you...."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Saint Leo

No, I am not going to blog about a saint on the Roman Catholic or any other roster.
The saint I do want to write a bit about is our dog Leo.
I know that in the Catholic church, there are certain requirements for the title of "saint."
Among them are the working of miracles, and the ability to communicate the goodness and presence of God in a remarkable way.
Leo certainly meets these requirements, as well as other criteria not found on any official list.
He has the virtues of the saints: patience, unconditional love, nobility of character, spiritual intelligence, kindness, super-awareness and alertness, and the ability to bring out the best in people and give joy wherever he goes. How many of us humans have these virtues in a constant, readily observable manner?
I said once in a sermon that my dog was a great spiritual director, and at this time of year, I am especially grateful for the gift of Leo's presence in our lives. As John often says, he has brought us a lot of joy.
Here are a few things I am currently grateful he is teaching me as my spiritual director:
1. Relax and take a break often enough to keep yourself calm and focused. Just being is at least as good, if not better, than doing, doing, doing.
2. Befriend children and spend time with them. They are also superior spiritual directors and teachers, like my grandson Philip, who is pictured here with Leo on the beach on Lake Michigan. Both Leo and Philip teach me to take great pleasure in the simple experiences of life rather than in things that can be purchased: a walk on the beach (or anywhere in nature);
the warmth of sun on one's skin/fur; the smells of water and trees; the enjoyment of one's body and good health; the treasure of friendship.....and so much more. You can continue the list for yourself.
3. Take time to ponder the depth of meaning in your everyday experiences. Don't skate heedlessly over the surface of life.
4. Its not so bad being leashed to people you love. There are coyotes out there you don't want to tangle with.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Call to Prayer

I spent many years of my childhood in Pakistan, and one of my most lasting memories is that of hearing the Muslim Call to Prayer from neighboring minarets echoing through the cities in which we lived, calling the faithful to stop whatever they were doing, and take time to turn their minds and hearts to God. This happened five times a day. To me, this is an inspiring challenge.
How can we help but be more conscious of the presence of God, and all the good God is, when we stop that often to spend at least ten minutes in prayer?
For me, there are times of the day that, in tune with the movement of the sun, are most natural as times to pray. Sunrise and sunset offer the invitation to stop whatever I am doing, and just absorb the beauty of the beginning or ending of another precious day. It is a perfect time to praise God, to dedicate the day to God, or to reflect on the challenges and blessings of the day that is ending. It is a way to sanctify time, and it helps me keep from getting lost in my own agenda and distractions.
This past week, I found a beautiful hymn, dating all the way back to the fourth century, by St. Ambrose of Milan. It offers in beautiful words a prayer of the heart, which I offer in turn to you for your inspiration.

O splendor of God's glory bright, from light eternal bringing light;
Thou Light of life, light's living spring, true Day, all days illumining.

Come, Holy Sun of heavenly love, shoer down Thy radiance from above,
and to our inward hearts convey the Holy Spirit's cloudless ray.

And we the Mother's help will claim, and sing the Spirit's glorious name;
Her powerful aid we will implore, that we may stand to fall no more.

Be hallowed this and every day, let trust now be our morning ray,
and faithful love our noonday light, and hope our sunset, calm and bright.

O God, with each returning morn Thy image to our hearts is borne,
O may we every clearly see our Savior and our Friend in Thee.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Womb of Creation

Who knew that the place where this world emerged into being was a few miles away at the site of what the Spaniards named "Montezuma's Well." ???????
That is the place I visited with a couple of friends yesterday. It was a lovely sunny fall afternoon in Red Rock country. We drove up Oak Creek canyon and then down Interstate 17 to the exit south of Sedona that let us off onto the country road that led to Montezuma's Well.
There, we visited ancient ruins of long gone Native American people. We saw the remains of pit houses, pueblos, and cave dwellings built into the side of stone cliffs that surround a small lake fed by springs and formed by a sink hole in the limestone that makes up much of the land.
The lake is very deep, and a constant 75 degrees throughout the year. The land around it is beautiful high desert country, and it is far enough away from the highway and any towns that one can bask in a profound and beautiful silence. It is not difficult to imagine why the creation stories of the Hopi and Yavapai people would imagine this place as one of the emergence of this world.
Near the lake, down a steep slope, runs Beaver Creek, and an ancient irrigation ditch next to it, still running with clear water from the same underground source as Montezuma's well. It is easy to feel and imagine the presence of the ancient people who once lived here. I can see them, in my mind's eye, sitting around the fire at night, telling their creation story. The creation story of the Garden of Eden may have started the same way, and so would many other creation stories of many other spiritual traditions the world over. It seems to be a universal human need to tell the story of their beginnings ages ago, and to draw certain lessons from those stories to guide the life of each generation. The Hopi creation story tells us that the Creator gave certain instructions to the people (which they did not always follow) that included the instruction to migrate from here to as far north, south, east, and west, as they could possibly go, and not to settle anywhere until this was done. This command, it is said, was to train the people through the generations this great migration would last, to depend on one another and the Creator in a spirit of trust and faithfulness. It would also train the people to live simply and lightly on the earth.
This ancient pattern of migration certainly seems to be continuing, especially in American culture, in which it is said that the average American moves every three to five years.
Of course, our mobility is a lot easier now, although we are burdened with many more possessions than the Original Peoples could carry with them as they walked the length and breadth of this continent. We could use a good dose of their simplicity.
All this made me ponder many things, including the stories in my mind of my own beginnings, the pattern of the places I have lived, the migrations of my life, and what they might mean. One pattern that seems significant is that I have lived in four continents, and my migrations have spanned the globe. I am not unusual anymore in that regard. The world today is filled with global nomads like me. We are more and more a global society in which the old boundaries between tribes, religions, and cultures are increasingly blurred. And we are more and more interdependent. Perhaps we are still learning the ancient lesson of the Creator: to gratefully and faithfully depend on others and on God, and in turn to be faithful and dependable people, as part of the Divine Design of world wide unity and peace.
I chose the above pictures because they depict ancient waters and reflections; an ancient tree; and an ancient instrument being played. I am sure when the ancient creation stories were told by the Original Peoples, that they were often set to music and played, sung, and drummed so that they would thus make their way into the souls of the listeners, and shape their lives, as creation stories most surely do.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Booking along

I invite you to settle in with me in the cozy den in our Sedona house. It is evening, and the glorious sunset having faded from the sky, there is a fire dancing in the little fireplace.
It is a perfect time to read---a favorite occupation of mine since early childhood.
One of the joys of being here is time to read and reflect. When I read, I make the books my own by underlining, putting marks and comments of various sorts in the margins, and sometimes even writing some of my thoughts out on an empty space at the end of a chapter or at the end of the book. I love the books that have a few blank pages at the end for just this sort of thing.
The three books I am currently spending the most time with are pictured above. The one about creating an altar in the world is a birthday gift from my brother and his wife. The author is one of my favorite: she writes so beautifully it is a pleasure to read her. This is one of those books that providentially came into my life at a perfect time. She has good suggestions I am following about how to go about building altars in the world--something I have believed in doing for many years, but she has a fresh "take" on it and is giving me lots to ponder. I recommend it to you if you like the idea of intentionally living out the sacred dimension of life in a practical, every day kind of way.
The book on Rumi is also a fresh approach. I have several books of his poetry and accounts of his life, etc. But this is the first one I have found that explores his spiritual practices, and in particular, the practice of gazing into another person's eyes with the full realization that eyes are the windows of the soul, and that is so gazing, one is gazing into the Divine Life that inhabits us all, whether or not we know or believe or experience it. I remember being at a retreat once in which our group divided into pairs and we were asked to gaze into each other's eyes in silence for a full ten minutes. It was an enormously moving experience for us, and I remember feeling so intensely the truth expressed in the greeting I learned in India as a child:
"Namaste." The Divine in me greets the Divine in you." It is interesting to me to notice how often in normal interactions, we humans avoid eye contact, or offer only the briefest such contact. Why? What are we avoiding? What are we afraid of? Especially if the other person is someone we know and trust, or at least have no reason to fear.
This book, which I am still reading, has inspired me to intentionally look a little longer than usual into people's eyes as I meet them--at the grocery store, the gas station, on the street walking the dog, or wherever. Its a way of acknowledging them as sacred persons, carriers of the divine image. Its a little way for me to practice realizing what we really are, or as we say in our Unity church, "The Truth of Being." Maybe it is something you would like to try!
The third book I picked up on our way here at a most wonderful used book store in Las Cruses, New Mexico. It is by far the largest used book store I have ever been--with used books in every category one can imagine. Not surprisingly for those who know me, I walked out with a large box of books. This one, on poetry as a spiritual practice, appealed to me because while I love most poetry, read it on and off, and even write a little on and off, I had not yet explored how it could function as a spiritual practice in my life on a frequent basis. So far, the book has not disappointed me. In fact, it has inspired me to write a couple poems already, and it may be that this blog will now and then contain a poem. Wouldn't that be a refreshing change?
As I reflect on how reading has enriched, guided, and supported my life, my heart is full of gratitude for people who do the hard work of writing good books, and I am back in touch with a feeling of "call" about doing this myself.
So settle in whenever you can, pick up a good book, and let yourself be gifted by its treasures--again, and again, and again.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


There are as many ways to pray, I suppose, as there are people in this world.
One of them, for me, and my friends Joey and Laurel, pictured in the photos on today's blog, is to play the Native American Flute.
There is something about its gentle and haunting sounds, and blowing the breath gently through the flute,
and fingering the holes spontaneously to allow a melody or just different kinds of sounds to emerge,
which stills the mind, gives solace to the soul, and engages the heart.
When I flute, I feel connected to the breath of all things, the Universe, the Life that is God in and through all.
I can't play the flute without being conscious of my breathing, and that is a wonderful sort of Breath Prayer.
I am aware that every breath is a gift of Life in this body, and that this Godly Life is breathing me every moment, or I would not be alive on this earth.
I am aware that there is music in every breath too, and the flute lets that usually un-noticed breath become music!
Now that's at least a minor miracle, for me at least!

In one of the pictures you see, Joey and Laurel are playing their flutes on a beautiful trail named Marg's Draw, in the back country of Sedona, on a sunny fall afternoon. I always take my flute with me when I hike, as a way of honoring the spirit of whatever place I happen to be, and celebrating the beauty and life around me.
In the other picture, Joey and Laurel are playing their flutes on the sofa in our living room in the Sedona house. The night they did that, we spent quite some time playing our flutes by turn in a kind of call-and-response manner, and then one of the three of us would lay down the flute and take up a drum or rattle. Playing our flutes to this ancient rhythmic sound was particularly enjoyable,
This experience reminded me of our ancient inheritance as humans of making simple music together.
In our world today, it seems most of our musical experience is that of listening to others (often professional) make music.
We buy CD's and watch TV and listen to I-poeds and yet, how often do we make music ourselves, with our voices, with drums, with flutes, or any other simple instrument---for the pure pleasure of it, not as a performance or assignment or project.
My experience is that creating music myself is a wonderful way to expand and express my Soul.
I invite you to try it for yourself a bit more often, and see if that is not your experience too.
Remember, the magic is in the process, and the intent, not the "product."
I love that in English, we use the word "play" with music. "Do you "play" the piano (or guitar, or whatever)?
So---play along with me!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


After many weeks of silence, due to a "hot and heavy" summer and early fall, I am finally back to blogging. I hope you have not all given up. Please send me a comment or email if you are still with me, to encourage me to continue regularly, and give me a sense of who is still looking. To all of you who are-----thank you!
Now that I am back in Sedona (for less than a week) I once more have the time and the motivation to return to reflecting on life and what I am experiencing.
The pictures that accompany this blog are of the entry into our Sedona home, and the place on the deck where I most often sit to contemplate the beauty of the red rock mountains and high desert valley that delights the eye and the soul. The curtains that hang at the entry to our house create inviting archways, openings into the time that lies ahead, and the surprises and opportunities that will be coming into my life. I wonder what they will be? I have a strong sense of anticipation and curiosity, for I feel I am entering a time of deep discovery. The figures on the entry deck in one of the pictures are accompanied by these words; "fruitful silence; delicious wisdom." These are what I know I will experience here, once again, as I take more time for silence and solitude, and "return to the land of my soul." The picture of the empty chair on the deck reminds me of the need to just "sit and BE." I have spent months doing too much, and BEing too little of the time. I believe that this stage of my life (I turn 68 tomorrow!) calls for more BEing and less doing. This is the perfect time and place for that.
The mountain I call "El Shaddai" towers behind the deck, reminding me constantly of the Divine Presence, and inviting me to keep the "high watch" of prayer and communion with that Presence as constantly and consistently as possible. Nothing could be more important.
I will begin the celebration of my next year at sunrise tomorrow, walking with Leo up a mountain trail to a gorgeous high plateau I call "Beulah Land", from which I can see the surrounding scenery 360 degrees. I will play "Thank You for this day/Life" on my native american flute, and maybe even dance a little! Later in the day, I hope to acquire a new set of hiking boots for all the future hikes I hope to take, and spend time with dear friends, along with John, my dearest.
You will be in my prayers of thanksgiving for a life full of blessings.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

friendships and faith

      One of the great joys and blessings of my life has been that every since I was a child, I have had friends from different faith traditions;  Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Native American,  African traditional, etc.  etc.   From these wonderful people, at different stages in my life, I have learned a whole variety of ways to see things.  From their beliefs I have enlarged my understanding of the crucial role faith and values play in people's relationships, actions, and life-styles.  If I had not had these friendships,  I might have seen the various faiths they represented as simply subjects to be studied,  or beliefs to be ignored or even criticized.  I certainly would not have grown, as I have,  in understanding and appreciation of the benefits of many different forms of faith and its expression.  My life would be much the poorer for not having had the direct, personal access I have had to the inner life of faith I found in my friends.  
     To this day, one of the things I most enjoy is getting together with such friends with the express person of sharing our faith perspectives,  our devotional practices, and our hopes for the future contributions of our faith communities to the welfare of the whole world.
     Now I you have friends from other cultures and/or faiths?  Do you talk about your faith in an open, curious, friendly way?  Do you rule out other people's faith as irrelevant or even threatening to your own?   Or ( I hope) do you deliberately cultivate friendships with people different from you in faith, culture, and background?  As more and more of us do this in a deliberate way, the more we are contributing in an important way to world peace and the expansion of human consciousness.  For the first time in recorded history,  people from all over the world and many faiths live in our neighborhoods and are also easily accessible on the internet.   Opportunities abound for a life blessed by faith-ful friendships that embrace a wide spectrum of the world's faith traditions.  How will you take advantage of this exciting new opportunity?   

Friday, July 17, 2009

the sunset of life

     Too much time has passed since my last blog.   Life has been too busy.  I have been playing too little, writing too little,  and its time to stop getting sucked into all the "stuff" and practice what i preach about playing and praying and enjoying some holy leisure and taking time to connect with people you love.  That would include those of you who are reading this blog, having waited patiently for me to get back.  
      My mother turned 97 years old two days ago!  She is thirty years older than I am, so now you know my age, in case you didn't.  I was her firstborn, and my birth story is a huge adventure in itself.  But this is about Mom, and her adventurous,unusual life as a nurse married to a doctor who spent many years living abroad in India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, helping people who had very little access to medical care.  She also mothered two sons and two daughters, and is grandmother to 12 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren at last count.  She was and is a grand mother, loved, admired, and respected by her family and many others.
Her serenity, beauty, humor, enormous strength,  love for God,  dedication to the welfare of others, and healing gifts are only some of what she has blessed us with as her family.  We are very grateful indeed that at her age she is still healthy,  able to interact well with friends and family, and involved in living life with real verve and appreciation.   
      The beautiful Lake michigan sunsets pictured above are symbolic, to me, of the sunset of her life--the kind of sunset I hope to enjoy too as I age.  The sunset of Mom's life radiates with the glory of God and the beauty of a life well lived, a source of joy and blessing to countless others here and in other countries.  
      I couldn't end this blog without expressing my appreciation to the artist who drew her portrait on Mom's 97th birthday....Dana Ziebart.   She captured my Mom's sweetness, dignity, and spiritual strength beautifully.   How blessed we are to have such artists in our midst.

Friday, June 12, 2009


     We just spent a week playing.   Playing with our grandchildren, to be exact.   And their dog.  And our dog.  One of the most wonderful things about spending time with them is that they get us out of work habits and into play.   I can't remember a week when I played so much in the last year!   We played chess.  We played board games.  We played beach-ball. We played golf.  We watched them play on the computer, play with their "wii"  games,  and always,  times of play with the dogs.   In turn, our dog (Leo) and theirs (Maizy)  played constantly with each other, romping and wrestling until they collapsed in a heap on the floor.   It was great fun watching them play too.   
     All this playing reminded me of the importance of play for our lives as adults as well as children.   Our culture tends to be workaholic in many quarters, and its all too easy to substitute mindless TV watching or lounging for good active play.  Its an important way not to take ourselves and our work TOO seriously, and to get some perspective on our lives as a game.
      One of the things that distinguishes play is that it is fun.   And fun, I have discovered, is as much an attitude towards life as it is a particular thing one is doing "for fun."    Last week, for example, I went to a local nursery to get some plants for our deck, and was sold a plant they had never stocked before, called "dragon wing."  It was, said the lady who sold it to me, "really fun to have around."   Now I had never thought of fun in connection with having a certain plant around, and it gave me a whole new perspective on what fun might be!
      So what are some things you find fun to do?  Or might, if you just thought to look at it that way?
     Actually, this blog is fun!  For me, anyway.   Now you go have some fun!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

retreat at MorningStar

     I have been way too occupied with "stuff" lately, which explains the days and days without a blog.  When I get too busy  (do you ever do that?)   I find it good medicine for the soul to go away for a day or two or three to a place like Morningstar, a beautiful rustic retreat center not far from Cadillac, Michigan.    I have been retreating there periodically for many years, and I always come back home deeply refreshed and renewed by being in a place so close to nature, in which I once again live very simply,  and take time to focus on listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit within.
As the old hymn says, "All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres,"  and "In the rustling grass I hear God pass.  S/he speaks to me everywhere."   At least, that is my experience when I am still enough to listen, and not so filled with my own habitual thoughts that I can't hear the Divine Whisper or the quiet Melody of Love that is always singing within and around me.  
     The Morningstar sign in the picture is next to a "burning bush"----a tree branch painted red.
I love it!   It speaks of the truth that all ground is holy, especially when we pause to realize it.
The little cabin in the woods is called the "Poustinia" which is a Russian word meaning "wilderness."   In ancient Russian Orthodox tradition,  there were people who, usually when the age of grandparents,  were called to leave their regular homes and lives for awhile and retire to the wilderness to live very simply in a little hut to pray and listen to God.  MorningStar offers this opportunity in a safe and beautiful place in little cabins like this one.  
      There is a stretch of pine woods I love to walk in at Morningstar which feels like the aisle in a magnificent cathedral.   The sun streams in golden rays through the pine needles, and a bed of emerald green moss lies underfoot.   It is very easy to feel the Divine Presence in such a place.
     There is also a medicine wheel, crafted along the lines of the Native American tradition.  It is a place to pray, to sing, to ponder and pray,  incorporating the wisdom and spirit of the four directions and the Center which reminds us of the importance of centering in The Great Mystery.  I find that taking regular time for retreats is a way to keep from being overwhelmed by the demands of life in the world, and risking losing touch with your own soul and God.
It is a vital part of a spiritual practice that keeps us refreshed and renewed on our journey through life.  In whatever form or way,  may you too enjoy this wonderful treat of re-treat!
       If you are interested in a retreat, you can contact Julie, the director, at : have a website too.  (