what is religion for?

dew dropThe single and true purpose of mature religion is to allow you to experience your True Self–who you are in God and who God is in you–and to live a generous life from that Infinite Source. If religion does not do this, it is junk religion.                              – Richard Rohr


The seed of my very being
Is your infinite heart.
I want to watch the seedling break the soil
And unfurl its tiny leaves to the sun.
I want to feel the itch of growth within me.


I want to hold the dew drop of grace
That gathers, slowly, in the fold of green
And then, with growing fullness,
Quivers at the edge of hope
And falls into your waiting joy.



blue heronBeauty is to the spirit what food is to the flesh. – Frederick Buechner

All the beauties of this scene sing to my heart:
The imagined rush of wings,
The crisp, cold kiss of snow,
The delicate colors of feather on feather,
The bright eye, focused on flight.
The wonderful balance of it all.
Hurrah for beauty, as it feeds my soul.

[photo by Mike Bizeau from his wonderful blog, Nature has no Boss, used with permission]

defining grace

Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.

A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace.    – Frederick Buechner

Grace enters my life quietly – gracefully. It comes on the smile of a friend and the warm embrace of my spouse. It arrives on my kitchen counter, in a basket of garden vegetables delivered by a neighbor. It comes as I watch my 2-week old granddaughter, stretching and yawning and trying to focus on this world she has just been given.

Buechner reminds me that I cannot acquire grace on my own. I cannot buy it, earn it, or demand it. Even when I’ve been my very best self, I cannot presume to deserve it.

There is, however, one volitional thing I can do with grace. I can give it. I can be the smile or give the hug or offer the gifts of friendship. I can be a neighbor. I can become the conduit of grace.

The mystery is that most often, in giving grace, I get it in return. When it is truly myself I give and not the duty-driven, obligatory gesture – it is then I find the grace of soul-to-soul relationship. That holy space of encounter is the birthplace of grace. And the birthplace of the me I truly want to be.

Even as a grandma, I feel newborn in the world of this mystery. I cannot always focus on its wonder, but somehow I know that I am held. And that is grace.

a new world

Thank God for hiccups

light breaks throughDid you ever wake from your day with a start? Did you ever find that you have been so caught up in the urgency and buzz that you were only responding, not really living – not even really aware? It’s like a hiccup, or, for those of us old enough to remember, it’s like a skip in a record.

You happen to notice a cloud, nestled in a blue, blue sky. You hear the tail end of a song, stirring your soul with its fading echo. Or you walk through an oasis of shade and the cool brushes across your face like a curtain. Someone’s hello holds more than the perfunctory greeting. There is a real question in the ‘how’s your day?’  You actually encounter a person, and not just a shadow. And in that moment, you realize that you are a person, too.

At those moments, when life breaks into existence and my soul sighs, I find a smile upon my lips.

I thank God for hiccups.

[photo I took this week, during a hiccup]

Play with me

playing on the beachI sit quietly beneath the oak, looking out upon the meadow, waiting for the arrival of the sun. Here it comes, pushing away the rim of night, unfolding the morning. It rises, slowly, adding inch by inch to its presence, proclaimed by crimson clouds and wispy streaks of gold.

Then, though my eyes can hardly bear it, I see an image within the brilliant glow of the sun. A form, immensely bright: it is the Lord, the God of this meadow, the very one whose hand called it into being.

He walks forward to the well and sits upon its rim. The sunrise is behind him and he looks around his meadow, and up the hill to where I sit. He looks at me; into me. Then he nods at me and smiles, beckoning me to the well.

I rise and walk toward him, and as I draw closer, I begin to run. It is as if I am pulled by a magnet, the closer I am, the stronger the pull. I run to him and tackle him in my exuberance and together we fall into the well. He wraps me in his arms and I feel a low chuckle.

We are carried away by the waters of the well and are finally washed up on a beach – upon a warm and sandy shore. Together we run along its edges, kicking at the waves, tumbling in the sand, throwing shells into the water.

We play and play and play. We run in rhythm with each other, ducking and dodging, each anticipating the next step in this friendly game of chase. Finally, we stop to catch our breath. He hugs me close and dusts the sand from my cheek. I am a small child standing beside him as he sits upon the sand. He has wrapped his arms around me and rests his forehead on my chest. “Thank you,” he says to me.

I am astonished. “Are you thanking me for the romp?”

“Yes,” he replies, “Too often I come and no one is waiting for me. No one is ready to rejoice with me in the wonder of creation. I can usually find a serious servant to follow my instructions, but it is rare to find someone to play with me in the beauty of this world. I hope that you will come to me again, sometime, so we can play once more.”

“I will,” I promise. “Cross my heart.”

“And mine” he replies.


[photo by insiyah amiruddeen per cc 2.0]

the kiss upon my soul

the shadow of a kiss


Jesus’ breath in me is his kiss upon my soul. (Jack Levison)


There is a deep vulnerability required of true relationship. I hand you the keys to my heart, knowing that gift gives you the power to bring me low, but also knowing that only that kind of intimacy is the true seal of relationship. Otherwise, we are just playing in the foyer.

You, oh Jesus, maintained that vulnerability all the way to the cross, and then came back and offered yourself again, without reservation. You will not be deterred. Nothing can separate us. (Nothing? Not even my refusal to forgive others; to forgive myself? Will you love me, even through the barriers I create in self-deluded self-defense? I dare hope so.)

So – even when my mind gets me tangled, even when my heart feels cold, even when I just cannot hold on to the intellectual or emotional parts of my faith – even then, I can breathe. And you breathe within me, loving my soul, kissing my soul, till I come back to you. Till I come back to life.

This moment-by-moment intimacy – your breath coming into my lungs; my breath flowing out into the world – this exchange of life … what a miracle. I gratefully relish your kiss upon my soul. (And dare to hope, when breathing stops, to feel the kiss, the deep embrace, as you welcome my soul to its true home, in you.)

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.


[photo by Jeremy Vandel per cc 2.0]
[This meditation was sparked in response to ‘Day 6’ in Forty Days with the Holy Spirit: Fresh Air for Every Day by Jack Levison.]

epiphany, defined

gifts of the wise ones

Epiphany: (noun)
A sudden awakening
A flash of intuition and deeper understanding
An awareness that comes after a long and arduous journey from the east,
Where you first saw the star.
An insight that is accompanied by worship
And the giving of your most precious gifts,
In grateful recognition that there really is hope for the world
And for us all.

[photo, filtered, by Waiting For The Word per cc 2.0]
[reformatted and reposted]

The nest of friendship

sharing wine

Once again, I entered that warm space of wonder last night,
Where friends connect in deep appreciation of each other,
Where we get to celebrate the way our connections interweave time and space
And, more deeply, where we weave a nest of grace.

Marvelous food helps. Wine helps.
But the real intoxication is deep regard for each other
And the hope, the assurance, the energy that rises in that context
It is friendship in a state of flow.

I wake this morning in gratitude for the feast of friendship shared.

[photo by Steve Corey per cc 2.0]

[Thanks, especially, to Jean, Jane and Diana]