Monthly Archives: April 2012


History does make students of us all, if we are but willing to learn. History is amazing. It causes us to remember, to ponder, to learn from it and to be our best selves for the sake of the future.

A visit to Mount Vernon, Washington’s home on the Potomac River, was a day steeped in history.  We learned about the young man, the entrepreneur, the early military failures, the husband and step-father, the land owner, the farmer, the General, and the President.  Truly, he left many marks on American history, most of which I was unaware of.

Most notable among his many attributes was his ability to say “No.”  When military advisors and fellow troops argued against movement to cross the Delaware River during that harsh winter, Washington said “No” to their hesitations and planned and ordered the crossing anyway. After the Revolution saw victory, when enthusiastic citizens wanted to make him King, he said “No,” there would be no monarchy in this country and he would not be a king.

His “No” was firm, but it allowed a subsequent “Yes.”  He became our first president.  His life was filled with the “yeses” of public service and thoughtful leadership, but many of those “yeses” came following a firm “no” to something else.

If we do not allow ourselves to say “no” to some things, we may never have the opportunity to say “yes” to the more important thing.

I learned the grace of this wisdom from the halls of history and the beauty of Mt. Vernon, planned, built, occupied and left behind by a man who knew how to say “no.”


A Prayer

My little sewing project has turned into prayer.

I’d forgotten how much creating something physical takes a number of tries.  There is so much putting together, and taking apart in the process.  First, I try it, examine it, make a decision, try it again and decide again.  There is no stopping in this process until I have found exactly what I wanted in the first place.

It makes me wonder how much of God’s creating is a process of trying and trying again until something comes out like God wants it.  And, I ask myself:  am I willing to be shaped and re-shaped, cut and torn, and sewn back together again, until I turn out just the way God wants me?

It’s really a cooperative effort, and grace is the result.  Yet, we have to be willing to give ourselves over to the continual process.  Is that pulling and tugging that I feel when things don’t go according to my plan, God’s way of speaking to me?  Am I being asked to take a new position or change my opinion?  Reach out to someone I would rather not, or slow down and notice all of life unfolding?

So, my little sewing project has become a prayer.  As I rip and tear, re-position and sew again, iron, steam, and fold, I am thinking of all the people I know who are experiencing struggles of any kind in their lives.   I think of a family member in the hospital; two friends – one who is dying and the other who is caring for her, day by day; a friend who is still looking for a job; another who’s business has fallen on hard times; another who recently lost both her father and her husband within days of each other.  There are so many difficulties and struggles that we face and have to deal with.

As I rip and cut, measure, pin, and try again, I hold each of them in prayer.  I pray we each can see our times of struggle as opportunities to try again, to cut something out, to re-position, re-measure, and try again.  Perhaps these struggles are simply God’s invitation for us to reposition the fabric of our lives and try again until we come out just the way God wants.



“Do it over”

Those wise words come courtesy of my mother.  When I was a teenager and sewing, my mother would look over a job I had done and tell me – if it was needed – to “do it over.”  She was teaching a valuable lesson.  If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.  Well, I did many things over at my mother’s behest, and matured into an adult that likes to have things done well!

I remember all this because yesterday I began a sewing project.  It’s the first time I’ve sewed in about thirteen years and I woke up this morning with a start . . . I have to do that over!  I was working off of a pattern I had drafted myself about 25 years ago and for which I wrote down no directions.  At that time I didn’t need any.  Little did I know it would be 25 years before I would use that pattern again and, by this time, I needed some directions in a big way!  I had put something together backwards and I didn’t fully realize it until it came to me in a dream.

So, this morning I am “doing it over.”  Taking everything apart, pulling out every stitch, and doing it over.  If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Amazing how our character is shaped by every person who enters into our awareness.  Each person brings their own grace to our lives.  Mother’s have a profound effect, and for that I am grateful.

Nothing Artificial

I just downloaded some pictures from my little camera.  I was struck by how much the landscape has changed since I last downloaded!  This is the tiny camera that I carry with me everywhere, but rarely use because I usually have another camera with me.  The tiny camera is a result of my father’s wisdom.  He told me once “You’ll miss the shot 100 % of the time if you don’t have a camera.”  To remedy that possibility, I got a tiny, but very effective, camera to carry with me at all times.

On this download there were pictures of tulips – which are now totally gone; dogwood blooms – which are also totally gone; and iris – which are just now blooming.  Looking at the landscape now, it’s hard to remember that there were tulips and dogwoods just a few short days or weeks ago, but totally gone now for another year.  Everything changes.  Everything.  And, we have to ask ourselves, are we changing, too?

Working in the church for 25 years, I learned that there is a rule of thumb in liturgical decoration.  It is that there be nothing artificial around the worship space.  No artificial plants or flowers, no artificial candles, no artificial anything.  Why?  Because everything changes.  If we do not see that change of nature reflected in the real living and dying of plants and flowers, or the shrinking of burning candles giving themselves over to the light, how are we to see and accept the natural changes that are part of our lives?

Nothing artificial is a good rule of thumb to follow.  Let there be nothing artificial in our lives, either.  May we be open to the continual changes, the continual growth, the continual dying and being born again that takes place every minute of every day.  To freeze frame any of that is to be like a plastic flower arrangement that, while giving beauty upon its arrival, does nothing over time but take up space and gather dust.  Real fresh flowers and burning real candles are symbols for us of the Paschal Mystery and our continual need to change – our continual need to die to many things in this life so we might be born anew to a life of imitating Christ.So, I must not be sad that the tulips and the dogwood have come and gone, for today there are iris and roses.  Nothing artificial – only the beauty of creation coming to birth and dying over and over again for us.



What is it about our human longing that makes us want to be someplace – any place – else? Why are we not satisfied with the grace of this moment, right here, right now?

This all comes to mind because I watched a movie yesterday filmed in and around the Puget Sound. The beauty of the panoramic shots of the Olympic Mountains, the Puget Sound, and the stunning water and beach scenes made me incredibly homesick.  I wanted to be there and not here.  I wanted the beauty of that familiar scenery surrounding me and not the scenery that has become so familiar to me here.

Some of this longing for another place is good and is what inspires our pioneering spirit.  If we never left where we once were, we would never go anywhere.  The point, I think, is to ask ourselves:  are we living our days in continual longing, or are we appreciative of this time and this moment?  Can we live with the tension that lures us to something different while we remain awake to the amazing grace present in our familiar surroundings?

Just as I was thinking about this, I came upon an elderly gentleman with a cane who was bending over someone’s front fence to admire a budding rose.  He was leaning ever so close to it, perhaps trying to smell its scent.  I wish I had had the courage to break into his private moment and take a picture.  However, I resisted the impulse, and thought to myself that I will just have to remember the scene and imagine it again in my mind.  Here was a man fully engaged with his immediate surroundings in this place at this particular moment.  It was an iconic scene.  “Remember to stop and smell the roses.”  Grace is right where we are — wherever that is!

Can we take full advantage of our surroundings, and however much we may long for someplace else, see the beauty and the grace present right here where we are – in this place at this moment?


The Three C’s

Creation, creatures and creativity. The three C’s.  Since visiting the National Arboretum on Sunday, I can’t stop thinking about creation, creatures, and creativity.

The grace of creation is not hard to recognize – there is the profound beauty of the landscape, the blossoming flowers, the painted colors of plants and trees, rocks, lakes, rivers and hills.

The grace in creatures is sometimes more difficult for us to name, for we are the creatures.  Yet, we are graced and we are beautiful!  We are the creations of the Divine who made us as beautiful creatures – perhaps more beautiful than any landscape we can view, if we but knew how to see our own beauty.  It took some great creativity on God’s part in creating us.  And, the amazing thing is, since we are created in God’s image and likeness, we also have some of that same sense of creativity and ability to create.

So when the creature looks at creation and puts their creativity to task – beautiful things can happen.  The Arboretum was full of them.  We saw bonsai trees over 400 years old and Ikebana flower arrangements that took a piece of this and a piece of that to create striking beauty with a combination of single parts.

We must not forget that we also have the ability to create.  Creation, creatures and creativity is a powerful combination.  Let’s use it to show grace to our world.

A Moment in Time

Capturing a moment in time is sometimes an impossibility. But I tried to do just that this morning – me and 10,000 other people!  We had all converged on the National Mall to try and capture a look – a moment – a memory – of the Space Shuttle Discovery as it made its last flight to its place of retirement at the National Air and Space Museum.

The excitement on the Mall was palpable.  People were even talking to one another!  We waited and watched.  Watched and waited.  We exchanged stories and shared how we were setting our cameras and what lenses we were using.

And then she flew by — piggy-backed on a NASA 747.  I wanted to experience the moment, but I also wanted a picture – to capture forever this moment in history.  I took out my camera and began to focus, but it seemed like everything was moving so fast.  People were moving in front of me to jockey for a better position, and the wind was blowing the clouds at a fierce rate, not to mention the plane itself was racing by at several hundred miles an hour.

It made me think that sometimes we just need to freeze-frame the moment to be able to enjoy it.  Take everything in.  Savor the feeling, the excitement, the movement of the crowds and clouds, and if you must (as I must!) take a picture so we can go back and re-remember.  It’s all graced.






A little known holiday is celebrated in this region today.  This year marks 150 years since President Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, which freed more than 3,000 slaves in the District of Columbia.  To celebrate, and to continue our roving tour of American history on the East Coast, we went to the Lincoln Cottage yesterday.

This is the house that President Lincoln used as his summer White House.   Located in NW DC, just some 3 miles from the White House, in 1862 it was a remote and wooded area that offered distance, coolness, and some respite for the president during the war years.  It was also the site of the Soldiers Home, and it remains a Soldiers Home to this day.

What was so inspiring about our visit was to be in the same rooms where Lincoln struggled with the complexities of the issues of freeing the slaves while at the same time trying to preserve the Union.  We sat in the very room where he thought, read, and wrote.  We walked the halls he walked.  The walls – the place, the space – remain a great testament to a great man, and his spirit can be felt there.

Our visit there reminded me again that nothing is easy.  Freedom always comes with a cost, a responsibility, a need for some action.  We should not hesitate to take a stand for freedom and equality for all people.  Nor should we hesitate from speaking out that the rights and freedoms this country is founded on are rights and freedoms for everyone – even those who may be very different from ourselves in their background, beliefs, or way of life.

Freedom to live the way we see fit and in the manner we choose is not just for a few.  President Lincoln taught us that.  May we honor Lincoln’s great legacy by being broad minded and tolerant enough to realize that everyone does not have to be like us or live life like us to enjoy the freedoms this country offers.

Absent, but coming still

I noticed something absent along the landscape as I walked the city this morning.  Gone are all the bright and colorful banners and posters on every corner, near every church, inviting the general public to Easter services.  Easter has come and gone and so have the signs, banners and posters.  We can only assume those welcoming banners are packed neatly away in some dark closet until they will be displayed again next year before Easter.

But, Easter has not gone, it is not absent.  Easter is coming still.  And all of nature is a reminder that new life is still happening all around us, even though the calendar says that Easter has come and gone.  Easter is a process, a coming to birth, more powerful than the journey of Lent.  Yet often we forget that, and find ourselves content that Easter has arrived.

Today’s powerful message that Easter is still unfolding comes to me courtesy of the wind.  It has been blowing like crazy these past two days.  It’s sunny and spring-time warm, but the wind can be fierce.  I have to lean into it as I walk and try and not let the bits of dust and pollen get into my eyes.  My hair is blown and whipped in every direction and I have to hold tight to my shopping bag or it gets pulled out away from me.

Easter brings the promise of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit came among the disciples as tongues of fire, yes, but also as a mighty wind.

So, let the wind blow.  Welcome it and feel the touch and caress of the Holy Spirit.  Let it completely mess up your hair and bring tears to your eyes.  Breathe it in deeply.  Draw strength from its power.  We are not finished yet.  The Holy Spirit is moving, bringing grace for every moment.