Common Ground

In my spiritual formation program at Souljourners I recently sat listening to a talk about various religions and the effects of the Reformation movement.  I was staring at the white board where the speaker had created a table and labeled the columns with the names of some religions, and then told us about certain aspects of each one that had been impacted by major events…all about five hundred years ago.

The goal was to show us how changes affect how we practice our religions, how after a while something gets stale, or in the words of another presenter…things begin to look a little funny.  When that staleness happens, when we don’t like the way things are going, eventually we move and change how we do things.

There have been, and continue to be, many re-formations.

As I looked at that table drawn on the white board, I saw the labels attached to these different ways of practicing faith. I heard the descriptions telling the practices of each one. I became aware that many of the women and men in the room with me at this presentation came from some of these different groups. One group member made the comment that fifty years ago it would have been unheard of for a group such as ours to meet together, let alone meet at the monastery where we sat together that day. And that simple, wise observation had a great impact on me.

What I heard in my heart as I read the descriptions on the board was that in spite of those labels (man made labels) all the people in those groups have one thing in common: belief in the higher power we call God.

That is the common ground that I saw that day.

But there is more to this story.

You, my readers, know from following this blog for a while now, that I seldom, if ever, speak up about politics. And even given the events of this week I am not here to promote my own beliefs upon you or anyone else.

What I do want to speak to is the common ground that we share as human beings.

First, we all breathe air. I had to remind myself of that earlier today when all the stress of this week was really bothering me, and I was trying to rest. The only way I could get my mind off all of it was to remember simply to breathe. Breathe in and inhale all that love, then send out love when you exhale. Those words became my mantra.

We live beneath the same big sky. We stand on the part of the earth set aside as America. The same sun and moon light our nights and days. We are women, men, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and strangers. We want so many of the same “things”, not all of them material. We may have families, we may be alone, we may be religious or not. We are all precious souls, and our lives are important no matter how we look, what we believe, how we vote, if we vote, where we live, our sexual orientation, our income, our military status, homeless or not.

Take away all the labels and look at each other.

Let’s think of what we have in common, and celebrate that. It’s a place to start.  A place where healing can begin.

November – You Have To Start Somewhere




Cooler temps.  Colorful leaves.  Bare branches silhouetted against the sky.  The crunch of leaves underfoot.

Harvest is completed in most places.  The prevailing West winds rip across the open fields now that no crops stand in the way to slow it down.  A fire might burn in the fireplace, and the aroma of wood smoke becomes a sweet perfume.

We are hunkering in, bundling up a bit more, staving off the colder air.

I often think of fallen leaves as the “thoughts” that trees have had during the warmer seasons.  When the time is just right the trees let go and release those leaves, letting them soar on a breeze and float down to the ground.   This becomes Nature’s way of reminding me that I, too, have to let go of some things.

I have thought for a long while that I wanted to make a change to this blog space, hence the upgrade to WordPress you see here.  I’m still learning how to make it work, especially with the image sizes, and through it all I have concluded that the change is worthwhile.  At least for me.  I had to let go of the way of doing things and take a fresh look at what this is for and why I am doing it.

This month marks six years of blogging for me.  I had no idea how much I would enjoy doing this.  And I had no clue how challenging it can be to keep at it.

My very first blog post in November 2010 included these words:

“You have to start somewhere. That’s me, telling myself that I just need to get this going…

Each of us is on our own unique path. And along the way we all have moments that stand out, that make us who we are or change us in some way.  As I have become more aware, more present to the moment, I find that these  sacred times are more frequent.  Maybe, just maybe, if I get my stuff together I can share an image or a note about these little segments of my life.

That’s all. Just sharing. Opening my heart and letting you in, a little bit at a time.”

Here I am, beginning again, because you have to start somewhere.


Holding On To Another’s Fear

fear written on a stone

This heart shaped stone has the word “unacceptance” written on it.  I picked it up at the close of a morning prayer session at a retreat last week.

During that prayer time we were invited to write one of our fears on a stone and place it on a table.  I know that there were readings and prayers offered, but I can’t recall anything that was said.  The real lesson for me that day was in looking at the written fears placed on that table by all the others in the room.

And the lesson has just kept on giving, moving in me and changing me.

What struck me first was that so many of the stones had similar fears written on them, at least they were similar to my own.  “Not good enough” was a common theme.  (Why, oh why do we beat ourselves up with that notion?)

I chose to place this heart shaped stone in my jeans pocket.  I thought of whoever might have written that fear, and sent loving thoughts her way, even though I have no idea who wrote it.  How sad, I thought, that someone among us last week was afraid of not being accepted.   I went back to my room and wrote a sappy, rhyming, silly poem about this…and I won’t even share it here.

The longer I carried this stone that day, the more aware I became of just how much I shared that same fear.  I returned to my notebook and wrote differently:

“Can I tell you that I am holding your fear, that I picked it up from where you left it, that is is carried gently in my pocket, the stone warmed by my body…can I tell you that?

And can I just let you know that your fear is also mine, the word you placed on the stone summarizing what paralyzes me, the fear that stops me in my tracks, is it okay for me to let you know this?

One more question, long and winding, did you know that I feel blessed as I hold your fear in my pocket, the weight of it diminished, but did you see that the stone is shaped like a heart of love?”

Later that day, my head was hurting, so I went to my room to rest.

Rest did not come easy, however, because this stone, this fear that had been expressed was working on me. There came the awful realization that I may have been the cause for someone to feel unaccepted…and I felt convicted.

All I could think was “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”  I sobbed.

Then there was a clear, distinct message that this fear has more to do with not accepting my self.  How, after all, can I accept another if I don’t accept myself just as I am?

At these retreats I always learn more from surprising little things. There are cracks that allow the light to come in.

* * * * *
This morning I decided to take a photo of this stone so I could share it with you here.  It’s been raining here this morning, and I wanted to take advantage of the puddles and get the stone wet.
Here is what happened:
blank stone
Rainwater changed the look of this stone.  “Unacceptance” was gone.
I can’t tell you that the writing, the fear, was permanently gone because that would not be true.  When the water dried I could still read what was written there.
But I can tell you that this simple exercise in addressing fears found a crack in my heart and the light was allowed in.  I have that stone in my jeans pocket again today, and it continues to teach me.
“All who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat.
Come, without paying and without cost, 
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.”
Isaiah 55:1-3

Just the Right Shoes for a Wedding

the right shoes for a wedding
Shoes for the journey.
Not too tight, not too loose.  The fit has to be perfect.
Some shoes will be outgrown quickly, others may last a lifetime.
Boots can get you through the muck and mire, but 
they can also take you down the isle in your pretty new dress 
as you carry your own flowers.
Sandals can get you down the same isle toward the one you love,
and spare your feet from the heat of the day, and they can 
carry you to the dance floor where you celebrate for hours.
But, oh, the getting there.
The hours of preparation.  The fittings. The decisions.
The decorating.  Working with all those vendors.
Making it all come together, along with a team of friends.
I wore simple, comfortable black flats, and carried my camera around
for hours on end, documenting this beautiful day.
What. An. Honor.
I think I just may have stepped into the shoes with the perfect fit…for me.