Monthly Archives: May 2017

With You

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

They can be found earlier in the order of service as well, these back and forth words of blessing. The Lord be with you, says the worship leader. And also with you, says everyone else. On many Sundays, in many churches, they are rushed through, as if there isn’t enough time for giving and receiving blessings. In some places, the leader speaks them in a slow, dull, monotone; the congregation barely mumbles the response, as if somehow their part isn’t particularly necessary or welcome. They are words thrown away, as if they have outlived their usefulness or might be an embarrassment to everyone involved in their exchange. How important can these words be if they are read every week, and if anyone can say them?

The Lord be with you. Someone is praying that God will accompany me wherever I go. Every week, asking for the grace of God to be with me, present to me. I may know the person asking this favor, I may not. If I wander into a random church on almost any given Sunday, some complete stranger will pray for Holy God to walk with me. In these words, I am wished a blessed life, a brush with the sacred in every moment I breathe. The same is true for you. Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you go: The Lord be with you. Walk in holiness and peace. Know that God holds you fast. You are not alone.

It’s a terrible thing, throwing away such a profound request. And it goes both ways. When I say the response without thought or intention, I’m missing out on a sacred truth: My prayer for God to be with another is a bold and holy request. The least I can do is say them like I mean them: And also with you.

How else will I live like I mean them?

(for complete prayer, click “PrayerC” above)



Everything Old is New (Again)

The thing that has been is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: there is no new thing under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

This is the time of year to clean out the basement, swap the winter wardrobe for summer duds, and get the yard and garden beds set for summer. It’s also the last few weeks of the school year and the return of summer jobs, weekend traffic, and lots of Cape Cod tourists. All these things happen every year, and they’ve been happening around me for decades. The Teacher was right when he wrote there is no new thing under the sun. He was also terribly wrong.

There are seasons and patterns that structure my world. These are reliable, a renewable and dependable foundation that holds my days as I walk this earth. At the same time, it is impossible to repeat anything because everything is in constant motion – planets spin, galaxies are born and die, every living thing moves in one temporal direction. I get second chances to love, to serve, to seek joy or wallow in pain; I cannot go back in time to change decisions and actions. Renewal, transformation, continuation – each surfaces in the unique instances that move from my present into my memory. If I am humble and quiet, I see the grace of each day and give thanks; if I am distracted and forgetful, I can’t see beyond my own immediate wants and needs.

But those thoughts aren’t really that important today. Returning books to the library, I saw a newborn in his mother’s arms. The sage in the corner garden is covered with more buds than I’ve ever seen. My son and I saw seagulls hovering in front of us – a miracle of aviation for the price of some stale bread.

I am so glad that there is no new thing under the sun – there’s so much wonder already.

I’m so glad that everything is happening for the first and only time – today is a once in a lifetime experience.


Thank you for the world so sweet, Lord. Amen

Photo by Jared Fredrickson


Weight is taking up a lot more space in my mind than usual. I bought a kitchen scale last month because weighing baking ingredients is more accurate than measuring them with cups and teaspoons. My doctor’s scale found a few extra pounds on me, so I’ll be more careful about how much I eat until they are gone. Helping my son’s college friend move reminded me that box size isn’t as important as what’s inside. When I write, and when I speak as a teacher or tutor, I weigh my words carefully. Weight matters.

Heavy. Light. Evenly distributed. Out of balance. Over. Under. Feather and paper: these mean something specific when they refer to weight. And weight means something for me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Since the weight of things is on my mind, I’m trying something new. I am going measure it all with a spiritual scale.

My physical weight determines whether I feel comfortable in my clothes and it affects how my body works. Spiritually, it tells me that I need to be more mindful of how I care for my soul’s home in this world.

What weighs on my mind is usually is something I choose, and definitely something I can change. Am I spending too much time preoccupied with matters of little weight? Am I giving more time and energy to what makes me world weary, or what carries true meaning? Centering prayer is a good way of lightening and rebalancing my mental content.

I think weighing my emotional baggage on a spiritual scale is a good way to let go of whatever is useless or harmful. Resentment is a burden that adds nothing to me or the larger world. Anger, jealousy, envy – such vices are so heavy to carry.

I want to walk lightly through this adventure that is my life. Every so often, that means dropping some weight…

Tipping the Scales

Birthday Renewal

I went to a friend’s birthday dinner party a few days ago – a surprise event for her, and a wonderful time for us to relax over wine and good food. I can’t say how many times I’ve been to her home, or how many times she’s been to mine; it’s almost fifteen year’s worth of birthday cakes, New Year’s Eve toasts, Halloween treats, and casual coffees. But it struck me that this birthday wasn’t just another in a long line of celebrations. The world has changed a great deal since I first saw her blow out the candles…


-her children were preschool and elementary learners; I had one in preschool and one in diapers.

-she lived just down the street from me in a turn of the century Victorian.

-both of her parents were alive and well, as were mine.

-holidays and vacations brought the whole family together.


In 2017:

-two of her children are in college, one already beyond it; I have a college freshman and a high school freshman.

-she now lives at the beach a few miles out of town.

-both her parents have died, as has my father.

-it’s nearly impossible to get the whole family together.


We are beyond the intensive child raising years. We don’t have weekends full of recitals and sporting events, and we can enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the work day. The world has changed, and our place in it has changed. It’s a renewal of who we are, a different role that brings an appreciation for all the blessings we have lived into and grown out of. It’s also a letting go of who we have been.

I don’t think these changes are about loss as much as about renewal. This isn’t the same as rewind, for no life goes backward. But it is about the grace that unfolds as my friends and I step aside to let our children take on adult roles and responsibilities, and step into whatever the future holds.

What will this renewal mean for me and my friend? I can’t really say, but if the past is any indication it will be full of grace. It’s a new world – a birthday of a different sort, but definitely worth a cake and candles.


Continuing and New

In an average church, on a run-of-the-mill rainy yesterday, something routine and new happened. I joined sixty others in a confirmation service, promising to guide and support five teens in their newly claimed adult faith. And those five teens promised to guide and support me in mine. I’m sure hundreds of confirmation services were held yesterday, and in each something new came into being. Services like this reveal a holy truth: All the ordinary people who sit in the pews and the ordinary ones who don’t will be transformed and renewed by the holy, ordinary lives of these five teens.

These five teens will soon realize (if they don’t already) that the true spiritual guides aren’t necessarily the ones with the highest education, the paid ministry, or the most volunteer hours. Some are in their church and some have never set foot in any church. They might be hard to spot. Just as true: many adults may miss seeing in them the holy prophets and spiritual guides because they still walk high school corridors. But I know and I trust that these five young people can and will wake up each day with the ability and opportunity to hallow this world of mine. And because it’s true for them, it’s also and always true for me and every other soul.

The earth was renewed yesterday, the earth is renewed today. The continuing advent of unique renewal is alive and well.

New World(s)

She knows she passed two of the exams and will find out about two more soon. The fifth will take some work. Her reward: a high school equivalency diploma. Such a small piece of paper, such a tremendous difference. Opportunities requiring that piece of paper open up for her; better jobs and possibilities for ongoing education are hers.

But something else is happening, something invisible to most of the world. Her internal script is being rewritten. The one that names her Drop-Out, Quitter, Incapable is discarded. Hard Worker, Graduate, Capable, and Dedicated are the new adjectives found in the new script. She is made new again.

I believe miracles happen every day, but I don’t notice most of them. But God has let me see this one, and my world is forever changed because I’ve beheld it.