Category Archives: Theology

Pots and Pans

Lord of all pots and pans and things, make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates! Brother Lawrence

Last night’s chicken and roasted vegetables dirtied two sharp knives, a cutting board, two bowls, two plates, ten pieces of silverware, a spatula and a roasting pan. Yesterday’s breakfast produced two coffee cups, a French press, a pour-over, two bowls, two plates, and a handful of silverware; lunch brought a sauce pan, two water glasses, and three bowls. Our daily bread brings with it our daily dirty dish duty.

This work has to be done, and this work will never be done. I can see it as pointless – rolling a boulder up a hill with Sisyphus only to see it roll back down – or I can see it as a built in opportunity to give thanks for the lives of all the people who grow the food I put on the table, the bounty of the land that offers it, and the blessing of the people who gather with me to eat it.

And I can be grateful to my husband, Dave, who does the dishes as often as I do…

Ready for the next meal…

This is one in an ongoing series. For more information, click the Three P’s above.

Where Was I?


Where was I?

Oh yes, this flower, this sun,

thank You! Your world is beautiful!

This scent of roses…

Where was I?

A drop of dew

rolls to sparkle in a lily’s heart.

I have to go…

Where? I do not know!

The wind has painted fancies

on my wings.


Where was I?

oh yes! Lord,

I had something to tell you:


[The Prayer of the Butterfly; Prayers from the Ark; Carmen Bernos De Gasztold (Rumor Godden, translator);New York: Penguin Books, 1969, p. 34]

How is it that my mind wanders far afield when I pray? There’s no end of things that poke through my stillness. I’ve imagined them as paper boats that I float down a sun-sparkled river, or as bubbles carried away on an updraft. Either image of letting go works well enough, I guess, but not well enough to prevent more things from intruding on my prayer time. They are part of me and the sooner I accept their presence, the better.

So I’ve changed my image. Now, I picture myself as a small pond full of all kinds of life below the surface, reflecting a star-filled sky on the surface. Thoughts are ripples on the surface that distort and disturb the sky reflection. I take a deep breath, exhale, and imagine the ripples smoothed. Life under the surface continues to go on, but it doesn’t hamper my ability to reflect.

I doubt I’ll ever get to the point of not needing some image to release thoughts or feelings when I’m praying. But I’m pretty sure God can work with me on that…Amen

No Thanks Necessary

When you’ve done well and another has benefitted by it, why like a fool do you look for a third thing on top – credit for the good deed or a favor in return? Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.73

One of the main differences between icons and other paintings: icons are never signed. The person who writes an icon is creating beauty as an expression of prayer and faith – an expression that is designed to foster the prayers and faith of the ones who stand before it. An iconographer is creating something that is meant to be moved through – a beautiful means to a holy encounter with God. Signing it, taking credit for it, might impede that moving through and defeat the purpose of the icon.

If I think of everything I do as creating something beautiful as an expression of prayer and faith, I won’t need to claim credit or expect recognition and thanks. Seeking that third thing just might defeat the purpose of the act – and it certainly won’t help it.

[Quote from The Daily Stoic; Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman; New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2016, July 15th; Icon of Saint Matthew]

Learning For A Reason

The Daily Stoic; Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman; New York: Penguin, 2016, p. 204

The difference between learning in a way that leads to a fruitful life for self and the world and learning that doesn’t go that way is the difference between wisdom and knowledge. A genius may use her or his knowledge and skills for irrelevant or harmful ends; a wise man or woman uses his or her skills in a way that deepens the spirit and gladdens the world.

There are evil geniuses, but no evil wise ones. Something to think about…

A Second Look

We are all of us more mystics than we believe or choose to believe – life is complicated enough as it is, after all. We have seen more than we let on, even to ourselves… Buechner

Years ago, I worked as a chaplain in a Trenton, New Jersey, hospital. Part of the work: pick an encounter with a patient or staff member and write it up, word for word. These verbatims were designed to raise awareness of how our own assumptions and histories influenced how we interacted with others. Generally, most of us chose encounters that were particularly difficult or meaningful.

One week, my supervisor changed the rules. Pick an ordinary interaction – a quick hello in an elevator, a brief conversation at the nurses’ station. Something forgettable. And so I did. I doubt there were more than fifty words altogether, and none of them remarkable. But there was a holiness to it that I could only see because I took a second look at it.

A mystic is someone who sees that holiness at first glance – or at least knows it’s there, seen or unseen. And a mystic is willing to admit it.

[Frederick Buechner; Listening to Your Life; San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, p. 168]

For Whose Benefit?

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

For most of my life, I assumed that the reason Jesus told Peter to forgive another was for the benefit of the other person. It seemed like a lot to require of anyone, and it still does.

The older I get, the more inclined I am to see how forgiveness benefits the forgiver as much or more than the one forgiven. To be released from that acid gnawing away at body and spirit that corrodes the very heart of my being until I forgive is a grace bordering on the miraculous.

Is releasing another from a burden of guilt, of restoring another’s inner peace, too high a price for the reprieve from my own suffering?

[Daily Peace: Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2015; photos by Marek Minch and Elena Alyukova-Sergeeva. For more on this series, click Daily Meds above.]

With age…

[Author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail; excerpt from Daily Peace; Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2015]

What is unforgivable? It’s an important question that arises whenever harm comes into our lives. And an even more critical question: who cannot be forgiven?

The older I get, the more I am convinced of this: when I assign someone to the land of the unforgivable and unforgiven, I end up living there, too. Only by the grace of God can either one of us find release.

What We Deserve

There are countless people who sit in church pews throughout the world, hearing words of love that they cannot bring themselves to accept or believe. Love freely given gets mistaken for benefits that must be earned, and that is no love at all. Why is it that harsh judgement is accepted as deserved, but love is not?

Stephen Chbosky is a novelist and film writer. Judging by the words above, he’d make a decent theologian, too.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three: and the greatest of these is love. I Cor 13:13

[Daily Peace: 365 Days of Renewal; Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2014. Stephen Chbosky is the author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, among other things. Photographer: Steve Schindler]

Clearing A Path

March 15, 2023

It took almost two days for the storm to wind down to a few floating flakes. Twelve hours into it, I took a shovel to the four inches of snow piled up on the front porch and the ten inches on the walkway. When another half a foot accumulated a few hours later, my husband cleared the porch and walk. The next morning, the walk was buried in another foot of snow. I pushed through the snow blocking the door and went out for round three of shoveling.

It took a lot of bending and heavy lifting to clear a path the first time, and all that work disappeared as the snow continued to fall. All that was accomplished with three rounds of shoveling was the restoration of a way in and out of the house. Such work is usually only noticed when it hasn’t been done, and the path is blocked.

I experience centering prayer in much the same way – a lot of work without much in the way of discernible accomplishment. But it keeps the way clear, getting me beyond my own small internal world and allowing me to welcome others into it. And that is no small thing…

The Path Through

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: some tangible gain for my every effort.

Loving what does: anything that gets me beyond my own small world – and allows others into it.


We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou are the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore live in him, and he in us. Amen.

I say it at least eight times in the typical worship service. Recently, I’ve been thinking of different ways of saying Amen, ways to help me mean it when I say it: I’m in! Sign me up! Absolutely! Thinking of Amen as a verbal way of raising my hand rather than a place-holding word to keep the rhythm of the service on track keeps me from thinking I am merely a passive observer rather than an active participant. It also brings to mind what I’m in for…

Do I want to see love transform this world into a place where everyone knows they are unique and sacred? Absolutely!

Am I willing to give up the partial identities that drain joy from my daily life? Sign me up!

Will I join with others to serve those whom Jesus loved – the poor, the needy, the desperate? I’m in!

And the hardest one: will I let go of my preferred way of seeing and acting in the world to bring about God’s kingdom? Am I willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus? Let’s hope I can say with conviction and joy: I’m in!