Author Archives: Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt

Synchronicity and 3 Feathers

It’s been said that synchronicity is the language of God. In those times when we recognize the language and can sense that wondrous dance of synchronicity sparking us, ironically, we often find ourselves becoming very still—for we know now no effort is required on our part—except for our willingness to simply be malleable instruments in the flow of the moment. It brings that I-wonder-what’s-going-to-happen-next inner giggle, as we fully know now that the Unseen Hand has got this. One such time I found myself in that flow was when we were gifted with the name of our blessed wilderness camp.

I’d already felt the dance beginning when the call of the wild started moving my feet the very first time we visited the wilderness property. Oddly, I wasn’t drawn to go into the cabin first. Instead, I found myself making my way further up the mountain, following a thin black hose I’d been told led to the spring, our only water source. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the land had already claimed me. We weren’t even half way home when we called our realtor and excitedly told her we were ready to buy—yes, no offer here—just buy! There was no doubt this was our place. Later, as we discovered that the sunsets off our screened porch offered the best evening programing and that our kerosene lamps, solar lights and blazing stone fireplace created the most wonderful glow and soothing warmth for our sleepy hearts and dusty feet – well, we just knew. It’s why I often say now, “3 Feathers Camp, aka Heaven!”

Soon I started thinking that our new camp needed a name. I began praying that the name would come, for just like the camp and our part as the new caretakers had so effortlessly been brought together, I just knew that its name was already alive in the mind of God and would soon be revealed. About that time, my husband and I went for a walk in a park close to where we lived in town and three feathers found me. I was thrilled and immediately made a nature creation to hold this blessed find. (first picture below) In the Native American tradition, feathers are considered a special omen, a message from the Great Spirit.

Now, also, it’s important to note that the number three has profound meaning for me. My theological underpinning could be described as the Trilogy of Love, the paradigm I first conceived while working on my doctorate. With love as the organizing force in the Trilogy, we as Lovers engage the Love to merge with our Beloved and create the conditions to experience moments of mystical unity with our Creator. This Love may be sacred sound, movement or journeying into the spirit of all things. For example, many faith traditions chant, sing or intone the holy and recognize that there in the silence that follows is the portal into the divine. Sufis spin as they inaudibly chant, merging into stillness and oneness with Allah. And Shamans, throughout the ages, have entered into unity with their Beloved Great Spirit as they have chanted and danced on the spirit of the rattle and drum. In moments of mystical unity, all distinctions between Lover, Love and Beloved dissolve leaving only the One. So, being gifted with three feathers on our walk felt like that dance of synchronicity had already found my feet again.

Shortly after, in July of 2020, I wrote a blog, The Spirit of Place and Three Feathers, in which I shared the story of finding those three feathers and the relationship to the Trilogy of Love. A long–time Tree of Life beloved commented in response to the blog that “Three Feathers” sounded like the name for a new nest. (I had called my old brick and mortar teaching space, “The Sparrow’s Nest.”) I remember thinking, “Well, if I open a new space, that’s what I’ll call it.”

Then, a few days later, as my husband and I were heading out to try a new trail near our camp, I heard myself say, “How about if we call our camp Three Feathers Camp? My husband agreed that would be okay but pointed out that I hadn’t found the feathers on our land. So, as we started our hike, I let the idea rest. Then, as we were heading back, I saw the most beautiful large feather and then shortly after another one that looked just like it but much smaller. As we came in eye shot of the Jeep, my husband said smiling, “Okay, find another one and we’ll call it Three Feathers Camp!” When we got within feet of the Jeep, I looked off to my right over a pretty field and there it was about twenty feet out—the third feather. So now our camp had a name! (second picture below) Later, when I shared some pictures, another long–time Tree of Life beloved said that the third feather was a dove feather. The Trilogy of Love was first introduced in my book, The Call of the Mourning Dove: How Sacred Sound Awakens Mystical Unity. Amen.

Over the summer, my husband created a beautiful sign for our gate to add his special touch to this new creation. (third and fourth pictures below)

We often recognize the language of God best in hindsight. It awakens us to the wonder of life and the remembrance that all that’s required is that we do our part. That, in fact, that Unseen Hand has totally got this—us—life. It puts a giggle in our hearts and a dance in our feet.

And we are glad.


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The Piano Bench

I still wonder if he was real. Over the years, I’ve mostly kept silent about seeing him. In a way, it doesn’t matter. It was the gift he gave me, his face—with that soft, barely–smiling gaze, though he never looked at me directly, and the kindness—close enough to fill my swiftly draining heart as it convulsed with tears.     

It was the early 90s and he and I were only two of three passengers on one of those small puddle–jumper flights from Meridian, Mississippi to Memphis. He was already on the plane when I and another passenger boarded. The other passenger sat up front and I sat across from the man. Our puddle–jumper was just one of many lined up that day ready to take travelers to larger cities.

Just moments before I’d been in the hanger waiting for my flight to be called. I was there with my mother and step–father. My mother had had a stroke a few years before and was in a wheel chair. It was there, in the middle of that cramped, dingy, noisy room filled with strangers that she looked at me with that look, the one I’d seen a lot, especially since the stroke. The one that seemed to eagerly hone upward as if searching for something—a something that always eluded, something just out of sight, beyond reach, a something that could, just maybe, somehow dispel, resolve, mend what couldn’t quite be named. And, as so many times before, it was just the two of us there, locked in a vortex of memory.  

A vortex that held how my father had left before I was born—not a good scenario for a woman in small–town Mississippi in 1950. And how she’d never regained her footing. How I remained an only child and would spend my days playing hide–in–seek with myself trying hard not to be seen or cause trouble as mom could be very mean when she got mad and she was mad a lot. We lived in one of those small look–alike row apartments in an almost rundown neighborhood and I learned early on how to step lightly as I scanned for what felt like hidden mines. I got to know my mom long before, and much better, than I got to know myself. Mostly, I just kept trying to be perfect enough so she’d love me, be proud of me, or maybe, just once in a while, be glad to see me. 

So, I knew that look. Only lately, it had made me feel oddly squeamish and unarmed. Now, it was bulldozing right through my strongest yeh-buts, right through years of snipping the stiches from my heart’s still recovering wounds, right through my best lines and rightful defense. Now it just me made me anxious and always in a hurry to leave. Little did I know that my heart was about to undergo a final ripping away of all the stiches that had long held it together. And that it would all start when I least expected it—during that final it’s–time–to–go hug. Unexpected because a hug like that was the one thing I’d always had some control over growing up. Each night I got to decide when I’d go into mom’s room for the good–night hug and kiss.

“Okay, mom. Gotta go. Take care of yourself. I love you,” I said bending down to hug her. But it was in the middle of that hug that I felt the first rising of the tsunami swelling in my belly. Like being suddenly poked and jarred awake from a deep sleep, I suddenly knew, without any doubt, that I was never going to get what I needed—not because she was bad or cruel but— because she didn’t have it. She hadn’t gotten it either. She was still looking for it just like I was. It all happened in a second—a second that would change everything.

And as I walked out to the plane, I could feel the tsunami building. When I finally settled into my seat across from the man, it broke through. Now throttled sounds were surging out of me like a torrent I couldn’t control. After years of therapies and healing, it felt like the final, most deeply rooted, vestiges of moldy sorrow and rage were now scouring against my insides, pushing up and out, unabated, toward freedom. Finally, it was all coming undone. 

“I’ll wave to them for you,” he said as he gently tapped the arm of my seat. 

I couldn’t answer and barely noticed the gesture but at one point I did manage to glance at him.  He was looking straight ahead though it seemed his soft gaze was looking at nothing in particular. Much later, I would wonder that with so many people outside to send off a row of puddle–jumpers and, because he was already on the plane, he couldn’t have seen me with my mom and step–dad inside . . . how could he have known who “them” was? 

The flight was short, maybe twenty minutes, and by the time we landed in Memphis I was just beginning to gain some composure. When we’d come to a stop, the passenger in the front was first to deplane down the stairs. Then the man next to me got up. As I watched him walk the few steps toward the front, I suddenly felt compelled to catch up to him and say, “Thank you,” or something to just acknowledge the kindness he’d offered from just across the aisle. As he turned to make his way down the stairs, I quickly put my compact back in my purse and got up to follow. The flight attendant and pilot were standing at the exit looking at me with polite sympathy—the kind you offer strangers when you want them to know you care but don’t want to get too close. I paused at the top of the exit and glanced out across the long walkway leading to the terminal. The first passenger was still in sight, about half way there. But the man who’d been seated across from me was nowhere in sight. 

Jilted with a bit of sudden anxiety, I asked the flight attendant and pilot, “Do you know where the man is who just got off . . .  the one who was sitting right across from me?” But my voice was already trailing off as I could see that now there was a new sense of growing concern in their eyes mixed in with that polite sympathy. “There was only you and the man way ahead there on the plane, Miss.”

For a long time, I was caught up in the mystery of it all. It seemed pretty special to maybe have had an encounter with what I could only imagine had been an angel or some ethereal being. But as the years wore on, I noticed something different happening—even more special to me—when I was with my mom. No, it wasn’t like there was some new, deep, sense of by–gone love that had suddenly returned. And it didn’t feel like some measure of forgiveness had wiped away the layers of crusty wounded residue. But what did seem different was that now my old wounds seemed more like fading scars. And, even more importantly, it seemed to have more to do with how my own daughters were now grown and how I could, even before I knew it, find myself looking at them with that same look.

Something my mom could do that always amazed me was that she could play the piano though she’d never been taught. She was one of those who could hear a song once and play it full chords and all. One day, shortly before she died, she was playing some of the old hymns and I did something I’d never done. I gently nudged her over a little so I could sit close on the piano bench and I started singing the words to some of the hymns. And it was somewhere in the middle of In the Sweet By and By that I knew the look had relaxed and the search had ended, if only for a short while, for both of us.  

I’m still grateful for the mystery man on the plane, for his kindness and for his tender accompaniment that day when the tsunami had its way with me. But I’m no longer enamored with the notion of visiting angels or ethereal beings. Rather, sometimes I close my eyes and imagine me and my daughters squeezed in close on an old piano bench singing out full–bore some ole catchy tunes and just smiling like crazy . . . and, well . . .

that’s quite enough heaven for me.


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That Certain Something

*The stories in this blog I’ve shared in other places. The difference here is I’m focusing on that certain something. Enjoy!

I confess I rather enjoyed being not–so–discreetly perused by the slightly disapproving eyes of those around me—most notably from the older women, escorted by their distinguished husbandry, drenched in their long furs, dawning freshly coiffured colored perms, and swaying those dangly earrings side to side with every move. All notable signs of those known to be well–appointed and, of course, destined to sit in the front row of the mezzanine of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum that night in 1979 in Biloxi, Mississippi.

And then there was me—likely not so well–appointed, as I was unescorted and very pregnant, arriving in my low–cut scarlet red gown and daring to sit in the front row, center seat. Now the low–cut part likely caused my most salacious grin as I had only recently become quite voluptuous as a result of being pregnant. And I did have a pair of those dangly earrings to sway alongside my long, loosely hanging, hair. But while, yes, I was enjoying some of the novel attention I was arousing, nothing could have detracted my mood which, by this time, was already in full aerobatic mode—leaping over the railing and down onto the stage where, very soon now, I knew my heart would be dancing with Mikhail Baryshnikov. If this wasn’t heaven, I couldn’t have told you what was.

But, as I would come to discover often, the great gift I was to receive that night was even grander than Baryshnikov himself. You see, there had been some buzz about Baryshnikov being ill and even, perhaps, not being able to perform. Luckily, another great ballet dancer of the day, Peter Martins, was also to perform.

So, the evening performance began with Martins. Having taken ballet since I was young and had even danced in a small local company, the Pensacola Civic Ballet, the year before, I knew something about what I was watching. And Martins was absolutely technically brilliant. No question. Brilliant. But, then a short intermission and . . . suddenly there was Baryshnikov leaping through the air with such power and grace that we were all jolted up out of our seats gasping and clapping in response to some ubiquitous, primal, involuntary force. Now, there had been some intermittent clapping for Martins’ technically brilliant performance—but nothing like this.

As I watched throughout the evening, I could see that, at least on this night, Baryshnikov was not as technically brilliant at Martins. But it didn’t seem to matter because Baryshnikov just had that . . . certain something.

I had seen and experienced that certain something close up a few years before in an adult ballet class in Honolulu, Hawaii. My teacher’s name was Jack Clause and he definitely did not look like a ballet dancer. He was rather short and stocky but his face—oh my, that face held me fast. You did not come to class late. Always proper attire. No chit–chat allowed. Yet, each week, when I walked into his classroom, I just knew something special was about to happen.

“Be beautiful!” he would bellow. “There are many technicians but very few dancers! Be a dancer!” Now, I can tell you that most adult dancers, out of prime and usually far from years of practice, often do not look so beautiful moving across the floor. But, in Jack’s class, suddenly I didn’t care if I could do that Grand Jete really high or not. Off I’d go as if I could fly—because that certain something in him had ignited that certain something in me that told me I could. And, it didn’t matter how beautiful I looked, or didn’t look, to others. Not on the radar. No, most importantly, it was how I always felt in his class and, afterwards too, as I continued to Grand Jete down the sidewalk to catch the last bus home. Later I would learn that, in part, that certain something had come from his knowing that he had a terminal illness and could die at any time. No time for chit–chat . . . indeed. Only time for beauty. And for doing what you love.

We all recognize this certain something when we see it. It certainly exists in all the great ones who’ve spent years honing a craft to technical brilliance to suddenly discover that, in moments, their craft is now doing them. Still, as I discovered in my dance class with Jack, even if we haven’t spent years developing a skill or craft, we can still experience that certain something when we fully let go into what we love. It’s been forty–five years since I saw Jack’s beaming face that sparked that certain something in me. Yet, it’s like it was just yesterday. This tells me that that certain something is eternally alive, woven intrinsically into our DNA, and forever pointing us toward our true love . . . and when we have the courage to fully let go into its force, we too can suddenly, and quite ahhhhmazingly, have times when we feel like life is doing us. And, we . . . well, we’re just along for the ride.

What is it that you truly love? What sparks your heart to carefree gladness? What leaves you speechless and lost in time? What if you could let go of how it looks, how good you are or may feel you need to be? What might happen if you could just fall into its beauty, its power, its grace, its force—the force that’s actually pulling you toward itself?

Perhaps you too would discover your own certain something . . .

Like how just a few Grand Jetes down a Honolulu sidewalk could stir a magic that would last a lifetime.

PS: Would you like to test my hypothesis? Check out the first minute and about ten seconds of this video of Baryshnikov as a young man and ask yourself, “Is he dancing or is he being danced?”

And here is a picture from that evening all those year ago. And, no! He’s not being held up by strings like Peter Pan!!


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The Pearl

Whenever sorrow comes, be kind to it. For God has placed a pearl in sorrow’s hand. Rumi

It’s a funny thing about those pearls. They’re only found in the depths of the ocean floor. Hidden in the deepest recesses out of sight and out of reach. We cherish them for their purity and beauty but truth is most of us wouldn’t choose to make the long journey down to uncover them. Instead, we’re happy to enjoy them in the bright light that lingers just above the water’s edge.

And then something happens. In our case, it was those letters, blazing red and in all caps, POSITIVE. Doug and I had both tested positive for COVID–19. And before I could fully recover or comprehend what was happening, Doug became very sick. And, day by day, I felt like I was being pulled down, down, down, into those darker and darker waters where I could no longer see or navigate. And, yet, it was in those very depths, at those very times, just when I felt I could simply go no further, that the pearl somehow found me—the one God had put there in sorrow’s hand—waiting just within my reach. And it seemed to say to me . . .

You are not alone. I am here with both of you. Place all of you, and all of Doug, in God’s hands. And rest.

Rest. This is the blessed gift of the pearl that God leaves in sorrow’s opened hand. Blessedly, in times like these, I often imagine myself laying down, with all the despair, struggle and fear, to rest fully in the cupped hands of God who, alone, I know can carry me through. And, in such moments, my quiet, still, heart can only wonder, “What greater gift, treasure, could there possibly be?” For now, my sorrow’s hand has become God’s hands.  

Some folks think it’s only spiritual to stay on the surface and to bask in the sunlight wearing that new strand of pearls. That somehow the darkness of the deep waters is outside of God’s realm and purview. I would disagree. I believe it is God’s true purview. While the mind loves to surf off the shoreline, the soul alone knows the true depths. All I know is that the deepest love I’ve ever known, been shown, lived has happened in those deep waters where I’ve found the only true rest in those cupped hands of God.

We blossom, not in spite of, but because of. I can already hear the deepening whispers and etheric melodies breathing through my heart ready to burst out singing on my walks at 3 Feathers this summer. I know I will look at Doug across the room a little longer and smile that smile only he knows. I know I’ll hug my children a little tighter and spend time treasure hunting with my grandkids a little longer. For nothing brings us to life like just the threat of death.

Gratefully, Doug is doing better day by day. Me too. I only had mild symptoms which allowed me to care for him as I’ve been able. But even as we make our journey back to normal, I find I still hold that pearl close—the one from the dark depths. And when I am just still and quiet enough, I can still hear it speaking:

Remember that it is out of the depths that I come to shine in the light of day. No darkness, deadly current or undertow can erase my gift for you. No matter how hidden I may seem, I’m always waiting for you. Swim deep. And know you can always find me nestled there in your fingers, right where God has left me. . .

illuminating your sorrow’s hand.  


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Most of the time I hate graffiti. It defaces property and reminds me of gangs marking their territory. But, the other day, my husband and I were out walking and we passed a large cement block that had a message sprawled across it: CANCEL FEAR. Surprised, I thought, “Well, this is actually something incredibly helpful for this moment in which we’re living. (See picture below)

And I remembered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose life we’re celebrating today. I can only imagine the great trepidation he and his followers must have felt walking straight into the crowds full of sweaty clenched fists, high flying billy clubs, stretched hoses spewing out stinging daggers, and the shouts, those shouts, all wrapped around, infusing, and punctuating that crowing jewel of all insults . . . nigger.

Still, he and his followers walked. And later he would even refer to them, those very ones who aimed fists, billy clubs, hoses and insults, as his white brothers.

As an interfaith minister, I’ve long championed the path of inter–spiritual, inter–cultural, dialogue and communication. From the To Hear How Others Pray series fifteen years ago co–sponsored with the Souhegan Valley and Nashua Interfaith Councils to the Under One Sky Interfaith Peace Walks of 2016 and 2017, sponsored by the Souhegan Valley Interfaith Council, to my TEDx talk of 2018 stressing how we can find unity in diversity one encounter at a time. Over the years, my ministry has centered around galvanizing people for collaboration—particularly with those with whom we may feel tempted to label as the other.

However, I believe this moment is calling for a different response—very similar to the time of Dr. King. Sadly, the path of collaboration only works when both others (yes, we’re all the other to someone) are wanting and willing to sit together to find common ground. But, just like the angry white mobs that accosted Dr. King and his followers, those today who are exhibiting rage, hatred and terror in the name of certain political ideologies are also clearly not interested in the path of collaboration. And, as a result, our very democracy now hangs dangling from a noose, each moment losing breath and strength to kick. 

So, what are we to do? I propose we must come together with those of similar minds to explore ways we can fight for the America we want for ourselves and, more importantly, for our children—as opposed to simply succumbing to fighting against the other. This is key for if we fall into fighting against we become no different from those with whom we would resist. Dr. King modeled this great ideal as he marshalled the forces of love for his fellow man, through non–violent action, to confront a tyranny of hate. It would serve us well to take note for it was only in this way that he was able to describe the others as his brothers—assuming we too would desire to aim so high.

Yet, when fear reins, many recall his untimely demise. Yes. But I believe this very moment is also asking each of us, “What are you willing to die for?”

Overplayed? I don’t think so. Consider all the brave men and women who face death every day: our military service men and women, all the first responders, our police force, the health care workers who show up every day to care for the sick and dying in the middle of this pandemic. Every day, so many, not–so–ordinary people just like you and me live the answer to, “What are you willing to die for?”

And, so can we.

Let’s never lose hope or site of the incredible healing that can occur when those of differing viewpoints and beliefs are willing to come together and truly listen with open minds and hearts for the sake of cultivating greater understanding and awareness. But, when such collaboration eludes us, as it did in Dr. King’s time, let’s rise to follow his example. Let’s fight for the forces of love to confront, today, the growing tyranny threatening the welfare of all our people.

It’s our turn. I know together we can restore the soul of our great nation and re–enliven the ideals still burning in that torch held high by our great lady, the Statue of Liberty.  So, when our grandchildren ask, “What did you do?” We can answer, “I stood tall and did what I could. And, even though I often had great trepidation, I still worked hard to cancel fear . . .

So love could rein.


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Our Finest Hour?

It could be. Even though the images of insurrection we witnessed yesterday will brand our hearts for a long time to come. We did imagine it could happen. Still, we hoped not. Images. The image that most seared my heart was not the one of the insurrectionist at the front of the People’s Chamber with his arm raised, hand in a fist. It wasn’t of the one posing in the Speaker’s secretary’s office, cocked back in the chair with his feet propped up on the desk. It wasn’t even the one where Trump’s loyalists, on the scaffolding, were trying to replace the American flag with a Trump flag. No. For me, sadly, it was a less provocative image: it was the one of the woman being carried out on a stretcher, covered in blood. The one who didn’t make it.

I don’t know if she was there also to raise a fist or if she was just an innocent staffer who’d gotten up that day to go to work and do her job. Whatever the reasons that brought her to the end of her life, just seeing her awakened in me the tragic reminder of what can happen when we collectively lose control and revert to the ravages of war. Yes, war. Only this time it was not on a faraway land. It was right here at home.

Collectively. I don’t believe we’ll be able to come together to heal this moment unless we also own it. And this ownership is not about judgement or blame of others or ourselves. Rather, it’s about seeing one another behind the masks of hate, bigotry and revenge. It’s about seeing a fellow sister being carried out on a stretcher covered in blood. We can’t bring others into our hearts unless we can find them there first. It begins with us. Then, and only then, will we be able to recognize the very image of God right in front of us. Only then will we be able to rise up to heal the wounds of this time with the laser compassion required in this moment. Laser because justice seeks accountability for harmful action. Compassion because, behind all masks of harm, is a crippling desperation peering out from the face of God.   

Our finest hour? Yes, if we remember that just a small amount of light ignites the dark. Just a pause, a second look, can turn the heart. It’s one of those striking paradoxes that nothing opens us to love like hate; to healing like suffering; to unity like divisiveness; to forgiveness like blame.

Let’s come together to find ways not to be better Democrats or Republicans or even better Americans. Let’s broaden our vision to look for ways to become better human beings in and around and with one another.

Let’s do it for the one who was carried out covered in blood. The one who didn’t make it. If we do, just maybe, together, we can create a new spark of hope from the still hot embers of this moment. . .

for all humankind.  


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Is that a Problem?

It’s 1895 and Milton Hershey is an aspiring business man. His dream? Milk chocolate. Unheard of in the US. No matter that he doesn’t have a product yet or even a winning recipe. In Derry Township, PA, factories are already being built and workers hired. And he’s just brought in William F. R. Murrie to interview for the sales manager position. He’s heard of Murrie and feels confident that he’s the right man for the job. So, he tells him that whatever he’s making he’ll beat and offers him a commission on sales. Murrie, of course, is interested and asks to see a sample of the product. But Hershey, showing only a hint of regretful truth–telling, admits quite matter–of–factly that there is no product—yet. But, he says, with great finality, “There will be,” and, in fact, “the product will sell itself.”

Murrie pauses. His squinting eyes unveiling his disbelief, “So, you’re hiring me to sell something that doesn’t exist . . . something people don’t know anything about . . . that’s also gonna sell itself?”

And, in a suspended moment, just long enough for raised eyebrows, Hershey replies, “Is that a problem?” [See The Food that Built America, Season 1, ep. 2]  

No, indeed, it was not. For very soon after, Hershey would call on an old acquaintance, a scientist, who would create the winning formula. In addition, an entire town would be built to support his dairy farming enterprise, needed to create the milk for the milk chocolate, and he would, in the end, give his entire fortune away as a philanthropic gift.  

Now fast forward to 1973. Mother Teresa of Calcutta has just passed away and I’m in Manchester, NH, for a memorial service. I hear a visiting Cardinal tell a story of how he once rode in a limo with Mother Teresa and that during that ride she’d told him she was going to teach him to pray. Sheepishly, he listened carefully particularly as she culminated her instructions with, “I always thank God ahead of time for what I’m about to receive.”

“thank God ahead of time . . .” And, so it was she was able to create a world–wide organization of compassionate service to the poorest of the poor based on nothing but divine providence. Amen.

So, what did Milton Hershey and Mother Teresa have in common? One a business man and the other a Catholic nun? I would say it was more than faith. It was an impenetrable, incorruptible, there–is–nothing–I–believe–in–more than in that something bigger than myself. Each held the seed of a vision for the future. Each marched straight forward, not according to the dictates of a business plan but, rather, in response to an inner drumbeat that was already moving them. Hershey build factories and hired employees in anticipation of the milk chocolate formula he knew was coming and Mother Teresa drew letters in the sand, with a simple stick, in anticipation of the first school she, also, knew would be created.

So, what can we gleam from their stories for our own lives? Hint: in this case, the important details are not in the nitty–gritty—but, rather, in that something bigger, that energy, that love if you will, that takes over when our hearts become seized by a dream, idea, goal or project. Still, it’s hard to wrap our minds around the possibilities for ourselves.

“Great for them but I’m not like them!” we often think contemplating the great ones. Understandable . . . but look closer. They weren’t special or different from you and me. According to Mother Teresa’s Mother Superior, with whom she lived for many years, she and the other sisters saw nothing special about Sister Teresa. And, I would guess that Murrie had quite the inner dialogue going on about Hershey in his private thoughts!

“Yes, but I’m not meant to do something big like that!” we often protest. Perhaps. All of us aren’t destined to do large deeds in the public arena. Sometimes we may hear that drumbeat, that love, in the private arena of our own hearts and feel called only to share with family and, perhaps, a few close friends. No matter. For when love has its way, we can rest assured that the something bigger is at play and all we need do is respond to that inner drumbeat now already moving us. That something bigger will take care of all deliveries small and large, now one and the same, for love being infinite recognizes no difference. But, sadly, if we shy away from the drumbeat, the love calling us, of this I am certain: a song that could have echoed sweetly through the caverns of this one heart of God in which we all live . . . will remain silent.    

Something bigger . . . so, what if, when hearing that inner drumbeat, feeling seized by that love for some new idea, project or venture, we, too, said, “Yes!” And, what if we, too, had the courage to follow as if it was already quite assured? What if we, too, were willing to give our all to some wonder already moving us trusting our efforts will serve some greater good we’ve yet to imagine?

If so, maybe we, too, would find our ordinary, sequential, linear, days suddenly rolled back, spilling into each moment; our rote, well–rehearsed, dialogues paused with suspended anticipation holding the yet unanswered question; our clearly defined outcomes detoured toward destinations playing hide–in–seek just around the next bend; our footsteps lightened to match that giggle now escaping unabated from our wandering hearts, even as our logical minds look on bobbing and perplexed . . .

And, perhaps then we could imagine when others asked about it, even seeing their faces all wrinkled–up with doubt, skepticism, even disbelief, that we, too, could answer with raised eyebrows . . .   

“Is that a problem?”

Is that a problem?
I thank God ahead of time.


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The Tangled Lights

Each morning their bright silent colors, red, green, yellow, gold send out a reflection through the window to hover over the river below—those lights on my tree. And I sit still, somewhere deep inside a hidden cavern in my heart, where only the darkness would dare display the soft splattering of their quiet awe. Yet, with each breath I feel a pause, a kind of ache desperately trying to patch up, hold back, stop the sorrow steadily seeping through the tiny crevasses. That sorrow all tangled up now with the unspoiled wonder of those lights. Now one and the same.

I imagine so many of our sisters and brothers lying helpless in those hospital gowns that don’t quite cover their knees, sinking in the quicksand of despair, reaching out with limp fingers for the only thing that matters now—the touch of a loved one. And, I see the heroic caregivers, pushing through, again and again, the rock heavy weight of fatigue and praying now for that last cup of coffee to be the elixir of an unseen hope—a hope that can transmute a war–weary arm to reach back and touch the hope–filled limp fingers. To be the only love left for a dying heart. Again and again.

Yet, the tangled lights shine on.

I’m standing across the corner from a homeless man I saw yesterday. I find myself wondering what’s in his small backpack. Maybe an extra soiled shirt or pair of pants, maybe one of those five–and–dime black combs, maybe even an old toothbrush or just maybe one of those small bars of soap something like the fancy places give out for free. Suddenly, I have a flash of him getting on the school bus with a similar backpack only this time it’s filled with hope for an unknown future. And the sorrow seeps through the tiny crevasses.

Yet, the tangled lights shine on.

I think of the children. The ones who are too young to know, and yet know, that their tiny world, as they know it is about to come to an end. The moms and dads who know there’s not enough extra food to leave carrots for the reindeer this year, or cookies for Santa, or, worst of all, for the presents that Santa always leaves in return. I can imagine moms and dads crying and tossing through sleepless nights only to wake and try to put on a hopeful face for the little ones looking up in unmasked innocence, an innocence tinged now with a mixture of excitement for Santa and confusion as to why mom and dad are so sad and short–tempered. And why, sometimes, they hug a little too tight.  

And still the tangled lights shine on.

Many are speaking of these times as being necessary for the evolution of planetary consciousness. I don’t disagree. Yet, in this holy season, with my heart laid bare by the enormity of suffering, I find myself turning instead to the light that shines the wonder just beyond the purview of such lofty thoughts. I stand with my Jewish brothers and sisters as they light the menorah for the Festival of Lights celebrating the time when a lantern with only enough oil for one night shown for eight. And I remember that miracles are possible. I stand with Christians who are celebrating the miracle birth of the Christ child, the one who came to remind us that we are each the light of the world. And I remember that means me, us, too.   

So, I wake in the morning to sit in that silent cavern of my heart where I find the dying, the caregivers, the homeless, the children and parents. I sit unmoving with the seeping sorrow. And I know that I am the reaching hand, the elixir of a quiet response. I am the one on the corner with a backpack filled now only with lost dreams. I am the mom willing to give it all for just the smallest gift for my child under the tree on Christmas morning. And I am the child who too easily grabs on tight to that smothering hug.

And as I sit, tangled in the sorrow and awe, I also watch the reflection of those lights lost in that unspoiled wonder, undisturbed, and I am brought to a love only my deepest yearning can recognize. A love that fully feels and knows that I am one with all my sisters and brothers. That their pain is my pain. There despair, my despair. And, their faith is mine. Their hope also. And, somewhere in the still, unwavering, glow of those lights, I remember it is only this love that can spark the eternal light already alive within me. It is only this love that can cause me to truly see the silent wonder right there in front of me, right there in the middle of all the despair, right there looking back at me through the eyes of my sisters and brothers.

And, remembering, suddenly those tiny crevasses split and crack open and a torrent of this love spills out of me . . .

As the tangled lights shine on.  


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To Love Enough

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” William Blake

It’s true that only a few months ago I had thought those trees, three in particular, were only green things that stood in the way—daring to block my view of those sloping mountains just off on the horizon. “Yes,” I thought, “They’ll have to go.” It was early May and we’d just bought our new wilderness camp perched high on the side of our mountain. The trees had not grown in their leaves yet and those mountains were still in full view of my dancing heart.

I was already imaging how it would be: Yes, of course, I’d create a special ritual and ask permission to take them down. But, I surmised, there certainly would be no problem with their agreement as I’d promise to use them as firewood. Yes, neatly glossing over the permission part, it was all quite settled—at least in my mind.

Little did I know the trees were smiling.

Indeed, for over the summer months, something happened. The first time was in my hammock looking up at that wondrous tree, the one from which the foot of my hammock hung. It was a bright glorious day and I was belting out Sing Allelu and wondering how George Washington Carver knew how to listen to that little flower he’d always worn in the lapel of his scruffy jacket. You have to love it enough, he had said. Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.

So, why not? I thought. In that moment, feeling like I couldn’t love that tree any more, I closed my eyes and gathered all the love I was feeling and then silently asked the tree if it might share with me. Soon, it felt something like I just dissolved as I was taken gently inside. During my visit, the tree showed me how to enter into the soul of the world, the spirit side of things, right here in this wondrous creation of the most Holy.  

Suddenly, I knew, not just that all was alive in this most sacred way, but that it was truly possible to be in relationship with our sacred Mother in a very real, visceral way. I started taking my drum and rattle on walks and found myself singing to the trees, the stones, the leaves, the dragonflies, and sometimes, when I paused and closed my eyes, I could swear I heard them singing back. And every time, without fail, I would find myself restored, held and loved in ways I seldom even realized were needed. One day a song escaped from my heart onto the wind, one I’d never heard before, and I knew it’d been given to me to take and use in my ritual and healing work.

And then one day in late August, looking out from our porch through the trees at the edge of those sloping mountains on the horizon, I shuttered in horror as my eyes fell on those three I had marked for cutting. Oh my, please forgive me. I love you so. Thank you for being here. Thank you for providing a beautiful window through which those sloping mountains are made even more wondrous.

Yes, I have always believed I was one with all in a way that lived just beyond my understanding. But now, I know I am one with all . . . in a way that pulses inside my singing, dancing, heart because . . .

a tree taught me to love enough.  

Below is a picture from last May and then two taken around sunset over the summer months…


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Silent No More

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m writing today because I don’t want to be such a friend—most especially to the young man who struggled passed me in the park today. He was jogging, trailing behind a large group of other teens, but he wasn’t smiling or enjoying the camaraderie with the others. His body was twisted and he was leaning forward, looking down, and trying hard to keep up. Still reeling from recent events: the unpresidential debate, Trump testing positive for COVID-19, his calculated, defiant, act of removing his mask on the balcony carelessly exposing the White House staff to infection, I found myself wondering what place that young man would have in the new America—yes, the new America if Trump were successful in declaring a fraudulent election and were then reinstated by the Supreme Court.

I suspect this struggling young man would be relegated to the same place where all the others deemed to be dispensable would go, like the disabled reporter whom Trump mocked, people of color, Jews, and, most especially, anyone daring to express a dissenting view in this new Trump regime. I could imagine that, as part of the banishment, each would be branded with the appropriate scarlet insignia: “loser,” “disaster,” or most recently, “monster,” given to Senator Kamala Harris after the Vice–Presidential debate.

A stretch, you say? Just a cursory look at the key steps would–be dictators follow to come to power in a democracy, combined with the most basic understanding of narcissism, paints a clear picture that is as unmistakable as it is terrifying. And you can’t say we weren’t warned. Donald Trump has given us the true deal since that first debate moderated by Megan Kelly. Since then, things have gone from bad to worse to, now, simply dangerous because now he is unabashedly calling out white supremacists, with neo–Nazi leanings, like the Proud Boys, to “stand by.” Dare we imagine for what?

It certainly isn’t hard to see how we got here. This isn’t about political ideology or public policy. No, this is about a man, largely protected by his own party, who’s been allowed to progressively flaunt dictatorial bullying behaviors: controlling the public narrative, declaring all differing opinions “fake,” showing no true empathy, flaunting established norms and rules of operation, displaying little respect for authority to name a few. And many of his fellow Republicans have consistently looked away when he’s acted most predictably: the indiscriminate lying; the degradation of others, the public mocking and name calling—behaviors that would be deemed unacceptable by most in any ten–year–old.   

And, so, we shouldn’t be surprised with the results: an inability to distinguish the reality of what is from desired fabrications; to hear the cries of small children taken from their parents and left in cages; to witness the shameless cowering to dictators like Putin while disparaging true heroes like John McCain; or his refusal to denounce white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups like the Proud Boys because simply—they worship him.  

If I put on my mental health hat or dawn my ministerial robes, I can truly feel compassion for him . . . and for the Proud Boys and others like them. Anyone able to see past the exterior to what is essential will find there an abyss of sorrow, rage and tears. But that cannot sway us, in the moment, to allow or excuse behaviors that are hateful and harmful without calling them out. And, let’s not forget, that we, you and I, are not immune from culpability. Collectively, we’ve participated in this society where we’ve allowed a great chasm of inequity to separate us one from another, leaving many behind, creating ripe conditions for a would–be savior–autocrat. And, sadly, along the way, many of us of privilege have continued to see–but–not–see how systemic racism has progressively continued to marginalize our African American brothers and sisters—the results of which are now being laid bare on our streets as, surely, they must. For the human spirit in search of fairness, justice and equality will not be silenced for long. It will rise up and, rest assured, will ultimately prevail.

None of this is news! It’s all being said every day on news outlets and on social media. What’s new is that I, a clergy member, am now speaking out to join others sounding the alarm. Why? We know that it was clergy among those who remained largely silent when Hitler was coming to power. Yes, clergy. So, particularly for those of us of faith, it’s important for us to lead, following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraging all who can to follow, today, and to join in the great march to that most sovereign representation of our democracy—the ballot box. Then, critically, we must join together to address those economic and systemic injustices festering in that vast, stark, abyss that continue to scream out for equity and healing. It’s the only way we can have any hope of becoming one America again.

I’m so grateful for the young man who jogged passed me today. I was reminded of who it is who suffers most in an autocratic regime: the “so–called” weak and imperfect, the marginal, unimportant, the imperfect in measuring up to the standards of narcissistic perfectionism. He reminded me that there is nothing religious or spiritual about seeking to bask, or hide, in the light while the shadow of darkness is quickly shrouding our very existence.

So, today this clergywoman made a silent vow to my friend who passed me in the park to speak out and to be heard. I encourage all of you to do the same in the ways that feel most appropriate for you. It’s our last hope because Trump’s call to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” crossed a line—the last line clearly separating our cherished democracy from his autocratic rule.

Do it for the children. Do it for all who would be left behind. Do it for that stranger you never knew who hobbled by me on the trail—a young man, a little different from the rest, who struggled to keep up. Now your friend as well as mine . . .

A friend for whom we cannot remain silent. 


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