Author Archives: Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt

Welcome Home

Life can be difficult, challenging, overwhelming, brutal, unpredictable, messy, and just plain awful. This is not one of those times! This is one of those stop-catch-your-breath…kickback-and-put-your-feet-up times. So, I invite you to do the same and just enjoy the pure delight of how my husband and I came to find ourselves riding those blessed waves of synchronicity, the handprint of the Unseen Hand, onto a new shore where, to our heart’s amazement, we were welcomed home. Disclaimer! Hold on to your hat! This is a wild ride!

It was not the first time we had visited Clocktower Place over the years when we got in the mood to downsize. But, the time for moving had just never felt right. Then, in March, on a whim, we decided to use one of those beautiful spring days to check out some of the newer mill building apartments. Just having fun. Nothing clicked. Felt too much like hotels. Then, about to head home, I said, “Why don’t we stop by Clocktower and see…” We were quite loose about it as Clocktower is known for staying full and they don’t keep a waiting list anymore. You just have to be there at the right time when something comes available. So, we casually stopped in and gave the managing agent our full wish list – why not? Two bedrooms, two baths, riverside only, largest sun porch available, upper floor, two underground parking places. She just smiled kindly, asked us to fill out a visitor’s card, and told us to call every few days or so to check in. We left and really didn’t think much about it anymore. After all, we were just out poking around on a beautiful day.

Then, about an hour after we got home, I got the email. “Good news! I just got notice on an apartment with everything you asked for. Can you come see it Friday?” I replied that we couldn’t as we babysat on Fridays and I was giving a workshop on Saturday so the earliest we could come would be Monday. (the office is closed on Sunday) She responded that Monday at 11:00 AM would be fine. I remember thinking it would likely be gone by then but felt oddly okay about it. Monday morning arrived and we saw the apartment. The views made my heart stop! The woman told us she had two more appointments after us. The message was clear. If we wanted it, we had to make a decision right then and there. And, so we did!

Driving home, we thought, “Holy Sugar,” or something remotely similar! “Yikes! What just happened?! Now, we’ve got to sell our house!” But, little did we know we had just been hoisted up to start our wild ride on those blessed waves.

For the next few weeks, we did our best to catch up on fifteen years of differed maintenance – interior touchups, cleaning out, repairing – all those we’ll-do-it-one-day when there’s time projects. We took items to be sold on consignment and made many trips to Good Will and the dump. After our moving sale we still had a few things left – couch, washer and dryer, and some smaller items. After posting these, I heard from someone who knew of a family who could very much use all we had. They came with a truck and took everything to deliver to the family. Two items, a small chair I had had as a child and a big white teddy bear with a green ribbon, went to a three-year-old girl who would soon be getting her own room for the first time. Later, I was told how thrilled she was to have the chair and teddy, that they had a special place in her new room.

During this time, my husband was hit by a logging truck making a turn. There was only minor damage to his car but the event, it turned out, was to have much wider implications. The driver of the logging truck was a young guy, just his second day on the job, and his boss was riding with him. As they waited for the police, my husband struck up a conversation with the boss encouraging him to go easy on the new driver. It turned out that the boss and his son had a housing repair company. Suddenly, the impossible task of finding someone to come and do all our various outside projects in just the time allotted was taken care of. Then, only days before our Open House, when the first people were to walk through, the roof stared leaking over the entry to our home from the screen porch. My husband called him back in a panic and asked if he could come and fix it. We waited anxiously to see if he could rearrange his already scheduled jobs for the next few days. He did and he completed the work the day before the Open House.

Meanwhile, the outside of the house, first visible from the driveway, desperately needed painting. But, in March? We contacted the man who had painted our home in the past, now busily engaged with indoor jobs, and asked if he could possibly spare us a few days should it ever stop raining. Would it be warm enough? Once again, the man rearranged his scheduled on the only three days we had without rain and was able, just in the nick of time, to complete all the necessary painting on our house.

Finally, we were all set for our Open House! Then, before the end of the day, our realtor called with what she described as “the deal of the century.” And, so it was!! Neither she, nor my husband who’d been in real estate most of his life, had ever seen such an offer. Just picture the most ideal circumstances you could imagine and then double that and you might come close! And, they were willing to close the end of May meaning there would be no overlap of our mortgage and apartment rent. Most importantly, we were later to discover that they were the perfect buyers for our beloved home. We knew they would love it as we had.

Now, a side note you can receive as you may but confirmed to me (as if that was needed😊) that the Unseen Hand was afoot. 20 has always been a very important number in my life. I was born on the 20th, married my husband on the 20th, opened the first Tree of Life business on 20 Middle St., graduated from Andover Newton receiving my doctorate on the 20th, just to name a few examples. Well, our Open House, the day we received our offer, was April 20th and the movers moved us into our apartment on May 20th. I can assure you these were not dates planned ahead. We were much too consumed by the process to notice such details. In fact, the first night we were in our apartment, I was almost asleep, when I bolted up and asked, “What’s today’s date?!” Another related incident, which will require another blog😊, was that my book, The Call of the Mourning Dove: How Sacred Sound Awakens Mystical Unity, was released by my publisher, Wipf and Stock, on May 20th as well. I rest my case!!!

And, so now we begin our days with coffee on our sun porch overlooking the beautiful river and, most days, enjoy our late afternoon tea there as well. We feel like we have brought with us only what was the most special. We feel strangely unburdened and free. We did so love our house and will forever thank its spirit for all the beautiful memories that happened there but the Unseen Hand knows our full journey where we can only glimpse the next turn in the bend. It was only ten weeks from the day we causally strolled into Clocktower to the day we were moved. I do not know, nor do I need to know, why we were clearly brought here now. But, I do know that I trust the Unseen Hand much more than any notion or explanation I could fabricate. No, it is quite enough to know that on that day in March we found ourselves unexpectedly hoisted up, yet held fast, to ride those blessed waves and then were brought in for a soft landing, finding ourselves on a new shore we could have never imagined.

Sometimes when I look out our window at the wispy trees bending over the river, I remember that first email, the family who needed our things and the little girl who now enjoys my chair and teddy. I remember the young guy who drove the logging truck and the man who so graciously repaired our home. I remember the painter who made a special effort to help us on the only few dry days. I remember meeting the buyers for the first time and knowing they were the perfect ones for our home. And, I remember bolting up from an almost sleep that first night in our apartment to realize it was the 20th.

And, sometimes, if I am just still enough, I can hear the Unseen Hand in the wind, moving those wispy trees, saying every so faintly…

Welcome home.


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The Mountains are Dancing (again!)

It’s been a long winter of sorrow, yet untold blessing, bringing me straight into the heart of God’s purest, unbound, love (if so inclined, please see my last blog, Love’s Threshing-Floor). But anyone who knows me well knows that each April something quite magical happens. I am jarred awake to the mystery of those dancing mountains…yes, dancing mountains. So, once again, enjoy the story below, a slightly edited re-print of the blog I first posted in 2013. Happy Spring!

The Mountains are Dancing…

 it’s april (yes, april; my darling) it’s spring!

yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly

yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be

(yes the mountains are dancing together)

e.e. cummings

I was twenty the first time I read e.e. cummings’ poem when faces called flowers float out of the ground. I just knew one day I’d get to go to New Hampshire and visit Joy Farm, e.e. cummings’s summer home, because I just knew it was there that he found those mountains dancing.  And, sure enough, in the mid-1980s, fate brought us to New Hampshire and soon after, in April (of course), we made our way up to Madison in search of Joy Farm and those dancing mountains.

It was a weekend and, being April, lots of snow was still on the ground.  We managed to find the entrance to the long driveway up to Joy Farm but it was fenced off and clearly not passable by car.  Undaunted, me, already in full swing with those dancing mountains, was not so easily dissuaded!  So, we made our way back to town in search of someone who might be able to give us some kind of permission to venture up to the farm by foot.  Doug, my husband, with his feet a little closer to the ground, well, actually on the ground, kept reminding me that those mountains would not be dancing, so unabashedly, with me in jail!  Luckily, we were able to locate a man with some authority, in one of the local establishments, who gave us the ok.  I remember he looked quite puzzled when I, especially, could not be persuaded to return in a couple of months when the road to Joy Farm would be passable.  Didn’t he know those mountains were dancing now?!

So, at last, up the long driveway we went!  The house had been vacant awhile yet still felt to be alive, standing, waiting patiently for the return of bare feet, frivolous chatter, the smell of barbecue and stargazing off the porch.  The grounds were open and rambling and a small gazebo-like room, in the middle of the back field, seemed timeless.

But, without a doubt, it was those dancing mountains, cradling, remembering, holding us, that kept me frolicking round and round as if I could somehow fly right into the center of their waking, unguarded alive; we’re alive, dear: it’s (kiss me now) spring! pulse.

Away with respectable composure!  Down with petty self-consciousness!  Let’s dive as the pretty birds dive to the heart of the sky and climb as the little fish climb through the mind of the sea! 

It’s April!  We’re sun-drenched alive!  Our faces like flowers float out of the ground!  We’re opening as every leaf opens without any sound!  We’ve quivering, waking, pulsing as the little fish quiver…so you and so I…

So, yes! Let’s dance, unbridled and undone, for its April, my darlings, it’s spring and, most wondrously…

all the mountains are dancing; are dancing…






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Love’s Threshing-Floor

If you seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, then it is better that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all your laughter, and weep, but not all your tears. Kahil Gibran

It’s the new year and, on cue, the new start, create-an-abundant-life gurus are proliferating our consciousness with the all-it-takes four steps, ten principles, to manifesting a life of unbridled happiness. “Engage the innate law of attraction and you will claim your birthright to unmitigated joy!” they say. It makes me smile for I do so get it! Those of you who know me have heard my long history of producing with the law of attraction – from the money for my daughter’s last semester in college to finding my little green Subaru, no more than $200 a month please, to discovering my it-just-doesn’t-exist office on the Oval leading me to Dick the barber and the subsequent series of miraculous events with the Mother Teresa Rosary.

Still, none of the fun and satisfaction that naturally comes with such manifesting can compare with the ever deeper joy, yes joy, found in the seldom visited, largely unknown, dark, still and quiet, caverns of the heart. For the only guide there, indeed, the only one capable enough, is death, tragedy and deep sorrow. And, on top of that, we know we’re going to be unceremoniously carved and hollowed out and left bare on love’s threshing-floor. It is the ultimate answer not to, “What do you want?” the abundance gurus would have us ask, but, rather to, “What is it you most do not want?” Yet, it is here, right here, on love’s threshing-floor that I have found the most unspeakable blessing and tasted the deepest love I’ve ever known.

The requisite unforeseen events of 2018 brought me here where each season is indeed, completely, a perfect blend of laughter and weeping for in the deep caverns of the heart, on love’s threshing-floor, they become one and the same. Inseparable. Weeping weighted heavily on my oh-please-help-me-to-survive-this journey to my TED talk and yet laughter infused the final delivery. Weeping came with sitting, over and over again, on a hospital bed with my beautiful daughter, Lexie, who was trying to heal from Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension disease.  And, still, as if weeping were not quite done with me yet, there came the suicide of my step-son, Ross, in November.

Yet, laid bare right here on love’s threshing-floor, I notice, ever more clearly, that tender picture I took of my beautiful daughter, with that sweet smile, sitting at the piano with my granddaughter Luna at Thanksgiving. It is all, no, so much more than I could ever need. Seeing her bouncing back into life stirs a place so deep in my heart I can hardly breathe, not wanting to miss one precious moment for, now, the fear of so-called death has become infused with love. No separation.

Looking at my sweet husband, so full of sorrow, I find myself grateful to just sit close, each moment, for one more day. Sometimes, I wake in the night, close my eyes, and just listen to him breathe. During the day, I can cry in some not so very convenient places just remembering a sweet time we’ve had. It’s okay. Those who’ve been on love’s threshing-floor will immediately recognize and understand. And, when it all becomes too much, I yearn to rest my head against his scratchy wool shirt, my most favorite place. Right there, I can feel his warmth, hear his heartbeat, and with his arms around me know my only home. This man I have loved forever. So-called death may claim his spirit for a while but my love asks for nothing more than to be his refuge. It’s all I could ever want. No, so much more.

On love’s threshing-floor, all of what or whom I may have thought myself or life to be has been broken open. The veil has dropped. The shutters have been flung open and I have found myself no longer able, much less desiring, to see past this very moment, these very people right here in front me, these very never-to-come-again-moments-filled-with-all-the-love-I-could-ever-imagine. The moments that, in the end, make up our lives – and are, in the end, all our lives are made of. And, each one is more than enough. So much more.

Manifesting my little green Subaru – a fun-filled moment.

Being laid bare on love’s threshing-floor – an eternity in each moment.






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In Celebration of Hanukkah: The Great Shepherd-King and A Modern-Day Shepherd Boy   

Tonight, our Jewish brothers and sisters will gather around the Menorah to light the final candle for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, in honor of the great miracle bestowed by God at the time of the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem – a miracle that caused one cruse of oil, sufficient to light the candelabrum for only one day, to burn for eight days. I can imagine that as Jews are celebrating this particular Hanukkah, they have been holding close all those killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh making this an especially tender, sorrowful, yet deeply holy and faith-filled time for bringing the eternal light into the heart of darkness.

Today, in honor of Hanukkah, I am celebrating another miracle of light arising from the Jewish tradition, this one from the shepherd boy who would become a great king, David, and remembering how that light reached across time to penetrate the unknown darkness of a modern-day shepherd boy with autism enabling him to recite the beloved Psalm 23 in David’s own language, Hebrew. This story is dedicated, in particular, to my Jewish brothers and sisters everywhere.

Truly, had I not witnessed it myself, I would have never believed it. It actually started four years ago when my grandson, Sean, was nine years old. At the time, I was immersed in Psalm 23 in Hebrew and one day was playing a recording. Right away he took to it so I recited it with him a couple of times and then he was off to do other things. A week later, without hearing the recording, he simply starting reciting the full psalm again. While some of the words were slightly slurred, anyone familiar with the psalm in Hebrew would have easily recognized it. I was astonished! In the following weeks, he would extemporaneously just say the psalm for, what seemed to be, his own enjoyment.

Now, fast forward four years to just last month. Sean, my husband, my son, and I were sitting around the dinner table. We were talking about some of the speeches and addresses we’d had to memorize in school when, suddenly, I had the urge to ask, “Sean, do you remember when you could say Psalm 23 in Hebrew?

“Yes,” he said with great confidence.

Adonai roee lo echsar…” I started. But, quickly, he stopped me saying, “No, grandma.” Then, he proceeded to recite the full psalm in Hebrew without error! I am still amazed when I think about it!

Now, I am aware that those having knowledge of autism might confirm that such instances are within the behavioral spectrum, but I consider it a kind of miracle that a young boy, largely non-verbal except for short directive sentences, could hear Psalm 23, in a language not his own, and then recite it without effort or practice.  There is something inherently intrinsic, even captivating, about the Hebrew language. Each letter has its own essence and purpose and seems to hold close its own song reserved only for those ready to sing aloud. When strung together into words, the soul seems to effortlessly recognize itself becoming a kind of songbird involuntarily quivering to the sweet harmonies of the creator. Sean did not learn Psalm 23. He simply listened once or twice and then, without effort, became an instrument for the sound of God. And, for those of us blessed to hear…well, we were left silent and in awe.

So, as Jews around the world conclude their celebration of the Festival of Lights tonight, I am pausing to remember the miracle of light that shown though my grandson’s strong and certain voice as he, a young shepherd boy of today, found resonance with the Mizor L’David, the psalm of David, and with that shepherd boy of long ago who would become a great king.

I am fully certain that they walk together in this valley of the shadow of death. And, I trust that they will continue to be followed by goodness and mercy…

and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Follow up! Since my posting of this blog two days ago, several people have asked if they could hear Sean reciting the psalm. Normally, it is difficult to get him to do something that is not of his design but last night he did agree to recite the psalm so I could record it. It is below. The voices you hear in the background are my husband and son talking in the next room. And, the reason, at the end, I asked him if he wanted to finish was that he forgot the last word Yamin, completing the meaning of “forever.” Please click the link below. Enjoy!!




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The Comb

It was a simple, ordinary, comb. The black plastic kind you get in one of those ten-pack in the drug store. But, it was no ordinary place. A hospital bed where my dear daughter lay recovering from yet another surgery, the fourth in less than two months, from Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension disease.

“Do you see my comb over there, mom?”

“Here it is. Want me to comb your hair?”

“Would you? It’s all so matted and full of knots.”

“Sure,” I said feeling a bit hesitant remembering how, as children, getting all those knots out could be a not-so-pleasant experience and didn’t want to cause her any more discomfort.

“Here, sit on the bed. I’ll turn my head,” she said as we gently worked her long hair out to the side.

As I’d done when she was little, I separated the knotted hair into small strands and, with as much care as I could muster, began to comb. Her father sat close and watched.

“This okay?” I asked.

“Yes. It feels so peaceful.”

“Oh, good,” I said a bit surprised as “peaceful” was not a word I expected to hear. But, instantly, I felt relieved. And, as I continued to comb, a couple more times she said, “It feels peaceful.”

I so get that mama bear thing. This past summer we had a number of turkeys in our yard and every morning we’d watch one mama turkey, in particular, cross our yard under the wide-open sky with her four babies. I’d always hold my breath until they had made it across safely. One morning, just as they were about to reach the trees, a hawk suddenly swooped down intent on one of those babies. In an instant, the mama flew straight up, almost vertically from the ground, to attack the hawk. I was so amazed as I’d never seen a turkey fly. Babies safe. For one more today.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to fly up, unthinking, catapulted from that instinctive place deep inside of me and attack all the pain and suffering that has descended upon my beautiful daughter. “Take me!” I’d shout to the hawk. Let her wander safe, playful and pain free, for one more day, and another, and another.

But then I remember that hawks are God’s creation too – that it is, truly, in our moments of deepest challenge, trails and suffering, that the veil between life and death becomes most thin and we are cracked open to suddenly see, ever so fleetingly, the precious fragility of life. How in such moments, we suddenly know both the joy and the sorrow. All our hopes and regrets become palpable. Our caged laughter aches to break free. Our walled-in tears yearn to flow deep. The hawk brings it all and we know.

Still, just like the mama turkey, I would fly up, in an instant, as often as it took to fight for one more day. Just one more for my baby so I could sit close once again and work all those knots out of her hair…

With that ordinary, plastic, comb.







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Alchemy in the Wilderness

The notion that we are each fully capable, all mighty, and contain all the power we need to manifest a life of beauty and abundance is a popular theme in new age literature. Trouble is, belief in this notion leaves us basking and playing in the lower valleys thinking we have reached the mountain top. And, for a while, all does seem idyllic as we enthusiastically go about applying the natural laws of attraction. In the book The Alchemist this phenomenon is called the principle of favorability. The Soul of the World wants to give us a taste of success. But, inevitably, when we are duly ripe, the mountain calls.

And, what is the mountain calling us to do? Surrender that very sense of self-aggrandizement we so relish to discover the deeper Truth of the Soul of the World – that we are each simply a glorious integral part of all that is and that the Soul of the World waits to guide, sustain, and carry us deep into its very essence – Love. It calls us to leave the comfort of the known in the valley to travel into the unknown to discover our Personal Legend, our true purpose, what we have been created for in this lifetime, so that all we’ve learned along the way can finally make sense. It is asking of us exactly the opposite of what we experience in the valley. How do we know this? Maktub. Maktub means it is written in the Soul of the World.

Some sleepy part of us, just beginning to waken, knows the sound of the call. We hear it in moments – moments our heart sneaks in a whisper when our mind isn’t paying attention. Moments. Listen carefully for that’s all we’ve got. Still, we pause at this juncture for we instinctively know that to make the climb requires nothing short of the ultimate sacrifice – the death of our favorability and the full surrender of any sense of control or unilateral power we may claim to have. But remember, the Soul of the World is Love and Love being the strongest force in the universe will not be denied – most lucky for us.

So, we begin the climb because not to climb becomes scarier than so-called death. Besides, “What greater way to die than in pursuit of your Personal Legend?” the alchemist tells us. Indeed! For just as Arjuna discovers in the Bhagavad Gita or Much Afraid in Hinds’ Feet on High Places or Saint Teresa of Avila in the journey into the Interior Castle, such death, brought about by nothing short of our full surrender, brings life – life unlike anything we may experience basking in the valleys below.

Moments. How quickly they can dissolve into the daily requirements of living. How we all so routinely forget that, truly, there are only so many moments left in this life experience. But, once we commit to conscious living, to the mountainous quest of truly living our Personal Legend, we begin to hear, sometimes in moments unforeseen, whispers from the Soul of the World. The immediate result is a growing and profound awareness of our interconnectedness with all that is. Suddenly, we can hear the Spirit of all things talking to us…if we have a moment…

Some of the things I heard in the wilds of Maine in response to my sharing heart…

From the Spirit of the Stream…You wind your way through the marsh until I can’t see you anymore and you are lost to me in the dense cover. Come. Follow me and I will take you into the unknown where all things are known.

From the Spirit of the Tiny Yellow & Purple Flowers…How lovely you are basking in the sun. I feel just the hint of chill in the air signaling my end of days. Like you, there’s not a moment to waste. Delight. Joy is all around.

From the Spirit of the Lake…You call me. Leave all behind and enter naked into my depths. I will baptize you in the pure sound of silence just below the water’s edge. The loons gliding on my surface will serenade you. This is how you will be born again…and again…and again…

From the Spirit of the Sun…Every morning you rise up over the ridge. So ho-hum as to be tritely dismissed, this extraordinary blessing of a new day peels my eyes awake to see right before me what I’ve gone blind to in the ordinary halls of memory. And, what will you do with this extraordinary gift?

The journey up the mountain is steep, rugged and, at every turn, will test our grit and commitment. It is, simply, the hero-heroine’s journey I spoke of in my last blog. But, I notice that as I become more and more attuned to the language of the Soul of the World I fear less and less the loss of so-called control or even death. It would not occur to me now to travel alone for I have heard the wondrous Spirit of the Earth and the voices of the angels in the Spirit of the Heavens all held in Love by the Soul of the World. I trust their guidance for they have led me to where I could have known not. And, graciously, they have called me into unity with all things so I could clearly see how my uniqueness is only one expression of all that is.

So, gladly, I leave behind the self-aggrandizing assumptions of our day. I would much rather remove my clothes, submerge myself into the water’s depth, and humbly make my way up the mountain depending only upon the markers whispered by the Soul of the World which holds all things in the Spirit of Love.

In the end, it is the destiny of all us to do so – when it is our time. How do I know?


Pictures taken below from the wonderful Pines Lodge and wilderness sites.

Sunrise pic.JPGLake pic.JPG

Sunset Image.JPG

New site stream.JPG


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A Monomyth: The Heroine’s Journey

“You and I have the power to change the world – one encounter at a time,” I declared with what felt like a heart explosion of love as I looked out over the auditorium and into the cameras. This was how I started my TEDx talk but I didn’t know I was going to start that way until that very morning – yes, that very morning – not until after the early arrival, not until we nine speakers had gathered briefly to collectively prepare ourselves for the day to come, not until our host for the event, who happened to be my speaker coach, was giving us a pep talk and said without much fan fair, “Each of you has the power to change the world with your talk.” In that amazing instant, I felt a familiar jolt and I knew, clearly, I had just been given instructions to reframe my entire talk with this inspirational glue. I decided to start with “You and I” to emphasize inclusion and added “one encounter at a time” to frame my talk’s three stories. Later, my coach would say he was thinking of my talk when he made that statement. I love how the Unseen Hand works!

Now, until that moment, I had been very happy with my talk but I could not say I was on fire with it. I had chalked this up to having been exceptionally busy in other areas of my life and had decided to simply trust that in the moment the Holy Spirit would come through as had long been my experience. After all, I did so believe in the importance of the message of my talk – that it was possible, indeed critical to our very survival, for each of us to reach across political, religious and socio-economic divisions to connect with those with whom we may have thought of as the other, or very different from us. It was possible if we could only allow ourselves to catch a glimpse of our common humanity. I felt that by sharing true personal stories from my own experience, experiences that had informed me, I could best authentically demonstrate this possibility.

I could have ended my reporting of the day’s exciting events there, for I feel so very blessed to say that I don’t believe the talk could have gone any better but, in truth, a greater story had been unfolding over the six months leading up to the talk, one I am compelled to share here as it relates ever more deeply to all our journeys. It speaks to how, if we are to serve a greater good, as I truly believe in this instance my talk was inspired and created to do, we must prepare ourselves for what is being asked of us. This often puts us on what the likes of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung have described as a monomyth, or a hero-heroine’s journey. Here, the heroine goes on a journey, faces some decisive crisis and, if victorious, comes home changed or transformed. The critical aspect of the journey is to transform the fears and road blocks that stand in the way of our victorious assent, or expansion, into the next level of consciousness being required by the task at hand. How romantic it all sounds on paper. How absolutely terrifying, beyond all measure, in real life. Below is a summary of my journey offered here in the spirit that it may find resonance with your monomyth journeys.

It all started innocently enough. The subject line in the October 2017 email read simply, “One More Thing.” It was from Christy Sperrazza who wrote, “You may be getting something in the mail from TEDx. I hope it’s OK but I nominated you to be one of the speakers at their next event in June 2018.” What?!! Sure enough, I did receive information and was invited to apply along with the over 80 people vying for one of the nine spots. Next, I was interviewed and on December 18, 2018 learned I had been chosen. Up until that point, I was totally excited about it all focusing only on winning one of the prize spots.

But, once the initial excitement began to settle, the full import of what had happened and what it could mean started overshadowing all anticipation. There I stood, as Arjuna from the Bhagavad Gita, clearly having been called to do my duty on the battlefield of life in service to a greater good, and, like Arjuna, I found myself suddenly feeling wimpy, cowardly and vehemently resisting. Yet, at the very same time, I knew it was absolute futile to do so.

Some explanation is in order here to put this journey into context for those of you who may not know an instrumental part of my early story. At 10 years of age, I had a life-changing experience when my grandfather, whom I totally idolized, suddenly rejected me in a way I could have never imagined or seen coming. I was completely devastated and soon after began to stutter. Returning to school was the worst because I was constantly mocked and laughed at every time I had to speak, especially in front of others in any way. I wrote a poem about this that’s posted on my website,

As I grew up, I learned to control it most of the time and, to my great surprise, later discovered I was meant to be a teacher – and that, to my delighted heart, was a very good one at that. Still, I would spend many years healing those deep early wounds. But, as truly, all things really do work for good for them that love God (ref. Romans 8:28), I discovered a nugget of gold in that deep suffering and it was right there that the true goodness was to be revealed.

How so? Well, especially in the early years, every time I had to walk out in front of a class of students, I would be so petrified, sometimes to the point of panic, that I would desperately pray to God to speak for me because I just knew I could not.  And, every time, God came through leaving me, again and again, humble and silent as I could have had no doubt who had just taught the class. Not only could I speak but lectures, talks, workshops, would just unfold in the most amazing ways. This is why I would never dream of reading anything or preparing beyond dot-points. I have learned over and over again that God can do it so much better than I! And, it’s so much more fun!

The important take-away from my long journey with speaking is that stuttering has been the greatest gift of my life because it brought me to total, complete and unequivocal surrender to my Beloved God. Not possible to fake this one! And, so, I can tell you today that those terrible years of struggling to speak were, most assuredly, a small price to pay for what I’ve received. For what I’ve received is grace beyond measure, security beyond question and a love beyond any understanding I could possibly express or explain. I have walked into what I felt was most-assured death and found only life, abundant, grace filled life, breathing through me, speaking me, causing me to become that which was well beyond any hope or scope I could have possibly imagined or mustered on my own.

Those early experiences engraved upon me an unquestionable trust in my God and, over my life, I have truly found Grace saving me again and again. I know deeply what St. Francis meant when he said, “For it is in dying that we are born into eternal life,” for each time I have called upon that Grace, that lives just beyond the edges of my self-proclaimed autonomy, each time I have been made to bow low in complete surrender, I have felt my silent humble heart infused once again with the wonder of God.

But, back to the journey! When I knew I had been called to give the TEDx talk, for the first time in many years, my inner little girl who couldn’t speak starting freaking out! Some mornings I would wake with such dread I hated to get out of bed. So, I did what I always do when I need help. I went to straight to my God. Then, early in 2018 in my spiritual practice, I received a clear and beautiful vision. I saw the blessed Mother Mary take my hand, of myself as that young girl, and walk me out onto a stage. There, I was shown what was to come and was most lovingly assured that all would be well.

Some of you may remember my journey through Lyme disease, Bell’s Palsy and the threat of lung cancer and then came the arrival of the breathing blessing bracelet directly from Medjugorje, where the Blessed Mother was spotted, from my dear friend Jane in Mississippi who had no idea what I was going through. I knew clearly this would be the second time the Blessed Mother had come to save me. Every night, I slept with my Mother Teresa rosary close by and part of my daily prayers became the beautiful hymn, You Raise Me Up by Selah. All along I held fast to the vision I had been given but found my little girl still needed assurance that she could rise up and meet the challenge. Together, we prayed constantly that the love of God would have its way with us and the vision could be fulfilled.

And, so it was.

When, being last, it was finally my turn to speak, I was waiting in the wings praying and thanking Mother Mary for being with me. Then I heard, “Join me in welcoming…” As I took my first step, I instantly felt a kind of wind under my feet. It was like I was literally being lifted and propelled forward – like a wanted to skip! I felt completely happy, present and, most of all, absolutely laser clear about what was being asked of me. “You and I have the power to change the world – one encounter at a time.” My stories of “The Caller,” “The Mormons and Me,” and “The Homeless Man” rang out strong as I shared how they had informed me and how each had catapulted me into a place of great hope showing clearly how it was possible to find one another again beyond the crippling political, religious and socio-economic divisiveness of our day.  I could feel clearly how the message was so much bigger than me and that I was simply the reporter, the messenger, for with every word Love had its way that day. Love, indeed, had its way.

I’ve heard from many who were there. “It was like time stood still.” “You held all of us.” “People around me were crying.” And, on and on. Even now it is still hard to speak of it and I have not found myself ready to write about it until today.

I have wondered if others who have had similar monomyth journeys feel as I do. Along the way, I discovered it is largely a solitary journey. I shared only in spurts with my dear husband. On the other side of the experience, I have learned that it does not feel like a hero’s or heroine’s journey at all for I know I can take absolutely no credit. I did not create the blessed vision that was given to me. I did not create the wind beneath my feet that day any more than it was I who created fluent speech in those many classrooms all those years ago. No, rather, I have come to believe it is the Beloved’s journey through us, breathing through our heart’s hollow reeds making us hallowed instruments of Grace, Goodness, Beauty and Truth. And, in the aftermath, we are left silent, humble and grateful and, mostly…

ecstatically still in the wonder of God.

Thank you, dear Mother Mary.

PS: As soon as the talk is public, I’ll let you know!






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A Kiddy Bowl & A Grown-Up Spoon: God’s True Blessing

One afternoon, shortly after Easter, I had just gotten my five-year-old granddaughter off the bus and we were relaxing at her kitchen table enjoying a snack. Suddenly, she quite excitedly started telling me about going to a very big, really beautiful, church where she saw the priest bless the Easter food. I responded by saying how wonderful that must have been and just let the moment be full with the memory.

Then, I said casually, “You know how when you came to our house for a meal and we go around the table saying something we’re grateful for and then we thank the animal for its life, for the meat we’re about to eat?”


“Well, I think of that as a kind of blessing. So, anytime you want to remember how thankful you are for all the good food you have, you can offer a blessing too. Just fold your hands like this and say something like, ‘Thank you God for all this good food I’m about to eat and thank you chicken, (or whatever the animal is), for your life so I can grow big and ­strong.’”

A pause and I could see the wheels turning. “You mean I can bless the food?”

“Of course,” I answered.

And, before I knew it, she jumped up and pointed with strong resolve to the cupboard where her and her younger brother’s dishes were kept.

“Quick, Grandma! Get a bowl and put water in it and get me a spoon – a big grown-up spoon.” Dutifully, I did as I was ordered as I could sense something quite special was swirling around in that sweet heart of hers. It’s why I call her Sweetness. So, I filled the small plastic bowl, one with a suction bottom, half full of water and placed it on the table in front of her along with a large spoon. Meanwhile, she ran to get some Polish pastries she and her dad had made that she said, “didn’t taste so good.”

Then, seating herself before the bowl and spoon, she paused, folded her hands, closed her eyes, and prayed, “Please God bless this food so it will taste good by tomorrow. My daddy and I tried to make it good but it didn’t work.” She then took the spoon and half flung, half dripped, water over the pastries.

“There,” she said, quite satisfied and with unwavering assurance, “I’m sure they’ll taste good by tomorrow.”

“Yikes!” I thought. “Now, what do I do?” Besides, I rationalized, the pastries could taste better by tomorrow, right? Miracles do happen!

Finally, I arrived on something I thought might save her heart-felt blessing. I said, “Well, honey, I don’t know if they’ll taste better by tomorrow but your blessing was very sweet and, you know, I think that just you and your dad making something together, just like when you and your mom do, is probably the biggest blessing.”

Woops! Furled brow!

“No, Grandma! I blessed the food. I know it will taste better tomorrow!”

“Okay, honey. I’m quite sure you’re right.”

“Grandma, let’s play now!” Blessing time was over.

I didn’t see Sweetness until a week later and in the annals of a five-year-old’s memory that’s a lifetime so I never did inquire if the pastries had, indeed, tasted better the next day. Instead, I chose to believe simply that one of those unexplained miracles had surely transpired and to hold what had come to me to be the true blessings of that afternoon…

One of God’s beloved children had learned that, with a heartfelt prayer, she, too, could bless that which she felt was most in need of blessing in her small world, be it on that day it was the Polish pastries. No, it was not in a big beautiful church or in some other special surroundings. It was not offered by a special person sprinkling holy water from a coveted chalice.

It was at a modest kitchen table offered by a five-year-old’s praying hands. All that was needed was a small plastic kiddy bowl half-filled with I’m-sure-it-must-have-been-holy water from the tap and, oh yes, a grown-up spoon. I do believe it was…

God’s true blessing.















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The Flower Told Me So

We are in the midst of a great spiritual awakening. The more eclectic term inter-spiritual is replacing the more religious based inter-faith. The old paradigm of church is evolving. Communities are witnessing the emptying of pews as many are leaving to join the growing ranks of those self-identifying as “spiritual but not religious.” No longer satisfied with the standard liturgies gone rote, I believe many are leaving on a quest for God – their own personal quest – to discover for themselves that intimate experience beyond understanding. The great Dr. George Washington Carver, who was born a slave but lived a master, predicted this over a hundred years ago by simply saying, “The flower told me so.” (See “The Man Who Talks with the Flowers” by Glenn Clark.)

“There is going to be a great spiritual awakening in the world and it’s going to come from laymen, from men who are going about their work and putting God into what they do, from men who believe in prayer, and who want to make God real to mankind.” Dr. Carver went on to describe the qualities necessary to this awakening: Love: “…not a mere sentimental attachment but a force which holds the stars…” Humility: “…resulting in a complete relaxing of all self-imposed emotions…relaxed as the flowers.” Expectancy: “…born of faith…awe…wonder…”

 As an inter-faith minister, I feel myself straddling this growing chasm between that ‘ole time religion,’ anchored in the ancient texts, and the new spiritual awakening beautifully described by Dr. Carver. Why? Because I have found just a taste of that Love beyond understanding and have been left in quiet Humility, filled with some unknown Expectancy palpable with awe, by just what is found in those ancient texts. Oh, I can hardly think of it! Where would I be if I had never chanted the great Gayatri from the Hindu Vedas, Psalm 23 in Hebrew from the Hebrew Bible, the La illa ha illa allah from the Qur’an, or Jesus’ Lord’s Prayer in his own language of Aramaic, to name just a few? Where would I be if I had never sat in that sweet stillness following the chanting of those wonderous prayers to suddenly, unexpectedly, hear the silent voice of God?

So, as I continue to straddle the chasm, I urgently sound an alarm, indeed, a more shrill, mournful cry, “Wait! Do not leave the old behind! Rather, let’s glean from its depths what is there for us today!” Remember the experience of the Holy is eternal, beyond time and space. Listen to the mystics from across world faiths and you’ll hear the same Knowing. Let’s distill the ancient practices, portals to this eternal while, yes, leaving behind the many ways religion has been used to divide and harm rather than unite and serve.

Let’s pause…practice…and listen. Who knows? We, too, just might catch a whiff of the fragrance from that flower Dr. George Washington Carver always wore in the buttonhole of his jacket.

And, if so, we, too, may hear what we might have missed before: the voice of the flower, like the voice of God, silent and eternal.


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And Love Comes Calling

Those of you who know my writing have read many times about what I call the will and surrender dance with God. In this blessed dance, we use our will to engage our daily practice where we may be tuned and made ready, like fine instruments, to be played at the discretion of the Master Conductor – often in ways we may not ever have anticipated. And, always, in the fulfillment of such moments, our hearts can only bow in sweet surrender for we recognize, again and again, that it is not we who are creating the melody but our Blessed Creator breathing through us.

This is not just a nice sounding philosophical concept. It has absolutely been my life’s experience. It’s why many of you have heard me say, “I’m so glad I’m not in charge of my life for I could have never anticipated the many ways the Beloved has chosen to use me. Left to my own devices, my life would have been so much more limited!” So, I’ve learned to trust the Master Conductor, that infinite, unfolding, amazing, awe-filled Mystery. And, this is the most humbling awareness which, without fail, puts a giggle in my heart.

And, of course, as the One we call by many names is most succinctly characterized by an unbound and ecstatic Love, I call such moments when the Master Conductor appears with some new melody, Love comes calling. I’m delighted to share with you that I have been given two new melodies. First, Rev. Deb-Ellen Brown, Class of 2015, just absolutely insisted I send workshop proposals to the Haden Institute’s Summer Dream and Spirituality Conference happening the last week in May in Asheville, NC. Both she and Rev. Susan Cass, Class of 2017, are graduates of their Spiritual Direction Training program. Frankly, I was not particularly hopeful as the director’s initial response was that my proposals were somewhat different from what they normally offered. I had proposed two: “Mantra Prayer,” based on my book, Doorway to the Sacred: Transform Your Life with Mantra Prayer and “The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic,” based on my book, Living the Prayer of Jesus: A Study of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. At best, I thought they might consider one. Well, I have been informed that they are offering both!!

The second melody was instigated by Rev. Christy Sperrazza, Class of 2011, when she informed me that she had nominated me for a TEDx talk. With over 80 people nominated, I am so honored to tell you that I was one of 10 selected! My talk entitled, The Shaykh and The Preacher: Finding One Another Beyond Religious Difference, will be part of the event held at Pinkerton Academy’s Stockbridge Theatre in Derry, New Hampshire, Saturday, June 2, 2018. I will be drawing from the experience I shared on my blog in February of 2016 in a post called The Shaykh and The Preacher. This piece, expanded to include my talk, has already been accepted for publication in Celene Ibrahim’s, The Islam and Interfaith Leadership, now under contract with Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Both of these assignments feel quite synchronous and in direct response to the intention I’ve been carrying in my heart: to take our Tree of Life interfaith theological perspective out into the world – that, indeed, we are united by one divinity and one key way we discover this is by the personal engagement and experience of spiritual practices offered across faith traditions. It is in this way we truly discover that Many are the ways we pray to One God. It is my deepest prayer that as I serve as I’ve been called that all I share will serve to bring more and more people to know about our Tree of Life Interfaith Temple and Seminary Program. How blessed. How very wonderful.

Blessed community, as we go forward, I pray that, together, we may tune, listen and wait. For in the most perfect time and way, the Master Conductor will surely appear and, graciously, we will find ourselves, again and again…

Dancing with God.   


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