Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Spirit of the Acorn

Everyone who was anyone already knew that Jack was the Keeper of the Squirrels. But hardly anyone knew he liked to collect acorns for the fireplace mantle at his grandparent’s wilderness camp, 3 Feathers.

And absolutely no one knew of the mysterious visit he received one day from the Spirit of the Acorn. Jack didn’t tell anyone as he thought it was all pretty weird! It happened one day on the dusty, gravel, drive right in front of the old cabin.   

He was out exploring when he heard, “Hey you! Up there! It’s me down here. I’m an acorn and have come to give you a special message. Listen up! I don’t have all day!”

Jack was startled and looked around to see if anyone had heard the talking acorn. But no one was around.

“Quick! We’ve only got a few minutes so pay attention,” said the Spirit of the Acorn.

Jack thought, “Oh boy, this is really looney.” But the Spirit of the Acorn kept talking.

“Now. You may not know it but I’m going to grow to be a mighty oak tree right here in this very yard. I may be little now but, one day, I’m going to stand really tall and strong.”

“Okay,” said Jack not believing he was talking to an acorn, “but what about my little pine tree over there my Uncle Mitch gave me, the one I planted several years ago?”

“Dude! We’re gonna grow up together and be best friends. Cool. Uh?” Jack wasn’t so sure.

“So, why are you talking to me?”

“Because I want you to know that, just like me and your little pine tree over there, you were made in a special way by the Great Spirit who already knows all you can be when you grow up. You may be little right now, but the Great Spirit has given you all you need to grow tall, strong and kind. Who knows? Maybe one day, you’ll visit us and see how tall and cool we are too!”

“Anyway,” the Spirit of the Acorn continued, “work hard and learn all you can but always remember the Great Spirit has made you in that special way. No one can ever be just like you and be who you are. Pretty cool, uh?”

Suddenly, Jack heard voices. “Shhhhhh!” he said as he quickly picked up the acorn and tucked it into his pocket hoping no one had heard them talking.

But later that night he thought, “I’m gonna find a special place to bury this acorn to help it grow big and tall just like me. And maybe one day I’ll come visit and get to see the mighty oak tree and my little pine tree all grown up.” And Jack did think that’d be pretty cool.

And the Spirit of the Acorn smiled.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Mormons and Me

This Opinion article was published by the Concord Monitor, our NH Capital’s newspaper, on April 30, 2023.

“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices.” Former President Jimmy Carter

In the spirit of full disclosure, expressed in my opinion piece last year, I’m proud to be what some might call “woke.” But, even more importantly, as an Interfaith minister, I’m challenged to try and at least understand views different from my own, especially when I strongly disagree.

So, I make it a practice to regularly check in on a variety of news outlets. And over time, I’ve discovered something I didn’t expect, a common thread: fear, particularly a fear of fascism.

In general, those aligned with the far-right, point to fascism being played out through such means as censoring free speech, misusing the FBI and DOJ against opponents, attacking the Bill of Rights, particularly the Second Amendment, dismantling traditional family values as well as undermining our nation’s founding principles and biblical heritage.

Those aligned with the far-left, point to the escalation of fascism through the rise of Christian nationalism, highlighting the censoring of free speech as well, eliminating reproductive rights, reshaping freedoms and options for women and girls, heralding white supremacy, the patriarchy, and by marginalizing minority populations.

Both sides favor the term fascist to describe the other and, as a result, fear exactly the same thing: being politically controlled, losing the freedom to live as they choose.

Sadly, many on both sides, fueled largely by social media prejudicial name calling, stereotyping and right out bullying, have come to accept, even desire, the possibility of separating from the other to happily cohabitate with those they deem like-minded.

Is it any wonder in this climate we could find Carter’s words to be simply platitudes from a bygone time? Well, maybe not. Because both sides are, in part, influenced by differing religious and spiritual underpinnings, I offer one small snapshot, one brief experience, I shared in my 2018 TEDx talk, that still leaves me with hope. I call it, “The Mormons and Me,” and it happened not that long ago.

One balmy afternoon, I was relaxing in my hammock when I heard voices.

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

I looked up and saw Mormon missionaries coming onto my patio. Now, normally, I avoid all forms of proselytizing and politely turn visitors away as quickly as possible. But, on this particular day, I was feeling quite spacious and found myself inviting them to sit at my patio table.

As the conversation began, they casually asked what I did. “I’m an Interfaith minister,” I said. “I serve the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple in Amherst.” A silence. And then there was that look we Interfaith ministers often get when announcing our calling.

“I’m not sure what that is,” said one of my visitors. “Are you Christian?”

“I believe in Jesus and in the Bible but I also believe God is expressed through all religions. You see, I’ve spent many years studying the major world religions and experiencing their spiritual practices. Everywhere I’ve landed I’ve found God. So, in the end, I became an Interfaith minister because I couldn’t choose one faith over the others.”

Then, hesitantly, “You believe in Jesus and the Bible but have you been saved?”

“Oh, my God, yes! A million times every day!”

Another pause. I sensed this was not a scenario covered in their missionary training. Then, I decided to use the lull to ask something I’d always wanted to know.

“I can imagine it must take such courage and conviction to take your faith door to door. Could you tell me more about that? I’d love to know what brought you to God and to sharing your faith in this way.”

They each gladly shared their stories and it felt truly wonderful to listen. What seemed like only a few minutes turned into an afternoon’s leisurely visit in the summer’s shade. As our time ended, I was no closer to becoming a Mormon than they were to becoming Interfaith but we were able to part amicably, sincerely wishing one another well.

We’d shared something deeply personal, our search for true meaning. And while our journeys had led us to different conclusions, we’d discovered together our common humanity, and had connected through our mutual love for God. As I watched them walk down the driveway, I felt, “They’re my friends, my brothers.”

Fascism? Not when there’s a table where people of different beliefs can sit together, share and truly listen. Yes, it can be challenging, even a bit disarming to recognize glimpses of ourselves in others whom we may have thought to be so different. Yet, it can also be freeing and liberating allowing fear and prejudice to dissipate, making room for some new connection we may not have thought possible.

Yes, I believe there is hope — one table, one conversation at a time.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Girls of SOLA

It was something about those smiles, all bright and shiny on the young faces of the girls of SOLA, aired on 60 Minutes, February 26, 2023. SOLA is the Afghan word for peace and also stands for School of Leadership Afghanistan. Its founder, Shabana Basij-Rasikh, was featured on the program and she impressed me as a kind of girls’ warrior, the embodiment of stealth courage, infused with a clear sense of purpose, the kind that rises to the surface when one is unwavering, fully committed, to a cause. Her cause? Educating Afghan girls to become leaders in their chosen fields. Today the school is thriving in Rwanda, following a harrowing escape from Afghanistan in August of 2021 when US troops were abruptly withdrawn, and the country fell into chaos.

As the young girls were interviewed, they shared their dreams for the future. What did they want to be? A surgeon, architect, politician, spy (made me chuckle) to name a few. I was struck by their faces all lit up with the innocence of, “The world is my oyster. Anything is possible!” But, in the next moment, my heart sank when I was reminded of the status of all the girls and women still left behind living under Taliban rule. No education beyond the 6th grade. No venturing outside alone. Must always be fully covered.

Silenced. Hidden. Invisible.

It’s interesting to me that we can spend billions of dollars to support the freedom and sovereignty of Ukraine (which I fully endorse) but leave behind, turn away from, half a nation’s population to live in tyranny, imprisoned in plain sight. Are they not as worthy of a commitment from the free world as the people of Ukraine? Who fights for them in equal measure?

I suspect many contemplating this life under Taliban rule might try to quickly dismiss any rising discomfort with such well-accepted notions as we shouldn’t be interfering with the religious norms and practices of other countries. I confess I too, at times, have felt the same. Until I saw those faces, the shinning ones. And, by contrast, the covered ones I couldn’t see but so wanted to.

As an interfaith minister, my life’s work has been about finding unity in diversity. I’ve often said it’s fundamental that we strive to at least respect religious differences even when we personally disagree. But to enslave girls and women, making them prisoners in their own homes, and to deny them to be seen or heard in any regard outside of their cells, well, is simply not okay and must NOT be tolerated by the free world. And such enslavement cannot be allowed to thrive behind a fictitiously created shield of professed religious legitimacy. In my view, this is not so much about the religion of Islam, which has brought us many beautiful sacred teachings and practices, as it is about the sanctioning of pervasive gender-based exploitation. It’s an egregious abusive of power. Pure and simple.

And as I looked at the images of the women of Afghanistan completely covered, I could only wonder what is being lost to us. The Native American Ute have a saying, “God gives each of us a song.” I think of our unique song as that which naturally draws us toward what we love. It can be a vocation or avocation. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that when we are moved to do what we love, we naturally come alive, and our soul’s song goes out to serve all around us in ways we may rarely recognize.

What songs are being lost to us hidden just behind the veil of the Burqa? What dreams lie dormant waiting for fresh air, fertile ground, and the light of day? Recalling the dreams of the girls of SOLA, what new medical advances may be germinating? What engineering wonders wait to grace the sky? What speeches remain unspoken, ones that could move and inspire many for generations? And, what skills, creations, inventions, works born of struggle, sweat and wonder, wait just beyond the veil? We cannot know.  

Imagine with me for a moment a young girl or woman you love, how it might feel to see her locked away hidden from sight, her voice hushed and monitored; to imagine just how hard she tries to stand again each day struggling under the weight of oppressive helplessness; yet we pray, hope beyond hope that, still, she clings fast to her dreams, the ones that can’t fail to make her shine, if only in the dark, secret shadows, of night.  

Perhaps, if we could imagine, it would spur each of us to become a girls’ warrior so, never again, could a shinning face be dulled and hidden, a dream banished, and no song could forever remain unsung.  

FILE – Afghan girls participate in a lesson at Tajrobawai Girls High School in Herat, Afghanistan on Nov. 25, 2021. In a surprise decision the hardline leadership of Afghanistan’s new rulers has decided against opening educational institutions to girls beyond Grade six, a Taliban official said Wednesday, March 23, 2022 on the first day of Afghanistan’s new school year. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)


Filed under Uncategorized

When You Smile That Smile

Sometimes something happens that brings what’s left, when all else falls away, to the surface. Like one of those pearls resting in the ocean floor suddenly being loosened to rise up. Exposed. Pure. Treasured.

We had such a time over the holiday season. I won’t go into the details, but I will say that, most blessedly, all is well now. But I’m still holding that precious pearl close.

Over the holidays, my dear husband made me the most beautiful card. He’d painted a cabin scene and wrote the sweetest words. I’d been thinking I’d like to do something special for him this Valentines. Then, most unexpectedly, an idea came from watching the Super Bowl—well, sort of. It all started listening to Chris Stapleton sing the National Anthem. Amazing.

When I was young, I used to listen to a lot of country music in the vein of Don Williams, Kenny Rogers, the Judds, and Vince Gill. It’d been a while but there was something about Stapleton’s sound that made me look him up. That led me to a YouTube video of him singing, “Whenever You Come Around,” at a CMT Giants event honoring Vince Gill. And when you smile that smile, the world turns upside down, whenever you come around. Oh my. Trouble is, though, unless you already knew the full lyrics, you’d miss a lot. So, I looked up the original version recorded by Vince Gill. Beautiful.

And as I listened, I cried. Sometimes a good ole’ country song says just what all the lofty musings can’t. Suddenly, I could feel behind my gray hair, wrinkles, and sagging skin that young woman who could blush and giggle anytime he’d smile that smile. And all these years later, that smile, from across the room, can still make me smile that young woman, yet shy-like-a-girl, smile. So, I wrote a poem for my sweet husband called, “When You Smile That Smile.” I won’t share it all here but will share just the ending . . .

When I was young

I ran fast into your arms

Now I am old

But with just a look

Can still come undone . . .

Cause when you smile that smile

And I feel your heart’s tug

I know I’m forever

Just a young woman in love

I’m aware that there are those reading this who, perhaps, have never felt this way. I can tell you there was a time I didn’t either. Both my husband and I had been married before to very good people and, from those unions, had beautiful children. Eventually, though, it was our fate to find one another and, for me, that smile. But we’ve never, not even for a moment, taken what we’ve been blessed to have for granted.

Or, perhaps, you once had such a love but your loved one is no longer with us. Such is the deep price of love I can most clearly feel now since our recent experience. But would I choose to give up the love to avoid the pain? Never. For the pearl, containing both in the darkness of the ocean floor, when it comes into the light, knows only love.

And on this Valentine’s Day I’m remembering too that there are different types of love because, as they say, we’re each a spiritual being having a human experience. True. Many of you have read my books, poems and other writing spilling out my love for God.

But, today, I’m most grateful to my beloved God for giving me this life, this moment . . .

to simply see, one-more-time-please that smile . . .  

the one that instantly makes me . . .just a young woman in love.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Man Who Talks with the Flowers

This article was published in the Concord Monitor on February 7, 2023

“How do I talk to a little flower? Through it I talk to the Infinite. And what is the Infinite? It is that still small voice that calls up the fairies.” Dr. George Washington Carver

Having been an interfaith minister for almost twenty years, I have hundreds of books in my personal library on a wide variety of theological and spiritual topics. But one short, sixty–two–page booklet, is one of my most favorites: The Man Who Talks with the Flowers: The Life Story of Dr. George Washington Carver by Glenn Clark. It’s the source for this article offered in celebration of Black History Month.  

Most people know GW Carver as the one who discovered over three hundred uses for the peanut and over one hundred and fifty uses for the sweet potato. Some may remember him as a renowned agricultural scientist, a Black man who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who always wore a flower in the buttonhole of his jacket—the old, scruffy, black one—he bought for about $2.00.

But few know of his deeply spiritual side and to what and to whom he credited his amazing discoveries. A clue: consider how he started each day.

“All my life I have risen regularly at four o’clock and have gone into the woods and talked with God. There he gives me my orders for the day. After my morning’s talk with God, I go into my laboratory and begin to carry out his wishes.”

And when asked, “You have a habit of talking to the little flower or peanut and making it give up its secrets. How do you do it?”

“You have to love it enough,” answered Carver. “Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.” And he added, “When I silently commune with people, they give up their secrets also—if you love them enough.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this love. I don’t think it’s the more common emotional love we’re used to that can grow and wain with circumstance. No. I think the love Carver was referring to is what I would call devotional love—a love so complete unto itself that it needs nothing. For example. when I’m able to listen to, say, another person with this kind of love, my own agenda, thoughts, imagined replies are not playing in the background waiting to chime in. I’m able to be completely present to the one right in front of me because I’m not in the way. Simple, yes but, surely, not easy. But just imagine what might happen, how it could shift our national dialogue, if more of us strived to do this with one another.

For Carver, the ability to extract information from the peanut, sweet potato, clays of the hills, the flower or just to create a heart-space within which another person could land, was directly related to those early morning talks with God. He didn’t need to spend his time searching for approval, agreement or validation from others because he already knew himself to be a child of God of God and knew his Creator would guide him to serve the greatest good.  

He’s best known for being able to talk with the flowers as he felt they were windows through which he could see the face of God. Toward the end of his life, he shared an important message he’d received from a little flower: “It told me there is going to be a great spiritual awakening in the world, and it’s going to come from people connected with you and me, from plain, simple people who know, not merely believe, but actually know God answers prayer. It’s going to arise from men who are going about their work and putting God into what they do, from men who believe in prayer, and want to make God real to mankind.”

While Carver was a Christian, I don’t believe it matters what faith tradition you practice as all religions can agree that God is love. But the life of GW Carver gives us a glimpse into just what that love might look like in real life—emanating from the peanut, sweet potato, clays of the hills, flowers, and, most blessedly, from the hearts of our fellow brothers and sisters.

Can we too imagine loving enough to see all creation as that window through which our Creator speaks? Can we too love enough to join hands across faith traditions, with all God’s children, to create that great spiritual awakening? It just may be, in the end, what’s needed to save us, our world, from escalating chaos and destruction.

But, like GW Carver, I have hope that it’s possible. Why? The flower said so.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Cedar Chest

It’s almost the New Year and many folks are considering New Year resolutions. Me too. But today I’m not thinking of just the future. Today I’m taking a stroll back . . . back to recapture moments . . . something like rummaging through an old cedar chest . . . to find snapshots from long ago . . . just waiting there to be held and remembered, still and quiet, in the vapers of time.

In my human journey, I am my past. And I am my future. As I sit and embrace both, I find the sacred beauty of the present moment, spacious enough to hold both, all of me. It’s where I see the many faces of love that have graced my life and where I can pause and hold each one a bit more tenderly. In those moments, I am full, whole and complete. And it touches a sweet longing in me, deep and true. I wrote a poem about it called “Before I Knew.”

Before I Knew

It’s right below the surface

that pool of tears . . .

Not tears of sorrow or joy

But of a sweet longing that runs deep

A longing to recapture you

in that moment long ago . . .

To hold you close again

before I knew

it would be gone


The poignancy of life, those moments that can fully disarm us leaving only the pulse of love for this amazing gift we’ve been given called life, is, in the end, all that really matters. It invites us to live fully into each moment before it is gone. Don’t blink! Touch it. Kiss it. Hold it close. But the good news is, if we’ve missed it, or just want to remember, we can always return to the cedar chest, quietly waiting in a distant chamber of our heart, where each tender moment yearns for our return.

Here are some of the pictures I found in my cedar chest. Maybe you’ll be inspired to revisit yours . . .  

My great grandparents, aka “Big Daddy & Big Mamma,” out front “Down Home.” Strong. Gritty. No nonsense. Kind. Big Daddy used to chew tobacco and spit all the time. I thought it was so gross. Big Mamma was fast moving like the wind. Her feet never seemed to touch the ground. A cook who came in later years told us that, in the afternoon when they’d lay down for a nap, they’d fall asleep holding hands. Do you have memories of your great grandparents?
Down Home – I’m standing on the corner of the porch many years ago. Joe grew up here and Mini cooked here. (See my blogs, “To Joe” and “For Mini”) Do you have memories of a family home you visited as a child?
“Nanny” – my wonderful, sassy, grandmother on her 70th birthday. Nanny was the oldest Down Home. At 16, she crawled out a window in the middle of the night to meet my grandfather down the road to go get married. He’d only come courting a couple times. He was twice her age and even had a car. Big Daddy was NOT happy! I always said I wanted to be like her when I grew old. I hope I come close:) Do you have a sassy relative you admire?
My grandparent’s home where I spent many wonderful summers – the only place I ever thought of as home. Did you have a favorite place growing up?
My dear mom…I sure wish we could sit on that piano bench once again. (See my blog, “The Piano Bench.”) Mom could play a song on the piano, full chords, she’d only heard once. Never had a lesson or learned to read music. I always thought it was so amazing. Is your mom still with you? What are your favorite memories?
Me with my amazing, beautiful daughters when I was a struggling single mom. Do you remember a time that was equally sweet and challenging?
When I married Doug, I became stepmom to two wonderful boys. This is Ross, the oldest. The quality I’d come to really appreciate about Ross over the years was that he could always laugh at himself and could readily admit when he’d messed up. He also worked very hard to provide for his family. He’s no longer with us but greatly missed.
And this is Mitch, the younger. Some of you reading this know him. I have many fond memories of Mitch over the years. One was when we’d just moved to Maine and had bought a big Victorian home. Just after we’d moved in, Doug went to the store. Mitch and I got curious about what might be under the thick carpet in the living room and proceeded to pull it up. Doug came home to a pile of torn carpet and to see the most beautiful, patterned floors we’d ever seen.
The love of my life when he first took me to the wilderness all those years ago. Do you have an old picture of someone who still makes you smile that sweet smile remembering?
Taken about ten years ago…Do you have a favorite picture of you and someone you love?
My granddaughter Greer. We used to have tea parties in her room when she was little. Do you remember sitting in a tiny chair at a small table having tea or just playing? It was the best. She’s in graduate school now.
My dear grandson Sean before he started hating having his picture taken. I’ve always loved his smile. We used to sing and dance to the Wiggles when he was little. He’ll graduate from high school this year. Do you have a loved one who is unique and special?
My granddaughter Luna so alive and vibrant. From early on she could make beautiful things out of scraps one might usually just throw away. One day we were playing in her room, and she picked up a pile of strips of paper and just make them into a beautiful ball to use in a game we were playing. Do you have someone in your life able to see the beauty in the everyday?
My grandson Jack who’s a lover. He had a special relationship with their sanitation truck driver who one day gave him this truck. One day in the fall when we were laying in the leaves in his backyard, and I was talking to him about how wonderful the Spirit of the Wind was blowing down all the leaves. He immediately said, “I love you Spirit of the Wind.”
Luna & Jack just a couple of years ago…Don’t blink!!


Filed under Uncategorized

The Spirit of Place

I already knew the place had been well loved. This wilderness camp we’d come to call 3 Feathers. I knew long before I’d heard of the Mormon family that had built the cabin from trees off the land some fifty years ago. How they’d arranged the logs across the ceiling in the living area in alphabetical order: Beech, Birch, Hickory, Maple, Red Oak and White Oak. Before I knew why there were big hooks on the ceiling and scattered on trees around the cabin, and why there’d once been a zipline chair down to the road—the husband loved swings.

Before we’d met the woman who’d owned the cabin and land the longest, twenty–three years. How she’d added the screen porch saying she wanted to feel just like she was in the woods, replaced the two huge boulders out front for steps, and added a flower bed. Though alone, she said she was never afraid and that just being there was a sweet respite from her busy city job.

Before she’d sold it to a family in Massachusetts who only owned it a few years before it’d found us. They hadn’t visited much so when we bought it there was a certain silence about the place. Clearly well loved, yes, but silent. Not even birds came to our new birdfeeders.

So, Doug, my husband, and I took cornmeal and my drum and we went around the cabin and surrounding land singing to the Spirit of the Place and offering it a blessing. Mostly, we gave it our love. Within just a few weeks our birdfeeders became home to a wide variety of birds. We saw our first bear on our crittercam who’d come to check out the place, and I got to know the tree that held up the foot of my hammock. It’s just what happens when you love a place. Not with the kind of emotional love full of need but, rather, with a more devotional love that seeks connection, not completion.  

We all think of cleaning our living places, repairing what’s broken, maintaining. But do we think of blessing the space that surrounds, holds and supports us in so many ways day after day? Do we think of offering its Spirit our gratitude and love? Instead of decorating to the latest trends, what might happen if we just went about surrounding ourselves with all the things that most tenderly brought us to love? What might happen if we more clearly understood that just like our rock, plant, animal and human friends, where love only thrives from reciprocity, our surrounding places also have a Spirit seeking, not to merge with us, but rather to dance with us in mutual care and delight?

What if we suddenly knew the Spirit of a Place had as much to give, to teach us, as we to offer it? Perhaps then we’d find ourselves, more often, gently resting in its essence . . .

sheltered and at peace.

Below are some pictures of how we’ve loved our blessed 3 Feathers . . . and how it’s loved us in return . . . enjoy!

Doug’s special sign for our piece of heaven . . .
Many a marshmallow roasted here, and stories told . . .

Love this bell!
Indeed . . .
Simple pleasure . . .
Treasures from the land . . .
From our fairy garden outside . . .
Handmade by a sweet grandchild . . .
And another gift made by a grandchild . . .
And another . . . how blessed are we?
My daughter cooks amazing meals on this ole stove and I and my husband are learning too! So fun!
Doug and I painted these chairs and added the cushions . . . best seats in the house!
Made by a dear grandchild from items she found around the cabin and land . . .

Love this picture!!

This tree has taught me so much!!
Love it at night . . .
Many nights spent here . . .
We enjoy the sunset from our screen porch every night . . .
Good night!


Filed under Uncategorized

Proud to Be “Woke”

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The first time I heard the term “woke” it was used in a derogatory way to describe people on the political left. Like me. Curious, I decided to find out just what it meant. I learned the term originally emerged in the 1930s in a recording by Lead Belly, and later by Erykah Badu, to signal attention to the social and political issues affecting African Americans. In 2014, following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, it became a cautionary watchword in the Black Lives Matter movement meaning to stay awake to police brutality and unjust practices. Since then, the term has taken on a more generalized meaning and now is often used as a catchall for leftist social justice politics.      

Interesting. It seems in our current climate of increased polarization, hate speech, violent rhetoric, and mass shootings—in a country where anyone eighteen or older can carry a weapon of war—I’d say, if you’re not “woke” to your surrounding conditions, you’re not paying attention. As a nation, we are simmering on a high flame toward a boil and anyone of us, at any time, can be collateral damage in some indiscriminate act of terror. Now, no matter our race, religion or political party, we are each someone’s enemy. Now, sadly, drawing from its original meaning and use, we could say it behooves all of us to stay as “woke” as possible.

But I believe most people, across the political spectrum, don’t want to live in such a climate of hate and distrust and, in particular, don’t want to be responsible for the potential fallout of such a state of affairs on our children and grandchildren. We recognize childish bullying for what it is, masquerading too frequently now as normalized political discourse. We see the extremism, emanating from the far corners of both political parties, religious groups, and nationalistic movements promoting ideologies that thrive on divisiveness. And many of us are disgusted, feed up and simply exhausted.    

The irony is, if we removed the labels Democrat and Republican, we’d likely find the majority of Americans would feel quite comfortable, if not proud, to be called “woke,” as the term is more often used today. For example, to me, “woke” now means striving to overcome barriers to an atmosphere of tolerance, even when inclusion feels incompatible to personal beliefs and points of view. It means a desire to legislate reasonable gun control so we can send our children to school with less fear of a mass shooting. It stands for a yearning to think of ourselves as a people worthy of our Statue of Liberty, a people who welcome immigrants fleeing rampant persecution with an immigration policy that is both compassionate as well as judicious.   

“Woke” now means we want the government out of our doctor’s offices, bedrooms and healthcare decision–making, and that we’d never think to require a ten–year–old girl, or any woman, to endure a pregnancy, in particular, started by incest or rape. It means we herald free speech in our schools, encouraging children to practice the Golden Rule and older students to engage in real dialogue and examination of where we’ve been and who we are as a people, and how even the greatest nation on earth can do better. And, finally, at its core, “woke” means we want an American democracy run by the people, from the bottom up, and not by a theocracy that legislates unilateral beliefs and values from the top down. Yes, I, for one, now stand proud to be called “woke” and suspect there are many Americans, from across the political divide, who would stand with me.

Can we imagine unarming our hearts so we could, at last, see the truth of what we have in common? The place where, regardless of our political party, religious affiliation, racial or ethnic status, we could join hands in the spirit of common purpose and unconditional love to work together to form a more perfect union—where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for all peoples, could, at last, become the final word in reality.  


Filed under Uncategorized

Once Upon a Time

This article is my latest published in the NH capital’s Pulitzer Prize winning daily newspaper, the Concord Monitor. It is particularly timely. Enjoy!!

Opinion > Columns

Opinion: Praying for those of different faiths to come together


Published: 10/9/2022 7:00:30 AM

Modified: 10/9/2022 7:00:18 AM

Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt is founding minister of the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple in Amherst. She lives in Nashua. To read more of her writing visit

It feels like a fairy tale now and yet it wasn’t even twenty years ago. I was Convener of the Souhegan Valley Interfaith Council and we, joining with the Nashua Interfaith Council, sponsored a series of discussions called “To Hear How Others Pray.”

We invited clergy and laypeople from across faith traditions to join — Christians, Catholic and Protestant, Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, and Bahai among others to share their experience of prayer within their tradition. My hope was that we might see more clearly our common humanity, while at the same time, practice respecting our differences.

The talks were well attended and received, and unmarred by hate speech or violence. But this was, again, once upon a time.

Later, I decided to send a letter of invitation to join our Council to all the faith communities in our area not already involved. One reply was from a pastor of a Christian Evangelical church who was writing to politely decline my invitation. He described, simply, how his congregation, and others like his, had different answers to community and societal problems, leaning on biblical scripture.

He thanked me for inviting him and said he appreciated my efforts to bring people together. Cordial, respectful, and appreciative while still standing firm in his beliefs. It’s almost hard to believe now. But this was, again, once upon a time.

What has happened? It seems to me such gatherings and respect shown among those who clearly hold different beliefs can only thrive when there is a mutual understanding of the importance of the separation of church and state. Only then can my Evangelical friend and his church community feel free to meet, attract the faithful, and worship just down the street from my church community doing the same.

There’s a reason the founding fathers didn’t specify we should be a Christian theocracy. As many were fleeing religious persecution, I believe that they, imperfect individuals as they were, heralded a higher vision for this great experiment, ‘We the people.’

But in only a few years, as the separation of church and state has steadily blurred, we find this great democratic experiment on the verge of self–destructing as we careen out of control heading straight into Christian nationalism. Sadly, I know many devout Christians are watching this, with nothing short of incredulous disbelief, as one sect of their faith tradition charges forward leading this destruction to make way for the new ‘We the Christians,’ as defined by their particular religious ideology.

And we the people, where the majority has a say in creating policy, become the fallout. Already it no longer matters that the majority of Americans, secular as well as religious people, for a variety of reasons, want legal access to abortion. It doesn’t matter that most Americans, fully supportive of the right to bear arms, also understand that ordinary citizens don’t need to carry weapons of war. It no longer matters that our Statue of Liberty used to offer the promise of welcome to all. Now, reasonable, compassionate, immigration policy is only a dream as, in particular, growing hate groups conveniently blend national, ethnic, and religious ideology, asserting neo-Nazi and white supremacist values.

As I watch the current political ads, I see Democrats focusing almost exclusively on the issue of abortion and Republicans on the economy. Both are missing the mark as I see the much larger issue being: do we uphold the great ‘We the people’ experiment or stand by and let one sect of one faith tradition lead us all into unilateral conformity with their beliefs and values?

I would challenge all of us, regardless of political or religious persuasion, who see ourselves as Americans first, who believe in ‘We the people’ first, to resist polarization and stereotyping and not be shy about standing firm in defense of our great democratic experiment. Those who are leading the charge toward a Christian theocracy are not being shy or camouflaging their goals. They’re actually using the freedoms of ‘We the people’ to their advantage.

It is we, Democrats and Republicans, Christians and those of other faith traditions who uphold and value the separation of church and state and are committed to ‘We the people,’ who must stand together, talk together, work together.

Maybe then, once upon a time can be our time again.

We the people . . .


Filed under Uncategorized

A Love Song: Wild and Free

Listen only with your heart

There is a song waiting just for you . . . your special song . . . waiting

And when you least expect it

it will quite suddenly find you

And leave you bursting open

Singing . . . Your love song   

From a distant star


For thousands of years, holy men and women from indigenous cultures have gone out into nature to hear their power songs, songs used for healing and ceremonial work. It’s less known that each of us, as well, carries a song, one that silently waits in the deep caverns of our heart yearning to, one day, escape free singing. I like to call it a love song because its power engenders a deep connection to all of life. I’d been sending a prayer on the wind of the Great Spirit asking for my love song to be sung and then, one day, out walking with my drum at our wilderness camp, 3 Feathers, it came. It so took me by surprise, this song–chant I’d never heard before, now suddenly singing me, that I rushed back to our cabin to write it down so I might look up its meaning. (And the Great Spirit was smiling) Of course, I couldn’t find any such chant or even anything remotely like it. This is because our love song is a fully unique expression of our soul. Pause. Imagine that.

Now, each time we visit 3 Feathers, I take my drum, or rattles, and go out singing my love song into the Spirit of the Place. And sometimes when I stop and become very still, I can feel its love in return. And, together, our song fills my soul as my Spirit, and the Spirit of the Place, become one.

Would you like to find your song so your soul can sing again? If so, leave the known way and follow the path known only to the high-flying hawks, budding sunflowers, whispering stones, hidden springs and the night stars lingering now, shining just for you, from a lost time. It will arise from the Great Mother into your feet as soon your steps and turns will instinctively propel it out, singing onto the breath of the Great Spirit to bless all on your path. And you will know a joy that comes only when you find yourself releasing all you carry not essential to the beauty and goodness of life as your soul dances . . . dances now . . .

wild and free.

Nothing like the Spirit of the Rain for play on a hot day!

Heading out the back with my rattles…singing my love song…
View from my hammock…the Spirit of this Tree has taught me so much…
The Spirit of the Sun never fails to call me…


Filed under Uncategorized