What every one of us shares….

“We are separated by continents
but share the same vast, beautiful, and sunlit sky.”

Some years ago, our daughter-in-law’s family shared images of a funeral outside Tehran. Held to commemorate the life of a grandmother on her father’s side, and as customary in the Middle East, the funeral procession took place outdoors. Surrounded by family and friends, several men, including our daughter-in-law’s father, carried the deceased. Wrapped in linen cloth, the body lay on a narrow platform hoisted on the shoulders of men who brought her to her final resting place.  

The palpable grief of those during the procession and subsequent burial all took place against the backdrop of a vast, blue, sunlit sky. As the funeral came to a close, our daughter-in-law’s father took the body of his mother into his arms and gently placed her in a freshly dug grave. 

Death comes to all of us. Yet the images of these past weeks from the land of Israel and Palestine are saturated with atrocity. There is death that comes after a long life, and then there is the kind of death that is senseless, depraved, and malevolent. No matter what side we may find ourselves on, can any of us justify the annihilation of children and youth? Can any one of us excuse unleashing weapons of mass destruction aimed not at military targets but at whole neighborhoods and cities?   

I ponder these questions in the face of the mayhem that continues in what is also known as the Holy Land. Located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River, a land of significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims for decades, it is also a land saturated by war and grief. But lest we forget, every single one of us shares the same vast, beautiful, and sunlit sky.  

Prayer: Divine Maker, when we find ourselves consumed with anger and grief but at a loss for words, compel us to lift our eyes to the hills from whence your help comes. [2] Through your grace, may we have the courage to refrain from violence, instead asking the difficult questions that persist. For just as grief comes to every single one of us, You hold us in the embrace of the same vast, beautiful, and sunlit sky. Amen

[1]  Sunset off the coast of Rhode Island, January 2021

[2] Psalm 121

Responding to Creation’s Endangerment with Passion

“If we fall in love with creation deeper and deeper, we will respond to its endangerment with passion.”  Hildegard of Bingen

    In the northern part of the state of Utah is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere.   Once it was a prehistoric body of water spanning thousands of square miles.   But over the past decades, the area of Great Salt Lake has fallen significantly.  After years of drought and increased water diversion, it has fallen to its lowest area at 950 square miles.

     With a high salinity that is saltier than seawater, the Great Salt Lake had been referred to as America’s Dead Sea.   Once it had been a haven and habitat for millions of native birds, brine shrimp, shorebirds, and waterfowl.   Now at a record low, it ultimately will become a bowl of toxic dust, poisoning the air around Salt Lake City.   A researcher who’s been investigating its cataclysmic demise calls it an “extinction event.”

  Yet over a thousand years ago, the writer, mystic, abbess, philosopher, and visionary, Hildegard of Bingen, perceived not only ecological peril but saw a way out.   Though it meant adopting a radical counter-cultural approach, the antidote would save the planet and thereby all of us.

  Her remedy?  “If we fall in love with creation deeper and deeper, we will respond to its endangerment with passion,” Hildegard wrote.   However, we must take note that her prescription goes far beyond merely seeking and enjoying the great outdoors, to a radical realignment of what it is we most deeply value.

   Imagine if your child or grandchild was in danger of being hit by a car, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to save them?  Imagine, if your adult child was struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, or your beloved teenage daughter ran away from home, or your only son struggled with depression; wouldn’t you go the distance?   If the one who meant the world to you was in danger, wouldn’t you do all that you could to save them?

   But children, grandchildren, and members of our extended family are our flesh and blood, we say.  Lush forests and clear streams and huge herds of bison are beautiful even majestic to see but they’re not the same as us.   Nor are they connected to us the way our own children and grandchildren are.

  But what if they are?   What if all of creation is our flesh and blood too?  Such that it not only courses through our veins and inhabits our lungs but is ingested with everything we eat and drink.   What if it is more than just a part of us?   What if we are in creation AND creation is in us?

  What if all of creation is our flesh and blood too?

[1] The Great Salt Lake is shown in the background of the earthwork Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point in Utah. Last year the Great Salt Lake matched a 170-year record low and kept dropping, hitting a new low of 4,190.2 feet (1,277.2 meters) in October. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

We are Meant to Live in Joy (in spite of everything)

“We are meant to live in joy, [but]
this does mean that life will be easy or painless.”  [1]

      What if we’re meant to live with joy…not just on occasion but as a means of perception?    What if experiencing joy isn’t a form of denial, a lack of caring or responsibility, or even foolishness…but the path to enlarge and even make holy the framework of lived experience?

Observed the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “You are able to accept anything that happens to you provided you accept the inevitable frustrations and hardships as part of the warp and woof of life.   Yet the question is not, ‘How do I escape this?   The question is, ‘How can I use [this crushing disappointment, this prolonged suffering, this devastating loss] as something positive?'” [2]

Which leads one to ask, “What if acceptance is the polar opposite of resignation and defeat?  What if acceptance is not caving into inevitability but is a quality of recognition that perceives reality is imploring us…even begging us, to continue on?    What if reality, far from being an adversary, teaches us the necessity of living in the moment…while experiencing the joy that comes in knowing that all of life and creation itself, is a gift?

Prayer: Divine Maker, In the wake of so much loneliness, suffering and despair, teach us to embrace the necessity of living each and every moment in joy.    Remind us that reality need not be oppositional to holiness…but can be a means of clarifying the work that you have asked us to do…however difficult and even arduous it may seem at the time.    We ask this in all the holy names of God.  Amen.

[1] from the Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, 2016 by His Holiness the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

[2] Ibid.





We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home

We are all just walking each other home,”  Ram Dass [2]

This pathway and vista off into the distance offer an image of the Pilgrimage of Compostela, which in English is the Way of St James.    A network of paths or pilgrim ways leads to the shine of the Apostle St. James the Great, in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.    Along with Jerusalem and Rome, the route along the Camino de Santiago is known as one of the three great pilgrimages of Christendom.

Wrote the spiritual teacher and author, Ram Dass, “We are all just walking each other home.”   While all of us are on a spiritual journey, Dass perceived that each of us (whether consciously or not) is on a path leading us back to our source.   Wrote another, “Even if you do not believe in life as a spiritual journey or take solace in the notion of an afterlife, the concept of walking each other home is important.   It’s what holds us together.” [3]

Emerging from the isolation of a two-plus-year pandemic, compounded by economic uncertainty, political unrest, unleashed aggression, and the unraveling of our planetary home, is it possible to hold one’s self together?  Or, as evidenced by the centuries-old practice of pilgrimage and communicated by spiritual teachers, writers, and poets, we’re not meant to take all this in alone.   What if instead, despite the brevity of our lives and the frailty of creation, we’re summoned to accompany each other on life’s way, bringing out the best in one another while doing all that we can in the time given us?

Prayer: Divine Maker, In the wake of so much loneliness and despair, open our eyes to see others on the road before, alongside, and behind us.    Teach us that holiness (wholeness) was never intended a private, super-religious affair but one that asks that we look to the welfare of the other….wherever on the journey they may be.  Remind us, that we are all just walking each other home.   We ask this in all the holy names of God.  Amen.

[1]  Photo courtesy of Patrick Mills.  The photo was taken on June 5, 2017, near O Pino, Spain on the Camino de Santiago.

[2] Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush, Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying, September 2018

[3] Carol Cassandra, https://sixtyandme.com/how-life-is-a-journey-of-just-walking-each-other-home/, adapted

Seeking Refuge: A Reflection & Prayer for the Peoples of Ukraine


“In scenes reminiscent of the Blitz, adults, children, and dogs hide from airstrikes, seeking refuge in bomb shelters and subway stations.” [2]

During World War II, an intense bombing campaign was waged against the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany.    For eight months, the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on London and other strategic cities across Britain, from September 7, 1940, through May 11, 1941.    Remembered as Black Saturday, on the first day of the Blitz alone, 430 people were killed and 1,600 were badly injured.

Wrote organizer, educator, and reformer, Saint Boniface, “O God, you have been our refuge in all generations.”  But what of those fleeing war’s aggression?  Or for those unable to take flight from the encroaching chaos and mayhem?    When wanton cruelty and its destructiveness encroach upon and violate the land, what recourse does the most vulnerable, human and creature alike, have?

Martyred in 754 by an armed group of robbers, the aged Boniface was murdered along with 54 others who accompanied him.     Still, his words attesting to God’s faithfulness in the face of aggression and terror remain: urging us to continue to demand justice and mercy for the oppressed, exercise unfailing advocacy for those distant as well as near, while praying that all of God’s children and creation itself, be afforded refuge’s blessing.

Prayer: God who dwells in places of refuge, be with the peoples of Ukraine, we pray.    Yet for those not in destruction’s path, compel us to be nothing less than fierce advocates and champions of the oppressed.   So that together with those distant and near, all may savor your refuge, under the shadow of thy wings and within the hallowed gates of sanctuary.   Amen.

[1] Image from Daily Mail Online

[2] Adapted from CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Clarrisa Ward

As a Fragrance That Infuses Our Senses

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet
sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” [1]

There is no rationale for forgiveness.
It violates every norm of self-justification.
Eludes retribution.
Levels knee-jerk responses.

Hollowing out preconceived ideas of right and wrong,
it challenges exaggeration,
dispenses with easy answers,
daring to move into dimensions of ourselves we’d prefer to forget.

Forgiveness neither insists on its own way
nor does it condemn the path that others choose to take.
Instead, it creates what may not have existed previously:
the willingness to let go of grudges’ satisfaction
while knowing that what you’re undertaking may not be understood.

Yet you are not left empty-handed.
Nor does the bereavement that had held you tight in its clasp last.
Rather, having chosen a different way and
a new frame of reference…

A spaciousness emerges,
and the violet within that had given up its fragrance,
now flourishes, infusing your senses.
And what had been only loss and even humiliation,
can become a place of freedom and newfound joy.

[1] Mark Twain

Gathering Prayer for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Mark 5:21-43

Gathering Prayer: You who take us from the shores of Galilee to the byways, zoom sessions, and the post-vaccinated sphere of common life, we praise your name.   Though relying heavily on electronic communication and physically separated from loved ones these past sixteen months, You, in your majesty, You, in your glory, invite us to stand in the light of your countenance.   Even when overcome by the darkness and uncertainty of it all, You, in your audacious love assure us, saying, “Do not fear,” and “Go in Peace”

God of all Solidarity, during this worship hour, we beseech you to open our hearts and minds to hear your word of restoration and hope, so that by your grace, we may be empowered to live out a new story.

Giving thanks that You staunchly refuse to give up on us, let us pray as Jesus taught us saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

When saying “yes” changes everything…

Divine Interuper, what were you thinking? Surely you knew that having Gabriel show up unannounced and speak openly to an unchaperoned fifteen year old girl would place her at risk? You knew, did you not, that she was already betrothed to another? You knew that the society Mary inhabited was rigidly patriarchal and would never tolerate any deviation from this norm.

Yet when Gabriel informs her that she will be impregnated outside of the only acceptable option at the time, she responds by saying, “I am a servant of the Lord,” But then this is what sets her words apart. Given a frightfully risky endeavor, a ‘mission impossible’ nevertheless, she consents. “May your word to me be fulfilled,” she then adds.

Have you ever regretted saying, ‘no?’ Have you wondered if your life would have take a different path if you had not clung so closely to the expectations of others and yourself? Have you pondered what it may have been like, if you took that ‘leap of faith’ and in spite of everything put your trust in God?

Advent Prayer-December 13

Holy One, we are a people mired in the land of mourning. Not merely hundreds or hundreds of thousands have perished, but almost two million globally. Many, who only weeks or months ago were making plans for the morrow, were consumed by a predator virus that shows no sign of abating. Fear has overtaken us, invading our waking hours and haunting our dreams.

Yet you have promised your people beauty instead of ashes, the balm of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of stumbling and faint spirits. In reclaiming those who are bent down with grief, torn asunder by fear, consumed by anxiety – you transform weary souls into mighty oaks of rightfulness. You do this, so that all may see this as revelation of your radiance.

So in your mercy, in your steadfast love where the fullness of grace in Christ Jesus abounds, deliver and restore us, we pray. So that through your Spirit, we may build up whole communities torn asunder by contagion, and raise up a people devastated by hatred and division. By your audacious Spirit, equip us once more to repair what was devastated and even ruined:

rundown urban centers and neglected national parks,

decimated reservation outposts and ravaged inner city neighborhoods,

struggling small towns and migratory farmhands,

fragments of civil discourse and frayed legislative bodies,

vacant seats at the dinner table and traumatized families,

overrun hospital wards and exhausted care providers.

In this Season of Advent, hear our prayer, O God. In your mercy, let your light once again shine in our darkness. In your steadfast love, let your garland of gladness brighten our days. Amen.

From Isaiah 61:3-4, “…to provide for those who mourn…to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

And they shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
” Isaiah 61

Mercy and truth have met…

“Mercy and truth have met; justice and peace have kissed.” Psalm 85:10

Mercy. Truth. Justice. Peace.

Mercy, as in showing compassion when it is within your power to punish.

Truth, as in what is genuinely based in reality.

Justice, as in righteousness or moral rightness.

Peace, as in Shalom, signifying completeness, wholeness and wellbeing.

Here mercy, truth, justice and peace not only belong together but as declared ty the psalmist, they meet and embrace.

In this Season of Advent but in the wake of an escalating pandemic, economic peril, perpetual chaos and disquieting uncertainty – if seemingly oppositional qualities of mercy AND truth, justice AND peace were brought together – what might that look like or be?

When reflecting on this, I kept fast forwarding from when this psalm was written to the time of the Gospel of John’s composition, centuries later. This particular Gospel does not open quietly. If anything, the writer begins by making an audacious if not thunderous claim, unequivocally stating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In other words, if you and I sought to come up with one element of speech or writing that would be the culmination of all that is merciful, all that is true, all that is just and all that is peaceable – it would be this singular WORD.

“The Word became flesh,” wrote John’s author and then added a few verses later, “…from his fullness we have received grace upon grace.” Perhaps even as we long for the coming of the Beloved One of God – we will discover rest in the singularity of this wondrous WORD that became flesh and dwelt amongst us. That through his fullness, we can at last taste the unfathomable riches of mercy, the assurance of truth, the equimity of justice and the sweet splendor of peace.

May it be so.

[1] Image from Crosswalknapa.org