Archives for February 2015

A Lenten Journey: The Wilderness Trail — Day Three


2 Timothy 4:1-5, The Message

I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.

You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.

Just keep it simple,
you say.

It doesn’t get much more simple
than the story we celebrate,
does it?

That’s why it’s best to hear it
from the lips of children.
Because children get simple.
And too often,
we do not.

Lord, keep it simple
in me, okay?

Please consider subscribing to this series by subscribing to the blog — the box is in the right sidebar. That way, these daily devotionals will show up in  your inbox each day of Lent, right up until Easter.

A Lenten Journey: The Wilderness Trail — Day Two


Psalm 25:1-10, The Living Bible

To you, O Lord, I pray.
Don’t fail me, Lord, for I am trusting you.
Don’t let my enemies succeed.
Don’t give them victory over me.

None of those who have faith in God will ever be disgraced for trusting him. But all who harm the innocent shall be defeated.

Show me the path where I should go, O Lord;
point out the right road for me to walk.

Lead me; teach me; for you are the God who gives me salvation.
I have no hope except in you.

Overlook my youthful sins, O Lord!
Look at me instead through eyes of mercy and forgiveness,
through eyes of everlasting love and kindness.

The Lord is good and glad to teach the proper path to all who go astray;
he will teach the ways that are right and best to those who humbly turn to him.
And when we obey him, every path he guides us on is fragrant with his loving-kindness and his truth.

It really is all about the path,
isn’t it?

Finding it,
choosing it,
following it
staying on it,
trusting it.
Thank you for showing
the way,
and inviting me
into it.
Thank you for being
the way,
and for leading
the way,
for providing
the way,
and paving
the way,
and loving me
in the way that you do.

Please consider subscribing to this series by subscribing to the blog — the box is in the right sidebar. That way, these daily devotionals will show up in  your inbox each day of Lent, right up until Easter.

A Lenten Journey: The Wilderness Trail — Day One, Ash Wednesday

Today, the calendar moves away from the season of Epiphany into one of preparation for the next great feast of the Christian church — Easter. We have arrived at Ash Wednesday, that beautiful beginning of the wilderness season, the season of Lent. 40 days plus 6 Sundays of thinking about how we live before God, looking for ways in which we can be more generous and eliminate clutter, both physically (fasting) and spiritually (carving out more time for silence and reflection).

Each day of Lent, I will choose a scripture lesson from the daily lectionary, find a photo that in some way connects to that passage (at least, for me) and offer a few brief words of reflection, trying to do so in a somewhat poetic form. This is a season that seems to call out for poetry. And brevity.

My own daily practice will be a form of lectio divina — a quiet reading of the text, multiple times, asking for words/phrases that speak to me in that moment . . . a word from the Lord. The reflections, which may often seem like prayers, will flow from the reading and/or the photo.

Will you come along with me, into the wilderness? I do believe that’s the place where God does good, good work in us. 


Isaiah 58:1-12, The Message

“Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

“If you get rid of unfair practices,
    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.


‘To all appearances . . .’
Ah, yes . . . appearances.

Why are they so important?

Lord, deliver me from snap judgments,
reactive interactions,

Give me eyes to see to the heart
of the person in front of me —
beyond what they look like, 

beyond what they act like.

That’s how I long to be seen!

And that’s how I am seen
by you.

You ask a lot.
But then . . . so do I.
On this journey,
may I
ask less,
receive more,
give more.

Do your work of restoration
in me, through me. 

Please consider subscribing to this series by subscribing to the blog — the box is in the right sidebar. That way, these daily devotionals will show up in  your inbox each day of Lent, right up until Easter.

Book Review Tuesday: “The Fringe Hours” by Jessica Turner AND a GIVEAWAY!!

There are a lot of blogs that are written by and for young moms. A LOT. But a few of those rise to the top of the popularity heap, for a variety of reasons. Jessica Turner’s blog, “The Creative Mom,” is consistently at the tippy-top of that heap.

For good reason.

Jessica is lovely in every way I can think of and she manages to do a whole lot of livin’ within a tightly constricted lifestyle – constricted in the most joyful and meaningful of ways (she is raising three tiny children with her husband, Matthew Paul Turner, and she works full time at a job she loves and is good at) – but constricted nonetheless.

When I was a young mom . . . back in the days of covered wagons and ornery cattle . . . I would have deeply appreciated this book, these words. I never had a paying job outside my home until my kids were raised and gone, but I had three babies in four years, was an active volunteer at our church and in the broader community, tried to have a healthy marriage and was layered with local family commitments on all sides. The beautiful little book she has written would have found a most welcome place in my life back then and I highly recommend it to anyone with young children. It’s called The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You.

I know what she means when she writes about finding ‘fringe hours’ to spend on ourselves, making and taking time to honor the person God has created and gifted each one of us to be before we are friend, wife, mom, daughter, sister. There is a whole, complete person inside every mom who needs tending from time to time. But too often, women in general — and women who are moms in particular — put themselves at the very bottom of the list, most often trailing off into the dust, never to be seen or acknowledged again until all the kids are out of the house.

And that is not right. Nor is it healthy – for anybody in our homes. The old saying about giving as good as you get can be applied in all kinds of ways, and one of the truest is the one that Jessica writes about in the pages of this encouraging book. Unless moms figure out ways to give to themselves, they will have very little left to give to anyone else.

This little blue book is full of helpful hints and good reasons why finding those fringe hours is so important. Jessica surveyed a couple of thousand other mothers and weaves her findings throughout these chapters. (She also details those findings at the end of the story and those are fun to read through!)

And she looks squarely at some of the biggest obstacles to doing fringe hours well: guilt, procrastination, self-imposed expectations, comparison and stubbornness. That last one involves the willingness to admit when help is needed and the wisdom and humility to ask for it, something that seems to be exceedingly difficult for most women I know.

She also encourages moms to build and maintain community as an effective means of finding ways to delight and encourage ourselves. Sometimes the very best medicine for a tired mommy is a coffee date with a good girlfriend. And then again, sometimes it’s doing something we love when the house is quiet. Jessica finds those hours in the early morning — I found them late at night. Whatever works, DO IT. 

This book is written for a very specific audience — mothers of young children — so it doesn’t directly apply to me at the stage of life I am currently enjoying. Nonetheless, this is a book I would happily give to every young mother I know. In fact,  I HAVE A COPY TO GIVE AWAY THIS WEEK!!

SO, leave me a comment and let me know if you’d like to be entered in the drawing and I’ll pick a winner and announce it one week from today.

Please hurry on over to your favorite bookseller and order a copy for yourself or a good friend. This one’s a keeper. 


I received an advance copy of this book to read early, but no other compensation for this review.


All I Ever Needed to Know About Life, I Learned Playing Solitaire — Farewell, Deeper Story

When I wrote this rather light-hearted piece, I did not know that it would be the last one I would ever write for A Deeper Story. That good place has told wonderful stories for over four years now: honest, open, difficult and beautiful stories. And it has been an absolute joy to work with the good friends I’ve met there. As it turned out, the overarching themes of this piece of piffle are good ones for making major life transitions such as the demise of ADS. So you can start this piece here and then click over to finish it and join the conversation — for the last time with me — over there. Please extend your thanks to Nish Weiseth for her labor of love, for the hours and dollars she has poured into that gracious space. It has all been gift.

I know, I know — playing solitaire is a time-waster, a filler, mindless self-entertainment, I can hear you shaking your heads in mild disgust clear across the internet

However, I beg to differ. Just for a moment or two, okay?

To begin, a little history . . .

I distinctly remember when I learned to play basic solitaire — with actual, physical cards. We were on an all-family vacation with my husband’s family, fishing in the High Sierras. And my sister-in-law found some cards in the cupboard and proceeded to teach me and her mother how to play this game. You need to understand that my MIL had NEVER played any card games except Rook  (anyone here remember that perfectly-acceptable-Christian-card-game from the long-ago past?); my FIL did not approve of this activity one little bit. Not ever.

But Mom LOVED it, and every trip after that, the cards came out and she enjoyed herself.

Fast forward a few decades and I purchase my first smart phone, and a little later,  my kids give me a Kindle Fire. Lo and behold, there are FREE solitaire apps. Because I don’t particularly enjoy watching television without something in my hands, these new toys became my go-to favorite thing to do on TV nights. And then my favorite quick distraction when I hit a block in my writing, or an easy time-filler if I find myself with ten extra minutes between appointments in my study, or a too-long wait at the doctor’s office. Because I have a notoriously hard time falling asleep at night, moving cards around on the screen becomes a valuable asset, easily promoting sleepiness in the dark of night.

Who knew there was such a rich variety of ways to play cards by yourself? My current favorites are Spider, Russian and Thieves of Egypt, all played with two decks. I have an app that lets me keep a running tally of consecutive games won, and believe me, I make a serious effort to keep that tally L O N G. And in order to do that, I have had to learn a few important life truths.

Wouldn’t you love to know what they are? Yeah, I thought so. Well, I’m gonna list them for you anyhow:

1.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And again.

Your best friends in solitaire — and often, in life — are the ‘back’ button and the ‘re-start’ button. If you get it wrong the first time (or the twentieth!), play the dang game again. If you place the wrong card in the middle of a game, just take it off and try another one. Trial and error truly are how we learn to do anything well. 

Closely related to number one, but more finely nuanced, is this truth:


Well, you’ll have to click here to read the rest of this little list. Come on, you know you want to!


A Prayer for Disciples Who Struggle . . .

A continuing series of public prayers, offered in worship at Montecito Covenant Church during the years I was an Associate Pastor there. This one was written for worship of September of  2010, the last year I was there before retirement. But I need this one today. Maybe you do, too?IMG_4869

That song we’ve just sung together, Lord – it’s a really great song. 

The words are strong and compelling and on my best days,

            in my better moments –

                        when I’m feeling well and hopeful and grateful –

                        those words are truly the prayer of my heart:

“Send me out to the world. I want to be your hands and feet…

I want to give my life away, all for your kingdom’s sake.”


All of us who love you want that to be the deepest desire of our hearts,

            to pass along to others the great good news of your love and mercy.

So, I begin this morning by saying thank you for that news,

            for that love,

            for that mercy.

The good news of Jesus is truly what gives our lives meaning and purpose and we are grateful.


But I also have to admit that there’s another side to me,

            and I’m sure to everyone else in this room, too.

There’s the side that gets tired,

            that gets distracted,

            that gets sideswiped instead of sent,

            that gets waylaid instead of led,

            that gets lost on the way —

mired in the demands of daily life.


We are your fickle people, Lord, too ready to give up the best

            for the good enough,

to substitute busyness for purpose,

to listen to the desires of our own hearts

            rather than to the desires of yours.

Forgive us.

Cleanse us.

Help us to turn around and begin again,

            with you in the lead this time,

            with you in the lead.


 And we know that you will lead us in two distinctly different

            but equally important directions –

you’ve shown us this in the life of Jesus,

you’ve taught us this in the words of scripture:

            you will lead us out, and you will lead us in

                        out to the world in love and service,

            but also, also,

                        in to the center of ourselves,

where, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us so beautifully,

      “In repentance and rest is our salvation,

       in quietness and trust is our strength…”

       Repentance, rest, quietness, trust…

these are what lead to salvation and strength;

these are what prepare us and position us to

            be sent, to be led, to be disciples.

So…help us, one and all, right now, right here – to repent,

            to rest, to be quiet, to trust.

To take the heaviest thoughts on our hearts right this minute –

            that person we love who is dying,

            that child who is straying,

            that marriage that is foundering,

            that divorce that is looming,

            that illness that is threatening,

            that paycheck that is missing,

            that project that is falling apart,

            that relationship that is churning,

            that school assignment that is overwhelming –

whatever it is that is heavy and worrisome and scary –

help us to hold it before you with trembling hands and say…

            “thy will be done…thy will be done.”

And then help us to open our hands

            and let…it…go.


Fill us with your peace,

            free us from our chains,

            feed us from your word,

            empower us to do your work.

For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.


The Invisible Wound


I’m doing some strange things of late. At least they feel strange for me, at this point in my life. 

I have joined a choir. And not just one choir, but two.

Uh. . . where do I think I’m going to find the time for all of that? 

I was also invited to sing in a vocal ensemble that is fledging at our church community and I said yes.

What in the heck??

This is my mental (and actual, day-to-day) list these days:

     I’ve got a book brewing in me, and I keep pushing it further onto the back-most burner of my brain. Yet, it’s there . . . niggling.

     I’ve got a stack of books on my bedside shelf and another dozen whispering to me from my Kindle.

     I need to think ahead for the blog (although I’ve done some of that. . . have I mentioned there will be a Lenten daily devotional series and that it’s all finished??  That is something of a miracle right there.)

     Several of those books on the stacks of my life need to be reviewed.

     My mom took a nasty tumble this week, landing in the ER where we both spent nearly six hours on Wednesday. (She is bruised and very tired, but nothing was broken, thanks be to God.)

     My husband is dealing with vertigo off and on.

     We signed up to get our names on the waiting list for apartments at a nearby retirement community and yet . . . 

     We’re also looking at houses. Smaller houses, closer to the ocean. And when I say ‘we,’ that really means, ‘I’ because houses are my territory. I do the read-ups, the shopping, the open houses and if, by some miracle, something suitable actually shows up, then I bring my husband along. Fortunately, my son has interest and some expertise in house-shopping and he sends me possibilities.

We’re in the midst of change, maybe even a sea change — I can feel it. And right smack dab in the center, there’s this thing about choral singing.


Well, it’s a long story, which I will try to shorten for the purposes of this post.

From the age of 5 until the winter I moved to Santa Barbara to take a pastoral position here, I sang in some sort of choir. Always. Church choirs, junior high and high school choirs, college choirs, seminary choir. And I loved it. It was just a part of who I was, a regular, steady place where I could lose myself in sound, in the color of chords, in the joy of making harmony. Choir was the place where I could feed a whole other part of me, a part that wasn’t particularly visible in the rest of my life.

And then we moved here. For me to take a pastoral position in this church that I love, a church that didn’t have a choir.

But I was so excited about the job! And the people! And the place! And the call!

So the choral singing part of me got shoved to the edges, sublimated, out of sight and nearly forgotten.

Until that little ensemble I mentioned sang in church one Sunday a couple of months ago, before I joined it. So on that particular Sunday, I was not a singer, I was a listener.

And that felt so.very.wrong.

I do not understand all of this, believe me. I’ve carried it around for several weeks now, pondering why I had such a visceral reaction to that whole morning. And a phrase I wrote recently seemed to sum it up: “It was a wound I didn’t know I had.”

I can do that to myself pretty easily, it seems. Can you? There was sacrifice of various kinds when we made the decision to come here when we did. But far larger than that, at least to me at that time, was the beautiful truth that this call was also a great gift. A Great Gift. So, I tended to let the gift part overshadow some of the grieving that I needed to do when we transferred our entire life to a new community, a new lifestyle, a new everything.

That Sunday morning opened the door to a wound I had ignored for a very long time, a piece of myself that had been buried, a piece that needed to experience the light of day once again.

So I decided that I need to sing. Regularly. Chorally.

Now please understand — it’s been eighteen years since I’ve sung in a choir. And I am now 70 years old. The voice, she ain’t what she used to be – nowhere near, as a matter of fact. But here’s what I’m learning. I can still read music pretty dang well. I still love to tackle new things. I still love to hear others around me singing their parts. I still love the totally unique sound that combined human voices can bring to the world. I still LOVE IT.

So on Tuesday nights, from 7:00 – 10:00, I’m singing in the Santa Barbara Community College Concert Choir. We’re doing a concert on May 2 — lots of spirituals, folk songs, fun stuff. There are about 100 singers, half of them college students, half of them 50+ — and we sound great. GREAT, I tell you.

And then, for a complete contrast, every other Friday night, I become part of a small group of women, almost all of them 60+, who sing a very limited and very interesting set of songs designed to be sung around the bed of seriously ill or dying people. Neither of these choirs is ‘Christian,’ though each one sings some music from the Christian tradition. Each of them is totally unique and each is expanding my horizons in new ways.

Do you remember that my word for this year is S T R E T C H?

Well, you know what? This stretch feels really, really good.

My Mom and Me — a Repost for

My friend, Laura Brown, has a wonderful new website dedicated to stories/poems/reflections about mothers and mothering. I’m honored that she chose an older post of mine to feature there today. You can read the entire piece by clicking here.


My mother, in her heyday, was truly a larger-than-life person.

That hat, for instance.

And the gigantic bow atop my head.
She started those bows when I could barely hold my head up,
ostensibly to announce to the world that this was a female child.
Apparently my baldness led many to believe I was a boy,
and my mom was having none of that!

I was a much-wanted child, long-awaited, and adored by my dad.
My relationship with my mom was more complicated,
very different from the easy, quiet companionship I enjoyed with my father.
Part of that is because my mother was a flaming extrovert –
easily the most socially gifted person I’ve ever known.
My father was quiet, reserved, careful.
Mom was glamorous, dramatic, a loud laugher and a loud crier.
She was also an extraordinarily creative homemaker and hostess,
usually operating on the slimmest of budgets.
She set beautiful tables, told wonderful stories,
often acting out each part,
and she brought light and laughter wherever people gathered.

She was also deeply insecure, believing herself to be
intellectually inferior to my dad and to most of her friends.
She had a mother-in-law who was sharp-tongued and judgmental
and a father who belittled and verbally abused her.

So when I was growing up, she depended on me to be
an emotional sounding board and a hands-on helper
with all things domestic.
For most of my growing-up years, she was my very best friend.
I idolized her and thought she was the smartest
and most beautiful woman I knew
and I tried to please her in every way I could.

Matching hairdos mom and me21118_n

My mother loved me and, most of the time, she also liked me.
She struggled to understand me, however.
In some ways we are similar,
a lot of the same interests
and laughing 
at the same jokes.

But in other ways, we are most definitely not alike,
and during those early years,
I intuited that it was not okay to step outside the box she drew,
the box of acceptable behavior and language,
of dreams and goals . . .

You can read the rest of this piece, and lots of other really fine writing, over at Clicking on this line will take you directly my post — but be sure to look around. It’s a grand place.