Finding God in the Snow

Finding God in the Snow

It’s true, that usually by February, a lot of people are fed up with the snow. It has been coming for most of the winter, it requires a lot of work to remove it and make room for our cars to move around. We slip and slide in it, and when we drive we are surrounded by foolish, impatient, inexperienced drivers who put our lives, and their lives at risk by going too fast on slippery roads.

It’s also true that for so many people snow is more than an inconvenience, it is life threatening. People get stranded by the snow, and can’t get medical attention. There are people who live outside and the snow and cold can cause hypothermia and death.

Snow is blinding and disorienting, If we spend too much unprotected time surrounded only by snow, we can be dazzled and overwhelmed.

Snow is mystical and magical. Snow slows us down, and invites us to play, or rest, or both. Snow sparkles in the sunlight and shimmers in the moonlight. Watching snowflakes fall is mesmerizing, meditative, especially the big, slow, fluffy flakes. And even enough of the tiny sharp, blowing flakes make a glistening white blanket that quiets and stills everything.

Snow transforms our landscape, making even the most dirty, gritty, ugly places a brilliant, dazzling array of crystals and tiny, tiny rainbows.

Remember the thrill of snow from when you were a kid. Think of snow as an invitation to play, and to slow down from the hustle bustle distractions of life. Walk in the drifts, slide along icy sidewalks on purpose, make a snow angel, scoop up a big handful and toss it into the air, let it get your face wet, and into your boots and gloves. Giggle for a moment in the freedom of delighting in the wonder of the radiant, twinkling beauty of God.

Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day

Being a relative new comer to the happy, healthy romantic love arena, I have had every type of emotion about Valentine’s Day you can imagine I went through all the stages of hating it, hating myself, and being cynical and angry about such a Hallmark manufactured day, until I reclaimed it as a day to love myself, and tell my loved ones how much I loved them.

The turning point was Valentine’s Day, 1990. I was young and living alone in Chicago. It was one of my early self-pitying Valentine’s Days made worse by the ice-storm and blizzard hitting the city. The outside storm affirmed my inner negative wallowing, that everything was conspiring to keep me home, alone and unloved, even the weather. Then, the phone rang, early in the morning. (this was when there were still landlines, so the phone rang through my apartment and I heard it, instead of it being buried in my purse on vibrate so I wouldn’t hear it, which is what would happen to me now). I answered, and without any preliminaries, my grandmother’s voice asked me, “ Will you be my valentine?” I was so stunned she had to ask me at least two more times. I said yes, and something inside me shifted. I was happy the rest of the day. I knew that I was beloved all the way in Newfoundland, and my grandmother, who rarely called me out of the blue, it was too expensive, had made the effort to let me know how much she loved me.

This became our tradition, to call each other early in the day every year, to wish each other a Happy Valentine’s Day and remind each other how much we were beloved to one another. We did this, every year, for fifteen years until she died. That first Valentine’s Day without her hurt, but I still knew how much I had been loved.

Valentine’s Day in popular culture emphasizes, one, rather distorted view of love, and it’s true that around February 14th, we are pressured to perform extreme acts of romanticism, especially if we are in a relationship, and expectations are unrealistic and often miss the point. But romantic love is only one kind of love, and it’s not even the most important love. God’s love is the love that makes all other love possible. By PRACTICING LOVE, for ourselves, for each other and for the world we have been given, we can become more grounded in God’s love.

At another bad time in my life, a friend showed me her heart rock collection, and told me how, once she had begun collecting them, she saw them everywhere. Once I began to look, I saw hearts everywhere too. That’s how God’s love is: it’s everywhere, we just have to be looking for it.

I firmly believe that any opportunity to know that we are beloved and to tell others they are beloved is one that should be seized. We need to tell ourselves first. We are all beloved children of God, all of us. God delights in each and every one of us, just because we exist.


Ash Wednesday – love breaks through

Ash Wednesday - love breaks through

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have
made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and
make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily
lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission
and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen (BCP p. 264)

This is my first Ash Wednesday as a non-parochial priest in over 9 years, and I realized midday today that I had to be much more intentional about Ash Wednesday and Lent this year than I have had to be in a while. I don’t have the external structure of three Ash Wednesday services, a labyrinth to tend, or a Lenten Quiet Morning and sermons to prepare. The first thing that floated into my mind after this realization was “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made, and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts….”

I couldn’t believe that this what had floated into my mind. For a while I have been struggling with the penitential language in so much of our Episcopalian liturgy that emphasizes our wretchedness as human beings. I had only heard the second part of the collect, with which I still struggle, but I had forgotten the first part: “God, you hate nothing you have made.” This leapt out at me this year. With all the contrition language, we can so easily forget that we were actually created in the image and likeness of God, and that we, and all creation are inherently GOOD. Our sin is that we do not recognize this goodness. What if we ALL REALLY believed in the inherent goodness of : ourselves, each other, and all of God’s creation? Yes, we are dust, and to dust we shall return, but we are dust into which God breathed life: complicated, glorious, messy, beautiful life.

This is the messy beautiful creation in which a broken sidewalk makes a heart, reflecting love for anyone who will notice.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in sin. I think all of us do it, and for each one of us, it looks different. I wonder if, most of us, either: think that we are God, or think that we are less than we really are. When we think that we are God, we think we can control everything, when we really can’t. When we think that we are “less than,” it is very easy to think of others and everything else as “less than”. Whatever it is, we all have something that keeps us from fully seeing and knowing God. Lent is a time to let of the things we hold onto to keep us from fully seeing. Lent is time to practice a new way of being in the world which hopefully helps us draw nearer to the heart of God.

What if we re-wrote the collect to be something like this:
Compassionate and Loving God, you have made us, and all creation in your image. You delight in your creation, and you grieve when we don’t recognize the goodness which you have created, when we harm ourselves, each other and our world. You rejoice when in recognizing our separation from you, we choose to return to you. Help us to discover that which separates us from you. Give us the strength and courage to let it go, so that we may discover within us, the deep beauty and love reflected all around us, through you who created us, Jesus, our redeemer and the Holy Sprit, who sustains us, now and always, AMEN.

Practicing Faith

Practicing Faith

I wonder if people on a spiritual quest are flocking to yoga instead of Christianity because yoga is taught as a practice. Yogis take their practice to the mat, and there are obvious levels that people can strive for. The first time your heels hit the floor in a good down dog or you lift all ten of your toes off the mat in crow pose, you know that you have gotten deeper into your practice. You also learn that there are various poses to do before you can go right into a head or shoulder stand, you warm up before getting upside down. There are modifications people can make if a pose is too physically difficult and still get most of the benefits of the original pose. There are the obvious physical side affects of yoga, – you just feel better after time practicing on the mat.
These are just the superficial benefits, for many people world wide, yoga is a means to an end. People practice yoga, and limber their bodies so that they can still themselves for extended meditation time. Stillness of body and mind help us hear God. Even us Christians know that.
Of course, Christianity is a practice too, we just don’t usually talk about it in those terms. The dominant Christian conversation is about being saved for believing in Jesus, there isn’t much more after that other than a list of “thou shalt nots,” rather than “thou shalls”. Too many people leave a Christian experience feeling shamed and belittled rather than stronger and more articulate in their practice.
It’s time for Christians to re-engage the conversation of practice and reclaim the rich traditions we have inherited. I plan to keep practicing yoga, and I plan to keep practicing Christianity, they have both made me stronger and deepened my relationship with God.



Driving home from celebrating the Eucharist at a Denver day shelter, yesterday morning, I felt a profound sense of joy. I had just spent an hour doing what I have been created to do, it was a perfect start to my Sunday, so I sang loudly with Lady Gaga as I powered back up the mountain to spend the rest of the day with my lovely husband, building my new desk. I had a profound sense of “rightness” and I was going to wallow in it. It has taken me a long time to trust these fleeting moments of sheer joy as glimpses of God’s Kingdom, but when I do recognize them, I try to savor them.

I used to mistake brooding and cynicism for depth. I am not sure why, but there was always something appealing about a dark horse, someone who was comfortable on the darker side. I have always been more sunny, more positive, and have tried desperately not to be a “Pollyanna”. I feared being naive and simple and fluffy. After all, experience taught me that life was hard, and that people, especially teenage girls could be mean.

My discomfort with the Pollyanna side of life might also have something to do with the fact that I came of age in the 80’s when cynicism in the form of punk and goth became cultural counterpoints to the glittering consumerism of this conspicuous decade.I was never goth or punk and my few attempts to be a bad girl went largely unnoticed, the large neon sign over my head that blinked “NICE GIRL” was too bright for people to notice my four earrings or lopsided haircut.

I do have a temper, and I can be unpleasant too early in the morning before I have had time to wake up, or when I feel thwarted by foolishness or injured by injustice, but by nature, I am usually energetic, optimistic and sometimes extremely bubbly. I have come to learn that despite the moments when I feel a lot like Tigger bouncing uncontrollably around an unsuspecting Eeyore or Pooh, that hope and enthusiasm are quite audacious, sometimes bordering on scandalous, gifts, and that i should embrace them.

I am learning that joy is just as subversive, if not more so than cynicism, and being subversive appeals to me. Hope in the midst of great grief and tragedy means choosing to see that God is at work in the world. Joy is not the fleeting happiness we feel when eating chocolate or getting a new gadget, but a deeper resonance in the gut that doesn’t go away, even if it’s hard to see sometimes. Joy is recognizing and being recognized by another human being. Joy means living as if my own personal grief does not mean I can’t rejoice when someone else has a reason to celebrate, and my own celebration does not mean that I can’t feel pain or grief with someone else.

There is plenty of pain and grief in the world, and undoubtably plenty more trials and frustrations ahead, so I plan to wallow in joy every chance I get.