Thursday, November 30, 2023



A week ago today we celebrated Thanksgiving, a day that marked the beginning of the holiday season. Every day since I’ve contemplated the practice of gratitude for every blessing. 

I love prayer walks, a time of reflecting on the beauty of the earth, a time to ponder God’s amazing color scheme in fall leaves. And the winter sky on a cold day so blue it takes your breath away with childlike wonder – a wonder often lost in adulthood. 

It may sound cliché, the gratitude subject. I’d be like yeah, yeah, if I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times. The old gratitude platitude.

But I’m telling you, this one practice changes everything. Not only in you, but in those around you. Many years ago my neighbor who looked to be 100 years old began ailing. One day she said to me, “I can’t complain. I count my blessings every day that God sends. He’s been mighty good.”

For some reason this left a lasting impression on me. It’s one of the memories I can’t forget because the Holy Spirit keeps bringing it up, rewinding the scene of this aged woman sitting before me who celebrated life and gave thanks in all things. Who lived out the practice until the day she died.

The daily practice of gratitude strengthens the spirit to withstand hard times and face perils you’d never have imagined you’d encounter. I’m reminded of a scene replayed a thousand times in my mind of Betsy Ten Boom in Ravensbruck concentration camp. Her gratitude for the first meal served there: watered-down turnip soup.

Corrie’s reaction: “God doesn’t expect us to give thanks for this?”

Of course he doesn’t, but the exercise of gratitude still stood for Betsy, for it had apparently been a long-held exercise: gratitude in all things.

What are you grateful for on this day that God has made?

As I reflect on the daily practice of gratitude, a song I wrote awhile back surfaced, a song I’ll share with you below.


Friday, November 10, 2023

Eternity's Sunrise

Emily’s poem is a creed of mine. To ease suffering in this fallen world. To heal and tend to every creature that crosses my path.

But you know, if you have lived and loved, the steep price of attachment to the least of these in God’s animal kingdom: the ferals and homeless creatures that show up unbidden, hungry for affection and food, for shelter and warmth. Some at death’s door…

 After resurrecting a black kitten from the dead via dropper and prayer and tender loving care…

After watching her spring back to life and become a wild panther pouncing in the woodland behind the house…

After seeing her work up an insatiable appetite for storebought treats and delectables, pricey but worth every cent…

After observing her routine at nightfall, how she’d come in on time like clockwork, then curl up on my chair and sleep until morning light…


And after the memory months earlier of holding her close enough to hear my heartbeat and praying half the night with lit candle before us, certain that in her weak infant condition –

God would surely fetch her any minute and carry her like a little lamb in the crook of his arm across the rainbow bridge…

But instead she is miraculously healed and she turns into a spry panther stalking anything that moves. 

Until the day, three weeks ago on a cold windy Saturday, she disappeared. We called for days. Day and night we walked around calling, “Mitzi.”  But no sign of her.

The hardest part of life is the veil of tears. And with every new grief old wounds open like graves of resurrected souls.

Poetry is salve to heart wounds. Prose falls short amid sorrow. Mary Oliver still speaks to me in times like these:

To live in this world

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it


to let it go.

William Blake, after centuries, still speaks:

What poems or scriptures

have most comforted you

in your times of loss and grief?


Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Juniper Tree

To Joanie of the Little Green Pasture:

 RE: The Branding Irons of Jesus Christ.

In sacred downtime I heard you speak on the subject of suffering. These are the messages that most express the needs of many, for no one is exempt.

If you’ve accrued a lifetime of scars and wounds that reopen every time your prison guard batters your soul again, you have the branding iron seared forever in your being.

Tell me, dear Joanie and flock if you have experienced any of the following:

Prolonged stretches where you’ve battled and won. Overcome the enemy by the power of the word dwelling richly in you. Long spells of victory and the witness of miracles – some of the miracles wrought by your own warfare –

Some on a par with Elijah’s Mount Carmel triumph. You’ve seen a demon leave a woman at your command. You’ve seen the winds and the waves stilled by the Word spoken through your lips.

You have used the keys to the kingdom time after time, so you know this stuff is real. You see now that you can’t make this stuff up. That truth really is stranger than fiction.

This kingdom walk is now experiential, no longer bound by the finite cerebral realm. Miracles happen every day before your very eyes. You see Christ in you up close and personal. You see the fruit of your suffering – the joy set before you, your only hope.

For a brief spell, your every prayer is answered – all your prayers answered because you know the promise and you believe with all your heart and you abide day and night, night and day, in the Vine. You feel almost invincible in those moments.

But you also know that you can’t escape your lot in life. You can’t escape the branding iron. It’s a package deal that goes with the territory. If you suffer with Him you reign with Him. Along with the glory comes the internal whips and nails and the cross as the false self is daily dying. 

Then one day out of the blue you find yourself under the Juniper Tree after a certain major battle is won. Whereas, before, you felt invincible, you now feel the agony of defeat and hopelessness. You sit under the shade of the tree weeping bitter tears of sorrow and grief as you wonder if you’ll ever find the strength to move forward again.

Because you’ve been so wounded in spirit by so many years of persecution and trauma that you are now spent. And you don’t even care if the fat lady appears onstage and the curtain is about to close. You no longer care whether you go to your grave with your music still within.

All those badges of courage you amassed from the fires of battle… And it dawns on you: it’s all been an uphill battle. You have fought the good fight against all odds. And kept going.

And now you sit under the Juniper Tree and examine all the scars, the lacerations, the arrow piercings, the bullet holes. A lifetime of warfare. And you can’t go another step as you are overcome with battle fatigue.

What is the point? You ask. Why can’t I just be done with the troubles of the world? Why won’t the chariot swing on down and carry me away? How can I endure this chaos and persecution another day?

I am immobilized, paralyzed. Can hardly do anything without a struggle. No invincible in my vernacular anymore. Then I hear your sweet message, The Branding Irons of Jesus Christ. And know I’m not alone.

It’s a new day now. The birds sing and the sun shines. I’m still hiding under the shade of the Juniper Tree, still crying, but there’s a hint of hope left that I can endure to the end by His grace and mercy.

You’ve mentioned that the Lord has spoken to you about being real. About coming clean and confessing the reality of struggles – which He has also shown me.

I can no longer wear a mask and pretend that all is well. I want to sing from my heart, It is Well with My Soul. But today I’d be an imposter if I sang it. Today I’m singing,

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.

Nobody knows but Jesus

What song is in your heart today?






Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Washer Woman’s Mission

I was a contemplative prayer evangelist at the time. Like Father Keating before me, I preached that you should shut up and listen for a change. God did not create Chatty Cathy. It was a zeal akin to tent revival preachers. People looked at me funny sometimes. Eyes glazed in puzzlement.

During that time, I taught at a spiritual institute. A woman in my class who stood out like a sneaker on a rack of dress shoes returned sad-eyed. “It doesn’t work for me,” she said. “I tried and couldn’t be still five minutes, let alone twenty. Besides, I have work to do and must be about my Father’s business. There’s a dying world out there.”

For some crazy reason she reminded me of the dry cleaner portrayed by Steve Martin – who could take your filthy garments and make them like brand new. I thought to myself, wow, when God made her he must have said, “Now there’s a piece of work.”  

 Not another soul in the world would start a mission in a coin-operated laundromat at a camp ground. No one but her – or a SNL skit writer. This image of The Washer Woman remained in my mind’s eye until I had the following dream:

It’s nightfall and we are sitting on her narrow front porch. As I leave and cross the street my glasses fall off my nose and shatter. And I’m thinking, now there’s nothing left to do but pray.

Really?! Nothing left to do but pray?  No reading or writing?  Just pray? Is this what my life has been reduced to now that I have no vision?


That’s when I changed my tune. Or rather my lens. I took the Washer Woman up on her invitation to visit her mission. More out of curiosity than anything. Then came home and wrote what I saw and heard. And just in case you’d like to come and visit too, here are directions and a heads up on what to expect.


Drive north down Highway 301, past the school where, weekdays, deaf children run wild on the playground. Keep going until you see the sign, “Snake Man,” then turn left into Kamper’s Lodge and swing on around pass the turquoise pool in front of the Laundromat and park your car. Get out and go inside – any wayfaring stranger is welcome here of a Sunday morning, rain or shine. Take a seat in one of the six pews painted white as the washers and dryers lined up in back of the room.

If it’s winter when you arrive, I’d advise you to bundle up in layers, and don’t forget your thick socks, gloves, and lug soled boots. The cold north wind creeps through these cinderblock walls like pneumonia into lungs. Soon you’ll meet the “Preacher Lady” and members of her flock, the snake man included, and Sister Kim, newlywed, along with her husband Blinky. Don’t worry if you’ve been drinking, just leave your bottle outside for the time being. You never know, this could be your lucky day.

If the weather is warm, short sleeves are fine. No need to hide the craters on your arms. To these folks, needle marks are common as acne on a teen, tractors on a farm. You won’t hear any Trinity chimes or sing the usual hymns, recite the Apostle’s Creed, drop a check in the offering. Just come as you are. You have nothing to fear, nothing to dread. There is no religion here, but for the laying on of hands and the resurrection of the dead.


What’s your story?

When have you needed new lens?

Thursday, May 27, 2021

How to Lose a Sense of Wonder

I read a true story the other day that made me cry. Made me weep. A true story about a fragile old man who befriended a broken teenage girl and helped her regain her sense of wonder. For, as most of us know by our teen years, wonder has begun to fade just as surely as we’ve forgotten how to skip. What happens to that childlike amazement? Mark Twain had an idea:


“We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that the native has because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we have gained by prying into that matter.”


In full cogito ergo sum mode I sat at my desk and tried to write a story about a rainbow. Not that you must be inspired to pen anything worthwhile but when the task is more tedious than scraping shell bits from a boiled egg, when the draft is more stagnant than a mudhole even though you’ve prayed for inspiration and nothing magical appears on the page, you might hear yourself saying, I’m so done here, and call it a day.

True story. Straightway I drove to the grocery store after a spring rain and pulled into the parking lot and behold! A giant double arc overhead. A glowing ribbon of color, array of bright shades, golden light. Am I alone here?

Does anyone else not see this amazing spectacle? People oblivious, passing in and out the store, sightless. Blind to wonder. Never had I felt so alone. Finally, after packing grocery bags in the back of his car, one man looks skyward, then prods his son to life.

“Hey look up there. A rainbow.” Unable to contain my excitement, I lean my head out the window and say, “Amazing, aye?” The guy in the tweed cap walks my way and says, “Sure is. You know what that rainbow means?”

“Sure. God’s promise to Noah.”

“Did you know there’s another rainbow surrounding the throne in the book of Revelation?”

“Oh yeah! When my brother was a little boy, he saw that scene in a dream! Saw Jesus in the sky with his arms outstretched, a rainbow over his head, saying, “I’m coming soon.”

All the while we’re gazing up at the sky, at the beauty that feels like a miracle. The teenage boy standing next to his father, smiling at us, two grownups carrying on like that. Totally enthralled by a rainbow. Beats all he’d ever seen.  

His father saying, “Why do you reckon there are two of them, one right on top of the other one?”

The boy replying, “I’ll ask tomorrow in science class and let you know.” 

End of discussion.                             


I don’t know about you, but I’m a slow unlearner. It took years to once more see life through the eyes of a child. As William Blake described it:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

A Heaven in a Wildflower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

Eternity in an hour.

Before it was educated out of us, we lived in wonderment. It was our natural state of being. We were our truest selves, living and taking pleasure in the moment. We were natural mystics, awestruck by the world around us. It was all amazing. Mary Oliver, who clearly held on to her sense of wonder, said it best in “Mysteries, Yes:”

“Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company with those who say                                                          

‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.”


What’s your story? When were you last awestruck? Seized by wonder?  What sight stopped you in your tracks and captivated you for a moment in time?  

Art: NC Wyeth 


Wednesday, April 14, 2021


We met in a one-horse town on a Sunday afternoon at The Bailey Café: the quintessence of charm and hospitality, walls graced with over a thousand teapots. More teapots than you can imagine in one place. A fairy tale ambiance. A hidden treasure.

An afternoon well-spent in good company. With friends I knew well and friends I’d yet to meet. But no strangers, only birds of a feather clinging to the Vine. You know what they say about time flying when you’re having a good time – and I can safely assume that a good time was had by all that afternoon in the company of Wayne Jacobson.

I haven’t seen him since that day at The Bailey Café – which has since closed its doors – but lately I’ve enjoyed Wayne’s company again like a daily tea while reading his latest:

Lived loved, free, full: a collection of 365 daily reflections designed to draw the reader into a deeper place of quiet rest. Yes, that rest that some of us have struggled to attain by the sweat of our brow. Well, maybe not you.

But from my understanding most of us have aspired to abide in the Vine 24:7. Desired the tenacity of Brother Lawrence. The steadfast will to remain in God’s presence all the livelong day and engage in seamless conversation amid pots and pans. Amid the hustle and bustle of life and mundane chores alike.

But what happens when life interrupts that sweet communion? When you’re pushed and pulled every which way to meet the world’s demands? How centered are you then? Disconnect happens even to the best of contemplative hearts.

But instead of enduring the drone of guilt… there I go again, a lapse of conscious effort… slack me.. can’t even tarry with Jesus one solid hour... Wayne offers a suggestion he calls “The Pause that Transforms.” A no-sweat stance. A cooperative effort instead of it’s all on me. My burden. A brief excerpt from the book:

“Look to him early and often throughout your day. As you start your car…before you pick up the phone… pause and see if he has anything to show you…and you’ll begin to see things that are easy to miss….”

The gospel according to Wayne is that simple. His latest work, Lived loved, free, full offers practical steps to lighten the load of guilt that many have unnecessarily shouldered.

Every daily reflection is woven with one common thread: grace – the necessary ingredient for even the strictest ascetic’s self-denial. In Wayne’s vernacular, grace means God’s ability to do in us that which we cannot do entirely on our own. Desire + grace = transformation.

Live Loved Free Full on Amazon
Wayne Jacobsen’s 



Monday, April 5, 2021


Her disappearance has been gradual. Little by little waning and weaning herself from the usual comforts and consolations – even those offered by her faith. Now prayer rings hollow, even the tried-and-true one liners like “Thy will be done” and “Have mercy on me,” my friend confesses.

And because life has become a running series of Job episodes, she’s ready to make her exit, claims to have one foot in the grave already. Naturally, she hopes it turns out the way Julie Suk saw it in her poem, Between Lives.

And what if it’s true that the life we’ve lived flashes by at the moment of death?

Not even for an instant would I want repeated
the boring drone of guilt,
nor the shabby aftermaths of desire.

The black tunnel lit with epiphanies
would be my take –

sighs of contentment, laughter, a wild calling out –

and at the end,
a brief flaring of the one we’d hoped to become
escorting us into the light.

The poetic imagery continues speaking to me, opening new vistas of soul exploration. Take for instance, the “black tunnel lit with epiphanies.” Dark tunnel: a universal symbol for the passage from life to death - although I’ve now reimagined that brief passage as the whole of life’s journey. Which, in light of eternity, is but a vapor. Our lives flashing before our eyes from cradle to grave.

How ephemeral this life is: as brief as the journey through the momentary tunnel at the children’s park where you hear a chorus of wild screams, then travel back into the brightness of daylight.

As brief as the time between Good Friday weighted down with grief and Sunday’s resurrected release from the dark domain. From light we come and to light we return.

As brief as a book cover. “This Life is Only the Prologue,” writes Wayne Jacobsen in his new book I was sent to review (see forthcoming post for more). “On the last page of the last book of his Narnia tales, just when the reader thinks the story is over because the world has ended, C.S. Lewis pulls back the curtain even farther as he writes of the four children:”

“For them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world…had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”


Meanwhile we travel through these tunnels lit with epiphanies along the way. Reminders of who we are and why we’re here. Little signposts pointing to purpose and keeping us on track toward our divine destiny.

For, as Wordsworth put it, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting”… and all who’ve come before us “trailing clouds of glory” lit our way. All the poets and prophets and saints, the Risen Christ and all of creation displaying his glory, the children of God who went out in a blaze but passed the torch along.

I’d like to remind my friend and each of us with one foot in the grave that we’re just walking each other home. This ain’t exactly the Hotel California. Whether we check out or not we’re leaving. But the drone of guilt sometimes follows us toward the exit.

Not long ago a fellow poet and dear friend said to me on her deathbed, “I wish I could have been a better person.” This from one of the most caring and generous souls I’ve known. Whoever she’d hoped to become was there all along, discovered tucked inside the pages of her Holy Bible after her death.

A prayer, an epigraph:

Let us feel you on our pulses and in our breathing and convince us in our very bodies that we live and die in the hollow of your hand. Release now these mute longings hidden in our hearts to join the early morning bird song singing green beginnings and multicolored hopes, for you are shaking us and shaping us into a springtime people with Easter in our eyes.  


If this life is only the book cover and title page, what would your epigraph say? Your theme song? Mine would be almost as brief as the title: I Was Here. Something as brief as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Or maybe the last sentence in T.S. Eliot’s East Coker: “In my end is my beginning.”


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