Tag Archives: questions



Reading, reading, and more reading is for me a time-tested source of reflection. This week it’s The Practice of Spiritual Direction, by William A. Barry & William J. Connolly. They ask, “Who is God for me, and who am I for God?”

Who is God for me? God is infinity, God is love. God is both remote and inaccessible and also fully present and personal. For me that means God transcends mystery, which can be microscopic or cosmic in nature. God is always present, but not in control.

Who am I for God? Wholly imperfect, fully human, worthy, and loved.

How do I feel about myself in relation to God? Inadequate, imperfect (based on deep-seated, internalized judgments from my father and other humans. Now I remember that they, too, were both inadequate and also imperfect.)

How do I feel about myself in relationship with God? I feel loved for who I am, mortal and limited. I feel challenged to be my best self, not anyone else.

How can I enter into (fuller) relationship with God?

  1. Stop and breathe.
  2. Confess my greatest hope and/or my greatest concern.
  3. Listen to inner wisdom and wisdom of the ages.
  4. Begin again in love.

Those four steps do not require a belief in a particular god/dess or deity. They require me to tap into the depths of my own knowledge and experience. They remind me to love to the best of my ability day by day. (Reading helps, too!)

How do you maintain a connection with your highest power? In relation to what? In relationship with whom? (Even tentative thoughts are fine!)

Carry Water


The story of the world, the story of my heart, is captivated by warsan shire’s poem “what they did yesterday afternoon.” A few lines:

dear god

i come from two countries

one is thirsty

the other is on fire

both need water.

warsan shire was born in Kenya to Somali parents and was raised in London. You might already know that her poetry infuses Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Further into her poem above she spoke the truth when she asked of the world

where does it hurt?


it answered




She wrote these words two years ago but they apply today, this week, in this nation, in this world.

Violence has taken over so many places. This week’s headlines just in the U.S. include Baton Rouge; Falcon Heights, MN; Dallas; College Station (shots fired at a mosque). Add them to Orlando, Baghdad, Bangladesh, Medina, Ankara, Istanbul, and more, and more, and more.

This week Black men were suspected, accused, shot down; police officers targeted, Muslims fired upon. My heart hurts in so many ways. My mind doesn’t know how to make sense of it, except:

Except that we as a nation are so polarized that people at the far edges of many polarities are taking aim at The Other.

I am The Other. Each of us is The Other.

Until we can find a way to hear each Other

above the noise

above the rhetoric

above the line of fire.

The right to bear arms (well-regulated?) does not carry the right to kill wantonly.


Who is surprised when guns and innocence,

rage and impotence ignite and explode?

Civil Rights burst forth when violence was televised.

Today’s festering wounds erupt on ever-present, ever-vigilant videos.

We cannot unsee.

Who is surprised when fear and fury fire at will?

Wake up! We are The Other to those we would vilify in return.

Stay woke!

Until Black and Blue Lives Matter

Until Muslim and Jewish and Christian Lives Matter

Until Immigrant and Native Lives Matter


I am The Other.

i come from two countries

one is thirsty

the other is on fire

both need water

dear god, help us carry water to this hurting world

Prayerful Questions



I wrote this before the horrid news from Orlando. Mass shooting, chaos, emergency responders, blood donors, prayer vigils. Love is Love, I say, but sometimes it is hard to hold on to that.

For the following, I offer credit to Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, In God’s Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1996)

What is the purpose of prayer?

How could God pay attention to such insignificant creatures?

Are we just talking to ourselves, our inner wise spirit?

How do we know prayer is communication with God?

How do we know that it’s God?

Questions take us deeper into faith

. . . away from belief in our beliefs

. . . to believe in a God who is more than our beliefs can say.

It is possible for a good prayer not to address anyone by name. After yoga classes with Jogi Bhagat, he closes with prayers and we repeat each line after him.

May all be happy.

May all be healthy.

May there be no distress on earth.

May there be peace everywhere.

May all our actions lead us to make this happen.

May it be so.



prepare to dive


I am diving into a three-year course of study through Formation in Direction, FIND. First assignments have us plunging into both eastern and western Christian spirituality, and into personality types (beginning with our own).

The Cloud of Unknowing, written by an anonymous Christian mystic in 14th century England, captures the state of my progress.

Unknowing whatever I thought I knew about God, the unknowable.

Unknowing whatever logic gets in the way of silence.

Unknowing where FIND will take me.

Anonymous begins this book by telling the reader not to read it aloud or copy it or quote from it. Its lessons about contemplative prayer belong to one reader at a time. Until I have read the 75 short chapters and actually followed their instructions, I cannot know the whole of it, nor can I explain it fully by sharing it in part.

How delightful! This unknowing!

As I travel this unknowable path toward an unknowable God, I will come here to this blog from time to time to drop pebbles of uncertain origin. They might help me find my way home. The stones on my desk are inscribed with individual words:





Always Say a Prayer

For now I shall claim them as my touchstones and solid companions to help me find my way home. Let the Unknowing begin!

Open and Shut Case


Opportunities come and go. My first impulse is to imagine how I might fit into that scheme or place or plan.

Take house hunting. Of course you have some basic things in mind: how much bedroom or office space do you need? Is the yard suitable for children and/or pets? Is there a view from the kitchen window? How do you like the floor plan? What’s the neighborhood like in the evenings or during the day?

Underneath these questions is the bottom line: What would it be like to live here?

Again, my first impulse is to imagine what it might be like to live in that house in that neighborhood.

But before making a big decision like that it’s important to ask yourself why. Keep up with your friends and colleagues; move into a better school district; downsize or expand to fit your family; start building some equity.

Every decision has similar questions to ask. Moving, starting a family, choosing a job–these are not just one-time options but they will become part of your story for years to come. Are your answers the whole truth? Can you look in the mirror and tell yourself the real reason to do this?

I always have to take a giant step back to consider the drawbacks as well as the appeal. It’s seldom easy to reverse a major turn. I have to ask myself: “Is this consistent with my values and how I want to live my life?”

Since it will become part of my story, I want to know the truth about why, and I want to be able to tell the truth of my story in a couple of sentences. No matter how momentous the decision, some years down the road it will be told in one short paragraph.

What is my story and how do I want to carry it forward?

More to come . . .

Kairos / Chronos


The close of my ministry with Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church is coming quickly. It boils down to a pastoral visit, a parable for the children, a sermon for the grownups, a farewell to and from all, and a walk through the building and through the labyrinth before turning in my keys.

I am a fortunate woman to have served this congregation for nearly nine years. That is a substantial chunk of time since my ordination nineteen years ago.

Chronos refers to time in ordinary terms, as in past, present, and future. It is measurable in nanoseconds and in geological eras. Events happen and recede into the past. We plan for the future and it’s here so quickly I often say, “The dates in your calendar are closer than they appear.”

In Greek mythology, Chronos is the personification of Time. Kairos has a different Greek meaning for time: the opportune moment. Typically something special happens at just that “right” moment in time.

In chronos terms, April 30 is my last day at Live Oak. I can look back over my time there and the history before then, and I can estimate with increasing certitude how the next few days will play out.

In terms of kairos, this is an opportune moment for nearly anything to transpire. Whenever there is a change in leadership the entire system shifts. Transitions begin with an ending, then go through a neutral zone of flux and possibility, and end with a beginning: something new and not entirely predictable. T.S. Eliot said it this way in The Four Quartets:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

I don’t think he meant that in absolute terms. “Where we start from” changes and if we land there again we land with different experiences, wisdom, and insight (or a new chance to learn the same lessons again).

My immediate plans are to travel. My husband Jon and I will take a road trip to see friends in North Carolina. We have both been working so hard that a break will be most welcome. Yesterday was our 15th (!) anniversary. Time on the road will give us a chance truly to catch up while leaving ordinary responsibilities behind. A second honeymoon! We’ll be back in time for me to preach in San Antonio–perhaps an antidote to the temptation to “run away from home.”

June will find me on a journey to Tokyo to visit my son Rob, his wife Lin, and Lin’s extended family. The only other time I visited Rob in Tokyo was in 2003, I believe, the first year he moved there. Who knew he would stay so long, teaching English, working as a messenger, and now computer programming? Who knew he would meet his Taiwanese wife because she wanted someone to climb Mt. Fuji with her? He has been back to the States a few times; I’m excited about my return trip.

Returning June 14 I’ll have just barely enough time to reset my biological clock, do some laundry, and repack to fly to Phoenix on the 17th. This trip will be for the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. We’re calling this one a “Justice General Assembly” to draw attention to our witness on comprehensive immigration reform. Where better than Arizona to raise our voices?

Those are chronos events, to be sure. The kairos comes in the possibility–no, the certainty–that my life will spin into a direction unknown. It won’t be Kansas any more, Toto! My ministry will form and reform as the months and moments occur. I am open to new possibilities.

I have such high hopes for Live Oak as well. Spinning a congregation in a new direction will also be inevitable, but it will likely be a little longer in duration. Have any of you noticed the speed of church? This transition will be rapid in congregational terms but terribly slow for the “early adopters.” I am so excited for their future. Since change is inevitable, let’s all make the best of it!

Be blessed, companions, as I have been blessed.

Mother of the Groom


My older son Rob has been living in Tokyo for almost 9 years. I visited him the first year, thinking I should hurry over there before he came back. But he stayed. He taught English at first; now he is a computer programmer.

The big news is that he married Rinko Hayashi (known as “Lin”) last summer. I have met Lin only through Skype. Her father is Brazilian and her mother Taiwanese. She and her siblings grew up in Rio until she was 10 and her parents divorced. Mom decided to relocate to Tokyo, where her sister was living. So Lin has a rather international perspective simply from life experience.

Lin wanted to climb Mt. Fuji and was looking for a companion to go with her. A mutual friend knew that Rob had made the climb and was the adventurous sort who would gladly go again. That’s how they met. He has always preferred adventure to security. He has been a risk-taker on numerous occasions–on skateboards, roller blades, bicycles, barefoot, etc., and has the scars to prove it!

Lin and Rob are coming to the States for Christmas and New Year’s! They want to have a “real” wedding ceremony and celebration so we’re trying to work out details among all the interested parties. Rob is so laid back he thinks everything will just fall into place. But he proposed New Year’s Eve for the wedding, when it’s hard to find reservations for anything and there are multiple competing interests. Should the wedding be in The Woodlands at his home church? Or should it be in Austin, where there are places to stay? Can we manage two places even though they’re 3 hours apart?

Questions, questions! Many couples take over a year to plan a wedding. I have officiated many, many weddings, but I’ve never been the mother of the groom. A colleague of mine and long-time friend of Rob’s will take care of the ceremony. I have to balance practical concerns with the dreams of simple elegance on a major holiday weekend. How much motherly advice is too much?

Lin wants to buy a dress after they get here–between Dec. 22 and 30–because they are so expensive in Japan. I will advise her to wear whatever makes her feel beautiful. Most of all I want her to feel welcome in this strange country of ours. Welcome to the family, Lin!

Peace through Pie and other Ponderings


Peace through Pie! A great idea launched by Luanne Stovall for MLK Weekend. Pie socials are a great way to bridge the gap between racial groups: inclusive circle, diverse ingredients, and everyone gets a place at the table. My sermon today highlighted the pie social yesterday at Sweet Home Baptist Church, near my house in Clarksville (central Austin). I think we just might do that at Live Oak next year!

I have been working through 3-4 lists to sort out work and local errands and things I’ll need in CA and in India. The India list is a lot longer! The Republic of India has an impressive visa. I’m happy it came through with no problem.

Questions: should I take my laptop or get by with my iPod Touch? What kind of adapter or converter will be necessary?

Someone mentioned an excellent map store on I-35. I can’t find it on the web, though. Anyone know about it?

Have you ever used Dr. Bonner’s soap bars or Soapies or bar-soap shampoo?

As I check things off my lists, one is this morning’s sermon, my last one for a while. Another is the conference call with the Southwest UU Women’s Board. A great conference is shaping up March 4-6 in Dallas. Check it out at http://swuuw.org/

Tomorrow, though, I’ll get ready for the annual Minister’s Retreat at Camp Allen, near Navasota. It’s an Episcopal retreat center in a lovely setting and a beautiful chapel. I’ll bring copies of the roster of attendees. And at least a little bit of the work I still need to complete!

In the midst of the busy making and checking of lists, though, I am taking time for meditation, yoga, and walks. Staying centered will help keep me sane.