The Weight of Tears

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My Spiritual Director recently asked me how I was doing. And I started to cry.

Not because I was sad. Or even depressed. It had been a difficult couple of months, personally and professionally, and I felt the weight of others’ tears added to my own. I have never doubted the cumulative effect of loss, but on that particular evening, things were very heavy indeed.

Later in the week, we had an ice storm. I sat mesmerized, watching the freezing rain collect on every bare branch and twig. They looked like those hard-to-cry tears that we all have from time to time. The ice dripped longer and thicker, and then would break off onto the grass below. Eventually, the storm passed, and the temperature rose.

That’s when it hit me – grief, like many other emotions, is framed in seasons. Sometimes it is overwhelming, and you can see the physical frame of a mourner bend over in sorrow. Sometimes the sadness breaks and scatters all around in a fragile mess. Sometimes the sunshine casts a brilliant prism of hope. Grief is expressed differently by each soul who bears it, I think. And it does pass. It truly does.

These same branches that were caked in ice will bud and green up in about 3 months. I hope that, when I see the leaves unfurl, I will remember to go back and take another photo. Because every one of us needs a picture of growth and joy in the back of our minds when the icy heart of grief holds us.

Growth, light, life: all of these are places where the love breaks in. Or perhaps, as Leonard Cohen said in his song, Anthem, 

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

So here’s to tears. And promises of a spring thaw. And the light getting in through the tiniest, smallest cracks of hope you can imagine. And tissues. Lots and lots of tissues.

In Thy Packing and Thy Unpacking…

 

In thy packing, and thy unpacking,
God is there.

In thy sorting, and thy disposing,
God is there.

In the questioning and the waiting,
God is there.

Despite aching muscles, tender hearts, hurtful words, and self-doubts,
God is there.

Though I struggle, wonder, and rest in the uncertainty,
God is there.

When I am hurt, tired, frustrated, or just plain DONE…
God is there.

Book Review: Naming the Unnameable

Naming the Unnameable
89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God
…Including the Unnameable God
by Matthew Fox

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I was intrigued by this book because of its stated post-modern approach to reflection on the Divine. As someone who works in an interfaith setting, there are few resources with scholarship and attention to the faith traditions beyond Christianity. This small volume is packed with images and spirituality to enrich your meditation and reflection times.

Matthew Fox is a historian, scholar, and founder of the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California. His past works are numerous and much-loved. This book draws from mystics that will be familiar to many, including Meister Eckhart and Hildegard of Bingen. But it also engages the wisdom of Rumi, and the classics such as Thomas Aquinas, plus a wide spectrum of wisdom literature across many religious traditions.

Fox includes 89 Names of God, but goes beyond the Hebrew and Christian texts for reference. There are theologians, scientists, artists, and mystics included in the Naming. The entries invite new visions, new impressions, new challenges to close-held images of the Divine. After each section, there are blank pages, for, as the author notes, there are infinite ways to name God, and perhaps one would want to pen one’s own addendum!

The book is divided into three parts:
Part 1: Cataphatic Divinity: 80 Names for God
Part 2: Apophatic Divinity: God without a Name
Part 3: Practices to deepen meditation.

I found each entry having something to draw in my mind to reflection. But in particular, I was intrigued by entry #29: “God is Greening Power.” The images and referenced words of Dylan Thomas and Hildegard of Bingen spoke powerfully to me of the Divine creativity and inspiration. I will likely return to this page (and others!) for deeper reflection.

In Part 3, there are suggestions for reflecting further on the 89 Names. They invite creative, deep, personal meditation. My intention is to engage further with these during Lent.

This is a small volume, but one worth adding to your personal library. I commend it to you.


Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful names for God …Including the Unnameable God. By Matthew Fox. Pawcatuck, CT: Homebound Publications, 2018. Paperback: 197 pages. ISBN-13: 9781947003941.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Book Review: A Gracious Heresy

A Gracious Heresy: The Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet, by Connie L Tuttle.

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Any of us who have ever argued with the Divine over a persistent, unyielding Call to ministry will see ourselves in Connie Tuttle’s story. She honestly shares the journey from discovery to living out her Call. Only one problem: as a lesbian, every time she reached a milestone, she had to fight the same battles for understanding and full inclusion.

A lesser person would have quit, or turned her back on God. Connie took on the full frontal assault of her identity and her love for God. She dealt with the society-imposed shaming of her sexual identity. From the co-ed who wouldn’t ride in an elevator with her, to the fellow seminarian who informed her she was going to hell for being a lesbian, Connie walked the road with faithfulness and determination.

Tuttle’s writing is honest, thoughtful, provocative and real. Her words are from her heart, one that fully trusts, hopes and believes in the Call of God. On more than one occasion, as she faced opposition, she had to decide: was her faith one that followed rules and sought to be pious? Or was she someone who had a call to justice, and sought to be righteous? Over and over, she chose: “I want to be righteous!” Integrity and authenticity shaped her responses.

Her journey encompasses many of the hurdles familiar to seminarians and clergy: getting through seminary, facing ordination boards and faculty committees, finding a summer internship, and coping with the self-learning (and tears) in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education.) She grappled with how her identity would be and could be a part of her pastoral formation. Oh, and yes, as a single mom, balanced, home, classes, and parenting.

While Presbyterians (PCUSA) now affirm and ordain women and individuals of all gender identities, at the time when she graduated, it was not even a remote possibility. Even so, as Tuttle continues to love and care for the people God has called her to as a pastor, she reminds us all to tell our stories.

And Connie’s story, full of love and grace, is one you should read. One day, I look forward meeting her, because I suspect we will enjoy many laughs and share the heartaches of our ongoing journeys, compelled to serve the Divine.


A Gracious Heresy: The Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet, by Connie L. Tuttle. Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2018. Paperback: 195 pages. ISBN-13: 9781532655722.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

A New Heart Song

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I have frequently referred to songs that speak to my Spirit as “heart songs.” Today I heard a new one and wanted to commend it to you.

Josh Garrels’ song May You Find a Light is gentle, encouraging, and speaks to the real need we all have to find fellow travelers on this road. It makes all the difference when we hit a rough patch. I believe that there is a Divine answer to this longing. Sometimes it’s a gentle whisper, but we have to stop long enough to hear it.

Even though today I am in a pretty centered and peaceful place, I resonated with the words. Maybe you will, too.

And may we all find a Light when we need it most. And may we each BE that Light for someone else.


Produced by: Josh Garrels & Isaac Wardell
Album: The Light Came Down

[Verse 1]
Lost and weary traveler
Searching for the way to go
Stranger, heavy-hearted
Longing for someone to know

[Chorus]
May you find a Light
May you find a Light
May you find a Light to guide you home

[Verse 2]
There are weary travelers
Searching everywhere you go
Strangers who are searching
Longing deeply to be known

[Chorus]
May you find a Light
May you find a Light
May you find a Light to guide you home

2019 – the Year of “Growth”


Oh my…

My Star Word* for 2019 is “growth” and I don’t know whether to be excited or terrified.

The last year has been a difficult one. I don’t want to give the specific reasons air time right now, so forgive the vagueness of this post.

I know that I did the right thing by showing up and standing up for the right reasons, but the “nasty-grams” I got because of doing that really hurt. Learning to walk with integrity, and not cave from pressure and criticism was tough. I’m limping, and learning to forgive… but God’s faithfulness has carried me through.

I asked my beloved spouse what he thought my Star Word would mean. (I confess, it was in a little bit of a whiny way!) He said, “Maybe this is the year that you consolidate from all of the growth from last year.”

I think I’ll go with that. But time will tell!

*What’s a “Star Word”? Read more here!

If you still want a star word, make a comment, email me, send me a text, or catch me on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram. I’d be glad to draw one for you. There’s plenty left. Oh, and if you’re curious, they aren’t “churchy” words. They are everyday words offered for anyone who wants to meditate on a word for the year. That’s it!