Life in Abundance

For those of you who have known me  – or read my writing – for years, this post will sound so repetitious! My life seems to be the same, day in/day out, year in/year out. It is always so full (stressful, some might say), rarely boring (some might say, rarely restful), and, even I will agree, sometimes a little overwhelming. And there’s a constant theme of good and not….

We had a death in our family last week – a niece who was named, in part, after me! She was born maybe a year or two after that birthday picture was taken (scroll down this page) and so we weren’t exactly playmates but we were close. And we stayed that way as young adults. Even now, we could pick up a conversation at any moment as if we were together just yesterday.

Her loss will be deeply felt by her parents, her son, and all of us in the family and among her friends who valued her humor, her passion, her strength and her forthrightness!

At the same time there are several other health concerns in the family that will be more easily repaired. And there are parishioners who are facing both dramatic and temporary problems, as well as my own good check up last week.  So I feel both grief and gladness, worry and relief – all mixed up together!

On less serious notes, my husband is preparing for some travel, both out of state and out of the country. He’ll leave home one morning and arrive back some weeks later. That’s an odd sort of married life compared to the one I expected growing up so long ago! My father was home like clockwork at 5pm every evening; if it got to be 5:15, neighbors began to worry.

But, for my husband and I, there’s little clockwork anywhere in our lives – and being away for a few weeks (or longer) simply means an opportunity to do meaningful work. So again, I feel the encroaching sadness at separation but still great gratitude for his opportunity!

I think my life is always like this because that is just the way life is when we pay attention to it and to the folks around us. What might be different is the way we react to that reality. We can choose to focus on the grief and worry – or we can ignore all but the joy and good times – or we can honor both, move among them as life at its fullest, and find a place of gratitude for it all.

I’m hoping I can do the latter. Keep me in prayer, please!


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Summer Sermon Series Page added

I’ve added a new page on this website for my summer sermon series – those four sermons I’ve been/will be preaching in August and September at four different churches on one theme: How do we live with our brothers and sisters?

It’s been a powerful experience for me and I pray they’ve been/will be a blessing to someone else, as well! And thank you to every congregation who has been a part of it!



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I couldn’t resist….

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I couldn’t resist adding this birthday picture…. I was somewhere between 9 and 11 (counting the candles is a bit tricky) but already you can tell how much I enjoy having my picture taken!

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Happy Birthday!

Tomorrow is my birthday – we won’t talk about which one… It’s nestled in between my husband’s birthday today (Happy Birthday, Tony!) and my daughter’s on Thursday (Happy Birthday, Jennifer!). (Poor [or lucky, depending on your perspective] Ed has a birthday all his own earlier in the year.) And in the next few weeks, my grandson will have a birthday, so will my sister, and so would have my mother if she was still with us.

Maybe it’s because of the birthdays that I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately. Or maybe it’s because of a lovely day trip with my children to see my two remaining aunts last weekend. Or maybe because back around the Fourth of July, I actually had enough time off work to do some genealogy research!

I think I can also blame it on Jacob, Joseph, and Moses – and all their siblings! I’m preaching four times in six weeks during August and September, in four different churches, and, all four weeks, the Hebrew scriptures involve siblings in some way! So my first thought was, “A sermon series!” And my second thought was, “No one will hear a series…”

But then I thought that I could preach a series to myself: surely there is something I need to hear in all these family stories? I’m sure there’s something for all of us, with good or bad family relationships, in our biological families or our larger human family. We’ve got a lot of complications in 21st century family life but they’re nothing compared to Jacob and Esau’s relationships! Or Joseph’s path to adulthood! Or Moses’ upbringing!

You can see my schedule for preaching this series on the Schedule page of this site. I’m hoping to record most of the sermons and post links here by the middle of September (or at least a copy of the written sermon). But if you want to hear them live, feel free to join me on any or all of these Sundays!

And share a little time with your brothers and sisters in the broader family of faith!





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IMG_2999I have every reason to dislike fireworks…

First, most of Astoria’s almost 100,000 residents show up for the fireworks… All crammed within the 60 acres and 3 mile circumference of Astoria Park! That in itself should be enough to keep any sensible person at home, right? And since about half of them are under 25, well… it just keeps getting better.

Second, I’m an old woman and sitting on a blanket on the ground for several hours is agonizing. I’m only half joking here… I admire those who can come early in the evening and find a spot on a park bench – or those like the older woman I saw tonight carrying a chair with her as she wandered looking for space to set it down. But I’ll take the pain I know to the pain I don’t.

Third, rhythmic flashing lights give me migraines. Again, one wonders why I do this. But, really, the fireworks themselves are so fleeting that they don’t cause a problem. On the other hand, the wide array of flashing swords, headbands, twirlers, necklaces – all throbbing away around me in the hands of those thousands of children – they are a knife stab in the brain.

So why do I love fireworks so very very much?

Well, first because I really do love the residents of Astoria and their teeming hoards of small ones. Nowhere that I’ve ever lived has come anywhere close to the diversity and abundance of humanity that I experience here and after almost a dozen years, I love it even more than I did at first.

Second, because I really do love sitting on a blanket. On the beach, in the grass – there’s something about being in touch with the earth that fills me with contentment. It’s probably a throw-back to my childhood spent in year-round connection to the ground: leaves in the fall, snow in the winter, grass in the spring and summer – all meant to be sat on, rolled in, crawled through, jumped upon, etc.

Third, because I just love the brilliance of the light, the art of manipulating time and space so that the light goes where it’s supposed to go, the science of mixing the right compounds to get the right color and texture in the sky… I love the whoosh and the boom and all the sounds in between as rocket leaves earth to crash into the sky… I love the vibration in my own chest that can’t be duplicated….

Tonight I remembered sitting in the back seat of the family station wagon as dad drove us to a place where we could get a good view of the fireworks, opened up the tailgate, and we all perched there to watch the sky light up.

It wouldn’t be summer without fireworks.

I hope you have a true-to-you summer this year – and feel some people-swarming, earth-hugging, chest-thudding… something that gets you beyond all that you should dislike so you can hone in on what you love… something to take you to your roots and beyond!




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Summer is officially here – the calendar says it, the CSA has begun, and my summer newsletter is out! If you aren’t on my mailing list, you can subscribe here for the fall newsletter and mail me at to get a copy of the summer edition!




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Big Brains…

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was taking on some new reading and already the threads of that reading have been converging!

First, bias and technology. I’ve been doing a lot of study over the past few months about diversity in the classroom – microagressions and bias, particularly. In other areas I’ve been reading about technology in the classroom. And in others about recent neuroscience and how it plays out in the classroom.

Last weekend, all of those seemed to converge in a faculty research event! What if we could find a way to merge some of those… what if… what if…. what if…

Second, politics and compassion – or less succinctly but more accurately: Faith in Action and Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life! Faith in Action is a way our church supports folks as they put their faith into action in the world in a variety of ways. Some marched in the Climate March, some are seeing documentaries, some are praying, some are giving, etc. etc. etc.!

Karen Armstrong’s 12-step book is about the underlying theme of compassion in all the world’s religions but particularly in Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And the more I read, the more I wonder what if living out our faith in the world became an act of compassion… what if… what if… what if….

Third, our big brains. One of Armstrong’s points is that humans developed larger brains on top of the small reptile brains of our ancestors. And as our brains got bigger, we had to be born earlier before our heads got too big! So humans are basically born prematurely, requiring more years of nurture before we are able to live on our own.

And then, because our brains are able to do more, we learned how to get beyond survival so some of us had time to think about philosophy, create religions, develop more complicated lives. But that all depended on class distinctions where some folks had leisure time while others worked for them. Which takes me to another book I’m reading lately – Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market – where the life of gentility was created out of the ownership of other human beings and a horrifying lack of compassion.

Finally, this morning, I’m reading a NY Times article that someone mentioned in yesterday’s discussion group about Armstrong’s book: We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment. The author said that we call ourselves Homo Sapiens but that isn’t very accurate because we aren’t really very “wise.” What we should better be called is “homo prospectus” – people who contemplate the future. People who ask what if… what if… what if…

The article ties to almost all the rest of this rambling post – to recent neuroscience, to the need all of us have for time to think in larger ways than just survival, to what it means to be able to plan, which apparently makes all of us happier (and maybe more compassionate?) people!

I’ve yet to sort through what all of this means but I’m sensing that I’m doing some Homo Prospectus work, some prospecting into my future. Hopefully, it will include a large dose of compassion to overcome bias and class distinctions, a good bit of happiness, and, always my faith in action!

As always, I invite your big brain to think along with me!





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