Ironing Sheets

Yesterday, I threw away a sheet – an old, white, cotton, flat sheet.

I got the sheet from my mother, who I believe got it from my grandmother. Unlike Grandma, Mom preferred poly-blend sheets that went from dryer to bed – and certainly preferred fitted bottom sheets to my grandmother’s old-fashioned double flat sheet system!

Being the daughter and granddaughter I was raised to be, I remember the history of this sheet because it is like the history of so much that I have at one time owned: when one of us dies or moves or runs out of a use for something, it simply gets passed to the next available person. I’ve inherited cast iron frying pans, a quilt, a 5-generations old table, ladies’ handkerchiefs, crystal & dishes, a foldable drying rack, doilies, laundry baskets, jewelry… and sheets.

I’m afraid I have passed this tradition along. When Tony and I moved from a big parsonage to a small apartment, my children heard so often they probably cringed, “Could you use….” Grandma’s tiny wicker bottomed chairs went to live at my daughter’s home; her aluminum Christmas tree (shedding 1960’s foil in its wake) went to my son’s. But I’ve also thrown away my  fair share of the worn out hand-me-downs.

So yesterday, it was the sheet’s turn. I gathered it up in my arms, headed to the trash can, and suddenly got hit with a memory – sight and sound and smell all at once!

I was a very small child again, hanging around my mother in the small room off her bedroom where the mangle lived. The windows were open and sunshine poured in with the fresh air. Mom was feeding damp wrinkled white cotton sheets into one side and, with the scent of hot steam, out the other side came dry, perfectly smooth, flowing folds of hot fabric!


I doubt I’ll forget the mangle magic without that sheet – but it’s memories we save in the odd bits of the past we hang on to. And if I “mangle” the moment a little (I’m sure for Mom it was less magic and more hard work!), that’s okay too. The problem comes in clinging too tightly to those bits – wrapping ourselves in old sheets as if they were the salvation of the next generation!

You know where I’m headed here, right? For families, for churches – it’s all the same. Enjoy the memories and inheritances, but know when you are hanging on to something that’s outlived its usefulness… know when something needs to be thrown out so something better can take it’s place!



1950ironingmachine (1)

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Fall Bounty

This morning I was point person for the next to the last CSA delivery of the 2015 season.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Members of a CSA pay the farmer upfront for a season’s worth of produce, giving the farmer the upfront costs for their season and giving the member a season’s worth of fresh-from-the-farm veggies. If the weather is good, the crops are plentiful; if the weather is too dry or too wet, too hot or too cold, the deliveries are smaller.

This year was a dry year and so our shares each week were much less than the past few years, when I filled an upright freezer full of vegetables for the winter! This year, the freezer remains unplugged…

But that’s the way of things, right? Sometimes you get pound after pound of eggplant every week and sometimes it’s just a half pound of kale. Sometimes there’s feast – and sometimes there’s famine!

It can be that way with our work, as well – or relationships – or even our spiritual life! And, just like the CSA, sometimes we’ve put the exact same amount into the beginning of the process! We’ve put our money, our time, our energy, our trust, our faith, our belief into projects that sometimes flourish and sometimes falter. And, on the days when things falter – those days of famine – it can be so easy to get discouraged!

This morning, getting only two beets, a half pound of onions, and a half pound of greens felt like a falter, a famine, even a fail! I didn’t see the 3 pounds of carrot or the 2.5 pounds of rutabagas or yet another head of bok choy…

And in that “famine” mindset, I almost missed a different and unexpected bounty:  the beautiful sun, the glorious 60+ degree weather, the relatively quiet street, and the companionship of those I’ve been working with all season!

Next time I look around and see famine, I hope I remember today and look a little closer to see the flourishing bounty that’s really there. And I pray that for you, as well!





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The Study: Spiritual Action in Daily Life

The Study ended a few weeks ago and I am now attempting to evaluate the success (or otherwise) of the first ten week. And it’s a very interesting process! It isn’t too late, however, for you to put in your thoughts and ideas! While I think most of the participants have taken the survey already, non-participatants in The Study can still do that at

The results from non-participants have been just as helpful as those from participants and when the next version begins there should be some good fine-tuning as a result!

I look forward to hearing your input!



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Finding Safe Sanctuary

I’ve been thinking a lot about Safe Sanctuary lately.  I’m not currently working with a congregation on it but the topic has been floating around the edges of my mind on several fronts.

For one thing, there was the pope’s visit and the discussions about what he would or wouldn’t say/do about sexual abuse in the church.

That followed seeing the trailer for a friend’s movie about sexual abuse. (If you are brave, you can watch the trailer here.) I’ve seen a reading of his play on which the movie is based and it is a horrific tale.

And, both before and after those events, I’ve had conversations about ministries where there should be a policy or an update to a policy but we haven’t been able to set a date for training. That always makes me uneasy – a situation that could be problematic isn’t being fixed yet…

Sometimes, Safe Sanctuary drops to the bottom of my priority list. Right now, I’m focussed on a Spiritual Gifts online workshop that starts next week, The Study which ends this Friday, writing a sermon, reading Searching for Sunday with a church group, an upcoming new college course, and editing interviews into podcasts for the Judson Study that starts later this month. It’s a full plate!

But Safe Sanctuary still seeps in between all the rest… keeping me aware and unsettled. If you are in a situation where its important to you, make sure you take action on it – with me or someone else! I’d be glad to add a workshop to November’s schedule and let my mind rest easier.

And may you find safe sanctuary wherever life takes you today!



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2nd Sunday at Chelsea Community Church!

Tomorrow morning will be my second Sunday at Chelsea Community Church here in NYC! I am their part-time Pastoral Counselor – focusing on pastoral care, as well as leading a Reading Group on Sunday mornings. That group meets at 10:30 and worship begins at noon, in St. Peter’s, an historic Episcopal church on 20th Street.

I’m looking forward to getting to know the congregation better as each week goes by – feel free to join us any time you are in the neighborhood!



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Content, Packaging, Performance…

When I lead a class for new college students, I always give them a brief opportunity to lead a PowerPoint presentation. And, since many of them haven’t done one before, I tell them to think about presenting in terms of Content, Packaging, and Performance – information, the slides that hold the information, and the way that they convey that to their audience when they stand in front of the class.

This morning, in The Study, I asked the group about how they could use music to deepen their spiritual lives – and when I asked one participant another question, I realized that those three topics fit music as well as presentations. Music has content, packaging, and performance.

And as soon as I wrote it, I realized that our spiritual and religious lives have those three, as well!

We have the content: what we believe. We have the packaging: the places and rituals and history that provide a setting for our beliefs. And then we have the performance: the way we act out what we believe.

Now, I have to say that when it comes to the spiritual life, I think content and performance are the same. I have come to recognize – after 20+ years of work in the church – that people really do live out what they believe. The dissonance, if there is any, is between what they say they believe and what they really do believe.

For example, some folks who talk a lot about God’s love, don’t show much love to anyone else. And that’s usually because they don’t really believe God loves them! Or folks these days who talk so much about religious freedom – they don’t really believe in religious freedom; what they believe in is their own freedom to do whatever they want without concern for the religious freedom of others!

In a few weeks, the first session of The Study will come to an end and it will be time for some reflection around content, packaging, and performance. Did the content reflect what I believe – did the packaging support those beliefs – and did our performance together deepen anyone’s spiritual action in daily life?

And it might be a good format for all of us to use in our personal religious or spiritual lives: do we convey the content, the packaging, and the performance that we want to convey to the world?



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The Study will be available soon!



The Study: Spiritual Action in Daily Life (devotional book version) will be available soon! The proof copy arrived last week and the final version will soon be ready for shipment. Meanwhile, here’s a look at the cover:


I hope you’re as anxious to see inside as I am to show it to you!



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