All in a Word


Who are you at the deepest level? When Jesus looks at you and loves you, who does he see? What is it which truly makes you come alive? Is God inviting you to take a risk and to go deeper?

-Br. Geoffrey Tristram
Society of Saint John the Evangelist

The church’s new year comes at the first of Advent. The calendrical new year comes January first, without fail. My bursts of energy and momentum to get going come in fits and starts like an old Model T; when I’m rearing to go, I’m full throttle, but when I’m not, there’s no end to the strain of getting motivated.

Except now.

At least, for these past few days or weeks.

Or has it been months already?

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I feel I’m awakening a bit more, becoming more fully who I truly am, realizing the amazing depth of growth. It’s not just about getting older, which I am, but it’s also about being more fully aware. One thing I find most interesting is that when I hear something–even if I’ve heard it before–there are implications and meaning. I am rarely dismissive. Our lives call for interaction, so I either act or not in any given circumstance, fully aware that my non-action has as much repercussion as any action I might take.


That’s a word.

But it’s not my word for this year, which I was trying so hard to have before January One. Like a child’s cooperation, though, I couldn’t force it and have it be authentic. I went through most of Advent following along with SSJE’s “Brother, Give Us a Word,” trying to increase my awareness and attention . . . and intention, probably. My motivation sputtered until it wasn’t even idling. I remained parked through Christmas.

A magical thing about the liturgical cycle is that it gets ingrained in us, and like any habitual practice, it can carry us, moving us onward even when it feels like we aren’t going anywhere. Along comes Epiphany, and maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking about Jesus’s work among the people with whom he lived and breathed that I’ve been thinking deeply about my own work–not as a comparison, mind you, but as a what-am-I-doing-if-I’m-living-into-who-I-truly-am kind of way.

For better or for worse, in our American culture, what we do, what our work is, can be a reflection of who we are, who we identify ourselves as. (Not always, of course, but sometimes.) I work as a priest, which means I have a varied list of tasks and responsibilities. Working at being a Christian is a huge (if not whole) part of who I am. If I whittle down through what I do and filter through my gifts, I remember that as a child, I was always writing stories. I was always listening. Imagining. Think what you will about all the associations of the inner child, but I hear her loudly and clearly calling out to me with every writing utensil and journal I receive or buy, “WRITE!”

And that scares the bejesus out of me. (Pardon the expression.)

Which probably means it is one of the truest things that I can do.

This comes to mind:

I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. ~ Romans 7:18b-20, NRSV

Writing scares me because in the process I tend to more clearly hear the voice of God, walk alongside Spirit, come face to face with Christ because it is right for me and probably right for others, too. Not doing it encourages me farther away from God, allows me to fill that energy with other, less life-giving things.

Writing scares me because in the sharing of my words, I open my heart even more than I already do (and I think I’m a pretty open-hearted person), making myself even more vulnerable. Vulnerable on many levels but especially the one where what I say might not please you, the reader.

So I’m reading Brené Brown after loving her TEDx talks but not reading the books lest they call me to actually do something daring. Obviously. I’m working on embracing my Wholeheartedness because that’s where I experience Joy. If I embrace the part of me who writes, then I can, perhaps, become even more Wholehearted which, in turn, means an even better Christian.

I accept the challenge. My word for 2016 is WRITE.

Doing that which is hard and scary is best not done alone. So I’m doing an even more ridiculous thing by asking for help. Dammit. <–Apparently my ego doesn’t like this.

  • Ask me how my writing is going, whether it be in my journal or blog or projects. (What writer doesn’t have multiple projects going?)
  • Share what your identity calls you to do.
  • Connect. If not with me, then with others. Find those who are trustworthy with your Wholehearted self, those who are there to help keep us focused when we slip and succumb to that which is not life-giving.

Giving full credit to Ciara Barsotti for the art and Brené Brown for the words, this sits as encouragement on my desk.

And I give myself a gold star today for writing.



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Take a Load Off

(I, too, dabble in the fiction realm.  Enjoy, and pass along to others you feel might benefit.)

I wander through the woods.  The thicket scrapes against me, and my laden vest pulls me down.  It’s so heavy.  I can go no further.  I fall to the ground.

I watch the glimmer of light come closer, flicker before my eyes, dancing around, it seems.  Suddenly, it poofs into a fairy, more like a fairy godmother.

“Why have you stopped, dear?” she asks.

“I can go no further,” I say in despair, feeling the sweat all over my body, clothes soggy and clinging.

“Nonsense,” the fairy replies.  “You have all you need.  Now, get up and get moving.”

I protest, and she keeps telling me to move.  Finally, her little pixie body yanks me up, pulling me out of my pit of despair and into her full attention.

“Empty those pockets,” she orders.

So I pull out the wipes, tissues, diapers, toys, the snacks, drinks and medicines.  I pull out more toys and crumbs.  I carefully remove the sewing machine and sewing box, the computer, about half a dozen cookbooks and a small bag of make-up.  I look at the fairy pleadingly. 

“Isn’t that enough?”  I ask.

“Is it?” she asks me.

I feel lighter, but there’s still more weight than I feel I can carry.  So, I empty more pockets.  Out go all the CDs, a shelf worth of books, fancy garden tools and kitchen gadgets.  Out go the fancy planters and delicate vases.  I take the vest off for a bit and realize I have layers of clothing on.  I peel the layers off until finally I’m in a simple dress over my pretty yet practical undergarments.  I take off large rubber boots and large clunky boots until I’m left with just my sandals.  I even had extra socks on, so I take those off altogether.

I pick up my vest and put it on.  It slides on easily and hangs loosely, comfortably.  I smile.

“How’s that?” I ask, looking up at the fairy.  “Fairy?” I call out.  I look for her in all directions, but I don’t see her.

“Check your pockets now, and leave the rest behind you.  Enjoy the journey.”

I look around for her, but I only heard the voice.  Was she out there or just in my mind?

Looking in my pockets, I find a needle and thread, wooden spoon, a spade and cultivator and a pen and notebook.  There’s a mound of things around me, and I was tempted to pick some of it back up.  I love that so much; that comes in so handy; I paid so much for that . . . But my pockets now are too small.  I wasn’t sure how I had carried it all in the first place.

So I leave it.  I turn and don’t look back.  Just over the rise of hill and around the bend, the woods clear and give way to a beautiful, enchanted woodland with a rippling spring and flowers and everything I love about the forest.  No more would I feel I didn’t have room to enjoy myself, my life.

I sit on a carpet of moss by the creek, eat from the berries I picked from a nearby bush and pull out my pen and notebook.  The possibilities are endless.

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