Monday, March 21, 2016


This Lent I have been reading "Gifts of the Dark Wood" by Eric Elnes and he has talked about those times when we are disillusioned, afraid, or lost, and explored how God’s presence remains with us, providing opportunities for new growth and transformation. We enter the Dark Wood because we struggle. All of us struggle.  And in the Dark Wood it is possible to be moved and transformed. Elnes talks about Gifts of the Dark Wood: uncertainty, emptiness, being thunderstruck, getting lost and temptation. He talks about how uncertainty can help us let go of our fear of the unknown.  Emptiness can leave room for new possibilities.  Thunderstruck moments can offer insight.  Getting lost invites us to heighten our awareness.  Temptation can help us know our true path. 

The final gift of the Dark Wood are other travelers on the journey who enrich our experience of life and love.  It is those who have gone before or who are going with us. In the Dark Wood Elnes says, “walking alone is about as advisable as walking alone in a physical dark wood. It’s easy to get lost without the aid of companions… While we all walk our paths as individuals, the lone seeker is more likely to get lost or to give up than the one who travels in company” (150).  People who travel with us in the Dark Wood are as intentional as we are about embracing the gifts of the Dark Wood and finding their place in this world (157).  They are comfortable with the sadness of the Dark Wood and they share their own experiences and help us not be afraid. 

It takes a village.  It takes a village to raise children.  It takes a village to remember that you are not alone.  It takes a village to remind you that you can take one more step.  It takes a village to show you that there is always someone who has been where you are, and has made it through.   

A wise friend shared with me this past fall that if there was an event her child was going to, she always tried to find another parent to share the carpooling duties.  She said that it helped her to share the joys of parenting with other people.  It is very easy to try and do this thing called life alone.  Community takes work. But it is so worth it.  

And when someone asks to help us and we don't accept it, we are only hurting ourselves.  Community is good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Getting Lost...

"Feeling lost within outward success..." (83).  Eric Elnes says those words in "Gifts of the Dark Wood."  Have you ever felt like everything is going great, and yet you feel lost?  Or everything is not going great and you feel lost.

Elnes says the regular experience of getting lost is one of the most important gifts we can receive.  He says the feeling of being lost prompts us to pay more careful attention to the signals that the Holy Spirit sends us.  We pray and meditate longer when we feel lost and with greater attention.  We pay more attention to our gut intuitions and bodily responses when we feel lost.  We seek out friends, family and mentors when we feel lost (84-85).

So often it our lives we try to go it alone.  We try to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but we can't do it.

Be still.
Pay attention.

God is with us and God can help us find our way out of the dark, one step at a time.  Elnes shares the words of writer E. L. Doctorow who said, "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Thanks be to God.

the good we are called to do...

In his book, "Gifts of the Dark Wood" Eric Elnes says, "You can (and will) do a lot of good by walking the path that brings you most fully alive in this world, but in order to stay on this path, you must learn to say no to doing a great many ‘good’ things” (117).   

This past Wednesday I was supposed to blog for my Lenten promise to blog weekly.  But I did not.  It was a "good" thing that I said no to.

When I served as a pastor in the British Methodist Church from 2001-2002, a District Chairman (the equivalent of our United Methodist Bishop) told me a story.  He said that he had four children and he knew two of them because of the choices he had made.  He had chosen the church and his work over his children and as a result he did not have a strong relationship with them.  His words haunted me and as our family grew I knew that I did not want to make the same choice.  

I remember walking into my District Superintendent's office (like my boss) and sharing that I wanted to work part-time instead of full-time.  And my D.S. did not seem to understand why I would want to do such a thing.  I wanted to be more present with my children, and thankfully a part-time position for me was found. I treasure those 7 years when I was able to work as a pastor part-time.  

This past week I spent spring break with my family.  We were together 24-7 and we laughed together so much.  There was no morning scramble to be on time to school, no homework, no dashing to activities in the evening.  It was pure sabbath.  

It is important to take sabbath each day, each week, each month, and each year.  It is important to rest, to step away, and to be filled up again.  When we rest we allow God to restore, replenish, and refocus our heart and mind.  As we began our spring break we were all sick.  Runny noses, coughing, sneezing, we had it all.  It is amazing how our body lets us know when we need a rest.

Taking time away for renewal is hard because there is so much good that needs to be done.  But saying no to good things enables us to focus on the specific good that we are called to do.  Living into our fullest energies...  How can we say yes to the path that brings us most fully alive in the world?  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

the lightbulb came on?

Yesterday I was at the bank depositing the last of the Girl Scout cookie money into the Troop bank account.  I had forgotten the deposit slip, but I had the account number saved in my phone.  But the teller said that the account number was not correct.  I suggesting adding some zeros in front or maybe putting a number 1 at the end, but the teller said that the account still was not coming up.  So, she looked it up by its name, and I was not sure if it was Girl Scout Troop # or Troop # or if the account was in the Troop Leader's name.  The teller said she still could not find the bank account.  I told the teller I would go back home and get the deposit slip and then we would have the correct account number.

As I am driving away I see the bank that is across the street and I realize that I have been at the wrong bank.  I was at the wrong bank for like 15 minutes.  Seriously.  Without even a glimmer or a hint in my mind that I am at the wrong bank.  And I had been at the correct bank three times previously this month to make Girl Scout cookie deposits.

I could not believe it.  How could I have been at the incorrect bank without realizing it for so long?

In "Gifts of the Dark Wood" Eric Elnes talks about being aware of those moments when the divine speaks to us.  It is those moments in our lives when we feel like "the lightbulb came on", or we had an "aha" moment or a "moment of clarity".  Something clicks into place that impacts our life's direction in some way (p. 68).  The author says, "when the lightning flashes and thunder reverberates powerfully and repeatedly in the same location, it is a good sign that we are to move in the direction it indicates.  We feel drawn to move in this direction because it calls to our deepest self and feels most natural" (69).

When I was standing at the incorrect bank for 15 minutes I obviously was not listening to my deepest self or hearing the divine speak to me.  I was pretty confident that I was in the correct bank.  But I was not.

The teller asked me about the bank account number at least 3 times.  "Are you sure this is the right account number?" THREE TIMES!  And I wasn't paying attention.  And I wasn't listening.

How many times in our lives are we so sure of something?  But it isn't the right thing.  We aren't in the right place.  We aren't doing the right thing.

Elnes talks about taking a leap into the Great Unknown and he says that the Holy Spirit rarely invites us to take a leap without leading us to the edge of the cliff by way of a thousand smaller steps. He says, "by the time you reach the edge, therefore, you have responded to so many sweet-spot moments and experienced so much confirmation of your direction that the leap isn't so much a leap but one more small step" (72).

One more small step.  This week I am going to pay attention to the small steps.  And listen for confirmation of my direction.