Dec 312013

tish beautiful

Tish and I were walking together on the beach last week. She stopped to look out at the water so I did, too. She put her hand in mine, looked up at me and said, “Mom, am I pretty?”

Luckily, I’d been thinking about that word for a couple of decades, so I was ready.

I sat Tish down in the sand, took a deep breath, and dove in.

“I think you’re pretty, Tish. I think you are very, very pretty. But pretty is a weak word, because it means different things to everyone. You really don’t have much control over whether folks think you’re pretty or not. Spending a lot of time asking the world if you’re pretty – it’s just not a strong position to take. You will have to keep changing yourself for everyone you meet, and eventually you won’t know who you are. I know because I used to think pretty was really important, so I felt confused and weak a lot.

What I want you to be, Tish, is beautiful. Beautiful means “full of beauty.” Beautiful is not about the appearance of your outsides- beautiful is about what you’re made of. Beautiful women are women who spend time discovering what they love – what sings to them –what their idea of beauty on this Earth is. Then they make time each day to fill themselves up with that beauty. They know themselves well enough to know what they love, and they love themselves enough to fill up with a little of their particular kind of beauty each day.

That’s why we’re here today, honey. I was feeling a little empty this afternoon and so I brought you here to the beach to fill myself back up with beauty. This place is beauty to me. So I come here to fill up with the Gulf of Mexico. With the sound of the waves rolling in and the sight of the pelicans fishing and the feel of the cool sand on my feet. When I leave here I feel really beautiful. And I brought you with me because you are beauty to me, too, Tish. When you smile at me – I am beautiful .

Many of the things you see me do each day, honey – I do them to be beautiful.

It’s why I take time out to spend with good friends.

It’s why I read and look at art and always have that music I love playing in the house.

It’s why I light candles in every room.

It’s why I watch you climbing those Banyan trees in the front yard.

It’s why I roll around on the floor with Theo and Meadow and why I’m always smelling the top of your head.

It’s why I drag you to sunset and to church every week.

I’m just filling up with beauty- because I want to be beautiful.

Tish, you will meet plenty of people in your life who are pretty but haven’t yet taken the time to be beautiful. They will have the right look for the times- but they will not glow. Beautiful women glow. When you are with a beautiful woman you will not so much notice her hair or skin or body or clothes – because you’ll be distracted by the way she makes you feel. She will be so full of beauty that you will feel some spill onto you. You’ll feel warm and safe and curious around her. Her eyes will twinkle a little and she’ll look at you really closely, Tish- because beautiful, wise women know that the quickest way to fill up with beauty is to soak in another human being. Other people are beauty, beauty, beauty. So you will notice that the most beautiful women take their time with other people. They are just filling up.

Women who are concerned with being pretty think about what they look like, but women who are concerned with being beautiful think about what they are looking at. They are taking it all in. They are taking in the whole beautiful world and making all that beauty theirs to give away to others.

Does that make any sense, baby?”

And Tish said, “I think so. It’s like, when you first wake up, mom. You look really,really bad. Your hair is messy and your face looks weird. But when you see me, your eyes get twinkly. Is that because you think I’m beauty?”

“Yes, baby. I’m filling up with you. Because I want to be beautiful.”


Friends – in 2014 let us decide to be beautiful women. Let us take the time to discover what in this world is beauty to us –  and fill up with it daily.

Being beautiful is a strong position to take.

Love and Peace and Beauty for all-



Dec 282013

I used to live inside my head, but now I live beyond it. This move likely saved my life.

You see – I’ve got voices in my head. These voices are so intense, incessant, distracting, loud, rude, judgmental and afraid that at several points in my life I’ve truly, truly understood  - deep in my bones –  that folks kill themselves to finally get some peace from the voices. Because the voices are that bad. The voices are hell. But yoga and meditation and lots of reading about Eastern philosophy taught me another way to find peace from the voices. We don’t have to wait for heaven to find peace- which is freedom from the voices. Christians need to do a better job of teaching each other about this here and now way instead of just telling folks that things will get better when they die.

Jesus told us over and over that the Kingdom of God is not later or out there  – but now and inside of us. He tried to show us how to access His Kingdom by retreating from the voices and into meditation and prayer several times a day, but we don’t concentrate on that part of Jesus’ life much. Instead of learning to meditate to detach – we Christians tend to identify with the voices in our heads and in the world and choose sides– which is likely why people think of us as judgmental. We don’t have to choose sides. We don’t have to be judges. God is the judge and God doesn’t need our help. We should have faith that God’s got the judging thing under control and let go of all of that. If we let go – we would be less tired and more joyful and that would be much more attractive and true to the world than all the yelling.

Even though I know all of that – the voices in my head still go at it all day. They bicker about who sucks and who is awesome and who is good enough to us and who doesn’t treat us right. They endlessly muse about what we want and what we hate and what we plan and they do all they can to revisit and nurse every past grudge we’ve ever had. The only thing they like better than criticizing others is criticizing me. They talk all day about why I’m the worst or the best or why I’m never going to be good enough. One of their favorite things is to try to get me all riled up – they love trying to make me afraid or mad.  It’s like living inside of a nasty debate all day, every day. I used to think that my job was deciding which voice in every debate was righter. It was up to me to judge- to decide which voice was the least crazy and then base my life decisions upon whatever that voice said. That’s what I did, all day everyday forever.

But one day in yoga class I was getting frustrated and my teacher looked right at me and said: “Fire the judge and hire the witness.”

Judge not, lest ye be judged. I used to think that scripture was just about not pointing out other people’s flaws. Maybe, but I think it’s also about not deciding between the crazy debating voices in our heads- about not offering them any validity by judging one saner than the other. The truth is that we don’t know who or what is good or bad for us or for others. We suck as judges because we just don’t have all the information. This is why god is the only decent judge- because God is the only one who can see the whole picture.

And so through these realizations I learned that my mind is an eternal boxing match and instead of ducking from punches and protecting my face and choosing sides – I can just step outside of the ring. My job in my life is not to get involved with all of the arguments that happen in my head. BECAUSE NONE OF THE VOICES IN MY HEAD ARE REAL.

I am the witness. I am the one noticing those voices. Sitting somewhere beyond them, smiling patiently, undisturbed, letting them fight it out if they must. Peace is not a bird resting on a still pond- it’s a bird sitting snugly and gently and securely in a nest above a raging waterfall. The waterfall is your mind but you can separate from it, sit in this nesty spot above it, and watch it rage by- knowing you are safe. You can find the nest by taking a deep breath and remembering that you are not in the drama. You are not in the play- you are just in the audience – curious about the plot turns but knowing you don’t have to control the actors and that you’ll make it out of the theatre regardless, eventually.

This seismic life shift is how I “handle” all the criticism and praise that is involved with the work I do. Because after I figured out that I don’t have to decide between the voices in my mind- it followed that I don’t have to decide between the voices in the world. Because the whole world is like one giant mind, right? And the debate and talking points and outrage are incessant and endless and intense and also- just noise. They are NOT REAL. What is real is the love and fear behind the voices and that makes us all the same because we are –  each and every one of us –  giant balls of fear and love. So I just try to see past the actual words people say to the energy behind the words people say- the fear and love  - because when I see that I can always smile in recognition: Namaste. I am fear and love, too.

Last night I stumbled across a site that was hosting many comments “about me” and one said: “when she dies, they should put her face down in the coffin” and the one right below said “she is the most amazing woman on Earth.” I just smiled because don’t these sort of dramatic voices sound familiar? I hear them all day internally. Don’t they sound like the ridiculous things we tell ourselves all day? You suck. You are better than the rest. You’ll never be good enough. These voices- whether they are inside or out- they are the waterfall. Let them rage by but don’t jump in for God’s sake- that’s suicide.

There is only one voice that is real and that is the voice of God. God doesn’t speak to me in words or voices, usually. God presents Godself to me with a deep knowing. I come back to that knowing again and again in yoga or meditation or church or in the middle of a deep breath or at sunset or when my kids are asleep and I brush their soft, soft cheeks with my lips gently.  I think this is the place that Jesus refers to as the Kingdom of Heaven – where all is well and that is just understood. Where the debating voices are silenced because I have transcended the waterfall and found myself in the nest  – looking lovingly down at my people and myself and the whole brutiful world in all its messy glory.

I love you.

With unbearable compassion,


Dec 222013

Because of all of the anger and fear and hoopla lately- my minister friend said to me yesterday- I’m so tired of it all. I’m going to leave the church. I’m just gonna leave.

I hear you, friend, I said. Every time I turn off the internet or TV I feel sad and tired too. But, you know, when I leave church I feel reborn and hopeful. So maybe it’s not church we need to leave – maybe it’s the internet?

I have three ministers – Ron, Bev and Dawson.

Ron has spent much of his career passionately pursuing justice for the most marginalized in our society and abroad. He feeds the poor and clothes the naked and advocates at every turn for GLAAD and PLAG in the name of Jesus. He leads interfaith services with the local mosque and synagogue every year. Last week when he lit candles for the families at Newtown, he cried. He doesn’t mind crying about things that are worth crying about. Ron’s wife, Charnley, whom he calls his “beloved” has a car with rainbow bumper stickers all over it. She teaches at our church. I sat down with them when I joined the UCC (the first historically white denomination to ordain an African-American, the first to ordain a woman, the first to ordain an openly gay man, and the first Christian church to affirm the right of same-gender couples to marry) and Ron said to me “so often churches put up road blocks between people and God. Our job is to remove as many as possible.”

Dawson is our new pastor. He gave a brilliant, just ILLUMINATING sermon this morning about how the first words of Christmas are always Fear Not. Dawson said that he heard the message “Fear Not” right before he sat down with his father, a Methodist minister, to announce that he was a gay man.

And just so you know – I’m going to be like Rev Bev when I grow up. I do not understand exactly how her teeny body contains her huge spirit and brain. She was raised Unitarian and I’m told she marched with Martin Luther King. Bev is wise and fierce and steady. I once ran into her at the costume jewelry counter at Dillard’s and we spent a holy fifteen minutes locating the glitteriest brooches available – because Bev needs to sparkle on the outside as much as the inside to even things out a bit.

Oh, and I have to tell you about Susan- Susan is in charge of membership. She spends time up north around campfires with Native American holy folks talking about how we are going to care for mother earth and how we are going to end the divisiveness and pain that religion is causing here. She’s an artist, she knows a lot about holy numbers, she makes a mean clam chowder and when I taught her about “hash tags” she thought they were something else entirely.

I really do think that Ron, Bev, Susan, and Dawson are what they call “Christians.” I don’t know for sure because I’m not God and I’m not poor. Gandhi said, “If you want to know who the Christians are, ask the poor. They’ll tell you who the Christians are.” And Maya Angelou said that when folks tell her that they are Christians she always feels shocked and says, “Really?? Already!??

Listen, the reason we are all so down about “church” this week is that we are calling what is going on online and on TV something it’s not. None of this is about church. You will not find church in Facebook  updates or witty tweets or biting essays or debates. Church is something else. Church is what happens when folks meet face to face and sing together. Church happens when folks who think differently from each other have no computer to hide behind and are forced to shake hands.  Church happens when folks stand shoulder to shoulder and ask God for help. Church is people sweating and serving together. Church is community. Church is not ISSUES and it’s not beliefs and it’s nothing that needs to be defended – for God’s sake. Church is a group of folks working their stuff out together, gently. There is no shortcut to church. It’s slow, and it’s real life, and you have to show up for it.

With all the ugly-ish faces put on the church this past week- I just wanted to share the face of mine – because I think it’s really, really quite beautiful.  And despite what so many online commenters assert- THERE ARE CHURCHES WHERE EVERYBODY’S IN, BABY. Churches like my UCC. We should talk about these places more.

If your church is hurting you or your family members or your friends- find a new one. God loves you more than any institution God made for you.

Love you,