Sunrise Service

Every Easter of my childhood, we gathered at the lake on the hill above the church where my father was the pastor and as the sun crept up over the lake, our voices echoed: “Christ is risen!” “He is risen, indeed!” The youth group provided the breakfast and we broke bread together in the morning chill before heading to the big sanctuary for the formal service, complete with soaring organ singing alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

flowered cross

Later, I led a smaller congregation who gathered at Lake Ontario in the still-winter dark, standing in the cold, and often the snow, to await the rising of the sun and of Christ. Then we would go to our church and fill the empty cross standing on the lawn with the flowers we had carried.

Today, I slept long past sunrise, arrived late for the service, cried through the Hallelujah Chorus – who knows why? Except, why not? And still I was blessed with a Sunrise Service, the sweet words of local poet, Mendy Knott. I share them with you.  Continue Reading →

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Solitude and Solidarity: Thoughts on Turning 52

Eight years ago, on the first week of March, my husband of 14 years moved out of the house we had purchased together only eight months before.  That same week I got my first real job offer for any position not related to the church. Ever. The following week I turned 44. After the hands-down-worst-year-ever of my life, the chance for a fresh new start brought liberation and relief. Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” played almost every day on the radio and became my manifesto. “Feel the rain on your skin. No one else can feel it for you …”

This month, I am settling into my new home. For eight years the house I never wanted–the house of broken memories–had also become the house where my son grew up, the house where I took a leap of faith into self-employment, the house where I fell in love again. And then again. The new memories patched the old ones and put on a fresh coat of paint. But the structural integrity of the foundation of my life there never felt entirely stable.

5th Birthday PartyToday I turn 52. Continue Reading →

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Yes, I Did Vaccinate My Child.

While not many of my friends are climate deniers or creationists, plenty of them are happy to throw science out the window and put children and vulnerable adults at risk by refusing to vaccinate their children. I’ve seen links to some really goofy pages recently in their defense. How about we read peer-reviewed journals instead, folks?J Infect Dis. 2004 May 189(Supplement 1) S1-3, Figure 1

My theory is that smart people throw reason out the window when faced with a deep fear reaction. But decisions made from fear are not rational – we see this daily in the news. We become afraid of the wrong things. We become afraid of Muslims instead of the extreme poverty situations that breed terrorism. We become afraid of environmental regulations killing jobs instead of afraid of the destruction to our water systems caused by fracking or to entire eco-systems due to mountain-top removal of coal. Continue Reading →

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Making other plans …

IMG_8649When I was a teenager I had a poster on my wall that said, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” This was before John Lennon sang “Beautiful Boy” so even though he gets lots of credit for some version of this quote now, I can attest I had the poster first.

I started 2015 with lots of plans. This blog. A series of retreats. Ideas for workshops and public speaking and opening a new spiritual direction practice. My mind was whirling with interesting schemes. I felt ready to start dating again after last year’s heart-break. I set my word for the year as discipline and wrote down goals for numbers of miles I’d be walking and number of words I’d be writing and number of retreats I’d be leading.

And then, life.  Continue Reading →

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Where do we look for our epiphanies?

10917901_10152737213312739_4959223294554395526_nWho doesn’t love those a-ha moments when you understand something in a new way or for the first time – something about your life or your work or what you’re called to do and be in this world or about someone you love or about the world itself or about God?

Usually these moments get triggered by something outside of us –the astonishing taste of the eggs, perhaps, or a star in the sky as the Epiphany story of the Magi in the Bible describes. But if we’re waiting on the big new star to catch our eyes kind of epiphany, we might miss the taste of the eggs kind of epiphany.

Pema Chödrön, in her book, The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, tells about a cartoon where the drawing is of an astonished looking man saying “What was that?” and the caption below reads, “Bob experiences a moment of well-being.”

Continue Reading →

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Let’s Have an Epiphany

Hi Dolls,

Happy 2015. Next Sunday in West Asheville I’ll be holding my first “micro-retreat” of the year. You can find more details here.

You can email me with any questions.

Or check out the facebook page.

Suggested donation of $20. Everyone is welcome, but I do need to know if you are coming because space is limited and materials will be provided.

Hope to see you there.

Laura

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Belovedness

I wrote this piece several years ago and was reminded of it yesterday during a baptism and so I offer it now.

“And wh20140223_160540_1en Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”

After all those years as the preacher’s kid or the preacher, I can’t quite shake the habit of Sunday morning services. These days I often attend an odd spiritual community that meets in a rehabbed downtown storefront. We sit in folding chairs arranged in concentric circles around a delicately carved sculpture of the earth hanging from the ceiling. The band plays pop, folk, and reggae standards in their own jazzy style.

A renegade and now defrocked Methodist minister, who also happens to be a jazz musician, started this community (which is not a church and does not worship, but celebrates, and not in a sanctuary but in the celebration center, and has no sermons, though the minister stands and talks for 20 minutes every week … you get the idea). Jubilee, as it is named, likes to call itself interfaith because we can point to a handful of Buddhists and Jews and Pagans among the membership and plenty of folks who don’t like the idea of going to church, much less a Christian church. Nonetheless, it is a church with a Christian minister who routinely performs more or less Christian baptisms.

Which routinely make me cry. Continue Reading →

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In the Beginning … Darkness

It’s December 23 and we in the Northern Hemisphere have now endured the longest night of the year and emerged on the other side, anticipating a little more light each day. And, oh, how we need the light. It’s true every year. There is no year when violence and poverty and fear disappear. Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of light during a period of revolt against those who had defiled and profaned the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Christmas emerged under the Roman occupation of Judea and the forced taxation of the poor to fund their oppressors. And this year, the longest night of the year follows an uprising against the deep-seated racism that has shaped this nation and continues to devalue black lives.

GaneshaWanting to honor the Solstice, I spent the afternoon doing Yoga Nidra, a practice of deep meditation.  Continue Reading →

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Eyes and Sight and Vision and Such

Not to go all woo-woo on my new readers right away, but I do love me some good metaphorical thinking. So when I went to the eye doctor this week because an injury did not seem to be healing and I discovered that I have acquired a condition known as Corneal Erosion, I wondered what this might mean for me in the realm of symbol.

I wondered, that is, after I went into a brief panic about encroaching blindness and, perhaps more importantly, the realization that my month of not wearing my contacts or eye make-up would need to continue into the indefinite future. Life-long disability I would handle with grace and aplomb, I felt sure, but walking around with a squinty little swollen red eye for the rest of my life? I crumbled into a vain heap on my bed at the thought. “I used to be cute,” I cried into my pillow. Continue Reading →

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Present Moment

Waking up this morning, I smile.Knotted tree
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
And to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh’s Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

As I began this blog, a beloved Buddhist teacher appeared to be lying in that tender place between life and death. Thich Nhat Hanh became a Buddhist monk in Vietnam when he was still a teen. When war came to Vietnam, monks and nuns were confronted with the question of whether to stay meditating in the monasteries or to help those around them suffering under the bombings and turmoil of war. Thich Nhat Hanh chose to do both, and in doing so founded the Engaged Buddhism movement.

I didn’t learn about his peace activism or his mindfulness teaching until I was in my 30s, a Presbyterian minister living in Rochester, NY. The first book I read was his little book of “Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living” quoted above. Simple and beautiful, a few of the verses slipped easily into my own spiritual vocabulary. “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.” Years later, I would use this verse each time I led a meditation day or retreat. Continue Reading →

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