Pass Love, Not Judgment


Lately I’ve been telling more of my patients that they are loved.

And when I personalize it, when I tell them, “I love you,” the response is often overwhelming for both parties.  I spoke those three words to an elderly woman recently.  Initially, I had intended only to reassure her that she was loved.  “You know you are loved, right?” When she asked me what I had said,  I simplified my message: I love you.  This beloved patient of mine quickly covered her face with her hands, began to weep, and shared in a whisper that she loved me too.  Another woman, a former drug addict estranged from her family, in disbelief embraced me with her bony body after my expression of love to her.

Powerful words I love you.

1 John chapter 4 talks about divine love.  “God is love” we read in verse 16. “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

I wasn’t exactly living in love last night for sure!

Sadly I spent a good portion of the evening with my husband judging people at a Jackson Browne concert we attended for FREE.   I found one woman in particular rather agitating as she quickly quelched any and all dancing that erupted in her vicinity where she sat on the ledge of a main walk way.  “Who is SHE to stop others from swaying and moving to the music?” I thought throughout the concert. “What a joyless woman! She isn’t even in the official seating, grassy knoll or assigned seats.  She chose to sit in a main throughway.  She should just deal with it or move.”

From 1 John 4: 11-12: Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Perhaps I needed to whisper words of love and kindness to the grumpy woman at the concert even more than I already do with my patients.  Perhaps I should have followed my instinct (when I wasn’t being so judgmental!) and invited her to join us on our blanket away from the dancers and endless by-passers.

In truth, instead of passing judgment, I should have passed along some divine love, whereby expanding God’s residency within me and maybe, just maybe, even within her!

Today and everyday, my friends…Pass love, not judgment!




The Ebb and Flow of Life

A Meditative Morsel

Life review is a common spiritual practice in which I lead my hospice patients.  It is an opportunity for them to tell me about such things as their childhood, career,  time spent as a parent, or their adventures through life.  Often life review becomes a pathway to healing those lingering regrets, deep guilt, or broken relationships.  Ultimately, it is a practice that can lead to the acceptance of one’s mortality and embracement of his or her belief in what comes after death. I found this  quote recently which seemed to reflect this aspect of my work beautifully!

Whatever your beliefs, may you be at peace with the ebb and flow of your life.


“We see the water of a river

flowing uninterruptedly and passing away,

And all that floats on its surface—

rubbish or beams of trees—

all passes by.

Christian!  So it is with our life…

I was an infant, and that time has gone.

I was an adolescent, that that too has passed.

I was a young man, and that is also far behind me.

The strong and mature man that I was is no more.

My hair turns white, I succumb to age, but that too passes away;

I approach the end and will go the way of all flesh.

I was born in order to die.

I die that I may live.

Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom!”

Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh



Cast Away the Could-Have-Beens!

“You broke two promises, Mom.”broken promises

Not one broken promise, but TWO, my daughter informed me over the phone as she vacationed with friends in Arizona.

I did not relish hearing my daughter declare those words, but I knew they were probably the same thoughts echoed in the mind of my son who was also spending time this summer in Arizona.  I had promised them a few years back when we lived there that a) we wouldn’t move anytime soon and b) I would stop looking for jobs in cooler climates until they were older.

Now in my defense, I don’t recall “promising” them these things, but I do remember speaking about such plans.

In the Spring of 2012, I had finally—after 5 years of struggle—settled into the idea of southern Arizona being home, despite my best efforts to escape it.  I shared with my family that moving would make more sense in 2015 when our son graduated from high school and our daughter, from eighth grade.

When I applied 6 months later for the job that brought us to Oregon, I truly never thought I’d be hired.  Call it a whim. Or nostalgia.  I had attended the University of Oregon and returning to Eugene had a strong appeal.

When I think about those broken promises I can’t help but question if my stumbling across that job posting was a sign from God?  Was Oregon truly the direction my road dividedfamily and I were called to go?

Or was I confusing my desires to be in a cooler, greener climate with God’s will?

I meet many people at the end of their lives who question if they went down the right path or made the right decisions.  It’s about the could-have-beens.

Questions linger for these people: What if I had married someone else?  What if I had quit drinking or smoking sooner?  What if I had said yes? What if I hadn’t been fired?

Do similar questions bubble up for you?

Life is full of such unanswerable questions for all of us, my own family included. We won’t ever know how it might have been had we stayed in Arizona.  Ever.  We could hypothesize, but ultimately, we won’t know.

My family and I can only be certain of today, and trust that in the decision to move to Oregon, God’s spirit was somehow, and still is, at work.

Consider these words from Romans 8:28 (Translation: The Voice):

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.

I hope that my children will learn to cast away their could-have-beens.

As they continue to adjust and accept their new lives here in Oregon, I will trust that God is indeed orchestrating something good and beautiful for their lives. May their love for the Holy grow as well, enabling my children to always see the blessings around them.

Let this be true for you as well. 

Cast away the could-have-beens and seek that which is good and beautiful in your life every day! 





The Dormant Soul

One thing I loved about living in Vermont was witnessing the frozen land burst forth in new life when spring would finally come around. “How is it,” I would marvel each year, “that all these beautiful plants successfully remain dormant through the long frigid winter and reappear in such splendor?

cactus in bloom3
Our neighbor’s cactus in it’s springtime glory.

After four years in the Green Mountain State, my family and I moved to Arizona, the land of eternal sunshine—over 300 days of the year.

Spring did exist and had a unique beauty to it, but it was not the same as the yearly dramatic resurrection of the New England landscape.

I was looking back on a journal entry from my early days in the desert.  I was so desperate to move back to a cooler climate where the landscape’s changes were distinct from season to season.

I was surviving in the Sonoran desert, but not thriving.  I wrote that my very soul had become dormant in that place.


A great word.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it means:

(1) :  being in a state of suspended animation (2) :  not actively growing but protected (as by bud scales) from the environment

“Not actively growing but protected from the environment.” That’s exactly how I felt.  A majority of my energy went toward protecting myself from the environment.  I was alive, but not growing in splendor.

As I have learned in my ministry with the dying, one’s soul can be dormant for many different reasons.

We protect ourselves from past traumas, whether consciously or subconsciously, by diminishing or burying the experience. We look past our own transgressions, unwilling to acknowledge the havoc or pain we have wreaked in our own lives or the life of another. We continue to view ourselves negatively as others have defined us, not as God has, beautiful and beloved.

We have no desire or are unable to grow spiritually.

We do not hunger for the transformative experiences where the healing powers of unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness are discovered.

One of my favorite, inspiring quotes is from author Anaïs Nin:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom. 

Perhaps for many, the hunger for inner growth is not powerful enough to demand action.  But for others, it becomes too painful to remain where they are.

The lack of purpose weighs too heavy.  The level of anxiety is no longer acceptable.  The addiction has caused too much destruction. Rage and resentments have become too crippling; the number of broken relationships, too many;  depression, too deep.

Whatever the catalyst, being “tight in a bud” is no longer a viable choice.   The soul can remain dormant no more. The risk to blossom, to heal and grow spiritually, becomes the necessary path.

That was true for me while living in the desert.  My depression was growing with each day I faced.  The longing to move was transitioning into an obsession. By Spring of 2012 it was clear I had to change.

I shared here at Desert Sojourn of my soul’s transformation:

Within the last few months, I have come to terms with my life here in the land of endless summer. I have ceased compulsively striving away from the Now and have accepted that this desert is my home.  I have been able to let go.


That was such a turning point for me.  In fact, I had not noticed until now that in July, that following month, I posted more than ever.  My blossoming soul, no longer dormant, was enjoying a glorious springtime resurrection! Thanks be to God!

And what about you?  Are you experiencing a dormancy of your own soul?  Has it become too painful to remain in that frozen state?

Stay alert.  Rest in prayer and meditation.  And trust that God’s grace will move your very being into a season of healing and new life!

May you take that risk…and blossom!




Laugh WITH Yourself

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

I absolutely relish the ridiculous and often embarrassing things that have happened to me.

A pastor and her flock

Choosing a can of kippered herring as a quick, on-the-go lunch then proceeding to eat it in my car, for instance, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.  I realized this only after the oily, fish juices came pouring out of the half eaten can when I made a sudden stop.  What a horrendous, smelly mess that was!

Or what about the time I was trying to comfort a woman who was actively dying after months of being on our hospice program?

Although she was facing the wall, I tried my best to comfort her through song and prayer. She continued to be restless despite my best efforts and seemed to be trying to speak.

Assuming it might be important last words or a final request, I squeezed my way between her bed and the wall. Finally. I could see her face and hear her words more clearly.

And that I did.  With no hesitation she clearly told me, “Get…OUT!”

Ah yes.  That wasn’t the first or last time I would miss the mark as a chaplain.

Honestly, I treasure these moments.  They remind me to not take life so seriously.*

And now your Spiritual Prescription:

Laugh with yourself. 


Note—I did not say “Laugh at yourself.”  This is not about belittling yourself.

It is about celebrating life and remembering to lighten up.

It’s about remembering that, like it or not, you are not perfect.  In fact, no one is!

Words to consider from Proverbs 15:15…

A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song. (The Message)


So laugh with yourself and let your heart be ever cheerful.


* Last night I was horrified to discover I had accidentally posted this Spiritual Prescription weeks ago unfinished.  Heaven forbid! I was certainly NOT laughing at first, but I’m getting there!