Lenten Loopholes

We are two weeks into Lent.  How’s that sacrifice going?

Image result for loophole

Well, I’ve got some good news.

If you decided to give something up for Lent, on this Sunday and every Sunday to the end of Lent, you can actually partake in that chocolate, or alcohol, or whatever it was you decided to do without for 40 days.  See, this liturgical season is actually 46 days long, but Sundays don’t count.  I know, right?!

I can’t quite decide if the Sunday clause would be considered a Lenten loophole, but it definitely feels like you’re beating the system if you can break your fast on the Sabbath day, doesn’t it?

Lent isn’t the only time people take advantage of loopholes.  Anyone who is acquainted with preparing taxes could probably tell you about a few loopholes. Loopholes in general can be found everywhere.

Well…just about everywhere.

You might be able to cheat 6 days out of Lent or take advantage of an ambiguity in the IRS tax code, but any loopholes around death are non-existent.

The law of nature is set.

You might be able to cheat death a few times or delay the inevitable, but the truth is, you will die someday.

In my day-to-day work as a hospice chaplain, it continues to amaze me when I encounter elderly people who struggle to accept their mortality.  They have had decades and decades of living and still, they cannot comfortably face that ultimately they are dying as well.

From ashes you came, and ashes you will return.


Part of the purpose of Lent is to face this reality: Death awaits us all.  And in an age-fearing, death-denying culture, we need this liturgical season more than ever.

When we no longer pine for what we had or desperately cling to what we still possess;

when we can be grateful in all times, just living in the moment;

when we can accept that all of this is temporary, that what we call life will end as we know it;

that’s when living in the persistent shadow of death becomes rich beyond measure.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 

–2 Corinthians 4:17-18




Tending the Soul’s Garden

The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail. 

Isaiah 58:11

I keep it no secret that although I enjoy gardening, I am no master gardener.  In fact, any plants that go into my back yard are mostly on their own once they go into the dirt. I occasionally water.  I don’t fertilize. I rarely prune & groom. And…my garden looks about like you would expect!

And here’s the deal.  Our faith is very similar. You get what you put into it!

Image result for small flower garden
Nope. This image is definitely NOT from my garden! 🙂 Photo copied from Pinterest.

If we only occasionally attend worship, and especially when we expect or even demand to be entertained or inspired, then chances are we are anticipating a bountiful crop from an untended vine.  What I’ve noticed for myself, too, is that when I walk away disappointed with a particular worship service, I have had to admit that I have been leaning on Sunday mornings to be my only spiritual nourishment.

It’s just not enough.

Experiencing the Holy, noticing Divine synchronicity, feeling spiritually grounded happens when we actively tend to our faith.

This means in addition to attending worship that we commit to a daily spiritual practice like intentional prayer time (not just praying on the fly, which has it’s own value but doesn’t enable a deeper time with the Holy).  We read a devotional each day that offers words of wisdom that may find their way into the day in unexpected ways.  We listen to religious or spiritual music as a wonderful way to nourish the soul and reflect on our faith.  As I’ve written before in the past, even seeking a Holy message in secular music can be satisfying, if not a surprising way to tend to ourselves. And equally important, we spend time with other spiritual sojourners (in a prayer and share group or Bible Study). Often God speaks to us through their witnessing, their prayers, their understanding of scripture. As we receive encouragement and support in our own walk and can, in return, provide the same to others on their own spiritual journey. We grow together!

So…How’s that tending the soul going in your life?  Is your spiritual garden in need of some TLC…some weeding or watering or fertilizing?

What I continue to learn in my work as a hospice chaplain and in my own life, is that when our faith is tended to, when time is being spent in prayer, and study, and fellowship, there is a resiliency, a core strength that grows, enabling us to endure the hardest of times and delight in the best of times.

And with that I say, “Let’s get going!”

Put on those gardening gloves, get into your spiritual garden, and start tending to it.

You will be grateful you did!


Pass Love, Not Judgment

From: hdwallpaper2013.com

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



A Few Kind Words


Today’s Spiritual Prescription

It is not uncommon for my hospice patients, especially those who have dementia, to repeat phrases.  This time was a unique experience.  At a recent visit with a beloved  patient of mine, he repeatedly uttered,  “…a  few kind words.”  It wasn’t even a complete sentence, yet he continued saying it again and again.

Some agitation began to bubble up for him, so with each “…a few kind words,” I spoke my own words of kindness: You are loved.  Thank you.  What a beautiful day.  I like your hat.  I acknowledged  the importance of speaking kindly and highlighted the caring words and acts witnessed around us.

He then anxiously stated he needed to get up and go (something he is physically unable to do). “You are exactly where you need to be right now” I told him.   “Oh…..okay,” he responded with relief.  As his body softened back into his recliner, I realized those were my best kind words yet, ones of assurance allowing him to return to the moment and to just be.

And now your Spiritual Prescription:

Speak words of kindness.  Not tomorrow.  Today.

Thank someone for their positive actions.

Say “I love you” more often.

Compliment a child.

Recognize the gifts of another.

(The opportunities are endless.)

Proverbs 16:24 reads:

Gracious words are a honeycomb,

sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

In a world of cheap and hurtful words, especially in the digital world of trolls and mean tweets, let’s offer one another a few kind words, bringing sweetness to the soul and healing to the bones!