Love Always Wins.

Image result for lent imagesAnd just like that, Lent is here.

I have been pondering this liturgical season for several weeks.  How much did I care to or desire to delve into it?  What would I give up? What kind of spiritual practice could I take on?

I love that Pope Francis in the past has encouraged the harder things to be sacrificed.  Forget chocolate, and swearing, and smoking, the Pope takes it to a higher level asking that we give up things like indifference.  Why? Because Lent is not only a time to spiritually prepare for all that Easter represents and promises, but to move deeper into becoming the people God has created us to be.  A 40-day surrender of something is great. It allows us to consider the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made.  But that’s not the endgame.  We are called to remove it from our lives forever.

I recently came upon these words written by Dax, my friend and transgender, desert sage :

Some things I am learning:

Anger, fear and hate is finite, limited and diminishing.

Love is not.

Anger, fear and hate occur when we are idle.

Love occurs with action.

The energy expended for fear/hate is the largest taxation of the soul.

The energy expended for love is replenished again and again.

It is a constant flow that does not waiver.

Love has the best exchange rate ever dealing in realities of infinite

while hate languishes and grapples and clings and begs as it dies.

Love always wins.




Unusual  words to welcome Lent, but they are befitting.  In these tumultuous times, we cannot afford to just refrain from our vices for a mere 40 days.  What is required is spiritual transformations.   These days demand we dare to peer into our own darkness, to get at the roots of our being, and rip out that which is a “taxation of the soul.”

But do we dare?  Are we even capable?

This Lent, quiet your mind and examine your heart.  Allow the Divine to reveal that which is preventing you from being all that God has created you to be.  Is it indifference, hate, fear, or judgment?  Is it prejudice, resentment, or anger?

This Lent, be replenished by Love and render your heart free of all that is a taxation of the soul.

Cling to the promise that love always wins.


What is Your Joy Meter?

I recently offered condolences to a friend whose adult son had died suddenly. As we conversed, I was pleasantly surprised to glimpse a very strong resiliency within her.  She expressed the positive things experienced during and after his death and highlighted her gratitude in seeing another side of her son through his friends.  She was thankful as well to have gained an unexpected closeness to so many of them.

Curious, I questioned how these resilient traits of optimism and gratitude were formed.  Many years ago, she explained, she had become severely disabled by her fibromyalgia.  In her search for healing, she discovered that when she got to the root of her emotional state AND resolved that which troubled her emotionally or mentally, her body would respond positively.

She learned most of all that forgiveness, optimism and gratitude impacted her health the most.  Her fibromyalgia had become her “joy meter.”  If her symptoms began rearing up their ugly heads, then joy was down in her life.  Instead of stuffing away the problems of her life, she would evaluate, find that broken area, and mend it right away.

I couldn’t agree more.  In my own life I know that my MS symptoms often get more pronounced when I’m under stress or in emotional turmoil.

And for you?  What is your joy meter?  How do you know when there are areas in your life that need to be addressed?

Today Spiritual Prescription:

Mentally scan your body. (After each question, you may want to close your eyes and breath deeply as you listen to your body…)

Where do you hurt? Where are you carrying tension? Have you been more sick lately?  If you have a chronic illness, is it under control or have symptoms bubbled up lately?

Now take an emotional and mental scan. 

What is worrying you the most in your life right now? With whom are you in conflict or irritated?  What needs are being left unmet?  Are any emotions like anger, greed, resentment, depression, shame, or anxiety ruling your mind and heart these days?


Our bodies and minds are very much connected. One absolutely impacts the other.

Take time to discover your joy meter and
allow Forgiveness, Optimism, and Gratitude to bring you back into balance.


In the End, It’s all Grief

Lately I’ve been working on a theory that under all the emotional baggage we carry—the regret, anger, control issues, fear, resentment, and shame—there actually lies grief or sorrow.  I experienced this first hand recently.

I was cleaning out my files and came across the summary of a church survey from 10 years ago.  The survey had been the beginning of the end for me as pastor of that congregation.  Even before the unsanctioned survey was sent to church members, my anxiety had been through the roof, my health was deteriorating, and my attempt at doing it ALL (from full time ministry to parenting two small children to managing our home life) was failing miserably. It was such a painful, difficult time for me.

As I read the comments in my kitchen, both positive and negative, the emotions came flooding back:  the regrets in all that I did not accomplish; the deep shame in having let people down; the resentment of those who spoke critically of me; the fear of failure and rejection I carried into the jobs that followed. Regret, shame, resentment, and fear.  Powerful emotions. But in the end, all I could do was quietly weep. Until seeing that survey summary, I had no idea that grief had been buried so deep. I had dealt with all the other emotions, but grief—she had lain dormant.

And so it is with much of life.

We move through it often numb to the losses we have experienced, oblivious to the ways our emotional baggage weigh us down. I’m grateful for those kitchen tears and pray I continue to grieve the many losses experienced in that ministry.  More than that, I am moved to remember all of the blessings that came out of that time—the incredible landscape and seasons of Vermont we experienced, the life-long friendships gained, the lessons learned, the spiritual growth attained.

No longer remain in denial about the baggage you, too, are carrying. 

Open those boxes, duffle bags, backpacks, steamer trunks—any and all emotional baggage—and unpack the fear, regret, shame, anger, control, and resentments.  And when it is all said and done, grieve.  Weep for all that has been lost, all that cannot be changed.

But do not stop there.  Remember that in the midst of the sorrow, joy will appear.  She may come in unexpected ways, but she is promised to us nonetheless:

From Jeremiah 31:13 (The Message)

Young women will dance and be happy,
    young men and old men will join in.
I’ll convert their weeping into laughter,
    lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.

So grieve and lament…and trust that, in time, joy will come rushing in!

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!




Shut Up!

GossipConsider this:

The last time you spoke about someone else (or texted or posted), what words came out of your mouth?  In what kind of light did you place her or him?  What information did you divulge about this person? And what motivated you to do so in the first place?

In less time than it took for the woman to cut my son’s hair, we learned that her neighbors were from Afghanistan, worked for the government, were  “a bit shady” and had a brain-injured relative with an annoying stutter whom she intentionally, of course, avoided.

Her son, who had a child when he was way too young, was worthless and her step-grandson was a delinquent and not to be trusted.  It was exhausting listening to her negative ramblings.  But as I left the barber shop, I had to admit—I was no saint when it came to speaking about others.  I, too, have freely participated in gossip and slander more times than I care to admit. (I suppose I’m doing it even now…)

And what about you?

Are you guilty of sharing information or telling stories about another person that ultimately wasn’t any of your damn business to pass on? Do you enjoy gossiping?


If so…here is your spiritual prescription: 


Before you speak, shut your mouth and consider why you are sharing information about another individual.

What purpose does sharing fulfill?  Are you sharing because you feel better about yourself when you highlight the faults of others?  Do you find humor or satisfaction in the mistakes, shortfalls or foolish tragedies of someone else?

Are you even aware of your words, or like the woman cutting my son’s hair, are you oblivious to your negative tendencies? Or consider this: Are you speaking unkindly of someone else because you are angry with or resentful of this person and actually need to work on forgiveness?

Pay attention to your conversations this week.  Before opening your mouth, first consider why you are eager to share. If sharing is motivated by pride, ego, maliciousness, payback or even boredom, don’t do it.

Shut up and move on to another subject.

Would you or your audience be embarrassed if the subject of your conversation overheard you talking about him or her?   Would that individual be hurt or embarrassed?

If so, then keep your mouth shut.

Make the effort today (and every day for the rest of your life) to restrain from participating in gossip and slander.  It is not what builds a spiritually healthy self and certainly not the definition of a follower of Christ.

Scripture to ponder:

Let there be no more resentment, no more anger or temper, no more violent self-assertiveness, no more slander and no more malicious remarks. Be kind to each other, be understanding. Be as ready to forgive others as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:31-32, “The New Testament in Modern English”, J. B. Phillips, 1962 edition by HarperCollins