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!


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

Sacred Space

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

Create Sacred Space

I have finally created a space in my home that offers me serenity–an escape from the brightness of the Desert sun.  Thanks to a rich, melted, dark chocolate colored paint, my bedroom has been transformed from a room… into a womb.  I enter that space and immediately sense my body soften and relax.  It has become my indoor sanctuary.

I am working on an outdoor oasis as well. Gardening is a joy for me, but the challenge (on so many levels) of growing a lush, beautiful flower garden in my yard is–for me–nearly futile.  I have discovered, however, that my covered deck is ideal for exercising my greenish thumb. And so my second sanctuary (to relax in when the weather is tolerable and to view when the heat to too oppressive) is beginning to flourish. ( I have a long ways to go to reach top oasis status, as you can see above, but the process itself has been healing.)

I will honestly say I had not fully realized the spiritual, emotional and mental value of these sacred spaces until I created them. Now–I cannot conceive living without them.

With that said, here is your Spiritual Prescription:

Where do you go to experience that sacred peace?  Is there a corner or room in your home?  A place where you can experience a sense of Just Being? of Peace? of Letting Go? of Rejuvenation or Escape?

If you don’t have such a place, wait no longer. Fashion for yourself that sacred space.  Design your Man Cave.  Set up your meditation or reading corner.   Transform a room into a womb.  Remember, it may only take a fresh coat of paint or intentional rearranging of furniture or placement of objects of meaning.  If the outdoors brings you joy, then take the time to grow, seek out, or create your natural oasis.

A simple change would be setting up an altar. Inside or out, arranging specific sacred objects or images can be beautiful and grounding to look at. Check out this altar (on the right) and its creator’s website, which I discovered “serendipitously” looking for an altar image:  Fran’s got wonderful things to share about sacred spaces and more!

So, do it today. Create your Sacred Space.

And tell us here at Desert Sojourn what you came up with and the impact that space has had on your life.

Words of Wisdom…

My maternal grandfather sent this poem to my mom when she was a young mother and told her it was worth reading every day.  I couldn’t agree more.  I continue to be amazed at how timeless it is.  Read each line slowly, considering its place in your life right now. May these words, written nearly 100 years ago, bless your day.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,

be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant;

they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to the virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

In through the nose………And out through the mouth…..

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:


How often do we forget to breathe?  Unless you have sleep apnea, probably never.  But when was the last time you focused just on your breathing—intentionally noticing the air being pulled into your lungs, feeling it linger there, before being released from your body?

Wanna try that now? Here, then, is your Spiritual Prescription:

Find a comfortable sitting position.                                                                                                  

Allow your shoulders to relax.  Let go of the tension in your face.                                                              

Close your eyes…if you’d like. (Probably best, however, to do that after you’ve read all the instructions! 😉 )

Take a deep, loooooong breath in from your nose.  (Resist raising your shoulders as you breathe in.  Allow your belly to expand, instead.                                                                                           

Hold that breath a few seconds.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Now, sloooooowly exhale through your mouth.              

And Repeat. 


P.S. One thing I love doing with this simple breathing exercise is to focus on positive wordshope, love, clarity, peace, surrender–when I am breathing in.  These are things of which I feel spiritually depleted.  As I exhale, I think of a word that represents that which I long to be free of– despair, hatred, aimlessness, anger, controlIf your thoughts stray, no worries.  If your words change, no worries.  Just breathe. 

In at least one of the Buddhist traditions,  the opposite is done.  The negative things of the world are breathed in, and then released  back into the world as the positive. And I say, if I believe as a Christian that my body is the temple of God, the Great Transformer (not to be confused with The Autobots & Decepticons, mind you) why wouldn’t this concept work for me?  Give them both a try! 

P.P.S  By the time I posted this blog entry, I had forgotten my own prescription to breathe.  Easy to do in life, isn’t it?  This blasted entry would NOT post in the way it was viewing on my edit page.  AArrrrrrrgh!  (And in through the nose… and out through mouth. :))

 Peace on your journey!