Archive for July, 2012

GRATITUDE: When Life Blooms in Suffering

July 22nd, 2012 (No Comments)

I usually avoid my computer on Sundays; finding that Sabbath discipline to be normally particularly helpful. But today I had to come indoors, out of the quiet of the garden, to put in words the overflow of gratitude that comes after lingering days of drought. It’s not just about the joy of the replenishing rain we received this past week, nor only about the stunning splendor of the summer garden after so much hard work—it’s about the constant bounty of diverse people who  populate my life with their uniqueness. As I stop and recognize this parade of blessing, I can only consider myself richly blessed. Let me try to describe some moments from yesterday and some of people that have been bringing joy to my heart.


First thing in the morning, Uli and I sat in our inter-faith group that has been meeting monthly for over three years, and listened to our friend Nevan speak about her Islamic faith. She eloquently and passionately described the “ground of her being” that springs from another Abrahamic tradition. How profound to hear once again that our commonality in faith is greater than our difference. How connecting to hear of her struggle with fundamentalism, just as we struggle with the extreme elements of our Christian tradition. How inspiring for me to find some of her words be “the truth” that I needed to hear that day, that reminded me of the wellspring of Love that abounds at the core of all of our inter-connected lives.


From there I left to come back to Stonehaven for the beginning of a year-long “Yoga in the Garden” series that Jenni-Kay is teaching about her deep learning from ancient Hindu philosophy, that which links body and soul in movement and meditation; that can bring mindfulness and balance to everyday life. As I planted my feet in warrior pose, grounded on this land at Stonehaven, I was aware of a current of power that constantly has guided me, from my Christian missionary roots in Africa, to this day. I sensed the connection of the One in my life in whom I truly “live and move and have my being.” It is interesting how others say the same thing about their visits here.

Laura, a first time visitor, while marveling at the garden yesterday, looked at me and said in the words of an angel: “You have all that you need here. How could you want anything more?” Little does she know of my struggles of only a few days ago, when I was sure I needed more than I had! Thank you Laura! How often do I have to learn that, like gardening, the ‘garden of my life’ grows slowly, and on time—despite drought, flood, fire, or human suffering of every kind. The core of Spirit in each of us grows with a tenacity and perseverance that outlasts every outward circumstance of life. It is in working through these hardships that we mostly learn the soulful journey of faith. The rest is all grace.

This morning while meditating with fine writing from Cynthia Bourgeault, I experienced an abundance of gratitude that released my soul to swim into the deeper currents of Love, into that which sustains us all, through all the horrors of human depravity such as what we saw this week in Aurora and in Syria. As I think of the heritage I pass on to my grandchildren, (whose parents thankfully have protected them from the life of ‘the Joker’), I am grateful that I can pass on the treasured gift of this global generation, a heritage of multi-faceted Wisdom. What gift to set aside the anxious fears of our lives and open wide to this larger Circle of Life, that which comes wrapped and hidden, in so many, many diverse forms.

Diversity in the Garden

So join me in welcoming diversity into your life. Come celebrate community with us, and when your spirit needs solace, rest and be quiet in the garden.  You have all that you need.



Democracy and Freedom

July 9th, 2012 (No Comments)

Here at Stonehaven we celebrated July 4th with a Global Picnic with 80 guests representing 52 countries (of origin or parental origin) Our Devon inter-faith group, our neighbors, and the board of the Dialogue Institute welcomed 19 Middle Eastern students here on a grant from the State Department.

We relished platefuls of international delicacies, and thoughtful  music in Arabic and English from Farah Siraj, but above all we enjoyed the joyful privilege of meeting together – united under the common purpose of the  freedom to dialogue and play together as human beings.


What a gift we have as American citizens to meet freely and celebrate diversity, yet how often  we huddle in tribal enclaves or houses of  religious identity.  That evening was a phenomenal gift – to relish our global commonality, where ultimately we found out (as always), that we are all more alike than different.



Stonehaven is our home and we have offered it to God as a place for reflective conversation in community and also a place for solitude. Stonehaven is a place to listen to the voice of nature that speaks to our deepest soul. We continue to create this sacred space with a lot of blood, sweat and tears but fundamentally this property is dedicated to paying attention to the heart of what truly matters in life. Thus, after Farah sang, just as the fireflies were starting to pop, we invited the group to meet in small groups and consider a few provocative questions. We hoped to stir the pot with more intentional conversation – and it worked!


1)      Introduce yourself by telling us how you celebrate personal freedom in your life, or tell a short story of a place or a situation that comes to your mind when you think of freedom.

2)      What global aspect of freedom would you like to offer to your grandchildren?

3)      How do you make meaning of the conflict and tension inherent in holding both personal independence and communal connections?  How do you work out the limits of individual freedom in light of the need for the common good?

I invite you to try to answer these questions yourself. Like one young woman from Saudi Arabia said to me later, “I thought I knew my answer to what freedom means to me, but when I started talking I surprised myself. It was like  I was saying things I knew, but  had never really spoken – I had so much to say.”

The Inner Teacher in each of our lives delights in the opportunity to speak!

If this topic challenges you to do some more thinking, check out Parker Palmer’s new Huffington Post 4th July blog