The Power of a Name

Every name is real. That is the nature of names.”
~Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl

Names. How did you come by yours? I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t have some story about their name…who chose it…whether they like it or not…what they’d rather be called instead. Names hold power and history and help us mark our spot in the unfolding of our lives and our world. And while I do not remember the feeling of making the letters of my own name for those first tries, I have watched many a child, my own included, do the painstaking movement of each letter that would eventually be the triumph of their name scrawled in black and white for the purpose of saying, “I was here.”

This past weekend I walked through the Museum of Art in Chicago and was once again gobsmacked by the beauty and creativity of the painters. Particularly the Impressionists. I am not sure why these paintings, this style grabs my heart so, but they do. The colors, the brush strokes, the evocative landscapes that draw you in as you feel your pulse slow and rest in an image that speaks of what is both real and hoped for…a beauty that transcends time. I stood and soaked it all in and allowed the gift of the artist to provide a balm of both inspiration and healing.

As I was gazing upon the paintings I began to notice the signatures of the artist often placed in a lower corner of the canvas. I became mesmerized by looking at the names realizing that it really was the name that made the painting real for me. I wondered about the signature…how did the artist choose to be finished? Was the signature an afterthought or was there genuine pride and satisfaction with what they had created? Seeing the name written in a corresponding color became very powerful declaring the artist’s presence.

We sign our name many times every day. Sometimes we do this with great care…when we want to be truly known as we send off a card to someone we love. Other times we scribble an illegible series of marks that would be difficult to decipher as having anything to do with who we are. I wonder sometimes at the many times I swipe a credit card and use my finger to sign my name…How could anyone ever trace this signature back to me?!

What we give our name to is important. I think the artists knew this when they signed their paintings and said to the world, “ This is mine. I made this. I dreamed this. I offer this now to you…in my name.”

As I observe our world right now people are giving their names to acts and decisions that are having grave consequences for the most vulnerable among us. I wonder if, in a few weeks or or months or years, they will be proud that their name is on the canvas they have painted. I wonder if those who gave them their name would stand by them in what they have created. What we sign in our name has lasting legacy.

Names are important. We are wise to think and act carefully as we add our signature in the world. It will likely be remembered for years to come.


At any time you can ask yourself: At which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it? A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres. Indeed, it is a lovely testimony to the fullness and integrity of an experience or a stage of life that it intensifies toward the end into a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up
~ John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

They begin to arrive sometime in early May. The mail carrier delivers the envelope with the photo of a young, fresh face gazing toward a camera held by a professional or a doting parent. There is always a smile. Sometimes the card also carries an image of this same face, recognizable but so much younger, a treasured memory of the child that has now become a young adult, now being launched into the world. These invitations to graduation parties find their way to refrigerator doors and other areas where they can accompany the receiver in daily acts, their presence a reminder of the passing of years, the making of moments.

Their faces and the promise of their lives are reminders of the thresholds that shape our lives. We mark them. We celebrate them. Sometimes we mourn what has been. We are filled with expectation for what is yet to be, unknown, to be discovered. If we are willing, we are aware that the threshold is a place of movement from what has been toward what will be. Thresholds are powerful and always present.

I was reminded of this last week for many reasons. Not only have I been gazing upon the faces of high school graduates I have known since they were born but I also crossed my own threshold into the world of retirement. And one of my younger colleagues is about to make a leap into a new life, a new world of being as he moves to California. In talking with him we shared some conversation about the strangeness and yet the excitement of this movement. I used the word ‘threshold’ to describe it.

Threshold is not a word that comes up much in every day language. But saying it aloud, I realize it has stuck with me. I have noticed how I have been saying the word in my head with regularity and noticing the many thresholds, doorways, that get crossed in any given day. And I have also noticed how ‘threshold’ is both actual, literal, and a marvelous metaphor. Which, of course, is what John O’Donohue the wise, prophetic poet was referring to…inviting the reader to consider to fullest range of this word.

“…it is a lovely testimony to the fullness and integrity of an experience or a stage of life that it intensifies toward the end into a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up.”

The graduates whose thresholds are before them in numerous ways are embarking on frontiers that will take them to places they never imagined, meeting people that will challenge and surprise. This always happens when our hearts are being passionately engaged and we are awake. And this threshold gift is offered to each of us, no matter our life stage, when we are willing to open our hearts to the what next, to the expansive nature of the Universe, to see the world with Sacred Eyes.

My prayer is that each of us, graduate or otherwise, find amazing ways for our hearts to be passionately engaged and woken up. It seems to me the future or our world depends upon it.





Bathed in Blessing

“The object of pilgrimage is not rest and recreation-to get away from it all. To set out on a pilgrimage is to throw down a challenge to every day life.”
~ Foreword by Huston Smith in The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau

Pilgrim. Pilgrimage. These are two words, two concepts I did not anticipate would be such a significant part of my life, my identity. And yet, like many of life’s twists and turns these seemingly ancient words have come to define for me the outflowing of my life experience. Over the last years, I have been blessed to lead and accompany four different groups of people who chose to name and claim the travels they took to Scotland, Ireland and Italy as pilgrimage. It changes the shape of travel to do this. The packing, the planning and the little challenges and surprises of airports, hotels, all the sites experienced become cloaked in the Sacred More when seen through the lens of pilgrimage. This has been my learning.

My words have been absent from these pages for some time. I have found the current political, social and religious climate to be so strident, so terse that I have been fearful of being drawn into it. But over the last weeks I have found an urging from many to take up this place once again. Perhaps my pilgrim’s life and lens needed a bit of dormancy. And, truth is, I also now find myself at a very significant place that is nudging…maybe even pushing…me to open the palms of my hands and the beating of my heart to remembering the pilgrim life in its fullness once again.

After more than three decades of ministry in a faith community, I am embarking on the pilgrimage route of retirement. Like most paths that welcome the feet of a pilgrim, this one has some planned itinerary and many dangling details. Like the beginning of any day or week or year, there are expectations that will be fulfilled and those that will never materialize. Like any plan…at least in my experience…Spirit will show up and bring surprises and challenges beyond what had been imagined. I will once again learn the lesson that control is a fleeting illusion.

And yet what has been clear from the day I set out on this path, by declaring the ending date and drawing that line in the sand, what has accompanied me has been blessing. The blessing of words of kindness, gentleness and good will. The blessing of stories remembered and those held dear. The blessing of laughter and tears, of letting go and holding on. The blessing of prayers and hugs and knowing looks. Receiving all these has become another part of the path and has created the soil in which I will have the courage to step out.

Thinking about these experiences as I have over the last months, I have wondered if these are blessings we are all offered on any given, ordinary day but most often miss in our desire to plan and execute our to-do lists. As each day is a stepping out, how might we be more awake and aware to the blessings that accompany us for the journey of 24 hours…7 days…52 weeks. I have to believe they are there if we have eyes to see. Thinking about this I was reminded of hearing the poet David White say that ‘pilgrim’ is the one true name every human shares. “ But your loss brought you here to walk under one name and one name only…..pilgrim they called you. Pilgrim.” he writes. Where is your pilgrim path calling you?

While I may be moving on from the daily work of ministry at Hennepin Church, I plan to keep the practice of writing about the pilgrim path that will continue to unfold before me, one I hope connects with your own in some way. I hope you will join me when it suits you.

And so now the next journey begins…all of it bathed in blessing.


Held by the Moon

And so another year begins. Each of us has reason to hold 2017 in either joy or sorrow. Many I know, myself included, found it to be a difficult year as we shared in daily doses of turmoil, confusion and what I would name as mean spiritedness in our world. Others most likely saw and encountered it differently. While this experience in this particular year is probably not unusual in the grand scheme of things, this year felt different to me to the point that this new year arrives with more heightened expectations. Are you up for it, 2018?

I love that the New Year of 2018 arrived held by a full moon…a Super Moon. Did you see it? Our very cold temperatures and clear sky allowed its spectacular beauty to shine into our windows last night. I stood for some time just watching the spill of its light on the icy, frozen white of the backyard. Noticing how its rays overshadowed the many twinkling lights still dancing from Christmas, I smiled at its power and inspiration for all the light we seek not only at this time of year but also in all seasons. This Super Moon begins January, this new year in which we place our hope and another Super Moon will be seen in our night skies on January 31st. For this first month of the new year we will be held between two glowing orbs whose presence is closer to our horizon than normal. It’s something to think about and something to take comfort in. What Light can we absorb and reflect back to the world being held as we are in the bookends of this phenomenon?

Over the last few weeks much has seemed to be upended. There was the normal infiltration of trees and decorations and gifts piled into the spaces we try to keep in some kind of order to allow us to make sense of our work and our lives. This addition of ‘stuff’ is heartwarming and beautiful allowing traditions to be lived out. It can also feel as if our spaces contract making less space for moving around the stage of our life-play. Yesterday, as we took down the tree and put the decorations away, I felt a relaxed opening as more room was added for moving around and things got returned to their usual spots in our house.

In our offices at church, during the days leading up to Christmas Eve, painters moved in and began to paint hallways and offices. Pictures were removed from walls, chairs were in the hallways, as these young men gave our office spaces a fresh coat of color to enter the new year. I laughed at the upending of it all at such a busy time of year. What was the meaning, the metaphor of this kind of insertion of upset of our daily playhouses?

And it wasn’t just the physical spaces that got upended in these waning days of the year. In my life and the lives of those I love, we have lost people to death and accident and illness which was heart-breaking and unsettling. All the ways we normally structure our every day and our holiday celebrations were altered and we needed to find new ways of walking the path toward a new year, of finding joy amidst sadness. Some years are like this.

And yet, Christmas Eve came as did Christmas Day. We gathered for worship and celebrated the birth of Jesus. We sang the familiar songs, lit candles and stood in the glow of their flickering light. We greeted those we see often and those that traveled from far away. And now the New Year is upon us. There will be need for cleaning up, for throwing away, for letting go, for holding on, for beginnings and for endings. There will be order and there will be chaos in this unfolding of another 365 days. We will make sense of some of it and be confounded by much of it. We will trust that the One who breathed us into being walks every step with us.

And we all have a fresh coat of paint and two Super Moons to light the way. I’m ready. Are you?

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Once Again…Again

***Christmas Eve falls on Sunday this year. This makes for a kind of fullness that can boggle the mind. Advent Four in the morning and Christmas Eve services in the afternoon and evening. This is not a complaint but a fact and a privilege. This blog post was written on December 24, 2008. Truth be told, I might not have written anything much different on this Christmas Eve 2017.

It is Christmas Eve. Once again those who celebrate this holy day will fill the pews of churches large and small. Familiar carols will be sung, candles will be lit and we will sew together messages from Isaiah, Matthew, Luke and John to tell the story of the birth of the Christ Child. The beauty of the liturgical church year is that we would do this even without the commercial reminders that it is Christmas. Years before malls and coupons and the message to buy, buy, buy, this story has grounded Christians in a simple, yet profound telling of the birth of Jesus.

I have been thinking about this story and the many ways it can be read and heard. And truth be told, each of us will hear it in our own way, with this year’s hearing different than last year. We have each added life experiences that have changed us and shaped us into the people we are this year. Jan Richardson writes of the many ways we can tell the story: “We can tell is as the story of an unwed mother who dared to enter into partnership with God to bring forth new life; as a political story about the birth of a revolutionary; as a tale about a love that longed so much for us that it took flesh, formed in the dark woman of a woman show shared her body and blood to bring it forth. We can tell it as a story of darkness giving birth to light.” So many ways to tell an ancient and simple story. It depends on the lens of our life how we read it, how we hear it, how we enter into it.

2008 is coming to a close. It has been a year that has rattled us in many ways. Many of the safety nets we took for granted have unraveled. It has also been a year in which we have seen glimpses of great hope. Tonight as we gather to once again tell the story of Christmas, how will our experience of this year shape our hearing? As the young ones don their angel wings and shepherd costumes, will our spirits be filled with the surprise and awe of how God enters our world? As the Magi present their precious gifts, will we want to dig deep into our own gifts and share them with abandon? As Joseph looks lovingly at the young woman at his side, might we be filled with the trust and faith of those confronted by Mystery? And might each of us remember all that has been lovingly birthed in our lives this year and, like Mary, treasure all these things in our hearts?

Wherever you are when you hear this story, I invite you to enter into its telling fully. This year’s hearing will never come again so savor it. Let it roll around in your heart. After your candle is lighted and the first notes of Silent Night have been sung, look around and be held in the miracle of these ancient words that bind Christians together everywhere. And as the candles die out and the notes of carols fades into the night, then we can begin to live into how the story might transform us, for this year, for our time. This is what will keep the message alive.

Christmas blessings to you…………..

“When the song of angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the brothers,
to make music in the heart.”
~Howard Thurman



Winter Prayer

A Prayer for Winter

We give thanks for the blessing of winter:
Season to cherish the heart.
To make warmth and quiet for the heart.
To make soup and broths for the heart.
To cook for the heart and read for the heart.
To curl up softly and nestle with the heart.
To sleep deeply and gently at one with the heart.
To dream with the heart.
To spend time with the heart.
A long, long time of peace with the heart.
We give thanks for the blessing of winter:
Season to cherish the heart.
~Michael Leung, The Prayer Tree

Last week I came across this prayer while leaving the time I had spent with my spiritual director at the Carondolet Center in St. Paul. These monthly sessions ground me and remind me to pay attention to the movement of the Holy in my life. The hope is that if I can have these reminders I might actually be able to help others do the same. Some days, weeks, years are more successful than others.

We are just over 24 hours into the season of winter. Yesterday in late morning the Winter Solstice suspended us between seasons for a brief moment of darkness and light and then began spinning us once again toward an ever-increasing experience of light. The months ahead we call winter and they have their own texture and gifts to offer. In Minnesota the snow that came a few weeks ago has a guarantee of sticking around as the temperatures plummet over the next week. Christmas Day is likely to be colder than any we have had for some time.

I am a friend of winter and of the cold. I am thankful for the ways in which slowing down is a requirement in winter. Otherwise you might find yourself flat on the ground having moved too quickly across icy pavement. As the prayer says, winter is a time for soup and reading and curling up and dreaming. These can be heart-space practices.

Lately, I have been thinking much about the heart. Heart is both real…that organ which keeps us alive and moving…and metaphor…that deep held place of love and passion and compassion. In these Advent days, I have been companion to those whose hearts are expectant with the promise of new birth and new adventures. I have also been present to those whose hearts are breaking with grief and despair and loss. It is easy to think that this Christmas season we hold so dear and dress up in all kinds of fancy, shining garments would not have any of the later. But we know this is not true. The world and all its seasons and celebrations keeps moving even as our hearts rejoice and as they break.

One of my favorite lines of scripture telling of the first Christmas is the description of how Mary, the mother of Jesus, looked around the stable where her baby was born and took in the animals, the shepherds, the angels and the magi and ‘pondered it in her heart.’ In this pondering, Mary was not unlike most new parents. With a heart warmed with the promise of a new life, most parents ponder…cherish…those experiences in ways they do nothing else in their lives.

As a season to cherish the heart, winter can be a great teacher for both joy and sorrow as it calls us to a pace and rhythm that strengthens this life-giving muscle. Called to reflection and quiet, we can be called to our own pondering of the stable in which we find ourselves. May there be blessing in both beating heart and place of compassion as we make our way toward Christmas.


***The last few days It feels as if I have been searching for something. These times of transition like the Winter Solstice can bring about an unsettling and I am feeling it. This post was written December 20, 2015 and it conjures a lovely memory for these dark winter days. Memory and deep hope.

Last night my family and I attended a performance of “Between the Worlds” at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. For as long as I have lived in the Twin Cities, I have loved their work and the depth of their creativity. I must say that I have learned as much about the importance of ritual and how to create it from these artists committed to craft and social justice as I ever learned in seminary. I know that the work I do on a weekly basis would somehow be less if not for the inspiration of Sandy Spieler and her troupe of those dedicated to what can be done with simple objects…paper, wheat-paste, paint, sticks and poles, and a little wire. It is magic they create, a magic that draws the audience into an encounter with Mystery.

Last night’s performance was a celebration of these dark days we call Advent in the Christian household. But these are days that have been honored throughout time by cultures who lived closer to the earth than we now do. Those who lived in the rhythms of the seasons and who patterned their lives around the give and take of the Sun and the Moon. Those who knew in their bodies the power of both darkness and light. As people whose lives are now dictated by the flip of a switch, those who believe they have control of light and its arrival, we have lost the wisdom of those ancient ones. I personally believe we are lesser for it.

A poem by Marilyn Krysl graced the program for the show, a few of the final words I will share here:

the moon stops the fountain of your sleep/ and drives you out to wander and pace/ wide awake and burning, mouth dry eyes burning/ so that you are forced to acknowledge your own body/ and to remember the body is holy/ and to remember the body is one body/ and this earth the one holy body you cannot desecrate with impunity/ so that you understand that if you deny the dark/ you make a mockery of light.

These words draw me not only to the gifts of darkness and of light but also to the thing we say we are celebrating when we lift our candles high on Christmas. Incarnation. The belief that God shows up in the body. In the body of a newborn baby in Bethlehem. The body of the grown up Way-Shower, Jesus, who held before those in his time the power of both darkness and light and invites us to do the same.

Incarnation is both specific and individual and also communal. The Holy was born in a stable more than 2000 years ago. And the Holy is born in us when we remember and act as if we remember that ‘ the body is one body’. We are inextricably connected together as humans and with the earth which is our home by the One who created us to be reflections of the Sacred in the world. To do so is an honoring of what it means to be the face of the on-going Incarnation.

In these last days before Christmas, we would be wise to notice the play of dark and light. In these last days before the Winter Solstice, we would be wise to watch how the darkness holds the space for the Light to be born. These are precious days that hold us ‘between the worlds’. They are pure gift of grace and promise.

Stay awake! The Light is coming.

Snow Pilgrims

***We are hearing reports of a possible snow storm over the next few days. Who knows if it will materialize but this post from December 12, 2012 reminded me of how moving about after snow has fallen can be a time of great learning.

To say that making your way around the Twin Cities these past few days has been difficult is really an understatement. The snow that graced our presence on Sunday has wreaked havoc on the act of getting from point A to point B with any attention to time schedules. It seems the combination of snow, low temperatures, chemicals that need a certain temp to actually work and, perhaps, an attention to snow removal that was less than timely, has made for some of the slowest and painful commutes in recent memory.

Yesterday morning as I was creeping along the road, a certain nugget of wisdom that I learned on the Island of Iona a couple of years, came to mind. ” You can only move at the pace of the slowest pilgrim.” This caution was spoken to a group of folks I was traveling with just as we embarked on what became a nearly six hour Pilgrim’s Walk around the sacred places on this tiny island. This declaration ensured that we were attentive to one another, the pace each was able to walk, that no one was left behind, that no one rushed ahead.

Thinking of this way of walking as a pilgrim my mind then jumped to something poet David Whyte said when he was here in October. Speaking of the many names and identities we wear during a lifetime, he asserted that the one that remains true throughout our living is that of pilgrim. We are always a pilgrim in this life. Traveling from one identity to the next, one year to the next, one day to the next, one breath to the next. We are always on some pilgrim path.

So as I traveled my pilgrim way yesterday, I was aware of a car several yards ahead of me. Moving at the snail’s pace in which we were all engaged, this particular pilgrim was unable to make it up the slight incline that had become an ice rink. His tires spun. His car slipped left, then right. I watched as the pilgrims between me and our slowest kin tried to decide what to do. Wait. Pass. Slow down. Speed up. Feel anger. Offer compassion. So many choices on the pilgrim path.

Eventually, several passed by this whirring pilgrim trapped in his metal container. Most did so with trepidation. His spinning could result in a face to metal experience of this fellow traveler. As we all made our way past him, something moved in my chest knowing that I had broken the cardinal rule of the pilgrim walk. We were leaving our slowest one behind. Traveling on without him. Leaving him to fend for himself.

Practicalities had to prevail on a day like yesterday. Decisions needed to be made about staying put or going on, about passing or taking the risk of not having enough momentum to make it up the hill myself. My heart still went out to this one whose name I did not know but who shared this identity as pilgrim with me.

Advent continues to unfold and we are pilgrims on the journey toward Christmas. The darkness continues its hold on us. More lights appear every day as people rail against the night by decorating their windows and walkways with lights that spill color and illumination. It must be done. For we are people who walk in darkness yet long for light.

This morning this Blessing for Courage by John O’Donohue seemed appropriate:

“When the light around you lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Your body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside……
Close your eyes
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark.
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.” 


Sacred Places

***This was first posted on December 20, 2007.

Will you, God, really live with people on earth? Why, the heavens and their own heavens cannot contain you. How much less this house that I have built…..Listen to the cry and the prayer I make to you today. Day and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which you have said: “My name shall be there.”
1 Kings 8:27-29

Yesterday I walked into what is ‘sacred space’ for me. Once a month I am privileged to visit the Carondolet Center at the College of St. Catherine. This beautiful old building represents for me a true center of hospitality, a sacred dwelling. There is always someone with a pleasant greeting as you walk in. There is attention to detail, cleanliness and order. Depending on the Christian season, there will be paintings or displays that invite you to remember that it is, indeed, Advent or Lent…a candle here, an icon there. Those who work or live in the building….it is still home to a few Sisters of St. Joseph….move through the building with ease and a sense of purpose. Calmness seems to ooze from the walls, held I am sure, in the countless prayers that have been said over the years by these devoted women.

Most of us don’t live or work in such a space. Instead we sometimes successfully seek them out…. that place where we can sense, know, that indeed the Holy moves here. Even though we may claim ‘God is everywhere’, it is often difficult to really feel that is true in many of the spaces we exist. It takes great intention and attention to know the presence of the Holy in many of our spaces. Even our churches can miss the mark of creating ‘sacred space’.

Of course, many of us find the most sacred of spaces not in buildings at all but in a grove of trees, overlooking the sparkling water of a lake, standing on a mountain top gazing out at the land below and beyond. It is often easy to feel the vibration of the Holy under our feet in those places where our body and Earth connect. With stars dancing in the night sky, the Moon shining down on us, we are caught in the Mystery of what it means to be human reflecting upon the Divine.

What is ‘sacred space’ for you? Where is the place you can go to that allows all the pretenses of daily life to dissolve, the place that allows you to connect most fully with the Sacred? Wherever this place is for you, I pray that, during these days that can seem full and rushed, you can go there and be renewed by the Spirit which cannot be contained in heaven, the place that speaks through its very existence…the eyes of God are watching over this place…..blessed be.



To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
—Wendell Berry

We only have another minute to lose of light as we make our way to December 21st and the Winter Solstice. This threshold time stands in the midst of some of Minnesota’s coldest and darkest days. The door at this threshold sits in the season of Advent and will move into the celebration of Christmas. These, of course, are not unrelated events though we in the Christian household have sometimes tried to deny the fact. But the honoring of the Sun’s return and the celebration of the birth of Jesus, called the Light of the world have been entwined by human’s need to make sense of what they experience and what they believe about that experience. The common denominators are darkness and light.

Several years ago my husband and I traveled to Newgrange in Ireland. This ancient place of worship and history is full of mystery and a sense of power that defies words. Most believe it to have been built by humans as a way of measuring the ways sunlight seems to recede and then return. Looking like a giant earthy spaceship it rises out of the lush Irish countryside. Stone carvings lay in various spots around the outside of the mound. Walking around its perimeter allows the imagination to see the ancient ones circling, dancing, and moving in ways understandable and confounding.

But it is inside that the real mystery and amazement happens. We stood in the center of the cave-like structure, humans who did not know one another just a few minutes before crushed together in silence and awe, looking at the cave drawings pointed out by our guide. Giving us a sign that the electric lights rigged up to keep the curious safe would be turned out, we fell even further into a deep quiet. We were plunged into darkness that was so black it was disorienting. The only thing that allowed me to know where I was came from the breathing of the people around me. I was still surrounded by humans even in this deep darkness!

Using an enormous flashlight, the guide then began to simulate how the Sun would rise and hit a stone at the end of a very thin opening in the path ahead, striking it just so. It shown so brightly it seemed impossible. She then explained that this is what those who had built this place had probably intended. Out of the pitch darkness they would know that the light was returning. I am imagining that planning for planting for the next months could then take place. But my imagining was, and is, still held in the mystery of this place and the darkness I experienced at this created threshold. What must it have been like for those who did not know, did not have even the most rudimentary understanding of how the planets work?

The next few days will be the darkest of this year. Even with the twinkling lights we have hung on trees and in our homes, the darkness is our companion. The threshold that welcomes us is shrouded in a mystery we partially understand. But once that turning happens and our planet creeps ever so slowly into the light of Christmas the mystery does not end. How does the light brought into our faith story by this infant we celebrate illuminate our path? How do we allow this Light to become not only the beam we follow but the light we become? How do we make our own cave paintings telling of the stories of the darkness in our lives and where the light came in?

There are only a few days left before we know the turning of the light once again. Until then, the invitation is to go dark, to watch for what is blooming and listen for what is singing and how we are companioned by dark feet and dark wings.