Mystery and Magic

We can never know with any degree of certainty all the ways in which our choices, our life, has rippled far, far beyond us and into an interconnected world that is wide beyond comprehension. Wider still when we consider the lives of others (known and unknown) and the ways in which their choices have influenced and impacted us. It defies definition. It’s beyond our ability to fully comprehend or grasp.


These two words—mystery and magic—captivate me. To allow for them, to anticipate and expect them, invites me into imagination; into a belief in things that are beyond me, my understanding, my efforting, and my control. One might even say they require faith.

The poet, W.B. Yeats, said this:

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

This feels like perfect intention and hope: having the “sense” to see a world full of magic (and mystery).

It is my intention and hope.

As I’ve reflected on this for the past few days, I’ve felt the near-demand of competency and perfection show up in full force. Surely there is a plan or process or 3-step succession I can employ that will ensure mystery and magic.

And this? The part of me that already wants to control?

Deep breath.

Mystery and magic will not be tamed.

So, this leaves me with a choice:

Will I demand exhausting certainty and proficiency (of myself and everything/everyone else), or will I loosen my clenched fists, take another deep breath, and *just* trust? 

As is true with most things of value and worth, this is easier said than done.

I spent large swaths of my life certain that if I could just get everything in order—my thoughts, my emotions, my desires, my weight, my money, my marriage, my work, and yes, even my house—then I would feel safe, at peace, and whole. This is, of course, what our capitalistic culture promulgates and promotes. And it is, at least in part, what my former belief system promised (along with “reasons and proofs”). Everything hinged on my efforting, my competency, my perfection, and yet again, my control.

Fewer absolutes and more “Maybe.” Fewer answers and more curiosity. Less order and more that is random and strange and serendipitous. Less pressure, no more “perfect,” and lots more possibility. 


Seemingly Random Things

My oldest daughter lives about 9.5 hours away; a reasonable road-trip. So, in preparation for my most recent trek her way, I prepared! I downloaded an audio book in advance, along with a couple podcasts that I’ve been meaning to listen to. I couldn’t have anticipated the way in which these (and one more event besides) weaved themselves into something else entirely.

Four (seemingly) random things I now see as completely interconnected.

Thing #1:
I listened to Celeste Ng’s newest book, Our Missing Hearts. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with this choice, given how much I loved Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Plus I’d recently heard her on a podcast and was intrigued by her perspective, her wisdom, her heart.

I won’t spoil the story for you, but suffice it to say it is profoundly thought-provoking. It solidified so many of my opinions/fears about our hyper-patriotic culture, about “leadership”-through-fear, about how easy (and understandably self-protective) it is to look the other way instead of stepping toward justice. And all of this through a plot that primarily involves an 11-year-old boy.

Thing #2:
About an hour into my return trip, I finished the book and switched over to the 2022 Podcast of the Year: Roe V. Wade by Slow Burn. Only 4 episodes long (unless you subscribe and get all the bonus content), it doesn’t talk at all about the recent repeal of this ruling; rather, it tells the powerful (and mostly unknown) stories of individual women and cases, their trials, the unbelievable legal battles, and the convergence of forces that enabled this legislation to be passed in the first place.

It’s well worth listening to. It was a reminder of how easily women, their bodies, and their agency/will is disregarded AND how important it is—ongoing and always—to hear and honor women’s stories, both individually and collectively.

Thing #3:
I listened to a second podcast from the New York Times called 1619 that tells of how slavery has transformed America.

Again, SO worth listening to. It was a glaring and heartbreaking acknowledgement of how much I take for granted, how much I actually do not know, and how excruciating our history is—not to mention the ways in which every bit of this continues to be perpetuated.

Thing #4:

Just a day or so after my road trip, news was released that Stephen tWitch Boss had died by suicide.

Both of my daughters texted me when they heard the news, given that years and years ago we were obsessed by So You Think You Can Dance—when he won and then the years that followed in which he came back as a mentor and most recently a judge.

This has me reeling and deeply cognizant of the following: 1) we never know what other people are actually experiencing and feeling, no matter how things look on the outside; and 2) the cultural belief-and-demand that success, fame, money, and more will make us happy is a complete lie.

OK. So, how do these things connect to one another? You’ve probably already spotted the common thread, but let me gather it all together by saying this: unless we remain awake and aware, so much passes us by that remains unnoticed, unnamed, and unhealed.

And this: forces always conspire to invite us more deeply into our own story and all that is ours to learn, embrace, and transform both within and without.

An event occurs. An email arrives. A strong, even unexpected emotion thrums in your chest. A conversation takes place. There’s a book you read, a podcast you listen to, a news story you hear, a song that lingers and haunts. All of it seems random in the moment, but when you look beneath / behind / within, you will glimpse what’s weaving them all together . . . and all on your behalf.

These threads, these glimmers, these connections ARE the sacred: endless and infinite ways in which seemingly disparate aspects of our life are really one big, beautiful story that waits for us to see it as such, that holds its breath in anticipation of us stepping into it, that longs for us to live with complete trust in its truth.

Whew! This feels like a big claim: the (seemingly) random events and experiences in our lives are evidence of the sacred, the presence of the sacred, the activity of the sacred—and all on our behalf. 

So, my invitation in all of this? Be curious about the myriad and (seemingly) random ways in which the sacred shows up for you. You don’t have to go searching for it, preparing yourself for it, or working your fingers to the bone to deserve it. Gift. Grace. Surprise. Serendipity. And (seemingly) random.

Mmmm. May it be so, yes? 

About Rest

In her book, Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto, Tricia Hersey says this:

“Rest is radical because it disrupts the lie that we are not doing enough. It shouts: ‘No, that is a lie. I am enough. I am worthy now and always because I am here.’”

It’s easier said than done . . . resting, disrupting the lie, believing that we are enough.

It’s the polar opposite of what the world promotes and pushes. It flies in the face of capitalism and hustle culture. It is radical. And it’s what I hunger for. Not just in terms of time, but deep within.

I’m asking myself some questions toward rest’s end. I hope they will serve you, as well:

  • Where do I feel the opposite of rest? What causes such, who causes such, and why do I persist in any of it? No shame. No pressure. Just awareness. (And rest.)
  • How might I choose rest as state-of-mind and way-of-being instead of succumbing to what others expect? WAY easier said than done, but it feels critical to growth and wholeness.
  • What are ways of being, practices, and rhythms that will call me home to myself, that give me permission to rest? No efforting. No harshness. Just curiosity and grace.

I fully intend to repeat Tricia Hersey’s words, again and again, “I am enough. I am worthy now and always because I am here.”

Deep breath.


May it be so.


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Use Your Imagination

There is something incredibly powerful about good fiction, yes? The craft of it. The story itself. And the imagination required to make it come alive.

I have a long and torrid love-affair with imaginative writing; an infinite and ever-expanding list of “sacred” texts:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
  • The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd.
  • And despite my disappointment in J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter.

I could easily and endlessly go on…

What is it, do you think, that makes these novels, these texts, more permissive of imagination than traditional sacred texts?

Not surprisingly, I have some thoughts.

Many of us have been taught to think about sacred or spiritual things (and texts) as “absolute truth.” Concepts are concretized and imagination is, for the most part, disallowed.

My go-to example is the Genesis story: The Garden of Eden. Eve and Adam. The tree. The serpent. The fruit. The bite. It is an imaginative answer to the question of why (not how) the world was created. No committee or panel of experts sat down to write it. No one debated about what should be included or not, what was allegory and what was literal, what was to become rigid rule vs. remaining narrative technique. It was first imagined, then recited, then recited again. It changed every time it was told based on the storyteller’s imagination, perspective, mood, language, and audience. As every good story should!

Somehow though, over time, this story (a poem, actually) became a text and the text became a treatise and the treatise became a theology and the theology became something to enforce. (This sounds a lot like the nursery rhyme, “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…”)

Even though I know exactly how all of this happened, it breaks my heart.

What happens when our imagination is no longer encouraged, even allowed as it relates to our spirituality? My quick answer: We lose interest and leave it behind. And though this may be the healthiest and best of decisions, there is still a loss. A gap exists where these set-in-stone beliefs once resided. It’s hard to heal.

What happens when we reintroduce imagination into the spiritual aspect of our lives, into the deepest and most sacred aspects of our very self and soul? My quick answer: We are passionate, connected, and deeply moved by any and everything that touches our hearts and others’.

All of this is on my mind because I just completed the final edits on one of the chapters in my upcoming book (which still feels strange and amazing to say…and…if you’re keeping up with the countdown, will be published on 10.3./23). It’s the story of a woman who is desperate for Jesus to heal her daughter. Rather than just doing so, he is incredibly rude. (I don’t know how else to explain it.) He says things that are both dismissive and derogatory. Nevertheless, she persists. She demands. She will not be deterred. And in the end, he heals the girl because of the woman’s faith, a mother who fiercely loved.

As you might imagine, endless effort has been extended over the years to rationalize Jesus’ behavior — everything from naming his responses as a sophisticated rhetorical device to saying that he was *merely* testing her faith. Bullshit. (Sorry.)

No question about it: this is an incredibly confusing and unsettling story. But what if we stopped trying to make it fit some rubric of sensibility and instead, saw it as expansive opportunity to imagine something different, something more, something profoundly sacred? What if we let go of the demand for solid answers when it comes to things-spiritual? It’s almost as though we can’t allow the divine to be anything other than perfect. We’re nervous about tarnishing God’s image. Which, ironically and ridiculously, assumes that it’s up to us to maintain! What if the sacred, in any and every form, can handle its own PR? Imagine that!

OK. I digress. Well, not completely. This is my point, after all.

What happens when our imagination is no longer encouraged, even allowed as it relates to our spirituality? We cannot handle ambivalence or contradiction or complexity (all of which, in my personal opinion, are the stuff of life almost all of the time).

And what happens when we reintroduce imagination into the spiritual aspect of our lives? Even into the sacred stories that we’d often far-prefer to leave behind? We can handle so. much. more. We can feel so. much. more. Our spirituality becomes so. much. more.

Here’s the so. much. more. that shows up for me when I give myself free reign to imagine this story (and the divine/sacred) in new ways:

  • I imagine a god to and with whom I can actually relate when all requirement of perfection disappears.
  • I imagine a spirituality in which I can argue, fuss, and fight for what I most deeply desire and deserve.
  • I imagine a life that is like this woman’s: passionate and heartfelt and persistent and alive and awake and deeply, deeply committed.
  • I imagine an experience of the sacred that is shaped by the stories of the women — their voices, their lives, their faith.

Even this cursory imagining spins me into a million more imaginings beside. Every one of which feel sacred and spiritual and divine and real and true and worthwhile. Now that I think of it, it feels a lot like the novels I poured through this week. Immersive. Impossible to put down. Transported. Transformed.

Mmmmm. As it should be, yes? As we would want and hope and intend when it comes to the deepest and most sacred aspects of our very self and soul… I thought about taking this further, but then thought again. Your imagination (and thought) is way more interesting and what matters. So, I hope you’ll do just that! Imagine. Imagine. Imagine!

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Rebellion as a Spiritual Practice

Most if not all of us battle with the tension between our own desires, our deep sense of what’s most true, our certain knowing of what is best-right-wise and how that will impact the people around us. It is rebellious to choose ourselves in the midst of so much pressure to conform, to comply, to be perfect, to put others first.

A woman’s rebellion is disruptive, radical, uncomfortable, counter-cultural, even counter-intuitive. Ironically (even gratefully), a woman’s rebellion is the very thing that invites her into a life that is authentic, integrous, sovereign, and whole; a life that is sacred.

For us to be ourselves (in a world that demands we be so much less) means we will inevitably feel the pain of disruption and discomfort both within and without. This tension, this bind, is untenable and frustrating and heart-breaking.

To step fully into who we are — unrestrained, unhindered, unleashed — should NOT be so hard! It should NOT require our rebellion.

But it does. Not just once, but over and over and over again.


And so . . .

Let’s make rebellion a spiritual practice.

The common definition of a spiritual practice is a specific activity one does to deepen their relationship with the sacred.

Contemplative and activist, Father Richard Rohr says, “Practice is an essential reset button that we must push many times before we can experience any genuine newness. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we are practicing all the time. When we operate by our habituated patterns, we strengthen certain neural pathways, which makes us, as the saying goes, ‘set in our ways.’ But when we stop using old neural grooves, these pathways actually die off! Practice can literally create new responses and allow rigid ones to show themselves.”

Most of us practice just the opposite of rebellion. Instead, as mentioned above, our “habituated patterns” are conformity, compliance, perfectionism, and putting others priorities-and-desires-and-perspectives above our own. The result is just the opposite, as well: instead of deepening our relationship with the sacred, we feel distanced from it.

Rebellion as a spiritual practice has the potential to undo every bit of this. It calls us to boldly name that which separates us from all that is sacred (which, quite frankly, is every message culture promulgates and demands via capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and then some), and reconnects us to our very selves, our sacred selves.

Some examples:

  • When the world says I am not enough, rebellion as a spiritual practice says, “No! I AM enough — exactly as I am, nothing more required, fully divine, fully sovereign.”
  • When social media incessantly urges me to buy, to acquire, to continue scrolling (instead of creating or resting or any number of things that would actually restore instead of exhaust me), rebellion as a spiritual practice has me set down my phone, walk away, and distance myself from the lies.
  • When the person I am in relationship with passive-aggressively demands that I meet and exceed every expectation — even and especially when it is at odds with my own priorities and desires — rebellion as a spiritual practice says “No!” yet again. The dissonance and tension is the very evidence I need to stay the course.
  • When the god of whom I’ve learned deals more in shame than grace, rebellion as a spiritual practice, imagines a god who would never think of such a thing, who sees me as practically perfect in every way, who delights in who I am, exactly as I am, right now and always.
  • When I feel the pressure to do more, work harder, hustle faster, grind and grind and grind — no matter the cost to my mental, emotional, or physical well-being — rebellion as a spiritual practice is an intentional choice to step back, to step away, to take a bath or a nap or both, to be quiet, to stop running in order to feel productive, validated, or worthy.
  • When the voice inside my head tells me I’m being selfish to do any of the above, rebellion as a spiritual practice is the disciplined intention to listen to my heart instead, to choose myself, to see myself as worthy, to trust the know-that-I-know-that-I-know voice within.

If you have yet to be called an incorrigible, defiant woman, don’t worry, there is still time.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

“A rebel! How glorious the name sounds when applied to a woman. Oh, rebellious woman, to you the world looks in hope.”
~ Matlida Joslyn Gage (1826–1898)

Here is what I hope for you (and me):

When we rebel, when we bravely resist all that holds us back or down, when we are incorrigible and defiant, when we willingly step into the flames of disruption and discomfort — not to burn, but to blaze — we cannot possibly be closer to the sacred.

And that, it seems to me, is a practice worth . . . well, practicing!

May it be so.


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If I had a Book Group

I ordered a book a few weeks back, but have basically avoided it since it arrived. Well, until a couple morning’s ago when, reinforced by strong coffee, I opened it up and dove in. Since then, I’ve barely put it down: The Wisdom of Your Body: Finding Healing, Wholeness, and Connection Through Embodied Living by Hillary McBride, PhD

If I were hosting a bookgroup, this is DEFINITELY what we’d be reading and discussing together! Here are at least a few reasons why I’m so taken by what’s within these pages:

  • An appreciation of my body, not to mention any semblance of acceptance, is a long way away for me; it always has been.
  • I grew up in a world that prized the split of body from mind; thinking reigned supreme. Even though I no longer accede to this, it is still what my brain (and body) are used to.
  • In full transparency: I don’t know how to come home to my body. But I want to. I pretty sure I’m not the only one.
  • I have often felt, especially in the last 5+ years or so, that learning of and practicing embodiment is the “final frontier” for women (including me). It seems to me it is what “remains” as it relates to our ability to fully embrace our inherent and ever-present wisdom and strength.

If any of these things sound or feel remotely familiar, read on . . . I’ve included a few of the most poignant quotes I’ve highlighted so far.

Regardless of our circumstances or what we have been told about bodies, remembering and reuniting with our bodily selves is a radical act to undo our need to earn our worth. . . 

. . . many of us have forgotten ourselves as bodies. We did so in order to survive the pain or to be compliant, but in the process we left behind so much of the beautiful. 

. . . body-image research shows that the closer we get to achieving our ideal appearance, the more conditional our sense of self worth becomes, and the more we fear what it will cost us when our appearance inevitably changes.

I used to think that the sacred place where I met the Divine was always somewhere else, somewhere that was not “here” in the rhythms of my daily life. But now I see that the Holy is very much here — my body is a sanctuary, a mobile home of the Divine.

So good, yes?

A quick addendum: I had this written and ready when I happened to see an email that included the transcript of a recent sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I couldn’t not include at least an excerpt for those of you who, like me, have an understanding (or lack thereof) of your body that has been heavily influenced by the church.

“The wildness of human variation isn’t a mistake — it is a sign of the glory of God — and yet we made it a sign for the value and ranking of people. Leave it to humans to take a gift and turn it into a curse.

But your body — your body is not a curse, it is a chariot.

It is a glory and a wonder. An individual container of the holy. It is a glimpse into the image of God. And it deserves so much love and respect for it has carried you through every day of your life — even every day of Jr High. Think of THAT.”

You can read the whole sermon here. It’s brilliant. She is.

Worth repeating: “. . . your body is not a curse, it is a chariot.”

May it be so.