Tag Archives: spirit


Trent Palmer sits across from me in the back of Mrs. Patterson’s seventh-grade English-grammar class.  He is dark, unusually dark complexioned compared to almost all of the other adolescents in school.  Moving through the hallways, among a crowd of third-generation Germanic and Scandinavian immigrants, he is an exotic, ethereal and appears to be almost other worldly.


This trait alone could have set him apart, but he also sports a jaunty limp whenever he walks, setting him further apart from the general, middle-school crowd. When Trent is standing straight, his shoulders do not match and, at the end of the one arm held closer to his body, his right hand curls into a permanent fist. With the diplomacy missing almost universally among all seventh-graders, I tell him it is a good thing he is left handed—attempting to be positive without succeeding at being even remotely socially appropriate.

In the back of English-grammar class, while Mrs. Patterson lectures from her desk in the far, front corner, Trent and I swap one-liners under our breath.  He smirks at my quips, and I smile at his one-liners.  We have a grand time. And, though I never speak of it, something inside of me loves something inside of him. I love his audaciously rare beauty, his gently skidding speech, his intellect, his brilliant white teeth and, most especially, that we are partners in our own secret comedy club.

Unlike the time I spend in the halls between or in other classes, I actually look forward to English-grammar class and the feeling of wholeness that seems to live there when I sit alongside Trent.  No one seems the wiser about my feelings, including Trent.  Then, my sense of wholeness comes to an abrupt end when Trent and his family move away suddenly.

Community gossip has it that Trent’s family felt he had been singled out for ridicule, the town was too small and that Trent’s intellectual needs were not being met by the district’s curriculum or teachers.  I miss my friend terribly.

Yet, time has a way of gently erasing old hurts. And, the faces and names of middle-school friends become paved-over by the faces and names of those friends we make in high school and college.

Then, decades later, while reading about one of the posters put up in ancient, Roman-occupied Judea, calling for Jesus’ arrest, I read a description of Jesus as being dark, not overly tall, with uneven shoulders and that, if he is seen walking, he walks with a slight limp.  From a distant well within my heart, an image of Trent and his radiant Light flood in. At the same time, I also remember some of the most awkward things I said to Trent which must have hurt him terribly.

Recalling how Trent’s one hand formed a permanent right-handed fist, I think if I were he in seventh grade, I would have wanted to punch God full in the face for making my body something less than perfectly symmetrical—especially given the width and breadth of Trent’s  joyful Spirit and keen intellect.

My thinking at the time was this: If God had been paying attention, Trent’s whole, radiant and flawless Spirit would have been reflected in a perfectly symmetrical physical presentation for Trent.

But, as an adult, I realize that circumstances on the physical plane often do not work out that way. And, now, when I remember Trent, I know his physical presentation to be a perfect reflection of that which is most certainly of God.

Spiritual Seasons III

Most people I know, who would like to garden but who do not or who would like to simplify their lives but do not, tell me that the idea of taking on such tasks seems daunting.

Truth be told, if anyone attempts to look at a large yard, with multiple garden beds, or a home of overstuffed cupboards, packed closets and bulging drawers, the perspective of affecting a beautiful, transformative change is overwhelming.

(Did you know most Americans wear only twenty percent of the clothing in their closets?)


Yet, dedicated gardeners, as well as those committed to simple living, have learned to approach each area  as a discrete location of potential and extraordinary possibility. Then, with the laser like focus, granted to us through prayer or meditation, work is commenced in only one, specific location at a time.

Thus, planning, planting, weeding—and even winter, closet cleaning—are all completely doable. And, the results are always worth the effort.

Effort.  The winter season begins to pick up speed.  Somewhere in the space of sorting through the third closet and around the time of a top shelf, I begin thinking about spring and expanding my garden for the upcoming season.

As I approach giving away the fifth, large bag of extras, a local magazine features an article about a dedicated butterfly garden.  What if I were to choose plants for this next season with, not only people in mind, but also the butterflies and birds?

Less stuff, more time to garden.

It is while there are a few, wild “everything” drawers in the kitchen yet to sort through that the sun turns its corner onto longer days.  January is when committed gardeners feel the first desire to begin planning for spring.

“Yes,” I think to myself, “This year, there will be an expanded garden, one that honors more of Creation.”

Spiritual Seasons II

In the space of my devotional practice, I place my concerns before the Light of God. A clear leading comes through, “Simplify.” In Quaker tradition, a leading is the nudge granted to us by the Spirit.

Considering this gentle command, I have to admit that, of late, caring for our household inventory has become less joyful and more of a chore. On some days, I feel like a warehouse queen rather than a spiritual being.  Internally, I postulate that this overabundance of inventory is probably one of the reasons I have spent so much time in the garden over the summer. Even though I know logically that avoidance does not solve problems of excess.


As a life experience, sorting through items stored in a large closet is nothing like kneeling in a yielding, freshly turned plot of earth, where living plants will soon produce incredible rewards. After all, I have never seen a bucket list where the sorting through of one’s personal belongings is in the top ten.

Committed gardeners know that working in the soil, directly with the earth, is capable of warding off feelings of disconnectedness, as well as banishing a sense of the mundane. Overstuffed closets seem to produce the opposite emotional impressions. Yet, if the answer to my query is to simplify, then—for this winter season—closets, cabinets and drawers it is.

Approaching the process of going through our personal belongings, I decide to think of each area as I would one of my garden beds. What would I like to give to someone else, so that another person might benefit?

My heart reopens with the prospect of another and decidedly unique season of giving. I crave the experience of largesse.

So, I decide to envision each space in my home as a potentially empty piece of acreage—a garden bed, where I will be able “to cultivate” what I most desire. This approach to the work at hand prompts me to ask the question: What do I want to plant and grow in my interior, domestic life?

Sifting through the belongings in each area of our home, I feel a welling sense of joyful anticipation. The possibility of unbridled spiritual living is returning to my heart. With each donation and regifted item, given to a charitable organization, neighbor, friend or acquaintance, my heart experiences an expansion, spaciousness and a renewed lightness of Being.

Before approaching an area, I say a short prayer for guidance. With this prayer, decision making is decidedly easier.  It is as if the items sort themselves.

Spirituality: The Search for the Self

At some level, each of us is looking for something of ourselves in someone else.  Socially, this is the way in which we build bridges.


There are spaces created in conversations where we check-in with one another to determine how we might be alike or what we might have in common–whether it be an experiential commonality, gender/race/life-stage similarity or a shared interest.

The curious thing about this phenomenon is that what we think we desire on a micro-level is actually a stand-in for what we most desire on the macro-level, which is a genuine or authentic communion with the Spirit.


Generally, when we think of affluence, we conceive of a person or an organization of fiscal means.  And, there can be a tremendous sense of freedom and choice associated with pecuniary affluence.  Yet, sometimes, what happens in cases of more substantial, fiscal affluence is an ungrounding of Spirit, where the fiscally “independent” loses sight of life’s natural web and cycles, as well as the potential wealth behind a healthy, functioning social whole.


If we were to rework our definition of affluence to include considerations for the ways in which we can assist one another–without harming Spirit in ourselves or another–along our personal and professional paths and with a respectful and inclusive eye toward the gift of our place in the world, we would begin to behave quite differently.  Profit would be measured in terms of the extention of assistance. And, we might begin metering biological and social health instead of concerning ourselves with the numbers associated with our fiscal holdings.  Our sense of freedom and choice would change to include considerations about how we are spending our time with regard to life-affirming pursuits.

Thus, toward a new definition of affluence, we are granted the gift of a full relationship with Spirit grounded in the whole and a sense of unlimited time and infinite possibilities–so unlike the ideas of limits and scarcity pervading the worldview around affluence now.