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Sense of Place

Do you have a place where you feel grounded?  A place where your roots extend deep into the earth and yMINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAou feel centered and whole?

Almost thirty years ago our family joined a dozen others and together purchased a condo at Junipine north of Sedona.   Here is MY place.  When I am beside Oak Creek in this beautiful canyon I can breathe deeply and feel my gratitude extend throughout my mind, body and soul.

Here our children swam and fished.  Here I wrote my Master’s thesis.  Here I grieved my parents’ decline.  Here I rocked all four infant grandchildren in the Secret Garden.   Here our son taught his sons to fish and our daughter watched her daughters leap-frog the rocks.  Here my husband works on plans for developing property in the canyon.  Here I learn new Threshold Choir music.

Thank you, Divine Presence, for the peace found in this place.




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Unusual Christmas Eve Service

imagesLPHC311SThe 11 PM Christmas Eve service at my church is always a highlight of the busy season.  We sing carols and special music, listen to the familiar story, take in some thoughts about the season, and end with candles lifted high singing “Silent Night”.  Hundreds of candles are reflected in the glass windows.  I always cry.  The crazy busy-ness of the season recedes in my weary brain.  I marvel at the grace available to me.  I am grateful for second, and third, and fourth chances.  I hope for a more peaceful world.

This year was different.  All of Advent was different.  The messages made sense to me.  They were progressive and stripped of fake myth.  They spoke of losing illusions and moving into possibilities.  I didn’t have to pretend to believe something that seemed out of context or illusory or too much like a fairy tale.

That must have been good, because the Christmas Eve service was like none other I’ve ever experienced.

A young man spoke out boldly and loudly after a prayer, saying it wasn’t enough.  He wasn’t someone we knew.  He said that he wanted to believe, but didn’t think it the prayer’s message pertained to him.  He continued talking as the minister moved closer to him, speaking of his own struggles with faith and encouraging the interrupter to engage in conversation.  The congregation held its collective breath.  Where was this going?  Was it possible he had a gun?  What could or should we do?  Time suspended.

The two came face-to-face and that’s when the minister realized that the young man was inebriated and that a meaningful conversation could not happen right then.  The choir began singing then with the hope the confrontation would settle.  It didn’t.  The young man headed up toward the podium and the minister continued to speak of acceptance and to invite him to come talk with him another time when he hadn’t been drinking.  Two of the man’s family members left.  The man continued talking and approaching.

An usher, a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome who has grown up in our church and is studying for the ministry, moved to the front pew in case he was needed.  Finally, after a long fifteen minutes, the man exited and our minister spoke about what had just happened.  Later he gave his card to the man’s family, saying he was available.

He reminded us that Christmas is not the serene pretty Christmas card we all want it to be.  Christmas is often messy and lonely and distressing.  It can be filled with heartache and brokenness.  But underneath the tinsel and pretty trappings, and then even underneath the hurt and unspoken pain, lies a love that can fill us and lift us and hold us accountable.  And then we lit our candles and sang “Silent Night”.

It was without a doubt my all-time favorite Christmas Eve.



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SmallLogo Today our Phoenix West Threshold Choir sang in a hospice care unit for a young man who was profoundly disabled.  We weren’t even sure he could hear us, and if so, if he was listening.

After the first song he reached up to touch my face and I let him.  He stroked my cheek and said “Mama” with a peaceful look on his face.

I kept thinking I had to hold my emotions in check and continue to gift him with song, which we did.

“Spirit’s made a place for you, where everything is new.”  

(–Melanie DeMore)

As we walked out, the tears burst forth.

Who was gifting whom?



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Writing Again

I’ve taken a vacation from writing, but not living!fall

Today I’m thinking about fall and its gifts.  My pulse quickens and stride lengthens when summer is finally over and we can begin life anew here in the desert.

Thanksgiving approaches and gratitude is on my heart and mind.  Blessings abound.  Physically I’m losing weight and my broken arm is healed.  Emotionally I’m not stressed by anything too serious.  Psychologically I’m perhaps in the best place ever.  Historically I’m having fun searching old photos and genealogy trees.  (The photo is the family homestead in Kentucky.)  Soulfully I’m reading about Israel/Palestine/Jordan in preparation for a trip there in the spring.  Vocationally I’m grateful for time to be a part of a Threshold Choir and to plan a celebration of life service.

Thank you, Universe.



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Life’s Work

My life experience delivered me to this moment.  I am doing exactly what I have been called to do.

Yesterday was a full day.  At Hospice of the Valley, as our duet sang Threshold Choir songs, we experienced how both clients and caregivers are “made whole” by these songs, delivered in harmony by human voices.  Their power, far beyond any power we could share individually, slowed and relaxed breathing, brought faint smiles and present tears, filled the room with healing of spirit, and filled us up so full that we almost spilled over.

Then last night I led a short ceremony for a businesswoman opening her exercise facility in a new location.  We blessed the space and her family and staff, asking for wholeness of body, mind and spirit for all those who enter.  The owner gifted each staff member with a lucky bamboo shoot, which in traditional fung shui, is used to attract health, happiness, love and abundance. Once again emotion filled the room.

All of my training, life experience, and knowing have led me to this “holy” work and I am grateful.



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Midsummer’s Eve Frolic

A friend decided to have a party with a Midsummer’s Eve theme.  Wow, did she plan a party!

I loved being one of her planning partners.  I researched midsummer customs and she set the party for June 22, a Saturday close to the Summer Solstice and the evening of a Supermoon.  (also, one day before her 70th birthday)  Another friend offered a Danish traditional song and our Threshold Choir shared this song by Kate Munger.

What light do you shine in the world?

What gift do you give every day?

What comes from your heart, and becomes your life’s art?

What light do you shine in the world?

I focused on light and gifts from the sun, moving from summer fruit to solar energy.  I spoke of other cultural traditions, such as leaping over bonfires, rolling a flaming wheel downhill into a river, eating special foods and dancing round a Maypole.

The night of the party all was in place.  The almost 90 attendees wore white and were given flower haloes filled with glow sticks. flower sucker magic wands and sheer wings.  It looked like a Angel Convention!  Beautiful guitar music filled the grassy space, which had white lights in the trees and activites spread throughout.  Choices included creating a dreamcatcher, experiencing a chair massage, creating a work of art for our hostess, taking a picture using a variety of frames, dancing around a Maypole, eating incredible chocolate foods, and throwing our best intentions in a small bonfire.  (A telescope was missing because of illness.)

Folks left with a card suggesting ways to keep the celebration going–such as bringing cut flowers into the house and cooking a favorite dish for someone in need.  This feast for the senses was a huge success!  Feel free to borrow some of the ideas for your own gala.



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Fabulous Crones

Angeles Arrien, in The Second Half of Life, talks about archetypical gates through which we pass as we move into wisdom.  A gate suggests that testing must happen before we are allowed entry and then permitted to do work at that threshold, which is the place where transformational learning takes place.  We are required to let go of the familiar as we prepare to enter and open ourselves to the unknown. 

v     The Silver Gate challenges us to invite new experiences into our lives.

v     The White Picket Gate asks us to reflect on the roles we have played earlier in life, and to learn to assume the new role of elder.

v     The Clay Gate urges us to care for and enjoy our bodies, even as we come to terms with their limitations.

v     At the Black and White we learn to deepen our relationships in more intimate and mature ways.

v     The Rustic Gate encourages us to use our creativity to enhance our lives, contribute to our communities, and leave a lasting legacy.

v     At the Bone Gate, we develop the courage to be authentically ourselves in the world.

v     The Natural Gate calls us to replenish our souls in silence and in nature and to take time for reflection.

v     When we reach the Gold Gate, we actively engage in practices of nonattachment and prepare for our passing from this world.

At a ceremony with my Book Club, each woman chose a gate and then we celebrated her wisdom and learning, annointing her as a Wise Crone as she continues on her journey.

Do you relate to one of these gates?  What do you want to nurture in your life?  What do you want to limit or decrease?



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From Heaven to Hell

I spent last week in Heaven at a Threshold Choir National Gathering in Healdsburg, CA.  The harmony, music, compassionate women, inspiring workshops, and beautiful setting all added up to a deeply spiritual week.

One morning at 3:00 I woke up with this song:

 Love falls down like gentle rain,

Washes out regret and pain.

The desert blooms again.

A harmony part goes:

 Pitter patter, love is falling,

Pitter patter, love is falling,

Pitter patter, love is falling down.

Just being in the spiritual, creative mileau led to this first-ever happening for me.  I have written many songs, but they have always required “work”.  This one just fluttered down on me.

The night before, however, a deeply disturbing dream had surfaced.  I’ve since processed it (with expert help) and realize that it brought me a gift of closure from a particularly painful time in my life.

I share all of this simply to say that we can learn as human beings to cultivate places of peace and harmony.  It is possible.  Instead, we’ve just undergone a week from Hell—bombings, explosions, a disappointing vote against background checks for gun purchasers, a paralyzed city.

The juxtaposition of the two weeks has my head spinning. 

We have a choice.

May “love fall down like gentle rain” in your life.



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Susie Steiner wrote in the Guardian a year ago that the following are the most common regrets of hospice patients:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I’d let myself be happier.

When I look at the list I find I don’t share most of these regrets.  However, I can claim Number 4.  It’s a good thing I have time to work on this!

What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?



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Touching Hearts

Today our Phoenix West Threshold Choir sang for the first time for folks we do not know.  We visited a nursing center close to our practice place.  Other than a request for going through the hand signals one more time, we felt pretty good about our work.

Trudy was the last person we visited.  During our song about sending her “light to heal her and hold her”, tears began coursing her cheeks.  One of our singers handed her a tissue box.  We wiped tears from our own eyes.  Her comment buoyed us as we left, ready to work harder to perfect our gift of song.

What she said was, “You truly touch hearts.”