Finding a Thin Place


cobsunsetpnp14“Thin places,” the Celts call this space,
Both seen and unseen,
Where the door between the world
And the next is cracked open for a moment
And the light is not all on the other side.
God shaped space. Holy.

~Sharlande Sledge


…in a thin place, there is an immediacy of experience
where words of faith become words of life…
~Sylvia Maddox


Deep peace of the running wave
Deep peace of the flowing air
Deep peace of the quiet earth
Deep peace of the shining stars
Deep peace of the Son of Peace.
~Celtic blessing


Our Lord is great, and great His praise
From just this one small part of earth,
Then what of the image of His greatness
Which comes from the whole of His fine work?
…What of the greatness and pure loveliness,
Of God Himself?
~Thomas Jones, Welsh Minister

Nothing Ever Bothered Me Anyway!


It is no wonder our daughters feel confused. They have every right to be.

Society delivers mixed messages every day about who we want our girls to emulate:
“Let it go, let it go,
That perfect girl is gone! “
declares the latest Disney Princess in “Frozen” — an anthem even toddlers are singing with abandon.

Elsa continues, and all our children and grandchildren sing along:

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free!”

Of course, true for Disney and true for life, Elsa finds there is indeed right and wrong, there must be rules to live by and eventually sacrificial love conquers all.

But what of our real flesh and blood daughters in a “let it go and anything goes” society?

Today’s American girls live in a society of carefully legislated gender equity with high expectations for academic and athletic success. All the while ubiquitous magazine covers in the supermarket checkout make it abundantly clear that a woman’s value is about her body and her sexuality. Pervasive media messages extol “ideal” female bodies rather than a girl’s intellectual development: bigger breasts, smaller waist, visible thigh gap, pristine skin, whitest teeth, enticing scents, silkiest hair yet a carefully shaved “down there”. I’ve seen pre-teen girls (and their brothers) stare at these photoshopped cover girls while waiting in line.     These kinds of images used to be hidden under mattresses a generation ago; now that we are an “enlightened” and “liberated” culture of open tolerance for all manner of public sexual expression, anything goes anywhere. And we call that progress.

As a Christian mother who understands Jesus as the incarnation of sacrificial love and servant leadership, did I raise our daughter to be certain,  first and foremost,  in her value and role as a child of God to trust in the mind and body she was given?   As a physician who works primarily with older adolescents, I regularly see young women experience the typical developmental struggles over who they are and who they want to be, but a growing percentage feel entirely miserable inside their own skin. In comparison to what media portrays as “ideal” for girls and women, they do not like their bodies or themselves one bit and have a variety of ways of punishing themselves for what they perceive as inadequacy.

Recent ads from Verizon

and Always Sanitary Pads

pack a powerful message to pre-teen girls on what it is like to be dismissed as “like a girl.”

Then in contrast, the latest video in menstruation marketer HelloFlo’s monthly “special delivery” packages for a girl’s “hoo-ha”, comes complete with a snarky pre-adolescent narrator and her angry mother who gleefully gets back at her.

This is meant to be a “satirical and humorous” take on modern mother/daughter open communication but falls flat and farcical in my opinion. In addition, the advertised discrete brown box that arrives every month from HelloFlo, to take care of all those messy adolescent menstrual needs, contains candy and other goodies, just what every girl needs to console her cramps and monthly crabbiness.

Periods separate one sentence from another and menstrual periods separate the girls from the boys.   Humanity’s obvious ambivalence about monthly blood flow extends back to pre-history when blood-thirsty predators were a continual threat (why else would any one who smelled like blood be separated from the household/community for seven days a month?)   Although we are no longer threatened by sabre-tooth tigers, our species’ continuing distaste and embarrassment over the hassles of menstrual cycles has resulted in a modern demand for continuous suppressive hormone treatment to prevent bleeding altogether so girls and women can work and play unencumbered by leaks, odor, and accompanying uncomfortable symptoms.  Eventually, we may find there are more problems with cycle and fertility suppression than the benefit of convenience.   Only time will tell as have happened with other reversals in medicine after years of trial (i.e. hormonal supplementation in menopausal women to keep “bones strong and vaginal tissue young”  is no longer advised).

Our daughters need not be confused about who they are and becoming — accepting themselves as they are, in all their diversity of size and shape, color and ability — while respecting their body’s natural rhythms and learning to cope with the ebb and flow of emotions and endometrium.

If we return to Frozen’s Elsa once again to paraphrase the final line in her now-famous song:
“Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
Nothing ever bothered me anyway! “

Whatever What Is



Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.
~Galway Kinnell



Raising Boys (and a Girl)

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard.
Mother would come out and say,
“You’re tearing up the grass”
“We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply.
“We’re raising boys.”
~Harmon Killebrew

To my husband, Dan, who I thank for being much more concerned with raising our children than raising grass.
(our yard remains a dandelion, moss and mole sanctuary while the children have found their way into the wild and wonderful world, serving others to the glory of God)


The Threshold Between Heaven and Earth



“I know for a while again
the health of self-forgetfulness,
looking out at the sky through
a notch in the valleyside,
the black woods wintry on
the hills, small clouds at sunset
passing across. And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven,
from which even I may step
forth and be free.”
– Wendell Berry from “Sabbath Poems”



Bearing the Marks



…Christ does not banish tragedy but carries it into the heart of God.
…in the forty days that followed (the resurrection), Christ was not magically made whole but bore the marks of his passion, and would not rest until we placed our hands—and our hearts—inside them.
~Gregory Wolfe from Seattle Pacific University’s Image Journal, from “The Tragic Sense of Life”

This week brought local news from Seattle Pacific University of yet another person with mental illness making a conscious choice to end his own life by random killing of others.  His personal and private pain becomes magnified exponentially through creating public pain and tragedy;  in this age of “selfies”, it is the ultimate in self-absorption to purposely erase innocent lives just so he will be remembered.

I often see broken people in my work — it is the nature of a primary care clinic.  The vast majority do not seek ways to break others; instead they seek the glue of compassion, a listening ear and sometimes medication that can be a balm of healing their wounds. A few harbor such anger and resentment that their anguish becomes such uncontrolled bleeding that society can only be a tourniquet to make it stop.

Christ showed the way to walk through such unimaginable pain and tragedy.   He carried his bleeding wounds, though his pulse was stilled, straight into the heart of God.   The marks he bore were from us, for us and about us, so we would always remember his sacrifice.

If we bleed, when we bleed … he returned to invite us to reach inside the wounds we inflicted and be forever healed.



One Mind Between Them


They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes–only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons–small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.
~Wendell Berry from “A Timbered Choir”