Monthly Archives: June 2022



I felt scattered. I woke up and the anxiety started almost immediately. I needed to write, but I couldn’t focus and didn’t think I had any good ideas. So, I decided to clean the house a little bit because I needed to be productive. I picked up a scrap piece of paper with some notes that I’d jotted down for a previous writing piece. I intended to throw it out when I noticed a reference to the Bible story about Zacchaeus that hadn’t made it into the earlier writing. And that got me thinking. 

Jesus was passing through Jericho. Zacchaeus was the wealthy chief tax collector and considered a sinner by the people. “He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” I imagine that Zacchaeus felt pretty scattered that day. He knew he wasn’t popular with the people, and yet he wanted to see this man who stirred the interest and admiration of the people. He ran ahead of everyone and then shimmied up a tree because he knew he had no chance to see Jesus if he didn’t. I bet he didn’t climb trees very often. I can see him breathing hard, the sweat dripping off him, possibly scraped and bruised, feet slipping, hanging on as best he could. Completely uncomfortable and awkward. Despite his short stature, he probably felt even smaller emotionally in those minutes waiting for Jesus too. 

And then Jesus arrived and approached the tree. I’ve always assumed that Zacchaeus would be thrilled that Jesus noticed him, but I wonder if at first, he was scared. Did the adrenaline of fear shoot through his body? He knew he’d cheated people out of money. Would this man Jesus, whom the people loved, condemn him, call him out, turn the crowd against him while he was trapped up in the tree?

But then Jesus “looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” After his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus gladly offered to give half of his possessions to the poor and repay those he’d cheated with four times the amount. Jesus told everyone that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day. Jesus declared that he “came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10).

When Zacchaeus was scattered and lost, Jesus told him to come down out of his precarious position, get out of his own head, and ground himself in the presence of Jesus. I think God calls us to do the same. And yet, sometimes, when I’m feeling scattered, I do almost everything else before I pray about the situation. When I stop and realize I need to tell God about my state of anxiety, God begins the process of centering me, bringing my focus back to God. I usually find I become the most grounded when I write out my prayers. I always have a journal at the ready and pour out my thoughts and emotions to God in letter form. When I empty myself on the page, it’s as if Jesus stands at the foot of the metaphorical tree I’ve climbed up and tells me, “Come down immediately, look at me, calm down, let’s figure it out.” 

God sees us. God seeks and saves the lost and the anxious. Let us ground ourselves with God in prayer when we feel scattered. God will meet us where we are and help us regain our footing.

I Didn’t Know


My kids are living their best lives at summer camp for the next three weeks. My husband Ben attended this same camp as a child, and we’ve had a camper there for ten years running now. They absolutely love their time at camp because they can just be themselves and have fun. But, I didn’t know that children could love camp the way they do until I experienced it through them. When I was a kid, I didn’t go to summer camp like the one Ben and the kids attend. I only went to “nerd camps” in high school as my husband dubbed my academic camps. I was a homebody and didn’t want to go away in the summers. I also thought that rich people sent their kids away to summer camp for weeks because they didn’t want them at home. I’m not sure where my belief came from other than perhaps television or movies. I didn’t actually know people who’d go away to camp for weeks at a time, so my assumption remained until I met Ben. He told me how much he loved camp but really my misperception only fully dissipated when I realized that the weeks at camp are the happiest of my kids’ whole year.

This illusion about camp was not the first time I’d found myself believing something that was inaccurate or incomplete. When I was a freshman in college, I told my professor that I was going to write my paper on how the feminist movement had accomplished its goals because everything was equal now. Thankfully, she didn’t laugh in my face but told me to do my research and let her know what I thought. I was incensed when I learned that women were paid much less than men for the same jobs and other stark inequalities. Let’s just say my research paper was much different than what I’d initially imagined. A similar situation unfolded in my African American Politics class later in college. I heard a young Black man describe how he’d been followed around a store for no reason other than the clerk’s unfounded fear he would shoplift. I’d grown up going to school with children of color, but I’d never heard them talk about how people treated them based on the color of their skin. I’d never asked. I didn’t even know to ask. But in that class, that day, my eyes and ears were opened. And they can’t be closed again.

In law school, I met students who were openly part of the LGBTQ+ community. In college, there were rumors about some people being gay or lesbian, but in a southern school thirty years ago, LGBTQ+ students lived in the closet, not freely, not as themselves. In addition to meeting friends who were in the LGBTQ+ community at school and in the workplace, Ben and I started attending a Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), and I found out that the Bible was not as black and white as I’d thought about certain subjects either. I never knew churches could be welcoming and affirming before then and had no clue there were several other progressive denominations that were aligned. Now, we still belong to the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), and our local church is welcoming and affirming. We won’t settle for less.  

When we listen to and ask questions about others’ experiences, we leave room for understanding and growth. We cannot assume we know what other people go through. We can change based on what we learn. We need not cling to beliefs we’ve held for a long time if we find those beliefs are inaccurate. Being open to others, allowing them to tell their truths, and truly listening, demonstrates love, our own and God’s. 



Over the last few years, I’ve loved celebrating some of my friends’ milestone birthdays. I’ve traveled to Las Vegas; Fredericksburg, Texas; and last weekend – Oceanside, California. My friend’s husband planned her entire 50th birthday surprise – all we needed to do was get to California. I admit I was a little nervous because I hadn’t seen some of these friends that I’d originally met in St. Louis for around ten years. Several of us had moved to different states and that made staying in touch more difficult. But my worries vanished immediately upon arrival. We fell back into a comfortable rhythm as though no time had passed. We ate good food, laughed a lot, watched the ocean, and talked incessantly. By the end of the short trip, we felt reconnected and full of love from our time together. 

In the oft-quoted Psalm 23, the author wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” (Psalms 23:1-3)(NRSV). The Psalmist doesn’t specify how God restores our souls though. Some obvious church-related ways are through prayer and worship. Watching the vast ocean or spending time in nature reminds us of the power of God’s creation and soothes our spirits. 

But I think God’s restoration is more varied than what we realize. And much of that restoration occurs through our relationships with other people. God made us for community. Spending quality time with family or friends feeds the soul. Meeting someone for coffee or a meal helps us feel more connected to them and ourselves. When we can walk away from a conversation feeling more whole and complete, we experience restoration. When our child or a friend gives us a hug, we can regain our sense of self and feel God’s love too. 

God’s restoration can occur in the quiet, small, ordinary moments of life too. The Message version of the Bible translates Psalm 23 to God, “you let me catch my breath.” (The Message). When we nap, read a book, or take a drive to clear our heads, we stop, slow down, and ease our anxiety. God doesn’t need us to stress ourselves out to exhaustion and depletion. God wants to be our companion, and if we are constantly rushing, we don’t leave room in our days to spend time in relationship with God, others, or ourselves. 

In another version of the Bible, Psalm 23 says, God “refreshes my soul.” (NIV). To me refreshment should happen over and over. And I think that applies to our souls as well. God doesn’t promise that our entire beings will be refreshed all at once and remain that way forevermore. Instead, I see refreshment as a process that occurs bit by bit and is continual and constant. This past weekend reminded me of that. We left our time together with the realization that we’d missed one another. All of us expressed a desire to stay in contact more regularly, even if it was just a text with a small update on an event of the day. We decided that the weekend had afforded us a priceless opportunity to catch up and we wanted to be more intentional and build on our momentum going forward. Refresh and repeat. 

God is always willing and ready to refresh us. God wants us to feel the love and peace that only God can provide, but we may receive our soul-healing over time, in a variety of ways, and often from other people. Taking a moment to catch our breath can be a gift from God. Let us be glad and give thanks to the One who restores our souls.    

Kindness of a Mustard Seed


My nine-year-old son Alex and I have a pact to make friends with just about every service provider we meet. We visit the same places frequently, so we see the same clerks, servers, cashiers, and lifeguards on a regular basis. We learn about their families, their ailments, and their future plans. Most of them are happy to talk. I think it breaks up their day when it’s not just business as usual. But not every service provider is naturally gregarious. Every now and again, we encounter a more stoic individual. I can relate to them because I’m a pretty serious person by nature. So, when we do find someone who is harder to get to know, Alex and I pace ourselves, not overwhelming them, but gradually getting to know them. 

One of our friends at a gas station was an extremely hard nut to crack. I didn’t think he liked us at all, but we kept trying. Then one day, when I went into the gas station by myself, he asked, “where’s your sidekick?” I knew then that we’d crossed the bridge to becoming friends and that has been true ever since. Another woman started work at a drive-thru I visit for my morning soda fix. She didn’t seem interested in speaking beyond the exchange necessary to complete the transaction. I felt sure that I would wear her down after a while, but one morning, I was in a bad mood and felt I just couldn’t expend the energy to be overly friendly. That was when she surprised me. She handed me the drink and asked in a cheery tone, “see you tomorrow?” She’d noticed that I wasn’t my normal self and made an effort to pull me out of my funk. It worked because I felt seen and comforted by her words. We were on our way to becoming friendly. 

In the New Testament, Jesus used the imagery of a mustard seed a couple of times. The most familiar is when he said if we “have faith as small as a mustard seed,” we can move mountains. (Matt. 17:20-21). But there is another instance when Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matt. 13:31-32).

Faith strong enough to move a mountain is a hard concept to get my head around. But the kingdom of heaven being like a mustard seed that turns into a shrub big enough to host aa flock of birds makes more sense to me. We can all plant little seeds of kindness every day, everywhere we go. We may not know whether our small gestures will flourish into something more or not, but our efforts are still important. It may take time for the seeds we plant to show any growth, but if we don’t try to reach out to others, it’s possible that no one will. Some people may go days without seeing a smile directed at them, hearing a nice word, or feeling as though another person cares about them. 

As we go about our daily lives, let us spread compassion in small ways. Even if we only interact with others for a moment, God can use our words and deeds to remind them that God loves them and that they can rest in God’s comfort just like the birds who perch in the tree sprung forth from the tiny mustard seed.