The Prayer I Still Cannot Live Without

I start with Cute. I start with Love. Because who does not want this right now, this very moment??

When horrific storms loom, and as we enter the next round of political losers, braggers and ousters----shall we turn to the otters? 

Here, the dear creatures who swim around my island so languidly, so full of love and protection for their babies.


Do you see that little baby face?

Do you see that little baby face?


Ten days into a grueling speaking tour, I am joyful as I write this---because of a prayer.  (I can even follow the daily news because of this prayer.) A prayer spoken before I left. No margins. No downtime. Two weeks of back to back events, and a college tour after that and a wisdom tooth extraction (for my son) on the way home.

And those days of, another pregnancy? Another child? Another book? Another death? Another more of everything I haven't got?

And for many of you, another illness? Another prodigal child? Another foreclosure? Another fight?

We ask, "Are you really asking MORE of me again, God?"

I think Jesus might join us in this refrain. In the gospels, when he and the disciples find out that the one they all loved---John the Baptist---had been murdered, they fled in a boat across the sea to find some lonely quiet place to grieve this unspeakable act. They arrive at this "desolate place" but look---thousands, yes thousands are there before them, the worst kind of thousands: the sorriest neediest lot of humanity ever seen, and all of them shouting, milling, crying out for help. All wanting the touch of this magician's healing hand.

This grieving Jesus, what did he pray as he stepped out of the boat??  Oh Lord, not the pathetic masses again? Father, just give me some peace and rest for once, would you?

If Jesus was fully a man, surely he prayed something like this under his breath.

 Why does God keep calling us to things we cannot do? More than this, his messenger Paul had the gall to implore us to rejoice in the white-hot center of our worst stressed-out mess! "Rejoice in the Lord Always!!"

But No, He is not cruel. Ten days in, I am exhausted but rejoicing. ALmost 17 and 19 years after birthing those mid-life babies, I am rejoicing. Six years after multiple deaths, one month after finishing another book, I am praising God. For God has done it. God has answered my face-down prayer again and again, even when I did not see it at the time.

 And the words of that prayer? Not Jabez’ prayer

'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.

No, not that. As I climb out of the boat each time facing multitudes and messes I have no strength or ability for, what do I pray? Not "enlarge my territory" but 

“Lord, increase my capacity.”

They are not words from Scripture. They are not holy inspired words. They are simply the words from an often overwhelmed heart and body:

“Lord, increase my capacity.”

Because my natural heart is  a one-seat leaky dinghy with broken oars and a rotting line that will not cross the sea, and will not throw out a line or an anchor on any hillside hospital for anyone. So----

“Lord, increase my capacity.”

And He does. The years spool by and the boat slowly lengthens, the hatches open, the galley seats two, then five, then dozens;, the engines rumble across a pond then the ocean, and soon the ferry carries more than I can count sometimes. And each one is a wondrous marvel, easy to love. There is even room for me. 

How does He do this? The same way he does all of this: 


He cannot not fill the impoverished, empower the weak, beautify the plain, overflow the destitute, make peaceable the angry, make bounteous the miser, dazzle the dim.

It is His very nature. As nature itself shows us.

All we need do is ask. Each morning we awake and step out of our sleepy boat to a needy throng on a hill we thought was ours alone, Let us breathe,

 “Lord, increase my capacity. Make me more like you.”


And He does.


(And my prayer for our hot-tempered leaders: "Lord, Decrease their territory. Make them more like you.")

fire and fury pinterest 2.jpg
fire and fury pinerest 1.jpg















Four Things Wrong with Fashion Magazines (and one fun remedy!)


 I’m back in Kodiak. It’s beautiful. Fall is my favorite season. But this isn’t about that. It’s about another kind of beauty.

On the way home from Europe, I bought a magazine in the airport.


I bought it because who doesn’t want to “be your best at every age”? Who doesn’t want to “future-proof your face”? and “take years off your neck”? And—I’ve been working like the dickens since I got home, preparing for the next speaking trip (leaving next Tuesday).  A few moments of superficial de-stressing distraction? Check.

 I haven’t bought a fashion magazine for years so I was, shall we say, astonished? It was hard to reconcile the fashion magazine’s pages with the dire daily News——impeachment proceedings, global warming, Turkey’s militarism, etc. And on the Church front, the heated debates over women in ministry, and so much more. Fashion magazines seem to live in their own etherized world, but then, I began to look more closely. I began to see some connections after all.

Is this outfit making a subliminal statement about women in ministry perhaps?


Maybe this fashion statement is a subtle commentary on the women running for president?


 And of course there’s Demi on the cover——clearly addressing global warming:


This one, I think, is making a statement about the sexism in Nascar racing.

fashion--nascar flag.JPG

And this is surely pitched for an increase in military spending: for women’s uniforms.


 (Check out the price tag on that lacy see-through Prada skirt that looks like the black slip I bought at Walmart for $10. And the cost of the boots . . . I know some widows, some unemployed, some homeless, some ministries that could really use those funds . ….)


 I’m not against fashion. We all subscribe to fashion in some way, just as we all subscribe to some kind of worldview, theology and epistemology. Even if we can’t articulate precisely our beliefs about existence, meaning, God and truth we all live and breathe and build our lives around our assumptions. And we all wear clothes. (The nudist and the atheist may try to opt out of these systems, but no-clothes and no-god are both still aesthetic and philosophical positions.)

We can’t escape fashion—-but this magazine has given me reasons to want to. Here are four:

*I’m against the kind of fashion that believes you have to look wounded and miserable to be chic.

*I’m against anyone telling you can look fabulous at any age—-if you can pony up the cash for these threads and bags:


*I’m against the idea that as soon as you see your neck beginning to sag you consider a $24,000 plastic surgery. (that was the upshot of the one page article on “taking years off your neck.”)

 *I’m generally against people telling you what to wear. (And how do you sort this out: the same issue proclaims it “earth tone season” also declares it “bold, bright color season?”  It advocates wearing $549 sneakers with $1,949 skirts. I admit it: I’m confused.

Call me shallow, but I do care about clothes and fashion. I have a hard time passing up a thrift store and I love creating my own outfits. Nearly everything I wear is second-hand. When my closet gets too full, I send it off to our local Salvation Army, where my threads will get yet another life.


I’m waiting for the magazine that raids Goodwills, Value Village, Salvation Army, all my favorite haunts, posting cheerful models wearing creative, eclectic finds along with the happy price tag: $4.99. $11.99. Sign me up for that.

So where is the theology here? It’s there, like the stitches that hold our garments together, like the slip under a silky skirt. (No, not like spanx under a slinky dress, though Christ does, arguably “hold all things together.”)

I’ve written on fashion before. Today, my words are simple. We’re asked to Love God with all that we have, with all that we are. And to love our neighbors the same way. We do most of that with clothes on. So wear clothes that help you love God. Wear threads that help you love your neighbor. Wear clothes that make you smile and that lighten the loads of life. (But I hope that doesn’t mean a $3,000 pair of boots or a $495 pair of jeans.) Life under this sun is so heavy, but it’s also miraculous and colorful and full of surprises (just like a thrift store) so why not dress like it?

thrift--plus size.jpg
(How do you snap a photo by yourself? And I am indeed wearing flowers and polka-dots together today. Total cost of outfit: $23)  My thrift store ways now run in the family:

(How do you snap a photo by yourself? And I am indeed wearing flowers and polka-dots together today. Total cost of outfit: $23)

My thrift store ways now run in the family:

abraham in lobster suit.jpg
fishcamp fashion--4 boys in costumes.jpeg

I’d love to hear your wisdom on this! How can we love God and one another through our dress?

 (P.S. Elisa Morgan, author of “Hello Beauty-Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You” will be one of the keynotes at the first ever Wonder Years Gathering for women over 40. At Mt. Hermon, Feb 21 - 23. Her topic? True Beauty.) Registration is open now!))



From France: Two Prayers to (Truly) Change Your Life

red heart rock on beach.jpeg

I learned a new prayer in France this week. A friend here told me of a woman in her home church who stood up and shared this prayer she says every morning, when she wakes:

Thank you for Life. (Because she could have died in the night.)

Thank you for my life.

Thank you for everything you are going to do today.

 But there’s one more detail. As you imagine this woman standing to say this prayer, you must also know she does not sit or stand or walk or do anything easily. She shakes and trembles. Sometimes it is even hard to speak. “Thank you for my life” she says, like this.

 I have been speaking this prayer since I heard of it. I am not a cheerful waker. I wake slowly, dutifully, not gladly. . I wake heavy, as if I will have to carry buckets of water all day.  And sometimes I do. But by the time I am dressed and put lipstick on, I remember: I did not make this day. I am not in charge of this day. God is. Which means anything can happen, so stay awake for what might happen.



What did God do this week? There were 125 of us, women from Mongolia, Nigeria, Uganda, Japan, Greece, France, Switzerland, Canada, U.K. Romania, and more for this Lifesprings International gathering. I was the speaker. I poured out my little Alaskan life, threw my paper cup full of bears and fish, storms and boats; my stories of running away and coming close, of denials and repentance, of storms and giving up, of false gospels and true, and hard rescues and long wide mercies.  

Leslie carrying 2 buckets of salmon.JPG


And others poured back. Over dinner, one woman told me of her abusive marriage. Irene from Uganda told of her double lung transplant and the loss of both legs. One woman tearfully told me her story of infertility, her longing for a child. One woman believes in God but feels nothing—What is wrong with me? One tells me of the tragic death of her husband. Another asks me, after my last presentation, if God and I had read her journals. How did you answer all the questions I wrote in my journal this morning? One woman says yes to following Jesus. And more, and more . …


(Thank you for everything you are going to do today.)


At dinner, I sit at a table with women who have poured out their lives for others for decades. Laura, 62, has been living in Albania for thirteen years, helping to launch a church.  Martha, 67, will go to Uganda next year to help launch a school of ministry. Dinah will begin a school in Romania. Mara, 60, will bring theological education to women in her native Uganda. Raquela, from the Middle East, teaches Bible studies for Arabic speaking women.  

 I am the speaker but every day they teach me.

(Thank you for everything you are going to do today)

Lifesprings leaders (older women).jpg


Lyon--praise team.png

But Maybe I already know what God is doing, yesterday, last week and today (and forever.)  In my own country, people who share the same language and savior are dividing, riven, fearful, angry: Politics. Here women  from 15 nations collect their voices to pray, sing and teach in many tongues but the same language: Praise.




This is what God is doing and what God wants to do. Everywhere.

On one of our days together, twenty of us from a handful of nations toured the United Nations. That evening, there was a reunion. For the first time, the women from Mongolia met the women from Africa who had been praying so long for them. Spontaneously, they formed a circle and prayed for one another.


As we toured the halls of the United Nations that day, we knew what will someday unite people from every nation and tribe. We knew the secret that can unite us all even now, today.

 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. “


Two prayers. When you rise each morning, pray the French woman’s prayer. Then the rest of the day, watch how you and God together can make the second prayer come true.

Thank you for Life, Lord.

Thank you for my life.

Thank you for all you are going to do today.


Lyon-group photo in UN.jpeg

Thank you, everyone, for reading. If you know someone who needs encouragement, who needs either one of these prayers, please send it on? (And for those who prayed for me during this trip——-ahhhhhh! Do you see what your prayers have done?)

Down the Deadly River (videos)


There were 20 of us on the barge, standing, as we drifted into the river. We were on an excursion during the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop. I had never been here before. It was more like a creek, with green bushed cliffs on either side. But the silence. And the wildness around us, not a person for miles. Just us. And——this:

We held our breath, we stood quiet, because it felt . …. holy?


They’re salmon of course. Pink salmon, in Telrod Cove, ten miles from Harvester Island. They’ve come (late) to the river of their birth to spill and milt their eggs, the bright skein carried like berries in their bellies. Alaska throbs and swells with wild salmon every summer. This season, fisherman caught 213 million salmon.

Salmon--fishermen in tons of fish.jpg
HIWW 2019--Seiner with fish.png

(And my family, what did we catch? Just a thimble-full of this ocean of fish.)

213 million will help feed the world. But don’t worry! Hundreds of millions more swam past the nets to return to their birth beds to spawn. Everywhere I look this fall on Kodiak, every river and salmon stream, there it is: uncountable abundance.


We don’t see or hear about creation’s abundance very often. We don’t associate nature today with surfeit, excess in these anxious days of extinctions, species-counting, mammal, fish and avian declines. (The Atlantic just reported a loss of 3 billion birds in N. America since 1970.)

But this story is about more than uncommon abundance. There it was around the next corner, this next part of the story:

The salmon story is also about endurance, the power of instinct, About finishing your life course, no matter how hard, no matter how high the obstacles.

And we know the last chapter of this story, how it all ends.

dead salmon.JPG

Salmon--dead, white gross.JPG

I want to say this is beautiful. A creature who lives and survives and fights nearly insurmountable obstacles to migrate thousands of miles back to the same river that birthed it. To arrow upstream, to lay the pearly eggs, to die. And in dying, to feed the bears, the gulls, the eagles. Which enriches the soil, the whole ecosystem. And those eggs will erupt and send more salmon to our nets, our tables.

We see resurrection here. Life emerging out of Sacrificial death.

But when you stand there, awash in the stench of rotten flesh, you cannot dress up death in a pretty circle-of-life skirt. It’s ugly. Hideous. The fish are zombies, the living dead, who take too long to die. No one would choose it.

So we are silent, hushed as we visit the dying grounds. We understand: death in any form deserves grief.

I leave us here this week, reverent, beside the river. I’m not rushing us to the feast, to the table heavy with bright salmon.

Something has died so we can eat. Look. See. Be humbled.

Just say, “Grace.”

HIWW--on river bank 2019.jpg
salmon--dead chum in water.jpg

Thank you dear friends, for being here with me. I pray you find a moment of awe, humility and thanks here.

(Next week I fly to France to lead a women’s conference. Please pray for me? thank you!!)

When God Keeps Surprising


I am back in Kodiak now. Summer is gone. The writing workshop is over. And just when I think nothing new could happen in this yearly cycle—from one Alaskan island to another, that has now spun me around for 42 years——God does it again. Astonishment. Surprise. Goodness hailing down like rain from a cloudless sky. Maybe I am a hopeless slow learner, but I am still dropped low, left gaping at these moments when we lived, moved and felt our being joined to God and one another.

But—-this is too many words.Here is what this last week looked, sounded, and tasted like:


And here are Marilyn’s words for this week. (The brilliant Marilyn Chandler MacEntyre was my guest writer for the week)

Harvester Island Writers’ Workshop, 2019

with many thanks to Leslie and Duncan


I had no idea, when I said yes,

how wide open the door would swing,

how many would come bearing gifts—

local lore, woolen socks, timely reminders

of ways to use a Q, new uses for quinoa,

large cameras for crowds, a sharp eye

for whale fins, long-legged rain gear

and chocolate covered almonds.


I had no idea what pleasure a banya

might provide on a chilly afternoon

or what chilly might mean in this

northwest outback.  In Sacramento

it’s 102 today.  70 is sweater weather.


I thought I knew what I might offer;

I’ve done this many times before, I thought.

I had handouts, and plenty of prompts.


But one sure and certain sign of the Spirit

is surprise.  Conversation re-creates and all

our preparations are reconfigured.  We leave

our devices at the door, our shoes, our hygienic

excesses, and walk into a bright circle of grace.


We learn again, from one another, how a word

can take root in the body and grow into story

or song.  We have seen salmon dying now,

and puffins making their flapping way

up the steep hill of wind, and curious gulls,

and watched quizzical otters from a deck full

of well-wrapped watchers, balanced between

words and silence, awed and unsettled and expectant,

already imagining how to keep these moments alive

long enough to transplant them into poems.


I had some idea of what could happen

when two or three were gathered, permitted to laugh,

invited to play.  God’s own breath moves among us,

diffuse and subtle, filling hospitable silences,

preparing us each, in ways we barely suspect,

for what comes next.

——-Marilyn Chandler MacEntyre

HIWW 2019 Robyn in kayak through arch.png

Does God Care about Food? (My 2 new food videos!)


Dear Readers,

I am wearing part of summer. It sits around my middle and if I grab it just right I can make out the last piece of kielbasa roasted over a beach fire, hunks of smoked salmon, the raspberry shortcake with chocolate drizzle. But I am not repentant. When 23 people jump out of a plane onto your beach (in July), and you’re all cooking, eating, conversing together about Important Things, which include FOOD and all the ways it matters——-you just have to pull on your fat jeans and celebrate, you know??

Here’s how we did it in July, here on Harvester Island. It’s our First ever Spirit of Food workshop and retreat.

You know the answer to my question already: “Does God care about food?” But here are some answers that might surprise you. And they are just the very beginning of so many ore answers and reasons God cares so deeply about (your, mine, the world’s) food:


Would you share with us all a special food memory from this summer?

And—-other thoughts on how food matters to our faith?

Spirit of Food--Gail, Ann at table.jpeg
SOF-Leslie and Eileen fileting.jpg
Spirit of Food--elissa, lisa patti in kitchen.jpeg

P.S. We had SO much fun, we’re doing it again next year! Stay tuned here for further news:

A Tour of Our Banya (Are You Clean Enough for God?)

The Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop starts on Saturday——which means 23 people are here sharing our island, our waters, our whales---AND our banya! How do you get 23 people clean each night in a place without an indoor bathroom?  This is how: 


Americans use an average of 100 gallons of water a day. We use maybe 3 gallons apiece. We’re just not that thirsty---or that clean. (One of my sons has worn the same sweatshirt the entire summer. Just 1 washing. And I just went 6 days without washing my hair. I’m lucky like that . ..)   

Our water does not gush from our 2 faucets in the house: it ambles, urged along simply by gravity-flow from a tank above our house filled with water from our hand-dug well. Getting clean and staying clean take time and energy. We don’t have an indoor shower or a tub; we bathe in a banya, a word and a custom brought over by the Russians 300 years ago when they colonized this part of Alaska.  

The banya is a wood-fired steam sauna in a building separate from the house. We build a huge wood fire in the barrel stove,

fill the inside tank (over part of the barrel stove) with water for our hot water.  

We keep the fire stoked until the water inside is hot and the air temperature is about 200 degrees. It takes 3 - 4 hours---we have to plan ahead. Then we take turns filing out to the banya, towels over our shoulders. We steam and sweat, washing in basins, emerging  red-faced, happy and clean. 

We use very little water, but we use a lot of wood, all of it driftwood found on beaches, dragged to shore in a flotilla, stacked until we saw it up and burn it.

I’ve been dragging my body into that banya for 42 years now. Naked I sit, in my grime and sweat and the worries of the day, sucking in air almost too hot for my lungs.  But I’m not really here to get clean. I'm here to get pure. 

The banya, like a native American sweatlodge, is often a house of prayer for me. Two thousand years ago, on a grassy hillside, maybe a bit like the one where we built our banya, a promise and a blessing was given: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “

 Am I pure enough yet to see the living God? 

In a book of prayers from the Presbyterian church published in 1940’s  I find this prayer: 

“Grant that we may think clean, generous, humble  thoughts and harbor none that  stains the mind or dims our vision of Thee. So cleanse our hearts that we may ever behold thee face to face . .”

What I have seen of God so far is this: 

He strips us,   he scalds us, he sears our lungs,   he opens our pores,   

we melt,  our bodies weep . . . And when we return again to the world, our skin shines, 

people are kinder,  and the world itself is  brighter than we left it.

How many of us are “pure in heart”?  

Not me. But we shall be, one day. Even as we lean toward that day,


this day,


we have been made 

clean    enough.

Of Killer Whales and Killers: What to Do Next

The weekend of two shootings in our country was a weekend of killer whales out at our fish camp. It was 10 pm, light as day, near the end of the day’s work on the fishing nets. A pod of 8 orcas appeared, a family, with two babies right beside their skiff. My kids and our crew watched their massive black and white bodies as they dipped and rose around their boat, enthralled. Then one of the orcas surfaced, spun and gulped down an unsuspecting sea otter in one crunch, right before them. A rainbow arched overhead. (No, there were no unicorns.)


That morning I watched a bald eagle snatch a salmon from the sea. Sometimes we see them scoop ducks from their innocent feeding, lifting them to their nests, plucking their feathers before they eat. I saw two orcas round the corner of our island below me, scanning for sea lions, otters, seals, any warm body to feed their own.

Two summers ago we boated past a sea lion rookery. One rock still flowed with blood, where an orca had nabbed a sea lion and sunk into the depths.


We are enmeshed in killing, all of us.


I don’t know what orcas or eagles think when they are killing.  Or eagles when they impale a warm squirming bird and feed it to their young. But I’m certain they don’t kill out of hate or prejudice.

They are better than us this way.


Is our country unraveling? Fellow Countrymen have become enemies.  Anger rules. Words are arrows, and when insults are not enough for rage, guns take their place. What kind of wisdom or solution can be spoken into this spiral? I have only cold comfort this morning, but comfort nonetheless.                

  I am immersed in the Psalms these days, each day writing out a Psalm in my own best hand, word for word. Letting its phrases, poetry, complaints, longings, laments and praises run through my body, through my fingers to the page. Here is what I know so far.  The court and the nation of Israel three thousand years ago is little different than ours today. The King, the man on the throne was often under siege. Violence erupted constantly. His enemies lay in wait for him. The righteous were attacked and embattled.


It’s a story as old as humankind. Our human history runs a river of blood. How can we not, then, run out of sorrow and righteous indignation? Sometimes I’m just fresh out. But somehow King David never seemed to run out. He did not deny the harsh realities around him. He did not shrug his shoulders in resignation. He did not grow numb and cloister himself in a sanctuary. Nor did he mount his horse to kill his enemies. Instead, He did the two most powerful things possible: He took up his pen and his harp. And he fell on his face before God. Again and again. 

He continued to long for righteousness. He prayed unceasingly against evil and worked toward the good. He cried tears of frustration and despair. He kept calling upon God’s righteousness. He continually praised and mourned and sang to God in every moment of need.  

Then he ruled out of that deep God-formed sense of faith and justice.

We need rulers and officials like this. That’s one thing we can do:

Support and vote for those who seek the heart of God, who foster the Common Good, who unite people, who value and welcome All people, regardless of race, faith, gender, economic status, country of origin—— just as Jesus did.

One more thing we can do:

*Don’t despair of despair. Don’t grow weary of longing. Don’t give up mourning evil. These are signs of life. If we did not know the light, we would not see the dark. Others will grow weary of resisting evil. We cannot.

But we can’t carry this darkness or it will kill us. Carry it to our Lord, our King who alone can bear it.

And If you’re out of words, use the Psalmist's.

God gave him those words, because he knew we would need them too.


With love and prayers for us all,


Finding Rest After the Debates and Josh Harris

What a week it’s been!

My daughter and her lovely new husband have been with us at fishcamp since early June. But they left a few days ago. (How I miss them!)


*Joshua Harris, the 21 year old author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, who became a Christian media star launching a generation into “courtship” rather than dating—-has now kissed Christianity Goodbye. The now forty-something former pastor renounced his faith, making international news. We’re shaken. (Do we put too much faith in our Christian celebrities’ faith??)

*The democratic “debates”? I didn’t watch them because I live here in the wilderness, without TV (and often without internet!) But the pundits say the debate focused on personal sniping. The world is ablaze and we’re still launching insults instead of solutions?

*My edits on my next book have come back from my editor. I have a thousand little changes to make. I will be a slave to my screen again.

*And finally, in our annual summer measuring and marking on the doorframe, my teenage sons each grew an inch since last year. Naphtali posted a half inch gain (“it’s all the yoga,” she smiled.) I didn’t want to be measured, but everyone insisted: I shrank. I lost (another) half inch. (And I hate yoga.)

Sometimes it’s just all too much and you have to leave, escape. One night I grabbed a paddle and launched a kayak. And the next few nights, I went out fishing with my kids. (Would any of this make me taller? No, but it would make me happier. And it did.)

I found so many consolations:

*Tiny kelp crabs fell into our skiff. They’re ornamented in bonnets of kelp, which they fasten with their pincers, looping and hooking the ribbons on the tiny protrusions on their shell. Biologists tell us they’re dressing to hide, to camouflage, though I’m certain they’re fancying-up for Sunday dinner, or a night out on the town, (which, in this case, would be an hour in our skiff.)

kelp crab in hand.jpeg

*I found five starfish on the beach. Which is nothing, but it’s five more than we had last summer. Two summers ago Kodiak Island was stricken with Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, (from warmer ocean temps). Our beaches, always festooned with hundreds of purple, orange, magenta sun and starfish were desolate of starfish. Wiped out, as they were along most of the US west coast. They’re recovering there——and maybe they’re returning here as well? I am hopeful.


Everywhere I turned I saw loveliness. Rocks dressed in barnacles and bright wigs even on the dullest days.

rockes on beach with neon kelp.jpeg

Mothers and fathers feeding their children.


And then, in the kayak two nights ago, silently paddling, mother and babe.


I am on these waters too with my beloved ones, (though we’re not nearly as cute).

Abraham + Leslie in skiff, sunset.jpeg

And then the skies whispering overhead as we glide back home.


This is my Sabbath, out here, on these waters, on these shores. I know you need it too. When we turn off our screens, the unnatural world, and turn to the natural world—-we are not escaping or retreating. We are returning. And we are resting, even while we work.

When watching an otter, an eagle, a kelp crab, a sunset, I find rest. My tired ears hear again. I see again. The rocks shout out whose world this is. The moon, the sun testifies. The eagles know who feed them.

We are the only ones in all of creation who forget. We are the only ones who lose our faith. We are the only ones who “politic.” We are the only ones who never have enough.

SABBATH rest, Norman Wirzba tells us, is not about closing our eyes, taking a nap, retreating from the world. It’s about ending our restlessness, our discontent, the not-enough-ness that rules our lives and drives us sad, mad and frantic.

Stop. Declare a Sabbath. Go watch the sparrows, the spider outside your window, the otters. Hike the mountain behind your house. Walk softly on the beach.

All this has been given to us out of love.

Watch, listen, love it back. And you will find rest.

red heart rock on beach.jpeg

Where is your favorite place to go to find rest, to find Sabbath?

Eat, Pray, Love, (Smoke)

SOF-3 women 3 kings.jpeg

“ . … you gave them bread from heaven for their hunger.” Neh. 9:15

I know many of you wanted to come.  To come to this island in the Gulf of Alaska  to to eat, to pray, to love, to think about food. So let me bring it to you. We lived a whole month in this week so I will show and tell now---and again next week. This is not about what you missed. It's about what you can do now to eat, love, pray (and swim?) right where you are.



What did we do? 20 of us flew out on float planes to Harvester Island, Alaska, where my family and I live and commercial fish for salmon. I had a plan for the week, a schedule of sorts. Norman Wirzba (prof of eco-theology at Duke) was ready with his notes. Melissa d’Arabian (Food Network star) with hers. Me with mine. And the plane was filled with boxes of food, all kinds.

And we did it. We sizzled and grilled, sliced and roasted, rolled and stirred our collective way to feasting lunches and dinners every day. We taught and talked and sang and adventured and prayed around it all. And we smoked——-salmon. The smoke from my smokehouse joined the smoke from 100 fires burning around Alaska. We’re praying for rain.)

 I could say we tasted heaven through the food, the bisque, the crab, the  ceviche, the salmon, the potato-bacon torte. We did. And we were tasting earth, too. There it was on every plate: pieces of the field, the sea, fruit fallen from trees, plucked from the ground. Our plates a garden. Our plates a map of creation, the goodness of the earth given to nourish the first earthlings and all of us after.

SOF--plate of crab+salad.jpeg
SOF--group meal-Melissa, skip, Ann, Mary.jpg
SOF--Gretchen with glass.jpeg

SOF--smoked samon with white bowl.jpeg


 God didn't have to make it so, as Norman reminded us. He could have given us gruel every morning----like the gruel I grew up eating every morning: Lumpy, cold, gelled, leftover.  Like the gruel the parishoners ate in Babette's Feast: Food to make us brave for choking it down every morning. Food to make us strong  in self-denial. Food that punishes, that teaches our appetites are sinful and wrong, that the body must be endured. Food that leaves us hungry and wondering if we are loved.


But when God rained food from the sky those forty years it was white, light, sweet like honey, wafers on the tongue. It wasn't gruel. It wasn't cruel. despite their disobedience and constant complaint, it was still lovely and delicious,


God is like that.


This week God fed us and we fed each other so very well. We needed it. We were starving, I think, all of us. Tired of snatching a mcmuffin and a coffee on the way to work. Sick of counting calories and carb. Sickened by media and drive-thrus urging us all to "Super-size" it. Worn out from perching alone on snacking stools in coffee shops. Weary with being overfed and undernourished. Lonely from being cut off from the earth and sea beneath us. Exhausted from fearing food, from idolizing food. From believing it will save us or kill us. Our culture teaches us all these things.

How has the goodness of food turned so bitter?

How has the blessing of food turned to bite and consume us?

 We've lost our way. We all know it. But there are so many ways back. Here is one way to start this very week: Feed people. Open your doors to people you know and people you don't for one meal. It doesn't have to be expensive. Just colorful. Something that has come from the earth or the sea, that has passed through your hands. Something you offer freely, without asking for anything back. Something you make because of love.

SOF--potato torte.jpeg
SOF--Lisa, Melissa, Patti in kitchen.jpeg
SOF--Ann+Gail at table.jpeg

 As Norman shared this week, God did not have to make the world so beautiful, so delicious. But He did: "Food is God's love made delicious.”

Gather the hungry. Feed someone that love this week.

When you invite them all to your table, you will see heaven, earth and its people returned to one another.

SOF--Eileen+Lisa eating.jpeg
SOF-Norm Melissa + Leslie around tray of halibut.jpg

(Norman, Melissa and I are hoping and planning to do it again next summer. I hope some of you can come?)

Your turn! What was the most loving meal you ever made or you ever ate?



Surviving Kodiak's Heat Wave: And "I Want It All"


Who can account for a week in a life? What is the story of this week on Harvester Island? Eleven of us live, eating around the table, standing at fishing nets mending for days and days . .. An unprecedented heat wave—-in the mid-70’s here on Harvester for 10 days. (Over 90 in Anchorage. A first.) It’s a little scary to us . . .

(And I know all of you suffering with temps in the 90’s and over 100 can laugh at us wimps. We are wimps indeed . ..)

And me, what am I doing among all of this? I am rejoicing. THE BOOK (my 12th) is OFF to the publisher. I met the deadline, though sickness came to call just before and it seemed the whole tiny universe around me was conspiring to keep me from words. This is what it looks like to hit the “Send” button on a manuscript that was forged in the midst of sickness, personal heartache, and a busy fishcamp life.

Leslie----smiling with mss. in studio.jpg

And here is my studio, awash still in paper, words, sentences . …. .


Every book finished is some kind of miracle. At the nearly-finished line, I’m sure I am not the only one relieved and breathing easier (though my breath is held in reservation until I hear back from my editor . .).

I think God is probably relieved as well: No more daily whimpering from Leslie!

How do you rejoice and celebrate on Harvester Island? You go climb trees with your son. Oh good day——this was one of the happiest moments in my week. (I spent half my childhood up in trees.)

Leslie + Micah in alders.jpeg

And——You cut up fish! Here, a 40 pound king salmon my daughter brought in.


I don’t need words now. Just hands. Just knives. Just eyes.

Leslie cutting up king--2019.jpeg
king salmon meat---pattern.jpeg


But play is over. The Spirit of Food workshop begins next week with so many friends coming! And we have a new classroom and bedrooms to finish., menus to plan, and a thousand other things.

I am greedy, I know. I am greedy. I am tired. But I cannot stop. As Rilke writes in the poem below, “Maybe I want it all.”

You see, I want a lot.

Maybe I want it all:

The darkness of each endless fall,

The shimmering light of each ascent.


So many are alive who don’t seem to care.

Casual, easy, they move in the world

As though untouched.


But you take pleasure in the faces

Of those who know they thirst.

You cherish those

Who grip you for survival.


You are not dead yet, it’s not too late

To open your depths by plunging into them

And drink in the life

That reveals itself quietly there.


---Rainer Maria Rilke


fishermen leaving in skiffs-2019.jpeg

Will you keep gripping God for survival?

We are not dead yet.

Let us keep thirsting together.

So gratefully,



All the Light We Cannot Spend: Summer Solstice, 2019

What did you do on the summer solstice, when the sun stayed up past its own bedtime? (Here, just before midnight)

We have 22 hours of light right now. But so sadly—-our solstice celebration was swallowed by fog and rain, utterly. Here it comes, the massive fog bank that moved in yesterday, swallowing the sun and every bright thought . ..

Blog--All LIght Cannot Spend.jpeg
Blog--All Light--Sheep shed fog.jpeg
blog--All light--nets and fog.jpeg

But the work goes on. (My daughter and Aaron, still honeymooning as they work among nets, fish and kelp.)

Naphtali and Aaron by skiff.jpeg
Blog--All Light--loading nets.jpeg
american gothic-this one.jpg


And this is one way to make sun even in the rain. [Step aside “American Gothic!”


When the sun comes back, I will have more than I can use. It is hard to sleep these days that won’t end. I wear double eye masks and pull down blackout curtains, as if warding off bad luck. As if hiding from danger.

The sun IS dangerous. It lights creation with such flames of love I cannot sleep, I cannot stop. I want to gather berries and rose petals, I want to go out on the ocean and pick fish all night long. I want to climb our mountain, name every flower, watch the eagles, pull rhubarb, smoke fish, gather bouquets of wild iris, follow the sparrows and nuthatches.


And I want to work. I want to paint the buildings that need painting, dig our over-wintered potatoes, plant more potatoes, can salmon and jar whole shelves of jam and jelly.


I need to do all this, and likely I will. This is the Alaskan way, to work until midnight, to power through on light alone, knowing how soon winter’s dark shadow will fall. Knowing how our bodies turn to slugs in the dark.

We’re solar-powered most of us. But I confess----I am tired. I worried the sun will not return. The fog and rain can last a long long time. And winter is coming and we are soon losing  4 – 5 minutes of light each day. Who can sleep knowing summer will end in two months? Who on a rainy island can waste uminous radiant grace while its here?

(Do you do this too? In the midst of such summer opulence are you too already counting its loss? )

But here’s what’s truly true: Grace comes a thousand ways  and this light is only one. (Click to Tweet) The flowers and the fish are only two and three, but God has millions of graces yet to come. Graces that come in the colors of the fall, in the dark, in the night, in the fog and rain, even in the coming winter storms. )


But Do we think God’s going to run out of goodness? Do we think his mercies come only through the summer sun? I know His dark mercies too that come new every winter. That come new every sorrow, every disappointment. That come new every single night.

(That came new last week. This matter I cannot talk about is now international news, yet it is personal and it won’t be resolved for years. SO much heartbreak here . .. yet believing God will somehow rescue through it all . . )

Forgive the poetry here. I mean these words, written with a tired, half-broken heart. Maybe I can rest today. Maybe in the middle of this burning day and night I can lay it down; maybe in the middle of this brilliant day I can lay him down---my tiny made-up god who loves only light, who fears the night, who cannot give without taking something else away. I am choosing to believe

Our God never runs out of graces

                     Even as the lace of light slips away . . . 

Do you know this too? Can you share a time when God appeared in the midst of the dark?

Hold on to Every Fragment

This is us, the ones who flew out together to fish camp, (Harvester Island, Alaska: my daughter and new son-in-law, a crewman (Jonah), and my assistant, Ashley. I’m wearing sunglasses because I’ve just had minor surgery on an eye. Oh, and that’s Sophie in my arms, who promised to be my seeing eye dog for this flight.


I couldn’t see well, but good enough to catch my breath at the first glimpse of Harvester after a long winter:


Already green. And the ocean, still, always magical liquid silver and blue.

But it hasn’t been an easy start to our commercial fishing season. I haven’t written here because our internet is intermittant, more Out-ernet than In-ternet. We’ve had a few people leave. We’ve had a medical emergency. I am under a book deadline (3 weeks left), cooking for 14. And something has happened I cannot speak about that presses so heavily on my heart . . . . Praying constantly for justice, mercy and light to come from this terrible dark.

Yet there have been many moments of happiness. Here, the delivery of our frozen foods! They come from Seattle, in bulk, by boat, to smaller boat, to tractor, to our hands to the freezer. We felt rich, like Christmas had come.

Blog-1st fishcamp--naph on tractor.png

(Will we really eat all this food? Ummm, look at who we're feeding! And how many homemade pizzas does it take to fill all these manly appetites? This many!)


There have been kayak trips, hikes, and walks along the tideline. I always take a camera on my first beach walk after a winter of storms. There are a hundred stories wound up in the sea weed and kelp, which I love, twisted and dried, tossed high on the beach head. 

Death is always a part of winter's story. A fawn who didn't make it. Clam and mussels shells eaten by otters. And interlopers---cans and plastic that wash up.

 But there is always life as well. These oystercatcher eggs, perfectly camouflaged for the beach, soon to hatch. The shark's purse, prints of a massive mama bear, a Kodiak bear, and her cub as they patrol the sand, on a walkabout for dinner.

bear paw.png
shark purse.png

Everything that washes up into our memory, onto our tideline is worth seeing and saving. Listen to memoirist Patricia Hampl:

“When I was a child, I had a powerful sense that I wanted to commemorate things. I even remember thinking at the time that it was a strange word for a twelve-year old to use. . . . it is the idea that every life is sacred and that life is composed of details, of lost moments, of things that nobody cares about, including the people who are wounded or overjoyed by those moments. I don’t think people allow themselves to value their lives enough.They ignore and discard these fragments. I would like my writing to be precise enough, detailed enough so that the attention I bring to bear on something unlocks a door to the reader’s life. In that way, by honoring one’s own life, it’s possible to extend empathy and compassion to others.”


This summer, I am trying to honor this life and this place. May you too, honor your life this summer. Walk the tidelines, metaphorical or real to see what fragments wash up. In God’s economy, none of it is wasted, not the fall of a sparrow from your tree or the loss of a strand of your hair or the fall of a fawn goes unnoticed by God. And since the One who is Running All Things including galaxies takes care to notice lost sheep, dying sparrows, and fallen fawns, we should notice as well. 

In words or camera or painting or song or letter, send these holy fragments out upon the waters, that empathy, beauty and compassion may wash upon our beaches as common and as lovely as the weeds of the sea.  


Georgette the Otter & Why I Am So Small


Last week an otter tried to climb onto my kayak. Sea otters look like ocean-going koala bears so I wasn’t afraid. but I did fear for my water bottle.

Here’s a glimpse of Georgette, the friendly Kodiak koala. (This IS a wild sea otter but I have never seen one so fearless.)

In a few days I fly out to fish camp for the summer. One of the signs of the seasonal migration is always this: (whacking off my hair.)

Leslie---short hair + good smile.jpg

In some ways it’s hard to leave. I’ve only been home (Kodiak) about 10 days from my last trip and a whirlwind winter that took me to Texas, Spokane, Mongolia, Denver, Seattle, Atlanta, Mexico, California, British Columbia, the Yukon, and points in between. And now one more move? (Yes.)

I’ll be sharing my summer at fishcamp with you. Some of you travel with me every year and I love your company! Some of you may be coming for the first time.

I don’t love everything at fishcamp, this remote island in the wilderness of Alaska. Just many things. Here are some reasons I’m still excited to go——even after 41 years:

Otter blog--Oystercatchers.jpg

DSC_0773 2.jpg
immature bald eagle over water.jpg

I love it here because I remember who I am. I am a creature among creatures, as needy and hungry, as on-the-prowl as they are. I wake up every morning looking for food. I watch the skies, watch the water. I pray for fish, watch my husband and sons go out upon the waters for fish, to feed us, to feed others.

We run about in boats; the same ocean that lifts and sinks the puffins lifts us.

We fly in bush planes; the same winds that buffet and sail the eagles sail us.

I am not important. Just one hungry soul among so many hungry bodies, subject to the same forces that rise and swirl and storm around us.

And still we are fed, all of us. The Creator’s hand opens and we eat, just enough for the day.

Are they glad? Do they know deep in their creaturely heart that it is God himself who feeds them?

“All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time,” the psalmist wrote. “When you give it to them, they gather it up . . . they are satisfied with good things.”

They are satisfied indeed. I eat my own food, and I feast on their feeding, more than satisfied.

For the next four months at fish camp, I will remember my true place in the universe: Small. Mostly unseen. But quietly gathering my food, feeding others, and growing in gratitude.

I hope you’ll come with me. I promise to send it on to you, that you too may be fed and filled.

seal--looking around rock-mine.jpeg

Where will you be feasting and gathering this summer?

How to Go Home--and Survive! (And 10 Book Winners)


"You Can't Go Home Again" was the title of a novel by Thomas Wolfe. We say this sometimes, don't we? We mean it can be hard to go home once you've been out in the world a long time. It's often not the same place we remember. (In the novel, the protagonist George Webber writes a book about his hometown. The book is a best seller but the town people so dislike his portrait they send him death threats. Sweet [and familiar] yes?)

But I've come home twice in the last week. I am finally back in Kodiak and it is MORE beautiful than when I left. And this week my sister and brother are here with me. (We're half of the six siblings.)


Remember? we say to one another. Remember the long bus rides? Remember the mile long climb up the hill every day with books in our arms, no matter the weather?

Yes. I remember.

Remember all the houses, scything the hay field, cutting down the bamboo all day with machetes, the goats, the belt across our legs, the fish bake, the times we ran into the woods and stayed all day? Remember that school we hated, the mountain hikes, all the ways we ran away?

Yes. We remember.

5 leyland kids--grainy bad pic.jpg


farmhouse abandoned.jpg

I met a new friend last month whose childhood and early adulthood  no one would believe, full of such isolation, violence and suffering. She said to me, "I'm not going to let the enemy have those years. I want to write about all that happened to bring light from that darkness. I want it used for God and for good."

She is right. We must remember. We must remember all of it: the beautiful, the heartbreaking, the sad, the infuriating, the wondrous.

 Without remembering, we won't know who we are.

Man (Todd) standing alone before ocean.jpeg

There are so many places God calls us to remember. When the Hebrews were about to enter the land God had promised them---a new life and land where milk and honey flowed from every ravine! So much anticipation! BUT even after wandering and longing and salivating for their new home for forty years, they're not ready to cross the threshold yet. They're not to cross over without these words:

 “However, be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you don’t forget the things which you have seen with your own eyes. Don’t let them fade from your memory as long as you live. Teach them to your children and grandchildren.”

 In many places God tells them specifically what they're to remember: “Tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson what signs I have done among the Egyptians, that you may know that I am Yahweh.” (Ex. 10:2)

         They're to remember their own story: who they are and where they've come from and how they've gotten there. And their story is completely wrapped around God's story: who He is and all he's done with them, for them. Without this remembrance, they are lost.



         And so they were! The whole history of the Hebrew people in the Old Testament is the story of the rise and fall of kings who did evil because they forgot God, and then occasionally a righteous man will emerge who "remembered" God.


          I know I'm going all preachy here, forgive me, but this is monumental. (Yes, this is the book I’m writing now . … due in 6 weeks!) The past is not done. It lives on in us, no matter how cleverly we disguise ourselves, no matter how fast we try to run from it. When we don't turn and look behind we lose our way. Even our very selves. Renowned psychologist Dan Allender writes,


         "Rather than living a life of freedom and creativity that finds meaning even in the meaningless places in our past, we purpose to forget. . . . Forgetting is a wager we all make on a daily basis, and it exacts a    terrible price. The price of forgetting is a life of repetition, an insincere way of relating, a loss of self. "


But know this: we remember and write and speak of our memories not to be the heroes of our own story. Not just to offer up to the world our own gutteral howl and yelp to the moon. We’re after more than “our truth,” aren’t we? 

We're after growth, yes? We're after a better understanding of this crazy human existence. We "remember" that we may find ourselves in God's story and He in ours. We remember the past to find our way into the future.




Friends, don't lose your way. You CAN go home again (I hope). Call a brother or your father. Go visit your sister. Have coffee with a childhood friend. Remember together. Listen to one another. Laugh. Don't be afraid of tears.


In recovering the past, no matter how dark, you get to live it again. But this time you are awake, alive, whole. This time you can remember with hope, with gratitude, with the brilliant presence of God, who can redeem anything.

Who already has.

Outhouse with dramatic sky .jpg
Family shot--minus Noah--at fishcamp.jpg

What has God redeemed in Your Family and past?

BOOK WINNERS! (Books are on their way!)

Janet Kirk
Briana Almengor
Shelly Brown
Sophia DeLonghi
Sheri Reeve
Tracy Moore
Jenny McHenry
Brenda Veinotte

Susie King

Mother's Day Giveaways (And--Stop Trying to Make Your Kids Happy!)

 Dear Friends,  It’s almost our day, the day to celebrate ALL who mother! (Which means every woman I know.) Today, I have a gift for those mothering and grandmothering——I am offering one beautiful freeing truth, (and 10 books.)

How do I dare to give mothering advice? Because I’ve been through the mill, the flood, the fire and the storm with my six kids, and we have all emerged on the other side. (Here, photos from the last 3 weddings, all in the last 8 months. Proof that we’ve all survived——intact and loving each other!


(No, we’re not perfect. We’ve been through a ton of stuff—just like your family.) And——we only dress up for weddings. Here’s our more usual garb:

Kids in raingear.jpg

Here’s the problem. Listen to these words from a teacher I met last year:

"I have a little girl in my classroom who never obeys me. It's a huge problem. So I called in her parents and told them about her disruptive behavior. They looked at me blankly for a moment, then said, 'We never tell her no. Your rules aren't important. Our daughter's happiness is more important than your rules!'

Then they left. I’ve heard the same story from youth pastors, from other teachers, from all around us--and I know you have too. Scary stuff!  

   Most American parents say,  “We just want our kids to be happy.”   

How many times do we hear this? Especially now in relation to sexual identity. (Your 6 year old daughter says she’d be happier as a boy? Let’s consider hormone therapy. Whatever she needs to be happy!)

We see it on nearly every front. Kids 8 – 18 now spend an average of 7 hours a day on electronic gadgets---because we let them----leading to obesity, mental illness, Addiction, aggression and more, according to experts

Many of us go into debt for our children, providing lavish birthday parties and exotic vacations. We fix the foods our children clamor for instead of what they need, while childhood obesity rates soar. We don’t allow our kids to fail. We don’t allow their sports teams to lose. We threaten our kids’ teachers with a lawsuit when our (lazy) students flunk a class. Keeping our kids "happy" is exhausting--for everyone. Even them.


Here’s the truth: Our job as parents is not to make our children happy, but to help them become “good: ” compassionate, honest, responsible, hard-working, kind. Trying to procure our children’s happiness is like trying to catch a river with a sieve. We need to do for our children what they cannot do for themselves: distinguish between their short-term happiness and their long-term good. What is that long-term good? It’s the same as the way God parents us: for our growth, goodness and holiness rather than our immediate happiness. But of course it’s not an either/or. Ultimately, goodness and Holiness IS the way to happiness.

How do we get there? A few suggestions: Give your kids meaningful work to do. Real work that takes time and muscle. Do hard things yourself and enable them to do hard things as well. Model compassion. Require perseverance. Delay gratification at times. Discipline them when needed. Love them always.

If we make life too easy for our children, they’ll fall.

        My sister-in-law planted a Japanese maple in her yard one year. Because she lives on a windy, stormy island, she staked it out so it had full support against the winds. But it began to sag. By the third year, it completely collapsed. The nursery owner from whom she had bought the tree told her, “The tree is too protected. It needs the wind to strengthen its fibers. It needs the wind to make it strong.”

    Do any of us want our children to topple? Don’t we want them to be like the tree in Psalm 1, firmly rooted in the banks of a gushing, living stream? These gorgeous trees yield bright, bursting fruit through every season of its life.

I pray that we can love our children enough to parent them toward THIS kind of happiness!

And we can.



I’m giving 10 books away this week! Five parenting books (which just may save your life as a mother!) AND—five of The Wonder Years: Forty Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty and Strength. I'll do it the usual way.  For everyone who shares this post on their social media, please let me know below----and I'll enter your name in the drawing. And DO leave your email as well so I can get ahold of you!!

(Sorry—-Offer only good in the U.S. )

Thank you!! I am so excited at the freedom God can bring to us as we love and raise our children! AND the freedom that comes to us as we sail over that 40 mark . .!)

with Love to you all,



Easter Flight: Crucified in the Middle Seat

Not long ago, I was stuck in a middle seat on an airplane. Groan. I shrunk into the tiny space, strapped between two large men. I did not want to be there.

Sometimes I do not talk on the plane. At all. Especially in the middle seat. But this night, for some reason, I did. I spoke to the man on my right.  His name was Jerry. He was warm and conversational. We talked about our families, our kids, our work, where we were going that day and why. It was not long into the conversation when he discovered I was a person of faith. I don’t usually hide this, but neither do I make my seat a soapbox.

As soon as he heard me say “Christian” he charged in. “I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in any of that hocus-pocus,” he said, firmly, shaking his head.

“Really? Wow, that’s interesting. How did you decide that?” I looked at him with curiosity.

He told me. He was raised in a charismatic church, he said. His parents were heavily involved. He was in church all the time. “It’s baloney. All of it. I have a great life. I have a wife and three beautiful grown daughters. I don’t need God. My life is every bit as good as theirs. No, better.“

I listened intently, wondering what to say. Before I could think of a single apologetic, he answered my next question: “I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. I don’t do debates or arguments. I just know there’s no god. “ He smiled at me. I smiled back.

The man on the other side of me did not speak for the first hour of the flight. He listened to our long conversation in silence. Finally he spoke. “I was raised Baptist. I’m not anything now. I’m not sure what I believe. “  Then, in the next thirty minutes it came out. He had two sons. No, he had one son. The older one died just 2 years ago. He was bipolar, and became addicted to drugs and alcohol, which killed him.

“We tried to help him. We did everything we knew to do. We followed the expert’s advice. He would come back and live with us, and we’d help him start over. But nothing worked.” 


We talked for a long time about his son, about grief, about mental illness. I did not mean to cry, but tears came. I know some of this story as well. But there was more.

“The week after he died, my wife and I were sitting in the back yard, just empty, hollow. A pair of doves, white doves came to our bird bath. My wife and I had never seen doves there before. Ever. They came and bathed in the water for the longest time, two of them. Pure white. We watched, astounded. Then they flew off. We’ve never seen them again. It was a visit I think, maybe from angels? Maybe it was his spirit?”

“It was a message from God,” I whispered. “Don’t you see? That he loves you and is with you.  He never left you and He never will.“ 

He looked at me. We sat 3 inches apart. He nodded. We closed our eyes, hardly able to look at one another in the holiness of that moment. The man on my other side listened and said nothing.



This week, Friday, many of us will watch a man  take that middle space for us, the place no one wants, He will climb onto a cross, to hang between two men, a disbelieving mocker and a penitent thief; to hang between judgment and mercy, between the past and the future, between law and grace. In that space, he will not shrink, but will spread his arms wide, encompassing all our rebellion, all our disbelief, all our tragic obsession with trivia, and all the death that results.

He will hold us there in that bloody embrace until all is accomplished.


I was with him there that day. And you were too. We were there. In his mind, his heart, our deadly sins, our names on his lips as his life drained out of him. 

"For we have been crucified with Christ, and we not longer live but Christ lives in us. The life we all now live in our bodies, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us."


Because of that day 2000 years ago, because of that man on the middle cross, we can step into dreaded in-between spaces every day: I could love the man on my right who insists there is no God. I could cry with the man on my left who lost his son. Who might believe again some day. Because of that day, we are reconcilers, standingwhere we must---in the midst of those who are suffering,  opening our arms to the only way out.


Dear Friends, wishing you a day of great rejoicing as you celebrate our crucified and RISEN Savior!


Palm Sunday--What One Woman Saw

Friends, Would you come with me today? Across time and culture, beyond distraction and schedules that enslave us? I send this dramatic monologue to you today——the words I will speak this Sunday in our service. Maybe they will help us enter into that day?


I was there that day.  There were so many people there---- but it wasn’t that. Jerusalem, what a city it is for people and crowds!! And it wasn’t even the procession, the parade.  These last two years-----there have been so many parades, trails of stumbling, lisping, broken, drooling people  rolled, pushed, carried, slung hoisted to him. Yeshua.  No one would dare to believe  in healing----except it was happening. To EVERYONE! Even the sorriest among them . .. .

 Everyone became like----new born!  Legs straightened and muscles strung right.  Women who were mute----now they are singing and adding a little dance too!!  And crippled men are running and leaping!!

 So—yes, we’ve been watching these  parades for many months now.


But this time--- they finally saw WHO he was! Everyone ran to pull down branches from the trees.  Whih means----Victory!  Triumph!  When was the last time we were victors of anything?  And we all took off our cloaks, our outer robes---and just laid them at his feet and at the feet of the donkey he was riding.

We knew what we were doing because ------Finally we all saw it.  He was the king!!   He was the one we’ve been waiting for since . …..  since we were a people.


Palm SUnday women palms.jpg

And the singing!  Everyone was happy! We are not ----we have not been happy people. But this day!


Children singing and old men, my grandpa,  the young mothers----everyone!  Cheering laughing shouting! Hosanna. And you know what “Hosanna” means, yes? It means, Please Save us! Save us!

 Finally----a king to lead us! To lead our people. We can be a nation again—not servants and slaves to the Romans …

 And we said---we turned to one another, all my friends, my neighbors, my cousins, we were all standing and shouting together, and we said, “We will follow him anywhere—- even into battle!” 

 But we didn’t.

We could not guess what would happen next. And if we had, no one would have been there that day. But I saw it. How those same people---not all of them, but some of them---my neighbors, my relatives, my  uncle and cousins----they were there just days later. How many days?  They were shouting again. Just yelling this time—not singing, and not waving palm branches but waving their fists and shouting——




How did this happen?? From  O Save Us Our King, Our King!


To   CRUCIFY Him,  blasphemer!

Crowds shouting--crucify!.jpg



But maybe I know.  They wanted a king, a MAN king who acted like a god.

 They didn’t want a king who WAS God.  

 They never really wanted God at all.


I wonder how many of us want God to enter our world and become king over our lives? We think, foolishly, that we will give up too much.

But here is what I know now: that day of singing and celebration and triumph was true.

And real, more real and more true than anybody every knew: 

"Ho-sanna!! Praise to the King! O Save us!!" we shouted.


And then very quietly,

through lashes, fists and nails  


  He did. 



Write here…






Stop Saving Your Life! (And Tell a Better Story)


I’m home in Kodiak now. A few days ago, flying home, I sat next to a beautiful woman with mournful eyes. I pulled out my computer, as I nearly always do, and began working. (I'm on deadline for my next book, "Tell a Better Story.") And I was just leaving an intensive weekend leading a "Tell a Better Story" seminar in Atlanta. (There’s our beautiful class above.)

            We began to talk. We opened our lives. Finally she said, "If you asked me the one thing I need most in my life right now, it's to learn how to tell my story. I've been through some horrific things. Everyone who hears my story tells me to write it, but I don't know how. I can't believe God sat me next to you."  

         I send these words on to my new friend on the plane, and to all of you. Why do I spend so much of my life teaching others to write? Here’s a tiny piece of what I want to say to you:

Many of us come from the Land of Secrets, where everything must be buried and hid away. The buriers think they are staying alive, not knowing how much has already died in the dark.

Stop saving your life. Spend it. Tell it. Write it. Be generous, profligate with it bcz your life is not yours to keep, horde or hide.

Everything that has come to you: the ugly, the lovely, the break-ups and tear-downs, the crushes and crashes, the grieving and groaning, the riddles and   the cancers and healings----however secret they have come, under whatever beds and closets they hide---they do not come for you alone. Bring them out to life and light. And send them on. Comfort others, pass on whatever you have seen and heard for their sake as well as yours. Weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice.

abraham + Naphtali hugging.JPG
crew in garden.jpeg
photos of leslie and duncan on piano.jpeg

         Tell your story because not a moment is wasted in God’s economy, not the fall of chickadee from your tree or the wandering of a rebellious sheep or the fall of a strand of you  hair goes unnoticed by God and we should notice too.  

I remember the day I sat in my father’s room with notepad in hand describing the red carpet, the furniture the wolf blanket on the wall, the books over his bed. I was capturing that moment forever----and here it is still. I remember. And I pass it onto you, that moment, waiting, when he was dying and I knew that I would not see him again, ever. (And that he wouldn’t care.)

         Who else knows as you do how it felt to hold your mother’s hand after her fall, and how you had to argue her onto the gurney, all the while knowing she doesn’t even like you, that you are not one of her favorite children but you do it anyway because you still love her?


Remember first time you ever danced with your son——at his wedding?

And remember the time you climbed that mountain near sunset and an eagle sat in a tree in silhouette and your son lost his shoe over the cliff and you ended up piggybacking him down the rest of the trail while you both sang “Deep and Wide”? Who else knows how that feels?

one bald eagle in tree.jpg

Oh the things you have done and seen in this life!! Don’t hoard it. Don’t stash it in some cache to keep it from those who need these stories the most.

And those who watch and listen and write and speak, those who are looking for God in every minute of their life------will find him.

 But don’t write or speak your stories to gain love or acceptance. Because when you write the very best you can, which means that you tell the truth and you tell it straight and kind, and that you do not write to exact revenge, only to scatter grace and light in graves and closets---some will dislike you. Some will reject you. Some will think you’re an egomaniac for daring to put marks on a page from your own life. Some may call you a liar and a thief. It happens to writers and truth-telling speakers all the time. But it’s okay, because you are honoring the life God has given you.

  Why am I telling you this? I have seen so much lost. When you seal your lips and your memories, you will lose not just pieces of the past and pieces of yourself, which is tragic enough, but you will lose seeing God Himself. Jesus would not waste the crumbs after 10,000 people ate, and I don’t want you to lose an entire basket, even a single crumb. If you stay silent, someone will not be fed, and the first someone is you.

The rest is all of us.

6 kids in fishing gear (boys little).jpg
HIWW-group on beach at Bird Rock.JPG


         In the end, writing and sharing our stories is not about my father or the little children running away or the mother carrying her son down the mountain----it is that in all of those moments God is present in ways we are blind to, and we have a chance to live those moments again, this time wide awake. 

Dear Friends: Don’t hide your life underground. Spend it!

Tell and live a better story, a richer story, a truer story.

It can raise the dead to life.

(It already has.)



Friends, There are SO many other reasons to find and share our stories with one another. Anyone have another reason? Or—-something wonderful that happened when you shared your story with someone else?

(P.S. HOW do we Tell a Better Story? Let me show you! A few spots are still open: The Lake Michigan Writers’ Workshop and the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop.)

Crossing Mexico's Border and Tearing Down Walls


All this week I have been crossing borders. So many.  The hardest border was across an airplane seat-----but the longest border was in Tijuana.  It was just Duncan and I, the two of us on spring break together (Really? Like real grownups?) Driving into Mexico at the San Ysidro border, through San Diego, wasn't even a blink.  No stop. We had our passports in hand and no one was there to stop us anywhere.  We were in the U.S. one moment, then driving along the border wall the next and there we were.

           Coming back wasn't so easy. It took three and a half hours of idling, in a snaking line, waving off gentle peddlers with serapes, aprons and churros at our windows. Waiting for border guards to pull off panels from a truck in front of us.

"Is it this busy because of Spring break"? my husband asked a border patrol guard along the way who looked friendly.

 "It's always like this," he said. 'It's the busiest land port of entry in the world." Later I look it up. 70,000 northbound cars and 20,000 pedestrians cross every day. I’ve crossed borders in more countries than I have counted, and never like this.



But the hardest border crossing was the closest. I was in the dreaded middle seat on a flight from Seattle to California. A small woman with a cane sat against the window. I buried my head in my computer, for so many reasons. It's exhausting talking to a stranger two inches away. And always the book deadlines. But somewhere over Oregon I spoke.  I don't remember what I said, but we ended up talking for over an hour.

            *Sally was a recovering alcoholic and meth addict. "I've been clean for four years," she said smiling. Her face showed the wear.

            "Congratulations!" I cannot imagine the difficulty of this. And I find out that Sally has MS, diagnosed 15 years ago. And there is more. She is recovering from brain surgery.

            We talk about her disease, her surgery, our children, her father. We talk about God. Sally lights up.

            "That's why I'm alive. I wouldn't be here today without God. He's saved me so many times. The aneurysm should have killed me."

            At some point, she takes my hand and guides it to the back of her head.

            "Do you feel that lump? That's from the surgery."

            I cringe with her hand on mine, then my hand behind her head feeling the lump. This is a border I didn't want to cross. Ever. But here I am. Near the end of the flight, when she finds out I'm a writer, Sally tells me, "You can tell my story. I want people to know how good God has been to me."             


old woman smiling.jpeg

            A few days later I am in line at a Starbucks. A young latino man skips in line behind me. He speaks to me almost without taking a breath.

            "Hi, oh it's a beautiful day, and I'm so happy to be alive, aren't you? I mean look at this, we're all here, alive in this place," and he gestures to the 30 or so people with coffee in hand, poring over phones and books.

            "Yes, I'm happy to be alive too," I smile back. I too have felt this, suddenly looking around wondering if anyone notices that we're all breathing and having these moments together in this place.

            "My name is Angel and I want to be an angel. What if everyone here was an angel?"

            And off we go into a weird labrynth of conversation I cannot begin to recall. The line is long and we talk a long time. I think Angel is manic or high right now, but God is here anyway. We talk of heaven. How we should be grateful for every moment of life. Now he is telling me his favorite book of the Bible and I'm saying mine when a grizzled man in a yellow t-shirt and red hat passes us.

             "I read my Bible every morning. You gotta read your Bible," he admonishes us as he passes holding a bag he pulled from the trash.

            Behind us stands a 6'5" African-American man in a tight beige miniskirt and a long red wig. He smiles at me as I turn. I smile back. I would love to talk with him, to hear his story.

            I order my coffee and pay with a gift card and wait. Behind me, Angel orders. "Just water please."

            I'm about to walk away and I can't. Someone gave me the coffee card I'm using. I know it's not just for me.

            "Angel, order a coffee, whatever you like."

             "Really? Are you sure?" After, with his iced coffee in hand he asks, "Why did you do that?"

              "Because Jesus would."

            We high-fived.


latino man homeless.jpg


            Some flights and some days I'm cranky. Sometimes I build a Trump-sized wall around myself. Sometimes I need to. But when I pull the wall down, one small word at a time, I have found people who need to be seen and heard. Who maybe need a coffee and even a hand behind their head to feel the lump.  And in those minutes, whether we find our way to God or not, I am (mostly) happy. Because Angel is right. Here we are all alive together and breathing together, all of us created in the image of an incredible God and maybe if we cross the borders past our own thick skin, we can bless one another? I need it as much as they do.

Many in our country want to build more border walls. I want to tear mine down.


Mongolia---a friend and I.jpg

Dear Friends——Have you torn down a piece of a wall lately? Would you bless us all and tell us about it?