Linda DeGraf

June 2015 (Vol. XXVII, No. 6)

Greetings, dear friends ~ What is grace? It seems to linger just beyond our awareness until it seeps in unbidden and undeserved—the unexpected fragrance caught on the breeze, the cool refreshing stream with its melodic soothing of the heart, the warmth of the sun on an upturned face. It triggers the moments that against all odds soften our hearts. Perhaps it arrives on the fingertips of human touch or in the space between the notes of our allegro movements. Perhaps it is a gentle tap on the shoulder from beyond the edges of the visible world that causes us to turn our heads to listen and to look and to feel the blessings all around us. Whatever it is and wherever the source, it asks nothing more of us than gratitude.

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May 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 5)

Dear Friends, In the frenzy of life how do we learn to calm our minds and hearts long enough to embrace silence and open ourselves to encounters of the Spirit? We may think of meditation in relation to a particular religion or spiritual path. But it seems to me that we have much to learn when we embark on a practice of meditation regardless of the nature of our beliefs. We are all seekers of wisdom who long for the touch of the Sacred in our lives. Whether meditation is a gateway into centering prayer or a balm for healing or a threshold into Mystery, it is perhaps worth exploring as part of our unfolding spirituality.

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April 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 4)

Happy spring, Friends! Wood frogs have returned with their raucous declarations of fecundity. Peeling back layers of brittle, brown oak leaves, I am overjoyed to find beneath the debris of winter tender shoots of green pushing up toward the light. We need to re-imagine our understanding of our relationship with nature — not above or apart but within and among. Can we peel back dead layers of hubris and abuse to rediscover living ways of reciprocity and gratitude? Move beyond using nature, whether as mere metaphor or possession for plunder, toward a relationship cradled in communion and covenant? How can we fuse science and ecology with creative arts and spirituality so that all our learning and teaching and dancing and walking might plant seeds of renewal and resilience and healing? So that we all—together—might raise our raucous voices, might grow upward toward the light.

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March 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 3)

Greetings dear friends! Recently I listened to a man recounting an incident that had led to a falling out with a friend he had known for thirty years. His sorrow and regret were palpable as he agonized over how to mend the wound that had opened up between them. "He won't even talk to me. How can I say I'm sorry?" If even this relatively benign infraction was so difficult to overcome, how much harder is it to forgive the unspeakable cruelties we humans inflict on each other and on the world around us? Yet how can we heal wounds without the grace of forgiveness?

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February 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 2)

Greetings dear friends. Yesterday as I sat listening to reflections at a memorial service for a woman with an incredibly generous and loving heart, it seemed to me that the value of a life well lived is not measured so much in accomplishments as in the way we treat each encounter with another person as an opportunity for welcoming hospitality. An invitation to know and be known, taking time for listening and being fully present lets the other person know that he or she is essentially good and whole and loveable. We need others to help us see who we really are, to walk with us on this journey, to know we are not alone. And the world needs our open hearts and warm hospitality to transform strangers into fellow human beings and friends.

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January 2015 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 1)

Greetings and happy new year! While the universe may exist within timeless cycles in an eternal now, we experience our individual lives as a linear journey with a beginning and an end...or perhaps a transition to another beginning. To awaken our spirits enough to be mindful of the longing for something we cannot always name but yearn for nevertheless is to set forth on an inner journey no less complex or real than the outer one. Shall we set forth anew on this path together?

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December 2014 (Vol. XXVII, No. 11)

Greetings, dear friends! Long ago when I taught kindergarten, at this time of year rich with ceremony and meaning, we learned together about traditions around the world. We traced the common threads of our humanity that are woven into these diverse tapestries of story and ritual. Traditions help us to remember who we are, how we understand the world both visible and invisible, and what we cherish. Waiting, giving, rejoicing, hoping, thanking, being present to one another, sharing, feasting, lighting candles and fires, and gathering together resonate throughout the world regardless of particular beliefs. Our hearts and minds turn to thoughts on gratitude, generosity, and love as we seek to become a kinder, gentler world. Wishing you Peace, Joy, and Light!

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November 2014 (Vol. XXVII, No. 10)

Dear Friends ~ As nature slows down and deepens into stillness, we too turn inward and settle into quiet contemplation. Moving from the practice of silence into the presence of Silence, one might ask: "Who or what are we listening for? And how does this inner journey heal the agonizing cries of the world in a time when there is so much to be done?" In a conference on protecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed, after much talk on strategies, Rabbi Nina Beth Carlin remarked, "We work WAY upstream—we work with the soul." Perhaps this inner journey of silence is also a kind of working "way upstream" in the watershed of life. A few snippets from an article on "Why Silence Amplifies the Spirit" caught my eye:

October 2014 (Vol. XXVII, No. 9)

Dear friends — The season of Autumn calls forth gratitude for the gift of all that has grown and flourished before us, that we now reap and harvest and celebrate. The trees have accomplished their work of channeling sunlight into new growth and oxygen. Stripping leaves of greening chlorophyll allows dazzling oranges and crimsons and golden colors of joy to be revealed even as they approach the waning and falling cycle of their lives. And we honor those in the autumn of their days, elders who dazzle us with their open hearts and gentle ways and wise understanding of their power to act and also to let go. So too we remember those who have gone before us, ancestors whose lives and works still sustain us, whether we call this remembering the Day of the Dead or All Souls' Day.

September 2014 (Vol. XXVII, No. 8)

In the aftermath of Robin Williams' death, I read a piece by a Buddhist practitioner* who pondered whether it might sometimes help to perceive depression as one of many layers of co-mingling life-states that ebb and flow within us. Not in any way meaning to negate the inexplicable, heart-wrenching reality of mental illness or medical and mental health workers' avenues of support toward healing, might there sometimes be another way to frame the experience of depression within a context that could offer insight and hope? Jesus faced Gethsemane, the psalmist cries out from the soul's depths, and poets and spiritual leaders draw from desert and wilderness times to understand themselves and the world. Given that many wisdom paths speak of the "dark night of the soul" or befriending the dark or learning what our shadow side has to teach, what insights and hope can our faith traditions offer?

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