Friday, May 29, 2015


         Maybe it's just my allergies acting up, but something is definitely making my eyes water as I watch our son,  Mateo, blow out the candles on his birthday cake. Could it possibly have been sixteen years since Zet  and  I  stood in the delivery room alongside his birthmother's bed, stunned as we watched his huge head  emerge,  face down and full of such thick, black hair that even the head nurse, a veteran of many years in the OB/GYN ward, remarked that she'd never seen more hair on a newborn?

         And if I live to be 103, I'm pretty sure I'll never forget the sight of those extraordinarily long, slender fingers on his left hand, reaching up and out over his right shoulder, as if wanting to grasp something, anything, with a seeming sense of urgency. Or perhaps he was simply responding to the surge of energy moving through Zet and me. We had been actively trying to get pregnant and/or adopt a baby for over ten years, so we were giddy with excitement to finally have arrived at that moment.
         Among the many thoughts and emotions zooming randomly between my head, heart and belly simultaneously, I distinctly remember staring at those long fingers, wondering if he would use them to play piano or guitar someday. And then there was the heart-pounding sensation of holding him for the very first time, a few minutes later, his skin still dewy damp from the birth canal, my hands suddenly awkward and unsure as I clumsily tucked him into the crook of my arm, wanting desperately not to drop him, eager to love and protect him, but not having the least idea what that really meant.

         I wanted so much to be a "good parent" and "make the right decisions" yet seldom knew what that meant when it came time to make any given choice - and that's still true today. All those early ambivalences about which car seat, diapers or baby formula to buy; which childcare options to embrace or avoid; how much leeway to give him when he started to walk; what constituted a sufficiently "safe" level of baby-proofing his surroundings.
         It didn't get any easier when it came time to discern which kindergarten, elementary or high school would be the "best" fit for his personality and our family's needs. How much should his allowance be? How much guidance on what he does/doesn't eat? How best to help him ease his restless mind and get a good night's sleep? How to help him navigate the fragile feelings around the rollercoaster ride of teenage love?
         Only now am I starting to understand that while all those parental thoughts and feelings are natural, they're largely superfluous, and probably always have been in our household. He is his own Being, making his own way through the world, one step, one choice at a time - and I don't have much if any control over his journey. Much as I want to help, guide and protect him, those are mostly illusions that I use to keep myself feeling secure in the face of uncertainty.

         The same seems to be true for all my relationships, whether with my dear partner, Zet, my neighbor or a random stranger -- or that wide web of interwoven lives called the Celebration Circle. Relationships seem to work best when I release my desire to control outcomes and focus on the moment at hand, doing what I can to show up as fully as possible, trust the Divine alive in everyone, and love myself and others, without attachment to the results.
         As it turns out, Mateo does still have very long fingers and strong hands, and they're still reaching out constantly, seeking new stimuli. These days he's an excellent musician, whose hands switch effortlessly between guitar, piano, bass and smartphone, all of which he uses to create his own pieces on a regular basis as a result of his strong need to express himself - and none of which has anything to do with how much or how little musical instruction I've given him along the way. Although, I can't help but hope that he's learned something from watching his parents living their dreams as fully as possible, there's little I can do about it at this point except love him and send blessings his way.

In peace,

Saturday, May 23, 2015

taking a vacation

          I'm taking a vacation from writing for a couple of days (though I do have a cool new tune to share in our Morning Circle this Sunday.) Here's hoping that you, too, will give yourSelf a break over this Memorial Day weekend.


With gratitude and blessings,


Sunday, May 17, 2015


          I've had a wonderful birthday week, filled to the brim with loving gifts, goodness and blessings. But it also contained one particularly difficult situation with a friend, with an unpleasant outcome that I was really hoping would turn out otherwise. Time and again, I allowed it to cast dark shadows over my joy in the past few days. This afternoon, feeling chagrin at finding myself focused on this one challenging circumstance yet again, an old Irish story came creeping out from some distant corner of my memory bank. Thankfully, it helped me put things back in perspective...

            It happened in the spring of 1912, when the members of the Clark family were making final preparations for emigrating from their home in Ireland to the wide-open spaces of America, fabled land of limitless opportunities. This was the moment that Mr. Clark and his wife had been working, scrimping and saving towards for years, no easy feat during the lean decades following the Great Irish Potato Famine. It had taken all of their resources, but finally they had scraped together enough money to buy passage for themselves and their nine children.
            But then, just seven days before their departure, their youngest son was playing in the street where he was bitten by a stray dog. Fortunately, the wound wasn't too bad; unfortunately, because the possibility of rabies was a real and present danger in those days before a rabies vaccine became widely available, the family was placed under quarantine for two weeks. The rules were strict and no appeal was possible. The Clarks would not be able to leave the country as planned, after all.

            Mr. Clark was heart-broken. A week later, he stomped down to the harbor and watched angrily as the brand new ocean liner pulled away from the dock as scheduled, but without him and his family onboard. Shaking his fist at the heavens, he cursed both his son and the God who would let such misfortune happen to a well-meaning, hard-working man like himself.
            But after five days, news arrived that the mighty Titanic had struck an iceberg and sunk in the Atlantic, taking 1,500 of the 2,224 people aboard down with her, most of them working class passengers travelling in the steerage compartments below deck - which is where the Clarks would have been, had their son not been bitten by the stray dog.
            When Mr. Clark heard the news, he hugged his son with joy, astonished at how their "bad luck" had become their good fortune -- then fell to his knees and thanked God for sparing their lives.

            It's so easy to slip back into the habit of telling Spirit how much better off I'd be if only things were as they "should be" in my life; it's so much more powerful to feel peace and gratitude for the circumstances of my life, just the way they are - just for now.  And now. And now...
With gratitude and blessings,

Friday, May 8, 2015


          Earlier today, I was sitting hunched over my laptop in the Kerrville Public Library, using their Wi-Fi to get some work done while waiting to perform my second concert of the day at a nearby assisted-living center. I was doing my best to get started on my column for this week's newsletter, but my brain just didn't seem to be firing on all cylinders. Frankly, I'm still pretty tired from last weekend's retreat at Slumber Falls, which was a very joyful and rewarding event, but one which required big chunks of time and energy, too.

            So there I was, staring at the blank screen, wondering, "why the heck bother writing another one of these Around the Circle columns anyway? Who even reads them?" Discouraged, I closed the file and opened my e-mail instead, and right there at the top of the screen was a message from a complete stranger named Jo. Reading it was such a heart-opening experience that, with his permission (and a couple of small edits for length and clarity), I'd like to share it here:

             "Hi, Rudi. I'm a retired United Methodist minister and founding pastor of the Recovery Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I left my wonderful [progressive] community there and retired to the edge of the wilderness, just a couple of miles south of the Canadian border. [It's beautiful here, but] after searching for a number of years for a community of like-minded folks, I was frustrated at the lack of inclusiveness of small congregations in this area.
            "One of the great things about modern times is finding connections and encountering moments of grace in unanticipated places...While searching the Internet, I found your Celebration Circle website. It has been a joy to find it, and you, on my continued spiritual journey. While I'm a Christian, my own personal recovery from drugs and alcohol some 20 years ago showed me the wonder of [embracing other] faith journeys. These days, while I do attend a local congregation for the singing and collective is through your website that each week I connect with a like-minded theology. So, thank you for your vision and inclusive message. I look forward each week to my visit and being a part of your Circle through technology.
            Your message of connection and the wonderful way you have of intermixing differing traditions is one of those difficult statements of grace that most denominations miss. You hit the mark. As a person [who] trained in the neo-orthodox tradition and bounced around in denominationalism, it wasn't until I encountered meditation and the open atmosphere of recovery that I began to understand how really large love is...and heard the whisper of 'just get out of Gods' way rather than drag in my rigidity of ego.'  Your messages have helped me remember that important breath of fresh air. Peace my friend; let this gentle whisper carry from one end of our country to another."

            Thank you, Jo, for your kind words, and for reminding us that the Celebration Circle touches people and places in ways that we often don't know, and possibly never will. And how important it is to "get out of God's way" and let the Spirit flow through our work -- whatever form it may take -- without needing to know where and how it happens.

            And thank you, dear reader, for your support in sustaining the Circle through your gifts of time, talent and treasure. Jo's note wasn't just addressed to me, but to you - and to all the folks who have made it possible for us to share our ever-evolving, co-creative approach to spirituality for the past 23 years. Whether we connect in person or on-line, through words, music, meditation, audio, video or some cyber-space, multi-media mash-up of all-the-above, the fact remains that "We Are One."

With gratitude and blessings,

Saturday, May 2, 2015


          Once upon a time, long ago and far, far away... or perhaps, not that long ago, in a place much closer than you might imagine... a college professor stood before his psychology class, held up a clear, one-gallon glass jar, filled with golf balls, and asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
         He then picked up a plastic bag filled with small pebbles and poured them into the jar, shaking the jar slightly as he poured, allowing the pebbles to settle into the visible areas between the golf balls. Again he asked the class if the jar was full, and again they agreed it was.
         Next, he poured a stream of fine sand out of a box and into the jar, once again shaking as he poured, allowing the sand to fill all the remaining visible spaces. And once more he asked if the jar was full; once more, the students responded with an enthusiastic "yes."

         Reaching under his desk, the professor presented a ceramic teapot, and proceeded to pour tea into the jar until it was clearly filled to the brim. The students howled with laughter.
         "In case you're wondering why I did this," said the professor, "it's to demonstrate the importance of keeping your priorities straight. This jar represents your life, the golf balls stand for the things that tend to be the most imporant for most people: your partner, your children, your health, your faith, your friends and your hobbies. And if you lost everything else and only these things remained, your life would still be full.
         "The pebbles are the other things like your job, your house and your car. They matter, too, just not as much. And the sand? It represents all the small stuff; the grocery shopping, the dirty dishes, the laundry, social appearances.
         "My point is that if you put the sand and the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the golf balls. The same holds true for your life:  if you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are really important to you.
         "Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time making music or writing or gardening, if that's what feeds your soul. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn. Set your priorities. Take care of the golf balls first --the things that really matter. The rest is just sand."

        At this point, one of the students raised her hand and inquired what the teapot represented. "I'm so glad you asked," said the professor with a twinkle in his eyes. "That just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a cup of tea with a friend."
With blessings,