Wednesday, November 11, 2020




A  question of warmth

 Blustery, chilly days

curtail November walks

prefer the warmth of home.

Heating pad warms my bed,

Hot chocolate warms me inside.


In the rain and wind,

autumn leaves swirl and dance

their way to the ground,

covering the earth,

providing warmth for plants.


Tents in freeway green belts,

vacant lots,

provide meager shelter

from long nights,

gloomy skies, raw temperatures.


Warmth, taken for granted at home;

inadequate, at best, in encampments.

Is warmth

a luxury or

a basic need?


      ©  Marcia McLaughlin


















Friday, October 30, 2020

Change Just Is

 A poetry group I belong to chose a theme for November of "anaphora," which means repetition of a phrase at the beginning of a sentence, a section, etc.  Interesting challenge!  I've been thinking a lot about change as we go through this pandemic and as there are personal changes in my life.  Hence this poem.  

Change just is.

Prolific, idyllic summers

transition to crisp, blustery autumns,

then stormy, frigid winters,

to the green resurrection of spring,

and return to summer.


Change just is.

Consider the phases of the moon.

New, crescent, gibbous, full,

disseminating, balsamic, new.

A continuous revolution.


Change just is.

Perhaps subtle or dramatic

Perilous or beneficial

Irrevocable, transcendent

Incremental, miraculous

Baffling, profound

and always inevitable.


Change just is.

Our response is our choice.

Resist the unjust, the irrational.

Suspension of transformation

of self, others, or the world

is not possible.


Change just is.

Saturday, November 9, 2019


A month ago, I retired from being a spiritual director on staff at a church.  For the last 17 years, going to church has meant a combination of worship and work!  In retirement, I find myself wondering what does Sabbath mean now?  The word Sabbath means to cease.  Cease what?

I remember Sundays as a child.   Mom would get as much of Sunday’s dinner prepped as possible on Saturday night, so that in the morning she could put it in the oven before we left for church.  When we got home, we had an already fixed meal for a noontime dinner.  The afternoon was reading, playing games, music, walking, going for a ride.  Supper was to an ice cream place for banana splits or sundaes in the summer or English muffins with peanut butter and cocoa for the rest of the year.  I think we were expected to have homework done by Saturday night.  We lived in Massachusetts and in the 40’s-60’s there were blue laws, so no shopping.  We did stop.  Yes, we went to church, but it was more than going to church. 

Since then, after a brief period as a young adult of no church, Sabbath has meant going to church.  But it didn’t mean stopping.  We did yard work in the afternoon, sometimes went shopping, etc.   I’m no longer going to the church where I was on staff.  I haven’t even figured out if I want to go to church.  So what does Sabbath mean now? 

Christine Paintner said Sabbath is “a timeless time when we can simply be present to the gifts of the day.”  If I am being present, then reaching out to others might be what happens.  Going to church might be a part of the day – if that’s the gift of that day.  Photography or writing might be what happens.  I’m thinking that staying off the computer would help me more present to the gifts of the day.  Perhaps a day that is not planned – to follow where the Spirit leads us.  It might lead to a day such as my 5-year-old grandson would take me on! 

It leads me to an interesting question – am I willing to go with the flow for a day?  To stop my plans and see what the Spirit has in mind?  Do we choose a specific day for Sabbath?  I already find my mind saying but what about this activity, or that activity – do I give it up or change the day Sabbath lands on?  How much am I willing to allow the holy spirit to lead me?  

Holy Spirit, guide me along the paths you would have me go.
Help me to let go of my plans, to stop and listen.
To be present to the gifts you would offer me. 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Falling into a new year, a new place

Because this new moon coincided with my retirement from ministry, my mantra has become Let go and let God.  It is no longer my role to shepherd or challenge this congregation.  Daily I place them in God’s hands.  It’s a huge letting go of a role I’ve had for the last 17 years.  And it’s a role that is no longer right for me, so I’m letting go of that which no longer serves me. 
The new moon was also the beginning of Rosh Hashanah.  As it was also the celebration of my retirement from ministry, I decided to go to Rosh Hashanah services.  Rosh Hashanah is an invitation to step into the new.  Participating in these services was an opening for me into the new.  One of the songs we sang during the service really helped.  The words are:

There’s only one place to be
in this moment
There’s only one thing to do
and that’s be present
There’s only one thing to have
and that’s unending gratitude
For being in this present moment.

Rabbi Ted Falcon gave us focus phrases to use through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which I am finding helpful as I face each day in this new part of my life. 
·         I welcome Sacred Energies now.
·         I open to a field of blessing.
·         I invite inner wisdom
·         I calmly witness the workings of my mind.
·         I welcome all my thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
·         I accept myself exactly as I am.
·         I identify my intentions for this New Year.
·         I feel my intentions already fulfilled.
·         I forgive anything I think is in my way.
·         I release myself to the One I am.

As I work through these, my sacred yes is becoming "I open to a field of blessing."  It's where I need to be as I move into a new phase of my life - to be open to the blessings that are coming, without expectation of what they will be - just that the blessings will be and they will open up, even as old things are falling away.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

This morning was a celebration of my ministry at Richmond Beach Congregational Church and of my retirement.  It's a big step - and I felt honored and loved by the gracious acceptance of my retirement.  It will feel strange not to be at RBCC on Sunday mornings or heading to choir rehearsal on Thursday nights.  I will miss you.  Thank you to everyone at RBCC for being a part of my journey through life.  Thank you for your gifts today - and the many gifts of support through the years.

I've had some quotes by Rev. Cameron Trimble posted in my office, to help me towards this point.  One says "To chart a new path, you first have to get comfortable with feeling lost."  Another says "Not everyone will understand your journey.  That's okay.  You're here to live your life, not to make everyone understand."  I am beginning to feel comfortable with the idea that I might get lost.  I'm answering people's questions of "what will you be doing" with "I don't know."  And I'm ok with that response!

Tonight begins the holy day of Rosh Hashanah for our Jewish brothers and sisters.  Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the new year.  Rosh Hashanah is a doorway to what is yet unknown, offering us opportunities available only when we risk stepping beyond the threshold of the ending of one year and into the birth of what is to be.  Such synchronicity!  Beth and I will be participating in Rosh Hashanah services with Rabbi Ted Falcon at Unity Church in Lynnwood.  I hope it will be a good combination with my retirement service.

Over the last few months, I have been honored to lead memorial services for two friends - Diane and Hanna.  They were both wonderful people and taught me a lot about how to live and how to die.  They pushed me spiritually, challenged me, and we grew together as we explored questions about faith together.  Walking with them, combined with singing with the Threshold Singers, has broadened my perspective on life and death.  Thank you Hanna and Diane, and thank you to those who loved them.  

Sunday, September 1, 2019


"Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you are living."  (Rev. Cameron Trimble, Piloting Faith).

This seems to be a lesson that I learn over and over.  And am learning it yet again.  Life throws us curve balls and we have to let go in order to continue to enjoy living.  This last month, I mailed a letter to the congregation where I have served as spiritual director for the last 17 years.  The letter said I am retiring, effective September 29th.  Retirement means leaving that congregation.  Not only have I been a spiritual director there for 17 years, but I was a lay member there for 32 years before that.  It's a big step.  A step in faith that I am answering the call of God.  In my letter, I concluded with the chorus lines of a hymn,  "You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore."  Those lines are

O Jesus, you have looked into my eyes,
kindly smiling, you've called out my name.
On the sand I have abandoned my small boat
Now with you, I will seek other seas.

I do not know what those other seas are.  I do know that within the next couple of years that my partner Beth and I will move to Panorama in Lacey.  I do not know where or if I'll go to church on Sunday mornings.  My letter said I'll wander in the wilderness.  Why?  Because wilderness wandering is required in order to let go of the picture of what I thought life would be like.  It is required to find joy in my new story.  Another quote from Rev. Trimble is "To chart a new path, you first have to get comfortable with feeling lost."

Are you comfortable with feeling lost?  I know I'm really not.  I want to know what's happening when.  That's impossible and I know that but I still have this tendency to hang on to the belief that somehow I'm in control. You'd think by this time, I'd have given up this attempt!!!

Mary Oliver asks in her poem, Summer Day,  "What will you do with your one wild & precious life?"  Retirement is a new way if answering that question.   In an earlier blog post, I said that walking with a friend as she died led me to ask that question again.  I hope that I can walk into retirement with both curiosity & intentionality.   I want to be curious & explore options but not just drift.  I need purpose in my life.  It seems like an important balance at this point as I seek other seas.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

New Day

I just spent a week with my family at Camp N-Sid-Sen on Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho.  Each morning began with morning prayers by the lake side, with a simple chant "Take a breath..... (breathe) ....of the new day and make it part of you.  I took time before that to simply sit and be with the new day.  From that time came this poem. 

Take a breath 

      Hummingbird hovers near
      Swallows dip and dive
      Chickadees and sparrows greet morning with song
      Sunlight dances on lake
      Gentle breezes ripple water
      Squirrels chatter
      Fish jump for bugs
      Osprey call to each other

of the new day and make it part of you.

What is it that attracts your attention in the new day?  Are you taking in a new day that will refresh your spirit and guide you into this new day?