Sometimes I hear something that I think is worth repeating.

Laurie Anderson, performance artist, composer and musician, was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.  She shared that she and her husband Lou Reed, lived by three simple rules:

  • Be afraid of no person.
  • Get and develop a good BS detector—and learn how to use it.
  • Be very, very tender.

I really like these three rules. Fear is the fundamental barrier to living life awake. Fear blocks our curiosity and causes us to hide from the strange and the new. Our energy for living increases as we navigate the space between the familiar and the unfamiliar, the known and the unknown. If we can “be not afraid” we will be open to the rich complexity of our created reality.

Develop a BS detector! Much of what we hear and see is really BS. When we are vulnerable to every smooth talking charlatan we are constantly being manipulated by their words and our emotional responses to them. We live in a time and culture where we are so inundated with the thoughts and opinions of others that it is almost impossible to sort out what is real and what is BS. Sorting that out helps us remember what really matters and we can live more focused and purposeful lives.

And “be very, very tender.” Kindness really does matter. Tenderness is respecting the life experiences of others. It is knowing that everyone struggles to love and be loved, to belong and to find meaning. Tenderness is the best room in which to find what we long for. Tenderness gives people the benefit of the doubt. It is giving ourselves mercy and grace. It is discovering joy in a gracious glance, a simple touch, a soft word.

So, I think I will see if these three simple rules bring me more joy and meaning. I think they might.


A few days ago I took a couple of my grandsons hiking with me. We stared at the lake, kicked though the leaves, searched for Eagles, made walking sticks, watched the clouds play tag in the blue autumn sky, climbed through exposed tree roots. We talked, were silent for long periods, scrambled down dry creek beds and up steep hills. Time flew, time stood still.

As I shared this journey with the boys, I thought about the statistic that I recently heard—teenagers in America spend an average of 9 hours of screen time a day, excluding the time they spend on computers in school. Tweens (ages 8-12) spend 6 hours consuming media.

Now, I am not critical of screen time. I am in awe of the world that is revealed through our digital access.  But, when I am out hiking, I wonder what our children are missing by not being outside in the simi-wild nature of parks and woods. What happens when children and adults don’t expose themselves to the wind and rain, the sun and the stars? What are we missing when we lose touch with our senses and stare at the sterile world of the screens?

I am convinced that our souls are fed through our skin. After all, our skin is the largest organ of the body. It is that through which we feel the slick water, the wild wind, the hot sun and the tickling breeze. To wander in the woods, to smell the autumn leaves, to hear the rustle of the crisp branches in the wind, to sense the taste the wild blackberry, to see the seasonal shift in the changing colors is to know oneself alive and blessed with creation’s grace.

As I hiked with my grandsons, I wondered when this kind of soul work should begin. I hoped it would begin for them and all my grandchildren at a very early age. And then I remembered that I didn’t really get it till I was in my mid 40s. So, I realize that any time is a good time to begin nurturing our souls through the grace of our senses.


Photo by Lindsay Alessandrini

Photo by Lindsay Alessandrini

I have heard it said that “Growing old is not for the faint of heart.” And indeed, as the body ages there are issues, or as Leonard Cohen sings, “I hurt in the places where I used to play.”   And the mind—the mind—that too seems to slow down and not recall things as quickly—and when it does finally recall them, the conversation has moved three steps beyond.

But, as I think about life, “Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart” either. After all, the heart explodes in a panic as we are awakened by cries of terror from the nursery. The mind “awfulizes” as you sit in the mid-hours of the night, long after the curfew has past, and your son isn’t home from his date. And what about the ache that fills in around the hole that is left when your daughter drives away, heading for the college.

And while we are at it, I don’t think that “being a teenager is for the faint of heart.”  Remember those years?  Remember the confusion when the body, racing with hormones, chased the longing for love and the urge to connect with unrelenting energy? Remember when you wanted to be your cool, unique self almost as badly as you wanted to fit-in and belong?  And then when you were left out? Ouch!

And maybe being a child is “not for he faint of heart.” The 5 year old in Indianapolis or Honduras stands at the door of the school, kindergarten waiting for him, trying to steel himself by getting a glimpse of what is to come. The unknown reaches around the half-open door to signal a hint of hope for the unsteady heart.

Maybe all this simply points to the fact that to live almost anytime and any situation in life requires a strong heart. Courage (heart, or inner strength) is required as we face the changes, losses, discoveries, unknowns of life.And maybe we can gain some strength in knowing that what ever stages of life we are in, we are not alone. Others around us are also drawing from deep wells of courage to stand in the midst of their fears and challenges. Maybe it helps to know that to be human is to have the capacity to face the unknown future to find heart enough to love life in the midst of the troubles.


1941 Chrysler Dream Car 

1941 Chrysler Dream Car 

Ideals are good.  They are principles toward which we might reach. They help give shape to images of what we hope can be. We imagine something different and maybe better than what is and that image or ideal gives energy to our growing and changing.

But, where ideals are good, being an idealist can become problematic.  When people attach “ist” to ideals, the ideals can become so powerful that we are unable live and love the life we have. To add “ist” to ideal is to allow those images of what we hope to be true to block our capacity to see value in what is true. If I have an ideal of how I want to look and become so obsessed with making that happen that I can’t be contented with how I really look, then life can become a daily grind of discontent.

I have been an idealist in my life. I have had images of what life might be and have sought to live up to those images. One of the problems I have discovered is that I not only have images of what I want to be, but I develop images of what I want others to be as well. And when I try to measure life according to those images that others may not have bought into, I find myself disappointed by them. 

So, what I try to do with this idealism that has been part of my DNA is to allow the images of a better self shape my actions, but also allow the grace of forgiveness to keep me from becoming overwhelmed by my inability to live up to the ideals.  And what I do for myself, I try to do for others. I have values and dreams. I work for the kind of world that I believe is loving and just, but I know that reality can never be what my images conjure. And I hope that growth toward that just and loving future will improve my life and the life of those around me.



The sun-dappled porch was quiet and cool. I was lost in my thought. The ideas were stuttering their insight. The yellow legal pad tried to capture them before they wafted away on the breeze. 

In my effort to stimulate my thought, I was reading snatches of “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard. As I work to carve out space for more writing, I thought it might help to read how others did it. It was liberating to read that it takes 2 to 10 years to write a book. Patience, Moseley.

As I reveled in Annie Dillard’s spare but vivid words, I turned the page and there, hiding between pages 32 and 33, as if waiting to disrupt my revelry, was a bookmark. The picture was of a cat standing on top of some books, underneath were the words
                Your Personal Bookseller
                 Mills Bookstores
                 Belle Meade
                Hillsboro Village
 And hiding under the bookmark was the receipt, still legible, $12.89.

And my mind whipsawed back some 25 years when I was trying to figure out how to write a book. And back to the old, tightly packed and chaotic Bookstore in Hillsboro Village in Nashville, TN, where I frequented not only when I was served a congregation there but also 50 years ago when I was studying at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

And there I was stopped in my tracks. My musings were hijacked as I was swallowed by the warm memories of small privately owned bookstores where books spilled out of the shelves, crying out for me to pick them, open them and have my mind introduced to new worlds. It was a place where you could talk books with those who knew them. I am so grateful for the chance to be embraced by such places.

I know there are still places like Mills Bookstore, but, I don’t live near them. And anyway, there are times when I just want to revel in warm memories. This is one of those days.