The Prophets March On!

On this third anniversary of our miraculous Newfoundland rescue dog, Luther’s, liberation from a hate-full puppy mill prison, I am pondering prophets. Two and four-footed ones. Perhaps you first met some in Sunday School, as I did. Amos and Micah. Isaiah and Jeremiah. Ezekiel and Joel.

Voices in my head that I did not quite understand, sounding somehow old and gruff no matter who was reading their words, rather like Walter Brueggemann when I first heard him teach through much younger ears!

And Dr. King, of course. Though I really don’t remember much before the night he was killed. We lived in Chicago and I was afraid.

And a way less old and gruff guy named Gary, who was my first church boss. He was, perhaps, ahead of the progressive curve in a small, rather 19th century-ish, southern town where he helped, a bit after I’d been there, to organize the near total boycott of a Klan parade, realizing that local leaders had to give the KKK a permit but nobody had to show up and watch.

And more recently, a whole tribe of women, joined by Red Thread and spattered in paint, putting empowered, I’d dare say prophetic, images of the divine feminine into a world filled with deep need and longing for their inspiration.


One of my new artist friends is a woman named Billie Brown who created Weeping Madonna #1 in 2019. The “series of six images depicts young mothers sorrowing over their newborn children as they contemplate the racism rampant in America today and how it may harm their children.”

Weeping Madonna is a sister in prophecy with my Bella Mama from 2018, sheltering immigrant children under the folds of her robed arms.

And then, to zig more than a bit, a tall, young challenger on Iron Chef America sporting a baseball sort of hat that read In Diversity We Trust. Bold words from a self-described Norwegian Japanese Black guy from Minneapolis named Justin Sutherland. (He won!)

I’m guessing you have some examples, too. I’d love to hear them!

For now, though, some prophetic words of wisdom from one of my girls.

Kenzie was 9 when she went with her mom to the 2017 Women’s March on D. C. Mostly they stood, for about five hours, because there were so many people that they couldn’t actually march.  At one point, Kelly boosted Kenz up so she could see over the crowd and asked her where the people stopped. “The people don’t stop,” replied Kenzie. “They just keep going!”

We are the people! Or so say my gaggle of internal prophets who are more into questions than answers. Here’s their favorite:

If we believe what we say we believe, what, then, shall we do?

Only you can answer for you. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a couple of hints. Choose some candidates… local, state, national… who echo the long ago words of Mr. Jefferson and proclaim that we are all created equal. Then get involved.

(They don’t have to be the same folks I’ve chosen, but I wouldn’t mind if they were!)

March, in good shoes or in spirit, when you feel called. I marched on D.C. yesterday, in spirit and in connection with so many sisters.

Go check your mailbox for your 2020 ACLU membership card. Mine came this week! And, if you’re not a member yet, it’s easy. Just tell them Sue sent you.

Look deep for prophesy in the images around you. Which ones call out to you? What are they asking of you?

And join in creation. Words, paint, clay, buttons, soup, quilts, even babies. (Well, maybe grandbabies!)

We are the people. And we are partners in the future we dream.

p.s. Luther and Phoebe want you to know that you can reach our talented friend at and  there are new workshops coming soon! 

Interacting With Chaos

Things have been a bit more chaotic than average around here lately.

All the activity that went along with finishing my Intentional Creativity Teacher certificate felt chaotic in the sorting and labeling and ordering, never mind the tech stuff that was way beyond my abilities. Kind of like book deadlines but with so many more moving parts!

CODEX painting process challenges. Not to mention the logistical challenge of really, really big canvases.

A wonderful trip to celebrate with our kids for Thanksgiving.

Considerable time hanging with Phoebe at the vet.

Lots more painting, which is fresh air in the midst of the chaos, and more than a bit of studio revision, which is a hassle but has left more space in the middle of the room so Luther is more comfortable. He’s not such a fan of having all the furniture on wheels!

Then there was all the learning involved in getting ready for my first artist market — which was awesome — and a bit of recovery time.

The last two days have been about trying to straighten things — including my back —  back out. I keep hearing the thundering voice of Dr. Walter Brueggemann in my head, proclaiming that, “Our God is a God who makes order out of chaos”

Talk about tempting theology!

And yet, there’s also my growing realization that chaos is, as virtually everything is, a matter of perspective.

We might suppose that our personal recent chaos has been of the first world variety and that is, in some sense, true. And yet devastating wildfires and hurricanes happen in the first world and leave chaos in their wake. Shootings happen in first world cities and so does cancer and Alzheimer’s and politics reeking of power and vested self-interest.

All of which has left me wondering if healing chaos might be at least as much about having choices as it is about making order.

And not only having choices, but claiming those choices.

One of those choices is broadening our perspective. Looking beyond the ends of our own noses, even when it’s hard, and allowing ourselves to see that there is order, and sometimes great beauty, in that which looks and feels totally random.

Granted, it may take a while. And considerable practice. I’ve been working on it.

Today, I made a new friend. Both of us, in some senses, more than a bit random in the community we share.

We began with tea. And images. And stories. We did a bit of dreaming out loud.

And then we made some prayer dots. And told a few more stories. And made some more dots.

You’ve already figured out that they were prayer dots for peace.

Peace in the midst of chaos.

It will probably take a while longer. And some of her dots were probably different than some of mine.

But we’re closer than we were. Closer to peace.

Which feels like a really good day’s work.

And my back is looser than it was.




Could the world be about to turn?

When I was a kid, my mom was huge fan of the soap opera, As the World Turns. It’s a good bet she learned it from my Granny!

I couldn’t help but keep up some because it seemed to me that very little changed from spring break to summer vacation to Christmas break. We used to watch during lunch.

This week, I had a different experience of the notion of the world turning.

As Chanukah ends for this year and Advent goes on and Kwanzaa approaches, the emphasis is on light and dark and change in the midst of time.

I was blessed, this week, to be invited to a service of Lessons and Carols amidst the community of Columbia Theological Seminary, just down the road in Decatur.

A few things had changed since I first lived in that community, about 30 years ago.

One of those things was the music. Diversity is the first word that comes to mind. Not simply new hymn books with different colored covers, for that is dangerous enough as it is, but global influences and widespread leadership. I am dancing still!

I’m also reflecting on the teaching of Walter Brueggemann about the notion that our lives move through cycles of orientation and, as something changes, disorientation, and, eventually, to new orientation. (I suspect there’s some Ricoeur lurking in here, but it’s been a while! I can tell you that a paintbrush can do the trick!)

All of which came to mind as we sang a hymn that was new to me, by Rory Cooney. It’s called Canticle of the Turning and has a decidedly Celtic flavor to it. (Add in a smidge of flute!) I’d like to share just a bit. The refrain goes like this:

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.

Let the fires of your justice burn.

Wipe away your tears, for the dawn draws near,

and the world is about to turn.

And then, my favorite verse:

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,

not a stone will be left on stone.

Let the king beware for your justice tears

every tyrant from his throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more,

for the food they can never earn;

There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,

for the world is about to turn.

As the darkness falls early and the dogs leave puddles of cold rain everywhere, and people in my community need food to feed their families, I know three immediate things: light, prayers (complete with painted dots), and bone broth.

A new series of paintings and a batch of broth begin tomorrow. For tonight, light.

And love.

Ready For Another Go!

I took a course in Philosophy once.

Thirty years or so ago.

I wanted to love it.

Our professor loved it and I thought him a miracle of wisdom and kindliness.

I wanted to know what he knew. To glimpse what he loved.

In that moment, though, I did not love philosophy.

My mind, raised as it had been by mostly modernist world views, wondered alternately how we as humans could have been in a place when we did not know this or that and how we might ever have questioned thus or so.

In my defense, I was also consumed at the time with the seemingly more urgent matters of baby Greek, putting groceries on the table, and a document we Presbyterian types refer to as the Book of Order.

Lately, I have begun to expect that the mere mortal intellects among us cease to be philosophical somewhere around the age of four or five and, if we are lucky, find ourselves ready for another go at it somewhere on the far side of fifty.

Which might suggest that we wonder a bit about the usefulness of conventional American Kindergarten and many of the survival skills we take for granted in our world, though that is, perhaps, an issue for a different day.

Another professor of mine said much the same thing when he called to us to be poets. If you don’t know Walter Brueggemann, there’s an episode of The West Wing that covers this nicely. I think it’s the one about the late night flight to Portland.

In any event, I found myself in a philosophical mode this morning.

I started out pissed.

Actually, I started out tired but, in my experience, tired often leads to pissed.

In this case, the immediate cause appeared to be Luther.

The same Luther who went out, with the four-footed girls, for his last stroll around the back forty about 11:00 last night.

I knew, when he barked at precisely 6:45 this morning, that he had no urgent personal needs. He simply wanted to go lay outside on the cool, damp ground and feel the world come alive.

Now, I’m not opposed to such a wish, in principle. On this particular morning, though, it coincided with a long night full of two paintings clamoring for my attention and nowhere near enough sleep.

Luther, however, has not yet developed a neurological circuit for, “I’ve heard your message and the answer is, ‘No.'”

I caved, reluctantly, justified by the other relevant factor that Bill’s shoulder hurts and he hadn’t slept well either.

About 20 minutes and a brief visit to my paintings later, I sat curled under a favorite quilt in my magic chair with a steaming cup of lemon water in my hands, listening to the birds sing the garden awake.

All the while, I fumed.

“Rotten, no-good dog! When is he going to learn?”

“He’s never going to learn if I keep caving in.”

“How am I supposed to get anything done today if I lost another hour’s worth of sleep?”

Feel free to fill in some more blanks, if you like. You get the drift.

Suddenly, though, I heard two of the more philosophical voices in my current universe warming up in my head.

“Expectations are the root of suffering,” said Qigong master, Chunyi Lin.

And, with a throaty California sort of accent, “In this moment, nothing is wrong,” from actor, author, and teacher, Samantha Bennett.

Frankly, it’s taken me a while to get on board with Chunyi. And, at the risk of plunking a detour in the midst of your own philosophical journey, I’m going to leave you with that one to chew on in your own way.

Sam has been a bit easier for me to wrap my head around.

It has a lot to do with here and now. And with a bit of relief from the shoulda-woulda-coulda routine that calls us to the past or the future, neither of which is actually happening.

Except in the sense that it’s really all kind of the same and Dave was right about time!

That, however, is a bit ambitious for morning, so I decided to notice, at least for a moment, that I was warm and safe. There were crows playing in the garden and roses peeking through the dawn. My world was filled with the happy scent of lemon. And there were three big dogs snoring gently at my feet.

All of whom I love.


When I took my glasses off and squinted just so, I could almost see Ben grinning.





Saints and Breathing Words

There’s an old saying that claims each preacher has only seven sermons.

Yes, I know –  you’re doing the math!

I’ve begun to wonder recently if the same is true for poets and bloggers and writers of other sorts.

This is a day that brings up one of my personal seven.

All Saints’ Day.

Also known as the day after Halloween.

Humor me, please, if you’ve heard me tell this story before. It winds up in a new place this time!

Somewhere close to 20 years ago, I was sitting in the chapel at Columbia Theological Seminary on All Saints’ Day. Walter Brueggemann stood up to preach.

The assembled congregation got anxious. “Saints,” at least in the traditional Catholic sense, are not a notably Reformed concept.

Walter made things clearer, as he often does.

The saints of the church, he explained, are all those who believe for us on days when we can’t quite believe for ourselves.

(I’ve discovered that the same concept also applies to people and situations that don’t appear to be inherently church-y.)

Today, I’m celebrating a new batch of saints. A whole new group of people who’ve been busy believing on days some of us couldn’t quite believe for ourselves.

The kind of folks it takes to make a book.

To be specific, a book called Breathing Words.

Breathing Words is an anthology project I’ve been involved with for about a year and a half. Lots of writers. Many, new. Poets. Even a songwriter or two. Editors. Formatters. Organizers. Graphic designers. More organizers. We’d be honored if you’d check out our  work, which launched as a bestseller in Epic Poetry. (Just click the pretty colored title!)

People with a dream.

People hanging on to that dream with enough determination to make it come true.

More than twenty writers. Five pieces each. A quilt, in a sense, of consonants and vowels. Perspectives and fears. A quilt of diverse voices raised to celebrate our differences where the only rule was love and kindness.

It wasn’t always easy. Love and kindness rarely are.

Neither, if we come right down to it, is truth. Claiming our experience. Sharing our perceptions. Asking our questions.

Think, for a moment, about the biggest thing you’ve ever had to say.

And then think about all those people, each saying their own biggest things between the covers of one book.

And, every day, enough of us believing even when some of the rest could not in that particular moment.

New reality born of language and persistence, of doubt and faith alike.

Come visit us at !

I suspect you’ll make some new friends. One of them just might be the voice inside whispering to you to speak up. Pick up a pen. Or a camera. Or a microphone. Claim your truth. Tell your story.

When enough of us both speak and listen, the world gets different. And the saints–the real ones, at least–rejoice!





One (big) change and an invitation!

If you’ve been reading along for a bit, you’ve heard me tell the story about my high school biology class and the project that involved trips to the beach and setting up, balancing, and maintaining aquariums. The big thing I learned was that one change in a system changes everything.

This is my life at the moment!

Luther is our one change. Our newest rescue Newfie. Young. Shy with moments of boisterousness. Clueless in many ways. Increasingly mouthy. Omnivorous. (Inhaling what falls in his bowl. Treats. Gnawing on toys. Pillows. A couple of attempts on quilts, which is a non-starter around here. The metal legs on a table near my chair.)

Phoebe is still recovering from surgery and doing really well on the four-footed injured-reserved list.

Sarah, on the other hand, is our everything changes girl. Explanation to follow. First a memory.

Twenty-seven years and two weeks ago, I preached my senior sermon in the chapel at Columbia Theological Seminary. It was quite a day.

The morning began with tornadoes in the area. Dave, who was 10 at the time, had to go to school dressed as his favorite book character. Being a bib overall kind of mom, I was hoping for Tom Sawyer. Or Huck Finn. 

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After Fifteen Years…

Lately I’ve noticed that I’ve been filtering much of what’s going on in and around me through the lens of the events of 9/11. I imagine many of you have been, too.

Back in those days, I served as editor of a magazine called Monday Morning. It was a publication of the Presbyterian Church (USA). During that time, I lived in a very special time zone known as “magazine time.” Sitting down to write involved quite a bit of trying to figure out what would be going on in the world about a month later when a particular issue actually made it to the readers. Christmas and Easter were easy. General Assembly. Back-to-School. You get the idea. The hard part was dealing with the things we couldn’t anticipate.

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Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach