Author Archives: aholyname

Guru ‘One Sock’

I’ve nicked named my two-year-old dear grandson One Sock as it seems he is rarely in possession of two. But, one day, he also became my Guru on one of our treasure hunts out into that wild, wondrous backyard of his. Knowing full well the time to embark, he points to the yard in captain style saying with clear resolve, “Treasyour. Treasyour!” and, without delay, pushes through the screen door with his Thomas the Engine treasure box close in hand. No time to waste! Off we go!

Soon, he pauses and picks up a small piece of bark. “Treasyour, Gamah,” and it goes into his box. A few steps later, he holds up a small leaf for me to examine. “Treasyour. Treasyour!” And, over a short period of time, his little treasure box becomes quite full.

One day, it was I who saw what looked like a true treasure, a white crystal. “Treasure, One Sock!” I said, “Treasure!” As I bent low to hold it close, I imagined a kind of teaching moment about the differences between ordinary treasures and this special one. But, my grandson seemed neither impressed nor deterred. Slowly, he guided me along and then paused to pick up one of those quite ordinary treasures camouflaged among all the other nondescript rocks. “Treasyour, Gamah. Treasyour.” And then our treasure hunt ended as cheese crackers, fruit cups and naptime called.

Now, I will leave it to others to debate what was or was not musing in the mind of my grandson that day. For me, in the quiet of the afternoon, I found myself contemplating the true treasure I had been led to discover. And, I heard the voice of the Guru, the Holy One…

“Pause. There I am waiting to be known in the very places you may least suspect. Remember. I bring forth all creation and delight in all My expressions. There is no hierarchy or grades of importance in My holiness. There is no part of My creation more beloved by Me than another. I am easy to see in what you may imagine as special but, truly, I am equally present in what you may imagine as ordinary. When you learn this, you will see Me everywhere. And, like One Sock, you will delight in everything.”

 Thank you, One Sock.

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If Not, What’s the Point?

How we treat our critics is the clearest indication of our theology. From “If God is Love.”
Last Saturday two friends and I went to the Women’s March in Concord, NH. It was glorious, inspiring and heartwarming to see so many women, as well as men and children, with messages on signs as diverse as the people. Many issues, yet, one hope.

At one point, I noticed several women standing quietly with their signs on the outskirts of the crowd close to the street. From their signage, one saying ‘Pray to End Abortion,’ one could infer they were evangelical social conservatives. It gave me pause to see them there. Then, I knew clearly what I needed to do. Simply, welcome them.

So, I approached, extended my hand, smiled and introduced myself. “I’m Rev. Stephanie Rutt. I’m an interfaith minister and just wanted to say I’m glad you came today. I feel it is so important that women with all different points of view can stand together.”

The first woman remained silent but looked at me with what seemed a mix of surprise, slight suspicion and even a bit of fear. The next one I approached seemed genuinely glad and open. She smiled and I instantly felt we could have gone for a cup of tea. The last woman seemed slightly preoccupied with her cell phone but was courteous. Hummmmmm, I thought. Just like us. As the morning went on, I imagined how good it would have been if one of the speakers had acknowledged and welcomed them. If not, I thought, what’s the point?

I am not naïve. I am fully aware that, given the opportunity, many on the religious right would institute a theocracy based on their religious beliefs instead of supporting a democracy encouraging the freedom of expression of all religions. Yet, if we hunker down on our side of the line and portray them as the enemy, how is progress toward a one America, indeed a one humanity, ever to be made? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that someone has to be willing to stop the cycle of hate – and there is plenty of hate, prejudice and fear on both sides.

And so, I extended my hand, and heart, to my evangelical sisters with the prayer that, in doing so, we might just open some possibility of finding, together, that which we have in common – a fierce, passionate, uncompromising love for God.

And, for me, I’d let God take it from there.

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Open Letter to President-Elect Donald J. Trump

It is in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who have stood and continue to stand for the rights of others in fulfillment of our great American ideals that I send this letter.

Dear Mr. President-elect,
This is the first time I have written to a US President or President-elect. But, these are critical times. I am an interfaith minister serving a church in southern New Hampshire and have traditionally held strong liberal progressive views. But, my purpose here is not to further galvanize the political divide. To the contrary, I offer my hand across the great abyss dividing this country in hopes that, in doing so, we can begin to address the great challenge of our time: to affirm that beyond political, social and religious beliefs, we are, first and foremost, one America. I see this challenge etched in the very faces of our people, those diverse faces, strong, and committed to weaving together the multi-faceted strands that make us a democracy where there is truly liberty and justice for all.

Mr. Trump, you have been called to leadership at this critical time, as you have said, to “Make America great again.” Problem is from the raw grit of our great diversity arises differing visions of just what it means to be great. Those on the liberal left would say what is needed is a moral revolution in response to what has been called your egregious rhetoric and potentially dangerous policies threatening to roll back hard-won social progress here at home as well as advancements in multi-lateral climate change initiatives world-wide. While, in truth, I have felt the same, it may surprise you to hear that this is not what I would propagate at this time. Why? Because those on the conservative right, many of whom voted for you, would say the same – that what is needed is a moral revolution in response to damaging economic policies that have left so many behind, an elitist, unresponsive and ineffectual Washington bureaucracy, and a social agenda antithetical to biblical tradition. No, it is not helpful for either side to claim the moral authority to assert their vision of the truth fits all. Indeed, this is exactly what is creating the growing divide among us.

Instead of a moral ‘revolution,’ I believe what is needed is an ‘evolution’ of our national consciousness capable of raising us all up together. This requires a modern-day revival of the “All men are created equal” to include all the faces of our great America. Indeed, it challenges each of us to see the face of the laid off steel worker whose family has struggled so much, the disabled child who lives with Autism, the mother who lost her daughter to a drug overdose and yearns for greater border control, the Muslim who prays for peace, the policeman who risks his life every day for our safety, the African American who lives in constant fear of unchecked racism, the Christian who devoutly seeks to live out Christ’s Commandments, the gay man who searches for the courage to marry the one he loves, the waitress who cannot rise above her subsistence wage, the young girl who struggles to have her dreams as valued as her brother’s, the hard working immigrant who agonizes daily over possible deportation and separation from his children.

These are not political, social or religious ideologies. These are the very real faces of our brothers and sisters who have chosen, with us, to live in this great democracy where, together, we affirm all peoples are endowed by our great Creator “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” All peoples.

Mr. Trump, I pray you will accept this hand extended to you so that, together, we may work to create one America, one that celebrates and unites our many diverse faces. Indeed, as the one called to leadership at this critical time, I believe it is your charge and duty to do so. For it is only in this way that your hope, indeed the hope of all of us, can be realized: to, truly, make America great again.

Yours in Faith,
Rev. Stephanie Rutt

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Ding…Ding…Ding…Ding…

There are many things that pierce my heart during this holy season. Early morning prayers in the dark in the middle of our Christmas lights. Heaven. That catch in my throat when I sing fall on your knees…in Oh Holy Night. Writing a note to that only-at-Christmas relative or friend far away. Finding, creating, that oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-wait-until-they-open-it gift for a loved one. Going on a mission for the completely unforeseen and unexpected gift for that dear one God has placed into my charge. Yes, there are so many tender, sweet moments.

But, nothing awakens me to love, sometimes even causing me to hide some sudden burst of emotion, like the sound of that Salvation Army jingle ringing out. There they are, my sister or brother in plain jeans and jacket, standing in the cold (for how long?) ding…ding…ding…ding…ding…ding…ding…ding…

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy in the beloved hymn, ”Do you hear what I hear? Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy? A song, a song high above the trees with a voice as big as the sea.”

Yes. I hear…humbled now, aching, busting, I do.

Said the night wind to the little lamb, “Do you see what I see?” Yes. I see now all the faces those anonymous coins and rolled bills will help to brighten on Christmas morning, every morning, making each face as bright as “that star dancing in the night.”

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, “Do you know what I know?” And, suddenly, I do. Squeezing my crumpled bill into the small opening, I know that each and every coin and bill dropped into that red bucket will be magnified by our Beloved God a thousand-fold within the hearts of the ones receiving. Oh my, what more wondrous could possibly be known?

Thank you, ma’am.
Oh no, dear brother, sister…

Let’s thank that dancing star…”with a voice as big as the sea.”

Blessed Holidays Everyone!

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Welcome to My Table

This holiday season, in the midst of continued national divisiveness, I am feeling especially drawn to invite all my brothers and sisters to my table, those who may hold very different views about the presidential election than I, as well as those who hold similar views to my own. I invite all my brothers and sisters from both sides because, in the end, we are all children of God.

I invite the mother whose daughter died of a drug overdose. I grieve with you and now better understand your concerns about boarder control and illegal immigration. I invite the man who lost his job and then, like dominoes, his house and, finally, his health. I stand with you and can now better relate to your anger about global trade deals that have impacted you so personally. I invite all my evangelical brothers and sisters who feel as though our nation has lost its way through the narrow gate to life. While I have a different view, I am grateful to join with you in joyful song praising our Lord. And, to all others who have experienced disenfranchisement, I gladly offer you my listening heart.

In addition, I invite all my disabled brothers and sisters. Alongside my grandson who has Autism, you will be celebrated for your wonderful uniqueness and beauty. I invite all young girls and women. You will be held up and affirmed as valued contributors to our common good. I invite my Muslim brothers and sisters. You will be respected as lovers of God and keepers of the faith. I invite my brothers and sisters of color. You will be honored and appreciated for your ongoing struggle for true equality. I invite all immigrants who now fear deportation and separation from family members. Know you are safe at my table.

To my white brothers and sisters, yes, brothers and sisters, believing in white supremacy ideology, know two things. First, as children of God, I would gladly feed you if you were hungry, take you in and care for you if you were outcast, pray with you if you were overcome by life’s challenges. But, know also, at my table, we recognize that we are all equal in God’s sight so we strive to see one another the same. Any contrary intention, hateful or inflammatory rhetoric, simply will not be tolerated. You see, we stand strong, together, for the dignity of all God’s children and believe, first and foremost, in the power of love, the greatest on earth, to transform the human heart. So, you are welcome to join – but at your own risk – the risk of losing what separates you and, graciously, finding what joins you to all of us.

And so, this holiday season, I invite all my brothers and sisters to my table where we can, particularly in today’s climate, celebrate the words of the Prophet Muhammad who reminded us, “None of you are true believers until you love for your brother what you love for yourself” and, together, fulfill the great Commandment of Jesus to, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

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The Caller

This past weekend my husband and I drove down to the World Alliance of Interfaith Clergy conference in Marriottsville, MD. On the way, we found ourselves listening to a talk show which was inviting callers to share their feelings regarding the recent election of Donald Trump. I was struck at the level of anger on both sides. One caller, a strong Trump supporter, was particularly angry leveling much venom at those who were now protesting his election. After a follow-up question, she suddenly launched into what could only be called a full-blown, unstoppable, tirade.

Frankly, I found myself becoming more and more irritated. I felt quite sure that had she been in my physical view I would have leveled back in defense. And then, somewhere, tucked in the middle of the tirade, I heard a short phrase (they usually are) that stopped me cold. She said, “My daughter died…” and a little later, “from a drug overdose.” Suddenly, I could hear all of her complaints about the lack of border control, illegal immigrants, health care challenges, financial strain, in a whole new light. And, most of all, I remembered: behind every anger is a hurt.

And then, Grace stepped in. When the caller finally stopped talking, one of the hosts, a woman, said simply and softly, “First of all, I just want to say how very sorry I am about your daughter. I just can’t imagine how painful that must have been for you. I can’t even imagine.” And, it was clear the host’s words were heartfelt. No more follow-up questions. No commentary. No slickly spun analysis. No defense. Then, there was a slight pause of silence that could have been an eternity. When the caller finally spoke, her voice had changed completely. Quieter. Softer. And, soon, she politely ended the conversation.

Behind every anger is a hurt. On some level, the host knew this and simply provided a space for the caller to be heard. And, what did the caller most want heard? Not her political opinions or even her good reasons for voting one way or another. What she wanted heard was her grieving heart. But it took someone to hear beyond the accusatory rant, closed opinions and gritty insults – a someone who could respond, not react, from the depth of the human heart instead of from the customary socioeconomic commentary or intellectual analyses.

I am convinced that political opinions are much like religious opinions. We all have them and, though they can be similar, are rarely identical to others. Why? Because we each have a unique life story that has helped shape our beliefs. Know the story and you understand the beliefs and consequential behaviors. For example, the caller had not been derailed by Trump’s egregious rhetoric, as I, because his message had been as a balm to her wounds. Did that suddenly make his rhetoric okay? Absolutely not. But, it did help me to understand the caller better and, I suspect, others in a movement of those who have felt left behind, unacknowledged and unheard.

And, perhaps, it is here where our work resides. While it is our job to stand clear, strong and true in creating the world we would like to see, it is also equally important that we are able to listen deeply to those with whom we disagree. For, it is only in this way that we can find understanding in place of judgement, unity beyond uniformity with our sisters and brothers, and, as Grace allows, that love everlasting.

Today, I feel somehow deeply connected with the caller though I no longer remember her name or where she lives. And, it no longer matters to me for whom she voted.

She touched my heart that day…and I am grateful.

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Love Put Into Action

Love Has to Be Put into Action ~ Mother ‘Saint’ Teresa

And so we walked. In the rain. With full hearts and strong steps. The unexpected rain in a season of drought reminded me that it’s not always easy, or even convenient, to step out in support of what the heart is asking. And, it is always our choice. Yet, this past Saturday, many from different faith communities, did just that in the first Interfaith Peace Walk sponsored by the Souhegan Valley Interfaith Council. Though the vision had landed in my heart last winter, it took many hands joining together to bring this vision to fruition, a vision of many footsteps walking together, across faith traditions, in a common prayer for peace. Together, we showed, in our not-so-small way, in our corner of the world, what is possible.

We live in tumultuous times. I believe it is imperative that each of us who seeks collaboration, inclusion, unity free of uniformity, makes our voice heard. It doesn’t matter if that voice finds a public forum such as with our Interfaith Peace Walk or if it finds expression in the quiet, private moments of spiritual practice. Each impacts the collective consciousness in unique and important ways. In fact, it is always the quality of our inner practices that determines the outer expression. It is why Gandhi said we must be the change we’d like to see in the world. So, let’s each follow our heart’s prompt to do what most stirs love in us, as Saint Teresa of Avila said, to bring peace to ourselves and others.

And, lets resolve to stand together, rain or shine, in our common desire to bring all God’s sisters and brothers together to celebrate what unites us beyond difference. It is our charge. Our blessing. Our duty.

To see one another as God sees us. One and the same.

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