Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Light of Easter 2013

Early in the morning, while it was still dark in the chapel of San Eduardo, I saw an image of a stained-glass window on the wall. We have slept on this floor for 15 years every spring in this small Ecuadorian town, but I had never seen this. The image was made from light coming from ventilation cutouts in the concrete wall in the shape of a flower, casting a Rosetta image on the opposite wall. The light was haloed as it moved and faded with the coming dawn in the middle of the world. Everything feels hallowed when we have hearts wide-open in the midst of a concrete chapel off a dirt road. In moments such as these, when we remember we are on holy ground, no cathedral is more adorned. In such light, beauty rises from within as truth brushes past and carries us to hope.

I wonder if it was a vision of light on stone that carried Mary Magdalene through the Easter Morning events. The story of the Resurrection begins with the words, “while it was still dark." The light has not yet risen on Jerusalem on the Sabbath, as Mary heads out with grief as her guide to carry her to the body. And that is when light and shadow begin their dance like stained glass on concrete. A sliver of light is enough for her to see the stone rolled away and to run to Peter and John. As they run back to the tomb in a race with the murky light of dawn, they see enough to know Jesus is gone. Mary stands alone and tries to see through tears and shadows. The light is surely breaking through as she sees now angels and linen on the floor. Then, even as she cannot make out what she is seeing, she hears Jesus calling her. Then the true light of hope fills her from within, and she reaches for Jesus.

I laid my sister’s ashes inside the altar at the A-Frame Chapel as lent began. The next Wednesday night, I led a Eucharist with the same words and motions I have used every week for 20 years. As I lifted the round unleavened bread, I recited the last prayer, “…And at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom." As I raised the host, there was a beautiful light with depth filling the center. I almost couldn't break it; I just stood there drawn into it. It had something to do with the silver paten, the lighting in the room, the angle I was holding it and the space that grief opens in us. I wrote that night that I couldn’t make out what the light was, maybe a lion, but even though it was unclear, I longed for it. The next Sunday, without talking with one another, The Rev. Dr. Scott Owings preached to us about a vision and said, “Imagine walking into church at night. The candles are the only source of light. Rest your eyes upon the host and it begins to send out rays of light that enter you and flood your soul, cleansing you. The rays soak into your body.”

I asked him where the image came from and if he saw a shape in the light. He said he just felt it. Even murky and shadowed light like that first week of Lent carry rays of hope in grief. Those rays are enough to bring all of us to the garden while it is still dark, ready to anoint a body, but hopeful enough when we see a sliver of light on rock or bread to run to find answers. 

The next weeks of Lent were busy with the group of 31 preparing for Ecuador and readying the clinic. After seeing more than 900 patients, the clinic closed, and we traveled to the 800-year-old town of Cuenca. It was Dr. Keith Hagan’s last trip where he and Carole have served faithfully building the clinic operations. Early on the Sabbath, Michael, Don, Tara and I walked with Keith on his final morning, as communion was ending in the Cathedral. 

We approached the altar as the remaining host was being placed in a tabernacle cross.  Just as we were grieving Keith’s leaving Ecuador, there it was. In the golden cross holding the host, the light I had glimpsed at the altar and which Scott envisioned was shining. It looked like a lion’s mane. 

That light is always there, it is just that sometimes we have to walk through Lent, death and letting go to behold it.  

We have seen the light. And when we let light flood our stone hearts we can feel hope pouring into grief itself. The stone has rolled and all those we love who have died live on in love and the memory of God. All we grieve is full of light. Feel the light shining this morning as surely as it shone on Mary. Imagine as she left the tomb, the morning light pouring over her and turning her tears into prisms. Let us see radiant light like angels standing with linens. Let us feel the fullness of light that danced the first morning of creation, that shines in the darkness and that will lead us home. “There is light even in death," Easter preaches. A sliver of light can cast stained glass on poor concrete walls, turn bread into a heavenly host and cut through our darkness enough to see we are bathed in the light of love. It means that we can live in hope, dedicated to justice and truth, knowing the light will never leave us. The light is ours for the beholding and allows us to make our song even at our own Easter morning, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Laughing In The Wind

This post is part four of a five part blog series on Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth Telling by Becca Stevens. For previous parts of this series, click HERE, HERE and HERE.

The wind is a powerful force of nature, currents of air that can threaten to sweep us away if harsh enough; and uncomfortable to endure for long, even at its weakest. In chapter 10 of Snake Oil, Becca looks at what it means to laugh in the face of the wind. An acceptance that for you, though your laughter may be carried away by the wind unheard, is still significant. That your life is still significant. The ability to laugh in the face of uncertainty, grief, stress, and fear is one of the most significant steps towards healing and renewal in ones life along the journey of life. We cannot face the hard things in life without the ability to laugh.

“All of us need to be continually transformed and freed from ourselves, from all of our fears and all of the things we worry about that prevent us from fully loving the world. We get to walk around as optimistic and hopeful as we want to be.”

The scent “Inspiration” is all about lifting the spirit and inviting new dreams into our lives. Made with bergamot, cardamom and sweet orange in coconut oil, it is made to uplift you in the small moments of your day and inspire the peace and joy that can be found as much in its essence as in laughter.

“In the world of snake oils, you have to see the world a little differently. Where others see poverty, you see riches; where others see weeds, you see flowers; where others see sickness, you see openness.”

We invite you to experience “Inspiration” and the healing power of laughter with us this week, either in our “Inspiration” healing oil or soy candle.

You can order "Inspiration" or our entire line of healing oils on our online store. For more information on the book, Snake Oil, visit the Jericho Books website or purchase online at:
Parnassus Books
Barnes And Noble
or find at an Independent Bookseller near you

Story by Abby Hardaway
Photos by Peggy Napier & Carolyn Snell

Friday, March 22, 2013


This post is part three of a five part blog series on Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling by Becca Stevens. For previous blog posts in the series, click HERE and HERE.

Going through life from day to day, there are rituals that mark our coming and going, our starting and stopping, our beginning and ending. In Chapter Eight of Snake Oil, Becca talks about how the ritual of incantation brings us to a place that allows us to appreciate the beauty around us.

“The ritual readies us for prayer. It wakes us up to get out of our ruts and invites us to step quietly into this space of prayer. In a prayerful and humble position, we’re ready to give and receive love.”

Shrouded with layers of cultural context and meaning, the ritual of incantation has much to do with a posture, an attitude, and a reminder to live with loving intention. The use of healing oils in ritual invites us to a deeper level of connection and healing.

Ahimsa is the healing oil inspired by this chapter, blending cinnamon, clove, sweet orange and cedar. Ahimsa is the art of universal love and nonviolence practiced by Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Using "Ahimsa" with the intention to "sow universal seeds of love and nonviolence" calls forth this quality in our lives. 

Whether your incantation is “Peace be with you” or “Welcome to the circle," a daily practice using words that call us to loving action help us stay centered. Ritual allows us to experience and appreciate love in small spaces throughout the day, making sacred the ordinary rhythms of life.

You can order "Ahimsa" or our entire line of healing oils on our online store. For more information on the book, Snake Oil, visit the Jericho Books website or purchase online at:
Parnassus Books
Barnes And Noble
or find at an Independent Bookseller near you

Story by Abby Hardaway
Photos by Peggy Napier & Carolyn Snell

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thistle Stop Cafe Spotlight: Courtney

2013 marks the creation of the next "stop" in the Magdalene and Thistle Farms enterprise: The Thistle Stop Cafe. As we break walls to make windows, carry in wood that will become our floors, choose fair trade coffees and teas that will be prepared and served by the women of Magdalene, we come to understand that we are each integral parts of the history of the Cafe. Like our products, this will be a gathering space that is handmade with love. 

We'd like to shine a spotlight on some of those people in our community who are adding their gifts and talents to the very foundation of the Thistle Stop Cafe. Today, we feature: Courtney Johnson, Cafe Coordinator.

1. How did you get involved with Thistle Farms / the Thistle Stop Cafe?

I first came to Thistle Farms as a Development intern/volunteer in January of 2012. I remember the first time I sat in the circle, everyone went around, sharing their hopes, fears and wisdom without judgement. That's when I knew this place and these beautiful women were going to be a huge part of my life. When I started volunteering, I was working at an upscale restaurant in downtown Nashville. In fact, I had been in the restaurant industry since I was fourteen. My parents had owned two restaurants in West Tennessee, I had been a manager at restaurant in Murfreesboro for a short time, and put myself through school serving and bar-tending. When word spread that Thistle Farms would be starting a cafe, I knew I wanted to be involved! A fundraiser was planned for April 2012 for the Thistle Stop Cafe, but no one had stepped up to organize it, so I took on the job. Needless to say, I've been the "Cafe Contact" ever since. 

2. What is your role with the Thistle Stop Cafe?

I'm still asking myself that question! It started as organizing the "Broadway Babies" fundraiser, then it evolved to Cafe Coordinator. This whole Cafe adventure has been a true community effort. My job basically consists of finding all the right people and resources, the "pieces" of this beautiful puzzle, and putting them all together to create the Thistle Stop Cafe.

3.Why are you helping? What about the project / women inspires you?

I'm inspired by the love that surrounds this place and the courage of all the Magdalene women. I get to work side-by-side with my heroes and friends on a daily basis! I'm truly honored to have the opportunity to take my place in the circle and witness the power that love has on this community. 

4. Why should people come to the Thistle Stop Cafe once it's open?

The Thistle Stop Cafe is so much more than just another place to grab a cup of tea or coffee. Its also a place to share stories. There is a "story in every cup" at the Thistle Stop Cafe, and we honor that in every aspect from decor to our coffee beans.

5. What is your favorite memory of the Thistle Stop Cafe so far? 

I remember standing in the demolished cafe space before construction had started. I was talking with Carolyn about all the miracles that had happened with the cafe so far. On a daily basis, the right people and resources would simply appear on our doorstep with exactly what we needed for the cafe. Carolyn asked me what the cafe needed at that moment. I thought for a second and responded, "An iMac desktop for our POS. Its an expensive piece of equipment that not many people are willing to donate and its not in our budget." So we stood in the dark, damp cafe space and said, "We need an iMac for the cafe." We walked out laughing, and Carolyn hopped on a plane and went back to California. Two days later, Jim asked to talk with me. He said, "My buddy has an iMac desktop. Do you all need it for the cafe? He wants to donate it." I asked him if he had talked to Carolyn, but he had no idea what I was talking about. Neither Carolyn, nor myself had told a soul about our little request. My faith has grown tenfold since I've started working for Magdalene. There is true power in what is happening in the hearts of this community, and I'm honored to be a part of it.

We are so grateful to Courtney for her organizational skills, tenacious spirit and beautiful heart! The Thistle Stop Cafe would not be possible without her.

For more information on how you can help become part of the history of the Thistle Stop Cafe, visit HERE or contact Courtney, our Cafe Coordinator at