All posts by Linda Forsberg

Linda Forsberg is an ordained Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). She has served congregations in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. For the past nineteen years she has served as the Pastor of First Lutheran Church of East Greenwich, RI. She is blessed to have discovered the art of spiritual direction at just twenty-one years of age, and has been receiving spiritual direction for over thirty years. She was ordained at age twenty-six, and began offering spiritual direction as part of her ministry. In addition to her formal education (BA in Religious Studies from Brown University, 1981; M.Div. from Harvard University in 1985), she has continued to learn about spirituality, which is her passion. She did post graduate work at St. John’s Seminary in Newton, MA. She took courses at The Institute of Creation Centered Spirituality at Holy Names College, in Oakland, CA. In 1994 she completed a three year program, “Spirituality of Christian Leadership,” at Our Lady of Peace, in Narragansett, RI. In 2004, along with a group of people from First Lutheran Church, she created Oceans of Grace, a Spiritual Life Center in East Greenwich. In 2009 she completed a four-year certification program in Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. In 2010 she received her Doctorate of Ministry in Spirituality from the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia. She also has worked in retreat ministries for over thirty years. She is married to Ted Gibbons, and lives in Newport, RI. She is the mother of three young adult children, and five step-children. She has four grandchildren. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast, and loves hiking and cycling. She is also a certified yoga instructor and a black belt in kempo karate. She is Christian, but loves to study all of the major faith traditions, seeking the things which unite us.

“We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home,” -Ram Dass

All Saints, 2018

We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home


I drive by the First Baptist Church of America, the Church of Roger Williams, a couple times a week.  I enjoy the quotes on their sign.  A few weeks ago the quote was:  “We are all just walking each other home,”  by Ram Dass.


Last week was an exciting week for me.  My youngest child, Juliana, co-wrote and starred in a short film called “Zombied.”  Her film made it into several film festivals.  One of the film festivals is the Vortex film festival, part of the Flickers film festival, here in Rhode Island.  So on two different evenings, I got to see her film on a big screen.  Monday night, she and the director came to town from NYC.  A large group of family and friends gathered in a lecture hall at Providence College for the screening.  Afterwards we went out and celebrated.  It was a late night for “old folks” like Ted and me.  We got home around 11:30.  There, in our front garden, sat a man, slumped over. 


We do live on a busy street in the city of Newport, off Broadway, where there are many bars and restaurants.  In the summer, drunken revelers often stumble by our house.  But it was a cold autumn night.  The man was wearing a winter jacket and hat, but shorts.  I said to Ted, “Let’s see if he is okay.”  A little investigation revealed that he was very drunk.  He spoke to me in Portuguese.  I asked if he spoke Spanish.  A bit proud of myself for speaking some actually functional Spanish, I found out that he was thirsty, hungry, and cold.  I brought him a glass of water. Jesus’ words, passed briefly through my mind:  “Truly I tell you, whoever shares a cup of water with a little one in my name…will not lose the reward.”  (Matthew 10: 42) I got him a blanket, and warmed up a plate of food.  He wolfed down the food, moaning how delicious it was.  He began speaking in English.  And I had been so proud of my stumbling Spanish!  He spoke a lot about God.  I noted to myself how very intoxicated people often speak a lot about God.  It’s as though the alcohol removes the fences we put up, the boundaries of what is “appropriate” conversation, and what is not.  He asked me lots of questions about God.  I answered truthfully, as best as I could.  Finally he asked, “Can we walk?” 


My husband Ted was sitting up on the porch, in “protective mode,” making sure the guy was not dangerous, and that I was okay.  I asked “Mark,” the name he gave me, if he had a place to stay for the night.  He told me he could stay with a friend.  I asked if he remembered how to get to his friend’s house.  He said he thought he did, if I could just get him to Broadway.  So we walked. Ted, in “protective mode,” meandered about 100 yards or so behind us.  The entire time Mark and I walked, he continued to talk about God.  Finally he asked me, “What do you do for work?”  I smiled and said, “Oh, I am a pastor of a church.”  “I knew you did something like that,” he smiled back.  Before we parted, we both looked up to the night sky, brimming with stars, and sighed.  “Thanks for walking and talking,” he said.  “It’s nice to know some people still care enough to listen.”  Mostly, I think Mark just needed to be reminded that God walked with him.  Maybe I needed to be reminded of that as well. 

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For me it was a weird version of an Emmaus walk. One of my favorite bible stories is the story of two of Jesus’ disciples walking along the road to Emmaus Easter night.  A “stranger” appears in their midst and walks the road with them.  The stranger asks them what they are talking about, and they say, “Jesus.  That they have heard some rumors that he had risen.”  The stranger explains that Jesus rising fulfilled all of the scriptures…Then they arrive at their destination, and invite the stranger to eat with them.  He joins them.  As they sit down at the table, the stranger takes the bread, blesses is, breaks it, and gives it to them.  As the story goes, “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread…Then he vanished from their sight.”  (Luke 24)


Years ago I was in a four year spiritual direction training program.  We had a one-week intensive class each summer.  We were in class all day, every day, from 9 AM to about 9 PM.  But in the middle of the week, on Wednesday, they gave us an entire afternoon “off.”  We pulled names out of a hat and were assigned a “buddy.”  For the rest of the afternoon, we were to walk around the grounds of the retreat center, or sit on a bench, and talk.  Walk and talk.  About our lives.  About God and where we saw God at work in our lives.  They called this exercise “The Emmaus Walk.” 


You know it’s true:  God does walk with us on the roads of life.  Sometimes we have glimpses of God in our midst.  Glimpses of grace.  Sometimes it takes a little prodding to see it.  Sometimes it takes a drunken, Portuguese-speaking man slumped over in our garden at 11:30 PM to get our attention. 

Maybe, as the sign said, “We are all just walking each other Home.”  Home into the arms of God’s love.

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This day, may you see God in all you encounter, and may you reflect God to all you encounter.

@copyright 2018,  Linda Forsberg

Photos:  The Road to Casa del Sol, Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM; First Baptist Church of America, Providence, RI; my porch; Good Friday Walk, East Greenwich, RI; walking with Juliana, Grand Tetons National Park; Church Beyond the Walls Altar, Burnside Park, Providence, RI, every Saturday at 2:00 PM; Women’s Retreat Walk at Camp Calumet, West Ossipee, NH; Walking into the Ocean, Second Beach, Newport, RI for Ted’s Baptism

Saint Patrick’s Message for Us Today

A Message for TODAY!

Life As Spiritual Adventure

Saint Patrick’s Message for Us Today


Today the city of Newport, RI, where I live, holds their annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade. I will don a green shirt and go to my friend Janet Fahey’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade party. Today, as I write this, I can smell the corned beef and cabbage cooking on the stove. After all, “Irish” came out as my second highest ethnicity in the DNA test., after Swedish.

What IS saint Patrick’s Day about, and does it have a message for us today?
Saint Patrick was an actual person, who most people believe lived from 385-461 CE. In my many books of the lives of Saints I have read that he was actually of British lineage, and was kidnapped by Irish pirates when he was just sixteen years old. He spent six years as a prisoner in Ireland, serving as a shepherd. In…

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The Light Within Us

The Light Within Us Epiphany, 2018


Today, January 6, is the Feast Day of Epiphany, and also the Twelfth Day of Christmas, when we remember the Magi, who travelled a great distance in search of the Christ child. Although our Nativity sets have the shepherds and the Magi all there together at the time of Christ’s birth, many traditions actually maintain that the Magi arrived quite a bit later, perhaps even when Jesus was a toddler or young child, as opposed to when he was a newborn infant in the manger. Although our Nativity sets have three Magi, if they were truly wise, they would never have travelled for several months across the Arabian desert in such a small group, but would have travelled with a much larger caravan. Only the Gospel of Matthew mentions the Magi. In Matthew Chapter 2 we read that Magi from the East had followed the light from a star, which led them to the Christ child. Every year the Magi in our children’s Christmas pageant have included girls.


This is most appropriate, actually, because Magi, the spiritual leaders of the Persian religion, Zoroastrianism, could be male or female.
A few years ago a friend gave me a book called “The Revelation of the Magi,” edited by a young Ph.D. candidate at Harvard Divinity School, Brent Landau. “The Revelation of the Magi” is an ancient document, which apparently circulated in the early years of Christianity, and then was lost, then only recently found and translated by Landau, working with Professors at Harvard. It is all about the journey of the Magi to the Christ child. It even includes ancient sketches of the journey. Indeed it names an entourage of over twenty Magi who journeyed together. There has been much debate among bible scholars as to what this star of Bethlehem could possibly have been. fullsizeoutput_1a42In some art of the Nativity, you will notice what looks like a comet over the manger. Ancient peoples believed the appearance of a comet hailed the birth of a great person – usually either the birth of a great King or a great Holy One. Indeed Halley’s comet appeared not too far from the time of the birth of Christ, and Jesus turned out to be both the King of Kings, and the great Holy One! Other scholars believe it may have been a conjunction of two planets, which looked like a bright star in the sky. Still others suggest that it may have been a supernova, and ancient star in its death throes, exploding and in its dying giving birth to many new stars, an appropriate tribute from the heavens to the birth of Christ. But in “The Revelation of the Magi “it turns out that the “Star of Bethlehem” is not a literal star, not a celestial body at all, but rather Christ, the Light of the World himself!


They followed the “Light which shines in the darkness” (Isaiah 9: 2), the “light which no darkness can overcome” (John 1: 5). They followed the Light of Christ himself!
I myself really like this interpretation of the Star of Bethlehem as being Christ himself. In fact, many of our Epiphany Hymns bear witness to this interpretation, which shows how, if “The Revelation of the Magi” circulated for a few hundred years in early Christianity, it would remain part of the teaching and tradition of the early Church. I think of the Hymn, “Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning…” a beautiful Epiphany Hymn about Jesus Christ himself as the Star, our Bright Morning Star.

The word Epiphany itself means “manifestation” or “showing forth.” In common usage it has come to mean a “revelation” or “Ah-ha!” moment. Because the Magi followed the light of the star, Epiphany is all about Light, or “enlightenment.” But if the true Epiphany Star is not a celestial body, but Jesus Christ himself, then maybe Epiphany is really about us following Christ more deeply in our own life journeys.


Another Epiphany book I have is appropriately titled “The Star Within.” Indeed if we all have Christ within us, then maybe the journey to the Christ child is not a literal pilgrimage but rather a journey within, discovering the Light of Christ within us, and letting that Light of Christ grow more and more in us throughout this Epiphany season. After all, Jesus, the Light of the world, says to us, his disciples, “YOU are the Light of the World.” During this holy season of Epiphany, may we follow that Star of Bethlehem, realizing that it leads us more deeply into ourselves, and Christ who lives within us. May Epiphany indeed be a journey, a journey growing more and more deeply into Christ, the Light of the world, the Light no darkness can overcome.


May we see this Light of Christ in all we encounter, and may we reflect this Light to all we encounter. In Christ, our Light,

Linda Forsberg, Copyright January 6, 2018

Is Transformation Truly Possible?


Is transformation Truly Possible? The short answer is Yes. I fully believe that true, authentic transformation is possible in a person’s life. In fact, I would not be a pastor if I did not believe that. I see my whole purpose, as a pastor, as inviting people into the new life that is possible for them through the transforming power of God. I KNOW this is possible. I have seen it, over and over again.


But, in truth, I need to add that true transformation is also rare. In my thirty-one years of ordained ministry, and four years of youth ministry prior to that, I have seen that it is only a small number of people who are truly brave enough to LET God transform their lives. In fact, my experience would lead me to say that maybe only about ten percent of people invited to this new and transformed life, truly say “Yes.” As Jesus said, ““Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Sadly, way more often, I encounter people who complain a lot about the state of their lives, but who, deep down, want to stay exactly as they are. Why? Mostly I would say because of fear, fear of truly changing their way of life. Fear of the unfamiliar. We prefer to stay in the familiar ruts we are in. Frequently when I preach or speak I use a quotation from a huge banner that adorned the Chapel at Harvard Divinity School many years ago when I was a student there. The banner read, “Jesus Christ came to comfort the disturbed, and to disturb the comfortable.” That quotation has become a central part of my daily life, and of my ministry. But the reality is that most people do not like feeling uncomfortable. Yet if we can have the courage to look more deeply at the very thing that is making us feel uncomfortable, that is usually precisely where we most need to change.

All the religions of the world teach us to study ourselves, to know ourselves, to engage in self-reflection. The next time someone says something or does something that really ticks you off, rather than lash out at that person, or take your sandbox toys and go home, I suggest that you instead look more deeply at the very thing that most upset you, that made you feel most uncomfortable, that really ticked you off. When I have the courage to do this, to really look at that, to ponder it, meditate with it, pray with it, I discover that what most disturbs me is that there is some TRUTH in it. That really sharp critique, that jabbing insult or comment, contained some kernel of truth that I need to look at if I truly want to say “Yes” more fully to God, who just may be using that jab, that sharp, cutting sword of truth, to invite me to make some change I have been resistant to making in my life, change that will help me to become more fully the person God created me to be.

In invite you to TRY it. In the beginning, just try it in secret in your own heart and mind. No one even needs to know that you are doing this spiritual practice. In other words, “if the shoe fits, wear it.” As Jesus said, “Let the one who has ears to hear, HEAR.” Be brave enough to ask yourself, “Why did that one comment really piss me off?” I will bet it is because THAT is where you most need to make a change in your life.
All the religions of the world also teach about being stuck in our own delusions. Most of us complain a lot, but prefer to stay stuck. We circle around and around and around, repeating the same problems in different contexts, repeating the same mistakes in different relationships, suffering the same wounds from different people. We wallow. “So-and-so” circles around and around in his addiction, or leaves one addiction for another. “You-know-who” wallows in her bad relationships, jumping from one to another. Ms. or Mr. Negative complains over and over, but never thinks to break the pattern that is keeping her/him trapped.

Thankfully, all of the world religions also speak of the possibility of transformation, but there is always that frightening leap of faith we must take : repentance, confession, admittance, owning our part in our life fiasco, looking that uncomfortable or disturbing thing in the face, and for once, having the courage to say “Yes, I want to change this, but I need your help, O God.” Only then will real transformation begin. True transformation IS possible. But true transformation is rare.


I pray that you have the courage to look at that very place within yourself that you most want to avoid, and to admit the truth. As Jesus said, “The TRUTH will make you free.”

Linda Forsberg, Copyright October 10, 2017

What Keeps You Up at Night?

What Keeps You Up at Night?


Maia is a young woman who, for the past two years, was our music leader at the Church Beyond the Walls, an outside street church in Burnside Park, downtown, Providence, RI. At just 16 years old, week after week, every Saturday at 2:00 PM, Maia drove from her suburban home to downtown Providence, found parking, walked alone through the city streets carrying a large djembe drum, found her way to Burnside Park, and served as our music leader, our Songbird, as CBW named her. CBW is a beloved community of people from every walk of life, and to me a glimpse of the kingdom of God. But CBW can also be a rowdy and rambunctious crowd. CBW is a community of people of every race and ethnicity; of every economic and educational level; of young and old, gay and straight; some housed, many not; most sober, some not. One day a guy OD’d during our worship, so we had to call 911. After Maia had been our music leader for a few weeks, I asked her how she felt about it. She thought deeply for a moment, then responded, “I like it a lot.” Long pause. “It makes me feel so…uncomfortable.”

Maia did not mean “uncomfortable” in a “bad” way. Maia has heard me quote the words that were written on a huge banner in the chapel at Harvard Divinity School years ago when I was a student there – words which continue to spur me on:
“Jesus Christ came to comfort the disturbed, and to disturb the comfortable.”
This past Sunday at church I gave everyone an index card. I asked them to write down one action they took in the last couple of days that made them feel really uncomfortable, but they did it anyway, because as a follower of Jesus, they believed it was the right thing to do. Some people really had to think about it. Some people’s index cards were blank. They REALLY need to think about THAT.

How about YOU? What is ONE ACTION you did this week as a follower of Jesus, that made you really uncomfortable, but you did it anyway because you knew it was the right thing to do? Or maybe you are not a follower of Jesus, but you did something that made you feel really uncomfortable because you knew it was the right thing to do. In this week’s Gospel Jesus challenges us: “take up our cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save your life will lose it; but whoever loses your life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel will find it.” (Matthew 16: 24-25) I ask you, does that sound “comfortable”?

A month ago I went to Gamaliel Community Organizer Training. It was a grueling, challenging week-long class, the same community organizing program done by President Obama. Throughout that challenging week, we were asked to identify our “Self Interest.” I still do not like that name. I think of it instead as our “Passion,” or in Hinduism, our “Dharma.” Our life path or life purpose. The thing we were put on this earth to do. Another way Gamaliel described it is, “What keeps you up at night? What keeps you from sleeping? What is going on in this world that is so disturbing, so challenging to you that it burns you up inside?” The prophet Jeremiah said, “I want to keep silent, but there is a fire burning in my bones, and I cannot keep silent.” (Jer. 20:9) What keeps YOU up at night?

At Gamaliel training, I knew instantly: for me it is INEQUALITY. Sexism, racism, homophobia, every form of inequality that says to another “you are LESS THAN…” I grew up in the Church. I grew up hearing that God created every human being in God’s own image and likeness. I grew up learning that God loves EVERYONE God created, and so should we. But was that the reality I saw all around me as a little kid growing up during the 1960’s? Was that the reality I saw even in my church? HELL NO! So I have spent my life trying to do something about it.

All these years later, is that the reality we see in our world today? HELL NO. And I’ll tell you, it has been keeping me up at night.
So it is time. It is TIME for all of us who can’t sleep at night because of the horrific inequalities we see all around us, to get out of our comfort zones, and TAKE ACTION. TO DO SOMETHING about it.

At Gamaliel, one of the kick-ass instructors went over to a quiet member of the class, got in his face, and asked him, “What keeps YOU up at night?” He told her his anger about the treatment of LBGTQ persons in the world, and in the church. She said, “Yeah, well what are you doing with all of that anger you feel?” He said, “Well, I’m mostly stuffing it down inside.” She said, “How’s that working for you?” He said, “Not very well. It has turned into deep depression and frustration.” Then she said something I will never forget. She said, “We forget that there are a LOT of people who feel like we do, and that if we all got together TO DO SOMETHING about it, we could bust out of this jail! But instead we quietly stuff it down inside.”

Here in RI, over the next couple of months, the RI State Council of Churches is hosting a five week anti-racism facilitators training called “Merciful Conversations: Let’s Talk about Race.” Then those people will train others, and those people will train others, and those people will train others. And there will be a grass root, ripple effect. We will move a step or two closer toward becoming the Beloved Community. If you are in RI, you can register at the RISCC website.

One thing is for sure. We will ALL feel very “uncomfortable.” There will be many many sleepless nights. But at least we’ll be DOING SOMETHING about it!
If in the last few days you have not done anything that has made you feel uncomfortable, you need to be a big enough person to own that. You are not serving God and this world by being “comfortable.”
Jesus Christ came to comfort the disturbed, and to DISTURB THE COMFORTABLE.


This day, may you see God in all you encounter,

And may you reflect God to all you encounter!

Linda Forsberg, Copyright September 5, 2017

Resist Hate Celebrate Diversity THAT Makes Us Great!

Resist Hate
THAT Makes Us Great!


Still reeling from the events in Charlottesville, VA, and wanting to DO something, to counteract such violence and hatred, so many of us have been asking, “What should we DO?” Family, friends and colleagues, clergy friends and colleagues in Boston are asking “What should we DO this Saturday, when Alt-Right members and Neo-Nazis will be gathering in Boston, preaching more hatred, more racism, more violence?” We can’t keep silent, and let the voice of hatred have the final word. But we also cannot stoop to their level, cannot become what we hate. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, quoting Jesus, “When we fight hatred with hatred, we only contribute to the amount of hatred in the world.” No, we must come up with a creative alternative. We must transform hatred with the only thing powerful enough to truly transform this world: Love.

Two weeks ago I participated in Gamaliel Community Organizing Training, the same community organizing program that trained President Obama. At that training, each one of us participants was asked to figure out what Gamaliel calls our “Self Interest,” the thing that keeps us up at night. The thing we feel we were put here on this earth to fulfill, to change, to bring into being. Put positively, our “passion,” or what Joseph Campbell calls our “bliss.” For me that has always been EQUALITY. Radical equality of all people, following the example of Jesus. Anyone who knows me knows that I have devoted my entire life to fighting against sexism, racism, inequality of LBGTQ persons, and income inequality – inequality of any kind. At Gamaliel, we were told that whenever something challenges our deepest values, we must speak out, and we must ACT.

IMG_3079Last night, my husband, Ted, and I came up with an idea: to hand out American flags to everyone who feels that America is GREATEST when there is “Liberty and Justice for ALL.” Not just for rich, white men. We have seen a lot of confederate flags in the past week. That is NOT what makes America great. What makes us great is when we celebrate the diversity that makes us who we are as the United States. We need to reclaim our American flag, as a symbol of what really makes us great. We need to focus NOT on the things that divide us, but on the things that unite us. Now, when you see an American flag, know that it means an America that celebrates the greatest strength we have: our Diversity.

One of the times I feel most proud of being an American is when I watch the Olympics. When I see the American flag flying high, I see black and white and brown Americans, and every shade of color the great Artist has made us, draped in the flag that makes us One. I see female and male athletes, cisgender and transgender, and folks all over the fluid spectrum we call “gender.” I see LBGTQ and straight. In the Olympics we do not say, “Even though you are the fastest, you cannot run this race because you are Muslim or Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist, Sikh or Baha’i, or practice Native American spirituality. We see Diversity in all its power and beauty, and THAT is what makes America great.
There are many more folks who feel this way than there are white supremacists. We have just let them make a lot of noise. It is time. It is time for all of us to celebrate the Diversity which makes us truly GREAT, the diversity that makes us the United States of America.
I do not want “to make America great again” by going back to the segregation of the forties and fifties, when women served you your coffee and LBGTQ folks were stuffed into suffocating closets. I believe America can be great NOW, when we:
Resist Hate
THAT makes us great!


May you see the Holy in all you encounter; may you reflect the Holy to all you encounter,
Linda Forsberg, Copyright August 17, 2017

Photos:  Hannah and Peace Wall at Sanctuary Lutheran Church, Marshfield, MA; original artwork of Genesis 1 and 2, created for Vacation Bible School, Victoria Forsberg-Lary; Mural from Trinity Lutheran Church, Manhattan; Quilt of Color, Our Lady of Calvary Retreat House, Farmington, CT; original artwork created for Vacation Bible School by Victoria Forsberg-Lary

True Love

True Love

day3-copyToday is Valentine’s Day. A day ironically hated by many single people, and even by some coupled people, like my husband, who does not want Hallmark to dictate the way or the day he is to express his love for me. Having spent more of my life single than coupled, I never did like Valentine’s day all that much myself.


But today I re-read some of “Revelations of Divine Love” by my favorite mystic, Saint Juliana of Norwich, after whom my third child is named. Ironically, as I began to read Juliana, my daughter Juliana called me on the telephone, to tell me of a mystical experience she just experienced, and, on this Valentine’s day, to tell me she loved me.
So I wish to write briefly about True Love. A love not human in origin, but experienced by all who open their hearts to receive it.

I teach World Religions at nearby Salve Regina University. Next semester I hopefully will be offering a second course in Christian Spirituality. In preparation for that, I have been re-acquainting myself with the Christian mystics, by reading an amazing book called “Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism,” Edited by Louis Dupre and James Wiseman.

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This book invites the reader into the mystical experiences of twenty-five saints or mystics, throughout Christian history. A “mystic,” in my own simple definition, is a person who has had a direct personal experience of the presence of God in her/his life.


Each of the world’s major religions has its own mystics. In our Judeo-Christian tradition, we see many such examples in the bible. As a young teen, my first immersion into the bible was the book of Psalms. It began as a confirmation assignment, which I grudgingly did in the car on the drive to confirmation class. But when I read the Psalms (which literally means “Songs,” and is a book of ancient song lyrics), they began to tug at my heart. A typical young teenager, my heart was filled with extreme emotions that wrestled with each other: feelings of joy and elation when I did well in school or sports or when that boy I liked liked me back, feelings that plunged toward despair when I witnessed the horrors of war, death, prejudice, cruelty, on the daily news. But here in the book of Psalms, the songwriter wrote of all of that – of the whole spectrum of this human life with all of its joys and beauty, and all of its struggles and heartache. I began to read the book of Psalms in my bedroom late at night, finding solace for my young soul.


Without realizing it, as I pondered the Psalmist’s words, I entered into meditation…or what I later learned was called “contemplative prayer.” Through praying with the Psalms, I would on occasion have a direct experience of God’s presence, or, a “mystical experience.”  These experiences were reminiscent of earlier experiences I had had as a young child, mostly outdoors, for that is where my young soul is most at home. My first experience of God’s presence, in fact, was when as a toddler, I played in the sandbox in the backyard on a warm, sunny day.

IMG_1726My mother watched me from the kitchen window, where she spent so much of her time cooking or washing dishes. There in my backyard I was aware of a presence loving and protective, like my mother, as close to me as the breeze blowing through my friends, the trees, and caressing my face, or the breath in my body, enveloping me as the sun’s warmth and light. I knew I was loved.

Years later, as a young woman at Harvard Divinity School, I lived with a woman a few years older than I was, who “taught” me about contemplative prayer. My dear friend, Ginger, and I prayed together in our small apartment in Somerville, MA. But truly, it was no different than what I had been doing since I was a young child.

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Today as I meditated on the writing of Saint Juliana, and her experience of God’s love, I was lifted outside of myself into communion with this “sister” in spirit, who lived hundreds of years ago, and with God in whom we are One.




In fact, each day, as I ponder the writings of a different mystic, I become part of that great mystical communion of saints.

Some of us experience God’s presence through nature, that sand, those trees, that blue sky, that breeze, that sunlight. Some of us experience God’s presence through a sacred text. That could be any writing, poem, lyric that lifts you out of yourself and connects you to that which pervades and connects us all, that Spirit of Life, of Light, of Love.
I can assure you that, whether you are single or coupled, it does not matter. You are loved. Pretty much every mystic I read assures us that God is Love. So whether or not you receive chocolates or flowers or cards on this day, I hope your heart will open to receive the greatest gift of all. I hope you will know that you are loved.


I close with the lyrics to a song, by Scottish Pastor George Matheson:

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee,
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine Ocean’s depths its flow
May fuller richer be.

In God who is this Ocean,
this Love,

Linda Forsberg, Copyright February 14, 2017

This blog is dedicated to the two amazing Juliana’s in my life, Juliana of Norwich, and my daughter Juliana Forsberg-Lary

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Photos:  Painting by Victoria Forsberg-Lary; icon of Juliana  of Norwich; Cathedral of Saint Julian, Norwich, England; snow; icon of Saint Juliana; quote of Saint Juliana; Sylvie at Revere beach; Linda at beach in Greece; the Julian Center, Norwich, England; Saint Juliana’s anchorage, exterior; interior, Norwich, England; ceiling of Norwich Cathedral; painting by Victoria Forsberg Lary; Juliana and I, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

The Light No Darkness Can Overcome


The Light No Darkness Can Overcome

Many of the sacred texts for this season celebrate Light. “The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light; all those living in a land of deep darkness, on us light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

cropped-cropped-img_5962.jpgThis reading from the Hebrew Bible was addressed to the Jews during a time of darkness, when they had been conquered by their enemies, and were living in captivity in Baylon. For over 2000 years it has been re-appropriated by Christians to celebrate Christ, the Light of the world, whose birth we celebrate on December 25.

IMG_5197We do not really know what time of year Jesus was born. It could have been spring, summer, or fall. We celebrate it on December 25, around the time of the winter solstice, to celebrate the long-awaited lengthening of days, and the returning of the light. This year, for one of the first times I can remember, the first day of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, fell on Christmas Eve. Both Judaism and Christianity, which share the same roots, celebrated the Light no darkness can overcome. On Christmas day we read one of my favorite bible passages, the magnificent prologue from the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Through him all things were made, and without him not one thing was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome it.”

Let’s face it, we live in dark times. If you listen to the news, you know that there is a great amount of darkness in our world. It was not much different when Isaiah wrote to the people of Israel some 2700-2800 years ago. Both on a global level, (for example in the Middle East, particularly Syria, in Germany), and on a personal level, people’s lives are filled with darkness. The day after Christmas I was called to come to the ICU to give last rites to a beloved member of our church family. It reminded me of just three years ago, when my own father died just five days after Christmas. For many this season of “Light” is so dark, that many people celebrate a Blue Christmas. I did this on December 21 at an assisted living residence which I serve as chaplain. We celebrated Christ’s birth in the midst of a time of remembrance for all those who had died during the past year: death and birth held together, darkness and light.

The Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island, the Right Reverend Nicolas Knisely, sent to us clergy a brief four minute Christmas message. Like my own message, his was about Light in the midst of darkness. Many people do not realize that he is a scientist. His Christmas message spoke of photons, the smallest bit of light, that can still be perceived with the human eye, that despite its minute size, can still push back the darkness.

Ted Top All Time  303 PicturesIn my sermon I told the true story of a young boy who lived on the Isle of Crete during World War II. The beautiful Isle of Crete, which I had the privilege of visiting some five years ago, was occupied by the Nazis and devastated by Nazi bombings during World War II. This young boy combed the devastated countryside, looking for something to play with amidst the rubble. He came upon a rearview mirror, from a wrecked Nazi motorcycle. This became his most prized possession. He derived great joy from seeing how he could maneuver it to reflect light into dark caves and deep crevices in the earth. What joy it brought him to shine Light into the darkest places!

Isn’t that our job today? To seek those bits of light in the darkest places? Also to reflect that Light of God into the darkest of places and situations in our world today?
Christmas continues for twelve days, culminating in the Feast of Epiphany, which is also about Light, the brilliant, radiant light of that Star, which guided the Magi on their long and arduous journey to the Christ child. In the early Church three events were all celebrated together, and called “Epiphany:” the birth of Christ, the visit of the Magi, and the baptism of our Lord. Each of these three events was indeed a kind of “epiphany” – a manifestation or showing forth or revelation of Light.

cropped-img_4803.jpgDuring this Christmas/Hanukkah/Epiphany Season, this celebration of Light, may you and I on our own journeys of life seek those glimpses of Light in the midst of the darkness of our world today. May we be like those photons, realizing that even in our smallness, we are able to push back the darkness. May we see the Light of God in all we encounter, and may we reflect that light to all we encounter, that Light no darkness can overcome!
Let your light shine!

Linda Forsberg, Copyright December 27, 2017

Photos:  Tunnel, Cliff Walk, Newport, RI; the Reservoir, Newport, RI; trail to Multnomah Falls, OR; Zach, newly born; misty morning in the Catskills; Chapel at Iona, Scotland; night sky; Carlsbad Caverns, NM; Christmas Tree, Second Beach, Newport, RI

Love Trumps Hate, Always

Love Trumps Hate, Always

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A deep chasm has nearly divided our nation. Whenever you have an election this close, where one candidate wins the popular vote and the other the electoral vote, a nation is deeply divided. While I and most of those I love have spent these post election days lamenting, the other half of our nation, and others I also love, are rejoicing.

How has the divide become so deep? The bipartisanship so pronounced? The halves so polarized?

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Most frightening is the level of anger and hatred, the intensity of the vehemence. Even many of those who voted for Trump have admitted that his platform normalized hate speech and bullying, and was openly and blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, laughingly dismissive of sexual assault, and mocking of persons who are physically challenged. “We are not voting for THAT,” they assured me. “We are voting for change. We are voting for him because we are tired of the the political system. We are voting for him because he is outside that system.” I “get” the desire for change. I “get” the desire to change the system. What I will never “get” is when the desire for change or bucking the system supersedes human rights. Hate is never okay. Racism is never okay. Sexism is never okay. Sexual assault is never okay. Homophobia and xenophobia and mocking of persons with physical challenges are never okay.


As a faith leader who has worked for the past thirty-five years, averaging seventy-five hours per week, seeking to follow the way of Jesus by preaching, teaching, educating, advocating, organizing, and being a social activist, fighting for the full equality of ALL, I am saying nothing different than what I have been saying for the past thirty-five years. At a recent community-wide forum for which I was asked to speak, one man concluded, “So everything you have given the last thirty-five years of your life for has been undone by this election?”


I prefer to not look at it through such a dismal lens. In fact, if anything, I feel that the work I have been doing is more important now than ever.


The tricky and ironic thing about hate though, is that when we return hate for hate, we can end up becoming the very thing that we hate. We must not return hate for hate. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “When we return hate for hate, we only add to the amount of hate in this world. When we respond to evil with evil, we only contribute to the amount of evil in this world. Dr. King urges us, instead, to follow in the way of Jesus, and to respond to hate with love. As a Baptist minister, Dr. King was referring to God-like love, which he knew was the only thing strong enough to transform hate and evil. A few days after the election, my friend since the seventh grade, Peggy Lebo, posted this on Facebook:

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No matter how we feel about the election results this is a call to take a stand for love- our world needs our love more than ever- no more time or attention on hate speak or division- we’ve been hearing that our vote counts but greater than that- our love counts- our love for the environment, our love for a world that works for everyone, our love for gender equality, our love for a government that would actually be “for the people,” our love for a vibrant, revitalized economy, our love for a world that supports true freedom of religion/spirituality… this is a call to action for our part as individuals and as a global community to bring what we love into the world- YOU ARE WHAT YOU LOVE- what do you love?

Rather than be embroiled in hate, I choose to continue to work to bring what I love into this world: equality for ALL, and environmental stewardship of our precious earth.


What about you? What will be your legacy for this world? What do you love? As Gandhi said, “BE the change you wish to see in this world.”
May you see the Light and Love of God in ALL you encounter, and may you reflect the Light and Love of God to ALL you encounter.

Linda Forsberg, Copyright November 25, 2016

Riding the Wind of the Spirit


2016100795083413951476816746948Riding the Wind of the Spirit

It all depends on the wind, you know. In so many languages the same word for Wind also means Breath and Spirit. That completely changes the way I look at the wind when I ride. (In Hebrew the word is Ruach; in Greek, Pneuma; in Sanskrit Prana.) A week ago I rode my third Century: a 100 mile bicycle ride in one day. This ride, as well as my previous Century, was a fundraiser for the Church Beyond the Walls, an amazing outdoor street church I have been involved in for the past three years. Last January I was humbled to be offered the job of serving as the new Missioner, or Pastor, of Church Beyond the Walls.

10450733_692206324148203_848932003838272674_nChurch Beyond the Walls literally has no “walls:” no building. It gathers every Saturday afternoon at 2:00 PM outside in Burnside Park, downtown, Providence. Church Beyond the Walls also tries to have no walls of ANY kind, as our invitation to the Eucharist proclaims:
“This is Christ’s table. Come, you who feel weak and unworthy, you who come often and you who have stayed away. Come you who love Jesus, and you who wish you could. Come sinners and saints, women and men, gay and straight. Come you who are sober and you who are not. Come you who are homeless, and you who have a place to rest your heads. Come you who are citizens of this land, and you who are not. Here you are citizens of the kingdom of God. Now join God’s people at this feast prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”

cropped-10410680_697894760246026_3261113760899301748_n.jpgWe gave riders the option of doing 100 miles all in one day with me, or splitting it up over the course of the long October weekend, as two riders, Catherine and Pasquale, chose to do. Five of us signed up for the 100 miles in a day option, which took place on Friday, October 7. Three showed up: my friends Pasquale, Preston, and I. Plus we had the BEST S.A.G wagon (Support And Gear), with my husband Ted, always my greatest supporter, driving, and Sarge, a mechanical genius, available to help with any mechanical issues.
When you go through an experience as long and as grueling as a 100 mile bicycle ride, you learn a lot about your fellow riders, and a lot more about yourself. I confess that I was anxious about this ride. But the day before the ride, I saw my friends who were riding with me, and my fears disappeared. I knew that we could do it TOGETHER.

What I learned about myself is that relationships are what is most important to me. Completing the 100 miles was important, yes, but I had done it before and knew I could do it. I realized that what was more important to me personally, was that my friends reached their goals. So I pledged to stay together with them no matter what, to encourage them in their riding. A second thing I learned, is that I am not a quitter. In fact, not completing the ride was not even an option in my book. It’s just one foot in front of the other. We had several situations which made the day a lot longer than I had anticipated. Having done it before, I had planned a generous amount of time, departing at 8 AM, and finishing by 6 PM. In reality we started at 8:30, and our extenuating circumstances made the finish time @9:30 PM. I unfortunately had to ride the last 18 miles alone. I missed my companions. I learned that it certainly is a lot harder to “go it alone,” in riding, and in life. But just knowing that the SAG wagon was nearby, with my friends cheering me on, gave me the strength to complete the ride.


The biggest thing I have learned from many years of riding, is that it all depends on the wind. When my husband Ted used to ride with me, he ALWAYS checked the wind direction and intensity beforehand. If it is in your face the whole way, it can be challenging, or even devastating. If it is at your back, on the other hand, it can literally make the ride “a breeze.” So when I ride into a fierce wind, as challenging as it may be, I am reminded, and awed, by the Power of the Spirit. I take a deep breath, and feel filled with the strength of the Spirit breathing within me. When the wind is at my back, no matter how fierce it is, I think about how important it is in our lives, to go with the flow of the Spirit, and not to resist the direction in which it wants to take us.

20161007_090210_1476816754950A miracle happened the day of our Century. The wind was at our backs as we road south from Providence to Galilee. Then the wind shifted, and was at our backs on the ride back to Providence as well. In other words, the Spirit was with us the entire way!
This day, may you know that the Spirit is with you, as close to you as your next breath. May you know the Spirit’s presence in the friends who accompany you on life’s journey.


May you also know the relentless power of the Spirit to move us in the direction we are supposed to go. May you never resist and try to ride against the Wind!

May you ride the Wind of the Spirit!
May you see the Spirit in all you encounter,
and may you reflect the Spirit to all you encounter.
Copyright, Linda Forsberg, October 18, 2016

Thanks to Ted (taking photo) Sarge (above left), Preston, and Pasquale!