House of words

The words you speak become the house you live in. (Hafiz)

I came across this quote yesterday morning. It stayed in my thoughts as I moved through the day. By the time evening was night these words rested in my heart.

Words matter! My head swirls in the confusion of our time. As a writer and a priest, words are extremely important to me. As a listener, words take on nuance that make the difference between hearing and understanding.

Last night’s news from Manchester England is heartbreaking. I know many, many children have died in the throes of war and anger. Yet watching the chaos through the lens of a cell phone brought rise to emotion I could not contain.

Several of my friends have spoken about their tears in recent days. We live in time that feels so unsettling, so disturbing. I have spent much time in thought. Trying to make sense out something that seems nonsensical or unbelievable.

This week began with Mr. President on his first international trip. Landing in Saudi Arabia for his initial visit in the Middle East, I watched – what would I hear, what would I see. Beyond all of the pomp and circumstance I listened to President Trump’s speech. It was confident and instructive. It was filled with detail and imagery. And then words came that took my breath:

“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and
DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH.”

Words meant to challenge – sounding like a call to battle.

I left that speech with a sense of dread as if reality had been set before me – again. I could not help but wonder what kind of response might incur from those words. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the responses that have already been provoked through all that has been said – on one side or another.

Words matter! I can not know what motivated a 22-year-old male to load a backpack heavy with explosives and walk into an arena filled with youth and children with the intent to create death and chaos. Logic tells me his training and support came from places filled with words of anger and malice. A group will claim responsibility with pride and a threat to continue – always a threat.

But logic did not win last night. I cried as I watched the news unfold. Before us were children scrambling for safety. Scared for their lives.

“The words you speak become the house you live in.” Hafiz sends this wisdom from across the ages.

There are words spoken in this world crafted to instill confusion and fear. 

These are not the words I will speak, this is not the house I will live in. I will try to choose my words carefully that they may be filled with honesty, compassion and care. This does not mean hiding in the comfort of what I wish could be. No, I will speak from an open door  created to welcome others and host the wounded and afraid.

God have mercy.

For the children…


Quote and image: Facebook

Quote: President Donald Trump on Sunday, May 21, 2017, at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Heart to heart

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The sweetness in your own heart sees the sweetness in others!!!


 Quote and image: Facebook page of Diana Shimkus (thank you, Diana)

Remaining brave

imageEven in a world that’s being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong.
Hildegard von Bingen Continue reading

To begin 

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“If the angel deigns to come,
it will be because you have convinced her
not by tears, but by your humble resolve
to be always beginning; to be a beginner.”
[Rainer Maria Rilke]

To begin the day…

 

IMG_2033The source of a true smile is an awakened mind. Smiling helps you approach the day with gentleness and understanding.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace Is Every Step

a child, again, at Christmas

Christmas tree for blog 2014
“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

This has been my third Christmas in Asheville and my second in this apartment. Having moved to a new city three years ago, I am still very intentional as I build friendships and create memories/traditions. These are the things that make a place to live into a home to cherish. There are some new annual ‘happenings’ that have begun to feel like traditions and then there are the traditions that have followed me throughout life. They are somehow connected making a bridge of life’s story. During these last three years my bridge has been well-traveled.

As I look at my home decorated with new and old, this year I have enjoyed taking time to remember. While opening boxes marked ‘Christmas’, I uncovered my childhood stocking. Mother made that stocking. She sewed stockings for each of us when we were young and seeing its simple design reminded me of our family traditions. Painted cookies on the tree, Christmas eve services late into the night, waking on Christmas morn to find the crèche complete with ‘baby Jesus’ lying in the manger, these are memories that created the foundation of my life.  A foundation that has been tested throughout the years and remains trustworthy.

While laying this stocking under the tree, I am always taken back when I remember there are two. To my annual surprise my grandmother’s stocking is found lying underneath my own. These two stockings were tucked in a box of decorations given to me by Mom some years past. Another moment to stop – my grandmother, Grandmarney, as she was named – seeing her stocking always brings sweet memories. She was my ‘lap’ grandmother. Held close in her arms I can remember rocking and feeling happy. I always looked forward to getting out of my wheelchair and into her lap. Her home always smelled of apple fritters and fried chicken. These days there are not many houses that surround me with that smell. I am very grateful for that memory.

Hand made and filled with memories I placed both those stockings under my tree in my home. When the tree is lit and holding ornaments from then and now, I am once again that child. I am happy to taste the painted cookies, held close by my grandmother and bundle to go out in the cold air of Christmas Eve. Standing on the edge of a new year, these memories nudge me on, with gratitude for my past and curiosity for what lies ahead.

Love Wins

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In the darkest hour the soul is replenished and given strength to continue and endure.
H.W. Chosa

December 14 arrived on a Sunday this year. I woke up and prepared for a ‘normal’ Sunday morning – teaching the Advent series at St. John’s and attending the following service. While packing my things after the class I received an email from a friend wanting to talk. On this day two years ago, the town of Sandyhook CT was shaken to its core. My friend had been there on that tragic day and with the anxiety that only post-traumatic stress can bring, she sought out comfort and support. My morning plans changed. Sharing that time with her was my act of worship on this Sabbath.

There are never enough words to fill the void of such tragedy or settle the anxious heart. She needed to talk and I needed to listen. As we ended our conversation with a prayerful goodbye, I was taken back by the thought of the families by her side today, all remembering where they stood when they heard the news – gun shots had been fired and lives changed forever. No amount of imagination can place me in the middle of that confusion and pain. I can only try to be present in prayer and compassion.

Today – two years later I hear the resolve shared in Sandy Hook – a town filled with people touched by the unspeakable and committed to work for change in this country. A country over-run with guns and anger. We hear more stories each week of tragic situations. We shop for our Christmas celebration and find decorations strange and somewhat scary. I left a store today after having seen strands of lights for Christmas tree’s and other decorations made in the shape of bullet shells. The more we hear of these tragic stories and the more we see objects of violence woven into decorations, we become more desensitized and conditioned. We risk these objects and stories becoming more of the norm. Our children become more comfortable as they re-enact stories through the games they play and the items they see in their normal walk through the mall. This will not do. Love must win.

The people of Sandyhook have chosen to move outside of their darkness and into a place of strength and endurance. They believe in the power of love and the possibility of change. After two years their commitment to work for changes in our nation’s gun laws is inspiration. It is a commitment that would serve us well to consider. May we live our lives with the phrase “love wins” etched in every breath.

(a ‘thank you’ to Roger Hutchinson for sharing the above image)