I wake this morning with few words and an aching heart.
I share this image as an icon of comfort and compassion – a human response at any age.
I share this prayer as a way to express the thoughts I carry deep within.
For Nice, France
“God have mercy on all those who have lost their lives without reason. Lift them up in your strong arms and hold them close. Receive them into a place where there is no more terror or sorrow. Help the injured to recover. Guard them from further pain. Comfort the families with deep compassion. Give them a sense of your presence as they search for a way to bear their grief. And pour your Spirit into this broken world. Let your love run like waters of life into every mind and heart. Show us how to confront what we cannot comprehend and stop the sacrifice of so many innocent lives.”
quote: Bishop Steven Charleston image: Vietnamese siblings, taken by Na Son Nguyen, 2007
These days and nights are extremely cold. Not something that even people who have lived in these North Carolina mountains a long time are accustomed to. This has been my home now for three years. I am beginning to remember the art of layering clothes to stay warm from my years in Colorado – just in time!!
Some of the nights have stirred with bitter winds bringing the temp to -17 and below. My assistant stayed with me overnight on one of the coldest nights last week. Worried that the power might go out or the roads could be too icy for my morning assistant to travel, she gave extra time to her job with concern and compassion. She knew if there was a problem I would not be left alone. Her offer came without request. I was and am grateful. My home is warmed with shelter and heat. There are people who check to see if I need anything. I do feel the cold but not alone.
Not true for everyone. There are many who meet these cold nights without shelter and warmth. Businesses throughout town talk about finding people asleep up against their front doors when they arrive to work each day. Not everyone has a home and shelters throughout the city fill quickly. So there are homeless people who huddle against the walls of office doorways finding some protection from wind and feeling some warmth from the building’s heat. My heart knows compassion for people homeless and lost. Like so many other things — I know I may not be able to change this but I must be aware – awareness is a part of life’s sacred journey.
I share the reflection below. May it offer a way to pray for protection, comfort and hope for those seeking shelter and those who are lost.
On cold winter nights, when Mother Earth sleeps soundly beneath her blankets of snow, the Spirit walks in silence, seeking any who have become lost on their way home. There is no life left unnoticed by God. There is no child forgotten, no elder dismissed, no prisoner unworthy of recognition, no addict left alone, no lonely soul abandoned. Even the hidden ones among us, the silent ones who try to bear their burdens unspeaking, are under the watchful eye of their Maker. On even the coldest nights, the Spirit walks the back roads and the city streets, holding the light of love just a little higher, for those who expect to see only shadow.
Bp. Steven Charleston.
Never lose hope, my heart, miracles well in the invisible.
i offer these words to everyone touched by the tragedy at Fort Hood. we are all touched – exhausted, troubled, and confused.
reaching out, our fingers stretched from the farthest point of our arms, we grasp for hope. no answer for ‘why’, what can we do? together, we can find ways to comfort the grieved and we can search the invisible for the smallest seeds of hope.
For nine years I have greeted each day with my companion, Lilly, by my side. Trained to be an assist dog, she has retrieved multiple objects dropped or out of my reach – from pens to book, from coat hangers to telephones – Lilly has heard the call for these and many other items and made her way from floor to my lap or arms, her attention focused on where I am and my care.
These days Lilly seldom leaves my sight. Her intuition is sharp – she knows we are in another time of transition. Boxes have begun to appear, and as before, she knows that means change is in the air. It is no secret to friends and family, from the beginning my retirement has filled me with mixed emotions. There are moments in a day when I have to stop – to regroup – to grieve. Overwhelmed with the change and the current preparation to move, I decided long ago – when I needed a “crying break” I would take it.
A few days ago it was time for one of those ‘breaks’. With all of the resources she could find, Lilly tended to my sadness. From cleaning my hands to putting her head in my lap, she tried everything to ‘settle’ me. Finally after a whimper or two of her own, she went to the door and barked. As my assistant entered, Lilly led her to me and stood by my side. She watched – when I began to calm she stretched out beside me with a sigh.
As I continue to re-adjust to my newer limitations, Lilly carries hope. She brings delight in each day and maintains a routine that helps me refocus when I am feeling most scattered. With only a few weeks before she and I move to a new home, she reminds me time and again that I am not alone. She will remain by my side waiting to nudge me when ‘we’ need a break from the work of sorting and packing. She knows to keep track of the important things – a walk in the fresh air or the evening game of ball – after all, (she says with her wise and playful eyes) life is an adventure and so much lies ahead for us. Her presence in my life remains a delight, bringing comfort when no words need be spoken.
I end this day in gratitude for my companion, Lilly.