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

Sun

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“And the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night. If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet, you are absolutely correct.”
― Hafiz

photo from Pinterest

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.

The Visit

He Qi

He Qi

Was it a normal day? How would she ever remember? One minute she was sweeping the floor or brushing her hair and the next… Angels arrive. Maybe there was bright light, maybe her ears rang with music – certainly she felt her ground shift.

The angel knew her name and shared God’s greeting. She was blessed and God’s beloved. What did this mean? She was confused and could not understand why the angel stood before her. In turn she was comforted and told not to be afraid (something angels often need to do).

Mary was awakened in the middle of the day, when sleep was not a part of the schedule. Before her stood an angel, an archangel, proclaiming news too remarkable to fathom. Her eyes were open, yet what she saw and heard must have felt like a dream.

This ‘announcing’ visit filled her with a brilliant awareness. As quick as she was visited by this angel, she was once again, alone. She could only comprehend this news with the strength and courage one gets from acting on faith. She did not know the story’s end but was willing to be this important part of its beginning.

Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner

These “visits” are filled with the mystery of God’s movement. There is little logic, for we, like Mary, are asked to use our intuition – to step forward in faith.

HOME…

10609454_10153183345571982_4389626093230978933_nOur practice is to find our true home. When we breathe, we breathe in such a way that we can find our true home. When we make a step, we make a step in such a way that we touch our true home with our feet. ((Thich Nhat Hanh)

with our heads held high and minds at work to navigate our way home. we are constantly seeking a place to belong – a place we can call ‘home’. during this life-long search, there is often little awareness of the ground beneath our feet. this is the ground that has been our home since the dawn of time.

The Heart’s Light

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If light is in your heart, you will find your way home.

Rumi (image: Bess Hamiti)

So many speak of feeling lost and alone. The world continues to threaten our sense of peace and safety as we search for ‘home’. The world’s threat is not truth. It may be fact but it is not truth.

We are created as beings, already known and connected to one another through a web woven by the sprint of love and care. There is no promise this journey called life will be easy — much of the path requires our own determination to place one foot in front of the other, following the light in our heart.

Be encouraged to know that others are walking their own path, one determined step at a time. Each by their own light, each finding their own way home.

Come stand here…

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I share this with you knowing that each reader will have their own image of taking these steps. Most often moving beyond our comfort zone fills us with anxiety and distress. The “place we have occupied for so long” is familiar and safe. 

Yet these words are filled with an invitation – honest and comforting. The steps may not be easy but they lead to freedom and compassion. Our perspectives need to change in order to hear the gentle answers of our hard-earned questions.
Once again I give thanks for Bishop Stephen Charleston. His words are wise and rich with imagery. May these words offer safety and compassion as they call for change.

Come stand over here, just a step or two beyond the place you have occupied for so long, where you have worn the earth smooth with your pacing, where you have spent so many hours fighting the problem you cannot seem to solve. Take a break. Catch your breath. Come stand here, where you can catch a freshening breeze and see far into the valley below. Let the distant clouds carry your worry for a while, see how the sun empties the world of shadow. The answer you seek may be just a step beyond, a higher place where the view is clear of all obstructions.

Bishop Steven Charleston