Loss of Words

Like many people, the last several months have left me at a loss for words. While our airwaves are filled with more syllables than most normal humans can process in a day, I have been rendered somewhat mute by the state of our nation and our world. This lack has carried over into my ability to write in this space or nearly any other. The fact of the matter is, with my Mother’s voice not far from my consciousness “If you can’t something nice, don’t say anything at all.”, I have been unable to speak or write anything at all. The inability to find the right words, the best words, the kind words, the balanced words,the sensible words, has been a constant, silent companion.

Perhaps this has not been the worst thing. Over and over again in my life I have been, as most people have, in the presence of people who speak without thinking, whose opinions fly quickly from their lips,often to their own embarrassment or even peril. Those who allow their mouths to move without a measured thought process can often cause more harm than good. I would like to believe that, at least in the last several months, I have not been among them. If I have, I apologize and hope that any words I have said have not been harmful to anyone’s spirit.

The other side of this coin is that words are important to me. I love them. I love to use them. This place of silence or of silencing myself has come at a cost. And so, as we enter the season those in the Christian household call Lent, I am making my way back to words. I believe it will be a slow process and one I will not take lightly. At least, I hope not. My hope is that I will walk these days measuring my words with wisdom and care. Lent, after all, is meant to remind us of the counter-cultural lifestyle we are called to live after the example of Jesus. A man of measured words. A man of kindness and well chosen stories. A man who knew the power of silence and the practice of prayer.

This walk back into words actually came through a phrase I heard yesterday on a radio broadcast, a phrase that points toward a wordless act. I heard the story of a nun whose work was ‘the prayer of the loving gaze.’ This sister of an unnamed religious order, when at a loss for words in her prayer life, practiced focusing her eyes with love toward what was right in front of her. Another sister. The stranger on the bus. A flower blooming in a frigid winter. The sunrise. The sunset. All those whose faces and lives passed through her ordinary day. She fixed her gaze with love on the fullness of Creation, one view at a time. No words necessary. Only a full bodied presence and an open heart.

For some reason, the seeming ease of this lived prayer opened my heart and my mouth to words again. And for that I am grateful. This nameless, faithful sister’s practice offered itself to me and gave me a way of traveling into not only these days of Lent but into these often harsh days in which we live. Perhaps the words will continue to be difficult. And when they are, I will turn to the ‘prayer of the loving gaze.’ My sense is it might be what will help me be faithful…to the beauty, the terror, the gift, the grace, the challenge, and the Presence of the One who holds it all.

And so Lent begins….

Horrible & Wonderful

A few weeks ago I met a friend for coffee at one of my favorite haunts on St. Paul’s Eastside. It is a cozy place that always displays local artist’s work on the walls and up a sunny staircase. I settled in with my cup of strong coffee and one of their signature spice cookies with brown-butter icing and began taking in the paintings that lined the equally buttery colored walls. Most were shadowy prints of people…probably musicians I know nothing about. But one painting grabbed my attention and I had to snap a photo of it…for its truth and its confrontation.

“We are all horrible & wonderful & figuring it out.” I thought of the truth of that statement and how I most often want it to be one or the other. We live, particularly in these days, in  a world that draws stark black and white, either-or, dualistic pictures of our fellow humans. Being horrible usually means those who don’t agree with my way of seeing things, my way of being in the world. Being wonderful means, of course, all those folks who see the world with a lens pretty similar to my own. Walking the balance of this tightrope is a constant battle.

While I may argue with the notion of being horrible, I have certainly done horrible things and will likely do many more before I leave this Earth. I wish it weren’t so. All humans have done horrible acts. As one who holds with the idea that each of us is created in the image of the Sacred, I lean toward the idea of being wonderful. And that shade of wonderful is a gift to everyone…even those who have a drastically different take of what Creation holds than I do. It is humbling.

But the part of this piece of artwork that is most compelling to me is the “ & figuring it out” piece. Every day is an act and an art of ‘figuring it out’, isn’t it? Every day I get up and am confronted once again with the myriad choices of horrible and wonderful. It becomes the breakfast cereal of dailiness…horrible? wonderful? And sometimes the fine line between those two carry shadows that make choice perplexing.

This morning I read the teaching of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn: “I take one breath to let go, one breath to be here, one breath to ask now what?” It seems to me this is our daily work as those who are both horrible & wonderful & figuring it out. Breathe in..let go what might be nudging us toward horrible. Breathe…be here and embrace the wonderful in us and in the world. Breathe…as we figure out the ‘now what’? Over and over and over.

Each day is another opportunity to figure it out. The energy and presence we bring to the world is our chance to shine forth the wonderful image of the Holy in which we were all created. It will, I believe, take much deep breathing.

Ready, set, go….

 

New Year

Another year, come and gone. It is a year that has known highs and lows…like all years. It is a year that has seen beauty and tragedy…like all years. It is a year that has seen moments of peace and deep divide…like all years. It is a year when love has been strong and hate an unwelcome companion…like all years. We have seen births that have brought joy and deaths that have ripped at our hearts. Illness has visited. Inspiration has triumphed. Creativity has blossomed. Failure has cut us to the quick. Despair and delight have been our dance partners.

And now we stand at the cusp of another year. Resolutions have been made. Goals have been set. Regrets have been named, forgiveness is within our reach. Hopes are ever present as they always are when the page on the calendar is turned and its newness, its blank canvas is before us. And while the numbering of days and the shift of the year is in some ways artificial, created for order from our human need, there is something about the turn of New Year. It spells another chance to become the fullness of who we believe ourselves capable of being.

As I have looked ahead to this new year with some trepidation, I have thought of a very short two verse poem written by Coleman Barks that made its way into a collection of poetry compiled for the turn of the millennium. Remember that? The power and promise of the year 2000!  Barks writes: “A child stood on his seat in a restaurant, holding the railing of the chairback, as though to address a courtroom, ‘Nobody knows what’s going to happen next.’ Then his turning-slide back down to his food, relieved and proud to say the truth, as were we to hear it.”

I remember the first time I read this, I laughed out loud…at the wisdom and audacity of the child…as I imagined the people in the restaurant’s reactions…as I imagined what my own might have been. But each time I read these words, I am struck again by their truth. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen next.” We may plan. We may hope. We may speculate. We may wring our hands and drop to our knees in fear or prayer or both. What will happen next still eludes us, is often outside our ability to shape it.

There is a deep sense of uncertainty that abounds as we enter this new year. Perhaps it is an uncertainty that many of us have never felt so profoundly. And still the truth is that we do not know what is going to happen next. And yet, as I have shared in the uncertainty and even given in to anxiety, the one thing that prevails for me is that I believe the Holy is in the midst of it all. I continue to believe that the Universe tilts toward goodness and that light is always stronger than any darkness that threatens.

And so I step into 2017 knowing little about what will happen next but confident of the One who breathed us all into being and walks with us through uncertainty each and every day and onward into eternity.

Blessed New Year to you all….

Window Boxes

More than 30 years ago now, I was traveling through Europe with a friend and we visited the concentration camps at Dachau. To say it was a profound experience is, of course, an understatement. To see the words”Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it.” still rings in my ears. To walk those paved pathways that had carried such hate, such despair, such evil put into perspective for this usually upbeat person, the sheer cruelty and terror we humans can visit on others. I can still feel the power of it if I allow myself.

But the image that probably made an impression on me most were the sweet, cottages that lined the streets just outside the gates to that place of terror. Houses, like a gingerbread village, lined the street in their neat, precise German way. The lace curtains had different patterns but created a fluid wave of sweetness and simplicity. Outside each window, boxes of geraniums bloomed their color into the grayness that seemed to linger still over this place. I remember thinking,”How could these people live so close and not know what was going on?” This was the naive thinking of a twenty-something.

For some reason, I woke this day with the images of those window boxes in my mind. Our geraniums are still blooming outside our kitchen window, a sign of a summer that has overstayed its welcome. I thought of the lens I have on the world and how that lens has perhaps not allowed me to see a wider world that has existed outside my own vision. A world that has allowed hate, sexism, racism, xenophobia, and a myriad other phobias and isms to fester and boil. It feels as if I woke up in a completely different country which, of course, is not true. It is simply a world that now has revealed a darker, more frightening face than I had the ability to see from my lace-curtained windows.

It is too early to know what I will do about it, how I will be in it. For now I have to rest in the grief and sadness.  My daily calendar wisdom had this to offer from mystic Meister Eckhart: “God is at home. We are in the far country.” Today I need to know that God is indeed at home and that I can find my way back to that cottage that perhaps has always sat just outside the walls of despair and destruction. I need to believe that as a country we can find our way back to a home that is filled with a goodness and hope that transcends time and situation.

How can I possibly know what was going on behind the doors of those houses that existed so close to the gates of evil? How do I not know that those who lived there were not doing all manner of things to help those being led to their death? Can I imagine that those people in the gingerbread houses planted those flowers so one of the last things the lines of people saw was beauty? Perhaps they were doing all manner of good.

Those are some of the questions I hold that connect with the image that floated up this morning from some deep memory. There are so many other questions to hold that will lead me… and many others…into this day, this week, this year and the next four. May we have the courage and faith to hold them wisely and with compassion remembering that….God is home…it is we who have walked far, far away.

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Training Wheels

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Yesterday I received one of those ominous screen messages that my ‘storage was almost full’. This is always a troubling thing because I don’t know exactly what to do and I have a hunch that, whatever it is, would eat up enormous amounts of time as most computer related fixes do. But someone told me that when this happens that getting rid of photos and videos I have snapped in the moment and that now sit there for posterity is a good way to ‘free up storage space’. This process, too, can lead a person down the rabbit hole but I gave it my best shot.
While I was clicking and deleting I came across a photo I had taken sometime this summer outside our neighborhood coffee shop. I had walked into the shop to get my morning cup of joe and as I left noticed a pair of training wheels for a child’s bike abandoned on the colorful bench by the door. I stopped and laughed as my mind began to create the story of what had happened that led to their being chucked at this particular spot.

Had some parent convinced a child that now, now, was the moment and removed them? Had the rider of the tiny bike been inspired with the confidence they needed to ride on into the day using only two wheels? How did it go? What kind of wobbly action had been executed on that busy sidewalk?

It led me to remember when our oldest son, a pretty busy, daring lad, had wanted to have his training wheels removed. Our neighbor was on hand and was armed with whatever tool is needed to remove said wheels. His own son, less busy and less daring than our own, was also present. As the neighbor began to remove the training wheels from our son’s bike, he did so from his son’s as well. His logic was that if one wanted to do this, they both should. It would save time and energy in the long run. In the end, it all worked out and both boys moved on with a notch of freedom on their belts that they hadn’t had the day before. For those two lads it was only the first notch of many toward freedom that they made together.

Training wheels. Whether riding bikes or just walking in the world, we have visible and invisible training wheels that help us keep some balance when we are yet unable to execute the real movement of a particular task. Training wheels keep us safe and build our confidence. Training wheels can help us trust our bodies and our minds to work together. Training wheels provide a stepping stone that moves us forward to something we had only imagined possible.

I don’t know about you but there are places in my life where I feel as if I am still using my training wheels. I am still using training wheels when it comes to compassion…kindness…gentleness…toward others and myself. It seems to me that as a culture we are still making the fits and starts that require training wheels when it comes to acts and lives of justice in our world. I know people who have taken off their training wheels and are able to ride fully into all these but I am not one of them. Perhaps you are not either.

Pablo Picasso once said “Everything you can imagine is real.” When our son was riding his bike with training wheels, I am certain he imagined what it would feel like, how he would look once he had graduated to a two wheeler. His imagination gave him the courage to ask for the training wheels to be removed. As I continue to imagine what living a life of greater compassion, kindness and gentleness feels like and how I would look doing this I am buoyed to begin taking off the training wheels and rushing headlong into this fuller life I can imagine. Everything I can imagine is real.

Today, we may each need training wheels. But tomorrow…who knows? We may be ready to get whatever tool is needed and abandon the illusion of dependence and find our own balance…for our own healing and the healing of the world.

Soul Speed

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Several weeks ago now I was blessed to hear singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer in concert. Since the first time I heard her I have been enthralled with her ability to put words together that speak beauty and power while calling the listener to a deeper understanding of self and how we move in the world. Since the concert I have bathed myself in her music and it was while doing this that I came across a line that has been haunting me. Tucked in among images rich and varied, she sings this confession: “I’m traveling faster than my soul can go.
Those words pulled me up short. ‘I’m traveling faster than my soul can go.’ Several times since rehearing these words…because I am certain I had heard the song before and was perhaps traveling too fast to really hear…I find this line flitting through my brain, an ear worm of sorts.As ear worms go, there could certainly be worse ones. And as confessions go, I know its intention rings true for me.

Soul. In circles in which I travel the word ‘soul’ can get bandied about fairly capriciously. Yet, I wonder, if we ever really are sure what we mean by it. Webster’ says it this way: Soul…the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal. Stated that way, we are talking about something pretty important to be found speeding away from. 

It may seem crazy but I have often thought of ‘soul’ as the great umbilical cord in which I am connected to the Creator. Soul is the place of nourishment, the connector that reminds me that I am an embodiment of holy stuff, sacred stardust, have been from the beginning and will always be. So, again, not something to be moving so quickly past that I am lured into forgetting this connection. 

Speed is the great distraction from so many important things, isn’t it? I don’t think I am alone in moving headlong into the speed of what needs to be done, accomplished, said, felt, heard nearly every day, from the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning. We speed through meals, conversations, decisions, meetings, on the freeway. We wear the ‘I’m so busy’ statement as a badge of honor, a sign of just how important we believe we are.

And what about our souls in the process? What gets lost? What gets damaged? What is forgotten or neglected? And what happens to a culture when a group of people collectively move about ‘faster than their souls can go’? Where will it take us? Where has it taken us?

Yesterday, I was blessed to hold a little one new to the world. Two months old and already looking into my eyes with questioning and a wisdom he brought with him. Holding him in that swaying movement we all revert to with an infant in our arms, I felt his soul and my soul resting together, connecting to our breathing, and the very Breath that holds us both and will always do so, no matter what. For one whole hour I was traveling at the speed of my own soul through the gift of his presence. When the visit came to a close, gently kissing his sweet, baby-smelling head I walked back out into the world in a different place from the rushed entrance I made into his home. My life had caught up with my soul. I had caught up with my soul. 

The poet Anne Sexton, who struggled with depression and so much darkness, said “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” That kind of deep listening can’t happen at high speeds. It most often is best done while sitting still, staring into the middle distance looking at a scene of something we love and cherish. Like a lake or a mountain or the face of someone we love…especially the face of a baby.

Beauty…Vulnerability

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It was just a splash of red against the gray asphalt. It was like a marker at the crossroads of a busy intersection. Like all those traveling north, south, east and west, my foot was to the metal and my eyes only took a single moment to see that this scarlet spot was not an abandoned candy wrapper or a soda can flattened in the surrounding haste. Instead, laying on the ground was a fully formed male cardinal, its exquisite life cut short by a wind that took it off course or a car whose speed matched the velocity of its outstretched wings…just so. I wondered if the driver even saw the impact and was now feeling the sadness I felt at witnessing its dead body. I breathed a sigh…a sort of prayer.
This moment in a summer day is still traveling with me. It has now been more than six weeks if not longer and I can still see the fallen bird, its brilliant red shining forth one last time. I have thought about this winged one more often than I would like to admit. Its beauty. Its vulnerability. Its untimely ending, an ending I glimpsed in just a second of my own beautiful and vulnerable life. In the briefest and yet deepest of ways, I felt connection to that bird whose flight was cut short as it headed for food or its nest or wherever it is cardinals fly to in an ordinary day that turned out to be not so ordinary.

Summer now gone, this is the season when birds and people are changing their patterns. Some are heading south and others are turning inward in anticipation of the winter to come. It is a time of great beauty…colors are turning in tree and plant…some animals are storing up food and growing warmer fur or feathers…some people are preparing their homes for colder days and storing up projects for longer nights. The summer days are past and autumn, the time for letting go and preparing for the journey of winter is upon us. 

An attention to these seasonal patterns can be a great connector, I have found. As humans we can often believe we are the center of it all, the wiser of all the creatures. But all we need do is observe the squirrel carrying multiple nuts as big as its head up a tree at lightning speed, jumping between precarious limbs, and we know the same feat would be impossible for us. Their winter prep makes ours look quite feeble and it engenders awe in me. I am blessed to watch their work and to feel a strange connection to knowing we will both go into the winter and, hopefully, will emerge intact when spring arrives again.

This attention to the connection and the patterns of ordinary days turned extraordinary is holy work. It is, at least for me, the recognition of a deeper Source that runs through all life…that holds us all…and for some reason I feel it more acutely this fall. Perhaps it is because fall so tenderly holds the beauty and the vulnerability. Perhaps it is because the image of the cardinal is still shimmers in the recesses of memory.

I am not sure when the sight of the dead cardinal will leave me. When it does it is likely to be replaced by another reminder of connection with Creation, the joys and the loss that are the waves we all ride. At least I hope that is the case. In being a steward of the red bird’s memory, I was reminded of how singer/songwriter Peter Mayer writes about his experience of seeing a red-winged bird. He describes it as “shining like a burning bush” and “singing like a scripture verse”. He goes on to say the sight makes him want to bow his head because everything is holy now. 

Beauty. Vulnerability. Connection. Ordinary. Holy. A bowed head seems just right for this autumn day.

Strong Rope

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There are books that seem to call me back. Books I have read more than once…some several times. Since I am a dedicated underliner, I find phrases that have meant something at one time, their words sitting atop a red, blue, black or even green line reinforcing their meaning., giving weight to the various letters that have come together to forge their identity in the world and in the sentence. Sometimes I understand what the phrase meant to me when my pen put its signature under it. Other times, I furrow my brow with the ‘what was I thinking?’look.
Over the last days I picked up again A Hidden Wholeness:The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker Palmer. I must have read this book, or at least parts of it, at least three times. My underlining got started early with the his first short quote from Leonard Cohen that begins the Prelude to the book: “The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and it has overturned the order of the soul.” I had not simply underlined this sentence but created a box around it with blue ink.

I do not know what was happening in my world or the wider world that caused me to box this collection of words. I cannot remember the year or the time in my life. But as I reread the Prelude to this book of invitation to wholeness, I was drawn in again to the lure of their beauty and truth. The blizzard of the world…even in these summer days…crossing the threshold…piling up wind and storm…overturning the order of the soul. Have you ever had this experience? 

Our lives can often become divided by any manner of things. Our work. Our health. Our life circumstances. The workings of the world around us. The pain and pull of others both near and far. Some days it is simply easier to create little compartments where one part of ourself goes…worry, here…pain, there…joy, in this box…grief, in this slot in the back. We divide ourselves into little squares of emotion and thought, mind and spirit, creating hard edges that threaten to crack and peel at the least appearance of vulnerability. It can be a difficult balancing act to maintain.

Parker Palmer uses these words of Cohen to tell the story of how, at the threat of an impending storm, the farmers of days gone by who lived on the Midwest plains would run a rope from the house to the barn. This rope became the lifeline that kept the farmers connected between the shelter of their home and the shelter they were providing for the animals they cared for and that brought them their livelihood. This way, when the winds blew, the snow fell and their vision became obscured by all that swirled around them, they held onto the rope and found their way between their responsibilities and their home. The rope became a way of not getting lost in the storms of the world.

These days we have many stormy words and sentiments flying around us. Our political climate and the rhetoric filling our airwaves can become overwhelming. What to believe? How to think? What to say…when to remain silent? For me, this can be upending to the order of my soul. And so I have been tying my rope from home to the places that help me maintain a soul order… beautiful words that don’t mean to harm or coerce…listening to the chattery sound of the morning birdsong…observing the particular color and shapes of the evening, autumn sky… spending time with the people whose hearts are kind and gentle…and embracing the gift of silence. These are the knots along the rope that, I hope, will carry me through the storm that is likely to be the next two months. 

Whatever storm is crossing your threshold, may the rope you tie be strong and sure.

Seasons

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Sometimes it is good to take a break even from the things you love. Sometimes it is good to know when to be silent, when to be still, when to listen more than speak, when to step back from the things that pull at your heart. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the wisdom writer says it well…”to everything there is a season”. The last several months have found me in a season of withdrawal from this world of words I so dearly love.
Instead, I have found myself in a season of silence. It has been a season that has taken me to places of deep listening. It is a season that has also taken me to places of letting go and simply being. Without the need to interpret or make meaning. Without the need to share musings with anyone other than my most inward self. In many ways it has been a season of confusion even numbness. But it is a season I can feel is ending or at least changing. As someone who puts the world together and makes sense of its experiences through the gift of words this feels like a homecoming.

This past week I saw the first flock of geese headed to their next season. I was driving by the airport hoping for the experience I so love of having a plane fly directly over my car as I drive by. Feeling the sheer weight of one of those massive machines fly over your toy-sized vehicle, hearing the pounding power of it as it makes its way up into the air or back to Earth again, always thrills me. I try to time my driving with the plane’s take off or landing, so I am situated in a connecting tunnel of energy not only with the flying machine but also with those who are doing their own travel. It is a quirky little thing I do.

But that morning it was not a plane that rose off the runway. Instead it was six amazing geese making their own kind of energy, their own kind of flight. As they approached their take-off to fly directly over the road, I watched them and something shifted in me. And I knew a season was changing…for the winged ones…for me…for the landscape and place I call home. I smiled at the noticing and its promise.

Our lives are made of so many seasons. There are the life stages that define our living. There are seasons that create the space for our work, our learning, our playing. There are the seasons of creativity and fallowness. There are the seasons of being a child, being a caregiver and the way those seasons seem to fall back into themselves over the years. They are seasons in our relationships. There are the seasons of the year, their gifts and challenges, the beauty they offer and the sometimes boredom they lay at our doorstep. So many seasons…

The season I have been in has been a season of silence and suspension above some of the creative acts that bring me life. But just like the geese who have been pecking at the earth, filling their bellies with food-fuel that will allow them to do the hard work of getting to the home of their next season, I, too, have been storing up. It is something we all must do at times. Because life is filled with many seasons. 

Of course, in seeing those geese rise into the clear blue sky of the impending autumn I immediately thought of my soul-teacher Mary Oliver’s words:

“Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.”

Whatever season you are in, may you rest gently in its wisdom. May you listen and learn its lessons. And may we all rise up and hear the call, announcing our place in the family of things.

Grounding Footsteps

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The events of the last weeks have had me reaching out for what is grounding, what has withstood the tests that have inevitably challenged humanity throughout time. Questions like ‘what really sustains?’ and ‘ what brings courage and wisdom?’ have floated in between the anguish of troubling newsfeed that can be our constant companion if we allow it. Trying to keep a balance between being responsible and informed and staying calm and sane can be a difficult.
Recently I have returned to a devotional book given to me as a birthday gift from a friend. It is simply titled Celtic Daily Prayer and is a rich compilation of scripture and reflection from throughout the swath of writings of those who have been shaped by the faith of those who have made a home in or near the British Isles. Each month in the book is themed and July is devoted to pilgrimage…pilgrimage to places held holy by those who lived and traveled there. In yesterday’s reading I found words that soothed my soul.

July 14 was given over to the pilgrimage site of Assisi, Italy. “In Assisi the past is not history, but the life of Francis is now, just as Christ is now.” writes Norma Wise. These words had me swirling back in memory to my travels two years ago and the experience of beauty and strength that permeated the streets of Assisi. While all the modern amenities we have come to hold so precious were present in this ancient city there was also the sense that time was fluid and that the living presence of the humble teacher we have come to call St. Francis might appear around the next corner. His gifts of simplicity and wonder at the fullness of Creation seemed to shimmer in the very air. 

Further in the devotional reading were these words: “There have been thousands of footsteps around Assisi, but through them all the footsteps of Francis seem freshly there, unaltered,calling out for us to walk in them,and learn.” writes Brenda Grace. The days we walked this tiny Umbrian town, the place was filled with pilgrims night and day. Languages floated by in conversation, words unfamiliar, unknown. Faces shown forth with characteristics of those from a variety of countries and national origins. Our own footsteps made one more groove in the stones there and left their image in the dusty paths. It was easy to image our footsteps mixed with those of Francis and his followers…calling out to us to learn.

Learn? Learn, what? Certainly, the value to the Holy of each created being from tiny insect to upright human. Perhaps, the joy of the simple things of the every day…the sunrise and sunset, the trees swaying in breeze, the rain falling, the light twinkling on water, the smell of a freshly bloomed flower. All gifts of Creator…all which we had no hand in bringing to being. Our only work is to receive them in our presence, exclaim our wonder and enjoy. Our deep connection to every part of the world…the poor, the lonely, those on the margins, those we name other or least…all these are kin. These could be just a few of the lessons Francis might teach us for our day and time.

This mental pilgrimage, these memories helped me find the grounding I needed to walk out into the day and I was grateful. The words and the challenge to walk in the footsteps of Francis once again helped center me for the work of the day. I thought of how in a sense I had brought his footsteps with me across an ocean and into my own land. This thought helped me to walk more gently with yesterday’s experiences…to hold someone’s gaze more fully…to breathe more deeply of the beauty that still exists around me…to offer blessing to the strangers who pass our way…to make my prayer constant, unceasing. These can be things we abandon when life gets tough.

Today, I am sure, pilgrims from all walks of life are showing up in a little town in Italy, a place where only their clothing and the cars rushing by gives indication of the year. But history is not past there. It is now…just as Francis is now…just as Christ is now. This brings me comfort and peace for the journey of my own present. What is bringing you comfort and peace these days?