Good friends, a good book,
a cool Saturday morning –
here is contentment.

~ Rebekah Choat



My heart is like a swinging door

My heart is like a swinging door
that fronts on a well-traveled street.
My heart is like a wooden floor
that bears the marks of many feet.
My heart is like a front porch step
where friends may gather as they will.
My heart is all of these, and yet
there is another chamber still.

Build me a courtyard hidden deep;
plant it with herbs and flowers fair.
Set unicorns to guard the keep;
summon a griffin to mind the stair.
Lay seven spells upon the gate;
veil it, that only one may see.
When last he comes for whom I wait,
then let my love come in to me.

~ Rebekah Choat

Tuesday’s Word: presence

presence (n):

(1) the state of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing;

(2) a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen

Presence is a vital concept for me these days, as I’m traveling through yet another season of waiting and uncertainty.  I am blessed to have a small circle of tried and trusted friends who walk with me.

One of these dear ones reminds me, over and over, of the value of being present now and here, of neither dwelling on the past nor speculating on the future.  Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, eloquently describes the kind of presence my friend encourages me to practice:

‘Time is a relentless river.  It rages on, a respecter of no one.
And this, this is the only way to slow time:  when I fully enter time’s
swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all
my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here.’

Another treasured friend gave me the lovely gift of presence in a very tangible way last week.  I was facing, with great anxiety, an unavoidably necessary test.  I gave her enough information to have a sense of what was going on and confided my fear to her, and although she was in the middle of her work day half a continent away, she made herself available to me throughout the afternoon and evening.  Her presence, even in physical absence, calmed and upheld me.  This is surely something of what Tara Brach puts simply and profoundly:  ‘The deepest expression of love is paying attention.’

Tuesday’s Word: encourage

encourage (v):

  • to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope:  hearten
  • to attempt to persuade:  urge
  • to spur on:  stimulate
  • to give help or patronage to:  foster
  • to give support, confidence, or hope to

courage (n):

  • the ability to do something that frightens one:  bravery
  • strength in the face of pain or grief
  • mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

I’ve been pondering over the word encourage for the past couple weeks: what it means, how it’s done. I find it telling that the heart of the word is heart: cor (Latin), cuore (Italian), couer (French).  The truest, best encouragement comes from one whose heart is in tune with your heart, one who knows what fears you face, what challenges daunt you, what pain you bear.

One who would encourage doesn’t say, “I encourage you to go out and overcome your obstacles (or do a great work) (or persevere through enormous difficulty), and let me know when you’ve done it.”  A true encourager opens his own heart and says, “Here is the reason we have for hope.  I see in you the promise of glory.  Let us walk together, sharing our bravery and our strength.”

Shadows, Part Six

image copyright Joel Brotzman

image copyright Joel Brotzman

shad – ow (n):  a relected image

 I find this image, taken by my brother, intriguing.  I’m fascinated with how the trees and shrubs and algae, so much green mingled together, are crowded and hard to distinguish from each other; yet the shadow reflected on the surface of the pond is somehow serene, and shows a crisply clear image of a treetop not itself visible in the picture.

I had a good talk with a good friend last night.  Big, important things are happening in both our lives – so quickly in mine that it’s something of a blur, so slowly in his that there hardly seems to be any progress at all.  At either pace, it’s hard, nearly impossible sometimes, to see things clearly, to find a focal point.

My friend and I serve as sounding boards and mirrors for each other.   We can pour out our jumbled thoughts and mixed feelings and talk things through and share different perspectives until somehow our vision comes a little clearer.  Once in a while we can even see a lovely reflection of a beauty not visible in the current frame of the picture.