Tearing Down the Walls

On my home altar, among other objects of special meaning to me, is a small chunk of the Berlin Wall. Twenty-seven years ago today, Germans streamed from all over their country with hammers and picks to tear down the oppressive barrier that separated East from West in their capital city. Exuberance and hope demolished that 79-mile, double, reinforced-concrete-and-barbed-wire structure with almost 300 watchtowers.


On this day in 2005, I made a pilgrimage to a crumbling remnant of that wall. Candles still burned there in honor of the almost one hundred Germans who had lost their lives trying to climb or tunnel to freedom on the other side. Placed inside cracks in the wall were dozens of individual roses, symbolizing reconciliation and unity. Continue reading

Oh, Great

Could we just stop arguing about whether we are, or were, or will be great again? Could we, for the next four months at least, ban the word exceptional from our vocabulary? Could we dispense with superlatives like “the best country in the history of the world”?


Plenty of countries have universally accessible healthcare and affordable higher education, fairer wages and better parental leave policies, more tolerance and less homelessness and hunger. Lots of cultures are less obsessed with consumerism and competition, and more committed to the common good. America is exceptional in our level of gun violence and our rate of incarceration. And also for the amount of money we throw at preparing for and making war.

Do we need to remind ourselves that this nation was birthed with genocidal policies toward native populations and the enslavement of Africans? That our founding document accorded voice and political power solely to white male property owners and assigned people with dark skin only a fraction of humanity? Continue reading

Solid Footing

It was a rainbow more spectacularly breathtaking than any I had ever seen. Bill, our dogs Micah and Tasha, and I were taking our nightly twilight walk down our rural mountain road on Friday evening. Emblazoned over us was a complete arc of brilliantly vibrant color against a sky that glowed with electric pink and fuchsia.

We weren’t alone in our awe. At Circle of Mercy two nights later, I discovered that my seven-year-old friend Abby was riding in the car when she saw the rainbow and couldn’t take her eyes off it. “It seems like it’s following us home,” she said to her mother. “Is it solid enough to stand on?”


While I stared at it, transfixed, I recalled God’s words to Noah after the great flood: “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between me and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” (Gen. 9:16). I was always taught that the rainbow was a reminder to us of God’s promise. But God was actually saying that it’s a reminder to God never to bring such total devastation to the earth and humanity again. Because surely God must be tempted sometimes to just chalk us all up as a big mistake.

This might be one of those times. Such hatred and fear plague us, such grief assaults us. Continue reading

Moonflowers & Morning Glories

[First posted in April 2013 on www.deepeningcommunity.ca]

There’s a moment in early spring on the farm in western North Carolina where I live when the redbud trees explode with bright lavender blossoms, and the dogwoods become cascades of white blooms, and the backdrop of mountains behind them glows with the lime green of new growth. It’s only a matter of days before the blossoms fall and the new leaves turn dark green, but the window of time when I glimpse that harmony of color always takes my breath away. I’m stunned every year all over again when I see nature doing what it always does.


This spring I’ve been drawn to ponder the truth that I’ve never heard a pine tree try to convince an oak to hang on to its leaves for the winter. To the best of my knowledge, no morning glory has ever engaged a moonflower in a conversation about the merits of being an early riser or the superiority of worshipping the sun god rather than the moon goddess. No head of lettuce, or vine of snow peas, or stalk of kale has chided a sprig of basil to learn to love the cold. And no Asian pear has dismissed its Bradford cousins as being “merely decorative.”

Whether they provide food, or shelter, or beauty, the plants never seem to question why they’re here. And as far as I know, they never long to be anywhere—or anything—else. They simply go about the business of being true to themselves and doing what they were created to do. Continue reading