A Prescription for Wholeness

Spread kindness like wildfire. Ask questions. Cross bridges. Pick up a piece of trash. Say hello. Say thank you, to God and others. Go for a walk. Make eye contact. Consider the lilies. Mend fences. Plant wildflowers. Sit in the grass and watch a bumblebee—it will teach you there is no need to rush. Pay for someone’s coffee. Bake two loaves of bread. Give one away. Pray for those who belittle you. Be kind to yourself. Shed tears when you are sad. Sing show tunes, preferably with someone else. Draw a tree; even a stick tree will do. Savor an orange. When you are angry, breathe deeply and exhale mercy. Listen to “the gift of a thistle” by James Horner. Visit somewhere new. Light a candle; in fact, light three, or a hundred. Play with a toddler. Drink a cup of tea. Read a poem by Mary Oliver, or perhaps Rumi. Write a letter to someone, with real paper and ink. Send it through the mail. Look for goodness. Celebrate beauty—it is everywhere. Listen with curiosity. Sing loudly in your car. Hold someone’s hand. Pet a dog. Bike to work. Buy original art, anyone local will do. Always stop at a lemonade stand and always overpay. Breathe. Do it again. Do you realize what a miracle it is that you are alive?

Birdsong

I leave my window open
just a crack
just enough to hear
the birds singing in the day.

Their chorus begins in the dark.
Like me,
the sun loves their song
and rises to listen.

Too soon, their melodies
will be silenced
by discordant tones
as the rest of the world gets up
beginning not in song,
but getting their daily briefing
on what to be mad about
who to fear and
who’s to blame.

The birds’ midday silence
makes me sad.
It seems they know my sadness;
they feel it too.

At dusk, as another day closes
the gay melodies
that woke the sun
are quiet.
I hear only
a lone dove mourning
yet another day
when fear and hate prevailed.

Tomorrow
Tomorrow we will do it again,
for we choose not to live
as those who have no hope.

Speak to us of clothes

And the weaver said, speak to us of Clothes:

And he answered:

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.

And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.

Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,

For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.

Some of you say, “It is the north wind who has woven the clothes we wear.”

And I say, Ay, it was the north wind,

But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.

And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.

Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.

And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

-Khalil Gibran

Speaking About the Sun

Joy is contagious, just as sorrow is. I have a friend who radiates joy, not because his life is easy, but because he habitually recognizes God’s presence in the midst of all human suffering, his own as well as others’. Wherever he goes, whomever he meets, he is able to see and hear something beautiful, something for which to be grateful. He doesn’t deny the great sorrow that surrounds him nor is he blind or deaf to the agonizing sights and sounds of his fellow human beings, but his spirit gravitates toward the light in the darkness and the prayers in the midst of the cries of despair. His eyes are gentle; his voice is soft. There is nothing sentimental about him. He is a realist, but his deep faith allows him to know that hope is more real than despair, faith more real than distrust, and love more real than fear. It is this spiritual realism that makes him such a joyful man.

Whenever I meet him, I am tempted to draw his attention to the wars between nations, the starvation among children, the corruption in politics, and the deceit among people, thus trying to impress him with the ultimate brokenness of the human race. But every time I try something like this, he looks at me with his gentle and compassionate eyes and says: “I saw two children sharing their bread with one another, and I heard a woman say ‘thank you’ and smile when someone covered her with a blanket. These simple poor people gave me new courage to live my life.”

My friend’s joy is contagious. The more I am with him, the more I catch glimpses of the sun shining through the clouds. Yes, I know there is a sun, even though the skies are covered with clouds. While my friend always spoke about the sun, I kept speaking about the clouds, until one day I realized that it was the sun that allowed me to see the clouds.

Those who keep speaking about the sun while walking under a cloudy sky are messengers of hope, the true saints of our day.

-Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

For my son, on his birthday

He is one who has taken many steps
along life’s road
bearing witness
to the rhythms of time.
He has known the sun’s warmth
upon his neck
and the sting of winter wind’s bite
upon his cheeks.
He has felt the pain of loss
at autumn’s death
but stands in hope,
because he knows
spring promises rebirth.
Life lived in the flow
of days
and seasons
and years
has endowed him with strength.
In courage, he journeys on
protecting and providing
for those battered by life.

Along the way,
he hungers for truth
and forages for understanding,
wherever it may be found.
He was wired with
both reason and curiosity.
Although he knows the map,
he’s not afraid of exploring.
He drinks deeply from wisdom’s spring
and nourishes himself
by listening to others with humility
knowing that every interaction
is an opportunity for growth.

His footprints leave impressions of goodness.
He seeks to bless his fellow travelers.
As he walks along,
he leaves the road
better than he found it.
He tries to live
by the rules of the road,
yet in humility
he knows that he will fall
-repeatedly-
because he understands
the path of goodness
is more journey
than destination.

As he courses on,
he looks not only to the road ahead,
but lifts his face
to the heavens.
He is aware
that night brings darkness,
but he knows too
that heaven’s canopy
is dappled with beauty and light.
He lives with a present awareness
of the beauty of the cosmos.
He appreciates
that all of creation
constantly reveals
a beautiful Creator.
As he gazes in awe
at God’s magnificence
he cannot help but glorify God
with the beauty
of word, form, and song.

Son, my prayer for you on your 13th birthday is this:

That as you journey in courage,
you develop the strength
to pursue justice
and a clear voice for those
who cannot speak for themselves.

That as you journey toward wisdom,
you allow God’s truth
revealed in his word
and in his world
to equip you for a well-lived life.

That as you journey toward goodness,
you look to the ways of Jesus.
This road can be bumpy at times,
but Jesus showed us how to walk well.

That as you journey by grace,
you never forget that
you are one who was made
in beauty.
Whatever brokenness
or pain
or darkness you feel,
it cannot extinguish
the light
of the beauty
of God
that exists in you.