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My sister is quite a poet. She sent me this yesterday. I post it here under full copyright protection and with her permission.





I felt a ringing in my ears

that simply would not go away,

so I looked around to find the


and it was They.

Quite irresponsible! I thought,

and rearranged my day.


I felt a twinge deep in my chest,

an unexpected sort of pain,

so I did a little research and –

you guessed it –

it was They.

So self-centered! I denounced,

as I turned to limp away.


They were everywhere, it seemed:

Passing judgement,

breaking laws;

lifting argument to doctrine;

punishing the smallest flaws;

wasting time

and speech



begging aid without applause;

qualifying estimation

by the tenets of their cause.


I felt a hunger in my gut,

a gnawing, clawing taste of grey.

How unfair! I screamed within me

as I stumbled on my way.

They should be given equal measure –

the coin They tender,

They must pay!

I hobbled past the faces,

Holding tight to my complaint.


People passed me in my silence.

On each one

I saw my name,

While inscribed

on my own forehead,

simply written, it said




-cs 101617


© Carol Shaw, all rights reserved.





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Over the weekend a friend of mine slipped away. I had visited with him some months ago, and in September he was diagnosed with untreatable cancer. His wife called me to visit with him two weeks ago and the decline startled me. I promised her that if I at all could I would come at the drop of a hat to administer last rites. I got a call on Friday evening while I was in Albuquerque that the Hospice people had given him up to 72 hours. I promised to come by the next afternoon when I was home, and asked her to tell him I would be by. I got a text on Saturday that he had slipped away just before noon. He did not want any of his children there, just his wife, his cat and his own soul. If he didn’t want his children there he probably didn’t want a priest there.

We all have stories of people whose time of death seems chosen. The more I am around the dying the more I am convinced that, except in the case of accidental death, will has much more to do with it than we allow. I’m beginning to wonder if death is our last great choice in this world. In Spanish we speak of el buen morir, the good dying. Could it be that to choose the moment of one’s death at just the moment that will fit your soul most is a part of el buen morir?

How about the other choices? We choose our friends, we choose our careers (or are chosen for them and we agree…), we choose our houses and our cars and our clothes we will wear. We make other choices, too. We choose our emotions. (Yes, we do.) We choose our thoughts. (Yes, we really do.) We choose the state of our souls. (Yes, we really, really do.) These choices are not like others where we consciously point to one of many options. They are so basic and so significant that we relegate them to subconscious activity, but they can be reclaimed. Like a good death, choosing the right emotions, thoughts and states of one’s soul send the patterns of our being into our world. They will reverberate, bounce off others’ choices, and reflect back to us. These dialogues with the world lay much of the foundations of our experience of the world.

There’s no good in blaming others for how we feel, think or act. Those energies will only come back around to us stripped of excuses. Better to learn to choose before the damage is done.


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The Organized Mind

They say that a clean desk is the sign of an empty mind. Well, if that’s the case my mind is cluttered to overflowing.

I am struggling through Chapter 5 of my dissertation. As I look back on what I wrote last month a shotgun comes to mind—not for the page or for me, but as a description of how I went about it. In an effort to be comprehensive (doctoral dissertations are supposed to be, right?) I unearthed bunches and bunches of interesting tidbits of information from all over the universe and threw them on the screen willy-nilly, then tried to push them around into something of an order. I succeeded at the first task pretty well. I failed miserably at the second.

So, I did what I usually do. It’s not fun, and it’s not pretty, but eventually it works. I pushed things around in the file, here and there, attended to minor issues, corrected typos and addressed all the questions my editor shot at me (a lot, mind you, and not surprising, either.) Then I went to bed last night and spent a bunch of time in the middle of the night with half-formed ideas floating around in my head effectively keeping REM sleep away. I got up a couple of times to jot ideas down on a piece of paper so I wouldn’t forget them. Somehow, wading through the morass in a far-less-than-linear fashion, an organizing structure emerged from the murk. With this map in front of me I can now purge, trim, streamline and organize. Hopefully what comes out at the end of today will be something recognizably connected with what went before, but essentially dead and reborn.

Now isn’t that something! Organization emerges spontaneously from a morass of confusion. All the
diversity and order of light and dark, earth, wind, fire and water, plants and animals and people emerge out of a primordial point of sameness—BANG!

Maybe I really am more organized than what my desk would suggest.

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Interfaith Response

Here is a link to an interfaith response to the massacre in Las Vegas.  If I lived close I would attend the event announced.

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Joy and Pain

Another spotless sunrise in southwestern New Mexico brightens what

promises to be a cool, clear day, and 17 people have died in California due to

the fires. Pictures show black toothpick trees sticking awkwardly above ashes

that used to be homes with pictures on the walls, while quail call outside my



How do you bring the two experiences together? I hear the question behind

the question I get a lot when people suffer, “How could a loving God allow

this to happen?” I get it because I’m supposed to be a God-guy and have

God’s answers, but the only answer I have is not so much God’s but ours.

People report that God walks with us through the trouble rather than around

it, if we can just recognize it. It doesn’t really answer the question–maybe it

doesn’t have an answer in this life, unless learning to see God’s presence in

trouble is the point of it all. Apparently, God holds both joy and pain in the

divine heart, and we are expected to be like God.


So, I will enjoy the New Mexico sunrise and pray for California. God rest the

souls of those who have perished. God comfort those who have lost so much

that was precious to them. God grant me the best way to respond in wisdom

and compassion.

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Roots are what keep us, well, rooted. My ethnic roots are Scottish, Irish, English and German, and I look like it. My historic roots are in northern Indiana, where I have a passel of cousins. My religious roots are in the protestant church–my grandfather was an Evangelical United Brethren district superintendent. But there are deeper, more immediate roots.

I read recently in the Bible about the threats of the head of the Assyrian army against Jerusalem. He is at the gates of the Holy City. “Has any other god delivered its people out of my hand?” he taunts. When you look at what has just happened his logic is impeccable. He has ridden roughshod over kingdom after kingdom all the way from Persia to Israel. King Hezekiah, the Jewish king, is terrified.

My reading took me from there to the Song of Mary, called the Magnificat:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant….

The roots of this song are found in two other places in the Bible: the Song of Miriam on the shores of the Red Sea after all the Egyptian soldiers have drowned, and in the Song of Hannah when she gives birth to Samuel. These two women feel delivered from great distress, and Mary borrows their language. In her a world in distress will be delivered.

The biblical record shows that Hezekiah prayed rather than surrender. The Assyrian forces were recalled; the Assyrian taunt was empty. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…”

True rootedness has only a little to do with ancestry. It has a whole lot more
to do with where my spirit draws its strength.

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The Center

I just sent them off after a heart-filling weekend. Little Anna made sidewalk art for Granny on the drive while Josh and I played “See How High You Can Bounce This Ball.” At 5 and 3 they’re both heart-thieves. I’ve gladly given mine to them for three days, and it broke my heart to see them drive off this morning. Their Mommy awaits them at the other end of their journey, though, and they need her.

Grandkids are really amazing. I had no idea I would enjoy making such a kid of myself with them. The wondrous thing, of course, is that nobody else minds that I do. Grandkids are history and future, all wrapped up into bundles of joy. They trace the family line back through us, to our grandparents, and into the mists of the past, and they promise the same trajectory into the misty future. Here, now, they reach both ways and fill our hearts to overflowing.

Maybe that is why the earth seemed to move around me the moment I cradled my first grandchild in my arms. It didn’t move under my feet—I have rarely felt more grounded. But it did move in its eternal circle around me, and for a moment I stood in the sacred stillness of the center. Around me past and future moved in cosmic dance, and I caught a glimpse of it all.

We are right to be filled with awe in their presence.

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