Monthly Archives: August 2012


Yesterday, as the weather is cooling down into the 80’s, I went for a six mile hike around the National Mall in search of finding grace.  Since I went out at an hour that is uncharacteristic for me, it wasn’t hard to find little pockets of grace that I usually miss.  Everything looked new in the early morning sun and I had the whole park virtually to myself!  Unheard of!  Well, it was partly due to school being in session this week, I think, but still, it was grace to find myself alone with so many beautiful sights.

I marveled at the sun rising and breaking through the morning clouds over the U.S. Capital; at the mirror like surface of the tidal pool before the sun was fully up; at three friends fishing – alone – along the tidal pool in the shadows of the King memorial.  I savored the time to be alone in the FDR memorial as the morning sun highlighted the sparkling granite rock; the roses reflected in the polished face of the Vietnam memorial symbolizing someone’s love and remembrance; and the solemn figure of Mr. Lincoln brooding over the war as the morning light washed his face.

I paused at the Korean War Memorial and said a prayer of thanks that my father, who was there when I was born, was one of the ones who returned.  I rested beside the newly refurbished reflection pool and just allowed the gentle breeze to cool me.  I admired, again, General Grant, who sits atop his horse in front of our capital.  I have spent many hours in the last year reading about this amazing man, including his own memoirs, and am always saddened by history’s misrepresentation of his brilliance and uncommon goodness.  He reminds me again that no matter what others think I should be doing, I have to do what I know to be right and take the best action I know to take in any given situation.

It was a holy walk, a holy day, and grace was all around.  Take a walk and see what graces you might find.



True wisdom comes from many sources, but is certainly unexpected from a fortune cookie!  Recently I opened my fortune cookie after a wonderful Chinese meal to find this nugget of wisdom:  Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.  Needless to say, this was an uncommon fortune, indeed.

It certainly caused me to stop and think.  I went on to eat my cookie, but have kept the wisdom.  I’ve carried the little piece of paper with me for weeks now, meditating on the truth it holds.

There is no denying that discipline can be a refining fire and can certainly refine many things in our character, our habits, and our talents.  By continual practice – discipline – we hone our talents so that it looks as if we have a natural ability.  The ability, however, is only natural, and looks easy, because we have put the hard work and discipline into making it so.  Nothing is easy and everything, even ability, comes with a price.

So, since discipleship comes from discipline, I began to think how our discipleship might be the refining fire that allows us the ability to look more naturally like the one we want to imitate.  Perhaps discipline within our discipleship is what will give us a mind like Christ; a heart like Christ; a manner and compassion like Christ; a servant attitude like Christ; and a willingness to give all we have for others, like Christ.

No wonder it takes a lifetime of discipleship to grow into Christ-likeness.  Any ability we have to do it comes through fire in the hard work of discipline.  Yet, the moments of grace in the lifetime of discipline will be what provides the grounding grace in the disciple.  Savor the moments of grace.

Another Era

On Sunday we were transported back to another era.  It was like walking into a time tunnel to go up the wooded trail and find Echo Glen Park.  Located on the outskirts of DC, this little park first served as a Chautauqua in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.  From that history, it was transformed into an amusement park that drew thousands of visitors who came by trolley from the crowded city of DC to enjoy the space and the trees, the arts and the amusements.

To this day it maintains some of its original Chautauqua character and serves as a site for artists and skilled craftspeople, as well as musicians and thespians, to practice, display and sell their crafts.  Most of the buildings have been restored to their original character and it was hard to remember we were walking through this beautiful little park in 2012.

As we walked and explored, just enjoying the interesting sights, we met an elderly couple who were doing the same.  The gentleman asked me if I used to come here when I was younger.  “No,” I responded, “I’ve never been here before in my life.”  He smiled a euphoric smile and explained:  “I used to come here all the time.  I learned to swim here.  Boy, this brings back the memories.  It was quite a place!  I used to love to come here.”

To make the most of our experience in this little time travel we rode the original, beautifully restored, carousel.  It was a thrill to mount the life-size wooden horses and flow with the calliope music.  I felt like I was a kid again!

There are so many ways to discover grace.  We can go back to a place filled with the memories of youth and where we discovered new skills, or, we can  discover a new place and revel in the grace that is present to us in this moment.  Try it!  There is nothing like grace – in this era or any other.

A New Neighbor

Look who is looking for a parking place along our circle in the neighborhood!  I was stunned to see her lazily munching the grass right out front.  I guess it’s a reminder that we must share the beauty and bounty of the earth with everyone!  Especially those species who live amongst us almost unnoticed.

What a grace to think that there are deer living in this densely populated urban region.  We are definitely not alone.  So, keep that in mind:  we are not the only ones here.  Be kind to Mother Earth and share everything!

Still One Left

What’s a person to do if they leave home and forget their phone?  It never used to be a problem, as you know, since there were phone boxes on almost every corner in almost every city throughout the country.  But those were the days before cell phones and the convenient phone box no longer exists.  Now we carry our own phones and never have to worry about how we might be able to contact someone.

Still, if you happen to be in Turkey Run, Virginia and have no phone – you are in luck!  The last of the dinosaurs still stands and is still in working condition!

I just had to laugh!  It was such a funny sight – out in the middle of this lovely wooded area. And, I found it a little grace that here stood this working phone, waiting to be used for someone’s call.

It was a reminder to me that first we need to see the grace that surrounds us, name it as such, and then share the story of that grace with someone else.  And, we can pick up the phone and do that – even if we are in Turkey Run and have no phone with us!

Call someone you know and share a grace that you have seen today.


Saturday we were visiting the Memorial to Women in Military Service at Arlington Cemetery.  I am embarrassed to say, we had been to Arlington several times and never before bothered to step into this memorial.  It is a wonderful tribute to the contributions women have made to our country throughout history.  Very impressive displays, pictures and personal accounts lined the walls.  An artist was painting portraits of women on duty doing the many and varied jobs required of them while in service, from nursing to airplane maintenance; piloting to commanding.  It was most impressive.

But what struck me above all, and what I can’t stop thinking about, are the engraved quotes.  The main lobby of the memorial is an atrium and above, etched in the glass where the sun streams through to the displays below, are engraved quotes of famous women.  They are not noticeable from below . . . it is only when we went outside on the second level terrace that we noticed them.

Engraved on one of the large glass panels are the words of Clara Barton:  “From the storm lashed decks of the Mayflower to the present hour, woman has stood like a rock for the welfare and the glory of the history of the country and one might well add . . . unwritten, unrewarded, and almost unrecognized.” 

It was as if her quote increased the sunlight that filtered through it to the displays below. I had to return to the atrium to see if I could look up and actually see it from below.  Unrecognized, indeed!  What a subtle and beautifully remarkable memorial to Clara Barton, and to every woman who ever contributed anything to the history of this country.

Carrying this image and this experience with me, it is all I can do to remember her quote accurately.  I want to replace the word “country” with the word “church.”  And the message would still be accurate and still be completely true!  Unrecognized, indeed!

It’s time we began to recognize the gifts of women, not only in our country, but also in our church.  So, when you see a woman offering her time, her gifts, her talent, her sacrifice, dedication, inspiration, touch of comfort, compassionate presence, or  – you fill in the blank –  thank her, for she offers a grace that no one else can give.  Through her service  – to our country, our churches, our neighborhoods, our schools, or our families –   the light of the gospel shines brighter and touches each one of us more profoundly.

I don’t know!

I don’t know what it is, but recently I’ve noticed – on a number of occasions – how difficult it is for us to admit that we don’t know something.

The most recent experience was this past weekend on our stroll through Arlington National Cemetery.  While there I wanted to collect my National Parks stamps and was in search of one that I had not collected on an earlier visit.  Since I had missed this particular stamp previously, I did some research to try and identify its exact location so that I would know where to find it this time around.

We walked the lovely paths through the cemetery and stopped at the Memorial dedicated to women in military service and then walked on to the top of the hill and Arlington House.  The stamp I was after was supposed to be located in the house.

I found the stamping station and put each stamp into my little book realizing that the particular stamp for the Underground Railroad, which is what I was after, was not among them.  Learning to admit my ignorance, I went in search of a park ranger to ask my question.

He listened to my question and then gave me a long lecture about how there was never a part of the Underground Railroad through Arlington House and they didn’t have a stamp like that.  He went on to inform me that if a stamp like that was to be found it would probably be at some other location.  He continued to explain, however, that that particular location hasn’t been open for years.  Concluding, he was absolutely sure there was not a place where I could get an Underground Railroad stamp from Arlington.

Felling frustrated, I continued my walk and further along the path I realized that there was a small bookstore located behind the main house in one of the old slaves’ quarters.  I went in and sure enough, there was a stamping station and – would you believe it? – a stamp for the Underground Railroad from Arlington.

Satisfied to have accomplished my mission, I began to wonder why the park ranger couldn’t just have told me “I don’t know.”

Why is it so hard for us to admit that we don’t know something?  There are so many things we don’t know! And, certainly, at any given time, we can’t know all there is to know about anything, no matter how much expertise we have.

I’ve concluded that it is difficult to do because it requires humility.  We must be humble enough to come to terms with our own inadequacy and then speak out loud the words of our ignorance.  If we can find the humility to do that, however, the reward is  grace, and a freedom in realizing we were never meant to be responsible for knowing everything.

The Switch was Flipped

Last night I think the switch was flipped!  After a beautiful, sunny and hot day on Saturday, and a rainy day on Sunday, I went out on my walk this morning to find hints of an approaching Fall.  Well, Fall according to DC standards, that is!

While still being the temperatures of a summer day in Seattle, it is 25 degrees cooler here today and I began to notice red and yellow colors at the tips of some of the leaves on trees all over the neighborhood.  Yes, I think the switch was flipped!  Fall has been turned on.

As I walked this morning, noticing signs of Fall all around me, I wondered if we can allow ourselves to be switched on as well.  Nothing stays the same, and neither should we. It is a great grace to allow the tides of each day and the movements of the seasons to change us.  Our lives should be a continual birthing to new awareness, new relationships, new adventures, new life – no matter the season.

Let the switch be flipped and turn on the grace!



The Southernmost Northern Point

Continuing our quest of historic sites and discovering the landscape of this part of the country, we made our way, once again, down into St. Mary’s County, Maryland.  It was a beautiful day and we drove to the southern point of the state.  During the Civil War, this was the Southernmost Northern point, and because it was completely surrounded by water, was used as a Northern prisoner of war encampment.

It was hard to imagine what life in a POW camp on this beautiful spot must have been like.  Little replicas and dioramas in the museum showed that they had cabin-like dwellings for the men and there was a large hospital and also a church.  Still, it was a prison camp.  Today it is a State Park.  Imagine camping today where thousands were held prisoner during the Civil War!

It made me think about, although we are certainly free, we are also sometimes victims of our own imprisonment.

I can’t tell you the number of times we share our outings with a local resident who exclaims “I’ve lived here all my life and I never knew that place existed.  Never been there.”  Truly, this is a form of self-inflicted imprisonment.

It takes a conscious effort to break the chains of imprisonment – but we CAN do it.  Think about the things that you have always wanted to do – but have never done.  Think about the places you have always wanted to go – but have never gone.  And, make plans to start slowly and close to home – and do some of them.

Annie Dillard wrote: “Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them.  The least we can try to do is be there.”

Food for the Soul

I remember a story that I read in reading class in second, maybe third, grade.  It was about a farm woman who complained that her house was too small, there wasn’t enough room, and she needed a solution.  So, she went to the village wise-person who gave her a possible remedy.  The wise-person suggested that on returning home she invite in the chickens and let them live in the house with her and her family.  The next day, she was to invite in the ducks and geese.  On the third day, the goats; the fourth day the pigs; and on the fifth day the oxen.  After one week of all of them living in the house, she could then let the farm animals return to their regular habitat and, the wise-person assured her, the house would be much bigger.  And, what a miracle it was!  After all the farm animals went back to the barnyard the house was so much bigger, there was nothing more that needed to be done.

I’m reminded of this because yesterday I got lost and when I found myself again things were much larger.  I had picked up a small piece of fiction and got lost in its pages.  I immersed myself in the time period, the setting, the plot, the characters and their struggles and joys and I totally forgot where I was.  When I finished and put the book down I had a new appreciation for my time and my place; my struggles and my joys.  Life was larger, more beautiful somehow, and totally filled with grace.

The escape into literature can offer us a wonderful nourishment for the soul.  If you haven’t done it for a while, give it a try.  It can be nothing but grace.