My Traveling Shoes

Done found myself a new pair of travelin' shoes to wear on this leg of my journey. Handmade to fit and suit me just right, supportin' and comfortin' me each step of the way.They are wild and colorful as I chose them to be, they suit my personality.
I've traveled so many miles in shoes that someone else bought for me, plain, poorly fitted, worn, second hand, hand me downs. Ohh, they hurt my feet and took me places that I didn't need to go, places that I didn't want to go. For many years I put them on. I was told it was my duty, but my heart was heavy and my cares so many.
Done found myself a new pair of travelin' shoes to wear on this leg of my journey. Handmade to fit and suit me just right, supportin' and comfortin' me each step of the way.They are wild and colorful as I chose them to be, they suit my personality. I bought these shoes. I own these shoes. They are mine.
by Jeanne leigh...copyrighted...2007


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter Solstice Celebration

Every December 21st for the last 7 years we have been part of an ecumenical celebration of the Winter Solstice at the beautiful Jubilee House Retreat Center in Abingdon, VA. We have a lovely meal together and enjoy some music, poetry, and reflections of the year  ending and what we'd like to leave behind. We share a fire and several different meaningful rituals such as "Praying in the Four Directions", a "Native American Sage Smudging" and various other traditions.This year's theme was "Appalachia." Our band, WISE OLD RIVER always plays music for this event. This year we played My Land, the title song of our latest CD. We also played Virginia Song which will be on our next CD. This is a celebration of the longest night of the year.

The wikipedia says this:
The winter solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet's polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits. Earth's maximum axial tilt to our star, the Sun, during a solstice is 23° 26'. More evident from high latitudes, a hemisphere's winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest. Since the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, other terms are often used for the day on which it occurs, such as midwinter, the longest night or the first day of winter.

The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the winter solstice usually occurs on December 21 to 22 each year in the Northern Hemisphere, and June 20 to 21 in the Southern Hemisphere.
Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most northern hemisphere cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.

A few years ago I wrote this for the Winter Solstice Celebration:

DARKNESS:So often can be related to evil, fear, pain, depression, loss
As a result it makes us uncomfortable; we seek to avoid it, at all cost….
Noise, activity, artificial light, we seek to elude its grasp…..
It’s a natural part of life. A necessary part of life. In darkness things grow…seeds buried in the darkness of soil along with minerals and nutrients…grow beautiful flowers, plants, fruits, vegetables,
In darkness…images become real from negatives in a dark room.
In the darkness of a cocoon, a caterpillar goes through its natural process and then with difficulty and struggle it emerges as a beautiful moth, or butterfly.
The seasons on our planet all play an important part of the balance of our world. The Moon, The Sun…..the changes…
The seasons of our lives do this as well…
It is in the dark times, as we embrace them while learning the importance of allowing ourselves to be kind and supportive to ourselves in this darkness and learning to accept the kind and supportive support from others in this darkness that we experience a mystery.
It is in the dark times that we are stretched, we are deepened, we grow in our understanding, and we have our hearts enlarged, our spirits expanded and our minds broadened.

Bruce Cockburn expresses this concept well in a song he wrote called PACING THE CAGE. He has a line in it that says,
"Sometimes the road leads through dark places. Sometimes the darkness is your friend".

The darkness does not last forever. It is a part of our lives. The light will come again. We need both to be balanced. We need both in order to become all that we can be.

Embrace the darkness.
Embrace the light.

Peace, Jeanne Leigh

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kiss of an Angel

In 1990, I found myself in a very difficult place. I was leaving a Ministry/Intentional Community where I had lived and worked for twenty years. I’d invested my youth, creativity and all that I was and had in this work, but the fact remained that I had come to a place of growth and change that did not allow me to continue to be part of this organization. Yet, the people of this community were my “family,” church, employers and neighbors. It’s a hard thing to understand unless you have lived such an experience. The leadership at that time did not take kindly to folks leaving which was unfortunate for us all. So, thus the beginning of our difficulties.

I had just lost a brother to AIDS and had cared for him during the most difficult 18 months of his life. I was beginning to reconnect with my natural family who had never been close. Jim and I were starting over in so many ways. My children were going through major adjustments. Jim and I were finding new jobs having been out of the secular work force for 20 years. At times all of these adjustments were overwhelming.

I was meeting with a Spiritual Director weekly which was helpful. I knew our decision to leave was right and good for our family. I was grateful we had the courage to make a new life for ourselves. I prayed and worked hard each day to be there for my family and sought to make the best of each new situation that arose.

One night I had a dream. It was more then a dream. Something was spoken to my spirit, a word was given to my heart that we would be all right. A peace came over me which was a gift that I will never forget. I was so moved by the experience that I wrote these words which became a song that Jim later wrote the music for. It reminds me that in those times when we feel we cannot take another step forward, if we will open our hearts and spirits to that which is greater than ourselves, then we will be carried, held and given what we need to move forward. I am thankful for this truth!!!

I named the song “Kiss of an Angel.” Here are the words
Kiss of an Angel

It was the Kiss of an Angel that spoke to me
As I awoke, was it only a dream?
It was a tender moment that I could not touch.
That I could not grasp, to me it gave so much.

Through time and space not a sound it did make,
With light more gold than honey but much Sweeter to the taste.

It was a moment of knowing that I will not forget
There is no need for explanation, I simply choose to believe it.
It was a different kind of music, a melody in perfect time,
A symphony of salvation a song with holy rhyme.

Through time and space not a sound it did make
With light more gold than honey but much sweeter to the taste.

It was the Kiss of an Angel that spoke to me
As I awoke, was it only a dream?

~Jeanne Leigh Denton


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Respecting All Beings

I have really enjoyed walking the trails where I live and biking some as well since we moved here four months ago. It warms my heart to see the ducks walking their little babies down to the river each day. The river even in this short time has expressed many a mood. Most times it is gentle, quiet, sweet and deeply serene. Then at other times fast, turbulent, noisy and swelling as it displays a glimpse of its potential power.
I’ve become acquainted with most of the white ducks. They are domesticated and Noah and I often feed them. The Mallards and geese vary. I’ve seen some very beautiful ducks come through this area and photographed a few which I will share in this post.

Several times I stopped by the river to witness some child/youth abusing these ducks. The first time, a boy about twelve was standing with his father or guardian and he picked up a huge rock and threw it at the baby ducks in the water. I did not hear or notice his father say anything to him. The boy looked over at me and I gave him a look that said it all. He nervously smirked at me. I was upset and stayed around and interacted with the adults that were with him. I talked to them about how beautiful these little ducks were as I took some photographs. There was no more rock throwing. They left.

Another time, a girl about the age of ten was screaming and violently waving her arms as she chased the ducks shouting, “I HATE YOU!” as her parents/guardians stood by with a child in a stroller. I did not see them tell her to stop, so I walked over and said, “Oh, honey don’t do that, those ducks will turn around and bite you so hard! It really hurts!” She stopped in her tracks and her parents looked up at me. I went over and talked to the parents/guardians about how wonderful the wild life was in the area. They left quietly. Those ducks were disturbed and lost a bunch of their feathers running from that child.

The last time an older teen-age boy was with his friends and was doing about the same thing the girl had done. I walked over and told him, “You need to stop doing that, you probably don’t know this but there is an ordinance against harassing/harming the wildlife along the river here. You can get in trouble for that.” He proceeded to laugh his head off and his friends joined in. I took my phone out and acted like I was calling someone. They left laughing, but I think they were a little freaked out

Yesterday, I went to the Town Hall to inquire if there actually was an ordinance or law protecting these birds. The man I talked to said that the Mallards and Geese were covered under Federal and State Law and that the Game Wardens would take care of it, but for the white ducks since they were domesticated that he wasn’t sure. He called a police officer over and I told him this story. Officer Turner was very respectful and told me they were having a staff meeting later and he’d make the staff aware of it. He gave me his card and wrote the dispatcher number on it and told me to call if I see anything like that again. He said they’d do extra patrols to watch the area, too. This made me feel little better. We’re armed and ready. Well, thanks for listening. From an Undercover Duck Agent, Peace….Jeanne

Please do not copy without permission.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Sacredness of Being Unique

I am learning it is NEVER GOOD to compare myself to others. It isn’t necessary to compete with others either. I am coming to understand that it is best to compare and compete only with myself. Am I improving? Am I making progress? This appears to be the best way to grow. It seems when we compare ourselves to others we either end up putting ourselves down or place ourselves above another. Neither seems beneficial. In the New Testament we read these words, “They that compare themselves among themselves are not wise.” I am seeking to be the best ME that I can be. What a freedom to simply be the best person that I can be. My prayer is to continue to remember this truth and practice it when the inner and outer critics raise their voices. I want to rejoice with everyone, as they become their best selves.

I love Fred Rogers understanding on the importance of accepting our uniqueness. In his book You Are Special: Words of Wisdom for All Ages from a Beloved Neighbor. He says, “What matters most is what children feel about their uniqueness once they do begin to realize they are different from everyone else. How each one of us comes to feel about our individual uniqueness has a strong influence on how we feel about everyone’s uniqueness--whether we grow into adults who rejoice in the diversity of the world’s people or into adults who fear and resent that diversity.”
As I thought about this, the fact that we are created with such uniqueness makes it even clearer to me how comparing ourselves to others really makes no sense. Appreciating one another’s uniqueness and desiring to see all people flourish is a more appealing way.

Douglas Malloch, (1877-1938) a poet and writer said this in an introduction to one of his poems, "We all dream of great deeds and high positions, away from the pettiness and humdrum of ordinary life. Yet success is not occupying a lofty place or doing conspicuous work; it is being the best that is in you. Rattling around in too big a job is worse than filling a small one to overflowing. Dream, aspire by all means; but do not ruin the life you must lead by dreaming pipe dreams of the one you would like to lead. Make the most of what you have and are. Perhaps your trivial, immediate task is your one sure way of proving your mettle. Do the thing near at hand, and great things will come to your hand to be done." The poem was often read on Mr. Rogers show by Emilie Jacobson the “Poetry Lady”. Here are the first and last verses:

If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill,
Be a scrub in the valley, but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill,
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a highway, then just be a trail.
If you can’t be a sun, be a star.
It isn’t by size that you win or you fail.
Be the best of whatever you are.

For many years, I lived by what others told me was important and I allowed them to tell me what my gifts were and were not. It was a big mistake. I understand now that it is a beautiful quest to “know and learn of the self that I have been given.” These unique gifts are mine to nurture and share. It is my responsibility to own and use what has been given to me. As one ancient writer has said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." I experienced this firsthand in the years that I did not walk my own journey and I have found this verse to be very true for my own life.

May we all seek to be the unique persons that we are and to become our best, while desiring to see others do the same.

Peace, Jeanne

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Listening to the Voices of Love

For a very long time I have been drawn to the idea of becoming more positive in my thinking and living in the present moment. Our lives can overflow with activities and it is so easy to get preoccupied with the past or to feel anxiety about the future. We are all a work in progress but what a glorious work it is. It really is a work of love, a love for God, for the gift of life and a love for self and others. This is why we seek to improve ourselves in these ways.

For many years I have sought to be a person of peace. It is not an easy task. Peace begins with me. This involves finding peace in my own soul concerning my relationship with God, myself and others. It is complicated. Peace doesn’t always look like we think it will. Sometimes for there to be peace we have to have boundaries that restrict an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes peace is painful. We must begin the process of forgiveness where we have been deeply wounded. Sometimes peace comes from saying no to abuse. Sometimes peace comes from giving in and yielding in a situation. Peace takes courage. How can we work for peace within our world if we do not find it within our own selves? Peace is a work in progress too. We must be patient. Some things take time.

Lately, I’ve come to understand a new quest that is necessary for this peace I seek. It is the practice of listening to the voices of love. I so often am harassed by a very ugly critic inside my head. Much of it comes from voices from my past that I have internalized; some from the dark side of myself. I am very tired of this. So, I am seeking to listen to the voices that come from God, the best part of me and the voices of those that love me, and to distance myself from the harsh, unkind, and sometimes cruel voices.

One of my favorite authors is Henri Nouwen. I recently discovered a few of his quotes that address what I am talking about so beautifully. I want to share them with you. Here they are:

"Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, "Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody." ... [My dark side says,] I am no good... I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved." Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.

~ Henri Nouwen

…"the real "work" of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me.

To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing-- that demands real effort. "
~ Henri Nouwen

May we all seek to be peace makers. May we be directed and healed and nurtured by the voices of LOVE in our lives. I think Henri is truly on to something here. With Love, Jeanne

Saturday, July 2, 2011

New Adventures

Last Wednesday we moved to Damascus, VA. We landed in such a beautiful place. We are so happy to be here with the river, natural beauty of the trail and mountains. The town is quaint with a lot of different Bed and Breakfast places and cottages throughout the town and along the trail. It is lovely. Sitting on my front porch every morning I see a family of geese making their way to the river. Never lived some place where geese walk quietly down the road with no fear. Great experience to see!

The first few days our old bodies and even Jamen’s young body were aching all over. So much energy was expended and so many muscles exercised packing our belongings, loading the truck, and cleaning the house where we had lived for 6 years. I’m happy to say we had 3 ladies from Jim’s new church and our oldest son Justin to help us with the unloading and some dear friends came in the evening to help but we didn’t have a drop of energy to do even one more thing. Instead we enjoyed their company! So, the next day we moved furniture around and now we have begun the unpacking of all these boxes and arranging things in our new place. We are not done by any means.

Our two cats Poncho and Jada were traumatized at first by our move. We have always lived in small ranch style homes and we now live in a big, old, spacious, open home with an upstairs. Our cats squalled for 3 days. They were so upset. Finally, they seem settled and happy. The stairs are a big adjustment to our leg muscles, too! Love this big old house!!! We were finally ready to go for a walk on the trail once our muscles stopped screaming for mercy! This is a treasure to be so near these trails. Therapeutic in so many ways!

I went for a long walk this morning. It was lovely out. Took a few pictures. I had the great pleasure of watching a tiny girl begin her first bike ride on the trail. Her mom was down the trail from me watching her take that first ride. I was at the other end looking at her beautiful little face. She was smiling from ear to ear. She was only riding a little ways and then turning to go back. This was a test drive. As she passed me I said, “ Wow, you are good! Look at you go!” She was delighted. I told her mother, “She is so proud!” Her mom laughed and said, “ Last year she was too little to ride the trail, so this will be her first year.” I wish I could have taken a picture of that little girl. I’m not sure where the family lives, but the whole family was renting bikes to ride. I thought about that little girl’s face, her excitement and joy many times throughout the morning. My prayer is for each of us to have that kind of love and joy about the things we are able to do each day! Children remind us of so many things! Reminder: Be grateful and happy and take time to enjoy the things you love to do!!

By the way I know some of the ducks by the river are obviously ducks, but these white birds seemed to be geese. They were eating leaves and grass…but they don’t look as long necked as the geese I have seen before. Took a picture. Does anybody know? Tried to Google it but none of the pictures looked quite like these. If you know, feel free to inform me! Thanks. Peace. Jeanne

My Grandchildren are loving this place! Noah has been fishing and is taking a dip into the water on this fine hot day. Blessings!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bloom Where You are Planted

 Yesterday evening I walked home from work. It was rather warm and I was carrying my purse, lunchbox, and briefcase so I was glad it was just over half a mile. As I passed the service station I glanced at the creek that runs along the side of it and saw the prettiest colored flowers along the bank there. I decided to go home and get my camera and take a few photos of these flowers. As I did I also took pictures of this and that along the way. I began thinking about Nancy R. Campion’s famous quote “Bloom where you are planted.” I was remembering how wonderful some places have been for “Jeanne” blooming and other places that left a lot to be desired. I feel I have tried my best to “bloom” wherever I have landed.

I came across these weeds and grasses growing out of the cement around this water cap in the parking lot down the road. In certain places that I have lived/worked I identified with how these weeds/plants look. Cramped, lacking nutrients, struggling to live well, to find and express my gifts, to be myself. Feeling stuck, not a good place to flourish. At times it felt nearly impossible.

We are all so different. It’s possible for a certain type of person to flourish in a given situation and in the same situation another person begins to die inside. I guess that is why it is important if at all possible to choose our environments carefully. Sometimes it isn’t possible. However, we must seek to make the best of all our situations.

This is the picture of the flowers I saw out of the corner of my eye. I wish I’d had a more powerful lens to get a close up. The picture didn’t do the flowers justice. They are lovely, quietly blooming by the creek with the pleasant sound of the water going by. Even with the bits of trash cluttered here and there they caught the eye of this passerby. Silently blooming and being their best, I was drawn to stop and enjoy their beauty. Lifted by their color and fragrance, these beautiful flowers stirred me to reflect on higher things.

 Later before bed, I ran across this quote that said it all, everything I had been thinking about. “It's vital to be growing through your life rather than going through your life. The object is not to change other people or situations; it's to do the inner work they stimulate“. ~ Wally Amos

So, I guess I will end with this: May we find the best places for our souls to bloom and if and when those times, places and situations aren’t all we’d like them to be, may we remember the inner work that can be done even then. Peace, Jeanne


Sunday, May 1, 2011

"The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown

Agnes Repplier says, "It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves and it is not possible to find it elsewhere." I think in many ways this is true. Like that saying, "Wherever you go there you are" which I believe originated with Confucius. If we are to find peace, joy, happiness it will be within our own souls. Even though we have a personal faith in God and practice spiritual disciplines there is also work that we must do within ourselves.

 A few months ago I heard Dr. Brene Brown speak on a podcast from Tapestry Radio based in Canada. This particular podcast was entitled TO ERR IS HUMAN. Brene Brown discusses the results of many years of research which led her to write a book called, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Suppose to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

The first paragraph of the bio on Brene Brown's Website says this:
"Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Brené spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness."

I knew that I would want to read this book, so I  purchased the book and really enjoyed reading it. In the Introduction of her book she talks a lot about what she found and came to understand through her years of research and explains what she means by WHOLE HEARTED LIVING and helps us understand what this will look like in the real world. Dr. Brown explores what she has learned about perfectionism and the destructive and additive thought process that is prominent in society and in our lives. She defines how "Healthy striving is self-focused--How can I improve? Perfectionism is other focused--What will they think?" As Dr. Brown began to understand the lessons and ideas she discovered from her research she began to apply them to her own life. She began to understand and redefine certain terms in a way that makes them clearer.For example her definition of connection: She says, "I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship." That makes sense to me.

 Dr. Brown explains how truly compassionate people are people with healthy social boundaries. She says, "It is difficult to accept people when they are hurting us, taking advantage of us or walking all over us. Her research led her to believe that if we really want to practice compassion, we have to start setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior.

Dr. Brown's book contains 10 Guideposts in helping us understand how we can become more compassionate towards ourselves and others. I think Dr. Brown is onto something here. I love the idea of perceiving our imperfections as a gift and making peace with ourselves as we are and at the same time making peace with the imperfections of others. This removes a lot of the self-imposed stress we inadvertently make for ourselves when we seek perfection in our work, our relationships, and in so many other areas of our lives. In the midst of this we continue to seek to grow and change in ways that will improve us and our world.

I want to close with a short video of Madeleine L'Engle sharing what she understands as the meaning of  to "be perfect" as we are told to be in the Bible. I love what she says here. Peace, Jeanne 

Click on the link: It last only 29 seconds including a brief commercial. Thanks!

 Madeleine L'Engle: What Perfection Means - Video-

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Further Adventures of "Wise Old River."

The month of April has been so busy for myself and my family. We have been in the process of being transferred to another town in Virginia where my husband will serve one church full-time and I will serve another part-time. This will mean a move for us. So we have been busy meeting with the boards of the churches, showing the parsonage to the new folks taking Jim’s place and going to see the parsonage where we will be moving. We have also begun to pack up things that we aren’t using and gathering things for a yard sale. We are seeking to simplify and keep only what we need and use.

In the midst of all this, our band Wise Old River has been playing in Johnson City and around the Bristol, TN/VA area. We had a great opportunity to play for Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion's yearly WDVX Blue Plate Special 89.9 of Knoxville, TN at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, TN. That was a lot of fun!

 Jamen, our lead singer/songwriter, guitarist has written 10 new songs that we have been busy learning and rehearsing. We went in the studio Big Time Audio in Jonesborough, TN with Martin Walters as our Engineer/Producer on April 1st…NO FOOLING, HA-HA! It was a pleasure working with him. We benefited from his expertise and some really great barbeque pork sandwiches for lunch!!! We recorded a "live studio album" with the ten new original songs and two original previously recorded songs from DE NOVO our first CD recorded 2009. The decision to record them again was because we now have the amazing addition of Stephen Marshall on bass. Stephen adds a whole new dimension to these songs. Here are some pictures:

It's been a very wonderful time and we are excited that tomorrow we will have our new CD, MY LAND to sell at our shows. You can give a few of our tunes a listen on our offical website Wise Old River and it will soon be available on CD Baby, itunes and
I hope that you will check out our music on our website and keep in touch ~ Til next time...
Peace, Jeanne

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I’ve been thinking a lot about home this week. Throughout the years I have come to learn the importance of loving, honoring, and respecting myself and as a result learning to be at home with my self. Why wouldn’t a person feel at home with themselves? In seeking to answer to this question I have discovered some the things that have caused me to feel an estrangement from myself. First of all, I never understood the importance of knowing myself. I did not understand the concept of building a relationship with my self. This resulted in me becoming a “people pleaser” which for many years was the driving force in my life as someone involved in full-time ministry.

When I began to explore these things and look deeper at the life I was living and what I was living for, I realized that I had to do some major work and in many ways it was difficult. I sought to ask myself the harder questions and to examine my motives and intentions. It was painful to see how much of my life I had lived to please others without realizing it. It became clear to me that in my wounded state “I needed to be needed.” Through my discoveries, I began to make choices I had never made before. I began to say No when I truly felt No. I also had to remove myself from situations of “service” so that I could be free of being needed. These were difficult but necessary decisions. I decided to concentrate more on being and less on doing. I turned more to creativity which was a way of nurturing the gifts that had been neglected for years. I sought to disconnect from many social activities with the sole purpose of connecting with myself. These were painful choices in some ways but the healing that was greatly needed in my life came as a result.

Facing faults and understanding the truth of my motives was such an important step toward healing. Learning to love myself in spite of these faults and respect myself enough to develop healthy relationships whatever the cost was essential. I noticed that there were certain relationships that required healthier boundaries. In the process of establishing these boundaries the other person was unwilling to see my need for these changes and opted to terminate the relationship. This was surprising and at the same time revealing.

This important work in my life came through the help of others. Through counseling, spiritual direction, prayer, reading, journaling, and dialoging with friends, I came to understand what I needed to do to grow and be healed. Through this work I have also named my gifts and talents and sought to own and nurture them. We are all of course works in progress but it is good to come to a place of being at home with myself at this time in my life. I have also come into a more healthy balance of interacting with the folks around me.

I have also thought about “home” in the sense of family. Last Monday I got a stomach flu and had to come home from work after being there only an hour. I was sick for two days. Then, though I did not feel well I went to work Wednesday through Friday. By Thursday I was spent. I felt like bursting into tears the last hour of work. When I opened the door to my home, my grandson greeted me with such joy and warmth, my son Jamen with love, and my husband Jim had made me a little gift. All the negativity I felt dissolved away and I was “home.” There is nothing like it.

A friend gave me a plaque which hangs in my living room. It says “Friends are the family one finds along the way.” Even if we don’t have family around us or if our family is small, we can find “family” in those dearest to us. I want to encourage each of us to seek to be at “home” with ourselves at all cost and to seek to find some sense of “home” with others.

Here are a few quotes about home:

The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart. ~Julien Green

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself. ~Alan Alda

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Last year my son Jamen and I heard the song “The Ghost of Tom Joad” written and performed by Bruce Springsteen.” The words to this song are powerful and the melody haunting. Jamen had read the novel Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck whose main character is Tom Joad. He had also seen the movie. He told me just enough to whet my interest. So I decided to read The Grapes of Wrath and watch the movie too. We also decided to learn this song in our band Wise Old River. This is a live performance of Wise Old River last year on WETS 89.5 on Studio One hosted by Dave Carter in Johnson City, TN. Unfortunately, it is without our wonderful bass player Stephen Marshall who was not yet in the band. It sounds much better and more complete with all four of us.

I want to share this song because it relates to all of us. It relates to our cities, states, and all of our countries. I am especially moved by all that is going on in the Middle East. People standing up for their basic human rights. Tom Joad stood up for the poor, downtrodden, and abused folk in his land. In his own way he tried to make a difference just as each of us in our time and situations can make a difference in the lives of those in our corner of the world.

If you want to know more about the book then read the following annotation I wrote for our local library—READ ON. Peace, Jeanne

Annotation: Written and Published March 2010
Recently I heard a song by Bruce Springsteen called, The Ghost of Tom Joad.” The words to this song were powerful and the melody haunting. My son had read the book Grapes of Wrath while in High School that the song’s character was taken from. He had also seen the movie. He told me just enough to whet my interest. So I decided to read The Grapes of Wrath.. I have to admit at first I found the narrative difficult to read, because the dialect the characters spoke was a bit hard to follow but once the characters and plot developed, I was drawn into the story and captivated by the particular circumstances and the complex characters so artfully and vividly described.

The historical fiction takes place in the 1930s in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era. The reader is introduced to Tom Joad who has just been released from prison because of good behavior. Tom was arrested for manslaughter when a man tried to kill him and he defended himself with a nearby shovel. Tom is heading home where he finds that his family and all of the families in the area have been run off their land. He is desperate to find out where his family is and what has happened to them. Through this journey we are introduced to many unique characters such as the preacher who no longer feels himself worthy to be a preacher, yet throughout the story he often responds as a person of that vocation. Tom also meets Muley who refused to go with his family when they left and finds himself wandering the land like a “ol’ graveyard ghos’ goin’ to neighbors’ houses in the night.” Through this character John Steinbeck expresses the pain experienced through the loss of their land. These families farmed this land for generations and had a deep connection with the land that so many of us have lost.

When Tom finally locates his family they all decide to go to California where everyone hopes to find work in the orchards, so they pack up all their belongings and the journey begins. The trip is long and difficult and there are many circumstances that this family experiences that are heart breaking. At times, John Steinbeck’s portrayal of these characters and their life situation moved me to tears. You will want to know what happens to this family and witness in the midst of despair a hope that never dies. John Steinbeck certainly deserved the Pulitzer Prize that he was awarded. This book is truly a treasure.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The One Thing You Must Do ~ by RUMI

There is one thing in this world you must never forget to do.
If you forget everything else and not this, there is nothing to worry about,
but if you remember everything else and forget this,
then you will have done nothing in your life.

It is as if a king has sent you to some country to do a task, and you perform a hundred
other services, but not the one he sent you to do. So human beings come to this world
to do particular work. That work is the purpose, and each is specific to the person.
If you don't do it, it's as though a knife of the finest tempering were nailed into a wall to
hang things on. For a penny an iron nail could be bought to serve for that.

Rememember the deep root of your being, the presence of your lord.
Give your life to the one who already owns your breath and your moments. If you don't,
you will be like the one who takes a precious dagger and hammers it into his kitchen wall
for a peg to hold his dipper goard. You will be wasting keeness and foolishly ignoring your
dignity and your purpose.  From A YEAR WITH RUMI:Daily Readings by Coleman Barks

When I read this I immediately thought of the unique gifts and talents within each one of us. These are the gifts and talents that are so often overlooked, ignored by ourselves and others for various reasons. Perhaps the busyness of life or practical day-to-day living divert us from looking deep within ourselves and listening to our lives for clues as to what our true purposes might be.

For myself, I have missed out on nurturing important gifts because I listened to the voices of others instead of my own inner voice. Respecting the advice and wishes of others over my own has robbed me for years of pursuing the things that brought me the most joy and made me feel most alive.

As I reflect on this writing, I am reminded too, of the fact that LOVE is the key to living out these purposes. Without LOVE for ourselves and others we will not discover these gifts. Thomas Merton says, “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

May our eyes be opened to seek this love and discover what gifts and talents have been placed within us. May we nurture and tend them as a beautiful garden with a fragrance all its own. May we share freely what has been given to us with generous and gracious spirits. May this be our quest to fulfill the true purposes of our lives as best we can for I believe this truly is a sacred act.

Peace, Jeanne

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tapestry Radio Show and Rosemary Phelan

One of my favorite radio shows is "Tapestry" . It is broadcast out of Canada on Radio One and hosted by Mary Hynes. I always listen to the podcast since I can’t pick it up on my radio. It is broadcast once a week. I love this radio show and never miss it. I enjoy the subject matter and I am very inspired by the folks they choose to have on the program. Mary Hynes does a wonderful job leading the interesting discussions and asking the hard questions.

This is a brief description taken from their webpage that describes a bit of what Tapestry is about:
Governments change, economies tumble and soar, and headlines trumpet the scandal of the day. All the while, Tapestry deals with the more subtle news of life -- a thoughtful consideration of what it means to be human.
Tune in for an engaging, provocative and unexpected hour of radio: an hour in which rabbis and poets get equal time on the topic of faith, science-fiction writers and physicist-priests ponder the great creation myths, athletes explore the hero's journey as a spiritual metaphor, and architects examine the idea of space for the soul.
Tapestry is hosted by Mary Hynes, and produced by Erin Pettit and Susan Mahoney. Our web master is Liz Nagy; technical production is by Dave Field.

On December 26th "Tapestry" had a very interesting show "Art and Soul".  During this show I was introduced to a musician Rosemary Phelan from Canada. (Rosemary's segment begins at 19 minutes) She tells her story of how she was a community nurse going into to the homes of people to care for them. Her patients were from all walks of life from the wealthy to the homeless. One day she was in the home of a old man who was dying. He was in a lot of pain and trying to pray his rosary. All of the adults in the house were just wailing. It was chaotic. In her compassion, Rosemary who had sang Ava Maria  for weddings before, began to feel that she should sing this song. As she sang the patient immediately calmed down and each family member did as well. Rosemary decided to put this skill in her nursing bag along with all her other healing tools.

Rosemary began to understand the importance of intention when performing music.  Rosemary expressed how when sharing a song it should be the same as her attitude when dressing a wound with the intention of service and caring for others. I was moved and impressed with her insight.  Her thoughts reminded me a little of a book I read a few years ago called Zen Guitar  by Philip Toshio Sudo . Sudo teaches how sharing a song should be like serving tea to someone, hospitable.

Rosemary left nursing and began writing and performing music full time. She has a beautiful voice with thoughtful poetic lyrics. My favorite song of hers is RED WING on her latest album called What Sings in the Blood. She has three albums available and a lovely blog all found on her Website. Rosemary Phelan was awarded The 2010 Golden Quill Award for Songwriting.

Rosemary was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year and has been going through treatment. I believe Rosemary is doing very well. Join me in praying for her. She is a very lovely person. Please give her music a listen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As the assistant to the Cataloger of our county library, my favorite part of my job is receiving all our new books and preparing them to go out to the three libraries we serve. This week we received a book called BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. I knew of Bonhoeffer years ago and read a few of his books. I was impressed with the story of this interesting man.

As a Christian leader in Germany in 1933 when Hitler began his rule, Bonhoeffer stood against the Nazi Regime from the very beginning. This book is a very thorough biography that tells of his journey and struggles in being a major part of the resistance which led to his imprisonment and later his death in 1945 by hanging in a concentration camp.

Last night I heard the author Eric Metaxas speak about this book on C-Span Book TV. He covers many subjects which have been neglected in the telling of the story of Bonhoeffer and all the German citizens who resisted the Nazi Regime. So many were tortured and murdered if they spoke out or were discovered.

Bonhoeffer was a spiritual leader who sought the direction of God and at the same time sought to be transformed and to understand what his faith actually called him to do in the real world when faced with such evil. Bonhoeffer exemplified how to look deeper at scripture and ask the hard questions. He lived his life bravely and made his choices hoping he was doing the best thing to stand against the evil of his time. 

As I glanced through the book, I read a poem Bonhoeffer wrote called, Who Am I? He wrote it during his confinement at Tegal prison. His honesty, his struggle with the reality of his own weakness against his desire to be transformed and to choose to act and live true to his faith struck a deep chord in me.

Though his reality was much more difficult than most of ours, I think we all to some degree experience a struggle of our wounds, faults, doubts and weaknesses against our love, truth, compassion and choice of action. I certainly was touched by the honesty of this beautiful soul. I’d like to share this poem with you.

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I use to speak to my warders

Freely and friendly and clearly,

As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me I bore the days of misfortune

Equally, smilingly, proudly,

Like one who is accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

Struggling for breath, as though hands were

Compressing my throat,

Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

Tossing in expectation of great events,

Powerlessly trembling for fiends at an infinite distance,

Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God I am Thine!

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have taken this book home with me. Looking forward to learning more of his story. Peace, Jeanne