Tag Archives: Spiritual

For Love in a Time of Conflict / by John O’Donohue


When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.

When no true word can be said, or heard,
And you mirror each other in the script of hurt,
When even the silence has become raw and torn,
May you hear again an echo of your first music.

When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root,
May your souls come to kiss.

Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Towards the gateway to spring.

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I keep picking up the phone



It rings, and she picks up.

The muffled sound of struggle, rummaging for a moment (no doubt untangling her curly phone cord from around a plant or other objects in the vicinity.)

Hello? She says hello

I feel her joy

laughing at my jokes.

showing a genuine interest in my life.

loving me.

I tell her stories, she listens and enjoys them whole heartedly.

Then a couple weeks later I accidentally tell her the same story. She doesn’t stop me and say, “You told me that last week, remember?”


She sits and listens again and enjoys again.

Yeah. I love that about her.

Even though she passed, when I call she always answers.

And always will.


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I went to therapy, every week for about a year.

My mother drove me up to the office complex. I stepped out her silver Honda CRV and walked up the fake stone steps.

I opened the door and entered a world of soft Christian music wafting an air conditioned message of “Jesus is our lord and savior” in an overcrowded space of ugly wholesale dining room furniture and plastic plants, a kind of televangelist set.

It was a safe place I suppose and I hated it.

Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to like it. I knew in some way I needed help and this did seem like a place that could help.

I am a white teenage girl with divorcing parents; I am sure that is a huge pie slice in some demographic chart. I really wanted to feel like a character in a teen drama. “Poor Paris.” And this allowed me that fantasy.

I thought to myself. “The only thing that you thought to be stable is crumbling down.” “That must be really tough for you Paris.”

My therapist would greet me in the waiting room and we would walk up the carpeted stairs with the laminated “appears to be wood” banister, everything a cartoon representation of something real somewhere else.

She was adequately pretty with a calm voice I found irritating.

I wanted emotions. Not that calm shit.

It quickly became a pity party. My private and fully paid for pity party. Exactly what I thought I wanted.

But not really. Not at all.

I wanted emotions. I wanted to pull the fire alarm. I wanted to use inappropriate language. However sick and self-destructive this may sound, I wanted to feel my sadness, deeply and fully. I did not want suggestions or a resolution or something approximate. I did not want comfort. I wanted courage.

Also, I didn’t want to pick things apart, at least not out loud. I prefer for the act to occur in the vicinity of my brain. That way it can tumble about at my own rhythm. I can break it apart. Let it sit in pieces.

I’m not trying to down therapy. Whatever keeps you from overdosing on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream while watching reality tv reruns is cool by me. I just don’t think therapy happens only in that room I was in. It was the wrong place for me.

It was like trying to hammer a nail into a wall with a Philips head screwdriver. It just didn’t get me very far.

Eventually I stopped. I missed one of my appointments; I had double booked myself and never rescheduled. It was my out.

Instead I pursued art and beauty in larger doses.

I read, blogged, painted, wrote, sewed, Pinterested until I became cross-eyed and overly inspired. I told my story to a select few; I listened to theirs.

And you know what?

I found my way.


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All Ears


Prayer is a mysterious and murky business. That much is clear. It’s one of those things we do without thinking. A little like breathing. Or pacing. Or riding streets.  Even people who don’t believe in prayer kind of pray.

It’s probably the go-to-church praying that gets some people wound up. All menu, no food. I don’t know.

As the writer Frederick Buechner likes to say regarding church attendance:  “If it doesn’t ruin my day it was a good experience.”

They say AA is where atheists go to pray. It’s true, I’ve been there. Not that everybody who attends AA is an atheist. It just gets real basic in those meetings. Not at all like church. You’re expected to be honest and speak candidly because your life depends upon it. Kind of at the level of what writer Anne Lamott talks about in her new book: Help,Thanks,Wow: TheThree Essential Prayers.

I think God likes atheists reaching out to him. Probably prefers it.  Who wants to meet up with people who already think they know all about you, know you better than you know yourself?  That’s like dating your mother. Pretty obnoxious stuff.  Meet him on your own terms I say, like you-don’t-even-exist terms.

“Hey, I know you don’t exist but what’s happening? How you doing?”

All ears.


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I Believe in Good


I believe in good. I grew up in a good Christian home…as perhaps the majority of American families have, at least the ones that I was around. If I’ve been taught something over and over again by my parents it would be to question everything. Question even things you know to be true. Questioning opens the doors for your beliefs to become stronger.  Questions lead to good.

I am not Christian. I feel learning your beliefs should be somewhat like science: keep looking, keep testing. To me practicing Christianity has always felt like playing house, a part in a play. It only feels real for a while.

About a year ago I finally stepped back and thought…Why do I believe God exists? Have I ever experienced God? I haven’t. Though I can hear my father’s responses rolling around in my head…”God is in the way your paint brush hits the canvas, he’s that feeling you get when you create the perfect outfit, he’s the intense wave of inspiration you feel after being on Pinterest for an hour, he’s more here than we are, that’s the problem…” Yes Daddy. I hear you. But who’s to say that’s not something else?

I’m not an atheist though because as best I can tell atheists believe only in things that they can prove, verify with sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing. I have to admit I’ve experienced moments where I feel something intangible, something ineffable but who’s to say it was god? I’m not ready to name it.  It could very well be some other higher up being or maybe it’s just my soul singing.

Believing in God for me is like believing in Santa Claus; it’s true right up till the moment you realize it’s not…nice in theory but at the end of the day it’s merely a tradition to get us through the day, something to get excited about. It’s a holiday from reality. Maybe one day I will decide I do believe. But, until I experience a feeling of knowing I don’t believe.

I don’t want to lose myself to something that is not true and doesn’t allow me to be me. Christianity has turned into an enterprise just like most things in our world. It stamps out people that all look the same inside and out. One thing I will never compromise on and will always protect is my originality, my me-ness, what I mean as good. In my way of thinking, being good is being real, being me.

The world is growing boring with everyone wanting to be the same. The more people who resist this trend and choose to be different, to be themselves, who choose the good, the better and stronger our world will become.

For that reason I believe in good.


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Go Monk!


I love monks.  They wear strange clothes, are predisposed to long stretches of silence and don’t seem bothered by people who stare.  They are clearly on to something altogether different.

My first conversation with a monk was the summer before I entered middle school.  Not yet a middle schooler myself my parents decided to send me off to a summer camp in Florida with the same rowdy boys whose fist like ways would greet me in the fall.  Here at the camp I seemed to be invading their space; it was terrifying.  So I wandered around toward the edges of the camp and it was there I found my first monk.   He was on loan to the camp from someplace in Canada.

It was his face I noticed first, not his worn black cassock cinched at the waist by a cord of some sort but his face.  It was open, gracious.  He turned toward me and smiled.

“Hello.”  And then he went back to scraping the hull of a row boat.

I sat on a bench next to him and studied the lake. He scraped and scraped and blew periodically, running his hand along the smoothed surface.

“My name is Brother John.”

I introduced myself and we talked and this went on all summer long.  He wanted to know my story, books I liked, music I listened to.  I had never meet an adult who wondered what I was thinking about.  All summer long, as much as I could, I made my way down to the lake.  He asked me these big generous questions that opened me up and made me feel good inside.  At the end of the camp I discovered from another counselor that he had nominated me for some kind of award.  Best Camper or something like that.  He believed in me.  It was strange.  I was about as prominent as a leaf on a tree.  He noticed me; I loved him for that.

That experience touched something solid within me.  Like the warm knock of finding a stud in a wall, something structural.  Something permanent.  That small but important moment drifted off bobbing in the sea like a bottled promise, swallowed by all the days to come, lost forever.  But not really.  I can remember the feeling of being with Brother John and there have been other Monks along the way, like Thelonius Monk, people of grace and exquisite strangeness and openness who helped me find my way and the memories of those encounters continue to guide me.

I am grateful.  If being a monk means finding what’s real, growing deeply, becoming thoroughly yourself and luxuriating in the beauty of the world and enjoying a big whopping friendship with creativity then sign me up, I want to be a monk.  I’m all in.  Go monk!

christopher woodhull

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