Truth and Trust

He had a soft New England cadence to his speech, measured, of course by his quiet nature. He spoke with thoughtfulness and of necessity and was not given to frivolous or meaningless conversation. Instead, he found the words, the fibers of topics that connected with people. Most of his encounters left the other with a sense of engagement and warmth, acceptance and openness. And so it was that over time, he carved two words, two thoughts into others’ hearts and minds, even without their knowing. What he valued became valuable to the other in the space where they interacted. He valued truth and he lived out trust. What he taught me was that those final two letters make all the difference: one does not exist without the other, and each is intrisincially meaningful. Each has a building block place in life.

Truth, he realized, is shared as it is understood at the moment. Wisdom helped him coax deeper contexts and perspectives from his clients and partners. With an eloquent pause and sometimes awkward quiet, he could recieve and remember every word spoken. Then raising his bright eyes with deep sincerity, he would speak: a phrase, a word, sometimes an entire paragraph, and reality would somehow widen to accommodate reality alongside a perception of truth. Breaking his gaze, he generously allowed the deeper truths to sink in with silence. And so often, I left thinking about ideas that challenged the tiny world I lived in and what I somehow defined as “truth” just moments before.

He is gone now, but his emphasis on truth has remained an abiding presence in my life, enabled me to step into the space where he lived without judgement of others, with a kind and gentle gaze, and a sincere encouragement for those who crossed his path. Perhaps it was merely naive of me, but it was not until he was gone that I realized how closely he defined truth and lived trust. Because in every encounter he lived, he engendered such an embrace of reality as truth and so unquestionably established trust in relationships. He was the one to count on, to believe, to help sort out the confused mess of what it means to be human on a daily basis. And never once to judge, but to find a mirror within himself that insured every peson who crossed his path knew safety and comfort in the conversation. He strove to live out trust in his pursuit of truth with courage and honor and dignity.

Those words, those two letters at the end defining such a difference, those words have home this weekend as Advent begins. It is not really about the magic of Christmas or the frenetic preparation for that. It is about the truth that there is more to this world than we realize: there is something greater than self, bigger than now, more significant than we allow ourselves to believe. He knew that every day of his remarkable and yet hidden life. He saw who he was and what he was about, and he made things better for others because he understood that. And then there is the second part: having the courage to trust in another. He encouraged that with a humble resilience and an invincible hope. He allowed brokenness to be his escort. Just as the birth of Jesus enabled God to enter the human experience, his trust in others and theirs in him allowed the spark of genuine goodness. He is gone now, but his legacy remains as an invitation to vist truths and to know trust. At least, in this Advent of new beginnings, there is the soft glow of that genuine goodness that flowed through him to the rest of the world.

The King

When I was a very little girl,the magic and mystery of kings and queens, princes and paupers, fairies and princesses enthralled me. Curiosity drove me through fairytales with an unrelenting sense of perseverance, and it was there I saw fragility tied to resilience and choices tied to destinies. There was right and wrong and the awful ambiguity of in-between. I came to admire the sturdy ones who dared brilliance and bereavement and somehow were rewarded by ultimate outcomes. Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid: each one danced with hope and optimism and I liked living there in the midst of it. Somehow, real life challenges encsconced in history overthrew that preoccupation, and I began to look at the mysteries of governments and the ways societies chose government and made decisions. But it was a laconic high school teacher whose suggestion about benevolent monarchy upended my thinking about fairytales, government and lifestyles and choices.

He had the deliberate pace of an old New Englander and the sharp wit of a lawyer which he never became. In the classroom, he put both to use in gently luring hesistant students into articulating and defending views. That day, he demanded identification of the strengths and weaknesses of various forms of government. We gravitated to democracy, rallied about representation and he listened. We denigrated dictatorships, oligarchies, and anarchy, and he listened. As the hour wound to a close, he quietly asked about monarchy, and constitutional monarchy. (Neither had won our attention or concern.) He suggested the latter captured the best of both worlds: a vibrant, evolving and involved population gathered together with the shared identity of a leader who represented continuity, embodied culltural history and shared heritage. The key was benevolence, a benevolent monarch whose pride and courage demanded the best for the nation and its people from a family and individuals willing to serve. He spelled out examples, mentioned societal advancements, and we shelled out the failures, the inequities and the flaws. He had succeeded in making us think differently about terms and knowledge we had accepted without question.

Benevolence, goodness, is alive in acts of kindness and choices of conscience. It extends from self to others and inherently builds connections between and among people. Benevolence allows freedom to all yet demands the best of each individual, inspires a standard of behavior and commitment that creates better relationships, communities and countries. Benevolence means believing in the basic goodness of all peoples, and having the wisdom to discern sincerity, dispute the inauthentic and continually move forward. It is not a task charged to the benevolent monarch alone but one given to each person. Benevolence resides with trust and honesty within each and among all. It invites respect, and determines kindnesses beyond measure.

It was not until many years after I walked out of that classroom that I realized another area of relevance for such thinking. The liturgical year closes with the Feast of Christ the King. Once, to me, it was a nod to the government and social hierarchies of a world long past. Now, to me, it represents a way to look carefully at the gentleness of a God who is neither dictator nor oligarch, anarchist or tyrant. Instead, it is about the God who accompanies us the journey. It is a God who compassionately weeps with the broken, gathers the lost, feeds the hungry and welcomes the poor. It is a God who lingers in presence and passion and loves and serves without measure: Christ the King.

Coming home

There is a certain solitude to the restlessness of autumn, a certain way in which the brilliance of color announces itself and the softness of rain wraps leaves to asphalt. There is a stillness in it, a kind of quiet, and the calendar days fade into one another as the maples and oaks press their skeleton frames to the sky. There are endings, intimate and inevitable, wrapped into each moment as the very earth plunges into the hibernation of winter. the cycle itself speaks of so much about human life and being, about home and becoming at home.

A home is more than a physical location; it is the consistency of an individual with all the aspects of self, the awareness of the mosaic of experiences that shape every interaction, and the consciousness that there is always something greater than self that we are all part of. For some, that integration occurs early and almost whimsically; for others, it is a lifelong struggle to find the space where we are truly ourselves. That IS home, that space where there is consistency in self: in thought and action; in emotion and choice; in expression and interaction; in solitude and in crowds. It is a tall order that asks more of self than we imagine. It means both breaking away from expectations and building new ones with courage and honesty. It means knowing strengths and weaknesses of self, becoming independent and being able to be interdependent. Finding that place is not permanent; but like the cycle of the seasons, it can be reborn over and over.

Home is living the truth of who we are with grace and graciousness. Home does not deny any aspect of self. It welcomes every experience, survives every suffering, exposes every need, dares every hope. Home provides comfort and support, but it demands growth and action and trust, the ability to trust self and others, to believe that self is worthy and lovable, and that others are lovable and worthy as well.

In the midst of darkness, the liturgical year is coming to its end and there is the sense of finality, a final judgment in the readings, the end time. Perhaps, though, it is also a time of coming home, of realizing our truths and making our choices and discovering that we are loved in ways we cannot begin to know. And yet, the messages are there, in the divinity of Autumn’s brilliance and the capacity of the seasons for rebirth, growth and change. All of that exists in each of us: all of us have the chance to shape a home where truth and honesty are the drivers of all else, and the grace of interaction becomes a dance of revelation about life and love. Home is the space we reach when love has found us, and we have found and recognized love as Love, a fragment of the sacredness that animates the universe. And so we are promised that love goes on and on in the homes of our hearts and lives.


Tonight, the moon is merely a sliver resting against a midnight sky, an arc of gold slicing through the unadorned dark. There is a stillness about the world at Daylight Savings Time, and darkness somehow needs light and contrast to define it. In the same way, light and joy are what illuminate the moments that stand apart from the darkness we meet, from the grief and the suffering. Welcoming darkness means acknowledging light and trusting that “more” exists. The surprise is that “more” is not outside us; it exists within us. “More” becomes visible in what we do, what we say, how we choose to live. And the Gospel of the day highlights that.

The story of the widow is highlighted twice: the Old Testament reading with the prophet Elijah and then the Gospel, with the widow who gives from what seems to be her need. The echo is powerful: in both cases, there is simplicity, a seeming lack of wealth. In both cases, there is faith motivating, inspiring action. In both cases, there is honesty, a sincerity in what is done. And respect is there: respect for self, for the efficacy of the choice, and for other, for community. In the first case, it is for the prophet; in the second, it is for the tradition, the chance to participate in something greater than self. In both, there is a certainty that who they were and what they were able to do was not limited by status or wealth. In both, the women were not defined by others; instead, they defined who they were by their actions. And in both cases, there was the gentle, low-key, background nature of who they were. Neither sought power or recognition; there was instead that confidence that the path was theirs for the taking. Each one made a choice, a simple choice. And each one’s action made a difference. Each found “more” within themselves.

The stories speak to the experiences we have today. They invite us to consider our prejudices, our stereotypes, our understanding of what wealth means. These two stories invite us to consider the field of midnight in our lives; the actions described invite us to consider that sliver of light, the arc of gold, that stands out from what is conventional. Most importantly, each of us has the chance to make a choice. It might not be the same scenario, but the moments of choice arrive over and over. What we do with them defines who we are and what we are about…for ourselves and for others. Reflecting on those choices matters. Doing the right thing matters. In simplicity. In kindness. And noticing those gifts in others matters, too. After all, we learn from one another as much as we learn from the stories of Scripture. Every step of the way, we deal with challenges. And every step of the way, help is available to us. Knowing that means that each of us possesses a strength, a power, that we may not have even suspected. “More” exists within us. Knowing gives us the strength to live every choice with quiet confidence and alive to the deeper truths, the things that really matter.