Thursday, June 19, 2008


“It ain’t noways permanent.” --Pogo

There is an elderly tree across the road from our house. There are several places where it’s rotten through, and in years past, bluebirds have made nests in the cavities.

Isn’t that just like God? To take brokenness, failure, and grief and turn it into life and light and joy and abundance.

Some griefs are visible, easy to see and understand—like when a tree loses a limb, or a marriage ends, or someone we love dies.

Other griefs are quieter, silent and invisible—like when a bug bores into the heartwood, or damage to the bark lets water collect in the tree. We have our silent griefs, like the trees. A friend’s broken promise, a parent’s praise withheld, a hope gone for a job or a relationship or a child.

When a tree suffers, God has arranged for a bright and beautiful menagerie of little animals to comfort it. Little creatures to nestle into the scars of a tree’s grief, to make their home within the brokenness. The wood duck, the owl, the sassy squirrels, the honeybee…. the bluebird. It sometimes seems that a scarred and damaged tree can harbor more life than a whole and healthy one.

Surely there is a bright and beautiful menagerie of the spirit that God sends to us in our grief, to fill the broken places in our hearts, in the same way He fills the broken parts of an old tree with bright eyes and fluttering wings and singing. Surely God, who can turn the failure of an old tree into joyous life, can turn our own failures to good beyond our imagining. Surely God will send light and life and joy and abundance to nestle into our scars and make their home within our brokenness. Surely there will be chattering and humming and honey and fluttering and singing to comfort us.

O my Comforter, I am waiting now for the indigo bluebirds of the soul to come and make their nests.


Robin M. said...


You know, Kevin was right, you do need a blog. Or maybe we need you to write one.

Liz Opp said...

I hope to carry this image and metaphor with me for awhile, Shawna. Thanks for sharing it.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

cath said...

Today (June 20) is World Refugee Day. This quote from your latest post is especially appropriate, I think:

"Surely God will send light and life and joy and abundance to nestle into our scars and make their home within our brokenness. Surely there will be chattering and humming and honey and fluttering and singing to comfort us."


Tania said...

I'll be trying to remember this for awhile... Thank you.

Regina Clare Jane said...

This was a beautiful message... I have just started attending meetings and it's wonderful to read such beautiful words that seem to echo all these new found feelings I have.

Shawna said...

Thank you very much, ladies.

I have had the opportunity recently to consider the transformative power of grief. That tree has been very comforting, because it is not the most beautiful tree on my property, or the strongest or healthiest. In fact, it looks pretty decrepit. But it is one of the very few that harbor bluebirds.

Welcome to the world of Friends, Regina. May you find Quakerism fruitful and rewarding.

Your sister in Christ,

John Michael Keba said...

There was a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie a few years back about suffering and healing. It was called "The Valley of Light" (I think), and it was about a displaced and traumatized WWII vet fishing his way across America. He was led to a small town, where tragedy occured. He decided to leave, and the woman he was leaving said (as best I can remember), "I imagine that if you keep on walking long enough, and far enough, you will find a valley without suffering, but I wager you will find no love there either."

I understand that T. Edmund Harvey wrote "For surely there are not merely two or seven sacraments, but seventy times seven." The one Thomas R. Kelly called "the sacrament of pain" is surely one of them, I truly believe.

Thanks for this meditation, Shawna.

Claire said...

Your post brought tears of recognition to my eyes. I am probably as far as it is possible to be from you theologically, but I'm grateful to you for touching my heart and to the Society of Friends for having a place for both of us.

Shawna said...

Hi, John! Hi, Claire!

Thank you for your thoughts, John. I am glad you brought up the idea of "seventy times seven sacraments"... that's a good phrase.

Thank you for your kind words, Claire. The problem with theology is that at some point words will always be inadequate to describe the absolute Reality of Truth. So we are all feeling our way forward on our pilgrim path. Thank you for being willing to stand with me as we go. (We can fight over the theology as we walk!)

God bless you both,

wendy said...

Now I found

Soooo pretty...I hope to remember this message for a long time, thank you!

Shawna said...

Hi Wendy!

Thank you. I'm glad you found your way over here!

Shawna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.