Rating America

I have always been intentional about not watching violent movies or TV shows. Now I realize that includes the evening news. Or any news. 

Not only the more obvious violence, clearly defined by reporting and photos of mass shootings, so quickly abandoned from our memories by compassion fatigue. Or children removed from families, laws in place to separate them even from the kindness and care of strangers.

But also the insidious violence of body language, fists raised in the air; hateful speech, disrespect and combative discourse from leaders across the spectrum that assaults even our subconscious and becomes the norm our children and young people see and hear and feel. I wonder when we will have ratings that address that violence, forewarning parents “not suitable” for children?


In Praise of the Moon

I was naive.

Saw changing seasons from the outside.

A seeming compassionate observer.

Parents, mentors, friends, even events, age.

But my depth never rose to full awareness never

moved from thinking to feeling the sadness.

And now, glimpses still fleeting, of the permanent loss that

that is on the winning side. The battles fewer, the war bigger, the

efforts denied their place in the sun.

But the moon still shines, insistent on bathing the night in stars still sparkling, reminders to share hope, to share dreams, to love with your whole heart, to listen to the wisp of a breeze called grace.

My voice is too often a deafening silence.

But I am still trying.


Everyday Wars

we are all in


different trenches

readying for a war

not named,

now long started.

the enemy

one another


for attack



can be chosen.

no battle plan

just continuous


into stars

that scatter


a darkness

that never leaves.

our flag

in all its glory

flying high

in exclusion

honor misplaced

for those who


for those who still


their sacrifice

hard won guarantees

for the freedom

equality brings

justice brings

unity brings.

the trenches

too dark

to see the fear.


shoulder to shoulder

we feel the





The Other Cold

The Other Cold

God’s power drifting

quietly across early morning

fields of pristine snow

scant surviving leaves

peeking through

looking for one last chance

to shine.

snow days

winter gifts

for young friends

hills their new home

the warm sun

the perfect

layer to coats

and scarves and mittens.

birds visit old friends

feeders full, water plenty

their home safe branches

that protect their songs.

disruption stings the pastoral

interrupts the sweet soul


the other cold.

the real cold.

the cold that transcends

thermometer and adds

the singular life

of the man,

the woman

the child

without home.

no steaming cups

of cider or hot chocolate.

judgment loses to stark reality.

neighbors in need.


My Prayer
















Gifts for Granny….or Grandad!

Downsizing our living space this year has led to a whole new way of thinking about gifts….it begs intentional thought both for receiving and giving! SoI have compiled a short list of suggestions with the hope you will add more! Aging helps define the joy of presence…a visit from a friend or family member is a gift that far outweighs anything new from a store! A handwritten note via snail mail changes the day! So here goes…..please feel free to add your ideas!

Your presence

A mailed handwritten note

A call!

Donations to favorite missions

Subscription for monthly Humphreys Street Coffee delivery (humphreysstreet.com)

Gift cards for Uber or Lyft

Lightweight blankets…..even nicer monogrammed!

Heated throws

Subscriptions to Hulu, Britbox, Acorn, PBS Masterpiece Prime Video, Netflix

Amazon Fire Stick

Amazon giftcard (Movies as well as merchandise)

Echo or Echo Dot….(set up free “Call My Buddy)

Planted amaryllis with care instructions (seasonal)

Voucher to help plant spring annuals

Custom photo book

Gift certificate for professional photographer to take photos of all generations of family

Framed family photo (Framebridge.com)

Cardigan, lightweight sweater (No pull overs!)

Cordless upright vacuum for light cleaning…(love the Dyson V7)

Cordless outdoor blower

Gift card car wash

Gift card movies

Voucher to clean dryer vents, change smoke alarm batteries, high light bulbs, change house filters…followed by lunch together!

Decorative box to hold TV remotes

Light weight dishes

Crock pot with recipes

Fruit of the month…small quantities

Michaels gift card

Voucher to clean kitchen cabinets once a year!

Voucher for fall yard work

And…..add your suggestions!

jackie shields



“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me.” Frederick Buechner

It is Veteran’s Day and I am grateful beyond words for the service and sacrifice of so many who have ensured my freedom. I have known no other way. I have no idea what it feels like not to be free.

One could spend inordinate time discussing the very meaning of the word and all the adjunctive issues that surround such a complex word! But, my thoughts today have centered on one of the very basic meanings, that is “liberation from slavery or the power of another” and what that looks like among my friends.

One of my friends is a young child who walked to the United States from Honduras almost two years ago….1442 miles. I have several other friends who have done the same. We were asked to pray for him while he walked. It was a joy to meet him months later and realize he was real! He wasn’t a headline, he wasn’t a sound bite, he didn’t sell the news….he was a precious child of God! He made it!

He came from a past where he wasn’t free, in any sense of the word. The complexities of governmental policies along with abject poverty, gangs, human trafficking, poor education, no jobs, corruption that misappropriates funds, all spell no hope, no future for him or his family. Violence and persecution drive the exodus from a country where murder and exploitation are at brutal levels. According to UNHCR, there is a lack of freedom to go to school, go to church, move around. They live in traumatized and violent circumstances.

I read an article some years ago that opined we have more empathy for one person involved in tragedy than many. We become overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness and our inability to be of value in the situation, especially events like civil wars and ongoing suffering in other countries. The issues seem conceptual rather than personal.

So knowing this young man has taught me a great deal when I look at the bigger picture. When I was asked to pray for him as he walked those miles, I tried to picture what his days were like. Did he have blisters on his feet? Did he have enough water? Food? Did he make new friends along the way? How in the world did he manage the fear that comes with knowing border patrols have to be paid large sums for entrance points at Guatemala and Mexico? How is all of that accomplished by his family prior to leaving? Did he know or understand those issues? How did he manage to trust the outcome? How much can a young child understand of all the complexities? What had his life been like prior to leaving? I had no idea then or now.

What I do know is we are all God’s children. We are called to love one another. We all have our very own story. We need to learn each other’s stories. We need to know one another. We need to be intentional about making our local community about “us” and our world community about “us” rather than about ourselves. We need to replace fear with love.

I have had the pleasure of sharing several outings with my young friend. A trip to Jackson Falls on the Natchez Trace with several youth provided a day of simple joys. Bowing his head for prayer before our meal, eating a picnic lunch overlooking rolling Tennessee hills, seeing him climbing rocks, sitting under the falls, sliding on water, playing with his friends, looking after the very young children, head bowed again for the benediction, all moments in time for me. I won’t forget his smile, his laughter, his freedom that day. And all his days now.

So I thank him for making me think about what freedom means. And why I join with all of you to honor our Veterans this day.

Jackie Shields