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




I have always associated that word with death. I have great respect for those experiencing grief due to the loss of a loved one. I have also lived in that space but know well those experiences are individual. Grief is a call to arms for us to “stand in the circle of grief” as beautifully expressed by my friend Blair Meeks in her book by the same name. We stand together, we listen, we sit quietly. Our presence is a witness to our care and concern, our love for those in pain. We respond in tangible ways that hopefully bring comfort.  And we pray. I am grateful to know that happens and have been grateful when our family has been the recipients.

But I think so often about the many others who grieve while still living. Those who waken every day to sorrow, without hope, without inclusion. 

Those who suffer racism and its personal and systemic effects…..systemic effects that translate to personal. Racism unrecognized, buried by conditioning. 

The immigrant designated as illegal and without value, fear their constant companion. Many separated from their young children, their hopes for a peaceful existence housed in detention centers. 

The refugee, here “legally” but equally disdained because of a mentality of scarcity, fear driven by inaccurate rhetoric. 

Those who live in poverty, the working poor, without access to healthy foods in food deserts, adequate health care, unequal education, the respect of their community members. Banished to live in communities that isolate until gentrification drives them to rental spaces miles away from jobs that pay minimum wage. 

Our LGBTQ friends who are maligned, judged and subject to limits that diminish their very beings and often prevent living into their potential. 

All have to “qualify” and prove themselves worthy, feeling they are “less than”, knowing they will never qualify.

And the list goes on.

So for these grieving people,  compassion loses to exclusion, prayers remain unspoken. We are not present. Care and concern aren’t emergent because there is no “end” to their grief and their sorrow is deemed self inflicted.

There is no celebration of their lives, their stories. Judgement shuts down knowing one another. The presuppositions paralyze any chance for building relationships. 

Categorizing by disagreement offends the gospel message that clearly calls us to love. Those verses don’t mention agreement as a requirement. 

We fail to recognize unending grief. We are afraid to look.



“Prayer Concerns”

I belong to a Sunday School class that embraces praying for one another….and for those brought to the class through a shared time called “prayer concerns”. It happens every Sunday….our class president, Jerry, writes the requested names on the board. Class members send cards to each person, if requested. These names are included in Jerry’s opening prayer.

So, we start each class with others on our hearts, on our minds……and take their names home with us covered by a covenant to include them in our prayers all week….or longer. Their names are listed in our newsletter as confirmation of their importance to us…..and as an affirmation of our responsibility to them.

This week I asked our class members to pray for George Harvey and his daughters…..a family who lives in Florida who recently suffered the death of George’s young wife, Tory……mother to Abbey and Millie, their beloved young daughters. Cancer has claimed this young woman’s life. God has claimed her in victory over that death. She is well now.

After Jerry wrote the above on the board, I kept looking back at the names….these as well as the others. And admit my attention kept wandering back to George and his girls. To his parents, Kaye and George who lost their young daughter to cancer a few years ago, during Kaye’s tenure as a pastor at our church. Beloved friends. I thought of Tory’s family, whom I do not know. I considered with some needed depth what it means to pray for someone else, especially those we have never met! I have long been taught and know it isn’t necessary that we have met. I have rejoiced in knowing that.

I know in my heart God has made us a family…..a diverse family across many localities without borders. Several don’t know George or Millie or Abbey personally. We didn’t know Meadow Pollack, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Or Alan Kurdi, a three year old Syrian child who drowned trying to reach safe shores. Or Malala Yousafzay, a young woman from Pakistan who still fights for the right to an education for all children. Or Stephon Clark, recently killed in the backyard of his grandparents’ home.

But we are called to pray for them, too. We have the privilege to pray for them. We have the responsibility. I will leave the theology of prayer to those who teach us. But, starting with my parents’ teachings forward, I have become convinced that prayer is a powerful, and oft underused, gift. It connects our diverse communities, be they local or national or international with connection, with a commonality that transcends differences. For me to pray for you, I first have to think about you, wonder who you are, what your needs might be, what your joys might be, your sorrows. Even if far away, never to meet, you become a person to me. You do become my family, my neighbor, in the way God has taught.

I remember some years ago having lunch with a homeless gentleman, gathered with several of us who were his friends. I asked him if he would like to pray. He told me he didn’t know how. I suggested he speak as if he were having a conversation with God. My simple definition of prayer. I wish I had a recording of his words. Oh, my! He learned he had “the right” to pray……and he learned he had the power to pray. And then, we all learned from him!

So, a seemingly simple request every Sunday has reminded me of its power. It has rekindled my focus on its importance. It has disallowed taking it for granted!

So, to George and Millie and Abbey, Kaye and George and Tory’s family…..please know you are in our prayers. We lament not being able to offer our physical presence, meals, hugs or the like…..but we are blessed by the knowledge our prayers go with you, especially those first days returning to school, to work, to a changed way of living. Prayers have answers not only through those of us far away but in the actions of those with you, who love you and will do anything you ask….or don’t ask. I am honored to bring your names to classmates I know who will pray for you because they accept the privilege.

We care about you.