Friday, April 19, 2013

Peace and Pretzels

Beth from Word Nerd Speaks is like the grand dame of blogging in my mind. When I first started blogging, she was everywhere, it seemed. She wrote for her fantastic blog, she runs GBE2, where bloggers can write and share and gain some exposure, she has hundreds of adoring fans. I almost fainted the first time she ever commented on my blog. She has taken a break from blogging of late as anyone who blogs can certainly understand, but what she has not taken a break from is being herself. She is a constant and encouraging presence still. She reads and writes thoughtful comments, she cheers us on, she encourages and she always has something interesting to say. And now, much to my delight, she gamely tossed her poem in the ring when I reached out for some suggestions. Everyone needs a Word Nerd in their life. Everyone.

She wrote to me:

"I'm sending along a poem I've loved since childhood. It's still a favorite. Even as a kid, I believed that our connectedness is our greatest gift and that simply caring for one another is a noble and worthy way to be. This poem pretty much sums up my take on what would make God smile."

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?" The Vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."

"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men."

The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!

-James Leigh Hunt, 1784-1859

My favorite line in this poem: "exceeding peace had made Ben bold..."

Sometimes we confuse brash with bold. Sometimes we confuse weakness with meekness. Sometimes we confuse apathy with peace. We live in a time of shouting voices and anything-goes self expression. Sometimes it seems that the loudest and the proudest always win. Sometimes it seems like we have anything but peace.

When I was twelve or thirteen, I tie-dyed one of my dad's old T-shirts and wrote in puffy paint in a girly hand: "When world peace is unobtainable, strive for peace within your soul." (I'll pause for the eye rolling and laughing now. It's OK, I'm with you on that.) My little tie-dyed sermon-shirt may have been a cheesy and misdirected fashion move, but I still agree with the sentiment today. Maybe more than I did then.

The only peace we ever have any real control over is our own inner peace. It's easy to get discouraged with the unrest that surrounds us on so many levels. If you're like a lot of us, you despair of ever finding a way to change it. Sometimes the solutions we come up with run along the lines of lining people up for a nice, firm scolding, taking their toys away until they can learn to share. I believe the counter-intuitive move is to be filled with the "exceeding peace" that brings boldness. The boldness to question, to reach out to others, to accept, and to give. I don't think you can do any of these things effectively without an inner peace. But you do these things, and you end up changing the world.

Write me as one who loves his fellow man.

Maybe don't write it in puffy paint on a shirt, but write it in your life. Write it with words, with your actions and your interactions. Write it with pretzels and a nice, warm hug. Or chocolate kiss, as the case may be.

Beth's one of those people and she's changing the world. Just a little bit at a time. Just enough.


  1. "Write me as one who loves his fellow man" is my favorite line. As my daughter says, it gives me so many 'feels' and all of them are good.

    1. I love that: "it gives me so many feels". Precisely right.

  2. You are such a sweetheart! I'll be returning here to reread the wonderful things you said about me (you have me blushing, by the way) when I feel a little beaten. Today has been just that kind of day, so I'm especially grateful for your kindness.

    Oh, and I didn't roll my eyes at your words. I'd kinda like to puff paint them on a tee-shirt.

    1. Pshaw. It is you who are the sweetheart. I am thrilled that you shared one of your favorite poems with me!

      We can wear our puff-painted sermon-shirts together!

  3. I don't want to brag, but I happen to know Beth Grace. ;-) She really is one of the most honest, loyal, and sweetest people I've been so blessed to know. In the last several years, I have improved in so many areas of my life, particularly the way I treat others, and I'm trying to be even better. I owe so much of that to her friendship. Any good thing I say about her wouldn't even begin to cover the amazing person she never fails to be.

    1. Welcome to the Periphery and brag away! What an honor to have Beth in your life, no?

    2. *sending Trish her really big check* ;OD

      Kidding aside, Trish's words made me tear up. And though she gives me credit for some of her awesomeness, the truth is that her generosity and innate goodness were shining brightly long before we crossed paths. I'm just grateful we did.

  4. Oh, I miss Beth. And I love the message of this poem so very much.

    1. I miss you too, MM! I keep teetering between a desire to blog again and the feeling that the urge might never be strong enough to warrant action.

    2. I understand this, Beth. Really I do. I'm just glad you're around in whatever capacity. Like when Masked Mom disappears for a while and then goes on a reading/commenting binge. It just makes my day!


Thanks for reading and taking the time to say hello!