Monthly Archives: February 2023

When You Smile That Smile

Sometimes something happens that brings what’s left, when all else falls away, to the surface. Like one of those pearls resting in the ocean floor suddenly being loosened to rise up. Exposed. Pure. Treasured.

We had such a time over the holiday season. I won’t go into the details, but I will say that, most blessedly, all is well now. But I’m still holding that precious pearl close.

Over the holidays, my dear husband made me the most beautiful card. He’d painted a cabin scene and wrote the sweetest words. I’d been thinking I’d like to do something special for him this Valentines. Then, most unexpectedly, an idea came from watching the Super Bowl—well, sort of. It all started listening to Chris Stapleton sing the National Anthem. Amazing.

When I was young, I used to listen to a lot of country music in the vein of Don Williams, Kenny Rogers, the Judds, and Vince Gill. It’d been a while but there was something about Stapleton’s sound that made me look him up. That led me to a YouTube video of him singing, “Whenever You Come Around,” at a CMT Giants event honoring Vince Gill. And when you smile that smile, the world turns upside down, whenever you come around. Oh my. Trouble is, though, unless you already knew the full lyrics, you’d miss a lot. So, I looked up the original version recorded by Vince Gill. Beautiful.

And as I listened, I cried. Sometimes a good ole’ country song says just what all the lofty musings can’t. Suddenly, I could feel behind my gray hair, wrinkles, and sagging skin that young woman who could blush and giggle anytime he’d smile that smile. And all these years later, that smile, from across the room, can still make me smile that young woman, yet shy-like-a-girl, smile. So, I wrote a poem for my sweet husband called, “When You Smile That Smile.” I won’t share it all here but will share just the ending . . .

When I was young

I ran fast into your arms

Now I am old

But with just a look

Can still come undone . . .

Cause when you smile that smile

And I feel your heart’s tug

I know I’m forever

Just a young woman in love

I’m aware that there are those reading this who, perhaps, have never felt this way. I can tell you there was a time I didn’t either. Both my husband and I had been married before to very good people and, from those unions, had beautiful children. Eventually, though, it was our fate to find one another and, for me, that smile. But we’ve never, not even for a moment, taken what we’ve been blessed to have for granted.

Or, perhaps, you once had such a love but your loved one is no longer with us. Such is the deep price of love I can most clearly feel now since our recent experience. But would I choose to give up the love to avoid the pain? Never. For the pearl, containing both in the darkness of the ocean floor, when it comes into the light, knows only love.

And on this Valentine’s Day I’m remembering too that there are different types of love because, as they say, we’re each a spiritual being having a human experience. True. Many of you have read my books, poems and other writing spilling out my love for God.

But, today, I’m most grateful to my beloved God for giving me this life, this moment . . .

to simply see, one-more-time-please that smile . . .  

the one that instantly makes me . . .just a young woman in love.


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The Man Who Talks with the Flowers

This article was published in the Concord Monitor on February 7, 2023

“How do I talk to a little flower? Through it I talk to the Infinite. And what is the Infinite? It is that still small voice that calls up the fairies.” Dr. George Washington Carver

Having been an interfaith minister for almost twenty years, I have hundreds of books in my personal library on a wide variety of theological and spiritual topics. But one short, sixty–two–page booklet, is one of my most favorites: The Man Who Talks with the Flowers: The Life Story of Dr. George Washington Carver by Glenn Clark. It’s the source for this article offered in celebration of Black History Month.  

Most people know GW Carver as the one who discovered over three hundred uses for the peanut and over one hundred and fifty uses for the sweet potato. Some may remember him as a renowned agricultural scientist, a Black man who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who always wore a flower in the buttonhole of his jacket—the old, scruffy, black one—he bought for about $2.00.

But few know of his deeply spiritual side and to what and to whom he credited his amazing discoveries. A clue: consider how he started each day.

“All my life I have risen regularly at four o’clock and have gone into the woods and talked with God. There he gives me my orders for the day. After my morning’s talk with God, I go into my laboratory and begin to carry out his wishes.”

And when asked, “You have a habit of talking to the little flower or peanut and making it give up its secrets. How do you do it?”

“You have to love it enough,” answered Carver. “Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.” And he added, “When I silently commune with people, they give up their secrets also—if you love them enough.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this love. I don’t think it’s the more common emotional love we’re used to that can grow and wain with circumstance. No. I think the love Carver was referring to is what I would call devotional love—a love so complete unto itself that it needs nothing. For example. when I’m able to listen to, say, another person with this kind of love, my own agenda, thoughts, imagined replies are not playing in the background waiting to chime in. I’m able to be completely present to the one right in front of me because I’m not in the way. Simple, yes but, surely, not easy. But just imagine what might happen, how it could shift our national dialogue, if more of us strived to do this with one another.

For Carver, the ability to extract information from the peanut, sweet potato, clays of the hills, the flower or just to create a heart-space within which another person could land, was directly related to those early morning talks with God. He didn’t need to spend his time searching for approval, agreement or validation from others because he already knew himself to be a child of God of God and knew his Creator would guide him to serve the greatest good.  

He’s best known for being able to talk with the flowers as he felt they were windows through which he could see the face of God. Toward the end of his life, he shared an important message he’d received from a little flower: “It told me there is going to be a great spiritual awakening in the world, and it’s going to come from people connected with you and me, from plain, simple people who know, not merely believe, but actually know God answers prayer. It’s going to arise from men who are going about their work and putting God into what they do, from men who believe in prayer, and want to make God real to mankind.”

While Carver was a Christian, I don’t believe it matters what faith tradition you practice as all religions can agree that God is love. But the life of GW Carver gives us a glimpse into just what that love might look like in real life—emanating from the peanut, sweet potato, clays of the hills, flowers, and, most blessedly, from the hearts of our fellow brothers and sisters.

Can we too imagine loving enough to see all creation as that window through which our Creator speaks? Can we too love enough to join hands across faith traditions, with all God’s children, to create that great spiritual awakening? It just may be, in the end, what’s needed to save us, our world, from escalating chaos and destruction.

But, like GW Carver, I have hope that it’s possible. Why? The flower said so.


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