Has civility disappeared completely from our political discourse?

What happened yesterday in our nation’s capitol went far beyond the rights of free speech and protest. As violent thugs barged their way into the Capitol Building disrupting the election certification process, U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives scrambled to safety.

Rioters left a trail of desecration and debris smashing and looting their way through the hallowed halls of our legislative branch.

This is NOT the way we do things in our country. To say I am appalled is an understatement. Horrified. Bewildered. Angry at how this could happen – and did happen – goaded by the rantings of a truly disturbed individual who happens to be the current President of the United States.

But leaders of the U.S. Congress on both sides of the aisle are made of stern stuff. To make a point, the Senate and House of Representatives reconvened last night to finish what they started: certifying the Electoral College results for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Watching the televised proceedings last night from the Senate as members gave impassioned speeches with collective abhorrence of what happened in their midst, unity reigned for once (in a long time.) Civility also reigned as both sides of the aisle gave Vice President Pence a standing ovation for doing his duty under considerable duress.

“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins; freedom wins; and this is still the people’s house.” Vice President Mike Pence

Attacks on our nation’s Capitol – of the like not seen since the War of 1812 – will not deter the democratic processes of our country.

At the end of a long day the results of the November 2020 election were finally certified by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives at 4 a.m. this morning. Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States on January 20th.

Who knew a largely ceremonial day tallying votes would turn so destructively ugly?

I don’t care which political party you belong to or who you voted for, it’s time to stand up and build bridges of understanding in our communities. It’s time to stop labeling and start listening to folks who may not share our views.

Working overseas in one conflict zone after another, one of the things I treasured most when returning home is our diversity. To me that is something we should celebrate, something that makes our country strong, what makes us Americans – a melting pot of cultures, religions, ideas, and ethnicities.

Where freedoms many people around the world have never glimpsed are the rule, not the exception.

‘Tis true challenges of monumental proportions face us today, but we still have so much to celebrate, so much that unifies us as Americans.

It’s not “us” and “them” – it should be “we.” In this melting pot of America where dreams intermingle with possibilities, let’s not segment our dreams as Democrats or Republicans or let our differences divide us.

Let us all of every stripe and hue become “we” again. Let’s dream together and work together so what happened yesterday will never happen again.


We are all in this together.

grace, peace & unity


“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” J.K. Rowling

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Although we usually commemorate Epiphany on 06 January, this year we are celebrating it on a Sunday – today. Epiphany marks the journey of wise men from the East who traveled far following a star to meet the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

A good question to contemplate this New Year: what sort of stars are we following? Are we letting stars of faith draw us closer to Jesus?

One of my favorite stars of faith is Catherine de Hueck Doherty (1896-1985.) My tattered copy of her daily devotional, “Grace in Every Season,” has been a treasured spiritual guide for over 20 years.

A woman of deep faith, Catherine Doherty was born into the aristocracy of czarist Russia. Commended for her heroic service as a nurse on the front lines during World War I, she later escaped Bolshevik Russia and landed penniless as a refugee in Canada with her ill husband and small son. Working her way up from a maid to an executive to provide for her family, she regained her lost wealth – only to give it away to the poor as she went to live and work in the slums of Toronto and later Harlem.

Outspoken as a Civil Rights activist Catherine was often threatened, but her faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ shone brightly for all to see along with His Love that touched all.

A Christmastime custom in the Russia of Catherine’s youth involved putting an ornamental star over homes to represent the star that led the Magi. Here’s a quote about how the Magi following the star relates to us today:

“The star is always before us. We only have to open our eyes to see the star… Are we going to follow it or are we going to waste a lifetime catching stars that are not there? If we really go and follow that star, that one and only star, we will become a star and others will follow us, to that immense star, Christ. And then, we will become a flame, for the star is fire and flame and beauty and love, faith and hope.  And at that moment… we are enveloped by the Spirit and we, ourselves, have become a prayer.  Then you will walk, and I will walk, in the revelation of His infinite love that surrounds us and reveals itself wherever we go.” Catherine de Hueck Doherty (Grace in Every Season)

grace, peace & Epiphany Stars

Virginia : )

p.s. Pictures from Virginia’s original holiday cards mimeographed in Bethlehem (circa early 1990s…)

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New Tomorrows…

It’s New Year’s Eve and time to say goodbye to 2020. What a year!

So many challenges clouded our horizons. Global pandemics, loss, conflicts that continued unabated, hurricanes, fires, economic hardships, more loss…and failures.

It was hard at times to find our way amidst a sea of difficulties.

But there was also faith, hope, love, grace and courage amidst it all. People serving selflessly on frontlines from medical facilities to grocery stores helping others. As the sun goes down on 2020, let’s not forget to be grateful.

Tomorrow is a new day and a New Year!

“Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern not yourself with what you tried and failed in, but what it is still possible to do. Now is the time to put aside past and present setbacks and failures and look with confidence to the new day called tomorrow.” Saint John XXIII

New Year’s blessings to all!

grace, peace & New Tomorrows

Virginia : )

p.s. Looking back over 2020, so grateful for the community of bloggers here on WP + family and friends who read around the globe. A big thank you for the encouragement during Virginia’s Advent post-a-day gig. Putting posts up this year was the hardest yet, so the comments, emails, and texts meant loads. Now Virginia is back to her sporadic blogging schedule. New Year’s hugs to all!

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The holidays can be occasions for great joy, but also deep sorrow when loved ones are no longer with us. My Papa and then Mama passed over five years ago. There’s still a huge hole in my heart that throbs a bit more at this time of the year. My parents loved the holidays and always made Christmas special for us. Precious memories fill the treasure chest in my heart.

I know many of you, dear readers, are missing loved ones especially during this year of so much loss. I’m not sure how thick (or thin) the veil that separates us, but I know our precious ones are not far, for their love resides in our hearts as joy that will not diminish.

As Virginia’s last blog for this year’s Advent post-a-day gig, here’s something I wrote the year after papa died. May it encourage our hearts today…


Freddie is soft, big, and green – a cuddly buddy. The kind of friend Virginia likes to have about, but he was actually my Papa’s.

This gigantic frog belonged to my 83 year old bed-fast quadriplegic Papa? There is a good reason.

Three weeks before Papa died I saw Freddie in the pharmacy whilst picking up Papa’s medications. After leaving the store I went back in to get him thinking about how he would make my worn out Papa smile. Freddie did. Many times.

Freddie has these eyes that cut over to you (kind of like Papa’s did.) I put him in Papa’s line of sight next to his hospital bed in the living room. Peeking around the corner to check on Papa, I would see him cut his eyes to Freddie and then smile.

Big smiles, with a hint of chuckle. No small feat when Papa had been incessantly sick for weeks and weeks.

Here’s the thing. We have a history with frogs. Every week when Papa and Mama called me in Tanzania, they could hear frogs croaking loudly through several thousand miles of phone waves. Papa said when they got on my nerves late at night trying to sleep to remember “F.R.O.G.:  Full Reliance OGod.”

Methinks Freddie helped him during his final illness, not just with his funky eyes, but as a reminder of what my Papa was all about: doing and being the impossible for God. Papa lived over 25 years with a debilitating disease as a quadriplegic but didn’t stop believing and relying on God each and every day.

To me Papa’s 4 Spiritual Secrets sum up what it means to have F.R.O.G. faith, based on the teaching of Jesus in John 15 about the Vine and branches:

I’m not, but He is.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I can’t, but He can.

And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I don’t want to, but He wants to.

And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I didn’t, but He did.
Because I was in Him and He was in me

How we miss Papa, especially at this time of year he so enjoyed. His vibrant spirit centered our celebrations and his presence made our presents to each other more meaningful. There’s a big hole in our hearts, but it’s overflowing with the love Papa instilled in us and shared in so many ways.

The love of Jesus Christ Who comforts, trusts, believes, heals and lifts our spirits with joy that doesn’t always make sense, but is and does grace and joy.

The other morning as Mama and I listened to Andrea Bocelli sing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” she spoke out the words of the refrain, “just like the ones I used to know.”

We teared up.

Maybe this holiday season will not be like ones we used to know, but we have precious memories and powerful legacies of love in our hearts. When we can’t deal with our grief and loneliness, we can think of Freddie the Frog… and Fully Rely On God to ease our sorrows.

grace, peace & F.R.O.G Faith

Virginia : )

“We cannot wait til the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, for to share our grief, to touch our pain, He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!”  Madeleine L’Engle

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“Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Things will never look just right or feel just right… But it is into this broken world that a child is born Who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior.” Henri Nouwen

“May the Child Jesus be your guiding star in the desert of this present life.” St. Padre Pio

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas blessed with the Love of Jesus!

grace, peace & Christmas JOY

Virginia : )

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As we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas, Virginia is contemplating a major part of the nativity story, yet silent in the narrative: Baby Jesus.

Why did God choose to send Our Savior as a baby? Babies are helpless bundles of neediness. Their diapers need changing, tummies need filling, lungs need burping…there’s quite a long list of baby neediness.

2020 has been so whacked with challenges. Perhaps we are feeling a little helpless with so many things out of our control. In these uncertain times it’s not hard to feel a little hopeless, too.

Perhaps Jesus came as a baby to show us something.

As He is helpless in the form of a baby, so too are those He loves: babies of all ages in this world with helpless hearts and hopeless minds.

As He was a helpless baby in Bethlehem loved by His Mother, so too, He asks us to love Him – freely, tenderly, warmly – as she loved Him. Think of Jesus, our Savior, with tiny hands and tiny feet growing up to save the world from death, despair and destruction.

To the Cross He tarries not, but for joy He comes as a child in the manger: Joy – Love and Peace – that the world may know Him and make Him known.

Rejoice, rejoice! We are not alone!

grace, peace & Baby Jesus

Virginia  : )

“The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” J.I. Packer

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As we near the end of Advent, here’s a powerful quote to contemplate…

“As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

grace, peace & open doors

Virginia : )

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 “Personally, of course, I believe in Santa Claus; but it is the season of forgiveness, and I will forgive others for not doing so.” G.K. Chesterton

As Virginia’s post-a-day gig “Advent-ure” winds down (Christmas is Friday!) here is something shared a few years ago that is especially appropriate for 2020. Over the years (for obvious reasons) Virginia has treasured this editorial written by Francis Pharcellus Church that was printed in 1897 and reprinted countless times…


“We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”  Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’ Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”  (Francis Pharcellus Church, 21 September 1897)


Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

grace, peace & Hope

Virginia : )

“Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias…”

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On this first day of winter in the northern hemisphere it’s bleak and cold here in Williamsburg, Virginia. Seems appropriate somehow!

This holiday season has been a bit on the bleaker side with so many celebratory things we take for granted off the schedule. (Parties, concerts, massive town gatherings…)

Our celebratory reserves may be a little bare, like these trees. This year we also may not be able to give the kind of gifts we would like to give our friends and family.

The reason for the season, however, hasn’t changed one bit: the coming of Jesus into our world, and into our hearts.

On this bleak winter day remember the most important gift we can give is our love…

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.  (Christina Rossetti, 1830 –1894)

grace, peace & bleak winter blues

Virginia : )

Photos: Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve, VA

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On this last Sunday of Advent, here is a powerful prayer for our hearts to contemplate…

“To the impossible: Yes!
Enter and penetrate
O Spirit. Come and bless
This hour: the star is late.
Only the absurdity of love
Can break the bonds of hate.

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.”

Madeleine L’Engle  (from Glimpses of Grace)

grace, peace & irrational blooms

Virginia : )

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