Like the sun

Here's what happens when a flower reaches for the sun. July 2016

Here’s what happens when a flower reaches for the sun. July 2016

“They can be like the sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.”
San Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Cross)

Two years ago I planted a couple of Asiatic lilies in front of our Alexandria porch. I read that they could tolerate partial shade, so I thought the dappled afternoon exposure would be perfect for them. But they clearly have other ideas.

Leaning into the sunshine July 2016

See how they lean in toward the brightest area of sunlight? I wondered whether this might be caused at least partly by the weight of the huge flower at the end of the slender stem, but a bulb from the same lot that I planted in bright sunshine at our York home has no such tendencies. It stands straight and tall. These flowers simply long for the sun, and grow accordingly.

York lily

I thought of that when I read San Juan’s thoughts about the power of words. Language is a powerful thing, and how carelessly we use it!  Yet what beautiful things we might accomplish with words, if we understood their lingering ability to infiltrate the heart and soul. Words can crush, damage, hurt, anger, ruin. But they also can heal, bless and shine like the sun into the darkness of sorrow and loneliness.

Here’s a video I love, in which Dr. Maya Angelou eloquently reminds us that words are things, and have lasting and profound influence, not only on those who hear them, but perhaps more so on those who say them. I especially like what she says at the close of this clip. I invite you to watch this brief gem of wisdom, and join me in resolving anew to be mindful of the formidable power of our words.

30 Comments

  1. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. ☕️ We start our day by saying “Good morning” and always say “Good night” but in a day’s time how many words are spoken that (for whatever reason) are not carefully chosen. With your written words this early morning, and the wonderful video that you shared, I’ll strive to do better! 💛

    • Sheila, I think you’re already well ahead of 99% of the population in that respect…but keep up the good work! 😀 ❤

  2. Cherie

    I love Maya Angelou, and I know what she said is true. When I was in my 20’s I read a book by Florence Scovel Shinn called Power of the Spoken Word and have never forgotten it. Yes! Words are very powerful and I think can have a big impact on how our world will be. Thank you Julia for reminding me of this. Of course, the Bible has many verses about harnessing the tongue. I am trying! Love to you and the family. I pray Jeff and Matt are both doing well. Love and Light. Cherie

    • Cherie, thanks for that reference. I had never heard of that author, but I was able to look her up online and found out that excerpts of some of her works are available to be read online. Whenever I read in Proverbs it strikes me how often they counsel keeping a tight rein on what we say. Some are profound but some are downright funny including one of my favorites: “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.” (Proverbs 27:14, NIV) I can certainly understand why THAT is good advice! Thanks so much for your prayers. We continue to need and appreciate them. Love and light to you too, and to the world! It’s needed everywhere now more than ever! ❤

  3. Amy

    The lily is very pretty in both places but it does seem to be reaching doesn’t it? I love the clip. Scary to think about but very true. I hope my carpet and furniture is full of love and hope. Of course we have been warned about the power of the tongue. I pray you are only getting lovely words today. I love you.

    • Thank you Amy! You have left lots of love and laughter in our rugs, walls, furniture and US! 😀

  4. Julia, Nice post for the past few days of darkness in our country. The plants you showed celebrate life as they seek the light that powers their existence. How darkness would flee if we all but turned to Christ, the light of the world. For we are because He is.
    -Alan

    • Alan, I agree. The plus side (if there is one) is that the light shines more all the more brilliantly the darker it becomes. I love where John says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1) Light is easier to see and appreciate when it’s dark.

  5. Thanks for this clip. I’ve not heard it before. I’ve always loved her voice, and the thoughts she conveys. What an extraordinary woman, as are you, Julia.

    Those flowers really are reaching for the sun. Funny that. They look beautiful,though, so clearly they’re getting most of what they need. That’s an interesting metaphor for life.

    Thinking of you today and always.

    • Thank you Alys! I love Angelou’s voice too. It gives me chills to listen to her recite “Still I rise.”

      We have some neighbors who have the same kind of lilies. Theirs get more sun, but they are leaning too. It does make an interesting metaphor.

  6. Good Morning Julia, thanks for making me think so early in the day 😀 I’m actually propped up in bed and the kitties have decided to close their little eyes again after lots of morning cuddles. I have one on either side of me and the window open to hear the bird song, what a glorious way to start the day here with you.
    As I tend to be a bit of a chatter, I completely understand the message you share today. I’m careful to avoid words of malice since once uttered, you can never take them back. That old lesson, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” holds water even for grownups. I think talking smack behind someones back is just as bad. That’s where adults fall down on the challenge. It’s easier to gossip behind someones back than say something mean to someones face. But constant negativity is a poison to yourself and someone like that makes for poor company. I like to think practicing kindness in words and action makes my heart lighter and gives meaning to life too. “No one likes a complainer”, is another thing I remember hearing as a child, yet the person delivering that message seemed very good at it. I think of that and try my utmost to walk the talk. xo Love to you and all K

    • Wow, I love that cozy image of two sleepping kitties and birdsong coming through the window. I think you do a great job of keeping your talk positive and also a lot of fun. No gloom at Boomdeeville! I totally agree that back-biting is far too easy to do. We can start off talking about neutral things and somehow slip into it if we aren’t careful. Same goes for complaining. Sometimes I think I can dump all my worries on a trusted friend but then I think, why do I want to take up their time that way? I never feel better after I do. Plus it’s no fun for them either. I guess that’s what a good psychotherapist is for. But mostly I think complaining or talking negatively just feeds on itself. Far better to get busy doing something positive and taking mental photos of all the wonderful people and things out there. Hope you are having a great week! Hugs to P & B and of course, to you!

  7. Beautiful. Words are very powerful. We as writers know that. They are thoughts manifest. They carry a great deal of energy which is why I often choose to write them rather than speak them so I have a chance too look at them carefully before letting them loose in the world. Loved the clip.

    • Marlene, yet another thing we have in common– I much prefer writing to talking. I like to hear others talk but I also love to read what they write. I’m a compulsive talker but it exhausts me, and I’m sure it’s even more tiring for others who hear me. Writing is, for the most part, such a civil practice. Normally it involves no interrupting, no intrusions or demands to “pay attention NOW!!!” Plus if something doesn’t sound understandable, it can be read again and often at more complete meaning emerges. Of course there are those who can ruin written correspondence by being mean, but it’s harder to unintentionally offend someone with what we write. Since I’m so good at putting foot in mouth, I tend to default to the pen (or the keyboard) whenever I can. Quiet, dependable, timeless.

      • At this moment, I’m not even finding enough of me to write. I haven’t posted in over a month, going on two. Very soon. I always have time for a friend though. 🙂 Hugs.

        • Thank you Marlene! I so appreciate your being here with your hugs and encouragement. It means more than I can say.

  8. HarryS

    My soul rests with you, my Anamchara.

    “First Thoughts”.

    I love it when I have what I call first thoughts when I wake in the morning. I don’t always have them in a special way but in some way I always have first thoughts. Sometimes they don’t mean that very much except quickly outlining a rudimentary plan for the day but some days they are very special. Some days they are extremely precious.
    This morning I woke up with a thought; they are singing to me followed by a questioning thought; what are they singing?
    The next thought; “I come to the garden alone………”
    The next action; search YouTube for the Hymn.
    The result; Pure Pleasure!

    Does God of my understanding speak to me?

    God spoke to me yesterday morning in traffic court as I saw the extraordinary courtesy demonstrated by all towards all.

    Wherever courtesy is, God is!

    How did I come out in traffic court yesterday?

    I’ve never left a court of law feeling any better than I did yesterday morning.

    I’m Harry, grateful alcoholic and devoted 12th stepper.

    • Harry, I am so happy when I hear stories like the one you tell, of leaving traffic court feeling happy having seen “extraordinary courtesy demonstrated by all towards all.” What a blessing! Can we start a counter-revolution of such contagious courtesy? I hope so– it’s worth a try! This evening as I was walking I saw a young police officer parked in a shopping center, apparently just there to keep an eye on things. I couldn’t resist the urge to go up to him and thank him for his service. He smiled and said “You’re welcome, my pleasure.” He had dark hair and skin and I couldn’t tell if he was Hispanic, middle eastern or what, but it did not matter, he was there for all of us and was in his car alone (though the DC police Chief Lanier has all her officers doubling up, the last I heard). Anyway, I thought how many people we fail to thank every day, people who make our lives easier or safer or more functional. Everyone is walking around with their own bundle of secrets and sorrows and worries and joys, and I think most of us long for connection. Courtesy is one way of making that possible. Thanks for sharing your morning thoughts with us! And yes, I agree with you that we often see God most clearly in other people who are living out their faith. “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21)

  9. Ann

    Thank you for continuing to provide a place of joy and thoughtfulness.

    • Ann, you are most welcome. I appreciate your presence here, and your encouragement.

  10. Raynard

    Julia how does that song go? It’s a rare condition this day and age to read any good news on a newspaper page. I digress.. better yet let me quote Jack Sparrow,’the problem isn’t the problem. The problem isy attitude towards the problem..So when I have a pity party and Richard Simmons has a extra pair of those striped shorts I just stick out my chin and grin and say… The sun will come up tomorrow..lol Will send you a picture soon of the cake I will baking this week. Different from the rest. Be blessed

    • Raynard, it is always fun to hear from you, especially when you digress. Yep, the news gives us plenty to be depressed about, but we shall overcome. Sometimes just getting up and getting through the day is enough to turn things around, even if the change happens gradually. Now I am totally curious about what sort of cake you will come up with, I can’t wait to see it. Give my best to the ladies and have a wonderful week!

  11. I adore Maya Angelou a lot. I often wish had I used better or different words in certain discussions. In our language there is a saying which means the arrow that left the bow and the word that left the mouth cannot be taken back. We cannot predict where or how they will end up. It will be always better to think a second before the powerful words are uttered.

    • Bindu, I like that saying! So true, once we let go of that arrow, too late to take it back. One reason I like writing is that I find it easier to take time to choose my words. Our spoken communication goes so fast and we expect people to answer so quickly. I can think of so many times when I said things that I could have said in a different way, or not at all.

      Isn’t Maya Angelou wonderful? Her spirit lives on in her powerful, compassionate words. Her voice carries such strength and kindness.

  12. Rene

    Thank you for the clip, which I think I will share with my students (along with “Still I Rise”) at the beginning of the school year. I have been ranting to do something to mitigate the events of the week before last; my husband dissuaded me from attending any marches, saying that I should just make a point of sharing Christ’s love with those I meet. Well, even before I’ve been able to do that myself, I’ve been shown unbelievable courtesy & friendliness in my very diverse community, which gives me hope in the transformative power of good words.

    • Rene, I am always encouraged to see how many people defy the stereotypes and the news stories to come together in genuine good will at such times. I agree that the most effective thing we can do is treat each person we meet as we would want to be treated. I’m an activist at heart and can understand the appeal of marches, but I always wonder whether the energy spent in such activities might bear more and better fruit in other endeavors. There are times when we need to make our voices heard, but I suspect that far more often, it’s our actions that make a difference. Thanks for caring! BTW I LOVE “Still I Rise.” As you might have figured out. 😀

  13. Good morning, Julia! We grew up chanting ” sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” I’ve always felt that this was not entirely true. I prefer to believe that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
    Thank you for shining the light for us; we, like lilies, are reaching for it!
    ( I think that I’ve heard those types of lilies called “Stargazer lilies” but I agree with you. I think that they are reaching for the sun.)

    • Susan, I have always hated that little “sticks and stones” rhyme. Matt had a particularly inept special education teacher who told him, in middle school, to say that to himself when he was enduring ridicule (this same teacher later ignored what turned out to be outright documented abuse, but I digress…). In any case, when he came home and told me the teacher told him that, I instructed him to repeat to her: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can hurt my feelings.” Yes, the pen is mightier than the sword!

      Stargazer lilies are a lovely thought. If only the stars were more visible in urban or suburban areas, these lilies might not have to lean so far in to gather the sunlight. Thank YOU for shining your light into my life, here and elsewhere!

  14. Rene

    I meant to say “wanting,” not “ranting.”

    • Rene, I did not even notice that until you mentioned it. If it had been me, “ranting” would probably have been more accurate a description than “wanting” — maybe that’s why I missed it. 😀

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