Playing With Words: Grace, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Playing With Words:



Jennifer Angelina Petro


Grace is something we say at meals.  We are saying grace, as in thank youwe praise you, be with us.

We say that dancers or athletes move with grace.

We say we are under God’s grace.

How can this one little word mean so much?

Grace is something we can pause for and say.

May we speak it with everything we do.

We can move in ways that are filled with grace.  We can walk through life’s circumstances with grace.

Grace comes from the Latin and means “favor, esteem, regard, pleasing qualities, good will, and gratitude (Online EtymologyDictionary).”

When we pause to say grace, what are we really saying? Do we favor the food, the cook, the Divine, all of the above?  Do we hold them all in high esteem?  Are we speaking with kind regards and goodwill for their pleasing qualities?  After all, I’m sure the food, the preparer, and of course, the Divine, all possess pleasing qualities.  Are we speaking gratitude for the meal, the cook, the Divine, the fellowship? All of the above?  And more?  What are we saying when we pause to say grace?

How about when we move gracefully through our lives?

May we all figuratively and literally slow-down in such a way as to move with grace in our bodies and thoughts, and spirits.  May we move with
the consciousness of beauty in body, mind, and spirit.  May grace be in our thoughts and hearts; may it spread like the fragrance of honeysuckle into every heart and hand.

Compare the Latin roots with the Sanskrit roots for grace: grnati, which means “to sing, praise, and to announce (ibid).”

When we accept life with grace we are singing praises to the Creator.  When we realize the need for change and move with grace towards achieving those changes, we are singing praises to the
Creator.  When we move with beauty in mind, heart, and body, we are announcing we are part and parcel of the One Great Dance; that we are infused with the same blood as the One Great Dancer.

The Lithuanian roots for grace (giriu) mean “to praise and to celebrate

When we speak with grace, allowing beauty to be in our words, tone, timber, and intentions, we are praising each other, praising ourselves, praising the Divine Singer of All.  When we esteem one another, assume the goodwill of one another, we are celebrating each other and the One Cosmic Partier.

When we move with grace we are celebrating ourselves, each other, the very ground we move upon, and yes, we are celebrating the One.

Is it true “there but for the grace of God go I?”  Are we held in grace by the Divine in such a way that we only go because of that grace, because of the Divine? Are we woven into some sort of fabric of predestination in which we simply get to move the Creator’s intentions, beautiful though they may be?

Or do we have a say in how me move, where we move, and why we move?  Do we get to pick the colors of the threads and the style of the stitch? Do we get to decide what we make of this intricate tapestry of breath and bone?

I believe we are graced with freedom; freedom to move how, where, and for our own purposes.  The grace that propels us from the Divine to help us move in the world is God’s esteem for us, God’s favor for us, God’s goodwill and kind regards for us; it is the Divine singing praises through, and for, us; it is the Divine celebrating His/Her Life through, and with, us; it is the Divine celebrating you and me for simply being you and me.  It is the Divine’s trust in us; the Divine’s faith in us.

I am a part of grace; you are a part of grace; we are all a part of grace; of the singing, the praise that the Creator announces through our simply being here—here and now.  We live in gratitude for the Creator and the Creator lives in gratitude for us.  It is proper and good, holy and wonderful to love what we create.  How much more so the Divine for us?

May we all realize grace in our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls.  May grace be in our thoughts, feelings, movements, and dreams.  May grace flow with our breath.  May we sing grace throughout the land; announce grace through whispers and shouts; proclaim grace in the touch of our hands; may we celebrate being alive by being grace made flesh; grace
manifested within us, through us, from us, for us, and for all things in heaven and on earth.

May the grace of the Divine be with us always—how else could it ever be?


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Reflections on Hawks and the Sparrows: Lessons on Disciplining Our Thinking

Reflections on Hawks and the Sparrows:

Lessons on Disciplining Our Thinking


Joseph Anthony


Many of us
have observed hawks being pestered by little sparrows or crows and not fighting
back.  It is a fascinating thing to
watch.  The other day I sat for fifteen
minutes as two sparrows flew around and around a beautiful red-tailed
hawk.  They dove at the hawk, seemingly
pecking at it, and the whole time the hawk either just sat motionless on the
smoke stack it was perched on or it took to the sky and simply flew in great
rising circles.  Never once did the hawk try
to reach out with its razor sharp talons and crush the little nuisances.  I kept wondering why.  Why would a clearly more powerful bird allow
such annoying little birds to mob it so? 
In addition, why would the little sparrows pester such a fierce bird,
knowing that at any second it could turn around and snip their little necks?

Of course a
flying sparrow is hard to catch even for a speedy hawk.  But why else would a hawk ignore such pests?
I like to think the hawks are doing it for wisdom, wisdom that we can learn
from.  And even the sparrows offer lessons. 
Here’s my
take on this strange phenomenon and what it means to our spiritual growth.  

The sparrows are obviously protecting their
interests, a nest perhaps, a territory; and the hawk is a major league
enemy.  One sparrow wouldn’t dream of
attacking a hawk, but two or more would. 
So to keep their flying space safe, they risk all, cast all abandon to the
wind—literally, and swarm a clearly bigger and more powerful predator.  They go together, but their objective is to

For the hawk’s
part, we need to realize they are extremely economical birds.  They only move when necessary, when food is
available to ambush or when they need to find other hunting grounds.  They do sometimes fly just for the sheer joy
of being swept upwards on rising currents of wind or to surf the breeze,
letting the air sing through their out-curved feathers.  But in general, hawks don’t move much.  They watch, but they do not waste
energy.  So when they’re being pestered
by sparrows, they ignore them.  They don’t
expend valuable time and energy trying to shoo them away or kill them.  They ignore them and, if necessary, move
on.  Of course, if a hawk is the one
protecting a nest no other birds–sparrows or crows, would ever come close to
them. A hawk protecting its eggs or fledglings is a very fierce creature,
and the rest of the bird-world knows that. 
Protecting its own nest aside, hawks don’t fight other birds that pester

What can we learn from all of this?

First of
all, those thoughts that mob our head are actually protecting their own interests.  They’re not there to mock or annoy, even if
it appears that way. They are trying to knock us off course because our course
means (so they think) death to them.  The
sparrows of pestering thoughts want to keep things the way they are; they enjoy
the old ways, the learned helplessness, the familiar territory.  To have the hawk of a new idea gliding
effortlessly around them poses a threat to their way of life. 

Taking a cue
from the hawks we don’t need to spend the time or energy fighting pestering thoughts;  we can simply let them be (what we resist persists).  If we want we can go someplace else (replace
the pestering thoughts with ones we like and invite), or we can simply ignore
them and focus on whatever the task is at hand. 
Hawks can sit for hours watching, letting the wind rustle their feathers
but not their minds.  We can learn to do the
same.  If we are economical with our mental
(and physical) movements and learn to move consciously in the world, consciously fostering thoughts we want to think, then we don’t need to be disturbed when a little mob of pesky
thoughts comes around.  Besides, if we know they are only trying to protect their own, we can even have a little compassion towards them and not seek to destroy them.  We can learn from them.  They understand the power of strength in
numbers.  This is something we can always
keep in mind.  We are not solitary
hawks.  We need each other to help us soar.

Notice too how hawks find thermal currents of air and with only
minimal effort, can be carried upwards to great heights, and swiftly.  Hawks observe little bits of leaves and
sticks that are caught up on those currents and then they simply slip into them
too, letting the warm column of air lift them with a few gentle thrusts of their wings, high into the sky.

We too can
look for warm currents of sunny air, rising columns of positive thoughts from
mentors and inspirational people, artists, writers, musicians, and children
everywhere; and let our thoughts be lifted with them to high places; places we can glide on; places we can soar from and search out new horizons; places we can
scan the world from in search of new opportunities.  We can soar for the sheer joy of being alive.

So there is
much to learn from birds—pesky birds and birds of prey.  In fact, there are object lessons everywhere;
in every leaf and tree; in every feather and beak.  Our job is to watch, listen, and breathe, and then
weave our stories in with Mother Nature’s.  They are after all, one and the same.  And there are treasures everywhere in the infinite folds of her gown waiting
to be discovered.

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Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Gifts of Shadow and Light, A Story of Beginnings

Gifts of Shadow and Light

A Story of Beginnings

By Joseph Anthony

own one’s own shadow is to reach a holy place — an inner center —

not attainable in any other way.”

–Robert Johnson


Darkness and
the Young Soul stood together on the shores of a great sea.  They watched silently as the waves spilled
over one another in a moiling effort to dance around their feet.

The sun hung
peacefully in the distance, watching yet not intrusively.  It watched as a father does wondering when
his child will go make something of himself in the world.  The moon too watched from just beyond and
above a range of misty blue mountains. 
She smiled and nodded to Darkness. 
He returned her nod with one of his own.

And then Darkness
reached into the folds of his cloak and produced a sphere of swirling black
fog.  He held it out to the Young Soul
who stared at the roiling ball of blackness with wonder.  It looked alive; like animated India ink congealing
into the form of a ball filled with spirals. 

“Is it mine?”
asked the Young Soul.

Darkness replied, “it is mine. I offer to you it as a loan.  Care for it as one would a child, for indeed,
that is what it is.  Hold it until you
know it well and it knows you; hold it until you are one.”

placed the sphere into the Young Soul’s hands. 

“It’s warm,”
said the Young Soul.

expects shadows to be cold,” said Darkness, “owing, I suppose to shade and its
cooling properties, but the shadows I give are filled with light.  And light is warm, just as the most
comforting words are warm, not cold.”

happens now?”

“You will lose

“Lose it?”
said the Young Soul as he stared into the piece of the night that roiled in his
hands. “Why would I do that?”

“It happens
to every soul.  They forget the gifts
they carry, lose them, if you will, and then spend the rest of their lives
searching for them.”

“You mean I
am meant to lose it?”


“Why would I
pick a Destiny like that?  Why would I lose
what you just gave me?”

“Adventure.  All souls long for adventure; to be able to
explore the jungles of emotions, to sail the rivers of passion; to feel what it
is to inhabit a body and to know hunger, to make love with the Muse and the to
create beauty unlike anything the world has ever seen or heard, tasted or felt.
 So they accept my gifts and then lose

“That all
sounds tempting, but what does losing your shadow have to do with it?”

“It starts
the adventure.”

“I don’t
understand,” said the Young Soul.

“You needn’t,
at least not yet.”

“But why
would you give me a part of yourself knowing it was going to be lost?”

“Every gift
is lost at some point,” said Darkness, “the giver knows that.  The joy comes from knowing the gift has been
received with grace and is being passed on from generation to generation, heart
to heart, and from the knowing that the gift will grow, blossom, multiply, and
become many gifts in many forms.  That is
the way of all parents and their children. 
The children become lost and then found in the most unexpected places
and ways.” 

“How does
one go about losing a shadow anyway?” asked the Young Soul testing the black
sphere’s weight.  It felt as if he was holding
a ball of air.

“Begin lying
to yourself about yourself. Once you do your attention shifts and you forget
the gift and then it runs off to begin an elaborate game of hide and seek.  For, like all children, it loves begin seen,
and when it’s not being seen, it does all sorts of remarkable things to get
your attention.  And one of the things it
does is to begin playing.”

The Young
Soul laughed.  “Well I am not going to
lose mine.  I will never lie to
myself.  I intend to live bathed in the
light of truth always.”

As he spoke
the sphere cracked open like a black egg and began spilling its black yoke all
over the Young Soul’s hands.  He gasped
and cried out in fear.  But it was too
late.  The shadow spread around and
within him like black ivy until it disappeared within him completely.  He shivered as if filled with cold, black
ice.  The waves receded and seemed to
wait in the wings for their next instructions from the moon.

“You said
your shadows were warm.”

“They are,
but lies are cold, and ‘never’ and ‘always’ are the coldest of all.”

The Young
Soul straightened himself and trembled. 

“So,” he said,
swallowing hard, “now I fill a body, is that it?” He spoke as one resigned, yet
trying to summon as much courage as he could to accept the consequences of his

“Yes, be
born,” said Darkness, “the adventure has begun.”

“How will I
know where to look for my shadow?”

“Look in the
things you truly love and hate.  It will
be revealed in your passions and desires; look for it in your mean criticisms
of others for it will be reflected there. 
Look for it in your talents–the ones you develop and the ones you see
in others but are too afraid to try out for yourself. Search your dreams for it
will unveil clues to its whereabouts there; it will move like a black deer through
the forest of your mind; it will swim like a black fish through your deepest
thoughts.  And know this: it can leap
from you and enter other people just for a moment to look at you through the
eyes of its host seeing if you can recognize it.”

“It can
merge with other shadows?”

were born to merge.  It is their deepest
desire.  One day when all of my shadows
become one and return to me, the world will explode into light and a new heaven
will descend upon the earth and spread like the first, eternal morning of

The Young
Soul turned his face away.  He seemed to
be listening to something only he could hear.

smiled.  A small vessel approached the
shore pushed by the unseen hands of an unseen current.  In the boat sat a woman dressed in a flowing
gown of silk, colored like the waves and the foam.  She was singing. In her arms she held a baby. 

The Young
Soul looked on with wonder as the boat touched the shore.  He turned to face Darkness.

“Is it time?”
the Young Soul asked.

“Only if you
say so.”

The Young
Soul looked at the woman, she looked down at the infant in her arms with all
the love of the Dawn looking at you through your bedroom window.

“Thank you,”
said the Young Soul to Darkness.

welcome.  We will meet again.”

The Young
Soul embraced Darkness and then turned, and moved towards the woman in the
boat.  He stumbled in the sand and waves,
the first of many stumbles he would make on his journey into and out of

stood and watched them drift away.  His
cloak billowed and suddenly became all wings and feathers and he rose and flew
towards the ever welcoming light.  


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Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Playing With Words: Innocence

Playing With Words



Joseph Anthony

What was your word,
Jesus? Love?  Affection? Forgiveness?

All your words were one
word: Wakeup!

–Antonio Machado



I have been
fascinated by the concept (for lack of a better word) of innocence for quite a
number of years now (this blog is called, “The Wonder Child Blog,” after
all).  Innocence means a lot of different
things to a lot of different people. 
Some people believe once you “lose” it you can never get it back
again.  Some believe we weren’t born
innocent; that there was only one–well two, if you count his mother–innocent
beings to ever walk the planet.  Still others
believe innocence is a magical thing that we can grow back into no matter how
old we become or what happens to us.

What follows
are a few reflections on innocence.  Before
I share them however, it’s best to begin at the beginning: with a little
etymology. I will also use a few ideas about innocence from the 17th
century mystic, Emmanuel Swedenborg.  No
other philosopher or mystic had more to say on the subject of innocence as he
did.  For Swedenborg, the entire cosmos
hinges on innocence, but more on that in a minute.

The word, innocent, comes from the Latin and means
“not guilty, not harmful, and blameless (Online Etymology Dictionary).” Around
1200 it became associated with sin and evil, as in not-sinful and not evil
(ibid). And in the 1400’s it began to mean “pure.”  Most interesting to me is that innocence is
related to the word “noxious,” as in, “not-noxious
(nocere) (ibid).”  And of course, noxious, means “hurtful or poisonous.”
Lastly, the “nocere,” Latin roots are related to the Proto-Indo-European
“nek-ro,” which means, “death,” (necro
is a Greek word for “dead body”) (ibid). 

Many people
would say we are born innocent only to be corrupted by the world later on.  Interestingly, Swedenborg said that the
innocence of infancy is only the beginning; that it’s wonderful in itself; that
it’s a picture of spiritual innocence, but that it’s actually not complete
innocence (Arcana Celestia).  According
to Swedenborg, innocence involves “the willingness to be led,” and being in a
state of love and wisdom (ibid).  It is
something we grow into.  This is why
certain older folks are so delightfully child-like in their old age—they have
fused the wisdom of their experiences with love, they are consciously innocent,
one could say. 

takes this all even further, and says that the Divine, the Creator of All, is innocence (ibid).   It follows we couldn’t live without this innocence.  We receive innocence as infants; it is
planted within us; and this innocence remains within us forever, and, according
to Swedenborg, over time, becomes our “living soul (ibid).”  Without innocence we couldn’t grow spiritually
or discover heaven.  Heaven is, after all,
the Divine itself, and thus we could say heaven is innocence itself.

Keeping in
mind Swedenborg’s ideas, let’s go back to our etymology for a moment.  Some of us have things happen to us that are
traumatic, abusive, tragic, devastating. 
Some of these experiences seemingly destroy our sense of wonder, love,
self-love, self-worth, our ability to trust, our ability to experience joy or
pleasure, happiness or peace; some of us seemingly lose our sense of inner
freedom and confidence; we perpetuate the abuse by living in addictions and
shame-based behaviors that swirl  around
destructive and sick relationships for years. 
All of this would seem to suggest that innocence can be destroyed,
harmed, or even killed. 

I don’t
believe this is so.  Such tragic
experiences can cloud our “sense” of innocence; but the Divine innocence within
us can never be harmed, killed, or taken away—it’s Divine.  We may feel we are light-years away from our
innocence, but it is there.  Jesus said
in Matthew, “It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these
little ones should perish.”  In other words,
our innocence never dies.  We may die
physically, emotionally, even mentally, but never spiritually—our innocence
never dies.  We may descend into personal
hells and deprivations and be unconscious spiritually, but our core, the very
center of our being—no matter how clouded, covered, or hidden, is always
shining, always whole, always radiantly innocent. 

So what do
we do if we feel our sense of innocence is lost? What do we do if we feel we are
in a state of unconsciousness spirituality; if we’re living a life of learned
helplessness, lost in addictions and fear, rage, and sickness?

We need to
wake up.  Something must rouse us awake:
a tragedy, an illness, a mentor, a moment of complete hopelessness and darkness;
something must rouse us into consciousness, into a moment of clarity, a moment
of realization. We might also wake up in a moment of profound bliss and
creativity—this does happen although it isn’t talked about as much.  But just as we wake up from a deep sleep by a
sudden and loud noise, or a dream that’s too intense, we wake from our sickness
by something “loud” happening to or around us, by our lives becoming so corrupt
we must wake up or die.  Leaving aside
for the moment how we wake up, or that the painful events are often caused by
our own destructive behaviors when we’re in such states, the main thing is we
need to wake up.  And just as we wake
from our physical sleep by outside forces we need outside forces to help us
wake spiritually—mentors and friends who know and truly care for us; who can
see the way ahead when we cannot yet do so for ourselves.

This need
for awakening magnifies the reality that innocence is ultimately
indestructible.  For without the spark of
innocence within us, we could not recognize the moment of clarity or the deeds
or words from our mentor that rouse us from our stupor.  We wake up because innocence recognizes
innocence, and a fire is born.

And just as
infants wake up and begin stretching, we need to begin stretching upon
experiencing our spiritual awakening.  We
need to exercise our mental discipline, our wills, our ability to follow
directions and be led by others.  As this
happens, our desire to engage in destructive behaviors falls away little by
little (or all at once); we begin to see that there are things we’ve done in this
world that we need to try to fix, mend, seek forgiveness for.  And the more we live in, and from, a state of
forgiveness, for ourselves and for the world, our innocence grows and our sense
of guiltiness lessons and the more we are able to be led by love—love from
within and love from without. The more we become right with ourselves and
continue making things right in the world, the more innocence, from wisdom and
love, blossoms.  The seeds are always
there within us, just as the Divine is always there present in every living
thing, and the Divine, as we’ve said, is
innocence.  So then, the answer as to how
to be reborn into conscious innocence is what it is for just about everything
else: Wake up.



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Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Write From Your Love: the Art of Writing Birthday Verses and Poems for Children

Write From Your Love:

the Art of Writing Birthday Verses and Poems for Children 

By Joseph Anthony


There is a
tradition in some Waldorf Schools for class teachers to write “birthday verses”
for their students—poems in honor of their students’ birthdays.  Some teachers write a new one for their
students every year (in Waldorf Schools teachers travel up through the grades
with the same group of students); other teachers select a passage from one of
their favorite poets and suit it to their particular students (that’s also a
good way to introduce students to wonderful poets they might not otherwise know
of).  Some teachers have their students
memorize their birthday verse and recite it to the class; others simply give
the poems as gifts.

I have
written hundreds of poems for children over my 17 years teaching thus far.  Birthday poems, graduation poems,
students-leaving poems, etc.  It’s one of
the funnest parts of my vocation actually. 
Not only do their birthdays and other milestones afford me opportunities
to write poetry, I love writing poems that I know will mean something to them
in that moment and hopefully, for years to come. Today I am offering a small selection
of some recent poems I wrote for my first graders. 

Now some of
you might be thinking, “I can’t write poems.” 
To that I say: Yes you can.  You
can write poems or stories, you can sing, you can draw, you can dance.  You can do anything you want to.  Leave go the old, limiting voices.  It doesn’t matter if the poem rhymes.  The only thing that matters is that you think
about, pray for, and imagine the child you’re writing for; write from your love
for that child; write from your hopes for that child; what you would love to
see that child do, become, or be; write what you would love to say to that
child—words they will treasure (imagine words you would have loved to hear from
someone that meant something to you and then write those).  Envision that child in the light and write
that vision, write FROM that vision.  Write
to heal, write to instruct and guide, write to entertain, write to enlighten. You
can write with themes from the curriculum, from nature, from your own
relationship with your students. There is no right or wrong.  Write from the heart.  Most of all have fun.

All that
said, here are a few poems for young children. In another post I’ll share ones
I wrote for teenagers.



Poems for First Graders


fledgling owl looked into the night,

And saw
that it was filled with light,

She drifted
like silence born with wings,

And touched
the heart of everything.

She knew
how to laugh and she knew how to care,

Her kindness
blessed the evening air,

She glided,
dreaming through the woods,

And made
it her mission to share the good.




with the wind, my heart is free and strong.

with the forest creatures, joining them in song.

paths of dappled wonder, breathing in the light,

I am
peaceful in myself, my thinking clear and bright.




the oak to the seed, “Dear one, dear star,

this truth: you are loved as you are,

shine and you thrive, perfectly you,

easy in knowing this wonderful truth.”




between running and dancing,

rabbit stopped to talk with the sun,

learned to breathe, and that all was well,

then he played until the day was done.




are taken care of,” said the earth to the seed,

have all of the warmth and light you will need,

comes from the world and it comes from your heart,

easy in knowing this right from the start.

will blossom and grow so please do not worry,

be who are and try not to hurry.

are held dear one in the arms of the Light,

rest now and dream through the long winter night.”





Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Thanksgiving, A Little Story on the Nature of Prayer, by Jennifer Angelina Petro


A Little Story on the Nature of Prayer


Jennifer Angelina Petro

A prayer hung heavily on a branch of the Tree of Life. Ripening over centuries, it grew sweeter with age and the persistence of faith.  One day the Gardener strolled by, singing as usual, and plucked the prayer from the Tree, and with great gusto, took a hearty bite, letting the juices river down his chin.


“Now that,” he said, talking with his mouth full, “is a good prayer.”


He continued to eat the prayer, crunching down to the core. When he got to the star shaped seeds he carefully picked them out and then casually, gracefully, and with intention, dropped them to earth.  Weeping for the sheer ecstasy of having been touched by the Gardener’s hands, the seeds fell for days and weeks through open, pristine space, tossed here and there by currents of sound and desire.  They danced as they descended—leaning into little pirouettes and whirled in sweeping spirals, down, down, down they drifted and eventually landed precisely where the Gardener intended them to go—right into the hearts of a little boy and his father.


The little boy had prayed prayers of gratitude all night, for his father hadn’t had a drink in over three months; and the father, weeping in thanks for finally having been freed from the chains of his disease, had prayed prayers of gratitude all night as well.  The seeds nestled in their hearts and, because they were prayers of thanksgiving, sprouted quickly, spreading their holy fire into entire orchards of flourishing trees right through the dark valleys of the lives of that boy and his father.  Soon the boy and his father would be harvesting the fruits of their prayers, and sharing them in heaping bushels with each other, their neighbors and friends, and the world.


“A beautiful day,” the Gardener said as he plucked another prayer from the Tree, “thanksgiving is blossoming everywhere.”





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