My Ramadan Meal, and Finding Peace in Unexpected Places

By | June 6th, 2017|A Contemplative Life, Courageous People of Lancaster|

“Come by tonight, any time after eight o’clock,” my Syrian refugee friend told me earlier in the day, so after I drop off an Uber fare in his part of the city around 8:30pm, I head for his house. The street is dark and quiet. The sun has only recently [...]

What the Priest and the Nun Were Looking For – The Iraq Journals, Part 5

By | May 25th, 2017|A Contemplative Life, Travels Near and Far|

We drove up a narrow street in Qaraqosh, Iraq, practically an alley, and our driver stopped the van when he could go no further. A large group of soldiers stood at the entrance to the church, as if on the lookout for something, and they eyed up our vehicle. They [...]

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When Money, Fame, and Admiration Aren’t Enough

By | May 24th, 2017|A Contemplative Life, Identity, On Writing|

A normal night in the Smucker household. Can you find Poppy? Catch all our normal moments at my Instagram account: @shawnsmucker This post comes to you from the carpeted floor in the bedroom shared by Sam and Leo on the second floor of our row home in Lancaster, [...]

Now, Courage Looks Like This

By | May 16th, 2017|A Contemplative Life|

Photo by Evan Dennis via Unsplash There are days when inspiration drips from the corners of my mind, when ideas crowd around and argue about which one came first, when I can type and type and type and the words just keep flowing. And then there are these [...]

The Autistic Iraqi Boy in the Hospital Bed, and the Song He Sang – The Iraq Journals, Part 4

By | May 11th, 2017|A Contemplative Life, Travels Near and Far|

I sat on a small stool in between two hospital beds. There were maybe twelve beds in the boys' hospital ward, which was actually a sturdy, huge, permanent tent. The tent was in the middle of an open-air trauma hospital surrounded by 12-foot-high cement blast walls topped with razor wire. [...]

Into Iraq – The Iraq Journals, Part 3

By | May 4th, 2017|A Contemplative Life, Travels Near and Far|

Erbil, Northern Iraq There was an Iraqi man sitting next to me on the plane as we approached Erbil. He motioned towards the window. “I love seeing Erbil at night,” he said, looking down on the lights. He sounded like a man talking about a woman or his [...]

Further Thoughts on Going to Iraq (or, God is not Here)

By | April 18th, 2017|A Contemplative Life, Faith and Doubt, Identity|

Poppy at her first Maundy Thursday service, her sisters washing her feet. We walked the six blocks to Saint James on Good Friday, the sun shining, a spring breeze chasing us along the sidewalks. I pushed the double-stroller – occupants varying in combination between Poppy, Leo, Sam, and [...]