Afterthought #37 Words Matter


It will take some time to integrate all that I heard today at Seattle University’s 7th Annual Search for Meaning Book Festival.

BooksIt will take even longer for me to read the books I brought home, written by several of the 55+ authors who presented.

Some of my reflections and new understandings likely will make their way into future essays and blog posts. But tonight, for this month’s Afterthought, I’ll share some wisdom from Krista Tippett, the closing keynote speaker.

Krista Tippett

Tippett, producer and host of public radio’s On Being, believes we’re “in the midst of a reformation of all of our institutions.” She offered “encouragements” to do the civic, human, spiritual work she believes we’re all called to in these times:

  • rediscover generous questions (the kind that invite honesty) as spiritual virtues and civic tools
  • honor the difficulty of what we face and create safe spaces for human connection
  • develop eyes to see and ears to hear the good news that doesn’t always get through the “broken radar” of the media
  • words matter—they shape how we interpret the world and how we treat others.

Throughout the day I noted some of the words I heard repeatedly as writers talked about their work: rootedness, witness, prayer, faith, divinity, awe, discernment, transformation, mystery.

These words matter.

“Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, comments overheard, maybe even bumper stickers.


  1. As always, thanks for this. I try not to be envious, as a spiritual discipline, so instead, I’ll just be happy for you to get to be in the same space with Krista Tippett. She is so lovely, I got to see her here in Phila. Many years ago when she was here to tape an episode of “On Being” with a Quaker astro-physicist named Ellis from (I think) South Africa. Be well, dear friend.

  2. Krista’s words resonate with me this morning, as I’ve been grappling with the question of what it means to write a popular book. I’ve decided I want to write what I want to write, which feels more real and more honest, but I know will also probably destine my books to non-fame. It’s affirming to think of what I do as doing good work rather than banging my head against a wall. 🙂

  3. Ah, Gretchen, you definitely are doing good work. Your writing (and especially your books) creates those safe spaces for human connection that Krista Tippett spoke about. And your words matter – Jocelyn’s story (in the Flying Burgowski trilogy) conveys the difficulty many people face and offers powerful ideas about how to interpret the world and how to treat others, all through good storytelling. Grapple away, and keep writing!

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