My life is a guesthouse
and each day brings its visitors.
Years of regular customers,
rational and sensible,
ordered and predictable—
they cause no trouble.
Steady Contentment, calm Happiness,
busy Industry, pleasant Enjoyment.
Every once in a while Temper checks in,
turning the whole house upside down for a while,
but he doesn’t stay long.
Green-eyed Jealousy is a sly guest
who no one likes,
but she rarely lingers.
Take it from me,
running a guesthouse is a good life,
you wake up each day with a smile.

Then one day it all changes.
The doctor phones, results are in
and suddenly Fear is banging on my door.
He barges in uninvited
and claims the best chair
planting his muddy boots on the table.
Every other guest flees from his presence.
He’s not going anywhere fast,
and worse than that,
he invites his unpleasant friends—
Despair, Bitterness, Anger.
They’re loud and obnoxious
and they fill every room.
As they turn on the NO VACANCY sign,
I realize with a sinking feeling
that these are not visitors.
This is an occupation.

Tonight they are all talking at once,
and I can’t hear myself think.
I crouch down in a corner of what was once my life,
huddling in the tiniest outbuilding,
on the edge of everything
and it’s precisely at that moment
that I hear the insistent knocking.

It’s a hugely pregnant woman and her husband
who obviously have not read the sign.
That’s all we need right now,
some baby crying in this wilderness. 

*with thanks to Rumi, for his wonderful poem “Guesthouse”

New Book Coming Soon!

Carol Penner has written a devotional book for Lent that explores the challenges of repentance and forgiveness. Forty reflections and prayers to deepen your walk with God as you prepare for Easter.  

You can order it here!

About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at

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