The Human Condition: Me Too


The stories that make us up and influence who we become often reveal the equal opportunity to be wounded by the ways and words of others who have power or misuse their power. When I was young I observed many injustices to just about everyone. Stories of injustice, humiliation, bullying, and disrespect for another were commonplace: a young boy picked on by the larger boy, girls denied the opportunities so easily offered to boys, a church youth minister running away with another man’s wife, a sexual assault, three church splits over a variety of issues, a divorced woman ostracized by other women, a teen date rape, an unwanted pregnancy, sexual harassment in the workplace, eating disorders, messy integration of the school system, segregation alive and well in the church pews, relatives that didn’t return from Vietnam, gas rationing, Watergate, less pay than that of a male counterpart, females denied entrance into seminary, and verbal assaults on the soul if one got out of lockstep in the expectations of family or faith life as dictated by those who had the power. And that was before I turned 20!

For me, the study of the book of Luke was instrumental in noticing what Jesus said and did long before it became the WWJD question on jewelry, t-shirts and bumper stickers. In the book of Luke, Gentiles and Samaritans are discriminated against, Jesus challenges the religious leaders of his own culture and their misuse of power, and the hypocrisy of the day that harmed the widow, the poor, the woman, the broken man, the words of harm slandered against those too powerless to fight back. Jesus had critics who followed him throughout his ministry striving to quiet his words and challenge his human/divine authority to usurp the misused power they refused to give up or acknowledged their participation in such suffering outcomes.

Every generation will have to face the injustices that humanity does to one another. For all the good work and ways that have been accomplished there remains the need to press on, do more, and absolutely do better. The news is full recently of the stories of women harmed by Hollywood moguls, the inappropriate relations of Presidents, the words and sick mindset of powerful men in the Southern Baptist lineage that limited and harmed the value of women, and the recent exposure to the sexual harm done to boys by priests in South America. There is a hypocrisy of both the secular and sacred places in our society. Our society in all areas of the sacred and secular spaces need to take a long look at this duplicity.

Jesus taught throughout the book of Luke the need to heed the guidance of the Holy Spirit as he lived and modeled in his own journey. (Luke 4:1) He made clear that much of our need to improve in our humanity rested in the authenticity to love one another. This type of living with one another requires a respect for others. To show disrespect to others is a form of dis-respecting God and your own self. In Luke 17:21, Jesus say’s, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Jesus also said we shall know another by their fruits (habits, character, ethics) they produce. (Mt.7:15-20) Self-examination and self-awareness would go a long way in examining our agendas, treatments, and dispositions toward our fellow human beings.

Today, I am in my late 50’s. The injustices of harm and the beautiful inspiration of those who offer compassion, empathy, and challenge the status quo and reform needs continues. There is in this messy life the opportunity to choose the fruit of the Spirit that can inform, transform, and reform us with resilience, tenacity, generosity, peacemaking, joy, hope, love, perseverance, positive use of power, self-control, and love. When I answered the pastoral care calling to become a minister in 1979, it did not come to fruition for another 27 years when I began the academic work of seminary. I was ordained in 2006. Since then, I have become board certified in chaplaincy, and completed both masters and doctorate in ministry. There is a righteous anger I still hold at the insulting loss of time to the call God and I knew was true in 1979. However, I am doing soul care to others in their woundedness. Author and priest Henri Nouwen offers us in his writings, “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.” Reader, this man has left behind books of great encouragement for living a spiritual life of wellness in a hurting world. His legacy of words has meant so much to me over the years. If you have not read his works, I encourage you to start with The Inner Voice of Love.

Nouwen coined a phrase years ago: ‘wounded healer’. To be a ‘wounded healer’ is to know how to sit with another in their pain and offer presence of silence, words of hope, and care for their spirit without the need to fix or explain the suffering away. A wounded healer is healed from their own woundedness and simply knows the way out through presence, prayer, perseverance, and power of self-respect to begin again. And, only one who has been wounded can model the way of forgiveness, hope, renewal, and face down injustices done to one’s mind-body-spirit. The Cross of Christ is modeled and offered for all of us! What greater love and sacrifice is there than to bleed out your own blood for the cause of another to live. Jesus did such a level of suffering love! There remain stories told and untold of parents who have done such for their own children, bands of brotherhood/sisterhood in war, advocates fighting for change in injustices, and the cost of discipleship in striving for Christ’s higher standard of wearing such a name as Christian.

I have often wondered in my appreciation and love of history, how others who have gone before weathered the injustices done to them in their timeline of living. The bible is full of injustice stories. Hagar, Tamar, Vashti/Esther, Joseph/Potiphar’s wife, King David/Bathsheba/Uriah, Daniel, Jesus, and the martyrs of the first century church.  In American history there is the struggles of Native American Indians, Revolutionary War, slavery, women’s right to vote, child labor, labor unions, Depression, poverty, and more wars. I held a newspaper in my hands everyday throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. In those twenty years the headlines spoke of drug cartels in South America, drug war growing in America, the infighting of Northern and Southern Ireland, Energy crisis, Vietnam, Three Mile Island, Watergate, Cambodia, Apollo 13, IRA bombs, The Challenger explosion, Sandra Day O’Conner, Royal wedding, Inflation issues, Olympic politics, ERA- equal rights amendment, and so on…
I did not know the name William (Bill) Self in 1979. But he did not get to be the President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979 because of his stance to include women as equal in their vocational callings into ministry as that of men. In 1997, we moved to Atlanta, Georgia and after a few years I readdressed this calling and Bill Self was my pastor. He wrote my endorsement letter to enter seminary. I met John Claypool in seminary. He was a professor and he became an important mentor to me. Henri Nouwen’s words around wounded healer’s and spiritual self-awareness were positive ingredients in our many conversations. We both had a story.

Both men were significant to my pastoral identity. Both men weathered difficult harms to their personhood and personal journey in this life too. Their story that shaped and influenced their own pastoral identity resulted from the harms and injustices done to them too. Both men forgave their adversaries that hindered them. I have forgiven mine in family and faith that honed my pastoral identity in their lack of support. And I hold with great gratitude those family and faith individuals that invested in supporting my journey into this ministerial calling. Both the just and the unjust sharpened me spiritually for the timeline of life I am living.

The scriptures remind us that it rains on the just and unjust. (Matt. 5:45) The reality is that everyone and every generation will face the injustices done to one’s mind-body-spirit. The spiritual tools needed to walk in such places that hold unholy moments requires the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22-23), heed Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), practice an unceasing prayer life with God (Matt. 6: 9-13), remember God’s with us and for us (Psalms 139), and find solace in scriptures and other peoples stories that inspire you and challenge you to live well in your own.

Many poets and writers inspire me. These quotes are from a woman I admired for years in her story of advocacy, faith, survival, and wordsmith ways. Thank you, Maya Angelo, for so many well said words worth reflecting upon and relevant still today.

“You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’”

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” 

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 

“If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” 

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

“A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.”

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” 

“Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.” 

“Determine to live life with flair and laughter.”

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” 

“People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 



Damaged Goods


Getting a bargain is always nice. Everyone enjoys saving money. The challenge is to sort through the bins of irregular or last season’s clothes, dented furniture, used car, or damaged items at the grocery store. We ask ourselves, “Can this be recyclable, usable, or re-purposed?”  We give these items second, third, and more places of service in our lives. I have a dresser that I bought in 1980. I got it at the yearly scratch and dent sale put on by Gayfers Department store.  Reader, they were like a Macy’s or Dillard’s store in the Panhandle of Florida before such department stores ever came to the Gulf Coast. Going down memory lane of places and names gone by has a purpose in nostalgia. There are stories of people, places, and events to recall. There is a witness to the backstory that one holds for gratitude, lessons learned, hard earned wisdom, and painful lessons in survival. People, places and things are integrated attributes to such a journey.

This dresser has been moved to four states and eight homes. This dresser has been the holder of my clothes, and later painted and artistically designed to be a part of my daughter’s wishes for a Victorian bedroom design. Today, it sits in the guest room for grandchildren and is the holder of every Disney movie they would enjoy watching. The journey this dresser has weathered as it serves its purpose of storage continues to this day. And I am a witness to its journey. And for all the scratches, dents, and stains this piece holds, I am struck by its beauty that is more than nostalgic projections because of its history. It has been a thing of beauty, purpose, and practical in spite of its imperfections.

But, what do we do with people that are perceived and projected upon to be damaged goods? Do these souls, in their travels through the scratched and dents of life experiences, have something to offer? Do we have the capacity to see past the agedness and see the earned wisdom? Are we capable of forgiving youthful ignorance and temporary immaturity? When we see another’s vulnerability, do we feed ourselves on the trough of ego laced heroism? Do we see the pain and fear in our fellow human beings and offer peace for their pain and forgiveness for their fear? When a helping hand is extended; do we slap it away? Do we own our own scratch and dents that scar our own story? Do we take out our own stuff out on others and participate in the dents and scratches done to another?

More importantly or better yet: are we reflectively willing to consider this set of attributes within the quest of questioning? “What are we grateful for and who are we grateful for in our lives?” “Where are we honest/humble, forgiving, peaceful, generous, loving, kind, or peace-making?” “Do we live lives of hope?”  “Can we balance empathy with healthy boundaries for holistic caring?” “Are we capable of living a life of introspective realism rather than judgementalism and opining opinions?” “Does the internal us match the external us we offer to the world?” “Are we people of faith or are we people of masks, fears, and internal angst as damaged goods?”

Scripture on holistic balancing of life is found in II Tim. 1:7. This is a life verse mantra for me in my introspective work of spirituality and living a bold life with God, self, and others. “God, did not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and self-control.” I will address this verse further at another time. But, for the purpose of this reflection, it is my hope we come to realize we are all the apple of Gods eye. We are loved for all that is flawed and fabulous about each of us. God has a purpose and plan for each of us in every age and stage of our wonderful lives. (Jeremiah 29:11) God will meet us where we are on the map of life. God is not surprised, fooled, or even off put by the scratched and dented flaws in our humanity. God is willing to sojourn with us, and be for us and recreate us out of damaged and damaging moments. (II Cor. 4:8-9; Phil. 4:6-7; Ps.46:1) The world does a lot of labeling, opining, and polarizing people to live lives like we are damaged goods. God sees past the noise, fear, and ignorant perspectives and simply invites us to be. Be whole, be well, be loved, be of good cheer and be hopeful. Be God’s child and go from there.


Memorial Day: What’s in a Number?


Numbers are telling. They are recited and offered to make a point. The statics show, and the percentages are, and the numbers emphasize the stories point. In 1866-68 the women of the North and the South began to place flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers who gave up their lives to fight over a house divided. They coined this on May 30, 1868 to be known as Decoration Day. They did not count their hours of grief. There are no numbers for flowers placed at rows of graves in fields that once were counting on a harvest. The years rolled out of the nineteenth century and an American culture remained changed and engaged by the loss that wars cost families-society-and freedom’s conversations.

Thanks to census and data gathering we know 498,332 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the bloodiest war in America. Less than 7000 died on the battle field in the Revolutionary and the War of 1812 combined.  These women left behind to grieve such catastrophic losses to the lineage of family, pain of a country, and souls gone at the youth and prime of life. Their grief of tears, and resilience to cast a shadow on the cost of war. What are the numbers of tears fallen? What is the number of mothers who recall the birth and hope they had in a son or daughter lost to war’s casualty list? How many children were never born? What is the tabulations of unanswered prayers for the return of a soldier?

In the twentieth century, all the wars combined offer us less casualty rates than the Civil War took. Does that lessen the cost of loss for those numbers dead in the wars on foreign soil? According to PBS.Org data American lives lost in combat on the battle field number around 1.1 million since Revolutionary War to present War on Terror. Today, we honor our fallen veterans who fought. They fought and continue to fight for beliefs and preservations regarding ideals like rights, democracy, protection, and freedoms. In 1971, this day of decorating graves became a National Federal Holiday known as Memorial Day. I was a twelve-year-old girl in 1971. Dad was career Navy. Uncles fought in WWII. Other ancestors fought in every war going back to the Revolutionary War. In those days the news covered the details of the war. We argued it out, figured it out, and finished it out well and poorly like war tends to do. But, we were not unware of the costs and contributions of war in our lives.

Today, less than 1% of the population is involved in the military activity our country relies upon. What is the cost of freedom and military preparedness; if we become apathetic and unintelligent to the work of protective military armed forces? President Robert Kennedy once said, “Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. Crossing each other from a million different centuries of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

The juxtaposition to consider is in many quotes of those who know about war. Reflecting continues in the words of George C. Marshall, “There has been considerable comment over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a soldier. I am afraid this does not seem as remarkable to me as it quite evidently appears to others. I know a great deal of the horrors and tragedies of war. The cost of war in human lives is constantly spread before me, written neatly in many ledgers whose columns are gravestones. I am deeply moved to find some means or method of avoiding another calamity of war.”

“A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labors men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge. The best introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one’s own homestead.” by George Eliot which is the pen name for Mary Ann Lewes

As I reflect on the value of numbers and ledgers of balance to the cost of wars; I find myself moved by these quotes. Since humankind left Eden and humankind struggled with God, self, and others there has been warring. Only God has known the number of the tears shed, the gallons of blood spilt, the justice sought, the wrongs done, the rights avenged, the intent approved, the purpose given, the loyalty demanded, the prayers offered, the legacy bequeathed, the inspirations inherited, and the price of lives sacrificed. God knows exactly the numbers and the costs. I can only pay homage on this Memorial Day. I can only pick up where those women of 1868 began in their grief and determination to honor the fallen. Until there comes a day that there is no need of war(s) I too will honor the fallen. Thank you for your service. We are a grateful nation.


Chaos is an Opportunity


Reader, I have not been diligent with the writing of reflections. The last three months of 2017 found my house under such massive remodeling due to the hurricane damage done by Irma. And it still looks like a hoard of barbarians has gone through my dining room! The room makeovers and design decisions are daunting. The New Year of 2018 brought on the additional demands of another ministerial position within my faith tradition. Thus, I have two jobs to attend to as hospice chaplain, grief counselor, and support to healthcare ministers across the country in my faith tradition. What can sound like a busy life with chaotic demands, the fury of the calendar, or the rhythm of living a balanced life going off center is an opportunity. There is a pace to be had amid chaotic moments.

When I lived in Florida, Hurricane Erin’s eye of the storm went over our property. My husband and I stood in the center of that storm’s eye. The air was completely still. The stillness bordered on sacredness. A holy moment of sunshine, blue skies peaking through and complete calmness. Yet, our human eyes looked beyond this safe space and saw thirty-foot pines bend like Gumby and debris swirling around as projectile missiles. Beyond the calmness and stillness of complete peace and serenity within the eye’s storm there was mayhem’s disorder. I have never forgotten the power of that experiential moment. It reminds me of the power of prayer. It reminds me that a Holy God is with me during life’s stormy events and chaotic demands. With God, I can pray for the insights, guidance of holy wisdom, strength to address the chaos with a steady peace and assured that all storms run out of rain.

The pace and practice of prayer helps my soul to remain grounded, assured, peaceful, and steady in the uncertainty of what life’s circumstances, work, school, traffic jams in Atlanta, relationships, pressures to perform or succeed in a society like ours. The chaos of this remodel, two jobs, and unsettled matters in life’s unfinished business is anchored in the opportunity to grow in determination. There is the opportunity to be content with self, others, and circumstances with a pace and a peace like that offered to me in that eye of the storm.  There is in this timeframe of chaos a gleaning of wisdom, resilience, and find serenity. There is a chance to grow in gratitude, gain hope, and give regard to one’s own voice within the chaos.

Chaos in the void and messy beginnings was what God used to begin the art of creating. While, I deeply love the book of Genesis I will not give a theological lesson here. What I do want to offer in this reflection of words is an encouragement to consider the opportunities that chaotic moments in life offers us all. We are invited to be tested, create, learn, and grow from the seasons and moments that chaos brings into our lives. And reader, I cannot say enough about the connection of prayer as our conduit to God is our best hope for not simply surviving chaotic seasons; but growing up and growing well because of the opportunities chaos will bring us. Remember this verse from previous reflections, “God did not give us a spirit of fear. But of love, power, and self-control.” (II Tim. 1:7) We choose. I choose.  But then this brings our reflection to border on the topic of freewill. And I will not add to chaos’s habit by muddying the moment in this reflection. Instead, I bid you peace and pray God’s grace guides us all through the resourcefulness that chaos offers us in finding ourselves, knowing ourselves, and finding God and knowing God loves us in all seasons of our journey: Chaotic or Calm.

Begin Each Day


“When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.”
Eleanor H. Porter (Author of Pollyanna, 1913)


When I was younger, 1970’s to be exact, I loved getting the newspaper into my hands with a cup of coffee. I sat on the end of a long sofa in the fancy sitting room area and enjoyed turning the pages to the life section. Sipping the delicious black roasted drink that was ‘’good to the last drop,” I would read the quote of the day, Ann Landers column, and human-interest stories. Starting each day in the optimism of a positive read from scripture and a quote of hope or wisdom to ponder from the newspaper was a way of youthful intentionality to combine faith and world matters from another’s story into some harmonious hope. I was a realistic pragmatic type who believed in solving problems in a preventive and realistic effort for the most positive outcome. I looked for the good in each situation or person. When I read Ann Landers column I would imagine what I would say to encourage or challenge the problem presented in the column. Then I would read Ann’s remarks for comparison and contrast to the insights offered.  There was no sense of judgmentalism in my analysis. Much of the overview I held about a dilemma offered in a story-line or Ann Landers column fell into a category of helping good people find a better way through. The old soul within me felt a constant need to learn about human behavior and give grace in the effort of seeking and learning the art of offering wise advice. What my family saw in me was this Pollyanna need to help others with a sunnier disposition than they valued.  But, I persevered and started each day with such pondering’s and search for purpose in the realistic dilemmas and events reported in a morning paper.

This first paragraph offers me much in the reflection of being true to one’s self. It also reminds me that I seemed to be an old soul type. I was drinking black coffee by the time I was nine years old. Not that coffee drinkers are old souls necessarily, but I don’t know many kids today who would begin their day with coffee at age nine. In the 1970’s I was a teenager and young adult. To reminisce about the routine of this first paragraph was to begin my day first at five in the morning for a three-mile run. Take a shower, dress for school, get my morning coffee and reading scripture and the newspaper. That was the rhythm I used to center my day.

The author, Eleanor Porter, who wrote Pollyanna did not see her main character Pollyanna as a naïve child but rather as the type of person who directed her optimism to some of the qualities of an old soul who needed to address and absorbed the negative, critical, or difficult emotions of the adults that inhabited her life with a dose of pragmatic reality. I feel Pollyanna was an old soul. Old soul types tend to gravitate to those older in years, tend to be less materialistic, like to be in relationships that have depth, avoid emotional nonsense of others who feed on crisis and need for attention. Old soul types live harmoniously within themselves and less satisfied with people and systems that misuse power and are ego driven in manipulating the lives of another. Old souls need to be free to be themselves without judgment, criticism, and limitations put on them. According to the research on old soul types, they are approximately 11% of the population. They are not the mover and shaker types that enjoy the latest and greatest trends or technology. They are an anomaly to most who encounter them and thus most find them an oddity. This oddity factor is the uncomfortable awareness that old souls ‘see’ them.  Some people are uncomfortable with being ‘seen’ or ‘known’.  Pollyanna looked past the curmudgeon, prickles of distant others, cliques and clans that exclude. She simply saw past the masks and pushed to belong and help them to belong.

The beauty of these old soul types offer wisdom and are nonjudgmental of others. They simply want to help others accept and see themselves as they impact not only those they encounter, but most of all themselves. It saddens old soul types to be misunderstood in this realm. Most of the time they simply want to enjoy and be enjoyed in the company of another without the pressure of performing or entertaining another. Simply be.

Today, I remain optimistic within the value of learning from life experiences that are both negative or positive. There is a balance to be appreciated for what both offer. The aging Pollyanna that I am, rests in the hope that an old soul with a youthful gratitude will always appreciate what life must teach us all.

Dr. Martin E. Seligman studied optimistic people (Pollyanna types) and finds they take adversity as temporary outcomes, they persevered in difficult times, and are more proactive and persistent or tenacious in times of trouble. They are the sort that will never give up hope.

Today, I begin each day with a cup of coffee, a prayer journal, scripture and kindle for reading. It is over forty years since those days of beginning each day as a teen with such a routine. The opinions and sentiments of many voices have studied Pollyanna, pragmatism and old soul types. This voice simply chooses to appreciate the continuity of beginning each day with the structure and disposition that is timeless from scripture. Face each day with steady surety, acceptance of things one cannot change, live true to God, self, and care toward others rests in 2Tim. 1: 7. “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and self-control.”

The essence of this is verse challenges me to be real about the authenticity of real love versus manipulated and withholding love, the integrity of utilizing power that is genuine in respectful mutual rapport versus misuse of power and the desire to control others, and finally in self-control to look to the personal authority of productivity and owning one’s own character cards versus authoritarian rule of being right and another person, group or ideology is all wrong.

When Pollyanna, loses the loss of her legs from an accident, the grief overwhelms her at first. The emotional intelligence of resilience rises in her when the people she has striven to boost with hardy hope and optimism give her the realty check that she must continue to follow her own mantra of hope. The story ends with her healing. Healing that came from looking for the good in every person, situation, and personal mirror. I pray we all can begin each day with the reality check that God loves us, empowers us, and implores us to produce positive lives worth living. Like Pollyanna, I am tenacious enough to begin each day in such a hope.



Decorating with Love


Recently, we have had our fair share of mishaps with trees falling on our home. Within one year we have had three trees to crash into our house. Within this year timeframe the end of life ministry work I do and the insurance business my husband addresses has gone through major restructuring. Our family has added in this year timeframe two new grandsons and a set of beautiful twin girls. I have wrapped up a five-year journey of a doctoral studies in Christian Spirituality with a focus on grief and loss impacts. Finally, within this year we have enjoyed making memories with family and friends as we celebrate the calendar events around the year.

A Golden Rule of decorating for me is to live with what you love. Do life with those you love. Live the life you love and love the life you live. Find comfort in those who love you in return. That seems to be a good way to live a life that is decorated with love!

But, in the book of Luke Jesus challenges his disciples and listeners hearing his Sermon on the Plain to follow ethics of daily living with blessing and woe language. The Golden Rule of love extends to enemies, the challenging, the unfair, the unjust, and those who simply do not love me or you. What?!

When I decorate, I design with concepts around rhythm, flow, function, repetition elements, focal points, and symbolism. The chaos of destruction done by disasters, individuals, accidents, or circumstances cares little about ordering one’s life by such design concepts. Hurricane Irma certainly didn’t care about chaotic destruction and collateral damage. We, as people also contribute to costing chaotic outcomes into one another lives too. But, Jesus reminds us that God is still the Creator that takes chaos and makes something beautiful out such. It is the Joseph story (Genesis 50:15-21). It is our own human story.  The main element in God’s designing spiritual tool box is the design element of love. The reality of losses from intentional or unintentional may result in ostracism, division-ism, elitism, egotism, racism, sexism, materialism, poverty, denial, greed, want, naivete or ignorance will not limit a Holy God who can resurrect, rebuild, redesign, remodel, redirect, rejuvenate, restore, refurbish, and rise to something new with the use of love.

Jesus reminds us in his Sermon on the Plain that living a blessed life is not about an easy life. Living a life with love is about our own internal peace and contentment. It is about rooting for wholeness and wellness and belonging for everyone. His woe language is warning those who create chaos, loss, and harm to beware that there is an end game.

Singer Gary Allan reminds us in Every Storm lyrics that every storm runs out of rain. When the destruction is over we do best to keep on going and face the wind knowing that every storm does run out of rain.  Jesus points us to decorate our lives with the love of God. And whenever the storms of life hit, and they will, we can stand on the promises of a God who loves, creates, and makes all things new again. That said, I must go now and pick up a paint brush. God does create beauty out of chaotic lives and He invites us to co-create with Him in this loving beautification of living. In my imperfections I strive to live with the colors of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, perseverance, long-suffering, kindness, gentleness, meekness, peace, and generosity. And I hope both my home and my life reflects a life decorated with love and offer such beauty into the lives of others. “When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love.”  Mother Teresa


Given to Remember


Someone once said, “Live a life worth remembering.” I have a great appreciation for quotes of inspiration. I once use to read a newspaper every morning. I loved how the paper felt in my hands as I turned the pages. The smell of ink whiffed a fragrance into the air that made the words seem more impactful and worth reading.  I don’t know who authored these specific words, but I am sure many minds and mouths have offered the concept down through the generational ears.

In the Greek Parresia παρρησία means to live a life worth remembering. The essence is to be of courage and confidence that improves one’s freedom of speech. If we are going to live lives worth remembering there is a challenge in being honest with one’s story and learning from the details of the events that impact the making of our character, sense of self, and soulful transformations because of the remembrances. Jesus once said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) The story unfolds from his own pain and suffering, the reminder of the Sermon on the Mount, he lived his own life to show us how to live ours, he taught us to pray, he gave people hope in the miracles, he offered us the world as our neighbor, he gave us a mission to go forth and live as boldly as he did, and he offered teachings on love and faith.  That is a well-defined life worth remembering.

I no longer hold a newspaper in my hands every day. But, I do still remember the rush of energy and efforts to turn pages and glean the stories of the day that are worth capturing to memory for the sake of civic mindedness, inspirational awareness, or learning something that improves my own life.

The past few weeks have been about hurricanes, remembering 9/11, an adult’s child’s birthday, a new birthday to remember of a new grandson, and the to do list of maintaining order in one’s own daily routine. Each of these items listed have personal significance to me and my family of loved ones. We have had hurricane damages of the past and presently. We have a loved one who survived 9/11, and my son now has a son celebrating birthdays not that far apart on the calendar. The past and the present are building upon the act of remembering.  The act of remembering offers me the disposition of gratitude for each story, each person, and each opportunity of doing life with the people in my life.

When I remember stories of family members, travels, historical events, birthdays, and death dates I find I remember to be grateful for the privilege of being a witness to the remembrance of all of it. Maya Angelou reminds us that, “we are the sum total of everything we have ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgotten- it is all there. Everything influences us.”

Jesus reminds us/me to remember the value of our lives in being alive in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. There is a challenge to holy living and living wholly well with God, self, and others. But, I bet living out such a life would be a life filled with love, empathy, kindness, gratitude, hope, peace, perseverance, determination, forgiveness, positive power, self-control, humility, authenticity, and flavor. The kind of life worth remembering. The kind of life worth living.


Fact Rather Than Fiction


There is a humorous jabbing at my expense in our family. If a true story is made into a movie then the laughs begin regarding, “mom must go see that one.” That is fine with me! All my life I have been a collector of biographies and people’s stories. The one constant in all the labels I have on a resume is within the common denominator of seeking truth that informs, transforms, and challenges us all to rise up, press on, be real, get honest, and be wise because our stories have come together. The defining truth in the details of one’s story acts like iron sharpens iron as we encounter one another’s story. (Proverbs 27:17)

Reader, you know by now my love for history. In the details of a historical timeline I am keen on drilling into the motivations that drive the story in history. I seek answers, character traits, personality and goodness squeezed from bitter bites of living. What impacts one to choose within a tragedy the attributes of optimistic triumphs? Do we learn from life’s ease and celebrations as much as we do in the difficult and traumatic ones? Are the stories of struggle or ease; of equitable influence in the shaping of human beings? Can we be ethical and balanced in all circumstances?

One of my first true stories I ever read was the Diary of Anne Frank. A young girl hidden with her family by Miep Gies during WWII. This Jewish family’s story is woven into historical fact with the life of Christian compassion by Miep and her husband Jan Gies. There are many stories of this kind of heroism of hiding, resistance, and soldiers fighting for freedom over oppression. Good reads include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, Louis Zamperini, Jan and Antonina Zabinski, and Oskar Schindler to name a few true stories from this historical timeline. These stories are a challenge for the rest of us to be inspired to simply show up bravely for one another as human beings. There is something sacred in the witnessing, telling, and inspiring others with the truths within one’s personal narrative. To know another’s story is not for consumption of opining opinions, frivolous entertainment, or line the pockets of authors or film makers of the story.

At the heart of the purpose of gleaning truth from another’s story is to collect the truth about yourself.   Would I in my own freewill choices be brave enough to stand up for another being oppressed? Do I live a daily life of appreciation for the calmness of ordinary days? When chaotic events hit do I stay the course of being true to God, self, and others? In the midst of grief, disappointment, tragedy, loss, and lament will I sell out God, myself, and another?

Recently, I sat on the deck of a beautiful lake home. The waters were sparkling in the sunlight. We had music, food, friends, and laughter swirling through our days together. Routinely, as a hospice chaplain I see death often. As a human being I have my losses and death stories too. But, I sat in the beauty of that day and proclaimed the one true lesson that death and loss teaches me. I have come to this place in my life that I can separate fictional influences like denial, naïvetés, and the cost of false optimism in daily living. Instead, I can hold the truth of living in celebration and the truth in crisis with equal respect and equal appreciation for what the story holds for me. I no longer live for the calendar events worth celebrating and dread a loss or death of someone I loved or love still. I strive to live each day with the freedom that truth and fact finding offers me.

This truth allows me to keep perspective, live out the values and beliefs that influence my attitude and ethics, and be responsible for owning my own reactions and responses to any given event or saga.  The outcome is to rest in doing life with a balancing act of gratitude, advocacy and encouragement to others, and self-awareness for empathy sake for others and true to self. Whether I am enjoying a celebration with friends at a lake house or sitting with God in prayer over another in illness, crisis, or declining to death: I simply breathe. And remember the words Anne Frank reminded us to live by, “The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Now, that is a fact!



Fluff and Stuff

In the mid-eighties to late nineties I was a decorator. My husband and I had our own version of Chip and Joanna Fixer Upper stories. He built and remodeled homes and I decorated. The kids went on a few of the job sites and enjoyed playing in the mounds of dirt, paint, or climbing on the structures. We had thought at one time the marketing events, business aspects, design and architectural elements would become something each child would gravitate to something within this family business. One of our jobs was a relative who loved the color pink. She wanted to find a pale pink, medium pink, and darker pink shade as her color palette.

Color and its symbolism holds some meaning for me. Pink is a positive color for love, sensitivity, and tenderness to name a few attributes of the color pink. During this overwhelming saturation in the color pink I was asked to head up the cotton candy booth for the school carnival. My husband picked up the cotton candy machine and the pink sugar that would become the puffy clouds of fluff and stuff floating through the air of my kitchen. We made hundreds of bags for the booth supply. We cleaned sticky residue of cotton candy off the walls, curtains, and kitchen table. The color pink invaded my days of a decorating project and school carnival for some time.

The beauty of this color did please our loved one as she finally had the home of her dreams with some shade of pink in every room. The palest shade of paint was called fluff and stuff and looked very close to the light pink haze of cotton candy hanging around my kitchen. Those days were demanding schedules for the balance of family, business, and charity fundraiser for a school.

Today I am a hospice chaplain with different demanding schedules of family, business of healthcare, and charity focus. In a meeting, a phrase caught my ear. “Let’s get to the bottom line of matters today. We don’t need any of the fluff and stuff about people’s stories.” There was that color name for the palest pink coming up from my memory bank of one of my own stories.

To be a holder of another’s story is more than fluff and stuff. There is something sacred in the act of being a witness, a spiritual director, and for many the last minister that will pray with them and for them. The symbolism of the color pink also reflects other characteristics. The words are faithfulness and beauty.

There is a responsibility to faithfulness in hearing the details of another person’s life stories. There is a beauty in the art of listening.  A person’s life stories is beyond the fluff and stuff that colors their perspectives or the sticky residue of the attributes that rests in unfinished business at the end of their days.

Let us be mindful of the stories that make up a life. Let us reflect on the symbolism and characteristics that inform us of who we are in the uniquely wonderfully made story of us. (Ps. 139: 14) Jesus encouraged and taught through parables and story.  He encouraged us to have ears that hear and eyes that see. (Luke 8:8) I pray we see the essence and nuances of all the shades and shadows, light and brilliance of our stories that make us up who we are and hear God’s unconditional love that desires to color our lives with Him.


Watch the Children Grow

Downton Abbey is an all-time favorite show of mine. When PBS did the special interview show with the actors there is a consensus of appreciation for the fans who ‘went bonkers’ for this show. I remain one of those fans. There are many lines in six season’s worth of this show that is memorable. One of those lines in the last season is when Cora tells her husband that she just wants to enjoy being around to watch the children grow.

This family of characters offer us a glimpse into a historical timeline of family dynamics and historical events. Following the angst of upstairs aristocratic society and downstairs support staff in positions no longer a part of the vocational norm in this historical timeline; I did marvel at the evolving inclusions to get to know one’s children, the letting go of children, and acceptance of imperfect siblings who made a way for each other in their hearts.

Mother Teresa is quoted on love of family, love of the hurting, love begins in the home, love is a paradox of hurt because of love and love until it hurts. Today, I am watching adult children take on the task of family life in the twenty first century and it is vastly different than the era of this PBS program. What does not change from generation to generation is the need for us to heed the main ingredient of love for another. Jesus said it was the one commandment I leave with you. (John 15:12)

What would the 21st century family dynamics look like if we actually practiced the art and spiritual wellness of loving one another in family life? What level of respect and rapport would change if we found ourselves serving one another in love rather than expecting to be served our way? Can ‘love’ change the hurt and harm done in generational patterns of family life? Isn’t love more than healthy boundaries, positivity of self-esteem building, and meeting basic needs? Isn’t love a part of sacrifice, nurture, and awareness? How do we define this four letter word of complexity?

It is my contemplation on the defining of love that had me hear those words jump off the dialogue of a beloved program I do love. How easy that word comes up in our daily language. I love you. I love dogs. I love ice cream. I love that color. I love that!  Does such love carry with it the love that Jesus commanded of us? Is it the same concept as Mother Teresa challenges us to consider in the doing of daily life with one another?

Another grandchild is about to join our family. Our son and daughter-in-law is about to welcome a son. He will be the sixth grand-one to join us. Without having met him, he is loved. There is mystery in love. This is something of God’s divine nature in welcoming new life into the world. There is hope in love. It will be fun to watch these grand-ones grow. But, what I will really enjoy watching is the children I birthed grow into an awareness of loving their own in every stage of doing life with their own deeper abiding love. For love is endless. Real love is unconditional even if the relationship requires some healthy conditions. I look forward to watching the children grow and learn the lessons love has to teach us all.