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


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.

Being Free!

   dragonfly  Lately I have been reintroducing myself to historical writers on the Revolutionary war era. History is this snapshot in time that captures the colliding factors of people, places, and events driven by the need for change or struggles to not change. The impasses and determination to have a voice and the winner gets to tell the story that will go down as history. Whatever factors historians place on determining the definition of history and all its accounts in dry dates, dusty references about ideas or ideology, evolving cultural mores, or ways of living; the common denominator is around freedom. All struggles worth recounting is about the fight for freedom. Aristotle say’s that history is about the unchanging past. Within these many reads on the struggles around or during the Revolutionary War era there is one book I read titled ‘Independence Lost’ by historian Kathleen DuVal. This author sheds light on the Native American Indians and how these many different and differing tribes fared in the fray and within the fringes of this historical timeline. I was intrigued by this read because of the location of war efforts from the Gulf Coast and Panhandle of Florida and the influence of the Upper and Lower Creek nation from Alabama. My great-great grandmother was a Creek Indian from Alabama. I lived in the Panhandle of Florida for nearly thirty years. The academics of my day never told me much about the stories of women, Indians, Gulf Coastal people, or people of color during the Revolutionary War. But, this author offers us a reflection on the issue of truth. Most people pick a side in the fight in hopes for a gain or as an influence to the outcome. The gain and the influence rests in being free. In being free, Aristotle is correct about an unchanging past in history. Sift down the issues, lower the shouting polarizing voices, and drill down to the truth within the story and one will find the golden nugget is a ticket for being free. This is where change is always the catalyst that nothing ever remains the same except the struggle to be free and tell the story of that struggle from the lens of the storyteller. This storyteller believes the only fight worth fighting over is the need to be free. This website of blogs, poetry, and postings by this authorship will mostly rest from this premise of being free. I have remained in my clergy identity with a group of daring, determined and at times in history difficult Baptists because of this very identity in freedom. Scripture offers us in John 8:32 ‘You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ To know truth and to be free requires some honest reflection and introspection of the story of you, of me, and of all of us as we encounter one another and expect to be free or offer freedom to another. Maya Angelo said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This first blog is a promise to tell a story of love, self-awareness, spiritual direction, grace, forgiveness, hope, faith, and freedom. It is an invitation to simply sojourn with this woman and maybe somewhere in the history/her-story the Spirit of God’s grace can offer some truths about being free.