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.

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


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!



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.