How often we repeat the words attributed to St. Francis… make us an instrument of God’s peace?  But what does that mean in the context of day-to-day living? Does it mean we refuse to bear arms? That we withdraw from all wars and battles? That we turn the other cheek? That when someone posts something ugly on Facebook we make a comment that points out the flaw(s) in the post’s logic? Does it mean we never express anger or discord?

In my search for answers to these and similar questions, I have spent the last two hours “surfing” through various articles and excerpts regarding Gandhi’s viewpoints.   Two specific sources were helpful to me in my search for what it means to be an instrument of peace. From these articles I determined that to be an instrument of peace one needs to view all of life as “one entity”,  be centered in love expressed in service, and that peace can be attained first by changing one’s inner self as reflected in changed thoughts and actions. In other words,  spiritual love becomes the essential driving force of both one’s thoughts and actions.

Which brings me back full-circle to the wisdom expressed in St. Francis’ prayer……when you consider the concepts voiced in that prayer you are essentially describing how to be an instrument of peace:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace! That where there is hatred, I may bring love. That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness. That where there is discord, I may bring harmony. That where there is error, I may bring truth. That where there is doubt, I may bring faith. That where there is despair, I may bring hope. That where there are shadows, I may bring light. That where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted. To understand, than to be understood. To love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.”

p. 833, The Book of Common Prayer

Helpful Reading/Cited Articles:

The first was an article by Nathan Funk found in  (Gandhi Marg, October-December 2002,Volume.24, No.3):

Transformation: Peace through the Power of Love

The final approach to peacemaking investigated in the peace paradigms course is the transformation paradigm, a paradigm that focuses on the centrality of education, cultural change, and spirituality in all genuine attempts to make peace a reality in daily life. From the standpoint of the transformation paradigm, peacemaking is not only an effort to end war, remove structural violence, or establish the presence of external value conditions. It is also a profoundly internal process, in which the transformation of the individual becomes a metaphor for and instrument of broader changes. Transformation, then, involves the cultivation of a peaceful consciousness and character, together with an affirmative belief system and skills through which the fruits of “internal disarmament” and personal integration may be expressed. Transformation unites doing with being, task with experience. Inner freedom is felt in the midst of action, and sacred ideals are personalized for application by the individual. Peaceful behaviour is learned behaviour, and each individual is a potential and needed contributor to a culture of peace.

From the standpoint of the transformation paradigm, spirituality implies insight into the deep interconnectedness and sacredness of all levels and compartments of reality. It is innate to the person, and may be understood as a universal human “attempt to grow in sensitivity to self, to others, to non-human creations and to God” that recognizes and seeks to accommodate the presence of the divine in all actions and relations. Recognition of this divine presence and claim begets spontaneous loyalty, which cannot be restricted by boundaries of religion, race, class, or gender. This universal loyalty, in turn, inspires actions born of loving commitment to the wholeness and integrity of creation. The personal has become the political in the most creative and inclusive sense possible, as we seek to make public life reflect non-partisan spiritual value. We become present in the moment, yet responsible for a shared and hopeful future inspired by the injunction, “If you want peace, be peace. Be an instrument of peace.”

accessed t/22/13 at


The second helpful article (Kapur, 2012) is best summarized in its’ abstract:

Religion gave meaning and direction to the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and

Martin Luther King, Jr.; it inspired their belief in the unity of life and

commitment to the way of love. Service to humanity was part and parcel of

their religion. The deeper they delved into serving society, the more they grew

in their spiritual awareness. In the process, they became less self-centered and

more spirit-centered. Their vision of a nonviolent social order was based on the

assumption that individual transformation and social transformation are

interrelated. Their lives are a demonstration of the fact that personal and social

transformation are interconnected and interdependent

Kapur, S. 2012,  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Liberation of self and society,  Gandhi Marg Quarterly Journal of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, 34, p. 5.

accessed May 22, 2013 at



For several weeks now I have been trying to think of the word “focus” whenever I go up or down steps. That must sound like a very strange thing, and you may be wondering what does that mean? I will try to explain. Since about mid-September my leg has been trying to heal from a bad fall that resulted from trying to climb up on the concrete edge of a flower bed that runs the length of my house. I had just awakened and needed to see if my window was damaged from something I heard hit it the night before. I wasn’t fully awake, and just started to climb up to the window’s height like I have always climbed up on things.

This was were “judgment” or “critical thinking” should have stepped in but did not. My body no longer has the balance or strength it used to have, so in trying to climb up I started falling. I had a choice—-I could land on my back on the hard ground or I could stop my fall by hitting the flower bed edge with my left calf. I chose the latter.

I probably escaped a concussion, broken hip, or broken back (I have osteopenia, the pre-cursor to osteoporosis). But what happened instead turned out to be a real nightmare. I hit hard enough that I thought I would look down and find a bad bruise starting to develop. Instead, I found a bad cut that would not stop bleeding. I had discovered that concrete edges can be very sharp.

The bleeding would not stop when I applied pressure so I ended up calling 911. The responders were wonderful, and they got me to the emergency room. They started an IV and measured my vital signs on the way there. My blood pressure was something like 82/64—-weird enough and low enough to scare this retired nurse who usually has hypertension. I realized that I just might be going into shock. The doctor who saw me in the emergency room “sewed me up”—–it took 35 stitches, some of them internal. The doctor said I was very lucky I did not break my leg. The hospital billed me for surgery.

My wound has still not fully healed even though October and November have come and gone…..but it is very close to being so. I’ve had to cushion the wound all this time so that I would not bump something and open it back up. Being a diabetic I am most grateful for the slow healing; the alternative would have been much worse.

So, I have been trying to discover a way to remind myself to “think” before I try to do something that seems relatively easy for the body I used to have and, most importantly, to pay attention to my balance which has emerged as a major culprit in my tendency to fall. I finally thought of the word “focus.” My sister who works with special needs children tells me they teach those who cannot accurately judge where their body is spatially located to “plan their motor.” I tried that. All I could visualize was a motor in a car. That didn’t help.

So I bought a “flower-power” quad cane (see photo) when my doctor told me to start using a cane on a regular basis. I have been using it, but sometimes I do not either because I forget to pick it up or I don’t want to go in a store with it and forget to pick it up before I move on. Now, I try to think “focus” when I recognize and react to anything that might negatively interact with my balance problems (mild vertigo) or my problems with three dimensional perception. I don’t always remember the magic word “focus”—-but it is helping. Hence the title for today’s blog, “Focus, Focus. Hocus Pocus.”

The magic comes with my growing ability to accept myself as I am in the current moment. The “aging challenges” have been difficult for me to accept because my subconscious seems to create a constant self-image of someone who is thirty or more years younger. Oddly enough, this morning’s sermon in church was about the need to transition—– the need to work at accepting change and to realize even the specific change we’ve adapted to can also change instantaneously.

Today’s gospel reading in church was from Luke 21: 25-36 in which Jesus says, among other things, that “Heaven and earth will pass away.” This is the first time I heard that heaven would also pass away. What did that mean? So, on the way out of church I asked my priest. She explained that there is no one answer to that, and that it is an invitation to go within and find out what it means. She further explained that when I have discovered my answer to let go of it and keep searching as things will always be changing.

I have never thought of heaven as passing away even though I have come to belief that heaven is a state within each soul where God, love, and compassion dwell—–and from which our thinking and actions can, with our permission, be guided so that things may be “on earth as in heaven.” Of course, due to my Ozark upbringing, I still tend to think of heaven as a destination as well as a way of being in constant relationship with our Creator. To be honest, no one really knows what “heaven” is, and every one must search out that changing meaning for themselves.

I have thought of myself as an “evolving elder” for quite some time now, and I am just beginning to understand that means both my physical state and my spiritual state. I am focusing at this moment on trying to comprehend that change will always be active both within and outside myself—-as well as throughout the eternity of an ever-changing individually perceived heaven. All the different change theories I taught during my time as a professor have either just taken on new meaning or need to be discarded. The one constant that is, has, and will be is the need to “let go” and accept a change that will, in turn, change. The twelve step concept of “Letting go and Letting God” is not only a lesson for the present but for eternity.

This is one of those times when I need to write and write fast in order to get my fleeting thoughts typed before they fly away. Twelve Step folks teach us to let go of resentments, and many of us pray to be forgiven as we have forgiven others.
I went to church this morning for the first time in months because I have had multiple physical problems. I have sat through the familiar words of my church’s communion process many times, but this time something different happened in my head. Maybe it was because I’d just heard and felt a sermon about how God loves us and we need to love others. This was accompanied by the statement that our minds have their own “auto-correct” in place that can blind us to what is actually true and real.
As I was praying I suddenly thought, “Oh, My God! I need to forgive God!” Now, I know to some that may sound blasphemous, but perhaps it won’t seem so ridiculous if I explain the “auto-correct” I’ve been wrestling with for decades. I basically view father figures as authoritarian and harsh, and, in fact, I have experienced moderate physical  and non-physical “abuse” as a child and non-physical abuse as an adult in my last marriage. My “auto-correct” has been set on the concept of male-driven abuse for most if not all of my life.
You may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with needing to forgive God?” The “auto-correct” God I encountered in religion that took root in my heart and mind caused me to view Christ’s crucifixion as a father’s child-abuse of His son. When I considered the crucifixion in terms of the trinity it began to seem like self-abuse and/or suicide. I have had years of trouble reconciling these automatic “mental reflexes” with the God whom I know has been loving, kind, and forgiving to me as well as giving me the gift of multiple miracles.
Fortunately, I have been working on accepting that God and the Trinity gave the gift of Christ’s crucifixion to save people who could not be saved from the darkness of their own self-centered being without such a gift—given much as a kidney donor would give a kidney to save a life. When I am being honest I can even admit I have, in the past, been just such a person with a tendency to return to that level if I do not stay in daily contact with the loving God of my choosing.
The foundation planted in my mind regarding unconditional love and my personal auto-correct allowed my mind to realize I have been viewing the crucifixion through the distorted lens of my perception and personal experience——and that I needed to accept it for what it was. I don’t particularly have to like it, but I do need to accept the gift was love-based and start to accept it with gratitude and humility. To do this, I have to “forgive” the concept of God I have carried with me and to replace it with a more realistic concept. Doing this frees me to humbly accept a gift of love and lets me be more able to share love and compassion.
I realize this “paradigm shift” won’t happen overnight and that it will actually be an ongoing process I will need to work on for the rest of my life. What happened to me during prayer in church this morning allowed me the freedom to forgive my “auto-correct” perception of God as a harsh, authoritarian, and punitive. As I prayed, I looked up at the ceiling into a light that blinded me and thought, “God I forgive you. Thank you for loving and forgiving me.” It felt as if a breath of fresh air flowed through the church and into my heart. I hope I can hang on to that very real and meaningful feeling.

Maggie in Sweater I Made Her

I have been grieving the death of a beloved pet—a little white dog that shared her life with me for over 15 years. We began our journey together with her liking to  be held on my shoulder, and we ended our earthly journey together with her being held on my shoulder as she took her last breath.

I am no stranger to the grieving process, the stages, what helps, what doesn’t help, etc.  Intellectual understanding doesn’t make experiencing grief any easier. I’ve lost dogs before, but this death put me into a “downward tail spin.”  It has been 10 days no since she died, and yesterday was the first day I started feeling vaguely like myself. The day prior to that I had tried to determine how much dog food to order in a new “auto ship” and how often I should have the order shipped. I found I could not multiply 4 X 4—–then I had trouble determining how many months were in 60 days. My mind is a “PhD mind” that supposedly functions at a genius level, and it was totally humbling when it could not function. I’d known I was having trouble sleeping and concentrating, but my failure at doing even simple math was almost frightening.

I hear my deceased dog playing with my other dogs. I feel her brush against my leg. I wake up thinking she is trying to get my attention so I’ll pick her up. I’ve heard her bark as I drive my car into my garage….she was an avid contributor to the cacophony of sound my dogs make to welcome me home. I’ve even called out to her thinking she’s in another room.  Our pack is now three rather than four, but I still wait for the fourth dog to come running through the door when I let the dogs outside. I find myself still grabbing 4 treats rather than 3. The dog Maggie “mothered” cries in his sleep now, and I’m trying to give him extra attention.

In the midst of all this angst and depression I have found comforting prayers. I have had wonderful love and support from my friends and even from the company that ships my dog food. I have listened to conversations about how being broken triggers transformation and how there have to be opposing forces to exist and evolve—-for transformation and growth to occur. I feel broken, and I know my mind hanging onto the past when Maggie was physically here is in conflict with my simultaneously wanting to “move on” and refocus on a “mindful reality.” I don’t know that I’d say I am “transforming,” but I do think I am supposed to learn something from this that has yet to be revealed.

Yesterday I started mindfully noticing things again for the first time since her death. I noticed a turtle dove close by, I heard a variety of  birds singing, I looked up while driving and saw jet trails in the sky that formed a perfect cross—-and lowers blooming in almost every yard. I think that means I’m getting better. I don’t cry as often, and I am beginning to be able to redirect my thoughts to positive memories and gratitude. I can finally concentrate enough to “write about it”—-something experts seem to agree on as being instrumental for recovering from grief. I was able to get “my stuff together” for my annual pilgrimage to visit the income tax gurus.

So, what have I learned so far that might be helpful? It is okay to cry and be sad when you lose a close companion. It is okay to be preoccupied, not think straight, and have insomnia. This was my new normal, and once I accept it and allowed myself some self-nurturing things started to slowly improve. Forcing myself out of isolation and spending social time with friends was extremely important and helpful. And, yes, writing this has been helpful. But what is most helpful is being able to tell you that things do get better.


Sunrise Yesterday Morning

Gentle. For me, now, it is all about being gentle. It is a new and difficult lesson to learn. I have finally gotten a trainer that understands special needs of  elderly out of shape clients. She is working with me in a helpful way. My marching orders are to exercise in the pool with the arthritis aquatics group——but not to do what will hurt my shoulder, back, or knees and to go “slow and gentle” on what I do in the class.

I was not looking forward to the group. Almost everyone looks older than me, and they are able to do all the exercises. I was embarrassed because I thought they’d all think I was either lazy or not too bright.

To my delight no one looked at me strangely. One man who never smiles actually smiled at me. The biggest surprise was how good it felt when I finally surrendered to being gentle on myself. The water was warm and soothing. There was no straining, no hurry, no competition. A couple of times my gentle movements almost lulled me asleep. And, to be honest, a few times I could feel my body telling me to back off and try something else. When others were doing what I shouldn’t be doing I was able to  just “walk in the water.” This morning’s adventure proved to be both gentle and a workout that left my body tired as it climbed out of the pool. My muscles didn’t want to climb those stairs.

My trainer told me to put at least three days between my “work out days.”  This means working out twice a week, and,  due to when the class is offered, having  3-5 days between gym visits. That will take some getting used to without feeling “lazy.” Again, I remind myself, “be gentle.” I’ve also been given some simple leg and thigh exercises to do daily at home (gently) that should eventually give me the ability to be able to do more with my legs in the pool.

Today’s  tired but relaxed feeling is in sharp contrast to what I was feeling yesterday morning.  Yesterday  wasn’t a relaxed day for me.  The blood pressures I’d been taking at home for several days were dangerously high, and when I called my doctor they wanted me to immediately come in to be seen. In the doctor’s office my blood pressure was 145/85. That is high, but not dangerously so.  I had brought my blood pressure machine from home just in case my machine was malfunctioning. Much to my chagrin my doctor had to point out there were computer icons at the bottom of my blood pressure machine’s screen when it was turned on.… of which meant my machine’s batteries were dead.  I’ve never before felt quite as stupid and relieved at the same time. I learned to take blood pressures sans computer so I wasn’t even looking for icons giving me dire messages.

The best news about being gentle to myself this morning was when I got home from exercising  and took my blood pressure ( with a machine powered by  new lithium AAA batteries)  it was down to 124/78 and my pulse was down to 80. These levels are much better than I’ve been getting even with equipment that works, so being “gentle” to myself is already impacting my health.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? The obvious one of course is the physical benefits of being “gentle.” However, I think I need to apply this lesson beyond the obvious. If I quit driving myself, pushing myself, competing (with what?), expecting myself to do everything perfectly like I seem to think everyone else does and start, instead, to slow down and live more mindfully I think it will have tremendous payoffs. This morning’s experience will just make that a bit easier. I need to relax and let the sun come out.





Frozen Peas


I feel like I am in some cosmic prolonged game of “Hokey Pokey.” You know,  the “you put your right foot in and you shake it all about” routine we used to play as kids. Only now it is one body part at a time affected for several weeks—-and you have to be careful not to shake it all about. First it was my left knee, then my right knee, then my right foot, then my lower back, and now it is my left shoulder (rotator cuff). At least they are taking turns. I am learning a new vocabulary. I’ve found out  osteoarthritis is another way of saying “degeneration.” Or, to phrase it another way,  it is as if each joint is wearing out with age. I never saw this coming.

Then, of course, I am of the generation that never trusted anyone over thirty and yet seemed to feel we were immortal. It is quite a shock to realize age catches up  with even us. I have become dependent on ice packs (or frozen peas) and analgesics.

Participating in the most basic, gentle exercise event offered by the center where I go to “exercise” should be a piece of cake.  But both times I have participated in the aquatic arthritic group my body has rebelled with some new point of inflammation and pain. The elder “regulars” are in better shape than I am…..they smile and return to class after class. They’re not having to resort to “walking only” while in the pool.

Okay, now that I’ve ventilated, I’ll get off my “pity pot”—–and move, instead, in the direction of wisdom, and by that I mean moving towards gratitude. I have a body. All parts are working. I can afford to go to an exercise/swimming center. I have friends, volunteer involvement to keep me busy, four white challenging dogs, a roof over my head, a wonderful church family, supportive 12 step groups, and food in the refrigerator. At the push of a button I can view almost anything on my television(s), listen to music from all around the world or travel anywhere with Google and the Internet. My I-phone can tell me how to get to almost anywhere. For these things I am grateful. Although I must admit using a compass and a map works better for me than using my I-phone to find my way.

I know, too, how with all I have to be grateful for it would be easy to self-isolate and get stuck on any pity pot I wanted to obsess about. Thankfully, I have a choice. I can, instead, stay involved in my support systems, rely more on human encounters than those found in cyber space, and enjoy the love I share with four dogs.

Those of you who have been followers of my blog may notice this is a familiar theme/recurring pattern of mine. By that, I mean owning resentment and choosing to release it and immerse myself in positive things and gratitude is something I have written about before, and I’ll probably need to write about it again in the future.

I will close by saying that Christ did not complain about the suffering he experienced during his lifetime, and if I truly want to walk in his footsteps, I need to learn to complain less and love more. May God bless and keep you.


I know my readers may get a bit tired of my writing about my dreams. But I am having trouble making sense of this one, and writing is the best way for me to do that. I do know that the dream I awoke from this morning is exceedingly strange, but I think it had some important messages embedded in the strangeness.

In the dream I found myself interacting with a group of nudists in, of all things, a church service. It was as if we had returned to viewing nudity as Adam and Eve  reportedly did prior to eating the infamous apple. Nothing was sexual, no one stared at someone else’s nakedness, and the biggest miracle for me was that I was totally comfortable with my own nude body. Equally strange was the fact that no one got self conscious until I said the closing prayer and it was time to get dressed and leave. Everyone looked for a dressing room so they could hide what they were putting on until they were fully dressed and ready to once again walk shoulder to shoulder with the general public.

Obviously, this was about peeling away layers of what I consider  to be” protective barriers” of my inner, true self and being comfortable in that vulnerable condition. It was also a strong message to accept my own body even though it does not confirm to the media’s image of how a body should look.

What jumps out at me is my need to hide the protective layers I put between my inner true self  and the outer shell I wear as I walk this planet with others. So, I must ask myself, “Why is that important?”

I haven’t a clue, so here starts the free association thinking outside the box that will hopefully give me a clue. The dream does not seem to be about the outer layer that I wear for public acceptance. Perhaps the dream is associated with the fear that if someone knows how and what armor I put on to protect my inner true self that my protective armor can be more easily penetrated?  No.  I think I need to explore in more depth why the layers of armor between my inner self and  the outside layer seen with the naked eye are so important.

I have spent the past two days immersed in a “Dismantling Racism” workshop, so I can’t help but think I need to more closely examine the layers between my true inner self and my outer layer covered in white skin and associated aspects of white privilege. I think it is because I have a bit of work to do in identifying those layers and working through them as much as I can.

The first layer must have been formed when I was a child by what I was taught and what was role modeled for me. Those are probably closest to my true self since they were created first.  Remnants of those faulty and harmful beliefs learned as a child and adolescent still rattle around in my subconscious to the point that they can still affect my behavior and relationships with others.

Developmentally speaking, next would be the layers I added when I escaped my home of origin, got an education, and started building my career. This allowed me  to encounter and relate to persons of color which helped me form more accurate and healthy attitudes regarding persons of color—-particularly my experiences in Kansas City and San Antonio. Most of that part of the armor, while still somewhat superficial, was more positive. However, in the midst of all that I kept some of my prejudicial and sterotypical thinking. So even that piece of my protective armor is something I’d rather hide from others.

Now I come to the “current” piece of armor associated with the way I live now.  I am retired. By choice I live in a blended neighborhood. I make a point of smiling, waving, and initiating conversation with my neighbors of color. The ugly part is the interactions are superficial and somewhat uncomfortable as they don’t go any further…..except for the visits I have enjoyed from neighborhood children. I’d like to think I am not close to my neighbors of color because they are mostly transient and move on within a year’s time or sooner. But I have to own my part in not trying to further bridge the gap between them and me. I’ve told myself it is to ease their discomfort that I back off from trying to initiate meaningful dialogue, but I have to be honest and own that I am also avoiding my own discomfort.

Working with (supervising), providing mental health care as a psychiatric nurse, and teaching persons of color was different than walking across my yard as a retired person and striking up a comfortable conversation. I don’t particularly like the realization that the majority of my relationships with people of color prior to my retirement were most probably affected by myself being in a position of white-privilege because I had control, power, and authority. And now that I don’t particularly care to have those attributes, it makes stepping out of that context difficult for both my neighbors and myself because we are not used to relating to each other without that privilege dictating the rules. And that privilege is still in the way for me and for them as it makes it difficult for us to truly trust each other.

To be fair, I am a bit of an introvert who lives alone with four dogs and values my time alone, and I don’t have more than superficial conversations with my white neighbors either. But when I do, they are not uncomfortable because we are not trying to work through, over, or around barriers of color based on centuries of hurt, greed, and mistrust.

Well, that is enough to get out of a weekend and a strange dream.  It feels overwhelming in terms of “where do I go from here.” I do know that if I allow Creator to guide my thoughts and actions and if I strive to see Christ in every face I meet it will make this journey easier.



It is a good thing I call myself evolvingelder rather than elder, because I still have a long ways to go in the attaining wisdom department—I still from time to time find myself bogged down in a reactive rebellious adolescent mode. At a bible study I was at last week I automatically, loudly, and somewhat rudely reacted to the word “discipline.” This morning, a close friend helped me examine what might have been the source of my outburst. In the course of our conversation, I realized that I react to the words perfection and authority exactly the same way.

My friend suggested I try to go back in my memory to explore where this aversion to the three terms of authority, discipline and perfection might be coming from.  I had a father who was a strict disciplinarian, and when I was young and hadn’t yet learned better, I’d ask him “why” when he gave a command. At that point I was seeking information and understanding, but I would, instead, get additional scolding and a spanking. At least I didn’t get spanked with a belt or switch, but being held up by one arm swinging back in forth while you are being punished is not much fun either. So the authority and discipline I grew up with were extremely unpleasant—–not so much because of the physical pain but because of the strong messages implanted in my mind that I was bad, not good enough, and definitely not worth an explanation.

One might ask where “perfection” comes into this.  My mother was a very critical person who demanded perfection—-or so it seemed. She was particularly perfectionistic  and critical when it came to piano playing, sewing and knitting. Of course, I tried to learn these things from her and was criticized to the point that I felt like whatever I did was not good enough.

In all fairness, I must point out that in spite of these questionable parenting practices both of my parents loved me and also gave me positive attention. I do not remember the words “I love you” being spoken, but I remember the times my mother read to me when I was a child, all the clothes she sewed me, and how she would stand up for me if she thought I was treated unfairly—be it at bible school or nursing school. I remember my father playing with me when he got home from work when I was a wee one—later there were the times he took me fishing, flying in his plane, and on family summer vacations.

Perhaps, as I have been known to say to clients during the years, it is not important what caused something, what is important is what you are going to do about it now. I realized this morning was that I have projected my parent’s characteristics onto God—–meaning that while I can accept the concept of a loving God without any problem I still have a strong visceral reaction to an authoritarian deity who demands perfection and punishes his Creation, sometimes in seemingly cruel ways.

It is time I started perceiving my God/Creator in an adult manner rather than in the manner of  a small child who can see only all good or all bad. I have prayed about this. Hopefully, I am and will be changing this lifelong pattern of resenting authority, discipline, and perfectionism. I am starting to understand that God loves me, but it is because of his love that he sometimes needs to protect, guide, or give me “negative reinforcement” in order to protect me and to help me be and do what he has put me on this earth to do. Questioning and rebelling against that kind of authority puts a barrier between my Creator and myself.

Who knows, maybe I am finally spiritually growing up. One would hope so. I apologize if I have sounded “preachy”——my intent was to change my own behavior and thought patterns . Of course, if my spiritual and mental meanderings are helpful to anyone else, that would be delightful. God bless and keep you.




I know I have not written for months. But I am about to burst out of my “funk” because this is something I have to pass on. You may think I am a bit nuts by the time you finish reading this, but I had this profound experience, and I believe it delivered a message I am meant to share.  I made a new friend today, and talking to her helped me get interested in writing about it.

Shortly before I woke up on August 29th, I had a dream experience that touched my soul and is still touching it. In this dream I was standing looking up through the leaves of tree tops, and this bright light was shining down on me. Suddenly, I felt as if I was in direct communication with God, soaking up His bright light and love. I consequently had the thought, “What would happen if I just decided I can be happy?”  This was quickly followed by the thought, “What if I believed everything was going to be alright?” At that instant  I realized Creator/God was in charge and that I could relax. It was a moment of pure joy.

Now I know these messages are not new, and I have read them and heard them before. But they were never before communicated to me directly by God—-nor did they affect my behavior the way these dream messages did. It was as  if they were planted in my soul. I stopped worrying about floods, bombs, Korea, politics, ugly things written on Face Book, etc. I  have thoughts about these things of course, how could I not living in today’s world? But now I don’t ruminate on them. I remind myself I want to be happy, and I remember Julian of Norwich’s message that “All matter of things shall be well.” And,  then, I do relax. I can redirect my thoughts into a positive direction and surrender all worries to God.

Realistically speaking, what does that mean? Well, I’ve stopped fighting the new way doctors have told me I have to eat—–and I’m  eating “bad carbs” and keeping track of calories. That means I’ve surrendered a lot to God at this point, including over 7 pounds in less than a week. It means I am learning to remember to take my vitamins. It means when I’m at a traffic circle instead of cursing at people who don’t yield I remind myself if they want to ignore their yield signs….let them, what does it matter? I hear our president promising he has a big heart and he won’t let our “dreamers” down—-and then the next day he terminates the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. I have to let it go; I can’t change it. I have to pray for him anyway.

I am less anxious and depressed. And I am very grateful for that. I hope some of you reading this can experience the same thing.

childhood-home-burning-feb-4-2017 Photograph compliments of Janet Alan Goforth


First of all, this is an outpouring of a grieving soul. My writing is free association at this point, and it may not even be coherent. Do not expect correct grammar, transitions,  or even good writing. I am very emotional at the moment.

I cannot stop crying. The house I grew up in is burning down. No one was hurt. But, so many memories are going up in smoke. Watching for the school bus out the back bedroom window so we could throw our coats on and run up the driveway in time to be there when it pulled up. Being there with my father the last few days  he spent there and finally getting his permission to call the ambulance that took him away for the last time from the home he built and lived in……I watched him build that home from the bottom up. I was 4 going on 5—-that makes the house that is burning  or has burned by now survived almost 63 years of memories.

Christmases there…bringing in cedars to decorate, decorating the windows, playing the piano or the organ, sitting on that awful pea green circular sectional sofa. Mother’s drapes with geometric modern art bright orange and green shapes on them. Waxing the floors—wood and tile. Storing winter or summer clothes in the hallway closet depending on what season it was. Dogs, cats. Beloved pets. Working on homework, baking cookies, mother reading stories to me. Mother sewing our clothes, dressing us all up for Easter. Family cousins, grandparents visiting, holiday dinners, watermelons my father would bring home after work. My  father making pancakes on Sundays—–and, later, Sunday pancakes changed to Sunday biscuits. Our small bedroom us 3 girls shared. I got the top bunk.

Our first little black and white TV and watching “I’ve Got a Secret”—-the first TV show I ever watched. Later came Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, Sky King, Roy Rogers, Mighty Mouse, Romper Room, Walt Disney on Sunday nights. My father making us shut off “our shows” so he could watch boxing when he got home from work. The party we had there when I was in high school—– I hosted it with three other girls as our “home economics” project. We were dancing in the front yard—doing the “Twist”. Hunting for Easter eggs, Becky shaking Christmas packages trying to guess what they were. Anita dressing her cat up in doll clothes—–that cat would always run from her. Bringing boyfriends home and other friends from college. Reading library books in the summer. Riding my green and white bicycle (“Thunderhead”) up the hill to visit Mary Jane or Ellen. Playing Monopoly or Canasta or Rook.

Watching home movies—-laughing at the dynamite explosions played backwards. “Camping” out in the family tent in the back yard. Going out in middle of night to watch falling stars—–remembering my grandmother told me a falling star was an angel carrying someone who died up to heaven. Hanging clothes out to dry in the back yard. Fishing in the ponds, riding horses, dodging walking sticks on the  mountain, pulling cat tails out of the lake, pulling thistles out of the field with my father. Having the “I Will Build Myself a Farm” counted cross-stitch my mother did and had framed sitting in my laundry room and not knowing where to put it.

Going home after “the divorce” never was the same.  Both of my parents had remarried,  and visits had to be split between two homes. But still, the good memories outweigh the bad, and now the house is no more. My parents are dead. Dear friends are dead. My retirement is not comprised of sitting on my deck gazing at the mountains in Colorado as I had planned.

The TV I am looking at as I type was my father ‘s —and it came from the house that is burning. That beautiful rock fireplace and “waterfall” my  father was so proud of having built—-all gone. That beautiful picture window gone. The trees we planted, the swings we swung on, the orchard, the roses, the other flowers, all gone.

I do not like having to learn the lesson of letting go, but that is what life is all about. Learning to surrender, to let go, to accept life on life’s terms realizing things and people are not fair. Enough time spent on the “pity pot.” Here is what I am grateful for: my four dogs with their unconditional love, my two sisters, my friends, my church, my faith, God’s eternal and unconditional love, my house, having enough money, health care, and food to live comfortably. Being sober and clean. My mind, my soul, my life. My memories…..and the gift of being able to make new ones. The lessons being “pounded home” to me this week have all been about letting go, connecting, working on community, and being grateful and compassionate. I just could have done without this latest lesson.




Now we come to the setting of the sun

This morning has been one of  “Facebook Connection with God.” Surprisingly, my Facebook experience this morning felt like getting hug after hug rather than being bombarded by negativity. The first, and perhaps biggest “hug”  I encountered was a post about the forgiveness ceremony at Standing Rock. This event is proof that after centuries of hurt by working together reconciliation and purposeful building of community can help us heal as a nation. It gives me hope that this united effort will continue to heal our nation and block negativity.

Another hug was a video of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra playing and children singing “Christmas Canon.”  This particular piece of music has always comforted my spirit,  and,  as I listened, I realized God was hugging me again.

A third hug was a posted contemplative prayer article that supported my efforts in practicing contemplative prayer. In a kind way the article reminded me how important it is for me to practice growing closer to God in purposeful moments when I quiet my mind and let Him fill the silence with His Love. If it had yelled “Practice, practice, practice!” at me I would not have bothered to read it

These past months have been full of nation-wide negativity and ugliness. On a personal level I fought a long battle with bronchitis and asthma, and I won. Truthfully, although all the medical intervention was integral in my recovery, so was the support and prayers of my friends. I could have easily ended up in the hospital as many of my friends have with this particular strain of bronchitis. Not doing so was a huge “hug from God.”

The biggest “hug” happened this past weekend. I began experiencing abdominal pain about 10 AM Saturday morning, and it seemed to worsen all day.  I tried to convince myself I was having a stomach ache as a result of the new antibiotic I was  taking. When I got home from a local craft show, I got out the antibiotic’s  pharmacy print out, and found, much to my dismay, that if your stomach hurt when taking this medication you needed to call your doctor. On a Saturday night, that meant calling my doctor’s “service.” The doctor I talked to was an angel from God. He helped me realize what I was describing was more than what is usually expected as a side effect of this medication, and when I explained my history of multiple partial bowel obstructions, he suggested I consider visiting an emergency room. He did a good job of breaking through my denial—- I drove myself to a local ER.

While there I got the usual IV, EKG, blood draws, and CAT scan. Based on what the CAT scan showed the ER doctor determined that my “dysfunctional colon” had started backing things up into my small intestine as it has many times before.  “Backing up” and the pain it causes are  generally the first symptoms associated with developing partial or total bowel obstruction. I was lucky—– the doctor decided he could treat me there in the ER with a humongous soap suds enema rather than having to send me by ambulance to Barnes Jewish in St. Louis. Now, in case something as old fashioned and “low tech” as an invasive enema sounds like torture to you rather than a positive outcome, I can tell you from personal experience an hour or so of intense discomfort is much more positive than having a NG  tube forced down your throat into your stomach, a catheter put in your bladder, and spending a week or so in the hospital with the threat of possible surgery hanging over you.

This positive ER experience outcome was intensified by the fact that the nurses who took care of me had been my students in the past, they both recognized me, and they both gave me excellent care. Sometimes it pays to have previously been a professor in a small town. By 4 AM I finally was able to go home and go to bed.

I’ve been able to rest a few days now, slowly building back to almost my normal activity level, and this morning when I was trolling Facebook to find a daily  bible verse and prayer for my church’s Face book page, I encountered the hugs spoken of earlier. Finding all those positive postings got  me to thinking about all the ways God has been kind to me these past few weeks and how grateful I am.

Thanks for letting my mind wander on about hugs.