Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Praying for the President

I generally try to stay out of political arguments.  However, some recent comments about President Obama have made me angry.  I believe that some of those statements aren't based on facts and may, in fact, be racially motivated.  Some of the facts, which are easily available via reliable Internet resources, indicate that President Obama has led us well.  When President Obama was chosen by a majority of our citizens for the office of President, our country was involved in a two front war in Iraq and Afghanistan during which 6,717 Americans would die. According to a Harvard study, the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost us citizens, 4 to 6 trillion dollars, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade of fighting.  $6 trillion dollars is a 1/3 of our nation's present debt of $18 trillion.  The emotional and mental costs for the families of the wounded and those who have died are incalculable.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a response to the lives lost when the planes flew suicide missions into the Twin Towers and our country was confused and panicky.  President Obama has thoughtfully and deliberately led our country out of those wars.  During President Obama's tenure the Dow Jones has risen to an all time high.  President Obama's health care initiative, properly entitled, The Affordable Health Care Act, has not only given 500,000 Kentucky citizens health care insurance but statistics indicate that 4 million United States citizens now have access to affordable health care insurance which was financially prohibitive previously.  I'm grateful that in God's providence, Barack Obama was chosen to lead our nation during these time.  I've prayed for every President regardless of their political party and whether or not I agreed with all of their proposals and plans.  In fact I've never agreed with every proposal of any President including President Obama.  I've tried to be very careful about any public criticism because that individual is not only our nation's President; he is also my President.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

We Are Brothers and Sister

On December 10, 1989, the Dalai Lama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.  In his acceptance speech he said, "The problems that confront us today are created by man, whether they are violent conflicts, destruction of the environment, poverty or hunger.  These problems can be resolved thanks to human efforts, by understanding that we are brothers and sisters and by developing this sense of fraternity.  We must cultivate a universal responsibility toward each other and extend it to the planet that we have to share." (My Spiritual Journey, Dalai Lama and Sofia Stril-Rever.)  If we thought of and treated a young man in Ferguson, MO and a gentleman selling cigarettes on the street in New York as my brother, it would surely make a difference.  If we treated policemen in New York city or any other city as our brothers and sisters, surely that would make a difference.  We really are brothers and sisters.

Winter Solstice and Light

Today is the winter solstice.  The shortest day of light in the year.  Beginning tomorrow we journey back toward days of more sunlight.  It really is a 'turning of the corner' and heading toward days of longer sunlight.  That pleases me because I do better with lots of sunlight.  Tonight our Church will host a Service of Remembrance for those families who have lost a loved one this past year.  There will be families who have experienced death along with those who have gone through divorce.  We will read scripture, pray and light candles.  There it is again--'light as a sign of hope.'  Our neighbor has sold her house and moved.  She lived across the street for about 30 years.  She had some unusual patterns of behavior; for example, she would never let anyone inside her house.  Another neighbor purchased her house and has begun to remodel.  His first task was to bring several large dumpsters into which were shoveled old papers and magazines.  Our long time neighbor was a hoarder.  When I asked the purchasing neighbor how things were going, his response was "We're cleaning out everything so we can get some light into the house see what we've got to do."  There is  "light" again.  Light is crucial for our lives.  Light helps many out off winter's 'depression'.  Light can gives us hope in times of darkness.  Light can help us see our mess and what needs to be done.  Jesus said that he was the light of the world.  We celebrate Christmas because the light is coming into the world.  That's really good news!  

Sunday, December 7, 2014


My Dad practiced optimism.  He never said a lot about such an attitude; however, he always saw the good in whatever was happening.  When he was elderly, living within dementia in a Nursing Home, he was fond of saying that with his present mental ability he could really enjoy an Easter egg hunt.  He would say that he could hide the eggs in the evening, go to sleep and in the morning he wouldn't remember where he had hidden them so he could really hunt for the Easter eggs.  He would laugh as he told this story, and he told it frequently because he couldn't remember that he had already told it.  Optimism is a good trait and I hope that we have it all of our life; not just in our elder years.  Optimism helps when we are working together on projects or on a team.  The lack of optimism makes us critical of everyone else and their ideas because we'll think that my ideas are the "right way" to do things and everyone ought to understand and agree. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Being On Time

My parents owned a furniture store so I grew up in a family business.  Everyone had to work.  I had “hours” after school and on Saturday.  If I showed up at the exact hour that meant I was late.  I was supposed to show up early enough to get ready for my work assignments.  As a member of the family there were exceptions; however, if I used too many exceptions I would end up working after hours assembling baby beds and high chairs.  As a child, if I arrived late for a birthday party, my mother made me apologize to the host.  That happened several times until the embarrassment helped me alter my schedule.  My folks would like the part of  St, Benedict's Rule.  Benedict seems to know that embarrassment and guilt are powerful motivators, i.e., “let him stand last of all, or in a place set aside by the Abbot for such negligent ones in order that they may be seen by him and by all.”  As much as I’ve been around the Abbey of Gethsemani, I don’t know where that place to stand is located.  Around my family’s store, it was not a place to stand; it was a look that put me in my “place.”  As a result of all this upbringing, I’m almost always early.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Milk Of Human Kindness

I was recently given the pleasure of commenting on Chapter 37 of the Rule of Saint Benedict. He made being kind to the elderly and children a part of the Rule for monks which is also a good guideline for living.  A former supervisor of mine said that you could tell a person with emotional maturity because that person would practice “the milk of human kindness.”  It seems that Benedict is asking us to practice the milk of human kindness, especially in our relationships with the elderly and children.  Benedict is saying that even though kindness toward the elderly and children may be human nature, we need to put it in the Rule, so that no one forgets or neglects this practice.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Peace Of Mind

This is a truthful quote about peace of mind from Richard Rohr's daily on-line meditations, sent on October 30, 2014.
"Great religion tries to free individuals from the tyranny of their small and fragile selves and introduce them to Someone-They-Can-Trust. Only if you trust such a “Someone” will you eventually know that you do not have to create all the patterns nor do you have to solve all the problems. You are in fact being guided.
Also, you do not have to explain the failures or take responsibility for the fixing. Finally you know you are part of “the general dance,” as Merton calls it. What else would be the beginnings of peace? As long as you think you've got to fix everything, control everything, explain everything, and understand everything, you will never be a peaceful person. These things largely happen by endless ruminating and commentaries in the mind, which are usually negative."  (Adapted from Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer, pp. 75-76)

Too many of us think we can work, think, plan, organize, etc. ourselves into peace of mind.  Peace of mind occurs when we give up, trusting that we will be in the gracious, merciful and lovingly care of God.  We will still have some work to do, especially on ourselves, as well as some thinking, planning, organizing, etc. but, it will not be the labor that is trying to control. Rather, we will discover the gift of peace, Shalom.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Racial Prejudice Is Alive and Active

I watched the television video report in amazement as a South Carolina patrolman shot an unarmed Afro-American man in a service station's parking lot.  He was pulled over for not wearing his seat belt.  He was getting his driver's license out of his auto, as was order by the patrolman, when the shooting occurred.  This, along with news from many other cities, is continued evidence that racial prejudice is still prominent in our lives and nation.  There have been too many instances in which a black person has been dealt with unjustly.  Racial prejudice is too deep in the American DNA for us to dismiss it.  Our dealings and fears about immigration, such as our national response to the children from Central and South America, are additional evidence of our racial prejudice.  I pray that we a will have the wisdom and courage to admit and confess our personal and national prejudices so that healing can begin.  As a Christian, I wish our Churches weren't so silent.  I believe none of us are as innocent as we want to think.

The Ending Of A Life

Over the years I've known several individuals who committed suicide.  I believe that we can't begin to understand the terrible emotional and mental pain with which the person was dealing and, therefore, we can't judge.  I also believe that God knows their pain and responds in their graceful acceptance into the Heavenly dimensions of life.  The national news is reporting about a young lady in Oregon, recently married who has been diagnosed with an aggressive and terminal brain cancer. She knows that her future is both limited and painful.  The disease will greatly diminish her quality of life.  She has been talking with her Physicians and family about taking legal drugs in Oregon which will end her life and avoid the terrible future that lurks in her future.  I don't believe her action is the same as suicide.  She is in full mental and emotional awareness of her decision and actions.  She has been consulting with family and her Physicians.  Today, we have medicines that can evidently keep a person's heart beating even though they have no quality of life and go through torment as their body withers and finally dies.  That doesn't seem right to me.  My prayer for that young lady in Oregon is that she, her family and friends may be given God's gift of peace.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Being Perfect

I know a young lady who suffers from anxiety and depression because she doesn't believe that she is "good enough."  When I asked her how good she must be, her reply was "Perfect."  I'm not sure where she got that idea but, it had become a heavy weight on her emotional life.  She showed me a long list of dos and don'ts which she was trying to follow.  Obviously, she was failing.  When I shared with her that the early Church fathers and mothers, i.e., Desert Fathers and Mothers, interpreted the goal of "perfect" as relating to the great commandment of Jesus, which is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself," (Matthew 37-39,) she was amazed.  We looked up that commandment.  "So, that's what being perfect means?" was her question of amazement.  I replied, "That's what I believe."  I think those do's and don't come from our Puritan heritage, which they over-did.  She was relieved.  She wrote the commandment in her journal; tore out the pages with all of her do' and don't lists and, then, she ran her do's and don't pages through the shredder in my office.  As we finished, she said so innocently, "Wow, that's a relief"  I think she has turned a major corner.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


We've been reading and discussing Dom Helder Camara (1909-1999) during the support group for spiritual formation at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  Dom Camara was the archbishop of Recife, Brazil and one of this centuries great peace and justice ministers.  When I read a particular paragraph from his writings, my thoughts we're, "Yes, this is what incarnation means in our day."  Dom Camara wrote, "Here in Brazil I meet missionaries from almost every country in the world: priests, religious, members of the laity.  They come to us in the spirit of incarnation.  They assume our culture, they speak our language.  They merge so thoroughly with our people, they become our brothers and sisters.  They take on all our own problems.  Not to solve them, but to encourage us to do so.  Through them, through all of us together, the incarnation goes on, and so does the redemption." (MODERN SPIRITUAL MASTERS, ed. Robert Ellsberg, page 126.)

Monday, September 15, 2014


Tomorrow at the Seminary we will be talking about attentiveness in our Spiritual Formation class.  I admit that I've been inattentive too many times.  Attentiveness surely has to do with making full use of the five senses. For example, what am I seeing, not just looking at, but really seeing?  I rarely really see the sky, for example. The website, gratefulness.orgcontains a video, "A Good Day" that has made me pay some attention to what I see.  It is a website and video which I greatly recommend.  Too frequently I'm not paying attention to what I'm seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling.  Today I had lunch with an friend of 45+ years.  He was talking about his younger days and wishing he had paid better attention to some of the decisions he made years ago. Paying attention is not only a present reality but it also has long term consequences.  Attentiveness is being sensitive to both the big picture as well as the details.  Paying attention seems to me to be at the heart of spirituality.  St. Benedict's rule begins with the word, "listen."  If I'm not paying attention, how will I know when God is giving my a nudge? 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

My parents worked at Kib Warren's in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  This was a furniture, appliance, hardware, kitchen ware, toys, sporting goods, etc. store.  I even worked there for about a year when I was in college.  Mr. Warren told me that the purpose of the store was to provide quality goods at an affordable price and, also, to provide a good income for his employees.  I think it is that last purpose that is missing in many businesses today.  The employees who worked for the Warren's stayed a long time.  Even today, I can recall the names and 'stories' of most of them, ex. Mr. Ross' son was an navigator/engineer of an airline that flew to Europe and his stories always excited my childhood imagination.  My folks worked at that store for more than forty years.  I don't recall needing much that I didn't have as I was growing up so, I assume that Kib Warren's paid my folks a good income.  I like family owned businesses who believe that their employees should have a good income.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, has been on my mind.  I'm a white, middle class, educated, clergy, American, etc.  By my nature I have biases and prejudices, some of which I'm aware but most of which I'm not consciously aware.  Nevertheless, I am sensitive about racial prejudices.  It was early 1960's when Judy, myself and several friends drove out to Glorieta, New Mexico for Student Week.  One of those friends was an Afro/American who was the Baptist Student Union President at Oklahoma City University.  We had heard of a steak house in Amarillo, Texas.  Since that was on our way, we decided to stop there and eat. We were met at the front door by a man who told us that our friend could not come in.  The rest of us could come into the restaurant but he would need to eat behind the restaurant.  None of us entered the restaurant. I can't recall our conversations as we left.  I do remember that I was shocked, confused and angry.  I had heard about racial prejudice but I had never personally observed it.  That was the first time that I can remember.  Since that experience and with years of education and spiritual direction/counseling, I recognize that I have my own prejudices with which the Lord and I need constantly to be working to heal.  So, when I see in the news about Ferguson, hear some comments about President Obama, read about the situation in the middle east and so many other situations. I think about the reality of prejudice that lies within all of us.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

51 years

Fifty-one (51) years ago today, Saturday, August 16th, Judy and I were married.  The ceremony took place in the First Baptist Church of Eufaula, Oklahoma.  It was officiated by Judy's Uncle.  We "honeymooned" in Branson, Missouri.  That was before Branson became an entertainment community.  Back then it was a quaint, lovely and small fishing village nestled beside a beautiful river and lake.  Our first apartment was over the garage of Mr. and Mrs. DeGraffenreed's.  Mr. DeGraffenreed kept a small herd of goats fenced in behind the garage.  His daughter worked at Oklahoma Baptist University so Judy would ride with her to the OBU each morning and afternoon.  Judy was completing her Senior year at OBU with a major in Business Administration and Religious Education.   I'd take our old Mercury to Norman, about 40 miles west, where I was working on my Master's Degree in Educational Psychology at the University of Oklahoma.  A year later, we had both graduated.  We loaded all of our "worldly goods" in our new 1964 Volkswagen "beetle" and headed to Louisville, Kentucky, and Southern Seminary.  Kentucky was a new world because I had never been further east than western Missouri.  I wanted to go to Southern Seminary because I was interested in Pastoral Counseling and studying with Dr. Wayne Oates.  The first phone call in our Seminary Village apartment was from Dr. Oates and he wasn't calling for me.  He called for Judy because he was seeking to hire a secretary as the Director of Graduate Studies at the Seminary. Judy's Pastor in Eufaula, Oklahoma, had called Dr. Oates and told him that we (more importantly Judy) were headed for the Seminary.  Judy had a job as his Secretary before I even knew what he looked like.  Funny how things sometimes work out.  Tonight we are going to our favorite Lexington restaurant as we thank God for 51 years.  My monk friend at the Abbey says that we qualify for the vow of stability.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kicking Against The Goads

A goad is a sharp stick used to guide sheep, goats, cows, etc.  I guess it was the forerunner of the cattle prod.  My life has been full of goads against which I have kicked and fussed.  For example, I have high blood pressure and take medicine that keeps it well under control.  However, when this was first diagnosed, I said, "No" to the medicine and "I'll take care of this myself with diet and exercise."  My Physician said it wasn't going to work because my body parts were getting too old.  I didn't want to accept that so I dieted and jogged.  I lost weight and felt better than I had in years.  When I would check my blood pressure, it was still too high.  My Physician, who was a friend, kept goading me to take the medicine.  During one check-up, my blood test also revealed that my cholesterol was too high.  Once again, my Physician said, "Take the medicine."  He repeated the line that my body parts were getting old and this is what frequently happens.  Nevertheless, I kept kicking against the goad or the reality for which I didn't want to accept and adjust.  I finally gave in and began taking the medicine.  It was hurting me to kick against the goad or the reality of my situation.  The book of ACTS reports Paul sharing the Lord said to him at his conversion, "I hurts you to kick against the goads" (Acts 26:14.)  I think kicking against reality only hurts the one who is doing the kicking.  It also helps me to know that even St. Paul kicked against the goads.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Learning and Adjusting

These days I've been driving my son's truck.  It is a 1995 Chevrolet S-10 pick-up.  Dad gave it to my son when Dad was no longer able to drive.  The best thing about the truck is it is a stick shift, i.e., 5 forward gears with the shift lever on the floor.  The auto in which I learned to drive was an International pick-up with a stick shift which was the delivery truck for Mom and Dad's furniture and hardware store.  The family car was a 1950 Buick and it also had a stick shift.  I recall when I first drove an automobile with an automatic shift. I think it was an Uncle's care.  I remember being fearful that in spite of the letters and arrow on the steering column, I would still get it in the wrong gear. I also recall that I kept pumping my foot trying to find the clutch.  It wasn't there.  An automatic shift just didn't feel right.  However, I have learned.  I can now move back and forth between the truck's standard shift and the family car's automatic shift.  Learning and adjusting is wonderful.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


I've been reading Matthew Sleeth's book, 24/6.  He is a former ER Physician who now has a ministry in Lexington called "Blessed Earth."  I'd recommend that you look them up on the Internet.  His 24/6 book is about keeping Sabbath.  His concept of a Sabbath is different from and more than just going to Church on Sunday.  Sabbath is a day of doing nothing as a reminder that God is God and God keeps everything moving according to God's plans.  My Spiritual Director has suggested that I pray outside and in the morning.  Therefore, I sit outside and pray as the sun is rising as a reminder that I can't make the sun rise, I can't make the birds sing, I can't make the flowers bloom, etc.  All these wonderful things are God's gifts to me whether or not I recognize or acknowledge them.  Those morning times are times of Sabbath for me.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Literal Thinking Can Be Limiting

 My brother, Bobby, had a echo cardiogram a few days ago.  Bobby is developmentally delayed.  When he was asking me what they were going to do to him, I tried to give a simple answer.  I told him they would put some jelly on his chest and use an instrument so they could see his heart at work.  Just as I gave my explanation, I realized that I had messed up.  Bobby responded to my explanation with, "Will they put grape jelly on my chest?"  Bobby loves grape jelly on his peanut butter sandwiches.  I tried to clear up my explanation by saying the jelly was like Vaseline.  After an hour or so, Bobby came to me and informed me that he didn't know you could buy grape or strawberry Vaseline.  He said that not only did he not know this, but didn't understand why anyone would want grape Vaseline.  I realized that I couldn't get around his literal understanding of what I had said.  To think only in literal concepts is not only very limiting; it is also makes one unable to think beyond that literal understanding.  I wish I had used a different word than 'jelly' in my explanation to Bobby.  I wish there were not so much literal thinking in our Churches.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Prayer as Control Surrendering

One of my favorite religious authors is Joan Chittister, OSB.  In her book, Wisdom Distilled From The Daily,  she writes a chapter on prayer.  She wrote, "Prayer ... is not a matter of mood.  To pray only when we feel like it is more to seek consolation than to risk conversion." (p. 31.)  Again, she writes, "... the function of prayer is not magic.  The function of prayer is not the bribery of the Infinite.  The function of prayer is not to change the mind of God about decisions we have already made for ourselves.  The function of prayer is to change my own mind, to put on the mind of Christ." (p 35.)  I try hard not to tell God what I think God needs to do.  As of yet, God has never asked for my advise.  That doesn't mean that I've not offered.  I certainly make my requests, but prayer is about my accepting and trusting the mind of Christ and the belief that God is constantly working, whether or not I can see God's work.  Prayer is an act of trusting God's gracious and powerful presence in whatever life has in store for me, my family, friends, community, church and the world.  This kind of prayer is difficult.  It is surrendering control.

Laundry Day

Saturday is laundry day in our home.  The clothes that have been tossed in one of the three laundry baskets are gathered and sorted into their appropriate piles.  Buttons are unbuttoned, sleeves are unrolled, water temperature is selected, soap is added and into the washer goes the clothes.  From the washer, they go into the dryer.  When the dryer buzzes, the clothes come out, are folded and back into the drawer or closet. Sounds as simple as it really is.  Doesn't take a great deal of time, but takes some time.  Confession is sort of like getting the clothes and my life washed, dry'd, and back into the proper place so they can be ready for the new day.  Pretty simple and it really is.  Confession is sitting with God, unbuttoning and unrolling events in my life and permitting God to put me and my life's events back into their proper place so I can go into the next days being clean or forgiven.  Saturday may be a good time to sit with God in confession while the clothes are in the washer and dryer.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Not Here To Impress God

I've been reading Voices of Silence, Lives on the Trappists Today by Frank Bianco.  Since it is largely about the Abbey of Gethsemani where I go for retreat at least one day per month, I was greatly interested.  When one of the monks complained about his prayer life and worship becoming dry, the Novice Master replied, "You are not here to impress God and you couldn't do that anyway." (page 47.)  My Spiritual Director has said those words to me on a couple of occasions.  It is a difficult lesson for me not to judge my worship, prayer and ministry experiences on the basis of how I feel or think about them.  Too frequently I want to judge my experiences with God as if God has asked me, "What do you think about what I'm doing?"  That's arrogance and I've been infected with it.  God has never asked me about my opinions or judgments of God's work.  When I hear others talking about experiences with God, I rarely hear them say that in the silence or dry times, God has been most real.  I think my feelings need to be the caboose and not the engine of my experiences with God.  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Growth Needs Others

It is a long quote from Michael Casey's Living In The Truth, but so crucial for personal growth.  This truth is especially important for anyone who is having relationship issues.  "When God sets about purifying a human being, the process is accomplished in large measure by human agents.  This is because the components of our being which block our receptivity to grace are the very blemishes which other people find ugly.  The negative reactions of others serve as a mirror in which we can see reflected those deformations of character against which we need to struggle.  The pain we experience in being rejected acts as a purge to motivate us to make ourselves more genuinely lovable.  Any advance in this direction has the automatic effect of increasing our openness to the action of God.  Of course, one who refuses to acquiesce in the truth of others' reactions becomes more deeply entrenched in bitterness and recrimination and further away from love and God."  (page 207, n#2.)

We Only See The Scaffolding

Recently my neighbor was working on the siding and eves of his house.  He put scaffolding around the house so he could safely and efficiently work on the siding and eves.  The scaffolding stayed up for several months because he worked on the house after his regular day job.  The scaffolding not only hid the excellent work that was being done but, also, made the house look unkempt with tools and material hanging from the scaffolding.  The neighbors could see through the scaffolding and noticed the scrapping of old paint along with the replacing of old boards.  In his wonderful book, Monk Habits for Everyday People, Dennis Okholm used such an analogy to remind us that God is at work in our lives much like my neighbor used the scaffolding to work on his house. Most of one's life all we can see is the scaffolding.  However, when our life is completed, the scaffolding comes down and we will see the result of the work that God has been doing all along.  That will be heavenly.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Going Past Places You Don't Want To Go To

My brother, Bobby, loves to travel.  He really likes riding in the back seat of an automobile and watching for semi-trailer trucks, road signs which he can read and looking for rain.  Bobby will read the signs noting the nearby cites.  He will often say, "That's not where we're going."  He often says, "When you travel, you have to go past places where we don't want to go."  I think that's true.  Wherever I want to go in my life, there are many things I will have to go past in order to get where I want to go.  Those other things are frequently called distractions.  They have a way of drawing me away from my intentional destination.  They get me off track. Some of those distractions are clearly evil with a capacity for addiction.  However, not all distractions are evil and addictive.  Frequently the most difficult decisions are between what's good and what's better.  Often we have to go past places we don't want to go to, in order to get to the place or places where we want to go.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Not An Empty Promise

My devotional practice is to read a little from one of the Gospels each day along with a time of prayer, meditation, silence, etc.  This morning I was reading in Luke's gospel.  When Mary visited Elizabeth, the scriptures record, "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." (Luke 1:45, NRSV)  When someone talks with me, I want them to believe that I'll do what I say I'll do.  I also want to believe that they will do what they have promised to do.  Clean, clear promises that will be fulfilled.  That's the basis of trust.  I can trust someone who will do what they say they'll do.  This is reading someones behavior rather than just their words.  This is also the basis of a relationship with God. I trust that God will do what God has said will be done and I want to live in such a way that God can trust me. Certainly one of the fundamental issues is clearly knowing what God has promised and not just what I want God to promise.  However, it is also living in such a manner that God can trust me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Moth Wanted To Be Free

This morning when I arrived at my office, I discovered a small moth.  The moth was flying all around the room and would repeatedly go to the window with wings flapping rapidly.  I suppose the moth was trying to get to the freedom of the outside, but the glass window was in the way.  I assumed that the moth couldn't figure out why it couldn't get to the outside which, I also assumed, it could see.  As I caught the moth in my hand and took it outside so it could fly freely, I thought this is like therapy.  Someone is caught by attitudes and behaviors that cause the person to feel trapped, confused, etc., yet wanting freedom which can be seen or imagined.  A Therapist's role is to gently help them find their way out of the ways in which they are caught and help them to be free.  The Therapist's role is not to tell them what their freedom looks like, but to help them find it for themselves.  I don't know what that moth will do with it's new freedom, but I hope it doesn't fly into any more open doors.  That behavior wasn't very helpful for the moth that was trapped in the office this morning.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It Just Burst Open

I was trying carefully to open a bag of candy and, I guess I was pulling too hard, because it just burst open. The pieces of candy spilled out all over the table.  Fortunately, I was able to gather most of it and place it in the candy bowl.  Life is sometimes like that bag of candy, it just bursts open and spills out.  I was seeing a couple at the Counseling Center and the wife was always quiet.  I assumed that she was very shy or timid. However, during one of our sessions, she just burst open and spilled out all kinds of frustration and anger toward her husband.  Most of her frustrations caught him completely by surprise.  At least, he said that he never knew she felt that way.  Somewhere an author has written about what he labeled as "gunny-sacking our anger."  The image is that we toss our frustration and aggravations over our shoulder and into our gunny-sack where all those memories are collected.  We that stuff behind us in our gunny-sack, everything seems fine.  One day we toss something into our gunny-sack and it bursts open and spills out all.  We seem to have over-reacted to that one incident and the folks around us ask, "Where did all of that come from?"  I think the healthy habit is not to have a gunny-sack collecting our frustrations and aggravations, but to speak them as they happen or shortly afterwards.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Father's Day

Tomorrow is Father's Day and I wish my Dad were alive so I could call and say, "I love you and thanks for all you've taught me."  Dad and mom were small business owners.  They owned Russell's Furniture and Antique store in Norman, Oklahoma.  Dad had a dry sense of humor and a strong work ethic.  It was difficult to tell whether he was being serious or joking.  At the store, Dad would occasionally hire a college ministry student or a Preacher who needed an extra job.  He called them "The Preacher boys."  Dad's background was Methodist/Nazarene so he often wondered why there weren't any "Preacher girls" in our Baptist denomination.  Dad would say that it was good that God called those men to be Preacher Boys because they were so lazy they would have a hard time making a living otherwise.  I never knew if those men thought that Dad was joking with them or if they thought he was serious.  Knowing my Dad, he probably meant a little of both.  When I felt the call to become a "Preacher boy," Dad's advise was not to forget how to sell and deliver furniture just in case 'preaching' didn't turn out too well.  I know that Dad was proud of my ministry vocation.  Nevertheless, I still know how to sell and deliver furniture.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Saying "No" Is Difficult

I'm a people pleaser.  My parents often reminded me that i needed to be careful about what other might think of my actions.  When I went with my Fist Baptist Church of Norman, Oklahoma, youth group to our summer camp at Falls Creek we stayed in the church's dorm.  On the steps of the dorm, someone had used marbles in concrete to write the word "Others."  So, I got this people pleasing identity from both my parents and my church.  This makes it difficult for me to say "No" to people, invitations, situations, etc.  When I do say "No", I want them to understand the reasons for my answer so I over-explain.  My over-explaining is an attempt to defend my "No" and it rarely works for either me or them.  I had a friend who said that one needs to be like a surgeon when saying "No."  By clean, quick and specific.  No one wants to be under a surgeon's knife who seems unsure, unsteady with the knife and makes cuts that are too much.  I'm still working on this skill of saying "No."  I tell others that every time they say "Yes" to one thing they have said "No" to many other possibilities.  I need to listen to myself more often, but that means I need to say "No" to listening to all those other voices in my head.  Saying "No" is difficult.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Data and Wisdom

In her book, I will not die an unlived life, Dwana Markova quotes from Dee Hock, Birth of the Chaordic Age, "We are now at a point in time when the ability to receive, utilize, store, transform and transmit data--the lowest cognitive form--has expanded literally beyond comprehension.  Understanding and wisdom are largely forgotten as we struggle under an avalanche of data and information" (pg. 25.)   My computer and smart-phone have the capability to bring great amounts of information to my attention.  What I do with that information, however, is related to wisdom.  I often think a fundamental question is "How does this information relate to my sense of meaning and purpose?"  Wisdom is somehow involved with the search for life's meaning and purpose.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Loosing Our "Stuff"

There is no triple crown winner this year.  California Gold ran a fourth place finish at the Belmont Racetrack.  His owners complained that horses who hadn't run in the other two races,i.e., the Derby and the Preakness, were fresher and therefore ran a stronger race.  The UK women's softball team made it to the NCAA finals. However, they lost the final game. Their star pitcher had thrown for the previous games and she was tired.  She just didn't have the "stuff" on her pitches as she usually had.  I think the lesson is that no one, not even the strongest among us, can keep going continuously.  Eventually we get weary and loose our "stuff."  Our "stuff" may be patience, wisdom, ideas, support, energy, etc.  One of my colleagues at the Counseling Center has named this "your check engine light is on."  A fundamental question is "Where do you go and what do you do, or cease doing, to regain your "stuff," ex. strength, perspective, wisdom, patience, energy, etc.?"  I'm a doer.  I do know that I get too much of my sense of value and purpose from my doing.  I wonder if most of us, and our organizations, put too much emphasis on what we do.  Kingdom work is about the quality of relationships, not quantity.  At least that's how I interpret Jesus' ministry.  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Keep Your Eye On The Doughnut And Not The Hole

I didn't know yesterday was National Doughnut Day.  I wasn't aware of this significant reality until Nikki, our summer Intern at the Counseling Center, came in to inform me.  Had I known, I would have surely had some doughnuts earlier in the day.  We had doughnuts in the evening.  Doughnuts are among my favorite foods. They may not be very nutritional but, in life some exceptions have to be made.  I also like doughnuts for their lesson about life.  No matter how good a doughnut may be, there is a hole in the middle.  I'm not a fan of those jelly filled doughnuts so I don't count them as genuine doughnuts.  I have often wondered who first cut the hole out of the doughnut and why that person did so.  Doughnuts life lesson is "Keep your eye on the doughnut and not on the hole."  No matter how wonderful a relationship, job, house, friendship, car, etc. may be, most of us can think of something that could be improved.  That's the critical mind which all of us possess.  Unfortunately, some have loud and active critical mind voices.  They only see the hole, not the doughnut.  So I like doughnuts, both as a food group and a lesson for life.  "Keep you eye on the doughnut and not the hole."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Will You Explain Patience?

I was recently asked to explain what I meant by patience.  I relayed the story of Arsenius.  He was one of the desert fathers who lived in the upper region of the Nile during the 4th and 5th century.   According to the story (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers), Arsenius presented himself to the group of hermits for inclusion. One of the older men placed a piece of dry wood in the ground and told Arsenius to water that piece of wood each day.  In order to get the water, Arsenius took his small bottle and walked a great distance during the evening, in order to avoid the desert sun and heat, to the water source and returned by the early morning to empty his water bottle on the piece of wood.  He did this every day for three years and, at last, the wood produced leaves then fruit.  When the fruit was ripe, the men took the fruit into the Chapel where they worshiped and ate.  Arsenius was included.  Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16, NASV.)  That's one of the best explanations of patience that I know about today.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Read The Behavior

I like the Biblical book of James.  I like it because it says that we are to pay attention to our behavior and the behavior of others.  "Be ye doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves" (1:22, NRSV.)   "So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead (2:17, NRSV.)  I get that picture.  James is pretty clear.  I believe he would say to folks, "read the behavior."  I say that to a lot of people, "read the behavior."  In my counseling practice, I hear a lot of promises and desires to do differently.  I pray that those promises and desires are genuine.  In the weeks that follow those promises, it is pretty easy to discern whether or not their motivations have created the necessary changes in behavior.  Some make the necessary and appropriate changes while others keep on promising to do better.  I understand that old habits, behaviors and patterns are difficult to change. Nevertheless, genuine desires can create the necessary motivations which result in new habits, behaviors and patterns.  These new behaviors can in turn create new attitudes.  When there are new behaviors based on appropriate attitudes, there is genuine and healing change.  Without these components, things tend to stay the same or become increasingly worse.  The old saying is true, "If nothing changes, then nothing changes."  I think I'll keep telling folks to "read the behavior."

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I Uncovered The Baritone

I've been cleaning the basement and I uncovered the baritone from much debris.  When I was in High School, I played a baritone in the band.  I wasn't very good.  I was third chair because there were only three of us.  Had there been six, I would surely have been sixth chair.  I wasn't very good for several reasons.  The primary reason was that I didn't practice.  I carried that baritone instrument on the handlebars of my bicycle every day to and from the High School for a couple of years.  However, I didn't practice so I don't understand why I carried it back and forth.  Another reason which kept me in the last chair was that I couldn't tell the difference between flats and sharps.  I could hear that something wasn't right but I couldn't have told anyone what was wrong.  The baritone had those three valves so, when something didn't sound correct, I would push a different valve.  Occasionally the Band Director, Mr. Robinson, would have us play individually so he would tell if our instrument was "in tune."  That was always a bad time for me because he could tell, in front of the entire band, that my instrument was out of tune.  He would instruct me to tune it and I would try but, I really wasn't certain what I was doing, so it was difficult to make it right.  I wish I'd practiced more.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

One's Mind-set

I've been doing counseling or therapy for nearly 50 years.  The more I do this the more I'm convinced that most of the task leading to mental, emotional, social, spiritual, etc. health is one's attitude or mind set.  I like the phrase "mind set" because it really is the direction or purpose to which a person 'sets his/her mind.'  Is the glass half empty or half full?  The reality is that with either mind set, you have water.  My family was fond of saying that attitude or mind set was the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. When you get up in the mornings and sit on the bed side, is your mind set "Good morning, Lord" or "Good Lord, morning?"  I've known some folks who seem to have overwhelming troubles, yet they have a positive mind set.  They say, "Sure it's tough, but I'm working at it."  I've also known others whose troubles appear to overwhelm them, they want to give up and their mind-set is toward hopelessness.  I still believe that the main difference is how the person or persons has 'set their mind.'

It Has Arrived

The UPS man brought it to the house this afternoon.  When my wife purchased a Smart phone a couple of years ago, she informed me that her old flip-phone was coming to me.  I wasn't certain that I wanted a cell phone.  I've been able to get along without one for these many years.  Nevertheless, that flip-phone has been in the glove compartment of my car in case of emergencies.  It has also been in my pocket during trips to the grocery or drug store in case Judy wanted to add something from which I was shopping.  That old phone worked well for me.  Unfortunately, I dropped it a couple of days ago.  Judy said that I was going to get a new phone; one that did something more than just make and receive calls.  I was either going to choose one or I was getting one for Father's Day.  So, I chose and it has arrived.  It is a Smart phone which will let me make and receive phone calls.  The instructions tell me that I can even tell it whom to call and it will do so. Perhaps it will also play music, dance in the street, show a video and get a soft drink while I wait.  I'm not so certain that I'm comfortable with this phone--maybe it is too smart for my tastes.  I'll need to have a tutoring session; maybe it will even do that for me.  Anyway, it has arrived.

The Final Touches

These past couple of months we have lived with the process of remodeling our kitchen.  It was a remodeling job that removed the flooring down to the original hardwood floor.  The workmen removed all of the old paneling, dry wall, plaster, plaster lathes until they had recovered the studs.  Then there was removing some of the walls in order to open up the kitchen to the dining room.  They put in new insulation, electric wires, plugs, lights, etc. along with plumbing and new appliances.  After all of this, there were new cabinets and a counter top followed by tile and finishing that original hardwood floor.  It is looking great.  However, we were getting weary of washing dishes in the bathroom's small sink.  We've also worn out several dusting rags.  The vacuum cleaner is ever so handy standing in a corner of the dining room.  Today and tomorrow the workmen will be here to do the final touches.  During the remodeling process, with all of the mess, we often said to each other, "Remind me why we are doing this."  Our kitchen's finished product is really worth all of the trouble, especially since the final touches are being completed.  A finished task, whether it is a remodeled kitchen or a new and healthier habit/attitude, is worth the effort.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Boots Came Home

Today is Memorial or Decoration Day and I have a significant memory.  It must have been summer because I don't recall wearing a coat.  The extended family had gathered at the Rock Island railroad depot in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  We were not the only extended family at the depot that afternoon.  If it was 1945, I was four and one-half years of age.  I recall playing with my cousins on the railroad baggage wagons.  The huge locomotive slowly made its way to the depot.  I think my father held me up so I could see Boots get off the train.  I do recall the applause, cheers, tears and hugs.  My Uncle, Boots, my mother's baby brother, had come home from the War.  He was in the Marine Corps.  Everyone in the family, plus some friends, went to Granny's house on Draper Street.  I don't know what happened in the house because I was outside playing with cousins and friends.  I remember that day because my Uncle, Boots, had come home from the War.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cleaning The Basement

We are spending this Memorial Day weekend, cleaning the new cabinets and trying to put kitchen "stuff" back into a cabinet, drawer, or shelf where we hope we can remember where we put it when we begin looking for it.  We are also taking "stuff" to the Goodwill store.  I borrowed my son's pickup and have taken two loads out of our basement.  A basement is a very good thing; except it is too handy to just take an item to the basement rather than give or throw it away.  Our basement is an interesting collection of "stuff."  I bring something up from the basement and, then my wife and I try to figure out why we kept it after we had decided that we had no use for it.  Some of the "stuff" we have no use for collects space and dust in the basement but, we remember who gave it to us and on what occasion.  Therefore, I take that "stuff" back to the basement because of the associated story and memory.  It would be easier and probably more productive to clean something like a basement, if you didn't remember the associated stories with all the "stuff."  Many things in life that are valuable primarily because of the associated story and memory. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Whatever Became of Sin?

In 1973 Dr. Karl Menninger, a patriarch of American psychiatry, published his book, Whatever Became of Sin?  His writings are some of those classics to which I often return.  His thesis is that when a person has behaviors and attitudes that are in opposition to their primary values, ethics, morals, basic beliefs, etc., then a personal tension is created which eventually leads to mental, emotional, social, spiritual and relationship problems.  Some sins are done by commission, such as an affair; while other sins are done by omission, for example taking others for granted.  Some sins seem to be culturally approved, such as greed.  Whatever the sin, the consequences are troublesome.  All major religions teach that sins are primarily dealt with by confession and repentance.  Our places of worship have rituals to help us with our regular need of confession and repentance.  Some therapies can also provide us with the means for confession and repentance.  Sin is our constant companion and good health requires that we deal with that reality.  Denial and avoidance have never worked very well if our goal is good health and positive relationships.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

It Isn't Just An Old Rocking Chair

It is just an old rocking chair.  It creaks when it rocks because the glue has dried up.  It really doesn't even feel comfortable sitting in it.  It is old.  We keep it in our basement rather than regularly use it. Because of the associations connected with that old rocking chair, it is very valuable to me.  My parents owned a furniture store in Norman, Oklahoma.  I grew up in Norman and loved the University of Oklahoma football team, the Sooner's, and their heritage.  When Dad purchased that old rocking chair, he was told that it once belonged to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Bernie Owen.  Mr. Bernie Owen came to Norman in 1905 to coach the OU football team.  He coached the team for 22 years.  The team had great success under his guidance. He was also the Athletic Director of the university during this period.  The OU football stadium is named Owen Field in honor of Coach Bernie Owen.  It is just an old uncomfortable rocking chair but because of it's story, it is valuable to me, an OU football fan.  Because of the story, it isn't just an old rocking chair to me.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Burning Daylight

I don't recall ever having heard of the Protestant Work Ethic until a class in college.  However, when I heard of the concept, I immediately recognized it.  My parents owned a furniture and antique store.  My paternal grandparents owned a small vegetable and chicken farm.  Any time I asked Dad if I could sleep in a little late, he would say that, "I was burning daylight."  When I would stay with my grandparents and want to stop picking vegetables before dusk, Grandpa would remind me that if I quit, "You'll be burning daylight."  I'm either at or past the age when many retire.  However, when I think of retiring, I feel guilty because I know that I'd be "burning daylight."  Traits have a way of getting deep into one's life via family observations and comments that are catchy, often repeated and significantly forming.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Detour Through A Nursing Home

My wife, brother and myself are visiting a nursing home in northwest Arkansas.  My mother-in-law is a resident of this nursing home because she is suffering with the Alzheimer's disease.  She is no longer able to care for herself.  Her memory, seems to us, to have no logical sequence.  She recognizes us but, then may talk to us as if we are strangers.  It is not fun visiting a loved one in a nursing home.  There are better ways to spend vacation time.  Nevertheless, visiting my mother-in-law it is not only what we are supposed to do but, also, we want to do because we are family.  Life's journey doesn't always go the way we planned. Sometimes life takes us on a difficult detour.  Even if a portion of life's journey has been detoured through a nursing home, it is nice to have family with whom to share the journey.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Style or Comfort?

My brother who is mentally handicapped, loves the Oklahoma University "Sooners" football team.  He has a bright crimson sweatshirt with the OU "Sooners" emblazoned on the front.  It is a favorite of his.  Yesterday the temperature almost reached 80 degrees and he insisted on wearing that OU sweatshirt.  The reality of it being hot didn't seem to matter.  I kept thinking surely the heat will cause him to sufficiently uncomfortable that he will put on his OU tee shirt and remove the sweatshirt.  However, I guess for him it is style and message over comfort.  In the afternoon he and I went to the grocery.  In front of us in the vegetable section was a professionally dressed woman with shoes that must have had a six inch heel.  She walked like a ballerina, but without the gracefulness.  It was her walk that caused me to first notice her.  I guess for her, also, it is style over comfort.  Surely most of us choose both style and comfort.  It seems to me that either extreme must be awkward.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Prayer allowed at public meetings

Today's Lexington Herald-Leader's headlines reads, "Prayer allowed at public meetings."  I sort of like that news.  My "sort of" attitude refers to "prayer allowed."  I'm pretty sure they meant "public prayer" is allowed at public meetings.  I suspect many of us have prayed privately and fervently at many public gatherings such as UK's football and basketball games, meetings of our city council or the Commonwealth's General Assembly, etc.  The paper reported that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote for the majority, wrote, "The prayer in this case has a ceremonial purpose."  I've participated in many meetings, especially at church, where prayer was ceremonial.  Prayers were merely the bookends for the meeting which informed everyone when it was time to begin and when it was all over.  The prayers seemed to have little to influence on the participants words, attitudes or behaviors in addition to having minimal impact on the results of the meeting. I'm for appropriate public prayers at our meetings but, I also want those prayers to impact all of us so that our behaviors and results reflect a respect for each other as well as a higher power, by whatever name we use for that higher power.  Shall we pray for that end.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Keep Your Focus and Keep Going

Today was the running of the 140th Kentucky Derby.  One of the stories came from the first race of the day, not the main one called the Derby.  In that first race, a horse pooped while running and the famous jockey, Gary Stevens, was on the horse immediately behind the horse that pooped.  Stevens got messed on.  He laughed about it when interviewed after the race.  I think that's a pretty good metaphor of life--stuff happens.  When you are trying your best, someone might mess with you.  In spite of the mess, Stevens won that first race.  So, when it seems that life is throwing a mess at you, keep your focus and keep going.

The 140th Kentucky Derby

Today was the 140th Kentucky Derby.  I've never been to the Kentucky Derby even though I lived in Louisville for four years and now in Lexington for more than 40 years.  I've been to the Keeneland races in Lexington several times.  I've never chosen a winner so when I go I think that I'm making a few donations.  I obviously don't know how to pick winners.  This Derby I liked the name "Vicar's in Trouble."  That sounds true.  I also liked "Wicked Strong" because they planned to give some of their winnings for the victims of the Boston Marathon.  I didn't choose 'California Chrome" even though it was the favorite.  Nevertheless, "California Chrome" won the 140th Derby.  The horse ran the Derby's distance in two minutes and 3.6 seconds.  It is a similar distance from my house to my office as the Derby's distance.  Sometimes I walk to work.  It takes me about 40 minutes to walk the distance; that is unless I stop at the bakery which is about half the distance and buy a couple of doughnuts. Usually the horses in the Derby are purchased for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. "California Chrome" was purchased for about eight thousand dollars. The couple of men who purchased the horse named their horse purchasing and training business "The Dumb Ass Partners."  I bet that name aggravates the 'blue bloods' with their expensive horses and farms.  I think "Vicars In Trouble" finished last.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

We Are Together In The Human Family

I've a friend who travels to eastern Europe to work with women who've been involved in human trafficking. Yesterday, I interviewed a young lady who is a Senior at the University and desires to help women who been rescued from human trafficking.  She has been looking into the trafficking situation in central Kentucky.  I don't understand why the world's countries are not aghast and hurrying to help when more than 200 teenage young women are abducted in Nigeria.  Human slavery has not disappeared.  This reality says something about the mind-set with which we view others.  Others do not exist to meet my needs.  They exist because they are children of God.  They are a significant part of my human family regardless of the other person's race, culture, sexual orientation, political persuasion or religious beliefs.  I may not be able to go to Nigeria, but I can treat all people who are around me with great respect.

Monday, April 28, 2014


This morning as I was driving to work, I listened to an NPR segment about the ever-increasing use of testosterone by men.  This evidently follows an increase in the use of drugs , such as Viagra.  We men seem to be having a lot of difficult with our sense of masculinity.  As the NPR interview with a gentleman progressed there was an admission of being overweight.  I thought that perhaps the gentleman needed some exercise and discipline about eating before he needed drugs.  However, that was a prejudicial thought since I don't know the gentleman nor his situation.  I think a sense of masculinity needs to include my character and the values and morals that direct my attitudes and behaviors.  I also think masculinity includes the ability to give ego-less attention to others.  I need to appreciate and affirm the uniqueness of other people. Most things really aren't about me, my desires and needs.  Perhaps this is a significant clue to a sense of masculinity.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Healthy Relationships

David Richo in his book,  How To Be An Adult in Relationships, suggests that following five "As" can lead toward healthy adult relationships.  Such relationships are a universal desire.  His "As" are attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing.  By allowing he means that we allow or permit the other person to be themselves.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist I see many couples who are having difficulty because one spouse is trying to make the other into the person they want them to be.  To try and create another person in the image I think they should have is a type of blasphemy.  God is the creator; we're not.  Not only is it blasphemy, but it makes for a lot of frustration, anger, conflict, push back, etc.  Acceptance and allowing aren't easy.  I would add another "A" to his list.  I would add accountability that is mutual. Mutual accountability means that healthy adult relationships don't harbor secrets.  Certainly there needs to be some privacy and confidentiality in health relationships, but secrets are different.  Secrets are a deliberate hiding.  Accountability is a good prescription for secrets.  Accountability is to be mutual which is the only way that trust can be developed, maintained and re-established.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Back To Basics To Make Progress

We are having our kitchen completely redone.  When I write "completely," I mean the workers have removed the old drywall, plaster and furring strips from the walls and ceiling.  They have also pulled out the old electric wires as well as the old plumbing.  In addition, they've removed several layers of floor covering and revealed the original hardwood.  They are down to the basics of what used to be a kitchen since 1927 when the house was constructed.  Now they will begin the work of constructing a completely new kitchen. There are times when you have to go back to the basics in order to make progress.  Getting back to the basics can be a lot of work, takes more time and often messes are created.  Nevertheless, it is often the best thing to get back to the basics whether the basic is a new kitchen, new habits or a new attitude and way of responding to life's situations.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Keeping Focus Is Not Always Easy

My wife wanted me to go to the grocery store.  She only had a few items on her mind and I knew that we were about out of peanut butter.  From my perspective peanut butter is crucial.  When the house is about empty of peanut butter, it is really time to go to the grocery.  So, off I went to the grocery.  I like going to the grocery store because I like to watch people, in addition to gathering food items.  I watched the people as they shopped.  Some of them had a written list, others had their phones out reading a list; some folks look real carefully at an item while others just grab and move.  I got home and had purchased everything that my wife had asked me to get.  I did good.  However, she remarked that she thought I was also going to get a jar of peanut butter.  It is easy for me to loose my focus, especially when there are so many things and people around me.  Next time, I'll write peanut butter on a list.  Keeping focus is not as easy a personal discipline as it may sound.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Recognition, a hoped for reality

My wife's mother is in a nursing home in Bentonville, Arkansas.  She and the family are having to deal with her Alzheimer's disease.  It is a difficult reality when one's physical capacity out lives one's mental capacity. It has been two months since we have been able to make the trip from Kentucky so we could visit with her. When we walked into the nursing home, she looked at us for a brief time with a puzzled look, then smiled and said, "Hello."  She knew our names.  When we said that we had traveled from Kentucky, she was confused.  She didn't understand why we were in Kentucky, even though we have lived in Kentucky since 1965.  Nevertheless, she recognized us and was able to recall a few details about our family, work, etc.  Not only is it important that we're recognized, but it is also important that we are able to recognize others.  The tag line for one of my favorite television shows, was "Where everybody knows your name."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


During the past couple of snow and ice events in Lexington, some of the large institutions in town have said that the non-essential employees did not have to come to work at their regular times.  When I heard this announcement, I wondered what makes one employee essential and another non-essential.  I made the assumption that essential employees are those who kept the institution functioning, ex., answering the telephones, paying bills, cleaning the sidewalks, etc.  Their announcement also made me ponder the question of whether or not I was essential.  I'm a Counselor and Spiritual Companion, so how essential is that?  I guess my question was answered by my clients and directees.  Some showed up for their appointments and other called in to re-schedule.  I did, however, go to the Center early on those days to clean our sidewalk and steps so, perhaps, I'm more essential than I sometimes think.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sometimes Help Is Necessary

We have a Case Conference monthly at the Counseling Center where I work.  Today, I talked about a difficult situation with which I was involved as the Counselor.  The answer was obvious except that I was so close to the situation that I wasn't able to see it.  My colleagues were very clear and helpful.  It is sometimes difficult for me to admit that I need assistance.  Yesterday my wife was flying to northwest Arkansas but due to mechanical problems with aircraft her flight was delayed then cancelled.  She spent the night in Atlanta.  We talked about the next morning, getting a new boarding pass, etc.  She arrived in Arkansas and was very grateful for me support.  Anyone can get involved in situations in which help is needed.  Asking for and accepting help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of healthy self-esteem to ask for assistance.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Washing Machine Was Spinning Out Of Control

 Yesterday our washing machine began to make strange noises, acted differently and seem to be spinning out of control.  The washing machine may be a symbol that sometimes life seems to be spinning out of control. We've had four friends who have died in the past couple of weeks.  Two are part of my wife's extended family whom she grew up with in a small Oklahoma town.  I was the Pastor of the other two for more than 20 years.  All four were my age.  These deaths made me think about my own mortality.  Another friend from the church had a cancer diagnosis that caught all of us be surprise because he seemed to be in excellent health.  He had surgery and is doing well.  I try to take good care of myself and seem to be in good health.  Nevertheless, you never know what may happen.  Life can seem to spin out of control quickly and unexpectedly.  This is a reality check that reminds me again that I'm not in control as much as I think I would like to be in control.  My life really hasn't "spun out of control," even if there are moments that feel that way.  Even if life feels like it has spun out of control, but not out of God's presence.  The lesson seems to be to take care of what needs my attention, even if it isn't what I had planned.