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Friday, March 17, 2017

A Baby's Cry

  We had a 10-day-old baby name Tobias spend the night with us last night. My 19 year old twin sons are home and Tobias’s parents slept on the couch so they could get a break, while my wife tended. We all held Tobias. I told the Mom as I watched everyone coo and play,

 “Thank you for bringing us this gift.”  

“Babies bring happiness, don’t they?” she replied. 

 We were all more animated than we’ve been for years. Of course my wife and I began to tell story after funny story of our boys when they were little so there was much laughter.

  I was up a couple hours later than usual. I was not tired after a long day as I am prone to be. I had been fascinated by the tiny fingers gripping my hand … the quick breaths … the wriggling as the face communicated every bubble and body feeling.

  I touched his glowing skin and hair and could not feel it unless I pressed a little harder. He finally opened his dark eyes and when he looked at me I felt special.

 As I entered my meditation space I was mindful that the house was full of love. Sometimes I forget.

  I performed my preparation and sat beginning the slow breath … waiting for Christ … waiting for Father, Son and Holy Spirit … sitting … and then he cried out from downstairs and before I knew it, for the first time in a year, I broke meditation, stood up and hurried downstairs.

  I needed to comfort him, to know what was wrong. I lay my hand in full upon his torso and tried to intone a sort of “OM” hoping the vibration might still him. It seemed to help just a bit yet he was hungry.

  I retired with a soft heart.

  This morning I rose and entered the space again to sit with God. Same preparation, prayer … “ Come to me, Father … Come to me now. “

  As I settled into the breath, space and time expanding … gazing into the light, Tobias cried out. He’s so small, the sound like a baby lamb … “help me … help me”, he seemed to plead … my heart soared as tears rose and the light grew and I knew that God had spoken.

  Recently a teacher for whom I hold much respect gave us a story:

“ A couple I ministered had a baby and harbored much concern over how their precocious and active 4 year old might react. Would she be jealous? Would she hurt the baby? As we will do with our newborns, they watched and tried to always be present when their 4 year old was near.

  Then one night they heard a noise in the nursery. The mother tiptoed down the hall and as she came upon the door heard whispering. Something told her to wait so she stopped to peek through the crack of the parted door. Standing by the crib the four year old held the slats with her face in between and whispered to her baby brother,

“Tell me about God. You were just there but I’m forgetting already.”

 We strive each day to provide, maintain our health, serve others. We work and play and move through the reality we are familiar with. It is so easy to forget. Hours pass with little thought of the beauty, power and grace.

So I share this with you in the hopes that, for these few moments, you might be mindful. If you ever find that the spirit seems distant. If you are ever lonely and your heart is heavy … find a baby.

 “They were just there," and can help us remember.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

For a Little While

  It’s a difficult time in America but not so different from many in the past. There is a rift but that is democracy. Yet I am saddened for the loss of something … many things.

  For a little while, we were thinking people. We examined the problem, polled all sides, accessed our resources and sought to solve any problem with determination and compassion for all.

 For a little while, we respected others and they respected us … not because we were stronger or louder but rather because they suspected we would act with reason and tolerance seeking consensus.

  For a little while we were assertive rather than aggressive.
We reached with open arms rather than balled up fists.

  We offered a ready smile yet brooked no attack. We made mistakes and named them … hiding from no one.

 We sought to help the poor and raise up the disenfranchised. We attempted to put reins on the greed of Wall Street and curtail the abuse of the environment by corporate concerns.

  We sought through economic sanction and thoughtful discourse to impede the growth of nuclear war capacity. We tore down old walls of past offenses that no longer served.

For a little while, the world viewed us as a progressive bastion of free and inclusive policy with empathy for the plight of others not so fortunate.

  For a little while we brought the youth of America home to their families instead of indiscriminately sending them into the maw of 2000-year-old fistfights. We understood that our way might not be the right way for all peoples yet we welcomed the “huddled masses” that would escape tyranny.

 For a little while we refused to be the brute we abhorred and the whole world knew that right or wrong we sought the higher ground.

  Maybe some find hope in angry vitriol. Maybe some find vindication in exclusion, judgment, and intolerance of those who are different than them. Maybe they think that self-serving isolationism will build a wall behind which they can live.

  Troy fell, Rome deteriorated behind its wall of arrogance, and Nazi Germany dissolved like the “wicked witch of the north” for its hate and angry oratory steeped in the highest wall of all … racial superiority.

 For a little while we were a nation of solutions. It was far from perfect yet each day … each mistake, I felt like we were grounded in the love of all mankind.

  I know that our soul is still alive. I know that when the dust settles, we will pick ourselves up and seek to regain the posture of magnanimity that is the defining banner of this great nation.

 It is not the end but rather a beginning. There are those that have not been heard and they have raised up the only hope they could see.

  For a little while we believed so deeply in our just cause that we ignored the voices of the masses that sought so desperately to tell us they were suffering.

  For a little while we attended to the downtrodden, the minority the immigrant until the salt of the earth became poisoned by our neglect.

   Now … for a little while we must listen more, talk less and stand firm in the belief that all people are created equal and we must not …  at the risk of our fundamental way of life, ignore anyone that would live free.

  The call is to honor and justice. The mission is to bind ourselves to the truth that lies within the heart and soul of all humanity … love.

We must love with all our hearts and all our minds and all our strength so that no matter what, we will persevere as a nation of free peoples that represent … no …  that fight … for the rights of all.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Why Some Men Cry

Opey accidentally kills a bird with his new slingshot. His look of shock and dismay pierce my heart.  I look over my shoulder to see if I am alone.
My two-year-old son, Tucker, at the pool on the first day he could duck his head under the water and hold his breath. I’d drop pennies on the baby steps. He would “dive” under and bring them up. Once, twice … three times … four. Sputtering, gasping, grinning from ear to ear. “ Do it again, Daddy. Do it again! I am thankful in that crowded pool for my dark sunglasses.

I’m with my red headed kid brother in a movie theater
, “Dead Poet’s Society”. Prep school boys troubled but saved by the literature professor tenderly played by Robin Williams. He won’t give up on them. He manages to show them their inner beauty. Betrayed and falsely accused, he has been cast out by the powers that be. His students are confused. As he departs, thinking he has lost them, one boy stands on top of his desk and head high, hand to heart, intones clearly to the professor’s bowed, stooped and resigned back … “Captain my Captain!”  As each boy stands to his desk my well of emotion pours forth. I am glad it is dark. We have to sit for an uncomfortable time after the lights go up. We chuckle nervously.

My dear friend is ordained as a minister. Her father, a pastor all her life, speaks in the sanctuary where my satin clad babies were presented to the church. She sits before us in a chair bathed in the soft light of day cast through the stained glass. She seems so small there … so vulnerable. Each congregant makes their way down to touch her and whisper in her ear.  There’s her husband, then her children. Young and old walk down the aisle until her father in law, Henry … shaky on his cane … brave to even try, moves toward her. I am undone.

A writing class during an exercise. I remember the face of a dear and cherished woman whose career and good heart I revere. I have seen her recently gazing up at the cross. She is somewhere between here and another place. As I write and read of that vision of her rapture I am overwhelmed.

I’m not sure why some men cry and others don’t so much. I have heard that it has to do with our childhood wounds. What I do know is that we all see God in our different ways. Sometimes when I see him it’s a lot like dropping an Alka-Seltzer into a coke. The reaction is sudden and I am near helpless.

I figure … in the end … it’s just another of God’s ways of keeping me humble.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Whispers for Charlie

  Charlie and his family lived at Wossord Apartments on Main Street in Palmer, S.C. The house was one of those red brick, single story affairs where the brick formed a framed open-air front porch. He was never sure why they called it apartments.

Charlie, his Mom and Dad lived in a small recessed annex connected to the house. He never saw anyone else there though. He understood that Mrs. Wossord was a kind and elderly widow who seldom ventured out.

  His favorite thing was to sit cross-legged and watch Robin Hood on the black and white cabinet television in the den.  Robin Hood was brave, strong, exceptionally agile and always helping people. Charlie wanted to be like him.

  As the ending credits rolled, his Mom would pour a bowl of Sugar Smacks at the yellow-topped, aluminum and Formica kitchen table. The timing had to be perfect or the Sugar Smacks would get soggy and that simply would not do.

  His anticipation was palpable as the sweet crunchy pods infused the creamy white milk with sugar. (To his continued amazement the milkman had left the milk on the stoop in glass bottles). The best part was when the last “Smack” was gone and he could drink the sweet milk. His slurps echoed a bit with his nose buried in the bowl, cool ecstasy in his mouth … flowing down his throat.

  Earlier Charlie had awakened, as was his way, just before dawn. He loved those moments when his eyes first opened and all was dim silhouette. He had risen and donned the clothes that his Mom had ironed, folded then placed on the wooden high back chair by his bed.

  Ever so quiet he tiptoed to the door, reached to his highest point and grasped the brass knob. The gray light of dawn revealed his friend the weeping willow standing guard just outside the door. The sweet air caressed his face.

  He had to turn and balance on the threshold in order to pull the door to because when he stepped down he would not be able to reach it. Once he heard the click of the throw he grasped the frame with both hands and lowered down the two brick steps.

  Each day was breathless elation alone there in the morning light. All were still in their beds and not aware of his presence. He stole around the front of the house by the porch, rounding the corner to gaze upon a clearing the size of a football field.

  The area was adorned with clotheslines and well-houses.   Seven or eight white frame mill  houses with their backs turned stood like small churches. He spied an abandoned tricycle and ball glove. Once he had startled a hare and peed himself a little.

There was an old yellow and white tomcat always prowling about that would pause and stare at him with an ominous glare.  He was grateful for his shoes as the sandspurs crunched under foot in the sandy loam and scrub grass.

  When he arrived at the bare wooden steps and the peeling paint of the weathered, back door, he tapped gently, curious of the rap of his tiny white knuckles on the rough texture of the solid wood.

  Ear against the door he listened until he could hear the soft creak of her footsteps padding over the worn hardwoods. The door receded from his gaze as she cracked it open and smiled down at him while he edged sideways through the crack. The room smelled vaguely of kerosene, as he followed her back to her bunk.

  The five other children turned and rustled in their bunks along the walls. He was greeted with soft wheezes and sniffs and an occasional raised hand or sleepy smile  He watched the sway of her flannel nightshirt with tiny pink and blue flowers. She braided her hay colored hair in one long braid down to the middle of her back. Her thin calves were "white as a baby's butt" and the pink bottoms of her feet were a tad dirty from the old floor. 

  He pushed his shoes off at the heel with the opposite toes, as quiet as he could and crawled under the covers with her. She cuddled up behind him like he was her favorite stuffed animal and whispered good mornings in his ear. Other than his Mother's, her warm breaths are the first whispers he has known.

 They lay quietly while the light grew until their mother purred,

 “Time to get up children. Good morning,Charlie … hope you are well. ”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Blood in Our Eyes

There’s a melancholy to the graying years. Not so much regrets as rolling memories of  searching time ; misguided “truths”, hedonistic need. With the aches and pains of age comes the awareness of roads that we banged along, breakneck, striving for some unseen goal when the whole time it lay within us.

We needed only get out of the way. I am grateful that even then, at least I could feel the warm sun, hear the roar of the ocean, lean into the wind and know those moments with mindfulness like a soul photograph filed away so that I can gaze at the “album” now.

I feel the presence of my sons and know they are moving through the universe a bit more sight full than did I. I have shown them the “album of life”, time and again. I have sought to explain the scars and revealed my heart to them in the hopes that maybe they could sometimes rest in truth.

Maybe they could pause to see the fabric of the universe and know the thread that weaves it all is love. Maybe they can see that violence is a poor tool that we use trying to repair our fear.

We are fighters, my Scots Irish kin. Therefore we must be ever mindful that our greatest enemy is our blindness to the fabric of love that is caused by the blood in our eyes.

Saturday, November 12, 2016



  I’ll call her Marina. She has cut my family’s hair for quite some time now. She is an energetic ball of Polish energy. Her accent is heavy and she talks non-stop. Her commentary is humane and can be incisive, witty and often illuminating.

  As she worked and we talked, the recent election came up. I discovered she had voted for Trump. I was a bit surprised. She is somewhat political and an immigrant. She said that she understood he was “a little crazy” but that when he said something, whether good, bad or indifferent,

 “I believe him. The other one … not so much.”

 If Marina is anything, she is inherently kind. She is a doting mother, devoted wife, hard working, well read, exercises and paints powerful abstracts as an avocation.

  She shared with me that a while back when she worked at a large salon her co workers had gotten wind of the fact that she was “probably going to vote for Trump.”

  “They joked and teased. At first it was funny in a way but before long, it wasn’t funny anymore.”

 In broken English, her eyes misty, she described how the “joking” became mean spirited. I will not belabor the point here. What this dear soul described to me was nothing less than shaming.

  “I come from a country where people are afraid to speak up.” She said.  “When I came here to America I thought that was over but with this I realized that I was concerned and somewhat afraid. It wasn’t so much what they said, though it was bad … it was how they began to say it.”

 As this election has brewed, I have discussed it and shared with others. I have been, I think, overall evenhanded, calm, issue oriented. If I am honest I must say that I did discount Donald Trump as “unqualified and unfit” to be President of the United States. Now though, I think that I also disqualified the feelings and ideas of those who shared that they were going to vote for him.

  I recall one day when a friend said he was voting for Trump that I teased and joked. I will be making an amends.

  According to the laws of our country this man has been elected President. My task from here forward is to be a voice of reason and consensus at every opportunity. It’s like a fighter who loses a fight he was expected to win. I have a new respect for my opponent and I know that I underestimated him. More importantly I underestimated the dissatisfaction a large body of folks have with the status quo. This now will be my motivation. This will be my cause. Before, I would have said that I was “progressive” and inclusive. Now, I will work harder to treat ALL people’s views with respect and deference and I will listen with more care. 

  I believe in more than just America as a nation. I believe in the CITIZENS of America and I know that the day a kind, loving, intelligent even patriotic and legal immigrant CITIZEN of this country is afraid and shamed because of her political leanings and judgment that WE have much work to do.

  I’m a combat veteran. I wasn’t gung ho or anything. I was just there and I did my job. One thing weaved among the fabric of all the sailors I knew. We were there because folks were being denied the right to live  as they wanted to, speak their peace, have a choice of who was to govern them . We understood that all the endless nights and blistering days … all the labor and fear and sweat and blood was for them and so that those at home could be free to do the same.

I offer a sort of prayer if you will.

I beseech thee … citizens … to believe not in party ideals or personalities but in America. I call upon each and every person to buckle down and do the work of nation … community … God, Allah … whatever Higher Power is your guide.

I beseech thee Brother and Sisters of freedom to raise your mighty sword in the name of righteousness and the dignity of ALL mankind.

And I pray that no matter our leanings … no matter win or lose … the most important thing in our lives is to protect and defend the principals and process of our great nation.

Do it for your loved ones, yes … but also do it for those you might despise because as Jesus said to his disciples, 

"whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers … that you do unto me"


Friday, November 11, 2016

We Remember

  I have thought of you often over the years. When I was a child we scurried through the woods with our muskets made of sticks imagining tri-cornered hats and knee britches. We pretended to be like you: valiant and brave, resisting the redcoats from behind rock and tree.

  Later we played with our blue and gray plastic soldiers, each the size of a bullet. We organized field battles. Cannon were lined up aimed at ranks of men as they moved forward into the maw.

  One day the Indians surrounded you as you stood back to back … holding out. I saw the Indian warrior too. It was just as good to be an Indian sometimes.

  Years passed as I watched you fighting in the movies. I devoured each scene as from every branch of military service you offered your lives in the name of God and country. Honor and dignity would swell in my bony chest. I wanted to be like you.

  I saw you on television crouching through the jungle. The helicopters brought you in with guns blazing. Then they came and carried you away … sometimes prostrate … bleeding.

  I went on a ship far away. No, I did not stare death in the face as you did. I saw its wake. I tasted its devastation. I sensed its presence but I did not have to smell its breath as you did.

   I saw the look in a young marine’s eyes as he readied to go “in country” on a night recon. I still see him there in the top rack like a small child in a man’s body looking over the bunk bed rail when he thinks the “boogey man” is in the closet.

  I saw you when the high school hero strode into the VA office.  For a moment he knew me … then he saw something in the air … he was remembering. He forgot what he came for then turned and walked away … head down … mumbling to himself.

  I saw you in your wheelchair at the local pub. We drank too much as you tried to forget the moment you became broken.

  Today I see you in the deserts, mountains and cities; fighting, protecting, healing, building.

   I see you at the stoplight, in the park, in the pew at church.

  You are revered and held high in our minds and hearts. Regardless of politics or history, right or wrong, you have sacrificed for the benefit of your fellows.

   When I was a child, I pretended to be like you … valiant and brave. Wherever you are …  please know this … we remember. We see you with our hearts. We are eternally grateful.