Monday, October 31, 2005


Julie writes:

I'm certain that I'll never forget that long, dark night. I was stunned. And very scared. I had not seen this coming. Of course, how could I? I was living life from one miserable moment to another, running in confusion and fear from the past with no hope for the future. It took all my energy to recover each morning from the nightly bouts of anger and sorrow, dress and go to work where my mind was safely occupied.

I never imagined myself in this position so had no idea what to expect. For weeks after, I truly wondered if I was responsible for any mishap, normally taken in stride as "just life." I rode to a nearby town with a friend and worried that her car breaking down was because of me. How would God show his anger with me? What would my life be like now that I was in the Devil's sights? I imagined him laughing in glee, rubbing his hands together and plotting his hideous plans for me. I was undone. I was utterly alone and abandoned.

I had fiercely believed since childhood, enchanted with God and His wonderful attributes. I turned away from the party life in college and sought others who understood the depth of my desire. I stepped away from the organized church, angering and confusing my family, believing that relevant truth could not be found in the printed Sunday School material delivered so carelessly. I struggled mightily with my human fallacies and cried out to God for strength to believe. I faithfully taught my children, lovingly correcting them, striving to be a good example. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!

I sat on the floor that evening and repeated the only verse that would come to my anguished mind. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) Over and over I chanted this through wracking tears. If this was not true, I was surely lost. I sensed evil in my bedroom that night and to this day, believe a battle waged around me.

I feel tears welling up as I type this. It’s been almost ten years and I’ve never dared put this experience down on paper. The church elders who wrote the letter breaking fellowship with me and instructing the congregation to do the same, my children included, have since acknowledged that it was not the right thing to do. I call some of them friend and see them when I visit the area. My relationship with my children has healed with time, though years were lost to that dark period when I was anathema.

I do not know what became of the letter. What’s most important, I do not care. In spite of the horrific pain, I am grateful for the experience. It shaped me into who I am today – hopefully more compassionate, forgiving, patient and kind. I chose divorce among people who considered it unthinkable. I understand now that they seek refuge among their rules because they are afraid. But, now I know from experience, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” For this I am humbly grateful.

I Want to Die

The following is neither gruesome nor depressing. Give it a try.

I want to die on a hot day, a day in August when the temperature is 110 degrees and there's no breeze. I want it to be an energy sapping day when everyone is dozing in the shade so no one will notice when I slip away. No notice, no grieving, no sadness. Perhaps in the Fall when it begins to cool someone will say "Whatever happened to Paul? I haven't seen him in a while." When they realize I'm gone it will be fine if they begin to talk and joke and laugh about some of the dumb-assed things I've done. Then, in the end, if one person, just one, says "I'm going to miss him", that will be enough grief.

I want to die when I see it coming. No sudden accident for me or silent stroke in my sleep. I want to see it coming with enough time to do a few last things. When young I wanted time to say to a few people "kiss my ass", but those days are long gone. I’m sure some people call me enemy but I have no enemies. Enemies are burdens and distractions for which I have no time. There's too much living to be experienced.

I want to see my death coming because I want time to say one more time to my first wife "I'm sorry. I wish it had been different. Forgive me and forgive yourself." I want time to make sure my children know "Thank you for enriching my life, for teaching me how to love, for helping make me who I am. Overlook my mistakes and faults and hold on to the good memories." I want time to repeat to a special friend "Thank you for helping me through the darkest period of my life. You taught me and encouraged me and helped me when I needed it most."

I want time to say one last time to my wife "My life has been wonderful because you shared your life with me. I would brave any challenge, endure any pain, suffer any hardship to share our lives together once again. I may die but my love for you won’t."

I hope and expect to live many more years. I probably won't have the blessing of choosing the time and details of my death. For this reason, I try to live each moment as if it's the last. If this moment is my last I say "It hasn't been perfect, sometimes it was painful, sometimes it was a struggle but it has been good and rich and wonderful! It’s been a life that I haven’t deserved or created. It has been a gift from God, a gift of overwhelming grace. I am thankful.”

Sunday, October 30, 2005


The following was written by my wife, Julie, aka: the-love-of-my-life.

It is seldom that we are still and quiet. Ask yourself, "When was the last time I sat quietly, doing nothing but listening." Try it. What do you hear? Where does your mind wander? How long can you sit quietly?

If you are fortunate to live in the country, your efforts to remain still may be rewarded with silence, a rare commodity in this age of noise. If not complete silence, then you may hear the gentle music of birds. If you live in town, I challenge you to travel to the country for the specific purpose of being still.

Perhaps you think I'm overreacting and can't understand my point. My husband and I used to walk every chance we got - to work, to the movie theatre, to a restaurant. This is when I first noticed the amount of vehicle noise that is constant nowadays. If you've not walked on a busy street in a while, there is nothing better to drive my point home. Try walking with a friend and attempting a conversation. Between the semis, city buses, diesel pickups and cars adapted with exhaust resonators, it's hard to make yourself heard.

I often wonder at the affect of constant noise on our souls. I feel irritable when subjected to too much noise. I remember the saying, "I can't hear myself think" and know exactly what it means.

But, more than the negative affect of the noise on our ears and psyche, I think we miss the positive affect of silence. It has a healing, calming affect. For me as a believer, itis a chance to reflect on loved ones or life's direction.

We are all different, but if what I say strikes a chord, then seek out silence and stillness. I believe you will benefit and might even find that you need a regular dose of it to feel balanced.

A Found Treasure

I try to avoid the words "must, should, ought" and some others but I found a "must read" that says what I feel about relating to one another.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Quest and Opportunity

Tomorrow is Sunday and once again I will not attend church. That probably seems strange considering the fact that I’m a seminary graduate and a former pastor.

I graduated from seminary where the quest for Truth was honored and revered and sacred. At the Southern Baptist seminary we were many – Baptists mainly, but also Catholic nuns and Methodists and Presbyterians and others. One seeker was a young man of great intelligence and sincerity – an agnostic – with whom I had completed an undergraduate degree. We were many but we were one, united by the quest.

Our quest was not a pilgrimage to some common place that had been named holy. We were not in a monastery trying to escape. We were on a quest for the Truth. In our quest we read theology written by a Dutch Roman Catholic. The works of Lutherans and Jews were treated as valid sources of the Truth. We believed – no! – we knew, confidently knew, no one had the Truth and yet all had a portion of the Truth. Even the atheist and the scientist possessed some of the Truth.

Those who led us were men and women of integrity who risked their livelihoods and careers to speak their portion of the Truth. They walked the line between appeasing the fundamentalists and angering them to the point of censure and dismissal. The “correct” teaching concerning gender and homosexuality and abortion and other issues was not spoken but the Truth was spoken. Those who led did so by word and example. Most of them are dead but I continue to respect them and be grateful for them.

So, tomorrow I will not attend an institutionalized church but I will continue the quest. I am not alone. There are many who will stand outside and continue searching and seeking. We are not the religious right and it pains us to be mistaken for them but that is as it must be for now. This moment in history that is dominated by the religious right is fleeting and will not last.

I see this time as an opportunity. It offers the opportunity to speak the Truth, the opportunity to be an example to others, the opportunity to make our lives count for something worthy by refusing to confrom and settle for half-truths.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Another Mary Oliver offering:

It is possible, I suppose that sometime
we will learn everything
there is to learn: what the world is, for example,
and what it means. I think this as I am crossing
from one field to another, in summer, and the
mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either
knows enough already or knows enough to be
perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead
oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display
the small suns of their center piece, their - if you don't
mind my saying so - their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know?
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;
for example - I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch -
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I Need Your Help

(The first and last paragraphs are the most important. Read these if you read nothing else.)

I’m feeling a little down now. I have a friend whom I’ve never met who’s battling some demons and is going through a black time. I wish I could take his pain away but I can’t.

While in the Army I worked with a man who was what I described as a “low life”. Infidelity was one of his lesser faults. We didn’t get along and it was getting to the point that a knock-down drag-out fight was going to erupt. Fear didn’t enter into it. With me at 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds and him about 5 feet 5 I knew how it would come out. Having to work in this situation every day is anything but pleasant and I didn’t see a solution other than violence which is no solution.

I’ve never understood prayer. I haven’t prayed in years. I don’t understand it but a miracle happened. One night I actually prayed out of desperation seeking some resolution other than a fight. The next day at work he came over and I prepared myself for the confrontation. He held out his hand, apologized for his responsibility in our hostilities and invited me and my wife to his house for supper. Holy shit! I couldn't believe it.

We went to his house on Friday and had a forgetable meal but the miracle continued. He had two shoe boxes full of black and white photos of orphans that he had taken in Viet Nam. He had a tender heart for children!

We never had problems after that. We were never friends but we weren’t enemies either. He was still a “low life”, still unfaithful to his wife, still a lot of bad things. The last time I saw him he was bare footed. He had vandalized some equipment and his boots were confiscated as evidence. He was sent to Korea just to get rid of him. Regardless, I remember him most for his photos of children and his outstretched hand.

Answered prayer? A miracle or coincidence?

If you pray, remember my friend. If you believe in sending out lovingkindness, please do so. Whatever you believe, do it so the demons will stop and the blackness will disappear. I want another miracle for him.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hey Kid! Come Here

It was wonderful.

In the days before leash laws we “captured” every dog we could find and put them in the fenced front yard – just to see how many we could corral. Saturday matinees cost ten cents. At the age of eight we would walk into town without supervision to ride the range with Roy Rogers. We walked the roads, found pop bottles and traded them at a small market to get the makings of a picnic -- bananna sandwiches and kool aid. Lying in the grass we would watch the movie of clouds that passed above and see animals and faces and mountains. Everything was new and fresh and intriguing and exciting. I enjoyed my childhood.

When my children were born I got a second dose of childhood. “Why is the sky blue?” and I would answer “it’s the interaction of solar light with the upper atmosphere blah blah blah blah blah” and they were happy because they didn’t need to understand. All they needed was my attention and my love. My son wanted chickens and pigs. I said OK to the chickens and no to the pigs, but, somehow one day, I found myself laughing as we were feeding the pigs and he straddled one for a ride. I can still see my daughter going through the waste basket to get discarded mail for some little girl game that I never played and is still a mystery to me. It was wonderful!

My wife and I sometimes take our motorhome to “over 55” resorts that have strict rules about children. “Children may visit only two weeks each year and must be chaperoned at all times.” Bah Humbug!

I’m thinking about retiring and the last thing I want is a small fenced world void of children. I’m not ready to get old and cranky and smelly and die. Nope, not me! Give me a place filled with children and dogs running free and the sounds of laughter. I’m going to search the ditches for pop bottles and trade them for the makings of a picnic and then I’m going to yell “Hey Kid! Come here.” And I’m going to explain why the sky is blue and we'll search the clouds and pet the dogs and maybe, just maybe, I'll learn the mystery of the game with discarded mail. It will be wonderful!

I’ll probably live forever.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Old Poets of China

Mary Oliver's poetry rings my bell and touches my spirit! The following is from the volume "Why I Wake Early".

The Old Poets of China

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.

A Perspective on Reason

In some of my reading the authors make statements that seem to indicate that the rational aspect of human existence is to be avoided as one would avoid a sickness. They allude to an inner experience that is to be preferred. I am left with the impression that to live in the 'now' experiencing some form of 'enlightenment' void of conscious reason is the peak of human existence. In moments of twisted humor I think of my mother. She is 88, lives in a nursing home, doesn't remember my name, no longer has the ability to reason and lives in the moment. Is she experiencing the life that so many appear to be seeking?

I'm confident the authors I have been reading would not agree with the amateur cartoon that I've painted above. However, I'm left with the question "what are they saying?" I don't understand enough to get the feeling that I see what they see. Brevity and conciseness often are hindrances to communication and I think that's the situation I've encountered.

Here are my thoughts.

I am one person with multiple facets -- facets such as physical, mental, social, spiritual, intuition, etc. Each of these facets combine to make me who I am. I can give focus to one facet and develop it to the exclusion of other facets. There are athletes who have developed physically while ignoring mental or social facets. There are students who develop the mental facet while ignoring the physical facet. My personal values and experiences lead me to want to develop all facets and seek some balance between them.

I enjoy reading and learning and interacting with people of differing ideas. I shy away from books and people who confirm my beliefs. My natural inclination is to favor the rational facet and I try to avoid excess in this area.

I have little native artistic ability. I enjoy music, sculpture and paintings but can't create them except at the most elementary level. I see paintings, hear music and read poetry that touch me at a level that is not rational. The paintings evoke feelings and experiences that tend toward the mystical. I have native rational ability that I can use to enrich my life. Cannot the rational be a vehicle of experience similar to that of the sculptor or composer or poet?

A painter captures only one aspect -- sight. The artist cannot convey sound, touch, taste or scent. These are allusions conveyed though light but this does not weaken the painting. I do not want to experience paintings with speakers and vents to emit scents. These would detract from the experience of the painting.

I can leave the gallery and enter a concert hall be moved to a new realm by an orchestra. I can leave the concert hall and slip into a poetry reading and be transported again. Likewise, I can attend a lecture relating scientific research or enter the doors of a university science building and experience something akin to a spiritual experience.

The pitfall that I attempt to avoid is to think that reason can capture, control and explain all of reality. The painter knows the limitations of the medium and distinguishes between the painting and reality. There are aspects of reality that cannot be portrayed on a canvas. The rational person knows the limitations of reason and distinguishes between the created mental model and reality. There are aspects of reality that are beyond the limitations of reason.

The artist chooses the brush, the color and the technique. The rational person uses reason in the same way and develops the art of reason.

Monday, October 24, 2005

My Choices

In an earlier post entitled "Paralysis" I made the statement “My life is good and rich and wonderful and I will keep it that way.”

One of the comments that I received was “You say, your life is good and rich and you will keep it that way. How I wonder, by control?”

My response follows.

I have been through some bad times. I was unhappily married for 25 years. I was a pastor for twenty years and experienced people at their worst. When I say “my life is good and rich and wonderful” I am not speaking casually or carelessly. The lessons I have learned came slowly and painfully.

First, life is a choice. I can choose to be happy or I can choose to be unhappy. This decision is not made directly but indirectly through small, daily decisions. For example, I can choose to mismanage my money and live with the stress that results from no savings, bad credit and irate creditors. I can respond with impatience and anger toward my wife and destroy a relationship that is a source of support, encouragement and love. If I make these decisions I would not be content and happy. The decision to be unhappy is made through daily behavior decisions. The reverse is true also. I can make wise decisions that foster happiness, contentment and inner peace.

Second, even though I have much control over my life there are some areas over which I have no control. If my wife were killed in an auto accident, my life would not be good and rich and wonderful. It would be horrible and black and almost unbearable. My statement that “I will keep it that way” must be limited to the things over which I have control.

Third, I am a unity – an integrity – oneness. This means that my life can’t be split into emotional, mental, physical, social, spiritual, etc. However, just as a cube can be viewed from six sides and remain one, it’s possible to discuss various aspects of my life independently. In reality, I am one. This means that if I suffer physically then I may suffer emotionally and mentally. If I fail to maintain positive, supportive social relationships then my health may suffer. The point is that I must make wise decision in all areas of my life.

Fourth, I attempt to care for myself in all aspects of my life. I walk several miles each week and go to the weight room two or three times. I guard my relationship with my wife. I plan some quiet time each day. I listen to calming music. I try to eat healthy. I think about positive things. I don’t watch movies that glorify destructive behavior, etc, etc. This may sound like a burdensome regimen but it isn’t. I made small changes over a period of years. Most of what I do is an unconscious part of my daily life and is enjoyable.

In the end, there is no magic formula, no special prayer, no path to enlightenment. Through experience and reading and learning from the words and examples of others, I have learned to manage my life in a way that maximizes the PROBABILTY that it will be good and rich and wonderful. This doesn’t sound very spiritual or glamorous but this is the real world and it a good world..

Why do I share this? I know you, the reader, don’t care about my life and that is as it should be. You have your own life and should be focusing on it. So, why do I share this? Because I learn from other people; I’m motivated and encouraged by the example of other people. Hopefully, you will benefit from and be encouraged by my example. As I said at the beginning “life is a choice”. It's your responsibility to choose the goods things from my example and discard the bad because, truly, I am a mixture.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Years ago I saw the movie Papillon about a Frenchman imprisoned for murder. In the scenes that caught my attention Papillon, who is serving a life sentence for killing a pimp, has a recurring nightmare in which cloaked justices accuse him of murder. He repeatedly defends himself stating that the killing was justified. One night, after several years, the dream suddenly changes. The justices appear but do not accuse Papillon of murder – they accuse him of wasting his life. Papillion has no defense. He hangs his head and admits his guilt.

I am not imprisoned by bars. I am imprisoned by prejudices and biases and patterns of thought and habits and familiarity and the temptation to conform. I confront the temptation to retreat into materialism, to withhold love, to avoid risk -- the same walls and bars faced by all people.

The challenge is to struggle with my imprisonment and to arrive at the moment of my death and be able to look back and say, “It wasn’t wasted”. I have been given a sacred gift in that I, and only I, can make this judgment about my life. It’s a judgment that I make each day and will continue to make each day until my end. For this gift and this opportunity, I thank the Giver.


As a pre-school child I was taught fear. “Look out for snakes! Stay out of the grass! Don’t go near that log, or rock or . . .!” One morning I heard shouting. A cousin just a few months older than me had been bitten by a Copperhead. I had nightmares occasionally. I would be halfway between the house and the outhouse and hundreds of snakes would block my path to safety in either direction.

I know life with fear and it wasn't pleasant. I grew to the point I refused to live with fear! As a young teenager I forced myself to touch a snake. During the last year I have seen five rattlesnakes near my house – three in the yard -- one under my back porch – and I’ve welcomed them and felt compassion for them in their fear of me..

What or who do I fear?

I don’t’ fear terrorists or the future or the unknown. I don’t fear nature or storms or getting older or dying.

I fear those who would attempt to control my thinking and pondering and wondering. I fear those who would take away the freedom of my spirit. I fear the religious right and my federal and state governments.

I am fascinated by the Bible’s take on fear. In one passage the “fearful” (or cowards or cowardly or afraid) are grouped with murders and sexual perverts! The translation that I prefer in this passage uses “those of give in to fear”.

I will not give in to fear and be paralyzed by it! I will experience fear but rather than letting fear control me I will control fear. As long as my mind is free, I will be free.

My life is good and rich and wonderful and I will keep it that way.

Friday, October 21, 2005


I wonder if writing can be a form of meditation.

For some time now I have had a growing feeling that has tugged at my mind to be put into conscious thought. This embryonic feeling became a solid realization last night while browsing art galleries.

I find writing, even bad writing, to be hard labor. I've never enjoyed it. However, during the last few weeks I've looked forward to a period each evening when I write. In some way that I cannot explain rationally, it gives me a sense of hope, peace and optimism. It makes my life richer and more enjoyable.

Who is my audience? For whom am I writing? Myself! If others read and benefit from my posts then my life is enriched futher.

I am indebted to Rob for the following quotes.

"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." -- Emerson

"Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -- Bacon

I think these summarize my experience. I find peace and happiness and contentment within myself and I become more aware of them when I bring them into focus and make them exact by putting them into written form.

I find life to be exponentially richer if I live it with passion and zest and risk. Writing is risky as I reveal myself but it gives expression to the passion and that is the reward.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Road Trip

Leaving in a few minutes on a road trip to Amarillo - fun, family and friends. I'll reply to recent comments in a day or so.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Only Way

A co-worker sent this quote to my wife:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming WOO HOO - What a Ride!"

Is there any other way to go?

Aborigine Wisdom from a Novel

I discovered a novel entitled "Mutant Message From Forever" after reading a comment by "Thom". A little research uncovered the following summary of the book's message. There is some controversy over the book, the author and a previous book. In spite of the controvery I found the following, which came from Philosophize With Manfred interesting.

1. Express your individual creativity
Everyone has a special, personal gift or talent (E.g. story telling, listening, caring, writing, compassion, etc.). It is our job to find it and develop it.

2. Be aware of your responsibility
You are a guest on this planet. Leave it as you found it. You are responsible for all living beings (nature, etc.), your promises, the results of your actions, your body, as well as the results of your sexual acts.

3. Before you were born you promised to help the others
The human experience is not the journey of a sole individual. We are expected to help and support each other. As one of our key thoughts should be "What action would benefit the total of all beings"? All beings form a team.

4. Pursue emotional maturity
We are able to express a wide range of emotions (from negative to positive). We should be disciplined and chose our emotions. This is similar to the motto: "We are as happy as we allow ourselves to be". Everything in life goes in circles. If we chose our emotions positively we can close all the circles without dangling threads, i.e. without negative effects. Negative emotions are good to have in the early years of our life so we know what they are, how they feel, to make us understand better, and to avoid them in the future.
Emotions affect our physical state. Examples could be that "happiness or laughter can make us healthy" or "anger gives us headache or stomach ulcers". Behind the physical is the meta-physical -- the spiritual, the consciousness. We are encouraged to ask ourselves what meta-physical cause is behind the physical problem: E.g. if your back hurts, ask what spiritual problems you have in your life, ask what you can learn from this situation.
Happiness and laughter/smile are important for well-being. We are encouraged to proactively look for motives to feel happy.
We should be truthful [read "no lying"] at all moments.

5. You should entertain (yourself as well as others)
Don't be a spectator all the time. Entertain others too!

6. Learn to use and administer your energy
We can't create or destroy energy. We can just use, mold and redistribute energy. Every word we say or act we do has energy. Use words in a positive way.

7. Be revitalized through music
Music can be part of the individual creativity. But music is so important that it is made a separate rule. Music can heal our mind and bodies. Music is the language of our soul.

8. Reach the wisdom
Wisdom and knowledge is quite distinct. Intelligence and wisdom are also different. Wisdom takes into consideration the well-being of all involved parts. Wisdom furthermore takes into consideration that we are all one team, that we are guest on Mother Earth and that we are one with the creator.

9. Learn to self-discipline yourself
Do this to assure a peaceful life and for the good of the planet. Self-discipline can help us to keep negative emotions at bay and to reach wisdom. It is necessary to control the emotions to be able to listen to the communication between body and soul.
Learn to distinguish what says your mind and what says your soul. The voice of the brain is a product of society while the voice of your soul is a message from the eternity.

10. Observe without judging
Observe and don't judge! Some refer to it also as "unconditional love". We are all created from the same Source/Creator and we are all created (spiritually) perfect.
You should not judge people even if they perform actions that do not conform with your beliefs. If there is something that you dislike simply do not channel energy (words, actions, thoughts) into it, don't make it part of your way. If you judge, also learn how to forgive (yourself, the others, the situation). All that exists is part of the Divine Order, and is born perfect. Sometimes however we chose to live below our capabilities. If we work hard day-by-day to reach our full potential we will make the world a better place. If we follow this path our life will reach the closing of a golden circle.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Managing Stress: One of My Techniques

Managing stress is a skill that all of us need and we can learn some techniques from others.

I learned one of my techniques from my father. One evening he was reading the newspaper about a student who committed suicide by jumping from the seventh floor of a university domitory. Without looking up from the paper he mentioned what he had read and then added "I don't know why people let things get to them like that. If someone was giving him trouble he should have called them a son of a bitch and forgotten about it."

Those statements stuck in my memory and became a part of my life. I try to meet people half-way, treat them with respect and honesty. But, when all else fails, I say silently to myself "to hell with them" and go my way, do something enjoyable, and forget about it. Language is facinating. "It's raining cats and dog" shouldn't be taken literally and "to hell with you" shouldn't be taken literally but it does communicate.

To put it in more politically correct terms: sometimes we can't solve all problems when dealing with people and when we can't we need to protect ourselves without harming the other person. I've found a little technique that helps me do this.

So, if you agree with me, fine. If you don't agree with me, fine. But, if you want to get mean and agressive about it then listen closely because you may hear me whisper to myself "to hell with you. I think I'll find some ice cream and a quiet place".

Sunday, October 16, 2005

7 Miles to Lunch

It was Julie’s idea to walk the electric line to T-Bows for lunch – only about a 9 to 10 mile stroll – one way.

I countered with an offer to shuttle the car about seven miles to where the electric line crossed the blacktop and walk seven miles to the car and drive the last 2 or 3 miles – and drive the 12 miles back by the road.

On the way we saw:

  • Hundreds of pieces of native American pottery
  • Huge ant hills and red-winged grass hoppers
  • Elk, rabbit, antelope and a myriad of other tracks
  • Jack rabbits and a cotton tail
  • A snake – four feet
  • Lizards
  • A dead fox
  • Cacti and dried flowers and grasses
  • Fantastic views
  • Cattle
  • Lava flows and cinder cones and red and black lava
  • Pinions and Ponderosa and Junipers
  • Butterflies and bees and spiders

And we smelled . . .

And we heard . . .

And we felt . . .

And, when we arrived, the meal was delicious.

But, the best part of the day was sharing all of these experiences with her!


The visitors have come and gone.

Last night, for the first time, coyotes, void of opposing thumbs, found a way to get a trash can open.

Recently a rabbit got under the house. I trapped him/her and read the eviction note. Late yesterday or early this morning s/he attempted again to dig under the house in blatant disregard of the eviction.

This morning a flock of blue birds – yet to be identified – enjoyed the feeder outside our kitchen window. They were about four times too large for the feeder design but managed to wrap themselves around the feeder to get to an opening. One wore a blue and white ankle bracelet.

I covered the rabbit's excavation and picked up the trash and refilled the bird feeder and thanked their Creator for their visit!

I Make A Motion

OK, fasten your seat belts. You're about to see my mean, evil, selfish side. If you don't want to read all of this then jump to the last paragraph because it's the most important.

“I make a motion that my name and my family’s names be removed from the rolls of the church.” A quick second, a quick vote and I am no longer a church member!

I’m the only person I know of who made the motion to have him self voted out of the church. I know the Bible condemns pride but I’m proud of this action.

Somewhere I heard or read that Ghandi said “if I ever met a Christian I would become a Chrisitan”. I don’t know if he actually said this but I understand the statement. There is a great canyon between the example of Jesus and the actions of church members.

I had been pastor of the church for five years and it has been one continuous conflict. For example, one evening I was listening to an argument in a committee meeting and I was confused by what was being said. I questioned a person near me and learned that the “discussion” had turned to some fight that had occurred twenty years earlier! I don’t know where in hell they got their definition of forgiveness but it must have been from hell because it surely wasn’t from heaven.

My father, whom I highly respected, died and on the return trip from the funeral I thought about the times we spent together when I was young. It was on this trip that I decided I was wasting my time with the church. I was attempting the impossible. I had children in their early teens and wanted to spend more time with them. I resigned as pastor.

Even though I was no longer pastor I was still a member but did not attend because a clean break is best in these situations. A few weeks later the church called a new pastor. Shortly after I heard there was talk that the politics was evolving and one thread included me returning as pastor. It was at this point that I became a little angry and decided enough was enough. I attended a Sunday evening service and made the motion. I prefaced the motion with “I’m tired of the fighting. If you want to fight then feel free but I want no part of it.”

I've told you about one experience . I pastored for twenty years and have other horror stories that explain why I arrived at the point I did on that Sunday night.I don’t believe the Bible is truth but I believe the Bible contains truth. Truth on a printed page is dead and lifeless. For truth to be alive it must be embodied in a person. I can’t tell you about love and forgiveness. I have to show them to you by living them -- and I can do that without being a church member. I don’t regret that I haven’t been a church member for the last twenty years. I feel better about myself and more secure in my relationship with the Divine than I ever did while pastoring. My frustration was with church members and not the Truth. That’s an important distinction!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Demonic Ideas

I am enthralled with the natural world. It exhibits beauty, balance and harmony. It gives me a sense of peace and hope.

Take mankind -- myself included -- out of the world and it would return to a more perfect paradise. The problem with man is that he has developed some demonic ideas such as ownership, commerce and religion.

Ownership leads to the belief that it's ours and we can do with it as we please. We can clear-cut the land, divert the rivers, dump our waste on the land and to hell with future generations and non-human life.

I try to think and live in terms of stewardship rather than ownership. I use the land but only for a short period of time until it passes into the stewardship of another person. My responsibility is to use the land without removing any of Nature's beauty, without upsetting its balance or destroying its harmony.

I see the current form commerce as a form of legalized and glorifed war. At the present commerce is based on "You have it, I want it and I want it all. To hell with honesty and integrity".

Commerce is necessary but not in it's current form that's based on greed and fear. I find it very easy to earn a living. Excess doesn't give me more happiness. Excess reduces my peace and happiness. I've learned to be content with enough.

Religion is a perverted attempt to acknowledge the Creator and Nature. Religion is a natural reaction to Nature but it becomes corrupt when it is formalized and institutionalized. Institutionalized religion usurps our free will, pollutes our reason and becomes a burden.

Yet, there is a core Truth at the heart of religion. I try to find the core while discarding the worthless shell. I try to live life in harmony with Nature and with gratitude for the Creator.

Does this sound arrogant? I hope it doesn't sound like I've found the way and the truth and others are blind and lost. I'm in my sixth decade (soon to start my seventh decade) and I've seen life, been fortunate to meet some great people and I've learned a little. I want to pass on some of the truth that I've learned from others.

Either way, my life is mine to live in the here and now. Rather than participate in mankind's foolishness I choose to live in simplicty attempting to be a good steward while acknowledging gratitude for the gift of the Creator. I've learned this makes my life better, happier and more peaceful.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Call Me an SOB

I like earthy, genuine people.

For some reason I'm attracted to people who don't wear suits and ties; people who have a few hairs out of place; people who have a weathered look from too much time in the sun; people who know how to use expletives in an artistic sort of way; people who don't know the definition of 'politically correct'; people who have experienced pain but survived with humor and character.

For some reason I find this type of person relaxing. With them life is never a guessing game. I don't mind them calling me a sonofabitch because it tells me where they are at the moment. They let me know where I stand -- good and bad.

But, the type of person I find attractive has, beneath the outer rough veneer, a core of integrity, compassion and heart. They embody qualities that I admire and respect.

One of the blogs that I read is Buffalo's Path. Buffalo can be somewhat profane when writing about drinking, women and song. He describes himself: "I am a freedom loving, flag waving American. An unashamed Vietnam Vet. Politically I'm somewhere between a Libertarian and an Anarchist. I don't apologize for being a hedonistic, rum drinking, politically incorrect, harley riding, sometimes ill-tempered man. I have no patience for hypocrites, fanatics of any persuasion, bigots and those who know what is best for me."

You would think I wouldn't like Bufflo bacause I don't drink and don't give a damn about the flag and patriotism. You'd be wrong. I like the guy because he's not perfect at hiding his true self. His core comes out in his post about suffering and his post about his mother.

I like Buffalo because he's not perfect and he's struggling to deal with life.

I like Buffalo because he's just like me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blogs, Religion and Bumper Stickers

Some blogs can be disheartening at times.

Rednaked Woman recently came out of the closet and admitted something she doesn't normally "mention in polite conversations". She admitted that she is a Christian.

Why the hesitancy? She says "See I avoid saying it cause I don’t want to be associated with those people. For years I told every one I was an atheist just so I wouldn’t be thought of as one of them, those nosey judgmental bible thumping freaks."

Whoa! Hold on. Don't assume you know where I'm going. Stay with me.

Another young lady has a blog entitled "I Have 2 Belly-Buttons -- Just one of the miracles of being BORN-AGAIN".

In a recent post she takes Christians to task. As I read her post I must admit that she has some valid points. My interpretation of her post is that she sees Christians (or is that christians) as frozen, static, deaf, mindless and uncaring. Sadly, many people agree with her.

But, let's not limit this to Christians. From my experience many religious people are open to the same challenges.

I've seen a bumper sticker that reads "I'm doing my part to piss-off the religious right". I applaud this person's honesty and boldness but it's not a constructive statement. The statement is divisive and destructive.

I believe we all have a responsibility regardless of our religious persuasion -- Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Athiest, etc -- to find ways to adhere to our beliefs and values without causing a religious war which is a very real possibility. If you doubt this I would encourage you to read history.

I think the solution to this is love. No, not Hollywood's mushy, gooey, imitation. Love is not an emotion. Love is a value statement. Love is a verb. It's something we do regardless of how we feel.

Do you doubt this? While growing up my children did some things that made me angry. In the moment I didn't feel very loving but I did what needed to be done. I valued them. They were important to me. I loved them. So, I controlled my emotions and did what was best for them.

Bill Moyers speaks of the possibility of a religious war and the need for active love in a recent address. I enourage you to read it. He ends with these words. "But just as the Irishman who came upon a brawl in the street and asked, "Is this a private fight or can anyone get in it?" we have to take that love where the action is. Or the world will remain a theatre of war between fundamentalists."

Where do I stand? All people are my children. I have Christian children and Muslim children and children who are Athiest. I'm angry with many of them now because they are fighting and destroying hope. But, I'll control my anger. That's what love demands. Rather than giving in to my anger I'll control it and look and work for solutions. I have no other options.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

When Elvis Died

"I didn't like his music. I didn't follow his career but I should have known how important he was to many people. I failed my church."

The above was posted on a seminary bulletin board. Though I can't remember the exact words I can clearly remember reading it because it was true. We should be involved in the world about us. We should listen to family, friends, co-workers and the strangers we encounter and have some knowledge of their experiences and values. Our world should be larger than our personal interests.

My wife and I are trying to age gracefullly. One of the things that we have done is watch television targeted for young people -- MTV, VH1, etc. We do it without being critical. We were young once and older people didn't like our music and dress. We remember the experience without fondness. So, we listen and watch and try to find the good in it and overlook the parts that we find objectionable. We try to put ourselves in the place of young people. I think they have a tougher world than we had.

Watching and listening slows the aging process. It exercises our mental and emotional muscles. More importantly, it helps prevent us from slipping into a narrow, lifeless world of our own creation.

Breathing Out, Breathing In

Sensing her pain I breathe out lovingkindness.
With fear I watch the arrow in its flight.
What of my aim? What of the breezes? What if she moves?

Knowing her distress I breathe in her pain.
I grip the cord securely and pull toward my heart.
Feeling her pain I breathe with relief knowing we are bound together.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Light Switch

My most dramatic and anchoring experience occurred at about age 12. I can't explain it logically. I've never tried to examine it. It happened and has stayed with me.

At the time my family attended a Methodist church (all good memories). I was made well aware of my sinful state and God's grace but they remained simply words to be endured until the Sunday morning hour ended and the fun part of the day began.

One morning during the work week (summer? why was I out of school?) I became personally aware of my alienation from God and my impending doom in Hell. I felt the burden, the depression and the darkness. After about 7-8 hours I was lying on the couch and was suddenly filled with a sense of relief, acceptance, joy and forgiveness. It was as if someone had flipped a light swith and my dark life was suddenly filled with light. I can clearly remember leaping up because it was impossible to remain lying in depression.

This was an anchoring experience and a life altering experience. Since then I've never questioned the grace of God and the goodness of the universe.

I no longer believe in Hell (though I believe many of us create our own hell) but this doesn't invalidate the experience.

I no longer believe in "sinfulness" though I do believe in alienation and lostness but this does not invalidate the experience.

I no longer pastor or attend church but that doesn't invalidate the experience.

Something happened that day. It was a small peek at the Truth that destroyed fear and changed me.

For some reason I never told anyone about the experience for years. I wonder how many other people have had similar experiencess but have kept them secret.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I Don't Understand

I generally (not always) experience life as a low-grade state of something similar to euphoria. I feel good and can't explain why. It's not drug-induced, I haven't won the lottery. I don't know why.

So, it's a bit of a mystery to me why others are searching for "enlightenment". Please, please, don't interpret this in a negative or demeaning way. Perhaps it's a language problem but I just don't understand.

Maybe this is all life has to offer. Maybe there isn't anything more. Maybe there isn't a heaven attainable now or in the after life. If so, that's OK by me because life is good and I don't need more.

However, it's easy for me to say this because at the moment I'm healthy, employed, happily married and have deceived myself into thinking I'm in control of my life.

I suspiscion those needing something more are going through the normal growth/evolutionary pains that humans (myself included) experience. If so, hang in there! It can come together for you.

For me, life became good when I realized the following.

My life is mine. I must set my own values, make my own decisions, choose my path. There are plenty of people, corporations and governments that want to do this for me but I can't relinquish this responsibility.

Life is a mixture of good times and bad times. I must enjoy, appreciate and be thankful for the good times because they enable me to face the bad times. I must appreciate the bad times and learn and grow through them because they make the good times better and I become stronger and better prepared for any future.

Life must be lived in simplicity with the natural world. Cities, the commercial media (radio, TV, etc) and technology (ps: I develop software) are unnatural and unhealty. I must live with them but I know they are not real. They are fool's gold. Reality is sand, water, family, friends, physical work, solitude and the rhythms of the universe.

I'm not invincible so I must plan some time for myself each day. If the sun doesn't shine and I need sunshine then I must create a few moments of it.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I Believe

I have been experiencing an instinctual drive to develop a statement of faith, a statement of my core beliefs, an expression of my world view.

I find it easy to identify some of my core beliefs but difficult to compose them into a concise poetic form. Substance without form is weak but form without substance is abhorrent. So, here's some of the substance. Perhaps the full substance and mature form will develop in the future.

I believe life is a gift. The greatest act of worship is to enjoy the gift of life with gratitude and reverence. Enjoying life is possible by balancing work and play, self and others.

I believe I alone am responsible for how I use or abuse my gift. Happiness, inner peace and contentment are choices that can be developed into an art. Who I am and who I am becoming are more important than what I have done and what I do.

I believe the universe exhibits harmony and integrity. My life, my beliefs, my values and my actions should embody integrity and harmony. Integrity and harmony are made possible by living with deliberateness and simplicity.

I believe creation is evolving. I must be open to life's evolution by living in the present open to all people and new experiences. I must be prepared to release the past and not fear the future.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Success! They Did It

Kirk and Lisa made it to Katahdin!

Each summer I follow some hikers attempting the Appalachian Trail or another long distance trail. This year I chose three -- a single young lady (Appalachian Trail), a newly wed couple (Kirk and Lisa) and a retired couple hiking the American Discovery Trail.

Kirk and Lisa were married September 25, 2004 and started the AT in Georgia on February 26. In early May they left the trail for a few days to take physicals for the Peace Corp. Unfortunately, Lisa's physical revealed a tumor that required surgery. After surgery and recovery they returned to the trail and completed the AT on October 1.

Congratuations, Kirk and Lisa. I admire you and greatly enjoyed your journal, your photos and the opportunity to follow your adventure.