Monday, December 31, 2012

What's So NEW About 2013?

Gratitude Journal - January 1, 2013
1. Down time - even 'forced' vacation time...
2. These particular "HOLY"-days!
3. Spending quality time with grand-kids
4. Beth making home-made cookies
5. Tail lights leaving the drive-way... bittersweet!!!

Think about it.  Literally everyone - myself included - seems to be bent on wishing you a Happy NEW Year!  The more I ponder those words, I wonder what we mean when we repeat this oft heard phrase to one another?  What is so NEW about this year?

There is indeed a turn of the page on our old paper calendars.  But while this year starts on Tuesday, every week of the year has a Tuesday.  What is NEW about that?  We still have to prepare for work, pay bills, do laundry, eat food - even if we do 'start to diet'...  We continue to have kids in school, same relatives in nursing homes, homes to maintain, even same houses of worship to attend.  So what is so NEW about a year? 

Studies indicate that most of those who make 'resolutions' soon break them.  No matter what the good intent might be - exercise, diet, sleep, quality time with our mate, staying in touch with friends/relatives on a more consistent basis, etc. Most of these 'commitments' go out the window in a very short amount of time!

So maybe we need to recognize that there really isn't much NEW under the sun! (someone famous said that before I...)  But before we get depressed and throw all our grand intentions out, maybe we should really revisit what it is we are looking forward to and/or anticipate when we say, HAPPY NEW YEAR. 

I believe deep within all of us there is a desire to start over.  To try once again to 'get it right'.  To make up for mistakes we have made or clean up some mess that continues to hand around, no matter how hard we wish otherwise...  So - maybe, just maybe - it is the anticipation of a more hope-filled moment to occur on our path!

I for one need disparately to start all over, beginning with my attitude toward those who have hurt me.  Whether it was intentional or just in oversight or blindness to my need, others do inflict pain and I naturally want to get back at them.  Or I want to see the suffering others cause me and omit my own participation in a wounded relationship. Or maybe I am too much self-centered on my own pain and don't see the burdens others are dealing with...

God blesses each of us with the start of each NEW day - whether it begins some NEW month on a calendar or not.  With each breathe we are granted NEW hope to start over.  NEW opportunities to accept the GRACE we don't deserve, to open our hearts and lives to God's love for us.  No matter how old I get or how many NEW year's come along, God grant me to eyes to see and ears to hear that NEWNESS is something all around me and available to me each and every day...  I need not wait 12 more months to start over again!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Pressure to take a vacation...

Pressure to take a vacation...

Over this past year I have been extremely busy.  I have been assisting clergy and congregations in addressing obstacles standing in the way of a more fruitful ministry.  It has been exciting, challenging, fulfilling, joyful and at times anxiety producing!  It has never been dull.

Although I have taken some time away for a break with my wife, kids and grands, I have not 'used up' all my vacation days.  So now at the end of the year I am have created another 'pressure' for myself.  Either find a way to use the days OR I will loose them. 

So I recently looked over the calendar and carved out almost three weeks of 'down-time'.  Beth (my wife) indicates that there won't be much 'down' about it - ha.  But I do hope and plan to set aside some private time for reflection during Advent and prepare my heart more for the gifts God has in store. 

I pray for a peaceful heart and thereby peaceful relationships with all those I come in contact with this year.  I pray for a hopefulness to fill my mind, so that I may share positive hope with anxious persons around me.
I pray for gracefulness with myself, in hopes that I will be graceful toward those who are hard and bitter.
I pray for joy to radiate from my life, particularly for those filled with sadness and pain, so they might be restored.
And finally I pray for LOVE - God's love for all! 

May it be so Lord, may it be so...


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

CAVE People: Citizen Against Virtually Everything

Gratitude Journal 10-10-12

     1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our first born - love ya son!
     2. Great meeting with local congregation sharing intro to Male Spirituality
     3. Fall - Autumn - this time of year, whatever you call it...
     4. Home-made chocolate cake - even if I did bake it myself (right out of the box - ha)
     5. Feeling 'organized' - even if it was only for a day.

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord... "plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

Have you noticed how many people seem so caught up in the national elections even to the point they are willing to loose friends and create enemies?  I must have crossed some threshold (must be an age thing, maybe...) because it doesn't seem to be effecting me in the same way this time around. 

Oh, I still have my preferences for president/vice-president and I will definitely vote my conscious as always.  AND I have not drunk the 'koolaid'!  I believe very passionately in my candidate and the values of the party I support.  However, I am not planning on calling people names because they differ with my vote.  I am not going to belittle anyone or post messages on FaceBook calling for the wrath of God (or my other 'friends') upon those who differ. 

The amazing thing for me is how many people seem to be bent on tearing down instead of building up!  (I think the candidates are doing fine in that arena all by themselves!!!) It appears some people want to throw stones instead of building bridges.  They have drawn a circle and find it easy to leave lots of American Citizens out... just because they differ.  When pressed, they never say what they are for - it is rarely about a long held value or because they like their candidate more.  No... it is simply that they are 'against' a party or a candidate.  They don't want to spend time telling me why I should vote for their candidate, they are just against! 

But, come to think about it - these are the same people who are typically against most everything!  If someone says it is a beautiful day, they say it is cloudy or to cold or hot, it is the wrong season, time of day, or they don't like the day of the week.  If you share a current success, they rain on the parade because they didn't have a 'success' recently (even though they are blessed beyond measure). 

I am generally an optimistic person.  I am not Pollyanna about life.  I have lived long enough to know that everything doesn't work out great.  I am aware that there are lots of people in pain and suffering.  Life is 'tuff' for a host of people today!  There are folks with chemical imbalances, etc... AND I do work in mental health.

However, I have a growing consciousness that I do not want to spend my days strategizing how to pull people down more!  I do not want to give others any power that is mine, allowing them to determine my mood.  I choose not to join in with others to cast negative, vindictive motives onto every subtle difference between me and those who see the world differently.  I will not embrace the idea that there is a special place in Hell for those who hold an opinion that is contrary from my own!

I make a decision not to join the CAVE People: Citizens Against Virtually Everything!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mike and Oti and John... and CANCER

Gratitude Journal 9-11-12
1. Vulnerability in those who lead and those who lead by example...
2. Willingness to rail against the dispiriting moments humans must face...
3. Friendship - across the miles and years!
4. Belonging - when one feels loved unconditionally by another brother or sister
5. Believing that the walk of faith - though never a cake walk if it is authentic - is the best way to go through life!

You will walk by faith and not by sight... 2 Cor. 5:7

I have a friend (locally) who is ‘fighting’ the BIG C. He has CANCER. When I say he is ‘fighting’ I mean he has marshaled all the resources and options anyone could imagine. He has traveled, read, consulted, tried the old ways and even a few new ones and the road continues to steep for my friend, his wife and family, and our larger community as we walk this path together.

How would such a private matter, with all the highs and lows, affect a whole community? It affects us because my friend has made a decision to share the journey through the written word and with anyone within the range of his voice. He blogs. He talks publicly. He has laughed out loud and cried and railed against this hated disease. He has shared his ‘humanity’. He continues to share from the deepest place inside. He shares from his faith and his soul.

There are times when I do not want to read another posting for fear the next blog will describe some new dark cloud on his journey? But, he is such a gift I dare not miss any opportunity to see what is being offered as my friend pulls back the curtain and invites us (all of us) into his study, into his doctor’s office, into the lab, into his hospital room, into his family, into his marriage, into his 'eternal' life!

I also have a friend in Dallas, TX. She too has recently had to manage the burden of CANCER in her body. Her husband, my college roommate, died of this dreaded disease several years ago. Therefore she is no stranger to the twists and turns associated with this path and how little 'control' she/we actually have when it comes to CANCER. As each test probed and searched her body, she did the same with her doctors, seeking knowledge and greater understanding. What should she expect? How long would she need to recover? To what extent might there be complications? AND she shared her pilgrimage with grace and openness and humor and faith through FaceBook.

Almost forty years ago my pastor’s child was diagnosed with CANCER. My pastor pulled back the curtain on his life experience as a father and husband. He shared the struggle they were going through with this dreaded disease. His nine year old child eventually died. A month later my pastor returned to the pulpit. He preached a series of sermons and eventually published a small book about his experience and what he learned along this bitter path. (Tracks of a Fellow Stuggler)

Unfortunately, because his open sharing and willingness to be vulnerable to his journey, his marriage came apart. He eventually not only lost a child and his marriage, but he also was forced to leave the church of his childhood because of their intolerance for divorced pastors.

Today I celebrate these models of courage and strength and hope that I have received from my friends (Mike and Oti) and the gifts I gleaned from my pastor's journey! There are moments when their words are filled, not only with realism, but also deep and abiding hope.

Lord - bless Mike Veneble, Oti Marsden and the legacy of John Claypool! May I be found as open to You and Your will and may I always seek to be open and vulnerable - even in the dark valleys - about my hope in You whatever turn my path may take...


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"If I Go Up To The Mountain..."

Gratitude Journal - 7-12-12
1. Mountains of North Georgia
2. Annual vacation with family
3. Pontoon Boat with trolling motor
4. Watching July 4th fireworks with grands!
5. Massive Cabin on HIGH mountain, curvy road...

"If I go down - You are there...
If I go up - You are there!"

Vacations are always a joy when spent renewing relationships with family! To have the blessing of spending over a full week with our children, our daughter-in-law, the grand kids, Kerrie - our adopted daughter - and our niece and three of her kids - priceless.

On many of the early mornings when I sat along on the massive screened porch and watched the sun come up over the mountains OR riding on a quiet lake with Beth watching the sun go down - how could one not be filled with the Holy Spirit and look all around and see witness of God? Even though several of the days were very hot, it was a delight to have that pause from our hectic, day to day life...

While we were there we did 'go down' to depths of despair for the pain and woundedness of relatives. We heard stories we were not aware of previously. We recognized pain and sorrow, long standing!

Upon our return we were presented with the reality that 'grandma' had not been treated with respect and honor for which she is due, at the 'home' that is charged with her care. That too felt like 'going down to the depths'...

However, our stay in the mountains was a respite and renewed our hope and joy and provided the backdrop we needed to return and face the challenges before us. It did and will continue to serve as one of many Sabbaths for which we are grateful!

Thanks be to God for this gift. Even if we do not have such a gift of time 'away to the mountains' again, I pray that this past week will continue to be not only a blessed memory, but a renewal point in our minds eye to which we can return over and over again.

May you too have such a gift this summer - at the beach, in the mountains, with your family or church, in your backyard, wherever...


Tuesday, June 12, 2012


"...choose life, then, so that you and your descendents may live in the love of Yahweh your God, obeying his voice, holding fast to him"
Deu. 30:19-20

For years I have been sharing my thoughts through a journal - in most recent years it has been entitled my "Gratitude Journal". Father's Day Weekend is just ahead of us. Today I would like to share the joy I feel and the gratitude I have through the Fatherhood my son toward his own children!

Jay has been a Father for almost six years. McCullough is his daughter (5.5 yrs) and Thompson is his son (4 yrs on Sat). It is an understatement to say that he is a great Dad. He is sensitive, caring, nurturing, encouraging, tolerant, patient, stern when necessary, consoling, and teaches by example. He is filled with love and he is also human!

He looses his temper and gets frustrated. He has anxiety and concerns for his children's education, health, protection and their future. He works hard and sacrifaces his own desires for the sake of his children and family.

This past year Jay has dedicated himself to the call of 'lay-minister' in the United Methodist Church. He studies the Word. He provides devotions and sermons with the aged in nursing facilities. He teaches Sunday School in his home church. He goes to church with his wife and children - he doesn't drop them off at the door. He is ethical and passionate about doing his best.

Jay loves history and teaches for an Episcopal school in his community. He is concerned for his students and he provides support and encouragement to his charges when they make poor decisions. He advocates for each child - with their parents or with school administrators.

It is impossible to share all he means to me... but I am so very blessed as a Father. The gift of watching my child become a Man and a Father has been an outstanding journey! I give God thanks for HIS incredible LOVE and for the opportunity I have had and trust I will continue to have, walking the path of faith with my brother/son as he continues to bless his own children, his students and his community of faith and larger community.

I love you son!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oprah fan... I admit it.

Gratitude Journal 1. Spring rain 2. Clarity out of choas 3. Our 'nest' back together, following five weeks of disorder! 4. Smell of fresh paint... 5. Good programming on television!!!
Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Luke 9:58
For the past five weeks my wife and I have been confined to one room and one bath in our 2,800 sq. ft. home. A worker made a big mistake on some work we had contracted for him to do for us and it limited the area available to us until the mess could be corrected. We have been 'fretful' with one another and with the situation and anxious for all to get back to normal in our nest. Recently, Oprah Winfrey visited India. She visited a man, his wife and their three children and filmed the visit. They literally live in less that 144 sg. ft. of space. The one room contained their kitchen, a cabinet for their clothes, and small mats, stuffed in a corner for sleeping. They all lie on the floor each evening to sleep. Wow... what a difference between my life and their experience! The older I get - and having lived without many comfort items this last five weeks - I am asking myself... how much do I really need? While I don't believe that my wife and I could comfortably live in 144 sq. ft., I know we can and will need to begin living with less and less. Priorities. Values. In this moment, I am thankful for a brief segment on Oprah T.V. show and the reminder of what is really most important. Relationships! Mine with God and my relationship with family and all God's children.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandma's Long Journey

Gratitude Journal
1. Ruth Elizabeth Adcock
2. Grandma's faith
3. Grandma's laughter... even today!
4. My wife's family
5. My own fifty-five plus years of memories...

"Raise up a child in the way it should go and when it is old, it will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Grandma has not been with us for the past two months. At least, not the Grandma of old. She suffered a stroke and lost most of her short term memory. Every day we have to introduce her to the staff or her room and furniture. In the early hours of the day she slowly wanders the halls looking for her mom and dad. If she makes it until July 1, 2012 - she will have lived 94 years. That is a lot of candles!

Grandma has been a part of my life since before her daughter, Mary Beth and I married in 1966. When I graduated from college we left and moved over 1000 miles away from Mary Beth's family - something I still have regrets about, even today. It was almost a year before they were able to visit us and almost two years before we made the trip all the way back to their home in Florida.

I am sure there were tears on their end... particularly for Grandma. However, she was never critical. And that has been true of her nature all along. She has rarely had an unkind thing to say about anyone through the years.

These recent months have been difficult for both me and Mary Beth. This once vibrant personality is but a small frail shadow of who she use to be. On occasion we are able to get a smile from her. There are brief moments when she will actually laugh out loud, but we don't know why. She tries to talk to us, but the words are gibberish most times.

She is most settled when I read scripture to her. Particularly when I read those passages that would be most familiar: Psalm 23 or some Parable or the beginnings of Genesis. She will be calm and peaceful and then try to say something back. I sooth myself into believing that she is pleased and appreciative and that the words touch some deep place within.

Grandma's journey is not what we expected in August when we moved her to Hospice Care. Removing all the meds we thought we hasten her peaceful transition. However, God knew better. Grandma rebounded and now eats better than I do. She is slowing and declining for sure. But each day we visit not knowing what new chapter we/she may face.

It definitely is a long journey home... It is a long, long journey! And it is a journey we would not have wished for this dear saint. But we trust her faith is still in her God and there is something she is teaching us as we walk with her...

We are thankful for those who minister to her needs when we are not around. We are thankful for calls and notes of concern from family and friends. We have much to be thankful for.

God, we pray for peace and hope to sustain Grandma and us as we all continue on this journey in Your care!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Blessing of Self-Awareness

Gratitude Journal
1. Journaling - on again/off again since 8th grade
2. Spiritual retreats - significant encounters with nature
3. Special authors who put words to my deepest thoughts
4. Special people - counselors, pastors, friends... gifts on my journey!
5. Prayer - in all it's forms!

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you... JEREMIAH 1:5

When I was younger I spent lots of time day-dreaming. When I needed to escape my surroundings or some anxious time all I needed to do was stare out the window and I could enter a world of peace and hope and no pain. I could construct castles, develop relationships with a host of people - young and old alike, and travel not only to distant, exotic places, but also to unusual places as well... I once dreamed of living in the innermost part of a small tree in our backyard.

As I grew older the authorities in my life became more demanding of my time. There were expectations for study and appropriate attentiveness and behaviors. Time for 'dreaming' came less often. But also greater stress and depression began to creep into my experience.

I was never physically wounded or harmed by my family of origin, but 'the sins of the fathers (and mothers)' really were passed down from several generations and compounded before they landed on my path. I do not blame or hold responsible anyone before me! God knows they had to carry their own woundedness and burdens!

If I have a regret it is that the gift of self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-discipline were not available to me much earlier!

Richard Rohr says that we spend the first half of our lives building the container and the second half of life working on the content.

I believe I went way past the first half of my life working on the outside, while plagued by emotional wounds and pains that prevented me from moving on more appropriately and productively. My inner journey was born late and it has proved to be the most rewarding.

In recent years I have been introduced to persons who reflect on the faith journey in new and exciting ways. Many of them have been wounded too. Yet they have made peace with the past and have offered their musings as bits of hope and joy for others. Nouwen, Merton, Buechner, Rohr, Oliver are just a few.

Assessments too have been tools; MBTI and the Emmeagram have been most helpful.

I wish I could give this gift to others. But alas, it is one that must be unwrapped by each of us. Yet, I do plan on Coaching folks toward greater sensitivity to their inner voice. And I pray that my questions will reap rewards for those I engage along the remainder of my odyssey!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A New Puppy Named OSCAR...

Gratitude Journal
1. The vitality and energy of a new puppy
2. The rapid heart beat of a small animal - even at rest
3. The joy and smiles brought by a four legged addition to the family
4. The patience necessary to survive multi-'potty' breaks after midnight, for OSCAR
5. The excitement displayed by OSCAR's waging tail, upon my arrival home following a long day at the office!

"And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female." Genesis 7:19

I have a friend who was quizzed once on 'animals going to heaven' and he said no... He got into a lot of trouble over that response. Now I do not know for certain about whether my pets will be with me is some type of relationship eternally, but they sure are a blessing and a gift in the present!

We have a new pet puppy named OSCAR. He is part dachshund and part terrier. He is now ten weeks old and such a joy! He is active and filled with energy. He is a poster child for ADHD in dogs. He is demanding and smart. He is small and fragile. He is messy and can produces messes. He is everything you would expect a little puppy to be.

But he is also gift. While I purchased him and lots of support materials/items to make him happy... he is gift. He has reminded me of the gift of life. He is present at all times. He is small in the grand universe and in the grander scheme of things. He is dependent and helpless. In so many ways he is just like me.

Thank You Father for the gift of OSCAR! Thank You for the reminder that I too may be small and dependent and messy - but in Your grand plan, somehow my life and presence brings You joy. And that is sufficient grace and mercy for me to celebrate!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Epiphany - a time of gifts - even illness!

Gratitude Journal
1. Wise men
2. A Holy Story
3. Memory of previous Holy Days
4. Growth
5. Growth through weakness...

They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. Matthew 2:11

Spending time with a friend in recent days, discussing weakness. He has struggled with health issues - nothing grave, just a persistent cold - over the Christmas break. His faith journey attributes even illness as a possible 'gift' and tool for God to gain his attention.

My liberal, protestant faith refrains from saying God sends sickness, in any form, to anyone. God can and does work in dis-eased times in our lives for our good. But God does not 'cause' it...

In reflective times following our chats I have struggled. If God is in all things, and is all powerful and the ultimate creator, why is illness and even death part of our path? And from whence does it originate, if not from God? This is not a new question. I have tackled it many times and it remains a mystery for me today!

Epiphany is a time to remember the Wise Men of old. Not only their journey, but their gifts as well. The gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh - represented perfection and purity. There is not hint in the 'three kings' narratives of anything less than the highest and best bowing down to the young Jesus.

If my friend is right and illness is used by the Holy Father to bring about redemption and restoration, maybe - just maybe - the next time I face less than good health (or even someone I love must deal with pain and physical suffering) I will be more open to that time as 'gift time' too. Maybe it can be not only a time for God to 'work in all things', but a time for me to work on my side and see within my journey what I need to offer back to God.