Misplaced Hope: The Fall of Expectation

We are a nation, a people who have wrapped ourselves in labels of race, gender, life styles and social classes. Such labels are not comprehensive; they often cloak our true identity and lack any depth of realized character. Ultimately, authentic truth reveals the nakedness of the human soul.

When we build our hope on the infrastructure of systems, ( an ordered and comprehensive assemblage of facts, principles, doctrines, or the like in a particular field of knowledge or thought,) whether they be political, racial, gender or our self-elevated belief systems, our emotions run high. Judgements are made and often; reason is dangerously overruled.

We risk falling from a high rise of unrealistic expectations. People lifted to an unreasonable platform of idealism whether by beauty, talent, or gifting is always dangerous. This elevation lacks any real, authentic or lasting dignity.

The same with institutions we hold with undue importance. We soon find the scaffolding that holds our unreal expectation comes crashing down in disappointment because it can not bear the unbalanced load. We are left injured in the chaotic mayhem.

Perhaps one issue to consider is the hidden war within ourselves. Often we are at war within ourselves and we may blame others in our battles. For instance, replacement, or blame of government to soothe our emotional injuries, to calm our fears, to use as an endorsement for our way of thinking, has its dangers. When we look to government to approve and legitimatize ideology or social concerns, it rarely ever holds us secure in the long run.

We never rise to the level of our full and greatest potential when we become overly dependent on people: place: things. Misplaced hope crashes down in the ultimate giving of such power to man. He/she/they will always fail in some aspects to meet our expectations.

Disillusionment ultimately happens: we are left bleeding when institutions collapse before our eyes, leaving us hopeless in our great aspirations of personal gain. How will we survive without our false security holding us up in a world that crashes down? Total rejection of the type of system/ institution seems the only way to heal our wounds.

Entrusted hope is painfully buried, crumbled with each angry disappointment. This scenario is the legitimate view of many with the outcome of the election ~ the ushering in of a flood of unbearable consequences. It is the view life itself will end in the process of this collapse and a way of escape is urgently needed.

Perhaps we need to evaluate the importance we place in government and the power we give to leadership to run it. Institutions such as government, are meant to help equip us to lead free and productive lives.

But rather, it often becomes a misplaced importance in life. We dangerously surrender to its magnitude. Our surrender to this elevation, to a type of idolatry, leads to loyalty to a political system without questioning the balance of facts and truth and demanding personal accountability. A free fall is bound to happen.

Such devotion shackles us to blindness and ultimately to deception. No one is exempt from wearing rose-colored glasses. Fair-mindedness, intellectual research, critical thinking and personal responsibility are laid aside for a type of political religion instead of the true worship of God. Power to rule, rather than delegated authority to lead and serve ultimately takes over.

We are forewarned of a real war within ourselves when “evil becomes good and good evil.” It is the battle of all ages. The switch from a God inspired identity of life to find purpose and meaning is disregarded; and instead, we accept an entirely trendy, post modern ideal of individualism when absolutes of truth are rejected and new standards of amorality are established by the powerful. Man is replaced as God to determine what is right and wrong.

What now is stressed is the individual’s unique position: a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.
This is the norm of exitistentialism.

The ultimate battle of our soul is rooted in the replacement of God. It happens by the slow increase of importance we give to such priorities as intellect, education, government, entertainment; or the pursuit of gaining status, money and power.

Life is soon filled with our elevated choice and privileges, our own pursuits of needs and pleasures; priorities of others, or people not so enlightened, are therefore discarded and disdained. The ugly shame/blame occurs and polarization, the gulf of division, grows wider. It is the clutch of recent reality.

Have we lost our focus? The desire to seek after a life of inspiration, of generosity; as well as opportunity, which has always been important to the American dream. It is time for a reset , if this focus is to survive.

In our past, we chose to make life better, not solely for our personal family and interests but also extended care for the down-trodden and needy. We strived to help lift up one another, to make our communities stronger and safer for all families. Will that end in our selfish ambition to gain more money and power. I hope not.

Faith finds the source for the most important and peaceful means of power.
The untapped love and power to do good in all of us is what needs to be transferred to our hurting world, not the transfer of power from us into the hands of government to do good.

Will we look to a failing government to supply our security, or support our affirmation of identity? Will it be to continue our own selfishness, our views and opinions duly stated, or God’s grace to awaken us to new possibilities? We are so ready for heart discovery; but will we pause in reflection and make needed changes, or selfishly respond to live the same? Let’s pray not.

A great awakening is coming. Let it be a spiritual one ~ a call to reset new priorities, generosity and motivational love in action. This higher purpose is what America is called to fulfill.

Photo courtesy:Hector Moro





Grief:Generosity:The Spirit of Christmas

We all grieve at times during the Christmas season because of separation from friends, or loss of family loved ones. It seems more intense during this season of nostalgia. Often it results in altering personal holiday traditions; or sometimes, they are simply ignored in grief and lost forever.

Honoring celebrations are an important way of healing. We can all help reduce the pain by reaching out and giving what matters most…acceptance, love and friendship!

My friend Susan wrote an excerpt of her help as a caregiver that is inspirational:

“I work for Home Instead Senior Care as a Care Giver in St. Augustine FL. Two of my clients are so very opposite yet similar. Both have lost their loved one. Mr.T’s wife died 12 years ago and he can’t quite get over it. I have tried to “Christmasfy” his house and he said “No, just can’t do it.” Then one day I noticed he was playing Christmas songs on his computer….next day a wooden Rudolf is peaking out of his bushes…the following day 2 beautiful wreaths of red berries were hanging on the garage door lights on both sides. I said how pretty it looked and he replied, “It does look nice doesn’t it”. He is legally blind.

The other one, Miss M’s husband died and she said he was a Christmas junkie. When she spoke of him she sounded so sad and she said Christmas depressed her. I simply told her that maybe she could think of Christmas as a dedication to her deceased husband. As we decorated the tree, which was the first tree in 3 years in that house, she said “This one is for you Mr. P” Tears came to my eyes.

Now her house is decorated beautifully with bits of old and new pieces for Christmas. We have started to make ginger cookies and look through the cook books every day now. She even has lights outside of her house. She could not wait for her daughter to see what “we” did. She totally has pride in all we do and have done. She has Dementia, and everyday it is a new experience.

I guess what I am trying to say is let them mourn their loved ones but try to turn it into something good. I am just as thrilled to see them every time I go to their house as they are to see me walk through the door. A good hug can last for 3 days! Merry Christmas ~ and a healthy New Year!

Hospitality displays an open gate of welcome, it is a greeting, it extends a warm and inviting heart. It is an act of sharing our love and traditions.

The joy of Christmas: add the fun of family and friends to share in holiday activities, and it is all that is needed to make this season and every tradition, a remembrance of love and understanding.

Let this year be one of reaching out – if not by sharing in personal tradition, let it be by generosity – the generosity of spirit that is so needed in our broken and weary world.

There are many needs around us. Lend a helping hand, share a smile of acknowledgment, or give a needed hug. We all need to give. We also need to receive. It often is the small acts of random kindness that keeps our lives balanced and renews hope.

Generosity softens the hardness of life. It generates acts of love and extends our selves to others. It heals us, those discouraged and the broken-hearted. It empowers us to care for one another during the worst periods in loss.

What matters most is we all have the power to give. Love restores the grieving to life-giving strength. We all need strength to face the demands of unknown tomorrows. The outcome of generosity is the giving of hope, hope for a better future, hope to find peace and love.

The Christmas message has always been about giving. “God so loved the World that He GAVE his only begotten son.” His gift to the world has changed lives and guided believers for generations. Jesus has always been about giving life, imparting a life-giving relationship of acceptance, love and eternal hope. True Christian faith displays all that and more.

Let us not only learn to give more generously of ourselves, but also learn to receive the generosity of others. It may be that needed special hug that lasts for three days!


A Shift in Perspective: Grace for the Change

Many are in disbelief, fearful of the future, and shocked by the outcome of the election. We feel the earthquake of social disorder, the groundswell of dismay, anger, and unreasonable violence. Deep divisions and shock waves of sudden backlash seek to uproot us. It all crashes into painfully raw, intense, disarray. What remains is chaotic, rolling emotions. Some seek to stand on a solid rock above the destructive fray.

Why did the election results produce such hateful speech in so many ~ spew itself in all directions ~  blasts in the very face of our nation and at such great speed? Many would say President elect Trump ran his campaign entirely with rants, with over-the-top rhetoric. He led the charge. Many of his allies could not condone his behavior. Rants came from all sides in a fiercely fought campaign.

The intense verbal reactions on both sides raised to a new level of hatred and near anarchy since the winning call. Emotions run high. Fear overpowers. The worst in us becomes unhinged when contempt and fear takes us down. The greater potential landslide of fear may be more destructive, if we allow it to rule.

Perhaps fears’ final strike came with the realization of the consequence of crumbling ideals, those beliefs we cling to, those treasured hopes in a world we build around us. What was held as belief did not hold together in the end. No one likes to get it wrong.

Someone said,”We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world the way we are.”

We establish our own limited world. The way we see this world is the way we see reality. This identity is driven by our deep-seeded perceptions that in turn drive our beliefs and behaviors. This gives way to living with our blind sights. And we express those ” hallowed” perceptions through our communications.

Change is extremely difficult when it comes as an unexpected side-winder. That is how the election news assaulted the most unsuspected Hillary Clinton supporters.  But the stunned reality that followed with accusations of blame, judgements and negative assumptions, surely have not calmed the frenzy.

When we ignore the questioning signs of truth our pride sets us up for painful falls.  When we accept what we hear and not search out reasoning truth we are more likely to believe false statements and lies; therefore, assume false judgements of one another. We all are guilty of these perceptions.

” Perhaps the worst aspects of political fear is that fear is greater than our differences,” Lori Phister. 


” Many have never experienced the devastation of experienced racism, sexism or xenophobia in life, wrote one FB writer: And  until you do experience some form of discrimination, you will never truly know how painful Trump’s campaign has been for those belonging to minority groups.”

I get this. Many in our country have lived with deeply painful experiences not properly healed. But to heal a nation, we must come to terms with our own prejudices, our own bigotry, and not solely lay the blame of such experiences entirely on any one person, race, color, sex, or voting block.

We all have a need to go deeper in owning our biases to rid hateful cause and effects. Try we must. We can’t give up efforts to bridge the gaps. Often problems arise when the fragile bridges we begin to build, are blown up by our own insensitivity and destructive weapons of behaviors. What work we have ahead in the areas of political, cultural and religious differences. We need new models of the restorative process.

A rare time we live in today, where examination of the heart and soul of our country is desperately needed. Renewed hope and efforts will require changed thinking. Likewise, hardened hearts to open and expand. It is not about tolerance ~ it is about grace and understanding ~ it comes in talking and not shouting. Listening helps us find initiative to work together. Forgiveness makes it possible.

Such a time is now when recent, painful experiences have grown intolerable. We are ripe to acknowledged our personal demise of unhealthy perceptions. It is time to deal with deep insecurities and fear of the future and look beyond the difficulties of our past. A tipping point of healing in this country could be within our reach of disheartened, weak and weary hands. Can we concentrate on repairing our own brokenness in the process of refocus? Governments can not supply the happiness of our future.

I liked how Jane Colton, resolved her own intense feelings after the election:

” I was horrified, angry, and then I sobbed. Out of those human emotions came a shift in my perspective. I just suddenly knew what I had to do. I have to be part of the solution. I have to allow everyone, including Donald Trump, to grow and change in an instant. I need to find forgiveness and replace my horror with love. If ever we needed to love each other, now is the time. Even as I continue to have a range of feelings about this, Grace found me last night, it won’t let go, and it is stronger than fear.”

May grace come to us in this great time of need and release our nation from debilitating fear. And release us from such turmoil.  May grace never let go!

Written by Judy Cline 11/14/2016




America’s Election: The Political Jam

Heavy political traffic dominates the news in recent days. It is congested with political rhetoric, opposing views, and speed-race driving in opposite directions.The primary traffic with its abrupt starts and stops is like no other election year. Road rage and erratic driving has brought any wise-thinking citizen to a near halt.

What a congestion night-mare for those who merely want to by pass the bottleneck and continue on their journey. Signs are up everywhere for future re-construction. The routes of progress are dramatically up for change and who knows where the map will take us.

This election road leads us to a challenging journey. Each party wants to scramble for the driving seat: steer the future of life and country: democracy and the role of government in hand. It is sobering our voting responsibility and even more so, the outcome. If only we can endure the messy political process to an electorate decision.

Even optimists, if honest, worry about veering to a precipice edge with this political cycle

It all seems so oppressive, so chaotic, when known political figures and party structures are being exposed. We hardly recognize our American way of life of hope and change when exposed to the embarrassing bare nakedness of it all. Exposure happens when those things we wish to hide are brought into revealing light. How painful when all the world is watching. And more painful when we expect better from those whom we place on pedestals, or lift on platforms, to be our potential great leaders. How far the fall.

Buckle up, tighten your seat belt. It’s bound to be one messy ride as both parties speed to the final countdown of our November National Election. We will have more massive ads streaming into our homes, signs planted on our lawns and bumper stickers shouting from our cars. Political megaphones blast. But will they attract attention enough to awake the sleepy uninformed electorate? I only hope the intense media doesn’t tempt us all to pull down the visor, or lull us back to the lazy comfort of idling passively down the road. Overkill often causes us to check out altogether.

It really is time to shake ourselves from complacency in order to see the deep divide and hear the wounded cry of our great country. Pain is real and beyond the ability of political party, ideology, and quite honestly, beyond the scope of government to stop the flow of bleeding in our nation. Much is sick in the life of our nation. The heart of our nation is shaking. We feel the unsettled effects. The silence of the suffering turns into the cry of the wounded and further cries of angery mobs.

How can we not be affected by the great wounds this process already has revealed? The daily shock runs deep and then sharply cuts deeper. No one can deny the unhealed wounds of mistrust, hatred and injustice. It reveals the turmoil and manifested fear of the future, the spiraling-down of our American life. It really can’t be ignored. But we really can’t ignore an honest assessment of the country’s condition in order to provide and choose a plan of direction.

Did any of us truly realize the debts of the heart condition of our nation, the wounds we now face? The blows of disillusionment cuts and divides? It is the alarming unfolding of deceit, of entitlement, of rage of lost opportunities for betterment. It is all the imbedded poisonous practices we see lurking, so ugly; harmful for the American Values of Liberty we desire.

Sadly, it is the unveiling of our political process, the ugly ethics and the unraveling of culture that grieves us most. I doubt the average citizen grasps it; the cause of the spiraling down. And why could anyone even realize the magnitude when those to whom they look to for leadership have failed to be honest and authentic? It is a nasty environment.

We are a nation in crises with a war of ideas, deep wounds held together by band aids. The denial of issues produces undeniable fear and grips many who have put trust in government. They are the ones in pain. Many realize their trust in Washington D C. truly has failed.

Reality unveils and disturbance increases. It will take more than inspiring speeches and personal accolades to unite our country now. There is genuine cynicism because of stalemate and long-term lack of problem solving. Delay has its end: Time now for serious thought and real solutions.

We as a people can not simply, shift blame to political parties alone. It surely is tempting. Individuals share the responsibility for present affairs. How we treat our neighbor, do we cheat and lie, and are we dismissive of others’ suffering? Each one of us is accountable for pass failures and an unforgiving state we find ourselves locked in. There is enough blame to spread all around.

Our energy can be redirected, not by criticism, not in our own measure of passion, but in proven ideals of honesty and accountability and personal responsibility. Our efforts  may be good, but integrity proves the winner. Surely higher ideals must be our GPS guide to our future.

Hasn’t our conscience been awaken in all this chaos? Perhaps this is the rude awakening we all have needed. ALL are offended. The awakening of accountability IS the process of examining our own conscience. Let’s pray that this AWAKENING continues. And that AWAKENING leads our nation to first examine its need for higher ideals; those which are far higher than our present acceptance of the status quo. We have heard that we can do better, but will we?

Integrity has become a devalued standard. We settle for far less then the gold standard of honest order. Requiring integrity leads us to a better nation, fairer and more just dealings. Truth wins over deception. Light triumphs over darkness. If indeed, we humble ourselves and return to our motto, “In God we trust.”

Photo: istock











Self Realization: A Questioning Journey

Exposed, totally exposed with my control issues from reading a book, a thought-provoking one. I mistook it for a relaxing-by-the-pool book ~ those thrown into the beach bag ~ just to enjoy on vacation. The book with a nice cover. ( I wish I had known when browsing, the challenge the book would give.) What a set-up.

Reading a book: feeling undone. 

I knew it. I had to lay down the book after the first chapter. Reading only a few paragraphs I knew it would lead to a questioning journey. Soon the sleep deprived, restless night would turn to self-realization: marked \\ painful self discovery. It made me want to close my eyes, roll over and pretend I could fall asleep. But it was too late. I recognized the beginnings of the restless toss and turn. No way to escape wrestling thoughts with this one.

1) Self-reliant

2) Perfectly competent.

3) Need to feel in control.

4) Self-determined

And the list goes on. It leaves me sorting out vulnerable, racing triggers of my thoughts. It is the restless feelings, the gut queasiness that challenges my need to fall asleep.

My past comes to realize I need to surrender my struggle of fear and anxiety; if not, I will surrender to my cloak of dark fortress. This is the inner turmoil: the need for change and the wrestling questions of how to do it takes place. Can anyone else relate to the struggle? The need to be competent. Anyone?

Self-determination runs out of steam eventually. It leaves one empty without capability to make change. Permanent change is needed; change that doesn’t get pulled backward, but only moves forward and climbs upward. This great journey onward.

Self protection: it is such a fortress – We believe all is well, because we seem ok. We can always compare ourselves with others and come out better than most and usually ahead of the rest. You know, we are accomplished in maturity and comparison.

But when we are truly awaken to the need for continuing life-change, self protection has to be dismantled to really become authentic. When we are left empty ~ empty of ideas, empty of strengths ~ we may find we didn’t have authentic self-realization after all. This is often a questioning process, steps towards finding the revelation of faith. Many find this need to further investigate. It is the driving need to find answers to real life questions.

Cultural, emotional and mental strongholds of mind sets affect us all. They are built-in personal fortresses and we all suffer in our own limited way of thinking. Brick by brick these mind sets separate us from fully enjoying life and our acceptance of scriptural truth. We have to admit we’ve been wrong; or at the least, misguided in our basis of truth.

Mindsets are built during childhood, shaped by our family identity, and by many life experiences as we develop and mature. We form values and ways we view ourselves and others. Often we establish our own identity, our core values on partial truths or even lies of deception, as our way we view life as truth, the whole truth. We often become trapped in established coping skills and seeing life from a limited perspective. We follow the Yellow Brick Road just like Dorothy and her friends in the Land of Oz until we reach the awakening of our Emerald City.

Self awareness gives us opportunity not to wallow in self-pity, or air dirty laundry, but to become authentic. It is hard to believe there is a stark difference, but there is. Self-pity sees no hope, wants no change, often just seeks soothing attention to self plight.

It is hard to digest; being authentic bows to truth, accepts the reality of human condition, but does not stop there. Desiring change is the first step, but being willing to receive God’s means and process for effective change will grow us even further.

How painful the death of self: it seems such a great loss. We need honesty of our own nature – no excuses or blame game, but naked honesty with our personal need for change. Then comes the willingness to cooperate. That seems the harder part. We become the result of the surrender process. Self-centered pride does not allow this.

Eventually, we experience synergy to be raised again to new understanding, and spiritual life. It actually produces transformation from the old ways into the freedom of a spiritual awakening and renewal.

The thought of cooperating with the process of eliminating internal anxieties and private fears, our own hidden vulnerabilities, is rather terrifying to most people. We hide such a lot.

But tearing down those things that exalt against a personal knowledge of God’s love and compassion must happen. It is necessary to bring us into a realistic view of our own weaknesses so truth of God’s nature, seen in the life of Jesus, can be realized with truth of his love and his message. There is hope: divine hope for our new identity.

First is the act of humility to bow to a revelation of God when we are anxious and fearful. It is possible, however long we wrestle with arguments and wrestle against humility. It is this willful dance of being afraid of being known that is so difficult to give up, give in and yield to our own humility.

God’s nature longs for a personal loving relationship of Father/Son and Father/Daughter. Abba/Father lovingly-commits to bless his children and ultimately guides us to a good end. The process of change may seem so terrifying. It is why man in all his independence, fights to reject it. It is called unbelief.

It’s an act of truth to share our thoughts, our heart beat, to risk enough to allow him to know us in the most intimate core of our nature. This is true humility, our surrender: the beginning of an Abba/Father relationship. This reality is the synergy for change, the beginning of process, a total transformation of life-style.

How is it that we spend all our lives striving to remain in control, to be self confident, to project our strength, only to realize at some point that we have been so wrong? Wrong in our PRIDE of accomplishment, wrong in our SELF-projection – just plain WRONG in our dedication to CONTROL.

Scripture says, “when YOU are weak than I AM strong,” ~ I AM proves right. We are the weak. He is the strong. When this realization comes there is a massive pivot of self reality, we can give up dedication to our own control. We soon feel safe enough to turn to God. By confessing our need for help we receive God’s strength, not our OWN. It is a welcomed change, added strength to face this life with something better than our own, someone bigger than ourselves.

God’s nature is to ultimately reveal himself to man: he did it by revealing his nature through Jesus as Son to the world. He then uses all different means and ways to reveal this fatherhood to individuals. Sometimes he takes us on a revealing journey, one that may take us miles away (Toronto) to set us up (I thought it was attending a WRITING CONFERENCE) all the time allowing fears, thoughts, questions to rise to the surface in us.

But in the meantime – circumstances reveal our heart issues, reverting us back to the real you, the real me. I call it a rude spiritual awakening, the stark unveiling of our personal need. It leaves us stark naked. It precludes our desire for change. This restless need to be different, to want different – a brand new difference. This great need man has for receiving divine fatherhood.

God doesn’t seem bothered by our uncomfortableness of process. He lets out-of-control emotions run down-hill real fast. Pain inflicted by our own willfulness often increases. We seem to better recognize our need for help when experiencing awkward falls and bruised knees. He is after the core issues of our flesh; rebellion, wounded hearts, and resistance to his ways. Scripture illustrates it to be so: many men and women prove it true.

Strong men fall real hard and likewise, strong women; but they end up walking different, a brand-new different. 

The possibilities of walking life different, self-assured as one loved and strengthened, by walking not alone but walking it out together with Abba/Father are many.

Abba sees our growth potential more valuable than our past experience. Our control issues melt in that sharing of life, as he gives strength for the journey and hope for our change.

This is the self-realization that’s HUGE ~ Our life of difference is our best challenge: our life lived in his great strength is our best future.

Racial Tension: Rich Diversity: Dismissive, Combative, or Living as We Ought. 

It was the early sixties when racial tensions in the south were hot and restless. I had not been exposed to such racial issues. My Idaho neighborhood all looked the same; brown heads, red heads and blondes. I had friends and family members from the Mexican community, but only knew one black family that lived in our town. In my view, people were meant to get along. We did as far as I knew. Racial discrimination may have happened, but it was never a part of my small world.

On many train routes during the sixties dining cars were limited. Passenger trains had scheduled hour meal stops. Directions to few cafes were announced and available within a short radius of the station. It was before the growth of fast food chains so choices were limited. Passengers debarked for an hour lunch or dinner break. We became familiar with the stops on a our long journey to San Antonio. It was a new travel experience for this young Idaho girl: a north-south, cross-country train ride to San Antonio, Texas traveling with her mother.

As an innocent eleven-year-old, I witnessed my first experience of segregation. It happened in the only cafe we were directed to dine in at our train meal stop. It was the black uniformed GI, the quiet soldier who sat directly across the aisle from us, who was turned out of the cafe. I was in direct view of the angry owner’s eviction.

In total dismay, I rushed out of the cafe and ran after the young man. Shocked and crying, I asked what he wanted to eat; he politely dismissed it, but I insisted on bringing him something to eat.

I went back to my unsuspecting mom who was left wondering what just happened. It was then, at that shocking moment, I knew I had been deeply affected by skin color discrimination. I couldn’t understand it. The full significance grew as I became older.

I tasted the humiliating pain of segregation and I knew I did not like it. I ached inside with seeing the dismantling of human dignity. And I felt indignant.

When we experience the pain of discrimination, we are confronted just how we choose to live. Do we become dismissive, combative, or do we stand up to what we know is just and right? We will always have a choice.

This one childhood experience affected the many opportunities I took to be embrace the better choice. I began to learn about other cultures, to relate to other races and those different from myself.

It is amazing what one learns with experiencing life from other perspectives: life with other cultures. It stretches one, out of comfort levels. It changes our limited perspective into a broader life experience.

My stretching came as an adult. We had recently moved into the Washington D C area and we soon became acquainted with our neighbors. The husband was Nigerian and the wife from The Republic of Guyana, South America.

We were invited to a holiday party which we accepted to attend. Upon arrival, we met dozens of their friends and work associates. The clear distinction was we were the only white couple there. That moment of awareness is when we experienced the reality of being the minority. Although we had a brief moment of awkwardness, we used it as a learning experience.

We taught our children to accept people for who they were, not by the color of their skin. We continued our acceptance and building diverse friends. We accepted them into our home, eating at our table and sharing life with our family. I continue to make that choice today.

Perhaps the greatest gift I have received in embracing diversity is my enlargement of my own family. My two children have interracial marriages. I have four lovely Hispanic grandchildren and two West Indian black granddaughters. And recently, a foster African American granddaughter. I love the enrichment of diversity. I love my UN family.

Maybe it is time to finally learn to shake ourselves from complacency. Loosen the tightness of our own family and established friends and expand inclusion of others that are different. Share our rich human resources. It is amazing the creative ideas, the strengths, the compassion to influence we can give to one another for our mutual good.

If only we could lay aside our prejudged minds of racial separation. Let’s be the tipping point of change so needed for reconciliationin in this sad day of recent racial tragedies.  Be generous in acceptance and love, the many things we need . . . to heal our hearts and land.

One of my greatest pleasures of living in England for nearly a decade, is my love affair with the beautiful English gardens. Take a stroll through the countryside, town or village, and the eye will be drawn to the many stone walls laden with twisted, over-hanging trees and flowering shrubs. There are endless picturesque pathways to explore. Every gate, town, or village alleyway leads to a delightful path of eye-catching vibrant color. It is a rich reward for a wanderer with a gardener’s peering eye.

Treasure Houses of England, the great palaces, castles and houses are a rich heritage shared by millions each year. Visitors flock to these ancestral estates, not only to discover their unique architecture and rich history, but also to enjoy their magnificent grounds with tall statues and flowing fountains.

 Seasonal displays of bluebells and snowdrops, rhododendrons and magnolias and the sweet-smell of rose gardens attract crowds from around the world. All this makes a tranquil place for families to explore and relax ~ English weather permitting, of course.

Summer weather is unpredictable in Britain. Perhaps it is the many grey and rainy days, or just the need to be outdoors that draws the Brits to both long walks and the devotion of care to their exquisite gardens. Especially on summer days, it is an inevitable fact; gardens are an important extension of proud British culture and simply, meant to be shared.

A morning coffee outdoors, or afternoon tea shared with family or friends, is a national pastime the entire United Kingdom is invited to enjoy. It is hard to resist such pleasure.

Why not relish hospitality AND the fruit of gardening labor? After all, the many days of rain enhances the captivating beauty of the English Garden. Due drops and gentle rain place a shimmering glaze on every flower bed. I say, it is the diffused light on overcast days which brings life to each vibrant leaf and glorious blossom.

Arches of lavender wisteria and deep green ivy stretch across the stone-walls. The pink and purple trellises of climbing clematis and geranium floral pots seem so prolific. No wonder the British love fresh flowers. There is always an abundance of wispy greenery and striking cut flowers to bring inside. They sit majestically on sitting-room mantles and dining tables.

Lovely stone houses; the color determined by the quarried geographic region, backdrop the floral beauty so well. Perhaps I am partial to the endeared Cotswold villages. Here families shop and stroll along lovely streams, cross over hump-backed bridges, to enjoy an afternoon hike; or perhaps, just for an ice cream. Its the slower pace of village life.

Flowers beautify cottage windows sills and decorate small enclosed spaces. The rows of attached thatched-roof cottages glisten in the sun. It is their prized climbing roses that seem to touch the sky. The latched wooden doorways tempts one to knock at each door, if only to step within to explore the cottage furnishings inside.

It is the English hospitality which displays care for detail that is so evident to welcome neighbors and friends. It is even more obvious to this American, swept into the warmth of hospitality by British friends. 

It is the cottage garden that forever wins my heart – manicured garden with small-spaced pathways between glowing flora. The contrasting flowering perennials, mixed with lavender spikes, lupins, or tall hollyhocks and deep-colored dahlias, are all vying for attention. Add to it cheerful daisies and it is a glorious butterfly sanctuary.

Gardens are a perfect place ~ spend a quiet moment, reflect on life and appreciate the vast beauty that surrounds our lives. It is our busyness that robs us of contentment when life becomes more about worry and less of enjoying each new day.

 Beautiful gardens fill us with rhythms of nature through songbirds and hovering butterflies . “They drift in the gentle breeze.” The wind danced blossoms and the warmth of sun- kissed cheeks helps us breathe in this amazing beauty. It’s such a welcome retreat to unwind from busy schedules, to relax with a drink and simply exhale.

Perhaps it is not too late in life to put on brakes, to slow the pace, and make the needed changes that restores our inner soul. It seems worth our every effort.

Be thankful for all of life ~ the breathtakingly beautiful.                                                          

Photo courtesy: Dave Richards

Summer: Vacating Stress: Embracing Renewal

Tranquility is a rare commodity in today’s world, but it is a prized treasure when obtained.

Solitude is a close companion. It refreshes our core need for care.

Three important areas of our human needs ~ security, identity, and belonging ~ all seem to be attacked at some point in life.

Whether we are shaken by a sudden loss of job (security), misunderstood or slandered for our motives (identity) or, need to adjust to the sad end of an important relationship (belonging) ~ all these can potentially throw us into high-level stress and destroy tranquillity.

Fear and anxiety are culprits of destruction. They work relentlessly in our thinking, causing fatigue of mind and body.

A change from a stress-related environment to relaxation seems the answer for reducing such attacks. It is why we vacate with anticipation and plan out our enjoyment. Recreational activities are known to unwind the stress and help in that regard.

When we look to recapture moments of calm and comfort, finding a quiet place of sanctuary is important: it helps us find our perspective away from distractions.

Solitude, the quiet nurturing for the soul, is desired to renew and restore emotional burn out, weariness of body and helps bring us into a peaceful heart. It is certainly easier to move forward with decisions when we are at peace.

More importantly, renewal is available at our deepest spiritual level when our authentic core is able to learn to hope and rest. Hope is really a form of expectant waiting; often expressed in the desire for needed change. It gives us the strength for future challenges we may face.

The Bible prophet, Isaiah, spoke of this renewing strength in waiting. It is the work of hope meant to bring us into peace. It comes in quiet contemplation of God, a quieting of racing minds and bodies that learn to surrender anxiety and exchange it for genuine faith.

It is in part a process of learning to release our control issues. The willingness to let it all go in surrendered humility.

“Waiting is, by nature something only the humble can do with grace.”

“Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31

Summer lends itself to our vitality by the very nature of the season: the infusion of all her natural beauty. It is invigorating to be soaking in the fresh air.

Walking on the beach, dangling feet or swimming at a pool, or simply gathering friends and family in a backyard BBQ, helps us to unwind and renew. Who hasn’t enjoyed cooling down on a humid, hot day?

Let’s enjoy summer: the vivid colors of butterflies and sweet scents of roses: the many textures of earth and sky: all the great outdoor activities which call us to attention to be fully alive. It is a healthy use of our time and energies.

Invite tranquility and solitude as welcomed companions ~ We need to be still and just breathe. May we ever be grateful for a life of simple pleasures. In quiet times, our heart will seek to make its longing known.






Life vs Soul: The Weight of Meaning

Life seems always intrusive, demanding and often exhausting. It is not an easy world we live in. All human beings face challenge and demands. Our bodies often thrive with the exhilaration of challenge, our minds need stretching with ideas and the need to focus, even when tired. But there is a part of us, the inner life where our thoughts and hopes and longings live and it is easy to neglect.
Once we realize we are not just a self, with an outer life with demands, but we also have an inner world that needs to be cared for as well, we are better able to integrate our whole life. This inner world, called the soul, is the life center of human beings. 

“The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” 

 The soul is the deepest part of us and it simply needs connection to God. When it does connect, our view of ourself and the world changes. 

Soul is a word often related as our emotions. Its evidence comes through the expression of our art, music and poetry ..”the baring of the soul.” But in fact, it is more than emotions. It is the seed bed of our will and mind and as a result effects our emotions and integrates our human actions. Keeping it healthy is what causes many a psychologist to be employed. 

We all agree there is the need for the mental health profession. But psychology is not the end-all cure for the deep needs of man. Psychology is limited because it centers primarily on self-care; and we all know how difficult it is to maintain that approach. It takes more than self-care to begin the inward journey of caring for the soul. 

I like what author, John Ortberg writes, “Martin Seligman, a brilliant psychologist with no religious ax to grind, has a theory that it’s because we have replaced church, faith and community with a tiny little unit that cannot bear the weight of meaning. That’s the self. We’re all about the self. We revolve our lives around ourselves.”

What we find in modern society is the more we focus on self, the more selfish we become; and as a result, the less content we are with the meaning of our life. That focus manifests itself in restlessness all around ~ in family life, in the work place, and our entertainment and media arena. We live in an epidemic of anger and discontent. 

But when we view the soul as more than the shallow life maintained and centered in self, our journey may begin to find true identity and a healthy balance. It may lead us to our understanding of true self-worth. And isn’t that the cry from deep inside? Who am I and where do I belong? 

When we explore why we were created, it naturally leads us to a spiritual path towards the meaning of life. When we face a hardship, illness or death, a loss of job which turns our thoughts internal we soon find, if we open the door to seeking the reality of our inner world, we come up questioning. Questions of relevance who we are and have become. The revelation of God wanting  a personal connection is the only self ‘thing’ that really matters.

When we return to man’s beginnings and the breath of God within, doesn’t it make sense there is a life force needed in all of us that God alone provides? Breath is the deepest part of our being. It provides us life as a living soul. 

Perhaps the greatest exhilaration and challenge in life is to explore and develop that relationship with God and his son, Jesus, and to be a community of faith, to understand our connection and explore the depth of being ~ as a living soul. 

Adversity: Valley of Brokenness: Meadow of Beauty

Modern life accelerates into an era of increased chaos. Unhinged is a current description of the disorder that we find ourselves in. Life as we’ve known it is not easily recognized in this current acceleration of change. The stress of technological advancements, world geo-political upheaval, the pending dangers of collapsed economies and increased violence all reveal troubled times ahead. 

This driving pace is overwhelming to the individual heart and contemplating mind. Get used to it. It is our rapidly-changing world; our chaotic, new norm. 

Distress is an ancient problem. King David experienced and wrote about it. He felt he could not endure, being “at their wits’ end.” He found his resource of strength through desperate prayer.

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.” (Psalm 107:27-28.) 

When life hits us hard and we lose our own will, how do we react? Do we bend with life’s circumstances, or break into a million pieces? This all seems part of the adversity we so often face. We certainly need to learn to bend with circumstances and get up when we get knocked down. The need to heal when we are broken and forgive when we are offended, or maligned, seems all too familiar.

A good exercise in flexibility is bowing our head and bending our knees. When we reach out for help in prayer and faith to God, the humbling process becomes real. It helps to gather our brokenness and lay it in his care. In due time, we mend, heal and spring back with renewed equilibrium and with an upright position of faith and hope. Bending our will helps us stand tall with strength to carry on. 

 In an atmosphere of epidemic stress the daily tension and present challenges of our age seem overpowering. It can lead to a valley of despair. The economic pressures families face, the need for affordable housing, fear of loss of employment and coping with daily concerns.. the list goes on ..

What a tremendous temptation to give in to despair. “Hopelessness constricts the heart, rendering it unable to sense God’s blessings and grace. It causes you to exaggerate the adversities of life and makes your burdens seem too heavy for you to bear. Yet God’s plans for you and His ways bringing about His plans, are infinitely wise,” writes Madame Guyon.

Embracing life is an adventure of learning and experience. Every season has its beauty even in hardship; our challenge is to remain positive, take hold of faith rather than become overwhelmed with hardship. The inward work, the discipline, the renewing of thinking that is required, strengthens and prepares us for an unfamiliar future. It is possible for beauty to come through our process of transformation while experiencing adversity. It is the triumphant human spirit that is forged when we choose to allow the work of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct. 

Experiencing difficulties expands the heart to understand adversity and suffering. Many parents who care long hours for a chronically ill child display enduring strength. They are often the first to connect and develop a community of support for others. Adversity often develops wells of compassion and prompts action and service of help.

Shallowness has no place in a broken heart. The need for renewal is so much greater. Scripture speaks of God being near to the broken-hearted. The broken receive grace to experience the highest heights and the lowest depth of the soul. Grace is the footsteps of faith and love is the healing salve of the soul. 

When we only remain lighthearted we certainly will enjoy a simple satisfaction, but those who allow trials to bring about the carving out of depth of soul will experience the deeper things of life and profound grace for others. 

We may not be able to see light through current struggles; but we can believe that those dark winter days ~ perhaps even our today ~ is a day our heart is being developed, stretched to further capacity. Take hold of the God of hope and soon know profound joy will follow. There will be restoration and an enlargement of understanding beyond shallowness. We can then enjoy renewed peace and the soft meadow God has adorned with Spring flowers.