Poem – the green tree in our hearts

There is a
green tree in my heart
and in finding it
I have found another way.

Remember what you are?
Your body is the source of a
stream wider than memory,
deeper than tears.

Even if you forget
that you were once
a frog swimming
in your mother’s dreams
you’ll remember this.

Look for the source
and you’ll find the tree

taller than daydreams
deeper than bones
it grows
inside your heart.

From it issues the
the skeleton,
the framework
of who you are.

It is your
the way forward.

It provides your base
from which to grow.

Water it well,
little frog.
It will sing to you
when nobody else will.

The wind and the pine tree.

I have a large tree in my back yard. It is a white pine. It is already three times taller than the house and looks like it will get even taller.

I’ve thought about having it cut down, but it provides a lot of nice shade. The only time I really start to worry about it is when there is a big storm with a lot of wind. Then it sways back and forth like a drunken sorority girl.

Part of the problem with this is that pine trees aren’t very flexible. Unlike a drunken sorority girl, when pine trees fall down they snap in half and are a big mess. They also have a habit of falling on houses – the trees, not the girls. When they go, they go in a big way and you are very inconvenienced.

I needed to do something with it for my peace of mind. There are a lot of windy storms here. I didn’t want to have it topped. That isn’t healthy for the tree. I called different arborists and decided on one who is a druid. No, I’m not kidding. There is an arborist in Nashville who really is a druid. Seemed to me like the best choice. I mean, who is going to know trees better than a druid?

He decided the best thing to do was to thin the tree. Imagine holding your hand flat in water with your fingers together. Then drag your hand like that through the water. There is a lot of resistance. Then open up your fingers and do the same thing. It will go through the water a lot easier. He planned on doing the same thing to the tree. The branches were thinned so now the wind passes through it rather than hitting it.

The tree is now better able to handle the winds. It is less likely to break. I feel safer, and it looks stronger.

I recently read a piece about anger. It pointed out several different signs that you are repressing your anger. Repressed anger is just as dangerous as a pine tree in a strong wind. It too can be a big mess to deal with. It too can destroy your home.

Several of my friends read this and commented that they noticed that they have a lot of those symptoms. Their response to it was to wonder what or who they were angry about or with.

It isn’t about the thing or the person that is causing your anger. It is about the fact that your response to a difficult situation is to get angry. Nobody causes you to get angry. It is a choice. It is a reaction. It is a response.

You are the tree. The wind is the adversity. Resist it, fight against it, and you’ll break. Let it pass through you and you’ll stand strong. It is all about approach and nothing about the situation.

I was given a good image at the retreat I was at a few weeks ago. Imagine you are in a rowboat on a lake. When a speedboat zooms by, you have the choice to just let it pass by and calmly ride out the waves until the lake goes back to being still. Shaking your fist and yelling at the driver of the speedboat doesn’t change the situation, and in fact it is likely to make you more upset. Let it pass by and not affect you. This way you will survive.

Poem – being human

However they are hungry
we have to love them.

However they are empty
we have to hold them.

We can’t fill them
with ourselves.
To empty out
our answers
only serves to
empty us

And leave them wanting

More love
and less

It is about honoring
the person’s own path
rather than trying to
put them onto yours.

It isn’t about your game
or your name.

What works for you
isn’t going to work for them

because they aren’t you.

So just love them
right where they are.


(This poem is now published in my 6th book, entitled “Images of God”.  It is available in both color and a less expensive black and white versions. My books are available through Amazon.)

(I’ve noticed that this little poem gets a lot of readers.  Please share with me what drew you to it, and if it was of help to you.  Thanks!)

Kindergarten 1-29-14

Today I was working on J’s superpowers. But first I had to get him to work.

I skipped last week. We were behind at the library. Too many bins to check in and not enough people. It is a privilege to get to tutor. The only way I get to keep this privilege is to make sure things are covered at work.

Work was the last thing on the minds of V and J today. I asked V if she wanted to work and she said no. That is fine with me. I’m extra. I’m not ever going to insist on them working with me. It is all optional. If one doesn’t want to work, then that leaves more time for another who does. That’s simple enough.

However, I am going to insist that if they are with me, they are going to work. I had to spell that out to J today. We did fine for a little while, but then he started to get wild. I can adapt a little. Adapting is part of tutoring kids at different levels. But at some point there isn’t a way to make whatever the child has decided to do with the assignment into actually learning. At some point it is more noise than signal. At some point I have to redirect.

Sometimes I have to redirect at several points.

J was drawing “fireballs” before we went to the tutoring area today. I asked him about them and found out that the fireballs are not from a dragon, they are from him. He is a very active child. Active is a nice way of saying violent. This child throws, pushes and hits everything. Half the time I’m with him I’m trying to get him to calm down long enough to work on the lesson. Five year olds have a lot of energy but he has more than most. I worry about him.

He told me today that reading isn’t fun. I told him that is just because he doesn’t know how to do it yet. I told him that reading is an awesome superpower, trying to tie into the fireballs he was working on earlier. I’m trying to get him to see reading as a real superpower, one that is even better than throwing imaginary fireballs. I pulled out the instruction sheet I got from the teacher today and pointed out that because of reading I know what the teacher wants me to work on today. I pointed out it is like having a super secret spy language.

He isn’t buying it, but I’ll try again. I feel this might work.


How’s that New Year’s Resolution going for you?

I know a guy who wants to quit smoking. Well, he says he wants to quit, but then he goes and smokes another cigarette. He says you have to “You have to wait until you are ready to quit.” He says you have to have a motivation to change. I’d think the fact that he’s already had a heart attack and is sick all the time would be a good motivation, but it isn’t enough for him yet.

He’s waiting for a kick in the butt. The only problem is that sometimes the thing that is big enough for the kick in the butt is so big that it, itself, cannot be easily kicked. Or emphysema. Or cancer. Or just plain old death.

He’s using this as an excuse. He’s using it as a cop-out. If he really wanted to quit, he’d quit.

I’m not being mean. I quit smoking when I went to the emergency at three a.m. with heart problems. My heart was racing. I felt terrible. Fortunately it was a fluke, but then I started thinking. What about the next time, when it is something serious? Then it’s going to be harder. Sure, I dodged the bullet this time, but what about then? If I keep playing Russian roulette with cigarettes, I’m going to lose one day. This isn’t a good game to play.

Nobody makes you smoke. Nobody holds a gun to your head and makes you light up. Nothing is weirder than watching someone say “I just can’t quit smoking” and see them light up another cigarette. It’s like seeing someone possessed.

This same guy walked away from an abusive family when he was 15. One cold night he saw his stepfather beating his mother yet again and he jumped in to help her. His stepfather started to beat him viciously, stomping on his back in an effort to kill him. He managed to get away, and that night resolved to leave. He put on everything he owned because it was freezing outside and walked several miles to town. He walked away from certain death.

He could use that same energy now. Cigarettes are killing him, just as surely as his stepfather was going to. The bad part is that nobody is forcing him to stay in this abusive situation. He’s doing this to himself, over and over. Every cigarette is stealing his life, minute by minute, year by year. Every time he smokes he is killing himself as surely as his stepfather was going to kill him that cold night.

When he says “You have to wait until you are ready to quit” he’s just lying to himself. He’s ready, he’s just afraid. He’s smoked so long he doesn’t know what to do with himself if he isn’t smoking. Just thinking about quitting smoking causes anxiety, and he’s spent so long dealing with his anxieties by smoking that he goes and has another smoke.

It’s an ugly circle.

It’s easier to stay in an abusive relationship than to leave it, right? Better to stay with the devil you know.

He says that he’s done so much damage to his lungs that there’s no turning back now. This is just like saying that you’ve already ruined your diet by eating a piece of pie – so you might as well eat the entire pie.

I’ve suggested that he go have a ten minute walk instead of having a smoke. He says he can’t go walk every time. He’s at work. Yet he doesn’t get that he takes time to smoke. I’m not saying to double up on breaks. I’m saying to replace smoking with walking. I’m saying to take a walk break instead of a smoke break. It clears your head and reduces anxiety. It does all the stuff that smoking does but without the bad side effects. It worked for me.

He brushes all of this aside. He says he’s not ready to quit. Actually, he is. He knows he should. He talks about quitting, but he’s waiting for a sign. He’s waiting for proof that he has to quit. The fact that he has kept on living is proof to him that he’s tougher than cigarettes. He’s dodged the bullet. He’s survived.

Soon that will change. It always does. Nobody wins with cigarettes.


How does any change get done? Bit by bit. Piece by piece. It is totally impossible to make a sudden change for the better. Everything worth having takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.

Making any change is like starting a fire with a flint. You work really hard at the beginning, seemingly not doing anything. No flame is there. The desire is there, and the work is there, but there’s no flame. Then, suddenly, there’s a little spark. If you’ve prepared the area well with tinder, it will land on it and begin to burn. Then you have to have other small things to burn nearby. You have to protect that tiny little flame and feed it gently or you’ll lose it. Give it a huge log to chew on and it will die.

The same is true of good habits. You can’t go from nothing to something overnight. Start small. Add a little to it as you go. Build it up. Have patience with the process.

Just your desire to make a change in your life is a good start. It is the proof that you are working on it. But that is the flint.

Then you have to get some tinder nearby and a place for the fire. Have a few small tasks that you can do that will further your goal, whatever it is. Make sure they are small. Do a little of something. That will give you energy to do a little more.

You can’t make a fire just anywhere. You need to have a place for it. Likewise, you have to plan ahead and have a goal. You also have to know that you won’t get there immediately. This is normal and human. Wanting to do too much too fast will blow out the flame.

Sometimes the spark will fall to the side and not on the tinder. Sometimes things don’t go the way you meant for them to. Try again. Otherwise you’re going to be left in the cold.

Getting a lighter isn’t an option sometimes. Borrowing a torch from someone else also isn’t an option sometimes. Sometimes you have to start from scratch and you have to do all the hard work yourself.



Sometimes, just getting the dishes washed is a big thing.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with things around the house. The dishes are backed up. The laundry needs to be done. I need to pay the bills. When I go to do one thing, I find I can’t do it because there are three other things I need to do first. Just this morning I wanted to have some grapes with my breakfast. But I hadn’t washed the grapes yet. I looked at the sink, and the sink was full of dishes. It was going to be hard to wash them. And the drain rack was full too. Goodness gracious, it was all a log jam.

I certainly could have just washed the grapes around the dirty dishes. It isn’t ideal. Sometimes the grapes will drop into the sink and then they’ll sit there under the dishes and start to get slimy and gross. Then they’ll attract bugs. So that really isn’t a great option.

I could have let it all get to me and gotten overwhelmed. I’ve certainly done this in the past. But then there are more dishes, and more dishes, and they just don’t do themselves.

We have an understanding in our house that one person cooks and the other person washes the dishes. It seems pretty fair, but in reality the person who washes the dishes has it pretty easy. You have to cook every day. You don’t have to wash dishes every day. They can back up a little. The bad part is, they do back up and then it gets a little difficult to take care of it.

Then I have to break it down into pieces.

Alright. Start with something. Empty the drain rack. I need a place to put the dishes I’m about to wash. OK, that’s not too bad. That took three minutes.

Then I’ll look at the dishes to be done. Both sides of the sink are full. Not only are dishes from two (or three…) days in there, Scott used two pots last night because I wanted saffron rice and beans. So those have been soaking overnight to make it easier to clean them.

If only I’d washed them last night. They’d be done already. No soaking required.

But that way of thinking is a dead end. Saying “If only” doesn’t help with the right now. It helps a little for the future, so I can see what doesn’t work and try not to do it again. If I remember. But for right now, “If only” is a trap. Best to just notice it and then move along.

OK. I decide to wash some dishes. But then I’ll argue with myself that I don’t have a lot of time. This too is a dead end. It really only takes about ten minutes to do the dishes.

It is stunning how I’ll try to get out of doing what has to be done.

I create such resistance, and when I finally push through it and just do it, it isn’t nearly as hard as I was making it to be.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t do it all. Just do something. Even a little something is better than nothing.

Aliens built my birdbath – not.

To say that aliens built the ancient structures on our planet is insulting to ancient people. Stonehenge, the Pyramids, Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu – these are all amazing structures. And they were all built and designed by people.

Here’s the catch. Why don’t we have collective memories of these things? Why wasn’t the knowledge of how these stones were transported over long distances without the benefit of modern machinery? This question is one of the “proofs” of why these structures can’t have been built by humans.

But then again, how much collective knowledge do we have? Just look at your own family history. How many of us can name or tell anything about our great-great grandparents? Or great-great-great grandparents? Yet they most certainly existed, and many more back. We know as far back as three generations at most, usually. We didn’t come out of nothing. We didn’t just happen to be. If we don’t even know our personal history, how can we hope to remember our collective history?

I’m not saying that aliens haven’t visited Earth. To me, that seems entirely reasonable. If God can put sentient life here, there’s no reason God wouldn’t have put the same elsewhere. There’s no reason that life couldn’t have discovered a way to travel to other planets. I have no problem with that idea.

But I say that to decide that aliens invented, created, or built the amazing structures from our past is to insult our ancestors. I say there is no proof that it has happened, and only cancels out further questions. When you say that aliens are responsible for these amazing structures, you stop wondering how they could have been made, and you stop learning. If we can figure out how the stones in Stonehenge or the moai on Easter Island were moved from the quarry to their resting sites without modern pneumatic machinery, we’d learn a lot about how to build in energy-efficient ways. This could help out developing countries that don’t have such technology but have a need for large structures for housing. We could learn to build in less expensive ways.

Look at the Romans. They figured out the secret of concrete and of indoor plumbing – hot and cold, long before anybody else did. When they retreated from Britain, they took their knowledge with them. They weren’t aliens. They were just really organized, and knew a good thing when they saw it. They were really good at taking technology from other cultures and adopting it as their own and improving upon it. Nobody says the Coliseum was built by aliens, and it rivals any ancient marvel.

So let’s stop thinking that aliens built anything. Let’s start thinking for a change.

Poem – Temple

The Temple has been rebuilt.
It isn’t in the ruins.
It isn’t blocks of stone.

It is here.
Where you are.
You, yes you
are the centerpoint
the axis
the hinge.

We all are.
There is no second coming
happening from the skies.
The second coming is private.
It won’t be televised.
Just like the first one wasn’t.

Just like the first one it
will be
quiet, and unexpected
and sudden
and joyous and scary
at the same time.

Just like the first one
it will be in a backwater town
on the edge
on the verge.

It happens every time
someone wakes up
to the Light
and invites it in
to stay.

The second coming is now
and it’s all around

Slowly the lights are coming on
all over.

God cannot be contained
in a building
made by human hands
which can be
broken into.

The only safe place for God
is everywhere.

Don’t follow any person
who says they’ve got it
and you don’t.
Because if they say that,
they don’t have it
at all.

Blockhead – the journey of a wanderer.

I was asked by my spiritual director what words God would use to describe me. As usual these days I don’t get words but images when she asks this kind of question. Then I have to translate the images.

It is kind of like dream analysis. It has nothing to do with the images in the dream, and everything to do with your impression of those images. For example, a wolf could be seen as a predator or as a protector. It all depends on your experience with the image.

In this case I saw a wooden block. Simple, unvarnished. No paint. The natural lines of the block were visible.

I didn’t understand this and I started pushing harder. I was asked for words and I’m coming up with images. I need more to work with. And a wooden block? How boring is that?

I got further images, of deep pits going straight down. I’m reminded of Celtic burial pits, that were up to 20 feet deep and had all sorts of offerings in them, including entire trees.

What does this mean? I felt that it was in part about staying in one place, and being OK with it. About accepting that where I am now is where I need to be. About trust, and not struggling so much. About not having to come up with words all the time.

But a block? There’s more to it than that.

A block is finished by another person. It didn’t make itself.

I’m reminded of the Masonic idea of the finished block as a symbol for the completed person. It is called an ashlar.

It is stable. It stays put. It is a good base for other blocks. Blocks are used for cornerstones. Blocks, added together, create buildings. Each block has to be strong and well-cut. There’s something important in this image for me, but I don’t quite have it all yet.

I can see the pattern of the rings on the block in my image. Years and years of growth are required to get it to this point. It isn’t an overnight thing. That’s important too.

Then on Friday at yoga the image that kept coming to me was that of a blue robin’s egg. Simple and strong, this tiny thing has within it a bird seed. It will develop into a bird. In one way, it already is a bird, we just can’t see it yet. Time, plus bird egg equals bird. The bird on the inside doesn’t suffer from the definitions that we give it. It already is a bird even if we wouldn’t call it that.

It is so useful that things in nature are unaware that we have different words for them at different stages of their growth. The inchworm is the butterfly.

So all of this came from this image of a block. Be OK with where I am. Trust the process. Know that years and years of growth are necessary to get where I am. Know that others have shaped me, sometimes painfully. Know that that shaping has resulted in a stability that is useful.

This has been my biggest challenge, to get to this point. I don’t want to relax and slack off. I keep pushing myself because I know what I’m like when I don’t. But this image is telling me that I’m OK as I am, and to grow into it. The process is slow and painful, and I won’t do it all myself.

Somehow this image has helped me, even though it was so strange. It didn’t make any sense, but the more I thought about it and worked on it the more it was exactly the message I needed to hear at the time.

I’m still bummed that regular ministers aren’t like spiritual directors. If they were like spiritual directors, then I’d have stayed in church. Going to a spiritual director is very woo-woo, kinda New-Age meets Old School. It’s one on one and hard work. It uses visualization and it doesn’t make sense sometimes. Often I feel like I’m doing it wrong, but then I find out I’m not doing it wrong, I’m just doing something so new to me that I don’t know what to do. “Wrong” is to not do it at all. Doing anything openly, trustingly, honestly, is doing it right, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time.

So that alone is the best takeaway from having been part of the deacon discernment process. It wasn’t what I wanted, really. I didn’t want to be a deacon. I just wanted to learn how to be helpful to people on their spiritual paths. I wanted to be a soul-friend. I wanted to provide spiritual first aid. I didn’t want to be ordained, because I’m opposed to a hierarchy of lay versus ordained. But I did want the training and the accountability that comes with the training to be a deacon.

If nothing else, the bit of the process I went through was like turning the eye of the stove up to High. It boiled off quite a bit of unnecessary stuff pretty fast. It showed me the meat of the matter and let me know I don’t like meat. It showed me behind the curtain of the Episcopal church, and perhaps of all organized religion. That too was helpful. It showed me the machine has no heart.

So while I’m adrift right now, I keep getting messages from God that it’s OK. Adrift can be safer than stuck going nowhere.