Friday, October 31, 2014

Blessed are the peacemakers

The problem with this beatitude is that we sometimes think peacemaking is about making things look good -- plastering over cracks and avoiding conflict. Instead of peacemaking, this is called peace-faking. How can you tell the difference between a peacemaker and a peace-faker? In Jesus' words, "by their fruits ye shall know them." For peace-fakers, truth is just delicate embroidery on the outer edge of daily life. Rather than exposing mistakes, peace-fakers conceal them. They pacify where they should challenge. They forgive cowardice which shrinks from exposing evil and condone ignorance which refuses to acknowledge mistakes. By comparison, peacemakers have a calculated recklessness in their commitment to truth. They kiss the cross of confrontation with evil, unavoidable suffering, and ultimate victory.

It's common to think of peacemakers as mediators who bring reconciliation between persons and groups. But this is only the beginning. The vexing conflicts that perplex our day; the rankling strife that sets man so far apart; the monumental problems broadcast on the news can all be resolved in a peaceful heart. A peacemaker might put it this way:

"The mighty drama we see acted here, with crime and greed and nations much afraid, is but a shifting background atmosphere in which the plot of human life is played. A simple role is ours on this vast stage. Our lines are few; our cue is from above. But all our deeds climactically presage the grand conclusion of triumphant love. Our part well-played, the ages will applaud, and peacemakers be called the sons of God."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Can joy exist without conditions?

Here are excerpts from a book called Against the Pollution of the I by French author Jacques Lusseryan. Blinded in childhood, Jacques was a teenager when Germany invaded France in 1940. He formed a resistance group called "Volunteers of Liberty," and at 19 was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, where 56,000 prisoners lost their lives. Here he met a fellow prisoner named Jeremy. Jacques remembers Jeremy in these words.

"The horrors of Buchenwald were real, but Jeremy did not speak of them. His gaze was not nailed to the smoke from the crematorium, nor on the 1,200 prisoners in Block 57. He seemed to look through all this. He knew we could not live on the beliefs we had of Buchenwald. He said many of us would die from them, and he was right. I knew many men who were not killed, but died anyway because they thought they were in hell. It was of such matters that Jeremy spoke.

Newly-arrived Buchenwald prisoners.

"Jeremy belonged to the Christian Science faith. He did not try to console us. He spoke hard, but always gently. His eyes were solidly fixed on our miseries and he never blinked. He was not afraid, just as naturally as we were afraid.

"'For one who knows how to see, things are just as they always are,' he said. Buchenwald like ordinary life? I could not accept this until Jeremy enabled me to see. One day I realized Jeremy had lent me his eyes. With his eyes I saw Buchenwald was not in Germany, as we thought. Instead, it was in each of us -- baked and rebaked; tended incessantly, nurtured in a horrible way. And we could vanquish it if we really wanted to. The Nazis had given us a terrible microscope, a 'concentration' camp, but this was no reason to stop living or loving.

"Jeremy found joy in Block 57. When he was present, we found joy rising in us! It was like a pardon, a reprieve -- the discovery that JOY EXISTS WITHOUT CONDITIONS, AND WHICH NO CONDITION CAN KILL. I have the clearest memory of finding this joy. I perceived one day a little place where I did not shiver; where I had no shame; where the death-dealers were only phantoms. I owed this to Jeremy.

"He wore a registration number. Others beside myself knew him. But Jeremy was not there in the exclusive manner in which we hear the phrase "to have been at Buchenwald." Jeremy was not happy. He was joyous. This is the mystery and power of beings who worship a God other than their own personalities."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

God is love: the sequel

A friend of mine worked as a Christian Science practitioner -- a person who helps others solve problems through prayer.  He was called one night by a neighbor whose wife was in the hospital. The neighbor asked if my friend could give his wife "last rights." My friend said he was not a priest. So the neighbor asked, "well, could you at least go and talk to her? She hasn't been to any church since she was a child. Growing up, she went to the Christian Science Sunday School. So my friend agreed to visit her at the ICU.

When he arrived, he peeked through the door and saw her on a bed. She had IV's dripping into her arms, and lights were blinking in machinery around her. She looked pale and gray, and was not expected to live. He walked up to her bed and introduced himself, thinking he'd say something wonderful that would lift her spirits and restore her faith. But no ideas came to him. He drew a total blank. After a few minutes of silence, he said, "If you could remember just one idea you learned in Sunday School, it would be enough to heal you." Then he walked out, feeling terrible that he'd been so abrupt. He was sure he'd failed to help her.

A week later, my friend's wife asked if he ever went to see their neighbor in the hospital. He said yes, but didn't explain how useless he'd been. "Well, I saw her shopping at the supermarket today, and she looks great!" said his wife.

My friend was astonished! He quickly called the neighbor's home and the wife answered. He asked her what happened. She said, "well, after you left, I really tried to remember any idea I learned in Sunday School. I haven't been to church for 50 years, but believe it or not, I could actually "see" the building in my memory. Then I recalled how the Sunday School looked. I could see the tables and chairs. It had been such a long time! As I looked up on the wall behind the superintendent's desk, I saw the words GOD IS LOVE. They were on a plaque hanging on the wall, but now they looked different to me. The letters were burning on the wall. I could read the words and see the flames coming from each letter. It was amazing! I just kept looking at those words, and then I noticed a feeling of warmth in my body. It began at my head and moved all the way to my toes.  The next time my nurse checked on me, she said I'd taken a turn for the better.  The doctor said if I kept improving, I could go home soon, and here I am, feeling perfect. So I guess you were right!"

God is love

Do we always remember that God is love? Little Bobby Clark remembered, and the idea influenced his life.

Born in New Castle, IN in 1928, he attended a Christian Science Sunday School in Indianapolis as a lad. He was impressed by a large plaque hanging on the wall behind the superintendent's desk. It said GOD IS LOVE. The idea stuck in his mind after he moved to New York City in 1954, changed his name to Robert Indiana, and  eventually became a famous artist.

Inspired by poets like Gertrude Stein, he was deeply interested in the written word. His composition of LOVE is innovative in the way it dissolves divisions between seeing and reading. He described the character of this work as "verbal-visual."

LOVE is a sophisticated abstract composition, but also a one-word poem. He arranged the word with stacked letters touching each other to suggest intimacy. He created many variations, including a design for a Christmas card, and another for a U.S. postage stamp. Perhaps you recall buying 8-cent "love stamps" in 1973?

Many assume the original work was a protest to the Vietnam War, but Indiana has said often that he got the idea from the motto he learned as a child in Sunday School.

(Tomorrow: How the words GOD IS LOVE on a Sunday School wall healed a woman in the hospital.)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Remember how good you have it

When Mount St. Joseph University opens it's women's basketball season next month, the opening game will be unforgettable, no matter who wins. For one incoming freshman from Lawrenceburg, IN, taking the floor will fulfill the dream of a lifetime, if she lives that long.

When she was 18 and a senior at Lawrenceburg High, Lauren Hill learned she had an inoperable brain tumor. Doctors gave her two years to live, at the most. Her parents were crushed by the news, but Lauren only wanted to know one thing, "Can I still play basketball?"

On Oct. 1, her 19th birthday, Lauren's Mount St. Joseph teammates gave her a surprise party after practice. She told her coach she wanted to play at least one college game. "She's so strong," said Coach Dan Benjamin. "She's dealing with death and thinking about everyone else instead. Her family and her team come first."

The game was scheduled for Nov. 15, but the NCAA made an exception, and  the game was moved from opponent Hiram College to Nov. 1 at the Xavier Cintas Center. "These games usually attract about 50 fans," said Coach Benjamin. But the Center has 10,000 seats, and was sold out in less than two hours.

"What keeps me going in remembering why I"m here," says Lauren. "One January night I was having a meltdown. I asked God what he sent me here for. I said, 'Whatever you sent me here for, I'm ready to do.'"

Lauren is dignified, poised and composed. Like many facing death, she's impossibly wise. She owns an inner peace.What she's here for is to remind us how good we have it, and that we need to make that goodness matter, not for us, but for everyone, and not tomorrow, but today.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A ghost story for Halloween

Many years ago a friend shared this true story. His daughter, only about six, refused to sleep in her bedroom with the door closed. He and his wife assumed she was afraid of the dark, but she said she wasn't. Then why must her door remain open all night, letting in light from the hall? She explained there was a scary ghost in her room that only appeared after the door was shut. Seeing it frightened her, but it never appeared if her door was open.

Her Dad assured her ghosts are unreal, so they can't hurt anyone. She could stop worrying and relax and go to sleep. But his explanation didn't help. As soon as he left the room and shut the door, she saw the ghost again and called for help.

Finally he came back and asked her exactly where the ghost was in her room. She told him to come inside and shut the door, and she'd show him. After the door was closed, she pointed to a spot near the corner and said "I see the ghost right over there." So her Dad walked over and stood exactly where she saw the ghost. That ended her fear! All night she slept peacefully with the door shut.

The next morning she told her Mom why she wasn't afraid anymore. "When I saw Dad standing where the ghost seemed to be, I knew Dad was real, so the ghost couldn't be."

If a scary ghost of sorrow or worry or loneliness keeps us awake at night, let's tell our Father about it. If we wait, never doubting, we'll soon see His presence exactly where the ghost appears. And we'll know that because He's real, the ghost can't be.   Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saying "no" to fear

President Obama met recently in the White House Oval Office with Nina Pham of Dallas. Nina was the first nurse in the United States diagnosed with the Ebola virus. After the meeting, the President urged Americans to base their response to domestic Ebola cases "on facts, not fear."

This advice is not new. It echoes from the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918-1920, which killed 75 million people, including 675,000 Americans.

During that pandemic, U.S. Navy doctors tried to find the cause of the disease. Fifty young sailors stationed on Goat Island, CA, volunteered to be flu victims. They did not fear the flu, and wanted to help. They were placed with flu patients; asked to sniff from jars filled with flu germs; and had the germs injected into their bloodstreams. But none of the sailors developed flu symptoms.

According to a 1918 issue of the Oakland (California) Enquirer, "Medical men are now the first to tell patients to eliminate fear. There would be no cases of influenza in California if every person in the state would do as these Goat Island sailors did -- eliminate fear of the disease."

In the words of poet Edgar Guest: The great god Fear grinned back at me: "I am the foe men never see, the hurt they never feel," said he. "I have no voice and yet I speak; no strength and yet I blanch the cheek and leave the strongest mortals weak. I fire no gun. I make no cry, no lodging place have I, yet I'm the countless deaths men die. I am man's cruelest, bitterest foe, yet past his door I could not go, had he the wit to tell me, 'No!'"

Friday, October 24, 2014

How important are promises?

On Sept. 4, 2012, when Alex Sheen gave the eulogy at his Dad's funeral, he spoke of his father's relentless commitment to keeping promises. Then he handed out several promise cards. On the front were the words, "because I said I would." He challenged each person to write a promise on the back and give the card to someone, and reclaim it when the promise was kept. "This card is a symbol of your honor," he said.

Since then, he's mailed 2.1 million promise cards to people in 105 countries. "Because I said I would" is now a non-profit organization founded by Sheen dedicated to bettering humanity through promises made and kept.

For example, one woman promised to overcome her fear of needles. She did so by giving blood for the first time. A 14-year-old girl whose school had seen two student suicides promised "to make friends with kids who sit alone at lunch." Then there was Garth, who for six years wrote encouraging notes on napkins in his daughter Emma's school lunchbox. When he was diagnosed with a terminal disease, Garth promised to write 826 notes of encouragement to Emma -- one for each day of her remaining days in high school.

One day, at the software company where he worked, Sheen found an anonymous note someone left on his desk. The writer said she'd almost taken her life because to depression, but was getting stronger every day thanks to some promise card commitments she'd made and then kept. Sheen was so moved that he walked straight into his boss's office and submitted his resignation, to devote himself full-time to his non-profit. He asked his boss to read the anonymous note.

After a brief moment, his boss looked up and said, "That's my daughter's handwriting."

To learn about Sheen's non-profit organization, order cards, or read more first-hand accounts of healing, visit

(From an article by Dann Denny in the Herald-Times in Bloomington, IN)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Can happiness change your looks?

She's well known for transforming her appearance for movie roles, but off-screen, Renee Zellweger displayed an astonishingly different look at ELLE's 21st annual Women in Hollywood Awards recently. Dr. Yanis Alexandrides, who has never treated Renee, says at 45 she should have some age lines and loss of facial elasticity, but her face is line-free and smooth.

"I'm glad folks think I look different," said Zellweger. "I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows." She denied doing anything more than a lifestyle change for her new appearance.

"For a long time, I had a schedule that didn't allow for taking care of myself," she explained. "Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted, and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion. I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things. I accepted work that allows for being still, making a home, loving someone, learning new things, growing as a creative person, and finally growing into myself. My friends say I look peaceful."

Zellweger has also found happiness with her boyfriend, Doyle Bramhall II, who she first met in college. But can happiness really change how you look? Two New York plastic surgeons admit it's possible. "Happiness can make you look younger," says Dr. Ramtin Kassir. "That magical happiness," adds Dr. Matthew Schulman, "someone should bottle that and put me out of business."

If you'd like to look younger, the three-minute video linked here reveals seven steps to happiness and peace.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A parable for parents and grandparents

A rosebud fair in a garden grew, tiny and pale and shy. The sun shone out of a sky of blue, and the soft winds floated by, but it wrapped itself in its petals cold and seemed to say, "I will not unfold."

A woman came in the sunset light -- "O shy little rose," she cried, "Why don't you open your eyes and smile? Is it laziness, temper or pride? The spring is here and the world is glad. Why do you look so pale and sad?

Don't think me meddlesome -- it's because I love you so, you see. I cannot trust in the wind and sun. It all depends on me!" And she forced each delicate leaf apart till she reached its glowing, golden heart.

As the stars came out she stole away through the garden's fragrant gloom. "It won't be long," she gaily cried, "till my rose will be in bloom, and then how happy it will be to think it had a friend like me."

But when she chanced that way again, instead of her rose she found a poor stiff thing whose withered leaves were strewing the muddy ground. A storm had beaten, the wind had blown, and the calyx stood on its stem alone.

She bowed her head. "Will I never learn!" she whispered. "Dear patient One! I pray for wisdom, another time to wait for the wind and sun -- to trust that the power which made the rose will see that it lives and thrives and grows!"

Another rose in the garden grew, tiny and pale and cold. "It is love," she said, "and not self-will that will help my rose unfold. Have I not courage, God above, to do what is best for the thing I love?"

Then the moment came when she saw the last of the shy pink leaves unfold, and the air was filled with a perfume rare straight from its heart of gold. And it seemed to say, "O tried and true, I am glad that I had a friend like you."

Excerpted from Teach Me to Love and Other Poems by Louise Wheatley Cook Hovnanian, Allen Publications, Kansas City, MO 1948.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Milan miracle

It was a cold winter night in 1954 when players from tiny Milan High arrived at Butler University Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to play the Indiana basketball state championship game against Muncie Central. Muncie had over 1,600 students. Milan had only 161, but 58 of the 73 boys at Milan tried out for the team. Milan players were awed by the huge fieldhouse until soft-spoken Coach Marvin Wood asked one of them to measure the distance from the floor to the basket. "It's the same as at home," they realized.

On game night, 15,000 fans packed the stands. The teams were so well matched they were eventually tied 30-30 with 18 seconds left on the clock. Milan's Bobby Plump held the ball as the clock ran down to five seconds. Then he sprung into action. With three seconds remaining, he drove a jump shot home. It never even touched the rim. But the victory was bigger than basketball for this team of farm kids. Seventeen of the Milan senior class of 30 went on to college that year, including nine of the 12 players. As one recalled, "winning that game made us realize we could do things we never thought were possible."

The 1986 motion picture Hoosiers starring Gene Hackman was only loosely based on Milan's David and Goliath victory. But parts of it were accurate. This inspiring short clip shows how the team prayed before the big game.  And if you have five minutes to spare, you can meet some of the players and see Plump's final shot (as broadcast live in 1954 on black and white TV) at

But the movie omitted the biggest lesson of the Milan miracle. When the team came home the next day, their win was celebrated with a giant bonfire. Several people gave speeches, and then Coach Wood's wife shared a benediction which should be on every Indiana license plate. She reminded the team, "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Do mothers have favorite children?

The notion that mothers cherish all their children equally is so entrenched in our culture that colleagues warned Karl Pillemer, a Cornell University gerontologist embarking on a study of family favoritism, that his research would be futile. No mother would admit to caring for one child more than another. But his interviewers, talking to mothers ages 65 to 75 about their adult offspring, found that most were willing to name favorites. "Mothers have very distinct preferences," Pillemer said. But not EVERY mother.

Isabelle "Sis" Lennon and her husband Bill raised eleven children in a modest, two-bedroom home in Venice, CA. For many years Bill was a milkman, and Sis a stay-at-home-Mom. The four older girls, known simply as the Lennon Sisters, sang on the Lawrence Welk show on Christmas Eve, 1955. After that, they performed on the show every Saturday night for 13 years, before hurrying home to wash dishes, change a baby's diaper or do their homework. Fame never went to their heads, because their Dad told them how to handle fans and admirers. "If someone comes up to you in a restaurant and interrupts your meal to ask for your autograph, you have two choices," he said. "By the way you respond, you can make them feel better, or feel worse. Always make them feel better."

In 1969, they were about to star in their own TV variety show, but six week's before the premier, their Dad was shot and killed by a delusional man who believed he was married to one of the sisters. Bill was only 53. The girls were crushed by his loss, and their variety show lasted only one year. But with their Mom's help, they bounced back, touring the nation with Andy Williams. A few years ago, Evelyn and I heard them perform at the Lawrence Welk Theater in Branson, MO.

Isabelle "Sis" Lennon

After their Dad's murder, her kids agree Mom was the glue that held them together. By the time she passed away in 2005 in Branson, she was a great-great-grandmother. After her funeral, all eleven of her children met privately to share recollections of her. Peggy, one of the original Lennon Sisters, said they discovered something very special that afternoon. "As we reminisced, we suddenly realized that each one of us assumed we were Mom's favorite. That's how she made us all feel." Perhaps that's what true motherhood is about?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Remembering the philosopher of the forest

"Animals are individuals to me, and I think of them not only as serving man with flesh and hide, but also as co-partners in the revelation of eternal life."

"Love that is bestowed in compensation for some favor has selfishness mixed in. Nothing is fully possessed until gratitude is expressed."

These are the words of Sam Campbell (1895-1962). During the late '40s and early '50s, this genial "philosopher of the forest" spent every winter visiting schools and colleges across the nation to speak on conservation and narrate his often hilarious home movies of north woods animal life. Hundreds of schools invited him back year after year, until he was better known to young people than any other author-lecturer. He and his wife Giny lived near Chicago, but also owned a small island in a Wisconsin lake, where they built a summer cabin and helped many abandoned animals mature in safety. They describe their animal friends in 12 books for children of all ages called The Forest Life Series. Out of print for many years, the series is again available! One reader recalls:

My teacher read these books to us, in a one-room schoolhouse in the Green Swamp in North Carolina. Though my swamp was far from the northern woods of Sam Campbell country, I was instantly transported there by his lively prose, sharing canoe rides with Mr. Campbell and his beloved Giny. He managed to convey a respect and responsibility toward the environment and a strong belief in God without preaching any specific religion or politics. His rapport with the creatures of his forest was unique, and we are blessed that he possessed a command of the written word so that we could know their stories. Sam Campbell was one the great storytellers of my childhood.

If your children or grandchildren dream of backpacking and canoe trips, and are ready to learn life lessons from moose, beaver, river otters, raccoons, red squirrels, porcupines and even a skunk, please watch the short video linked here.  Then order the books online from

Dusting for fingerprints of God

Dear reader, this is to let you know you're not alone. Since "Crumbs of Comfort" began last August, it's grown from one post to sixty-six, and received 1,481 hits from the United States, Canada, France and Brazil. Perhaps you've already shared this blog with loved ones or friends? If so, thanks! If not, please consider doing so.

If you're a new reader, this is a gentle reminder that many of the posts indexed on the right edge of this page may touch your heart. Unless you've read them all, you might want to review the titles; then click and read those that pique your interest. Some are links to videos. Others are poems. Others are recollections of things that really happened. But all have one thing in common. They hint the presence of God's fingerprints.

Could you watch with me each day for people or events that are "too good to be true?" This is how God's fingerprints are found. If you email your discovery to, I may include it as a future Crumb of Comfort. The best prints are the ones that bring a tear to the eye. Thanks.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"surely goodness and mercy shall follow me..."

Tessa Smith started first grade this fall. Her home was only a few blocks from school, but her Mom wanted to walk with her, to be sure she arrived safely. Tessa objected! She was a big girl now. She could walk with her friend and neighbor, Zoe, who was starting third grade. She's be safe with Zoe.

Tessa's Mom agreed, but still worried. Then she had an idea. A few doors away, Michelle Keller recently had a baby. Michelle walked her baby down the street in a stroller each morning. Tessa's Mom asked Michelle if she'd mind walking behind Tessa and Zoe until they got to school. But not too close. Could she stay far enough back they the wouldn't become suspicious?  Michelle was glad to help, promising to make sure Tessa and Zoe arrived at school safely.

Tessa and Zoe

All went well for the first few days, but finally Zoe asked Tessa, "Have you noticed that lady following us to school each morning?" Tessa said she had. "Who do you think she is?" Zoe wondered. "Oh, I'm pretty sure I know who she is," said Tessa. "That's Shirley Goodnest and her daughter Marci."

"Why do you think that?" Zoe asked. So Tessa explained. "Every night when I go to bed, my Mom and I repeat the 23rd Psalm, and it says, 'Shirley Goodnest and Marci will follow me all the days of my life...' so I just have to get used to it!"

So if you ever feel lost or in danger, just peek over your shoulder. Shirley Goodnest and Marci are never far behind.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Does life really end?

In many ways, human life is like a railroad journey. Have you noticed how some seats on the train of life face forward, and some face backward? In our youth we always faced forward, leaning out the window to see as far ahead as possible. The station names were alluring. "Next stop, marriage. Next stop, parenthood."

But when the train crested the hill called middle age, our fascination with the future began to fade. Now stations suggested the end of the line was near. "Next stop, social security. Change here for assisted living." This was when many of us moved to seats facing backward. The rush of events was finally behind us. Look! We can see how the kids turned out, and how many of our hopes came true. But when we sit facing backward, misfortune seem to happen with no advance warning. We have to honestly admit, "I just never saw it coming."

Facing forward or backward changes our viewpoint, but not our destination. The last stop is the same, and we have a one-way ticket. Life conforms to a fixed material order, like a railroad schedule, as long as we measure it by the clock and calendar. But is death really our final stop?

In their hearts, many believe life transcends death. They've noticed a slender emergency cord above the windows on the train of life. It's marked "faith" but it seems hard to reach as the train picks up speed on the downhill slope. Let's grab this emergency cord and hold on to it for dear life, until we begin to feel dear Life holding on to us -- and the train rolls to a gentle stop. What shall we do now? We've viewed life through the window of hours and minutes for so many years! What will happen if we turn away from this limited view, and step off the train into the deathless life that Jesus found on Easter morning? The joy that shone in his disciples' faces will shine in ours, and the vision of poet Thomas Moore will be fulfilled.

When from the lips of Truth one mighty breath
Shall, like a whirlwind, scatter in its breeze
The whole dark pile of human mockeries;
Then shall the reign of Mind commence on earth,
And starting fresh, as from a second birth,
Man, in the sunshine of the world's new spring,
Shall walk transparent, like some holy thing.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What happens when God winks?

In their popular book When God Winks,  authors Squire Rushnell and Louise DuArt share real-life stories affirming that "godwinks," or divine coincidences, happen to everyone. But are amazing coincidences really proof of divine care? In a recent survey, 49% said they are, while 39% said they are just good luck. Before you decide, consider the coincidences in this true story.

During the Vietnam Era, a sailor began active duty with a 10-week course in office management at a Naval Training School. His class was told to study extra-hard for the exam at the end of the first week. Whoever earned the highest score would have his choice of future duty stations. That meant he could avoid combat if he wished. Everyone studied hard, but our sailor caught a heavy cold Monday night and was exhausted on Tuesday and Wednesday, too tired to study. On Thursday he felt better, but it was too late to study, so he prayed, asking God what to do. He believes God told him to stop worrying and pray for the entire class. He realized the test which claimed power to pull his class away from God's care and into possible danger was made of paper and ink. How could paper and ink be more powerful than God? He knew this was true for his entire class. On Friday morning the classroom atmosphere was electric with tension. Our sailor quickly realized he didn't know ANY of the answers on the test. None! So he prayed again, and listened. The idea came to simply "draw a finished test" without reading the questions. This took courage, but he had no choice. He scattered his pencil marks in various boxes so the test looked complete. The tests were machine graded in 15 minutes, and the highest score was his. Asked where he wanted to serve, he selected Communications Command Headquarters in Washington, DC. When the course ended, he received orders to Washington as expected, and nobody in the class received orders into combat. (The teacher said this never happened before.) Several months later, he and his colleagues were sitting in their office, discussing how they got to DC. One said he was transferred from a carrier. Another was on R&R from Vietnam. Our sailor said he got the highest grade on the test at training school. The Chief Petty Officer laughed. "The school has no power to let you pick your own duty," he said. "I well recall the day the Commander told me we need another man from the training school. I opened the class file and picked you. That's why you're here."  Our sailor was confused. Getting the highest grade on the test was a miracle. And now this Chief claimed responsibility for his being in DC? So that night at home he prayed again, asking God "what's going on?" He listened a long time, and finally realized the answer. God is not a team player. God does not work with anyone else to keep His children safe. He's a solo act. "The same mind that guided your hand to mark correct answers on the test guided the Chief's hand to select your name from the file. God is in charge of everybody."

Earning the highest test score was an amazing coincidence. Being chosen by the Chief was another coincidence. I know the story is true because the sailor was me. Was it good luck, or divine care?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Was something watching over Melissa?

At 2 p.m. last Tuesday, police in Campbell, CA, received an OnStar report of a rollover involving Melissa Vasquez' Chevy Cruze. Police rushed to the location, but it was wrong. In fact, it was miles from where her car was finally found. A few hours later, they received a missing persons call from Melissa's step-mother.

Officer Dave Cameron is shy and modest, known in the department as "kind of a tech geek." He met with the step-mother and asked if Melissa had a Find My iPhone app. The step-mom wasn't sure. She knew Melissa had an iPad, but didn't know where it was. Cameron called the cell company which confirmed the iPad was in the home, so he searched until he found it, but it was locked. Using what he called "common numbers people use for passwords," he unlocked the iPad on the third and final try. The Find My iPhone app was also locked, but the same password opened it. He activated the "lost phone" feature and saw a map of the location of her phone. "It gave a very small search area," he said. "Her phone had only 12 percent battery life left."

Officers responded to the area and in less than 20 minutes located Melissa, who is 28. Her Chevy had plummeted 500 yards down an embankment and landed on its roof. She had been laying outside her car for 19 hours, injured but conscious. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter airlifted her to Regional Medical Center in San Jose, where she is expected to survive.

Cameron said he was heartened that technology helped save Melissa. But was it only technology? "Something was watching over her," he believes. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our global family is DANCING

Just when it seems like everyone around the world wants to kill everyone else, this video proves that joy is still a powerful force to bind mankind together. Bet you can't watch it without grinning.  rel=0

She waited for him then; she's waiting for him now

Bob Lowe is 93 and lives in Hamphire, UK. He lost his wife Kath a few months ago. They were married 65 years, but it had been 72 years since their first kiss, because they postponed their wedding until he finished fighting in World War II. 

"She waited for me," Bob said, and then began the happiest years of their life.  Now that she's gone, he admits the loneliness hurts. So he wrote her a poem called "Ode to Kath." When he read it in person on BBC radio recently, listeners were moved to tears. Here's what he read.

Ode to Kath - by Bob Lowe

I am alone, now I know it's true.
There was a time when we were two.
Those were the days when we would chat,
Doing little jobs of this and that.
We'd go to the shops and select our meals,
But now I'm alone and know how it feels
To try to cook, or have Meals on Wheels.
The rooms are empty, there's not a sound.
Sometimes I'm lost and wander around
To look for jobs that I can do
To bring back the days when we were two.
When darkness falls and the curtain's drawn,
That's when I feel the most forlorn,
But I must be honest and tell the truth,
I'm not quite alone, and here's the proof,
Because beside me in her chair
She quietly waits our time to share.
Kath said to me some time ago,
"Darling, when it's time for us to go,
Let's mix our ashes and be together
So we can snuggle for ever and ever."

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bridging the age-gap?

Someone one said age is only mind over matter. If you don't mind, age doesn't matter!

Students at the Cleveland Institute of Music who live among a much older generation of neighbors in the Judson Manor Senior Center are proving this. They pay no rent. Not even a penny. Instead, they perform monthly recitals for their elderly neighbors. And they also build lasting friendships.

For example,  CIM graduate student Marissa Plank, a flutist, is now in her second year living at Judson. Her neighbor is 93-year-old Clara Catliota.

"It gives us joy. My gosh, it's lovely," Catliota said. "We've all had wonderful children and they're gone now. Children grow up and go to school and then go. Mine are spread out all over. But to live with young people and learn from them again is a whole new dimension to life."

CIM and Judson began the intergenerational residency program in 2010. The musicians have their own apartments, but often join residents for coffee and practice in the facility's ballroom and lobby. Plank said it's been great to make friends with people who are roughly her grandparents' age. She was close to them and both died not long ago.

Caitlin-Lynch.jpgCaitlin Lynch, viola, and Mary Vanhoozer, piano, students at the time at the Cleveland Institute of Music, perform for fellow residents at Judson Manor in 2010. 
"I've heard people say that they think old people are boring, but they are actually so much fun. They say what they think," said Plank. "I feel like I'm the one that's lucky, getting to hang out with them."

She tries to make it to morning and afternoon coffee gatherings. She's been invited to dinner by several residents.
"When you actually start speaking to them, you find you have a lot more in common than you'd think," she said.
Catliota said she's enjoyed all of the students who have lived at Judson, but she bonded most closely with Caitlin Lynch, a violist and one of the first students to live at Judson.

"She happened to live here on the sixth floor one door away from me. We see them come and go and we'd talk and we kind of bonded because she's easy to bond with. She's very outgoing and loving," said Catliota.

Lynch was dating at the time and told Catliota she wanted her to be in her wedding. "Cait said, 'I want you to be my flower girl' and I said, 'Honey, I don't want to spoil your wedding.'"

The date was finally set for September 27. Catliota was invited and told "to bring as many people as a I want to." But Salem, Oregon – where Lynch is from – was a long way to go. So instead, Lynch is coming to her.

"I thought, if I can't go, why can't we have the little party here at Judson? We all loved Caitlin so it can be a party for everybody," said Catliota. So Caitlin and her husband Tim Mauthe were feted after their honeymoon by her former "roomies" at Judson.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How the heart is healed

I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
His mercy underlies.

And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruised reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain.

I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air.
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.

And thou, O Lord, by whom are seen
Thy creatures as they be,
Forgive me if too close I lean
My human heart on Thee.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Saturday, October 11, 2014

How long would you wait for a Happy Meal?

AP -- A woman who spent 17 years in prison for the death of a homeless man hugged her grandchild for the first time and did a dance of happiness on Friday after she was judged innocent of murder and freed. The mother of three had been sentenced to life without parole.
"I always knew that one day God would bring the truth to the light," Susan Marie Mellen, 59, told reporters after she was released from a Torrance, CA, courthouse shortly before 6 p.m.
About eight hours earlier, a Los Angeles County judge overturned her conviction, saying that her attorney failed to properly represent her. "I believe she is innocent," Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold said. "For that reason I believe in this case the justice system failed." The courtroom burst into applause after his ruling.

She was embraced by her three grown children after her release. She shrieked and clapped her hands as she kissed and hugged her 19-month-old grandson, Aiden. "First time I held him," she told reporters.
She joked and beamed but also described her imprisonment as "cruel punishment."
"I would cry every night" in prison, Mellen said, but never lost faith and even wrote "freedom" on the bottom of her tennis shoes "because I knew I was going to walk free one day."
Mellen's case was investigated by a group called Innocence Matters, which seeks to free people who are wrongly convicted.
Mellen said she held no ill will against those who put her behind bars. "No, no, I always forgave my enemies," she said. "Even your haters, you have to forgive them and sometimes you have to thank them because they bring you closer to God."
She looks forward to having a McDonald's Happy Meal with her youngest daughter. Why? "She and I were at McDonald's when I got arrested, and we didn't have a happy meal that day," she said. "We're going to have a new beginning."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dignity for the poorest of the poor

When my Dad was twenty-something, he left home in Baltimore to find work in Philadelphia. Like many guys his age, he rented a bedroom in a "boarding house," but stoves were not allowed and no food was served. On a modest income, where could he eat? He always went to the nearest Horn & Hardart Automat. There were several in Philly, and even more in New York City. Each had a marble floor and ornate ceiling, with shiny enamel tables, art deco lighting and stained glass windows. Patrons didn't use paper plates or plastic spoons. They received real dishes and flatware, but there were no waitresses or cashier. Instead, there was a lady in a kiosk in the center of the room. Her job was to make change using only nickels. Give her a dollar and her busy fingers would slide 20 nickels to you. Why? Because all the food was displayed behind small glass doors along the wall, and you could open a door and remove the food by inserting one (or more) nickels.

During the Great Depression, many folks felt lucky to have ten cents for lunch. At the automat they could buy a chicken pie or a dish of baked beans. If they didn't have a nickel, they might do what Marlo Thomas did in an episode of her TV show "That Girl," -- put free ketchup and saltine crackers into a cup of free hot water and call it tomato soup. Ketchup soup was very popular during the Depression. Does this mean automats were hang-outs for bums? Not at all. Taxi drivers ate there, but so did Robert DeNiro while making the movie "Taxi Driver." Rich and poor were equal in the automat -- a great equalizer during the Depression. How did famous people feel about automats?

Neil Simon said, "To have your own stack of nickels placed in your tiny hands and be able to choose your own food, displayed like museum pieces; to make quick and final decisions at age eight, was a lesson in finance that two years at Wharton could not buy today." Tony Curtis adds, "I used to shine shoes when I was 14, and when I was a little ahead, I'd stop at Horn & Hardart." Dick Clark claims he lived at the automat when he only had $2/day to eat on. "The food was delicious, and it was wonderful," recalled Woody Allen. For many, going to the automat became a family "tradition," not just a meal. If you have five free minutes, here's a video that explains how Horn & Hardart automats gave birth to fast food, while giving dignity to the poorest of the poor.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Expectant listening, with Friends

While living in Bloomington, IN, home of Indiana University, we often wondered about the modest Friends Meeting House near campus. It looked crowded on Sunday, with cars parked all over the lawn. One Sunday we got up our nerve and walked in. This was an "unprogrammed" meeting, which means no music, no preacher, no sermon. Chairs were arranged in rows so we all could see each other. Since nobody was "in charge," how did we know if worship had started? A sign on the door said, "The meeting begins when the first person enters and turns his thought to God." Gradually the room filled up, with people and silence. Quakers are convinced we all can hear the voice of God, if we just listen. So they listen in silence for about an hour.

For the first 15 minutes, I thought about lunch and shopping that afternoon. But after 30 minutes I ran out of distractions, and actually began listening. A roomful of people spending an hour in silent prayer is better than any tranquilizer. Calm replaces worry and fear. You actually feel at peace and refreshed! After an hour, one member shakes the hand of the person beside him. Others do the same and we all adjourn to the next room for refreshments.

It was during refreshments that I noticed how modest they all are. Nobody dressed to impress. If you asked an older man what he did for a living, he might say, "Oh, I'm a teacher." Later you learn he's an IU professor emeritus of Greek literature. And he came to Meeting on a bicycle.

What do Quakers believe? In a nutshell, they believe it's possible to have direct, unmediated communion with God, and they are committed to living lives which outwardly attest this inward communion, instead of reciting creeds. If you have five spare minutes, here's a video of Quakers explaining what silence (or expectant listening) means to them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Enforcing the law of kindness

EMMETT TOWNSHIP, Mich.– Emmett Township Public Safety Officer Ben Hall has gained a lot of attention after a traffic stop last Friday.
While responding to a call of a child riding in a vehicle unsecured in a car seat, he met young mom Alexis DeLorenzo and her 5-year-old daughter.
“When I spoke to [DeLorenzo], she was very forthcoming and knew that the child should be in a booster seat,” Officer Hall told FOX 17 News. “She admitted that she was wrong and that she had recently fallen on hard times.”
Instead of ticketing DeLorenzo, Officer Hall told her to meet him at a nearby Walmart so he could buy a booster seat for her daughter.

“It was the easiest 50 bucks I ever spent,” said Officer Hall. “It’s something that anybody in the same position, in our position, would do. I in no way, shape or form expect to be paid back. It is a ‘pay it forward’ situation completely.”
DeLorenzo said the generous officer gave her some much-needed hope with his selfless act.
“For a police officer that could have just given me a ticket, and gotten me in a whole lot of trouble, he, out of the kindness of his own heart and out of his own pockets, did something for me and my family that I’m never gonna forget,” she said. “He did his job and above and beyond that, just to protect a little girl and to help a family that can’t help themselves right now.”
DeLorenzo added that she hoped to “pay it forward” too, once she’s back on her feet.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You should see the view from up here!

When we moved to Bloomington, Indiana, our realtor was Bob Millican. He found us our dream condo, but he was more than a businessman. He was kind to everybody, including the less fortunate. One of his friends said Bob "represented the All-American guy, one of the nicest people you're ever going to meet." Ever since his early days as a special ed teacher, Bob had been a fierce competitor. He seldom lost a game of tennis or basketball. He also loved to fish. Friend Lynn Houser remembered Bob as the ideal fishing buddy. "He'd hook the boat to his truck, pick you up, take you to the lake, put the boat in the water, find where the fish were biting, adjust your line to the correct depth and then smile as you caught your fill. Then he'd clean the fish for you."

Houser said he was "hurting" the day Bob passed away in 2004. He wasn't alone. I conducted Bob's memorial service, and every seat in the large hall was filled, with overflow mourners standing quietly outside the doors. We all tried to look on the bright side, and Bob lent us a hand.  I don't recall any rain, but the evening Bob left us an incredible double-rainbow spanned the sky over Bloomington. It was so astonishing that traffic stopped as drivers got out their cars to see it better. KMart shoppers heard an invitation on the PA system to leave the store and go outside to see the rainbow. Many did, standing in the parking lot to watch the brilliant colors. Lynn Houser knew what it meant. He told me, "That's a gift from Bob. His way of saying, "It's all right, fellas. You should see the view from up here!  I know I'll see him again, over the rainbow."

Some folks believe there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A little girl growing up on a farm in the midwest could see her Grandma's farmhouse a mile away through the kitchen window. One day she noticed a rainbow in the sky. It appeared to end right on top of her Grandmother's home!  So she called to let her know the good news. Click this link to see a one-minute video of her precious call.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Letter to my grandson

Dear Lucas,

On Friday you'll be eight years old, and already you can probably read this. As you grow older, I know you'll be funny, wise, sensitive, interesting and a ball of fire, because your parents are all these things. I know you'll be strong, and a wonderful hugger like your Mom and Dad. I wish you happy happy days! You'll have some bad days too, but they only make the good ones better. I know you'll learn how to handle disappointment, because life is 10% what happens, and 90% how you handle it. I pray you'll be humble, and kind enough to always let an outsider feel like an insider.

Lucas Alfred Peterson

I know you'll learn honesty is the best policy, and that hard work really feels good, and I'm sure you'll be a loyal friend who people can count on and trust.  I hope you'll use your many advantages to make the world a better place. But until then....

In his operetta Babes in Toyland, Victor Herbert lamented, "Childhood's joyland. Mystic merry Toyland, once you pass it's borders, you can never return again." He was right. So thanks for letting me be part of your boyland.

Here if you need me,

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A salute to simple living

At least once each year when our girls were in elementary school, we'd go to Concord and visit Walden Pond. Sometimes we'd swim at the small beach, and sometimes we'd hike the two-mile path around the pond, passing the site of Henry David Thoreau's cabin. I think Thoreau would be pleased to know one daughter is now a leader in arts development while the other assists scholars doing scientific research to improve the environment.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Thoreau grew up in Concord, the son of a pencil-maker. After graduating from Harvard in 1837, he tried his hand at writing but publishers rejected his work. He and his brother John started an innovative grammar school but it closed four years later when John contracted tetanus and died in Henry's arms. Henry fell in love with John's former sweetheart, Ellen Sewell. He proposed, but her father refused to consent because Thoreau was "a dreamer who wouldn't amount to anything." So Henry went back to pencil-making, but still inspired many of his neighbors. Teenage Louise May Alcott took walks in the woods with him as he explained each tree and flower. He often babysat Ralph Waldo Emerson's children, sometimes living with them while the Sage of Concord was away on lecture tours. In 1845 he quit making pencils and built a tiny cabin at Walden Pond, just two miles from his family home. He lived there almost three years while on a voyage of personal independence and spiritual discovery which he later shared in his book, Walden, available at your local library. If you have five spare minutes and would like to walk around Walden Pond and see a replica of his cabin, visit   Meanwhile, here are a few lessons Thoreau learned while living at Walden.

Walden Pond in autumn

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.  Be not simply good. Be good for something. Goodness is the only investment that never fails. The world is but a canvas to our imagination. What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. The language of friendship is not words but meanings. Friends are kind to one another's dreams. Wealth is the ability to fully-experience life. The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation, because men have become the tools of their tools. I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately...and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived."

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Touchdown Jesus

As former Hoosiers, Evelyn and I still enjoy watching Notre Dame football on TV. Today they beat Stanford, against all odds. The Irish were trailing 10-14. It was 4th and eleven, with 61 seconds left on the clock, when Everett Golson threw a 23 yard touchdown pass to Ben Kayack, who caught it in the end zone. What a thrilling moment! But what happened afterward was even better.

Notre Dame's Hesburg Library was the biggest university library in the United States when it opened in 1963. The side of the library facing the football stadium is covered by a giant mural of the resurrected Jesus with his arms raised in the same fashion a referee would signify a touchdown. Visible from many stadium seats, it's nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus."

Does the iconic mural affect the outcome of games? Probably not. But the attitude of Notre Dame players might. After each victorious home game, the fighting Irish don't rush to the showers. They gather with arms on each other's shoulders to sing their Alma Mater. Fans also stand with arms on each other's shoulders and sing along with them, slowly swaying from side to side. Here are the lyrics. If you've never seen such a post-game ceremony, click this link to watch and listen.

Notre Dame, Our Mother
Tender, Strong, and True
Proudly in the Heavens
Gleams Thy Gold and Blue
Glory's Mantle Cloaks Thee
Golden is Thy Fame
And Our Hearts Forever 
Praise Thee, Notre Dame
And Our Hearts Forever
Love Thee Notre Dame