Even Better — Now?

“No” we can’t go to birthday parties.

“No” we cannot hug those we love who live outside our homes, especially our grandkids and kids.

We did not like hearing “NO!” when we were younger and dislike it even more when situations force it on us.

Diminishing or even disappearing finances force to us decide “what do we really need?” rather than going shopping and buying buying buying until…

We dislike these times when things get stressful, deadlines are coming too fast, and expectations seem unreachable and “NO!” feels like a slap in the face or a punch in the gut.


Heat in our life burns off the stuff that’s tying us down.

A prophet Isaiah in 48:10 wrote centuries ago “refined in the furnace of suffering” (NLT).

It’s unlikely we will literally go through a fiery furnace in our life, but we will go through the furnace of suffering many, many times, as we are now.

It’s like silver and gold. When it’s heated up, all the impurities are burned off. Then, you’re left with 100 percent gold or silver.

If you ask a silversmith how to know when silver is pure, he’ll tell you it happens when you can see your reflection while looking into the cauldron.

This suffering may birth in our lives a need which is new and important to us.

“Spring burns” in a prairie near me burns away the dead growth so that the new growth may thrive!

Suffering now can cause us to THRIVE!

Just One — Stimulate

“Love” or “hate.”

“Careful” or “careless.”

“Wisely chosen” or “poorly chosen”

Reading the headlines of articles these days, it seems to me that we are a race of “either or” persons.

Difference leads to disagreement to disparagement to division to disruption to a death..

All suffer and none benefit.


In physics one little pebble can cause a landslide.

In courts one simple point can win a case.

In relationships two simple words “I’m sorry” or “you’re forgiven” can turn the tide.

Such actions can stimulate. A stimulus can change things.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the noun stimulus means “something that causes something else to happen, develop, or become more active, something that causes a change or a reaction.”

As Paul wrote centuries to a divided and disheartened community in Rome “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 nasb

Most automobiles are equipped with a catalytic converter, which transforms dangerous pollutants into less harmful compounds. The secret to this device is the catalyst it contains. This substance makes that chemical transformation possible.

Our words of comfort, wisdom, care and … can be that catalyst.

A ray of sunlight brightens a face, causing a smile to grow; warms a plant, causing it to grow.

Lament In This Time

Lament as a verb and noun exactly expresses, for me and many, our response to our current situation.

While working in Baton Rouge at LSU I discovered both the joy and sorrow, the lament and the alleluia from two sources — Preservation Hall in New Orleans and our kitchen in the student center at LSU. Both of the human sources were African American male and females.

Jazz was the song of faith, life, and so much more. Now I listen to jazz.

The following piece I discovered sometime back.

Blues and Jazz: Lament and Improvisation

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Todays meditation is drawn from Barbara Holmes book Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church. 

She explores the blues—a musical form developed in the Deep South by African Americans in the late 19th century—and jazz—originating in New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—as authentic expressions of life. In addition to reading her words, I invite you to listen (and perhaps dance?) to B. B. King or Miles Davis as a contemplative practice.

Like the familiar laments in Psalms, blues artists forthrightly engaged the issues in life that the church would not discuss—such as sexuality, theodicy, and the unabated despair of the people. The lyrics were straightforward and sometimes raunchy, but they captured the life experiences of the listeners. While gospel music promised peace in the hereafter and the promise of God’s presence, the blues became public theology, communal inquiry, and a critique of the church. . . .

The contemplative moment comes as the cause of the blues is considered within the broader context of God’s inexplicable absence or startling intervention. Under every stanza is the silent and unspoken question,“How long, oh Lord, how long will your people continue to suffer?” . . .

No one thinks for one moment that when B. B. King sang, he was saying all that there was to be said about the subject. . . . One or two lines hold the portal open for listeners to mentally supply the rest. This is the contemplative turn. . . . Smoky nightclubs and juke joints become the spaces for contemplation that attends to the details of daily life and the potential for its enrichment and ultimate fulfillment. . . .

Jazz is a way of being in the world, a willingness to break away from rhetorical comfort zones and language hierarchies. When you know that you are “between a rock and a hard place,” then you must respond creatively to the situation. Jazz is the musical version of the communal response to displacement. This is not a black thing; the majority of Americans today are displaced in one way or another. However, the displacement of the African diaspora was sealed by skin color as a permanent social exile. Some amelioration of that exile has only now begun, but only because of the genius of the community for creativity and improvisation upon the main themes of oppression and marginalization.

The improvisational motif in jazz music refers to the spontaneous creation of melodic innovations that diverge and meld with the main tune. . . . When the contributions of the individual improvisations soar, the contemplative potential increases. For in the midst of unthinkable rhythmic and tonal combinations, we also hear the impossible being brought within our reach.

When Miles Davis blows the cacophony that can barely be contained by the word song, we come closest to the unimaginable, the potential of the future, and the source of our being.

One of the iconic and exhilarating expression I experienced occurred in New Orleans after a funeral Mass and internment and the following happened.

Phillip Kapela


Keep Your Fork

In our current times when we wonder about the next.. day, week, month, year, and such.

How do you react and then respond to the phrase “the best is yet to come?”

The following appeared in the Chicago Tribune on August 12th, 2000 in the Ann Landers column.

Dear Ann Landers:

Several readers, as well as some family members, sent me this same piece. Some said they got it off the Internet. It has been attributed to Roger William Thomas.

It is indeed a heartwarmer, and I am printing it with pleasure: Keep Your


A woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given three months to live. She asked her pastor to come to her home to discuss her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral, and what scriptures to read, and which outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Then she said, “One more thing. I want to be buried with a fork in my hand.”

The pastor was surprised. The woman explained, “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, `Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite time, because I knew something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie — something wonderful. So, I want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and wonder, ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then, I want you to tell them, `Keep your fork, because the best is yet to come.”‘

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he bid the woman goodbye. He realized that she had a better grasp of heaven than he did, and knew something better was coming.

At the funeral, when people asked him why she was holding a fork, the pastor told them of the conversation he’d had with the woman before she died. He said he could not stop thinking about the fork, and knew they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it, either. He was right.

Keep your fork. The best is yet to come!

After Awhile

Now that all of us have been “in place” for this extended time, we have all been and have rubbed people the wrong way.

An aunt of mine once said that “relatives who stay more than three days with you become like cheese —they stink!”

While graphic as this adage may be, some or much truth abides therein.

Paul wrote to a community in Ephesus: “Always be humble and gentle.

Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2 NLT).

Paul wrote to the community in Corinth “Love patiently accepts all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NCV).

In the original Greek, this literally means “covered with a roof.”

In the same way, biblical love covers a relationship and lets some things slide.

We need a roof on our relationship because people damage pretty easily, and we need the kind of love that extends grace.

Why is grace essential to relationships?

Paul also wrote in Romans 3:10 that no one always does what is right.

Nobody gets it right 100 percent of the time.

In the movie The Lorax many persons played a role in the destruction of the larger reality — it’s never just one person’s fault.

There’s always a responsibility on many sides.

It takes two people to disagree!

We have to learn to extend grace to each other, because forgiveness is a two-way street.

We cannot receive what we’re unwilling to give to other people.

When we accept others as they are, looking past their faults for the sake of love, that’s extending grace.

As the cryptic line in The Lorax proclaims “Unless someone like you cares whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss

Current Responders Now

When we hear the phrase “first responders,” of whom do we first think?

Police, paramedics, firefighters, to be sure, come to mind.

These persons highlight many a news cast.

However, the first responders are the parents “in place” who cook, clean, cuddle, and care for their kids.

In the prayer over the parents in the Roman Catholic rite of infant Baptism, the celebrant prays, to the effect “May these be the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith, may they be the best of teachers, by what they say and do.”

Thus, children learn first from parents, by observation of parents’ actions and then by their words.

And let not just teach our kids, solicit their opinions – and respect them.

Home is where children learn to practice expressing how they feel; and if we’ve laid the right foundation, we have nothing to worry about and worry may fill the mind and heart of many.

Later in life, when they chose to make good decisions, these will be based on good values, formed over the years, first starting at home!

If we don’t, they won’t learn to think for themselves or face life with confidence.

Moses told the Israelites: ‘Think constantly about these commandments…teach them to your children…talk about them when you are at home…out for a walk…at bedtime and the first thing in the morning’ (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

Following Directions

Saturday morning involved assembling a lamp that had arrived in a box in pieces!

This scenario tickles the memory of many an adult who put together a Christmas gift the night before. A bike actually worked and did not turn out to be a unicycle.

Back to the lamp assembly, a three hour estimate of mine proved to be untrue, lasting less than one hour BECAUSE I followed the directions.

An inexorable journey leads to a successful conclusion when the directions of a GPS voice telling us to “turn right in 100 feet and we do so.

In our current situation we would be wise to follow the directions of our doctors when they say “let’s have a tele visit now” and see each other in June.

The same wisdom rings and reigns true in spiritual matters.

As was written in Deuteronomy 5:33 “Follow all the directions the LORD your God has given you. Life will go well for you.”


Friday previously would typically mark the end of week in schools and workplaces.

In schools where I would substitute teach, Friday offered many opportunities because staff longed for and arranged for three way weekends.

In workplaces staff would countdown the time until…

However in our current situation Friday has the sense of being “just another day.”

YET, in some traditions Friday was a fast day.

In other traditions, Forgiveness Friday offered an opportunity to either give forgiveness or ask for forgiveness.

All of us have either hurt others and/or been hurt.

When something is said often, it is important. How about when it is said 161 times —the number of times forgive and forgiveness is in Judaeo Christian literature — the Bible, and other religious traditions?

Please do not wait for in our current situation let’s ask for forgiveness and/or forgive before it is too late, until the other person dies.

As a sage wrote centuries ago “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates…” Proverbs 17:9 NLT


Next week, next month, next year I would want to…

Let’s complete that phrase.

By this time let’s admit that we want, and even need to…

Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, vacations, baseball games, barbecues — to mention just a few.

Boundaries and borders now form these decisions, more than previously — six feet apart — HUM — HOW.


Focus, fidelity, and follow through resonate in my mind and memory while I was training for and participating in marathons.

A sage phrase from Proverbs 4:25-27 provides a plan “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left.”

Let’s look ahead to that safe and secure time when…

Let’s take level plans.

Let’s move on firm surfaces.

Let’s not swerve.

Next month, next year we will…

Being Prepared

While getting the Walmart grocery order earlier today, Carol and I talked about getting various items which we would need in the coming days and weeks.

We were “preparing.”

In my youth the Boy Scouts prepared and trained us to be prepared, to be alert!

In 1907, Baden-Powell, an English soldier, devised the Scout motto: Be Prepared; which later published in Scouting for Boys in 1908. “Be Prepared” means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty,” he later wrote.

In Judaeo Christian literature (the Bible) there are 371 verses relative to this to this theme.

Greek literature and even Aesop fables counsel and promote “being prepared.”

Paul wrote to the community in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:13) “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith…”

How are we prepared and alert in our current pandemic? I wear a mask and googles while on my daily walk.

Be prepared and alert!