LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

These have been difficult times here. We have a low population of men in this community and in the last 2 weeks three men have died, and one is near death. Men are an endangered species here, with only 15 survivors in a community of 91 residents. It is like viewing a line of marching soldiers and one by one many drop off and are seen no more; and there are none to take their place. it seems as if the angel of death visits here often, 181 deaths in 14 years. My brother, Howard, was in Asia some time ago, and sent me this fantastic picture of Monks in a Sunlit Doorway from Cambodia. What strikes me is the shadowy figures of the monks, but light is streaming through the doorway ~~~ not only pointing to light outside the room, but light inside the darkness. That is the good news that even when life is difficult, there is light. I began my ministry at the Richmond Home for Ladies and it is ending at Redstone Home for Ladies (and a few men).

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IF YOU WRITE IT, THEY WILL COME

The 2014 baseball season has ended, and the Royals fell one run short of winning the Series. Every baseball season, I watch Field of Dreams.
It is a wonderful story of Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella, who hears a voice saying to him, “If you build it, he will come.” He builds a baseball diamond in the field. At first Shoeless Joe Jackson appears, then other players from the the 1919 Black Sox scandals, but the climatic moment occurs when his deceased father appears and reconciliation happens. I see a strong parallel between this film and the amazing story of a new book, Seasons of Caring: Meditations foe Caregivers of Alzheimer’s and other Dementias. Some months ago, Dr. Danny Potts, a celebrated neurologist, envisioned a book of meditations, written by caregivers for caregivers. Although there is a plethora of books written by caregivers for those caring for persons with Alzheimer’s.There is a twofold uniqueness about this forthcoming book. It is the first book of its kind, written by an interfaith coalition of caregivers. There are 172 meditations, written by 72 authors representing 17 faith communities. An additional feature is the featured art in the book by Lester Potts Jr., who painted the pictures in the throes of Alzheimer’s. Our mantra could well have been “If you write it, they will come.” I am convinced this book will touch many caregivers for those suffering from this disease. Hopefully, publication date will be November 20th, so look for it!!! We have written it, so now you come and read it. More details later.

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A BOOK THAT REVIVED MY WRITING

I thought my writing days had ended; no more books to write and I was facing “writer’s pause” with my blog. Then I read a remarkable book by Robert Benson, Dancing on the Head of a Pen. Benson’s book would help any hopeful writer who doesn’t know how to get from a blank page to a pile of pages CALLED A BOOK. Benson encourages every hopeful writer to write every day, even if only 600 words. I chuckled as he wrote about writing notes on a napkins and then transcribing them into a notebook. I have done that a bazillon times; the servers in our dining room know where I sit because they see notes scribbled on menus and napkins. The image I found most helpful to me is in his studio where he has three hats – a beret, a baseball cap, and a fedora. When he wears the beret, he is in a creative phase. When he wears the baseball cap, he’s a ruthless editor. He wears the fedora when he is attending to the business of publishing – contracts, marketing, et al. Since I don’t own a beret or fedora, I’ll use three sports hats. I will wear the Davidson Wildcat hat when I am in in my creative phase, reminiscent of the halcyon days of college and writing sports. When I wear the Steeler’s hat, I will be the ruthless editor, and the old Cubs hat will be when I am attending to the business of publishing (which will be like the pitiful Cubs endless losing seasons), I will not wear often. My wonderful co-author, Jane Marie Thibault, could not believe I had ended my writing. She claims I will probably die with a pen in my hand, ready to write one last sentence. The words of Vincent Van Gogh ring true, “In spite of everything I shall rise again. I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.” So, by the grace of God, I will go on writing ~~~~~~~

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THE OLD HAS PASSED AWAY

One of my favorite songs was “My Way”It begins, “And now. the end is near, and I face the final curtain. . . ‘ After 60+ years of preaching, the end has come. . On a warm, April 30th day in 1950 I preached my first sermon on “A Real Christian,” at
the Bethel Presbyterian Church, near Davidson, NC. On November 2,2014 I will give my final sermon at the Amity Presbyterian Church, Dravosburg, Pa on All Saints Day. At age 85 I find myself too unsteady on my feet to stand in the pulpit. It is time to bid adieu. So, cleaned out my sermon files, threw most of them away, and kept a few, in case I might speak from a chair.(ex cathedra). My volunteer time now will be devoted to Hospice and Clergy Against Alzheimer’s and ten grandchildren!

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AFTER THE FALL

What every older person fears, happened. I fell on my face in the night; no breaks, but bruises and black eyes. For a week I have listened to the comments: “Did you speak out of turn?” “What about the other guy?” “Your wife must have a great right hook!” One gentleman called me the “The Raccoon Man,” when he saw my black eyes. One woman said, “You look like the Phantom of the Opera,” and I smiled and replied,” I wish I could sing like him!” I shied away from Karen in the Gift Shop, but she said, “I have macular degeneration,” and can’t see your face very well.” Blessing in disguise, literally. One of my younger friends, Joe, looked at me and said, ‘That’s the best you’ve ever looked!” Perhaps the best response was from friend, Jack, in North Carolina. He sent me a card with a picture of an turtle with a stretch bandage and the caption read, “It’s not the speed that matters, it’s the getting there!. Really. Oh well, thanks to applying ice , the swelling has diminished and the purple and black mask is turning other colors.A monk was once asked, “What is the greatest secret of life,” and he replied, “We fall down; we get up; we fall down, we get up. We fall down, we get up; we fall down and get up in a better world!

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A TOUCH OF FALL IN THE AIR

We try to walk a mile a day around this retirement community. Tonight, as evening approached, I notice a touch of Fall in the air. One of the trees was starting to turn different colors and there was a crispness in the air. I am glad I live in western Pennsylvania where I can experience all four seasons of the year. It always give me a lift to watch trees change from green to orange, red and brown. Fall prepares for Winter. when the trees become bare and snow covers the ground. But cold weather helps us to appreciate warm weather, as we await the miracle of the budding and greening all over again. I wonder what kind of season changes he writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes experienced. He wrote, “”There is a season for every activity under heaven.” Winter is a time to slow down and hibernate and nurture the inner life. In a few weeks our book, Seasons of Caring will be published, which will feature emotional and spiritual seasons that caregivers of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia experience. You will hear much more from me as this book comes to life. It has been an incredible journey, with great dedication from editors and writers But, right now, I am enjoying the Fall season, attending granddaughter’s soccer games and band performances. I sit in the reserved section for the handicapped, which gives me a 50 yard line view of the field. This has proved to be a much needed respite from the computer for this octogenarian.

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STILL A TEACHER

It’s a new world I now live in as an octogenarian + 5. So much now is going virtual and I miss the old printed books. Now my daily paper has gone to a new format, printing a much smaller paper in smaller print. I really have to strain my feeble eyes to read it, and do the crossword puzzle. It is not age-friendly. But, despite all these changes, some things remain constant. I had a wonderful experience engaging with students by phone from Asbury Seminary last week. They asked great questions and the time flew by before I knew it. When I told Dr. Beverly Johnson-Miller how much I missed teaching, she replied.”But you are teaching.” She’s right! No longer do I have have face-to-face dialogue with students in a classroom setting. But, thanks to the marvels of the electronic world, I can still teach through conference calls, web seminars, and emails. My day was brightened by hearing from two former students. One, now a nurse, works with a psychiatrist ,and reminded me how much my Psychology meant to her 30+ years ago. The other was an older adult, who had attended my Remembering Your seminar in Florida 15 years ago and had taught from that book for several years. “Cast hour bread upon the water and it will return . . . ” It is heart warming to hear from former students. But, it is also a joy to still teach from the telephone and computer. Heraclitus was right, Heraclitus was right.” Nothing is as constant as change>” John Greenleaf Whittier said it well, “We know not what the future hath of marvel or surprise, assured alone in life and death, God’s mercy underlies.”

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