Sunday, January 30, 2005

Thomas Merton Birthday - January 31, 2005

Thomas Merton was born in France 90 years ago today. Take time to send an email to a friend who does not know it is Merton's birthday. This is a day of blessing and thanksgiving.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Loveless Cafe

Loveless Cafe

Ate at the Loveless Cafe for breakfast. It was the first time since they have reopened. Love their country ham. Martha Stewart is quoted on the menu as saying, "it was the best breakfast I've ever had." And People Magazine called Loveless Ham "the best in America." What a delight !!

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is Paul Boyd's boss. Dave has done more to help people get their financial house in order than anyone I know. My daughter, Melinda, is one of his biggest fans. That's him on the right.

Happy Birthday Paul Boyd

Happy Birthday Paul Boyd

We had a surprise 50th birthday party for Paul. About 30 people were there including several co-workers and friends. About ten years ago when I was unemployed and without hope of a job, Paul and his wife Kelly helped me financially by getting a personal employment trainer to help me. One doesn't forget friends like that. Have a happy day Paul!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Janet back in Michigan

Janet is undergoing evaluation, test, etc. today in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I still covet your prayers that something can be done to help her with her headaches.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Robert Lax - Sort of a Memorial

Robert Lax – Sort of a Memorial

"Sometimes we go on a search
and do not know what we are looking for,
until we come again to our beginning." (Robert Lax)

Robert Lax was Thomas Merton’s best friend. Both met at Columbia University in the 30’s. Merton became a hermit monk and best-selling author. Lax worked for the New Yorker for a while as an editor, then joined the circus and spent many years traveling with the circus. He was also a poet and his most famous book, "Circus Days and Nights," was called by The New York Times Book Review "perhaps the greatest English language poem of this century."

After his circus days, Lax moved to Greece and ended up the last several decades of his life on the island of Patmos.

Two years ago I made a trip to the island of Patmos. Patmos, as you may remember, was where the Apostle John was imprisoned and wrote the book of Revelation. I went to the cave where he penned his famous words. It was a meaningful experience.

I also took time to have my picture made by the waterfront in front of the Arion Café. This was Lax’s hangout. He came daily and made his rounds, saying hello to the fisherman, sitting and eating with friends in the cafe, and keeping tab on a tribe of cats. He was known on the island as "the holy man."

In a recent magazine I read a story by another close friend of Lax, Moschos Lagouvardos. His description of Lax is worth remembering. Here are a few comments.

Roberto lived in an old house near the sea. It was a damp, two-story house in a narrow street that led to the sea.

He was like a migratory bird, traveling for the most part with only what was on his back. He had no possessions other than an old sack which contained the Psalms of David and the Book of Isaiah from the Bible, some underwear and shirts.

The most important thing in the world for Roberto was the beauty of God. Through him the beauty of the presence of God touched me to the core.

He once said, "only when one’s mind is free can thoughts be calm, bright and happy. It is only when we are calm and we take things slowly that our vision grows."

His only solace was his writing, his prayer-life and staring out to the sea.

He was always on a spiritual high thanks to his purity of heart.

He loved the circus. He loved the acrobat, the clowns, the lovely faces of the children with excitement in their eyes, and the music. Roberto felt that the circus was a never-ending cycle founded on the strength that comes from wisdom, and the wisdom found in beauty, and the love of the soul in search of its beloved.

He was in search of pure prayer and a free mind.

He had the gift of continually feeling the presence of God.

In closing Lagouvardos says,

"Many years later, at the Planet Cafe, I sit and write about my friend while drinking cappuccino, Roberto who left his friends and family to find a quiet place to write and pray. Roberto who introduced me to the spirit of Othodoxy, Roberto through whom I saw the value of a simple life, composure, placidity, solitude and silence, along with the unspeakable job of the continual repetition of the Name of God."



Monday, January 24, 2005

Lunch with a friend

Lunch with a friend

Steve Robinson and I ate lunch together. He is the FCA Director for Middle Tennessee. He is a wonderful friend, one of those people God has put in my life to listen to my struggles, encourage me, and give direction for my life.

There are times we need to get together with those God has placed in our lives. Times when sharing is the most important thing. Thanks Steve for your friendship.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Dry Hollow, TN

Dry Hollow, TNa

Am in Dry Hollow, Tn helping with father-in-law. He is 88 and recently had a bad fall. He is having a tough time. We are trying to help Janet's mom.

Picture is of Livingston Store in Dry Hollow. A third generation Livingston is the owner. A week before he died, I took Billie Lee Livingston to church for the last time. That was 30 years ago. His grandson is now the ownerMay get snow tonight. It is very cold.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Strangers Along the Way

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for along the way some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)"

From the Weird Wanderings of Dan Phillips

For several years I have come to work by going off of I-65 at I-440, then getting off the West End Exit. I had a special route from I-440 to Centennial. Each day I would turn left at McDonald’s and come through Centennial Park. Some days I would park my car and even walk for a mile and look at Centennial Medical Center and pray for the people here.

My favorite thing through was the Parthenon. Many mornings when it was dark the Parthenon was lit up like a magnificent cathedral. The colors were so inspiring that I would sometimes just stop and look at it. It was beautiful, the highlight of the journey to work.

THEN, the powers that be, messed up I-440 at West End to improve the exit. The result was often a wait of many minutes to get off the exit, so I began a search for a new route to work.

Finally, I began following I-64, to I-40 west, then exiting at the Church Street exit. I was surprised to discover that it was a half of mile less to work and I didn’t have to put up with exiting at a place where I had to wait. It took a while, but I have gotten use to the journey.


During the last year and a half I became intrigued with the people I encountered on my journey to work. This goes back a long way, but when I was an engineer working on the space program, one of my fellow engineers told me that everyday at 2:10 p.m. a car passed in front of our building with a chicken on top of it. I thought he was crazy! But then I began checking on the chicken and sure enough, everyday at the same time, the car with the chicken came by. That made me realize that all of us have habits that we don’t realize.

So, with habits in mind, I checked to see the habits of the people I passed on my way to work. One in particular caught my attention. A man every morning would be out in front of his office with a huge power blower cleaning off the driveway of his establishment. Like clockwork, he was always there. It was sort of fun—with my chicken mentality—to see him getting the office ready. Some Monday’s he was not there, and some days my passing was later or earlier, and I did not see him.

I also checked out his truck. It was always parked a certain way with his mirror aligned with the overhang in front of his office. I sort of got excited last summer when he bought a new truck. I thought, he must be doing pretty well in his business to be able to afford a new truck. And sometimes I would pass and he would not be there and I would say a prayer for him.

One thing I always thought was, if I ever am able to retire, the last day I work I am going to stop and tell him, you have meant a lot to me in the last few years. Your diligence in cleaning the sidewalk has been an encouragement on my way to work EVERYDAY.

Several weeks ago, during the first of December, I noted the truck began to be absent. Every morning I would come by and NO TRUCK, then I noticed no people seemed to be around. When January hit and still no truck, I really got worried. I thought, my imaginary friend has hit some financial difficulties and has had to close his business. Every morning as I passed there was a sadness. He was not there.

I even copied the website address still on the building and thought I might “google it,” in hopes of discovering more, but I thought, "oh no, it probably will not be there because he is out of business."

For weeks, passing this point on the journey, has brought sadness.

This morning, January 20, 2005, I noticed the truck once more in front of the establishment and I saw the man go in the door. He didn’t have the blower and just seemed to struggle getting through the door. I thought, "I bet he is getting a few things left over after closing his business."

Then, I thought. If he is going out of business I better say goodbye. I may never see him again. So I made a quick right turn into a rather oblivious place by his truck, got out of my car, and followed him in the door. I introduced myself. I said, "I’m sorry to bother you, but I am a Chaplain at Centennial Medical Center and every morning for the last several months I have watched you clean the sidewalk and that has always been a blessing to me on my drive to work. And for several weeks I have not seen you and I have been worried about you. Is everything ok?"

He looked at me kinda funny (who is this idiot I bet he thought), then his eyes seemed to glaze over a bit, and he said, "I just had to put my Mom in a nursing home this week. She is 89. A tough old bird. But I have been taking care of her."

"Well, that explains it,"I said. "I’m glad your back because you made my journey easier everyday and I have always appreciated how clean you have kept your drive way." He sort of smiled and said, "its too cold to go outside now with the blower."

So I started to leave. I found out his name was Jim. He lives in Dickson. His Mom is not doing well. I assured him of my prayers and told him that I was glad he was back and that someday, when I retire, I will stop and see him again.

I know this is sort of rambling, but maybe all of us need to look for chickens and power blowers and tan trucks along the journey. Maybe an angel is hidden somewhere or maybe a blessing we have missed.

Are there people that bless your life and you have never told them? You think about that !!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Facing Discouragement

"Facing Discouragement" was my message title today at the noon hour. I have been reading the Book of Ezra and discovered that after initial success in rebuilding the temple, they grew discouraged and stopped building for 16 years. In that time frame, God sent the prophet Haggai and the prophet Zechariah to encourage them and they began building again. Well, I needed that. Thanks for Haggai's in the world. There are times all of us need encouragement.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Tough Day

It began with me taking Janet to the Emergency Room early this morning. The headaches have gotten worse. My daughter took her home. I left work early to help. Am worried about her. We don't know where to turn next. Everything seems to end up a blank.

Work has been horrible. Had to go back into the hospital twice this weekend for deaths. Got beeped during church Sunday. So embarrassing to get up to go out of the church and hundreds of people looking on while you leave during the sermon. Got to the hospital and led a dying man to the Lord then stood by another family and their loved one was dying also.

Then, the unheard, a friend's calls at 12:32 am with news his daughter has been murdered. With Janet and all of this it is almost more than I can stand. Please say a prayer for us. It just seems so demonic !!! It is getting to me.

Seminars for the Soul

My friend Don Robinson has a new website called Seminars for the Soul. It is neat. Worth checking out !!!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Busy Day

It is rainy and windy outside. Inside, the hospital is full and busy. Tragedies call! Too many deaths.

This morning there was an early death. The family responded by taking pictures of the corpse sitting up in bed. A reminder that when you think you have seen it all, something you could never dream of happens.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The People's Church

I use to go to the church this article is about. What price are we willing to pay for big numbers and WORLDLY SUCCESS?


"Even when I cannot think straight, God straightens me out as soon as I get a minute alone in church. It is good to go and pray even when you feel washed out. The mere effort makes you feel better. You are giving something of your silly self away, and that always nourishes you.

And it is comforting to realize, 'Even if I feel rotten, I don't want anything but God and His solitude..."

( THE SIGN OF JONAS, page 75 )

What are my thoughts on HIS solitude?

Thanks Wayne Burns

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Merton"s Famous Prayer

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really understand myself,

and the fact that I think I am following

your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you

does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the

right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may

seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and

you will never leave me to face my troubles alone.

Thomas Merton

The Gift

The Gift

"When a woman who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them." (Luke 7)

The Gift

Someone graciously gave me an alabaster jar today hand carved and made in Italy. Grace and Peace !!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Susan and the Cookie Man

My man, Gordon, over at Real Live Preacher has done got a gig at The Christian Century and his first article is titled, "Susan and the Cookie Man," a real winner!!!!!

Howard Hughes

Since the Aviator has come out, some people are asking if I saw it.

Several years ago I wrote a story about Howard Hughes and the town of Las Vegas. It was based on my experience with the Spruce Goose, his large airplane.

Someone said that the movie producers stole my story and made a screen play out of it. What do you think?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

PR for Jesus

I went to a meeting at church today. It was for Sunday School leaders with free barbeque after it was over.

The meeting lasted for 1 hour and 50 minutes. It was total Public relations. TOTAL PUBLIC RELATIONS!! I hated it. Everything could have been done in 50 minutes or less. But, no we have to run it in the ground. No wonder people do not want to be leaders in a church. It has nothing to do with Jesus, just a pushing of the program. It is totally ridiculous. Ruined my afternoon. I was doing pretty good praying, but this "active idioticy for effective churches" is ruining my spiritual life !

What drives you nuts in church?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Congratulations Shanda and Steven

Congratulations Shanda and Steven

The wedding was great. They were married at Scarritt Bennett in Nashville. The reception was at the famous Demonbreun House, one of the oldest homes in town. Everyone had a great time. The sidekick2 did not do justice to the lovely couple.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Holy Ground

Karen at Heretics Corner has written a great article about the intensive care room in a hospital. As a chaplain I experience much of what she does, she just does such a great job of expressing what it is really like!!

A Blessing for the New Year

Over at Drybones Dance there is a great blessing for the New Year. Beautiful !!

God's Work in Small Ways

A little over a year ago my daughter Melinda began attending Crosspoint Community Church in the Nashville, TN. area. She knew no one when she began going. She invited several of her friends but she had a tough time getting anyone to go with her.

As the new year began, the church began some small groups. Melinda volunteered to have one at her condo. Not many attended. 5 or 6 people only. But God works in mysterious ways. There was another member of the group named Mike. And Mike and Melinda began seeing each other and later this year Mike married Melinda and she went from being a Phillips to being a McReynolds.

I admit I was nervous, particularly since I was the officiate at the wedding. But things went great. Melinda and Mike had a beautiful wedding and went to Mexico on their honeyoon.

The Rest of the Story

As I said, it began with a small group meeting to study the Bible, just 5 or 6. Yes, God does work in small ways, BUT there is another part of the story. Mike’s brother Steven was also a member of that small group. And there was a young lady who had just graduated from Western Kentucky University named Shanda who also happened to be in attendance each Sunday.

Well Steven and Shanda sort of hit it off also. And they had so much fun at Mike and Melinda’s wedding that they decided to get married to.

So tomorrow, Saturday, January 8, 2005, in Nashville, Tennessee, we will go to another wedding. This time Steven and Shanda get married and Shanda becomes a McReynolds and Melinda becomes her sister-in-law.

It is exciting to see how God works, isn’t it. Maybe I will have a picture of the wedding tomorrow. Thanks be to God !!!

Oh, yeah, by the way, has God ever worked in your life in small ways?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Thomas Merton Retreat-All Saints Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

I am really getting excited about the weekend I will be leading on February 11 and 12th at ALL SAINTS EPISCOPAL CHURCH in Jacksonville, Flordia.

They have had 140 members that have been through Cursillo. I have been through Tres Dias several times as a spiritual director. Both are similar. And they made a pilgrimage to Ireland in 2003 with the church. This will be a meeting advertised city wide and the title of the conference is Developing Your Spiritual Life With Special Emphasis on the Life of Trappist Monk Thomas Merton.


"Using the life work of Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and poet, we will attempt to understand our own spiritual pilgrimage and to see what key elements of spirituality are needed to bring spiritual growth and renewal to our lives, as well as see how our adventure of faith can touch the vital spiritual heartbeat in other Christians."

If you are near Jacksonville I hope you will plan on attending. For more details check out Merton Retreats.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Dreary Day and silence

It is rainy outside. A dreary day. I drink my new cup of coffee slowly. It is Tuesday. Everyone seems preoccupied. Different venues call. Everyone is preparing for tomorrow.

I have been so busy in the past month that I do not know how to handle the solitude, the quiet hour or the silent pencil.

I have been to two funerals the past week. Three others also died I knew. The permanent silence of death, acerbated by asunami lingers above everything.

Tonight Oklahoma plays USC for the national college football title. The final game of the season. The pom poms will be thrown high for the last time. After thevictory and the shouting will be silence.

Hours linger on a day like this. Seconds grow slower. Hours stay the same. Words are inexpressible. And they say, enjoy !!

Rev. Robert J. Norman (Brother Bob)

I went to the funeral service yesterday, Monday, of Bob Norman. He was our pastor emiritus at Clearview Baptist Church. A great man of God. One who was not impressed with great titles, as so many Southern Baptist are, but a "man impressed with the heart."

I loved to hear him preach. The first time I heard him was in 1969 at First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. One did not often forget his sermons. They were precise and to the point. His illustrations were always memorable and uneasy to forget.

The church was packed. The service meaningful in many ways, especially how he "took the ragtail kids" and, in sharing the gospel with them, changed their lives.

Here is the obituary:

Dr. Robert J. (Bob) NORMAN
Brentwood, TN

December 31, 2004
December 31, 2004. Graduated from Howard College (Samford University) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Served as pastor of First Baptist Church, Atmore, AL (1955-1958), First Baptist Church, Pritchard, AL (1958-1964), Belmont Heights Baptist Church, Nashville, TN (1964-1979), Northway Baptist Church, Dallas, TX (1979-1985), ClearView Baptist Church, Franklin, TN (1985-1996) and as Pastor Emeritus, ClearView Baptist Church, (1997-2004).

Dr. Norman served as a member of the Tennessee Board of Trustees at Belmont University, Baptist Hospital and Saint Thomas Hospital. He also led Bible Conferences, Revivals and many other religious meetings around the world. Survived by wife, Jean B. Norman, Brentwood, TN; sons, Robert M. (Barbara Cline) Norman, Los Angeles, CA, J. Douglas Norman, Nashville, TN, John Andrew (Caren) Norman, Los Angeles, CA and three grandchildren.

Our church, Clearview, has other information.

He touched my life in a special way !!!

MERTON at Prayer

"This morning I got up eager to pray and then could hardly pray at

Five 1963-1965, page338 )

How do I react to moments of quick change? Or how do I react to seasons of dryness in prayer?

Thanks Wayne Burns

Monday, January 03, 2005

Toward A Critical Appreciation of Thomas Merton

The Ratzinger Fan Club has an article titled Toward A Critical Appreciation of Thomas Merton. It is well written and worth reading.

An excellent article in The Louisville Courier-Journal says, "Hundreds Want Merton Back in Catholic Guide." Peter Smith has done a good job of helping us to understand the frustration of many about Merton.

For a further understanding of the background of this article, go to the December 10th article on Desecration of Thomas Merton.

Happiness is !!!!!!

Happiness is !!!!!!

I love this picture. Found him in the mall this weekend.

What makes you happy?

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Thomas Merton and the NEW YEAR - January 1, 1960

"A quiet day, a quiet afternoon. Woods. Light in the sky, guns banging in the bottoms. Happy New Year ! Once more I feel like a member of this community. All the fuss of New Year's Day creates an illusion that we are getting somewhere. Yet it is true -- it reminds everyone to take stock of his contributions to, and place in, the community. And I am glad to be still with the novices for what is already my fifth year!

Hard to believe it, time has gone so fast."

(A Search in Solitude - The Journals of Thomas Merton Volume 3, 1952-1960, page 365-366. Thomas Merton wrote this in his journal on January 1, 1960.

What are my reflections as I look back and look ahead on this New Year's Day?

This is from Wayne Burns and his Merton Quote of the Day. Thanks Wayne.