Christianity, Communication, Community, Faith, Freedom, Friendship, Grace, Gratitude, Grief, Hope, Listening, Positive Thinking, Prayer, Recovery, Relationships, Simplicity, Spirituality, Stories, Uncategorized, Writing


Rain came to North Texas last night; everywhere except here in our little cul-de-sac. We may not have gotten wet (yet) but we enjoyed the benefit of a sweet, cool morning. Margaret’s still in Oklahoma so I spent extra time reading, praying, and meditating out on the porch today. This summer is on track to become one of our hotter summers and the relief of coolness and freshness in the air is more than welcome…

I thought about this morning’s blog for quite a while and how to approach it. I am in a twelve-step recovery program and have been for many years. By nature, twelve-step programs are anonymous in nature. As such, I generally do not post or repost anything about “the program”, nor do I wear my recovery publicly. I don’t put recovery-oriented bumper stickers on my car or wear my recovery on T-shirts and such for the same reasons I choose not to put “fish” emblems, crosses, or other Christian symbols on my vehicle or person, even though I am a follower of the Teacher. When I act up, and I do on occasion, I don’t want to set a poor example. It’s not dishonest. I simply don’t want to be a stumbling block to others. I don’t want to be their excuse to miss the opportunity to discover the same joy I’ve found in a relationship with God.

Although I grew up in a home of strong Christian faith, it didn’t take with me. That is how I ended up needing a twelve-step program. It’s ironic that my relationship with God (as I understand Him), didn’t flourish until I found recovery. Over the last twenty-seven years, I’ve been blessed with the wisdom of so many people that have been where I have been and recovered from a “seemingly hopeless state of mind” that wreaked havoc on my life and the lives of everyone around me. I may not wear my recovery on my sleeve, but I’m not ashamed of it either. As my friend Jim used to say (quoting Popeye, of course) “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I am…

I was thinking about my friend Jim a lot lately. He passed on last February and, like my parents, hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I hear his voice throughout the day. A few weeks ago, I joked with a mutual friend that I should write a book of “Jim-isms”: all the little sayings that were so appropriate to the various events of the day. Although I wasn’t serious at the time, that began to change over the last several weeks. I spoke with his widow and she sent a list of “Jim-isms” that an inmate in their prison ministry had compiled. Jim’s voice grew louder as a result.

Jim’s wife said that he never would’ve been comfortable calling them “Jim-isms”. He was simply repeating the things that he had been told repeatedly by his elders. I always knew that “Jim-isms weren’t original, but they were timeless words of wisdom from a man who truly believed in helping others. I won’t go into his biography here. Suffice it to say, that Jim was definitely Jim – you either loved him or hated him as he loved those around him in his often acerbic, sarcastic way.

I have many of my own stories to tell about my friendship with Jim and how he mentored me through the various stages, and often, difficult times of life. I wondered if anyone outside of twelve-step recovery, especially here in North Texas, would even be interested and if I shared them, would I be breaking the tradition of anonymity? The more I prayed and thought about it, the more I realized that Jim’s own recovery was open to anyone, whether in ‘the program’ or not. In fact, as he matured in his own faith, he helped many others beyond the rooms of recovery. He exercised the same spiritual principles no matter what he was doing. Moreover, the twelve steps of various recovery programs came from the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and the Book of James in the New Testament. Jesus didn’t exactly seek to remain anonymous and anyway, Jim’s wife gave me permission…

“Jim-isms” apply to far more than twelve-step recovery, although that’s where I first heard them. I was hard-headed, and recovery came about over the first few years I knew Jim. When I finally got on track, I thought my name was ‘Dumb-ass” for the first year or so. After that, I was excited to become “Cowboy”. Once you begin to hear “Jim-isms” that will make perfect sense.

Now that I’ve told you about “Jim-isms” I have a request to make. I’m compiling a complete list and would appreciate it if those of my readers who have their own “Jim-isms” or stories about Jim share them with me. Leave a comment or PM me if you’d rather do that. Please give me a day or two to respond as things are a bit hectic here with a new project starting.

The greatest examples of what it is to live a spiritual and joyous life of freedom are often disguised as old gruff cowboy, ex- Marines, who “love God with all their heart and love others”. I certainly learned not to “judge a book by its cover…”

Awe, Christianity, Community, Creation, Emotional Health, Faith, Freelancing, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Growing Up, Health, Listening, Neighbors, Positive Thinking, Practice, Prayer, Relationships, Simplicity, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Writing


I sat on the porch for a long time this morning. Margaret slept in. The dogs were content to sleep in as well and I soaked in the solitude of the day. The air felt clean for the first time in weeks. An ever so slight breeze ran across my face as if God was saying, “relax and enjoy the moment”. My coffee tasted better, the chair was more comfortable, and all was right in the world.

According to the dictionary, awe is defined as a “feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder”. This is one of those days when everything is in focus and with clarity comes a reverential respect mixed with wonder – awe. The sun is a bit brighter, the chattering of the squirrels a tad sharper, and the grass has a tinge of green that wasn’t there yesterday. I’m in awe…

According to a April 27, 2017 article in Psychology Today, people who experience awe more frequently live longer and tend to have less health problems. In fact, the experience of awe leads to enhanced critical thinking and creativity as well as a feeling of connectedness to the community and physical world around us. It helps one ‘stay in the moment’.

The article cites Dacher Keltner, a leading theorist and scholar on the emotion of awe, as saying, “Seek out experiences that give you goosebumps”. Yes, it does, and it can be found in the smallest of things.

The kids tell me that Margaret and I lead boring lives. “You should get out more” they always tell us. In some ways I’m sure they are right. It’s not that we don’t want to get out at times, but there are days when Margaret isn’t physically able. Our twenty and thirty-something (and healthy, thank God) kids don’t realize how difficult it can. While Margaret is far more social than I am, we’ve both become homebodies, and not always due to physical limitations. We stay in a continual state of awe that we could be blessed to live the life we do. While our world may seem small to some, it’s filled with joy, wonder, and awesome incredible moments.

I start my mornings here on a front porch at the end of a cul-de-sac in Fort Wort, Texas. Not much changes, and yet everything changes. Most mornings, (even on the really hot ones) I’m greeted by the song of the little mockingbird that calls our yard home. Squirrels chase each other through the trees and stop only to chatter at our cat, Wallace. We even have a resident spider that graces our front porch with a magnificent, intricate web each day. They are all details of a world full of fascination and wonder.

Life does show up from time to time with setbacks and hardships that seem awful at the time. The irony is that both awesome and awful come from the word awe. Awe can be traced back to the Greek word, achos, for pain. That makes sense to me because life can be painful at times. It has its fair share of disappointments, sadness, and frustration, and each bear their own physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. Experience has taught me that walking through the pain leads me from awful to awesome – and both can leave me in awe…

I strive to be ‘awe-full’ (who you talk to depends on which spelling they use…). Seeing God in the minute details of the world and the lives of the people is a state I want to become accustomed to. Gratitude always seem to accompany awe, and gratitude changes the way I view my world. It’s a cycle I like being caught up in.

If people who experience awe more frequently really do live longer, then I’m pretty sure I’m going to be around for a while. To those that are disappointed by that, I say, “that’s awful…”

Christianity, Communication, Conservation, Creation, Dogs, Environment, Faith, Freelancing, Hope, Horses, Listening, Love, Movies, Pets, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Writing

“If I could talk to the animals…”

Just a couple of more days of triple digits. The weather folks predict a ten percent possibility of rain today. In Texas that means nothing is coming but cloud cover and more humidity. The Monday forecast of fifty percent chance of rain is more realistic. I’m sure the ten percent is just a ‘cover your butt’ caveat for local meteorologists. Weather people and baseball players are the only folks I know of who are financially rewarded for doing their job correctly thirty percent of the time. Just saying…

I was scanning the newsfeed this morning and came across a story that tore at my heart strings. According to researchers observing the orca (what we called ‘killer whales’ growing up) population near British Colombia, a female orca bore a new calf. The calf didn’t survive, and the grieving mother was seen carrying the dead calf on her back for the next two days.

The story stayed with me as my wife and I shared coffee on the porch this morning. We are pet parents, and like most pet parents, we ascribe human behaviors and emotions to our animals. Some would say we’ve lost our minds. In fact, my son told me I needed to get a friend after hearing me talk to our ‘Coyotahula’ (she’s half coyote and half Catahoula), Maggie. I’m lucky enough to have a friend already. In fact, I have several, but Maggie is part of the family. Pet parents will understand what I mean.

Margaret and I often put words in our dog’s mouth. We joke about the stories we come up with for the conversation that must be going on between them. We’ve thought about creating a video, but that’s another story, and you’d probably have to be here to get the humor.

I guess the point I’m trying to make, is that we aren’t that far off when we ascribe human traits to the animal kingdom. When I was growing up, the line between animals and people was more distinct. That line has dimmed as I’ve gotten older. I may be a bit anthropomorphic, but I find our friends in the animal kingdom to be more human than some humans…

The ancient Hebrew writings talk about our original relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom. I tend to forget that, though humans have a higher intellectual ability (and I’m not always sure of that – after all, look who is President…) we are still part of the animal kingdom. In the Book of Enoch, which wasn’t canonized into what we know as the Hebrew Old Testament, we’re told that we shared a common language with the rest of the animal kingdom. The whole “Doctor Doolittle” thing makes sense to me. After all, we share ninety-eight percent of our DNA with the greater apes. Why not the rest of the animals?

It seems to me that the Book of Enoch is a metaphor for our interconnectedness with all things. I’d like to believe that there will be a day when I can communicate clearly with all the denizens of the Earth. I have some questions I’d like to clarify. Do horses really sound like Mr. Ed (this may be lost on my younger readers – “Willlll-bur”)? Do donkeys sound like Eddie Murphy? I often wonder if snails and turtles could talk, would their speech be as slow as their movements? “Goooooooooooooood mooooooorrrnnnniiiiing…”

Since that day isn’t here yet, I’ll have to rely on personal observation and experience. If I ‘listen’ and pay attention to what they’re trying to tell me, my dogs, the horses, and I seem to communicate just fine. Maggie says ‘good morning the same way each day. Once it’s daylight I can count on her to jump on the bed, lick my face until I get up, and wait for her dose of morning loving.

When I remember how interconnected we are, I understand them better. When I remember how interconnected we are, I treat them better – more like I want to be treated. When I treat them differently, I begin to fulfill my intended role as a human – one of stewardship rather than domination – and act appropriately.

I guess that’s why the orca’s story made such an impact on me this morning. The mother orca was grieving, just like you and I do when we suffer a loss. I felt sad for her. I felt sad that the numbers of orcas, like so many species, are declining because we humans have failed as stewards and excelled at domination.

If we ever do develop the same language as the rest of the animal kingdom, I doubt I’ll find the words to tell them how sorry I am for the way human beings have treated them and their habitat. Like Dad always told me, “actions speak louder than words”. If I start acting differently, maybe I can start apologizing now…

Christian Mysticism, Christianity, Chronic Illness, Communication, Dogs, Emotional Health, Faith, Freelancing, Gratitude, Growing Up, Health, Hope, Horses, Listening, Love, Patience, Prayer, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Writing

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

Relief is in sight for the beleaguered! The forecast for the day is for cooler temperatures, at least for the next two or three days. Only in Fort Worth would we be excited by temperatures in the mid-nineties. Such are summers in Texas…

The last few days have been hectic, so I thought I’d take a break and catch the online sermon from church last Sunday morning. I’m still questioning the idea of worship in the corporate setting, so my ‘attendance’ remains online. I value the thoughts of our preacher, even if I’m still uncomfortable with how we do ‘church’ in our culture. Unfortunately, the livestream of the sermon kept disconnecting. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I can relate to that. For the last two or three days, my prayers have been few and far between. I’ve been feeling a little low and my connection with my Higher Power is in a constant cycle of cutting out and reconnecting. I’ve felt like I’ve been in a constant ‘buffering’ state and I can’t quite reach 100%.

Connection problems can and do happen. God’s end may always broadcast a strong signal, but my reception gets spotty from time to time. The connection difficulties are always on my end. When it happens I often have to stop and clean out my ‘antennae’. Occasionally, I get far too busy, over-tired or just plain lazy and my mind gets clogged with self-pity, resentment, and self-centeredness. I begin to sound much like Eeyore in A.A. Milne’s, Winnie the Pooh – “Woe is me, I can’t find my tail…”

I’m not unique. Some of the most spiritual people I know feel a disconnect from their Higher Power on occasion. The sixteenth century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, called this disconnect, “the dark night of the soul”. For those of us who pray, who converse with the Spirit of the Universe, we know what he’s talking about. There are times when it feels like prayers fall on deaf ears. We listen intently for answers that don’t come. God is silent. We feel alone, left to our own devices.

When I feel isolated and disconnected, I begin to wonder where God is. I start to question my faith. I’m filled with doubts: little ones at first that multiply into crisis of faith. I used to think this was anathema to me. My upbringing had taught me that questioning one’s faith destined me to the fires of hell. That haunted me for many years, but today I know that faith without questioning is not much of a faith at all. God is much bigger than my doubts. If I continue to pray and listen I will hear God’s response in the most extraordinary, yet simple, ways.

I do some work at a stable not far from my home. Don’t tell anyone, but I’d do it for free just because I love being there. There are three horses, Dollar, Lightfoot, and Trooper (‘the boys’ as I call them). Dollar is the oldest, at seventeen. The other two are two or three-year-old rescues; adopted wild mustangs from herds in Arizona and Utah.


Now I am no ‘horse whisperer’ by any means, but I’ve developed quite a relationship with Trooper and Lightfoot. I was warned they were skittish around people, but that hasn’t even been close to my experience. They have loved and ‘hugged’ on me since the day we met. When I pull up to the stables, they amble over to say hello and let me love on them.

They are one of the ways I find reconnection with my Higher Power. I leave the stables with my spirit more in tune with the universe. There’s a buzz, a vibration, and I begin to hear God whisper. Decisions come easier. Heck, life becomes easier. My mind is free to explore the realm of possibilities, to work and play again. Most importantly, I begin to feel a sense of belonging, of being a part of something far bigger than I. My gratitude grows, and my doubts are erased. All of this happens by simply allowing God to love on me through others, whether they have four legs or two.

I’m basically an introvert. I find the company of my dogs and the horses to be my safe, comfortable place. My beautiful wife, on the other hand, is extremely social and extroverted. She loves to be on the go and around others. I often joke that I’d been more places in the first year of marriage than I had in the previous ten. For that reason, the last almost three years since her back surgery have been hard on her. I’m thrilled when she’s able to get out. I know it’s her way of reconnecting, of hearing God’s voice.

God’s voice becomes clear through our relationships with people and the world around us. When I’m aware of the beauty of creation, I strive to be a better steward of God’s world. I believe that God’s silence is simply His way of reminding me of the importance of relationships, whether they be with dogs and horses or the people in my life. His silence reminds me of the spirit of all things that connect me to the universe. His silence reminds me to be grateful, to be awestruck, and to drink in the beauty of all things.

Most importantly, His silence is a reminder He’s still there, loving me through ‘the dark night of the soul’. Those days, whether measured in weeks or years, will come for all of us. Feelings of doubt and even futility, but they will pass eventually, and probably do so in the most unlikely of ways. It might even come straight from the horse’s mouth…