Monday Meeting — Anything For Love

In February 2014, one of Gerdi McKenna’s friends wrote an e-mail requesting a photoshoot for all her friends, as she had been diagnosed with breast cancer a few months before. Here is what happened among the friends at the photoshoot:

Video Credit: Albert Bredenhann, YouTube

Today’s Quote

split rock


Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock,
perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it.
Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two,
and I know it was not the last blow that did it,
but all that had gone before.

~ Jacob A. Rus ~
Journalist and Photographer

Today’s Quote

apod 5

Life is made of moments,
small pieces of silver
amidst long stretches of tedium.
It would be wonderful
if they came to us unsummoned,
but particularly in lives as busy
as the ones most of us lead now,
that won’t happen.
We have to teach ourselves now to live, really live
. . . to love the journey, not the destination.

~ Anna Quindlen ~

Thursday Re-View — In the Presence of Holiness


While I attended optometry school in Philadelphia, students worked on cadavers for our Head & Neck Anatomy class. I was apprehensive about how I would react to this new experience, but intrigued at the same time. My group was assigned to an 80-year old woman who was covered by a thin white sheet.

As I stood at her left side, I noticed her uncovered hand. It looked exactly like my grandmother’s hand – shriveled, marked by age spots, calloused and worn. A snapshot of her life.

In that moment, I saw her differently. She was no longer a cadaver, but someone’s mother, wife, sister, grandmother, daughter. She had loved and lost, hoped and dreamed, laughed and cried. A part of the human community, she mattered.

With a respectful air, I drew down the sheet and started the dissection. When I cut through the layers of muscle to the blood vessels, I paused. The branches of the arteries and veins were quite delicate and beautiful, laid out with a precise purpose in anything but a random, haphazard way.

I knew I was in the Presence of God, and of Holiness. All of Creation lay before me.

In the most unexpected and humble of places, I felt at One with the human race.

I will be forever grateful for the final gift that this woman offered. In her death, she taught us about the miracle that is life.

I named her Grace.

Circles of Grace. Sacred Ground.

Thank you, dear lady, for you.

May you rest forever in beauty and in peace.


Lenten Reflection

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
Mt 25:31-46

In September 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I spent 2 weeks in Louisiana volunteering as a mental health professional with the American Red Cross, followed by another 2 weeks in December.

I was assigned to the Houma Terrebonne Civic Center, one of 3 counselors to provide services to the 1,000 Katrina victims who were housed there, along with offering emotional support to the other Red Cross workers, the Southern Baptist Convention folks who provided meals, the Civic Center workers, and the visiting National Guard.

The people were primarily from the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, the poorest of the poor, without the means to evacuate the city when mandated to do so. I met so many wonderful people: resilient, strong of faith, kind-hearted – people who had nothing, yet who had everything, and were filled with gratitude. Their words echo still:

• A young man, his leg amputated after waiting 5 days for his rescue: “They made me leave my dog, Yogi, but I left him enough food for a week. I never should have left him.”

• A young woman who nursed her invalid father-in-law, who had served at Iwo Jima, long after his son had left the marriage: “Miss Theresa – always remember to look up, toward the Lord. He will make all things right.”

• The Southern Baptist cooks: “Miss Theresa – sit down and eat; you look exhausted.”

• An articulate man in his 30s, dressed in ill-fitting, donated clothing: “Miss Theresa – are they going to shoot us?” [referring to the National Guard, ever-present with their weapons]

• A man on the brink of suicide, with nothing to live for: “That was my godmother’s name – Theresa – maybe she’s been watching over me and will help me to find my brothers.” [They were found in Alabama.]

• An elderly, barefoot woman in a walker, while I fitted her with shoes: “Get up; you shouldn’t be on the floor. They don’t have to fit that good. ” [It is a privilege; her calloused and twisted feet told the story of her life.]

• A veteran of Somalia and the First Gulf War: “I don’t need a peacekeeper, Miss Theresa. I just need the National Guard to apologize (for an unfounded accusation). I’m a human being, just like them.”

• An uprooted shrimper, who lost his boat and only means of support: “When you go North, be a voice for us poor in New Orleans; we are still valuable and good people.” [I kept my promise to you, Eddie. Even now.]

When my deployment was finished, I made the rounds to say good-bye to my new friends, the people from whom I had learned so much. When I reached Booker T and Betty Lou, a couple in their 80s, displaced with their 7 children and some of their 43 grandchildren, they were packing, hoping to head to Texas to start a new life. Betty Lou grabbed hold of me, closed her eyes, and sang a Negro spiritual, hugging me tightly and brushing at my shoulders. One gnarled black hand, where every crevice had been earned, gently grasping one younger, smoother white one, both baptized with our tears. Booker T took both of my hands in his and sang hymns of praise, thanking God for sending me to him in the depths of his despair, when he most needed a friend, in answer to his prayers.

I think Booker T got it wrong.

Standing in the midst of 1,000 people, as Booker T and Betty Lou held me in their arms (wings?), my prayers had been answered, and I felt at home.

Circles of Grace – sacred ground – a community of the heart. Home.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
Mt 25:31-46


Monday Meeting — Ohio Boy Pays It Forward

Meet 8 year old Miles Eckert, a boy who finds a $20 bill in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, and see how he “pays it forward” to Ohio Air National Guardsman Lt. Col. Frank Dailey.

Video Credit: CBS Evening News; “On the Road with Steve Hartman”

Today’s Quote


Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.
All life is an experiment.
The more experiments you make the better.
What if they are a little coarse,
and you may get your coat soiled or torn?
What if you do fail,
and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice?
Up again,
you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

Thursday Re-View — Eyes of the Heart

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince


For more than 8 years, I volunteered for the Make-A-Wish Foundation (MAW), an organization that grants the wishes of seriously ill children.

One visit brought me to Amber, an 8-year old terminally ill with a fast-growing cancer. She had been born disabled along with severe craniofacial abnormalities. She was small for her age, her misshapen head covered with a few straggly wisps of hair. Her feeding tube and 2 catheters didn’t slow her down; she attached, emptied and re-adjusted them in record time.

As with all the MAW children I met, her eyes held an innate wisdom far beyond her years. Her wish was to go on a shopping spree at a huge mall about 3 hours from her house.

On an icy morning in the middle of winter, another MAW volunteer and I picked up Amber and her family in a limousine. Upon our arrival at the mall, representatives met us and whisked Amber into the main entrance on a red carpet. Since she tired out easily, they had a wheelchair waiting, but she never did sit in it.

For 5 hours, her ear-to-ear smile never left her face. She was beautiful. She bought gifts for her family, a TV, a VCR, portable CD player, CDs, stuffed animals, Disney videos, a bicycle, hand-held computer games, clothes, toys…everything she wanted. Her favorite item was a camcorder, which she held against her chest, close to her huge heart, all the way home.

Her plans were to film her family so that during the month of quarantine following her upcoming bone marrow transplant, she could watch home videos. Her parents told me she watched them over and over in the hospital, including some of her riding her new bike in the snow before the transplant. Amber often fell asleep in the hospital wearing the headphones of her CD player, even though the powerful chemotherapy had caused her to lose all the hearing in one ear, and 90% in the other.

A few months later, on my birthday, Amber succumbed to the cancer.

At her viewing, while I kneeled at her coffin, I noticed the angel pin I had bought her when we first met, twinkling on the lapel of her blouse. Seeing that, my heart broke. Suddenly, I remembered Amber’s blinding smile on her shopping spree, when she was so very beautiful, happy, smiling, at peace.

The eyes of the heart saw no disfigurement, only the shining beauty of her soul.

Rest well, dear Amber. Sing loudly, smile brightly, and dance to the music that rings in your healthy ears.

And know that you are the prettiest little girl that I’ve ever been blessed to meet…inside and out.

cherub III


A Spring Blessing

spring 2

A Spring Blessing
Joyce Rupp & Macrina Wiederkehr

Blessed are you, spring,
bright season of life awakening.
You gladden our hearts
with opening buds and returning leaves
as you put on your robes of splendor.

Blessed are you, spring.
In you is a life no death can destroy.
As you exchange places with winter
you harbor no unforgiving spirit
for broken tree limbs and frozen buds.

Blessed are you, spring.
You open the closed buds of our despair
as you journey with us
to the flowering places.

Blessed are you, spring.
You invite us to sing songs
to the frozen regions within
and to bless the lessons of winter
as we become your partner in a new dance.

Blessed are you, spring.
Like Jesus, standing before the tomb of Lazarus,
you call to us: “Remove winter’s stone, come out,
there is life here you have not yet tasted.”

Blessed are you, spring,
free gift of the earth.
Without cost we gaze upon your glory.
You are a gospel of good news
for the poor and rich alike.

Blessed are you, spring.
Your renewing rain showers and cathartic storms
nurture the potential that sleeps in Earth’s heart
and in our earthen hearts.

Blessed are you, spring,
season of resurrection, sacrament of promise.
Like Jesus you rise up out of the darkness,
leaving around you a wake of new life.

Blessed are you, spring,
miracle child of the four seasons.
With your wand of many colors
you work your magic in the corners of our darkness.

Blessed are you, spring,
season of hope and renewal.
Wordless poem about all within us
that can never die.
Each year you amaze us
with the miracle of returning life.