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Peace Prayer of St. Francis Is Gentle Reminder for All People

The new year began like so many prior years – I gave thoughtful reflection on the past 365 days, while I looked forward to what’s to come. In doing so, I realized that my 2020 pledge to myself is to explore the bedrock beliefs I want to see operating in my life as we move toward the election.  No sooner had 2020 arrived than chaos reared its ugly head, and I tremble for what may develop with our neighbors in the Middle East.

It’s a sad coincidence since I was already planning on writing this January blog about the Peace Prayer of St. Francis that resonates with people of all faiths and of all nations. The prayer reminds us that we can live a joyous and happy life created in our own unique rhythm while maintaining unity.

Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The bottom line: None of us has or ever will score 100 percent on the lofty ideals ascribed to in this prayer.  However, wouldn’t it be serendipitous to find ourselves and our political leaders in 2020 moving the conversation to civility and honestly seeking for points of acceptable compromise? 

Now, more than ever, uncertainty seems to keep knocking on the door, attempting to set us off course.  To counteract this insecurity, I also plan to carry with me throughout 2020 the thought found in the church bulletin of First Baptist Church of Chattanooga during December 2019:

“…may our hearts and minds open to give compassion recklessly, criticism sparingly, and forgiveness unconditionally.”

The Prayer of St. Francis and these words from my church bulletin echo through my mind more than ever, and I carry them with me each day. 

Read more:

Celebrating Saint Francis of Assisi

A Closer Look at the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve at First Baptist Church Chattanooga and as usually happens at holiday services our church is brimming with people.  A large Christ candle in the middle of the Advent wreath is lit and the solemn service of Scripture and music begins to unfold the story of Jesus’ birth.  It’s a very old story that is ever new!

The final action of our service is dramatic. As we entered the sanctuary each of us was given a small candle.  Now the electric lights are extinguished, and we find ourselves sitting in an inky black sanctuary.  One by one we light each other’s candle.  Gradually the light consumes the darkness.  We turn around and lift our lighted tapers high and sing in unison Silent Night.

We get the unspoken message. One little light doesn’t give off much light but collectively we can shake off the shackles, of fear, hatred, and dishonesty.


As we offer our gifts, may our hearts and minds open to give compassion recklessly, criticism sparingly, and forgiveness unconditionally.

Post Note:

This service for me isn’t yet over.  I have one more tradition to honor. For the past five years my adopted Parker family and I crowd into one of the booths at the local Waffle House and indulge in whatever suits our fancy.


Below is a video of a sister church in Texas that captures the solemnity of this beloved Christmas Eve meditation.

Christmas Eve at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

Advent Candle Reflects Love’s Positive Light

Yesterday marked the fourth Sunday of Advent and the lighting of the love candle.

Have you noticed how often we malign the word love? We love pizzas, a new car, a promotion at work, a bought outfit … the list is endless!

However, the love reflected by the rays of the love candle is unfathomable.  Don’t ask me to explain it with words because I can’t do it justice.  God, our Heavenly Father, chose to come to earth as a tiny baby so we would know how deeply He loves each of us.  Madeleine L’Engle in her book, The Glorious Impossible, says, “The birth of Jesus was a Glorious Impossible.  Like love, it cannot be explained, it can only be rejoiced in.  Possible things are easy to believe.  The Glorious Impossible is what brings joy to our hearts, hope to our lives, and songs to our lips.”

One of my favorite monologues from my book Advent Encounters is Anna, and I’d like to share it with you.


Hello, I’m Anna.  I wasn’t always as you see me now.  My wrinkled, gnarled limbs were once smooth and my gray hair was as black as a starless night.  You probably find it hard to believe my poor arthritic body once ran with the speed and grace of a gazelle. As you can tell that was a long, long time ago.

My husband and I had been married only seven years when he died.  I had a hard time accepting his death.  I felt God had turned his back on me.  I’d go to bed crying and wake up crying.  One day God broke through my grief and I began to see things in a new light.  That’s when I joined with the quiet ones of our land.  We never leave the Court of the People, and we spend our days and nights preaching, praying, and singing.

Simeon presenting Jesus to Anna. Stained glass detail from the church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge.

Today brought me a glorious blessing!  From a distance I heard old Simeon’s voice.  I could tell something awesome was taking place.  I wasted no time pushing my old body to the scene of action.  I arrived just in time to hear Simeon say, “Lady, many people will be unhappy when your son reveals their evil thoughts.  Expect them to treat him badly.  And, because you love him so, you’ll feel as if you have been stabbed by the same sword.”

The young mother flinched and looked as if she were about to burst into tears.  Simeon handed the baby over to my waiting arms.  “Anna, don’t you agree this baby is God’s gift to our universe?”

I looked deep into the child’s eyes and it was as if the heavens opened.  “Ah, yes, Simeon.  This baby is very, very special.”

I turned to the young mother and patted her arm.  “Little mother,” I said, “you hold in your arms the hope of the world.  Not even death will sever the tie that bind you and this little one together.  Go in peace and the God of Israel go with you.”

Anna’s experience with Simeon and her baby reveals that there is an inner light shining brightly within each one of us that equates to love.  Madeleine L’Engle beautifully tells us a similar message through her writing.  Sometimes that light is dimmed by life’s circumstances, but we all have the power within us to reignite the flame and shine on.  How do you keep your light glowing brightly this Advent season?

Prayer Thought:  Lord, there’s something wonderful about fleeing from the frenzy of daily living to it unfettered at your feet.  In your presence we are free to dream, to wonder, to adore and to hear God whisper.

Advent Season Can Spark Joy in Our Hearts

Sunday, Dec. 15, at First Baptist Church Chattanooga, we celebrated the third week of Advent by lighting the joy candle.

After last Sunday’s decorating efforts our massive auditorium now has a unique aura reminding us a special guest is on his way.

The apostle Paul repeatedly speaks in the book of Philippians of being joyful even as he lingered in a prison cell.

To me, joy is a very spiritual gift that isn’t dependent on gifts or circumstances.  You can be joyful whether you’re rich or poor, a leader or a follower, sick or well, old or young. 

Today our children’s, youth, and adult choirs thrilled our hearts with special music.  As the worship hour neared its end many adults left their pews and ascended to the choir loft to join in singing a portion of Handel’s Messiah.

In my estimation no Christmas music ever written can equal this majestic masterpiece.

King of kings and Lord of Lords.  He shall reign forever and ever!

Early Christmas Disappointment Brings Joy 50 Years Later

It was 1939 and my third grade Christmas easily is remembered as the saddest in my childhood memory bank.  We’d left our rural roots and moved to the tiny town of Waycross, Georgia where Mama was temporarily hired by the government-run WPA.  When she was no longer employed our family finances would hit an all-time low.

For months I lingered in front of the redemption shopping center salivating over a Betsy Wetsy doll.  I made sure God, Santa, and Mama all knew what I wanted for Christmas, only to have my heart crushed on Christmas morn.

My brother, employed as a clerk in the Southern Railroad office, was caught up in the national mania attached to Atlanta’s premiere of Gone with the Wind.  He had sent me a beautiful replica of Scarlett O’Hara.  When I opened my Christmas package my heart took a nose dive!  Where was my Betsy Wetsy doll?  I remember flinging the beautiful Scarlett replica onto the bed and bursting into tears.

Some 50-plus years later in a San Francisco toy shop my eyes lit on a miniature replica of my third grade Christmas memory.  Today it remains in a prominent place in my apartment year round to remind of the deep love and joy my elder brother John had for me.  The oldest and youngest had a special bond nothing could destroy.  What as a third grader brought me great disappointment today floods my heart of hearts.  The name John is another way of spelling Christmas joy.

Prayer thought: Lord, teach us that “God talking” is no substitute for “God walking.”  It’s easy to repeat the phrase peace be with you, but far more difficult to take a stand when the path of peace is being trampled.  Lord, grant us wisdom to know the difference.

Finding Peace on this Second Sunday of Advent

In our worship service Sunday, December 8, we observed the second Sunday of Advent. Right before our very eyes the church sanctuary underwent a transformation.  We tingled with anticipation as men, women and children combined to make ready our house for a most special event.

Huge Christmas wreaths were suspended at key points around the sanctuary.  The children joined in by recreating all the characters that appeared in Bethlehem’s nativity venue.

Today marked a first for our church. Two friends of mine, who for a very long time have been loving partners in a same-sex marriage, were selected to light the peace candle. I tremble with joy at this unspoken, but deliberate, inclusive act!

The candle they lit is called the peace candle.

Peace?  When our nation is so politically polarized.

Peace?  When the lives of innocents, almost daily, are taken by the shot of some type of gun.

Peace?  When our nation becomes the laughingstock of the civilized world?

Peace?  When political compromises are unheard of?

Gabriel proclaimed, “Don’t be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy”

Isaiah said, “He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The kind of peace that Christ brings is a gift to individuals, families and churches when they are unapologetic in accepting each other in love while being void of censuring.


Saint Francis’s words. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” resonates with me.  God, grant me courage to speak out when human rights are being trampled.

God, grant me the courage to applaud positive, courageous steps taken by my church.  Keep us all peace hungry.

Patience is Key When Celebrating Advent

HOPE 2Advent means to wait. For Christians Advent is the time, beginning with the first Sunday in December and ending on Christmas Day, that we spend preparing individually and corporately to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Many of us are not good at waiting! After all we have cards to send, parties to attend, gifts to buy, food to prepare, and guests to entertain.

Advent invites us to prepare our lives for the coming of Christ into the world.

This past Sunday in church, we lit the Hope candle to remind us that the Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Micah, and Joel ministered in an era when corruption was rampant. It was a time when the rich, through treachery and bribes, grew richer and the poor grew poorer. While they lived in hope of the birth of one who would reign with love and justice, they continued to confront the evils of their day.

The Promised One would usher in an era of justice, mercy and love. No longer would the “have nots” of our world be shunned.

Lord, may I be inclusive and not selective in my love for others.

If you’re interested in a fuller study please consult my book “Advent Encounters.”

Life’s Blessings Bring a Multitude of Thanks

I’m grateful for my family heritage. To be sure there have been some bumps along the road. My mom, left a widow with eight children when she was just 31, didn’t always make pristine decisions. Nevertheless, her love for each of her children was continually evident.

I’m grateful that in 1959 I married Claude Mason. The blessings that continue to flow from our commitment are innumerable. While he was definitely the love of my life, it was mostly through his example that he taught me lessons I still cling to 25 years later.

Here are some of those lessons:

~Let people know you care for them: make a visit, send a card, make a phone call, or give them a smile or a hug. I used to dread going to funeral visitations until Claude shared with me that It wasn’t necessary to say anything. He told me that what people would remember was that when their heart was bleeding I became a part of their hurting/healing.

~Always stay connected with your children. Make sure they know you love them, applaud their good decisions, refrain from being their advice doctor, and always practice lavish forgiveness.

~Being a Christian is attempting daily to model Jesus, with the caveat that we’re always missing the mark. Fortunately for us, Jesus doesn’t require us to be perfect.

I’m grateful for my retirement village that allows me to freely minister to others through smiles, laughter, sharing of food, visits, and hugs.

I’m also grateful for those who minister to me. This is a never ending list.

How about sharing your thank you list with me or those you spend time this week?

Documentary Memories Take Flight to Fascinating Hobby

Although more than five years has passed since I attended the impressive IMAX presentation, Flight of the Butterflies, I’m a supporter and involved participant with anything related to these regal descendants of Danaus, mythical king of Egypt and son of Zeus.

A year after viewing the memorable documentary my interest was further piqued when Sam, one of our activity directors, established a show-and-tell project in the town hall of our retirement village. This presentation allowed me to see first-hand the intriguing development stages of the monarch butterfly. When Sam suggested our community establish a Monarch Waystation, I jumped at the opportunity to become involved. Likewise, I signed on when we were encouraged to establish our own Monarch Waystations.

As winter’s snows began to melt and spring’s buddings dotted the landscape, I planted three pots of milkweed seeds and by May the seeds had become thriving plants that I transplanted to my small garden space. Next, I had my garden spot recognized by EDA as a Monarch Waystation. My maiden venture, while successful, became mostly a learning experience.

2019 has brought me increased involvement. Instead of planting my milkweed plants in my yard, I kept them on my patio making it easier for me to monitor visits by female monarchs. Last winter I purchased a cage where I could place my tiny caterpillars and observe the monarchs’ metamorphose from a dot no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence into a monarch butterfly eager to join the migration exodus to the mountains near Mexico City.

Here are some of my photo journaling observations from May – September 2019:

Among the thousands of plants in our world the monarch butterfly chooses only the milkweed plant as its host. (This plant is growing on my apartment deck.)

The female monarch lands on a milkweed plant:

In three to five days the white dot, attached with the monarch’s excreted glue turns gray:


Can you spot three itty bitty greyish caterpillars? Each one of them emerged from a monarch’s egg. As you can see from the opened laced leaves they are hungry!

In the LARVA stage the caterpillar becomes a voracious eater. He eats so many leaves until his skin, like a little boy’s clothes, gets too tight. The caterpillar loses his old skin four times and each time nature gives him a new skin. When the caterpillar is two-inches long, it stops eating and searches out a protected branch.

The PUPA (CHRYSALIS) stage is depicted here as a green object that looks like an unripe acorn. After shedding its skin for the fourth time it hangs down its head, forming the shape of the letter J. He begins to shrink and shrink. The caterpillar, now hidden from our view, remains in the pupa stage for 10 – 14 days.

When the chrysalis looks like this picture you know a butterfly is about to emerge. The chrysalis stage takes from 10 – 15 days.

You can’t see it but I have a monarch butterfly in my hands and am about to set him/her free. I waited 24 hours before releasing the butterfly giving it time for its wings to dry.

Some of my freed monarch’s lingered a while in my garden before spiraling upward toward the heavens.

There goes my monarch!

What started as a tiny dot is now a beautiful butterfly. He/she is now ready to begin its 3,000 or more miles to his winter haven in the mountains near Mexico City — it’s only beginning! If his journey is successful, he’ll join millions of other monarchs who choose this spot to endure the chills of winter.

Senior retirements years are determined by the choices we make. I personally enjoy becoming involved in meaningful projects bigger than myself that enhance the survival of our planet.

All Saints’ Day Evokes Beautiful Memories of Friendships


All Saints’ Day has long been celebrated in many denominations.  However, it was not ever mentioned in the Southern Baptist churches that nurtured me during my childhood through my senior adult years.  It was only when I became a member of First Baptist of Chattanooga, TN, that I became aware of this meaningful church celebration.

shutterstock_1498072397As we entered the vestibule leading into our church sanctuary this past Sunday, Nov. 3rd, 2019, a video of our church members who died within this past year was being shown.  I lingered to view each snippet but my heart locks in on three of them:  Jane Akers, Katharine Bruner, and Sue McNeil.

If you follow me on my blog or Facebook you’ll know I wrote a tribute several months ago to Katharine Bruner.

I cherished Katsy’s wit and the twinkle in her eyes.  It seemed to me we were always on the same page.

Sue McNeil daily fought a battle with cancer.  When I served as prayer chairperson for our class I’d get a lump in my throat every time I looked in her direction.  Sue never grumbled or complained. It seemed to me her very presence was a beseeching prayer.  As she did battle with cancer, Sue continued to enjoy her host of friends and her family.  She took trips even when health issues were pelting her reserves.

Jane Akers and I were soul buddies.  I never needed to ask where Jane stood when it came to gender issues.  She participated each year in Gay Pride Sundays in Chattanooga’s Coolidge Park while personally ministering to many who had fallen victim to AIDS.  Her platform of love in action included responding to any type of racial injustice.

Jane was also an avid gardener.  Her backyard was eco-friendly to all of God’s creatures, both great and small.  One year while I was still living at my home in Rossville she invited me to share in the bounty of her garden and, she loaded my trunk with Hosta plants.

Jane possessed a keen mind and a loving heart.  She loved to laugh.  Jane was intent on breaking barriers that separated and pigeon-holed groups of individuals.

How blessed is my journey to have traveled with such spiritual mentors as Katharine Bruner, Sue McNeil, and Jane Akers.  I hope certain moments in time also evoke special memories of your passed loved ones for you.





BOOK ENDINGS: Writing a Compelling Narrative from Start to Finish

I’ve been told that by the end of your first paragraph a writer should capture the interest of a potential reader. How you begin a manuscript is important. How you end your manuscript is equally important. Many writers write the ending of their manuscript near the beginning of their intended book in order to keep their writing on course as they develop the plot.


Currently I’m in the process of writing the ending of a memoir manuscript I’ve been working on for the past two years. For this particular task I’ve chosen for the person whose story I’m telling, Doctor Phyllis Edwards Miller, to reflect on the markings–good and bad–she wants to address from her journey thus far and to conclude the manuscript with a ringing affirmation of her future goals.


I chose to end my own memoir, Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts, with a section entitled Finding, Giving Grace. This section of my narrative chronicles the spiritual liberation I experienced when I began to focus on changing me rather than my gay son.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES (Historical Fiction)

Behind Enemy LinesHome, Sweet Home is the concluding chapter in my Civil War book entitled Behind Enemy Lines. One of the things I asked myself was how I was going to create a satisfactory conclusion to problems introduced in the earlier chapters. For instance, in the earlier chapters I relate how Bobby loses his father’s pendant, but claims to know nothing about its whereabouts. I had to create a scene where the pendant showed up among the charred remains of a cabin. Since Bobby’s dog, Cleo, had run away during the thick of the explosive battle I chose to end the book with Cleo returning to their new cabin bringing with her three puppies. This book was about a real battle, so I couldn’t end it with an ‘they all lived happily ever after’ theme. I chose to end it with hope and family love.

WHERE THE RABBITS DANCE (Historical Fiction)Rabbits Dance full cover

I had to employ the help of Cherokee mythical people to rescue Lightfoot’s family from a prison stockade manned by the Georgia guards and U.S. soldiers. To end the story we traveled a dangerously fraught escape route until we landed on Choestoe Mountain, close to the Georgia-North Carolina border where a group of Cherokees had been spared from being forced to move west. Once again Cherokee legend came to my rescue. Legend predicted that during the winter months rabbits congregate on the bald mountain tops of Choestoe and danced. Witnessing this phenomena Lightfoot is convinced her family has been saved.

Lynelle & Johnny

All three titles framed for a recognition dinner by my publisher, Nurturing Faith

TRAILBLAZER, Parts One, Two, Three

All three Trailblazer books focus on Doctor Noble Wimberly (N.W.) Jones, whose life extended through colonial Georgia’s formation (Part One) until his death in Trailblazer, Part Three.

Trailblazer, Part One ends with the death of Chief Tomo-chi-chi, the Creek Indian who became the friend of James Oglethorpe and the struggling Georgia colonists. Part One closes with N.W. and his friend John exchanging thoughts as to what life will be like for them as they grow older. In keeping with the theme of all three books, namely his desire to become a doctor, N.W. performs a simple surgery without the help of his Jewish mentor giving us hope for his future success.

Trailblazer, Part Two deals with the N.W.’s connections to his family and his expanding medical practice. Part Two closes with N.W. being unable to save his newborn infant son’s life.  This scene is followed by a cry for medical help in a neighboring village. N.W. is reluctant to leave his wife so soon after the death of their son but under the urging of his wife he does leave to bring healing to someone who needs him.

Trailblazer, Part Three is about N.W.’s involvement as a statesman during the Revolutionary War. To make it more relevant to readers I interlaced each chapter with what was happening in N.W.’s life in colonial Georgia with what was happening in the other 12 colonies. Part Three fittingly ends with the funeral service for N.W. where accolades were heaped upon him as doctor, husband, father, and leader in Georgia’s fight against English tyranny, along with his crowning achievement: forming Georgia’s first medical society.

In the ending of your manuscript–whether yours is a work of fiction or nonfiction–you need to make sure you haven’t ignored solving key points that you initiated earlier. You also want to create an ending that leaves your readers satisfied.