Monday, December 19, 2011


Advent helped, but now with only one week before the big day I am finally getting the true spirit of Christmas. Somewhere in the middle of our little choir/children's production  it hit.  We sang the anthem, "He is born" and I knew this is what it is all about. In the midst of all the distractions in the streets, we are having Christmas anyway.

That night we were moved more deeply into the Christmas soul mood by the inspiring music of Randy Edwards and his Woodland Baptist Church choir, members of the San Antonio symphony performing the classics of Handel and others.

As the week progresses the celebration of a true Christmas becomes increasingly alive.  So bring on Santa Claus with his bag of toys, fun, family togetherness and temporary highs. His commercialism can't detract from an exciting celebration of the coming of the King.  It is now much more than a great Bethlehem event in history. Santa's bag cannot compare with Jesus' bag of love, joy, peace, light, truth, justice, compassion, forgiveness, healing, wholeness, hospitality, eternal life and, in short, heaven on earth. Have a blessed Christmas and all these gifts that come with it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Funny how something comes to you in the wee hours before the dawn. Today it was a quote from Shakespeare's "Tragedies of Julius Caesar."  Into my head popped, "Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; such men are dangerous." Caesar is speaking. Cassius is the instigator in the conspiracy against Caesar. The plot consists of a combination of political ideology and personal envy.  Cassius does indeed have the skill of reading other people accurately.  In this instance, however, his better judgement is overwhelmed by Brutus and others emotionally driven to destroy Caesar. (At this point I was almost detoured into thoughts about the current political scene, but that is not where my early wonderings went.) We are all blessed with the gift of thought, but I was aware this morning of how dangerous too much thinking can be to our own peace of mind. Even Shakespeare's Caesar went on to say,  Such men as Cassius are "never at heart's ease." Instead of taking whatever God sends my way today, I will probably wind up over-thinking it.  Instead of accepting what is, I will be inclined to analyze it, name it, compare it to somebody else's experience, wish it were different and wind up afraid of what might happen.  I will let my mind project some imaginary future instead of taking one day at a time.  That will only lead to confusion and the feeling of being overwhelmed.  And where will all this thinking get me anyway? Does not God say, through Isaiah, "My thoughts are not your thoughts."

Friday, December 9, 2011


I'm guilty of disturbing the peace--my own peace. I repeatedly do that by overvaluing my own opinons.  When I cling to a certain viewpoint as if my life depended on it and fail to see that such an opinion is no more than something I thought up, I am easily disturbed when someone challenges it. I get into that trap by wanting something desperately or when I am afraid something bad might happen. On the other hand, when I trust God to supply my every need, I am calm. Isaiah understood, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee." This is what Thomas a Kempis suggested to his fellow monks in the middle ages, by advising them to stop paying so much attention to each other and focus on their own inner self and on God. I get out of the trap by refusing to give all my attention to things going on in my world and get very still. There I experience the difference in the temporary and the eternal. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in me.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Its before dawn and I am a singing bird in the perfect storm. I am in a loving space in a tsunami tossed world. Even my own beloved country can't right itself. Other countries are either sinking or trying to adjust to new leadership roles. Long-held values are playing fruit basket upside down. Soon I will be confronted by all the mental noise of this world.  My hope for maintaining my inner peaceful space is to surrender to what is. Don't fight it and don't deny what is happening. For me the opposite of denial is to be more spiritually conscious. There I become more fully aware of a loving God in the control tower moving us along through the storms with divine directions. The most important directions according Jesus is to be more involved in loving God and all others while I am in this loving space myself.  In this three-way relationship I discover that the cosmos is not out of control after all. In this storm I don't just sing, as cool as that is. Today I may have the opportunity to resume my God-given role of co-creator with God. In this space I no longer fret about what the future will hold. Maybe I will see what the New Testament writers were saying when they talked about the end of the world. From their viewpoint the end of the world as they saw it was the ushering in of a new age. As Paul said, "The present form of this world will pass away." The new era of love and grace involves the fuller presence of Jesus. And it requires my fuller presence, living with gratitude and kindness in the here and now as the sun comes up.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Early yesterday morning, Thanksgiving Day, I read in the paper an item that gave me an insight: gratitude and grumpiness cannot coexist. This will be a different day.  I will not turn on the world news. Thanksgiving does not fit with anger. I will be thankful all day. My frequent ego-driven upset with people, places and things can't hang out with an attitude of gratitude. Today I will surround myself with family for whom I am supremely thankful. Sure enough as I thought appreciation, I gave myself a full day of thanksgiving and joy.  I remembered Thanksgiving 1966.  After a year of separation from my family, I was ending my year of ministry in Viet Nam. I flew to Saigon, enjoyed a Thanksgiving celebration of turkey, dressing and sunshine on the roof of the Rex Hotel and prepared to fly home the next day. No matter what the calendar said it was indeed Thanksgiving Day. And so is everyday.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Number one on my Thanksgiving list: God's gift of my breath. I received it on my day of birth and it will be with me until I die.  These go together: breath and life.  Both are sacred.  They are God-breathed. Breath and spirit.  Holy breath, holy spirit. Divine inspiration. I'll take a deep one and say, "Thanks be to God."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


CHARLIE WONDERS today if he has been looking for truth in all the wrong places.  Truth may be in the cartoons that I have passed over with only an occasional chuckle. In my reading today I was referred to the cartoons to look for the real that is never obvious.  Cartoons point to something that is very different from the "reality" that we normally see.  So do the so-called "reality shows." In the cartoons the victim (mouse) is chased by the evil cat, but always outsmarts him.  What we think we see with our eyes is really an illusion. There is far more that meets the eye. Most movies approximate reality according to the way things normally look to us, but this falls far short of how they really are. Colorful animated cartoons don't even try to copy "real reality".  They love to  break the world's rules. No one ever dies, the classical music plays on, and we all laugh and clap. When I try to see you and you try to see me, we might as well be watching a cartoon. What we see in each other approximates, but falls far short of who we really are.  Again, there is far more to each of us than meets the eye. Call it soul or whatever name we want.  As I age, I am increasingly aware of this truth. And it is beautiful!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


THANK YOU, friends and family for your thoughtful expressions of gratitude on Veterans' Day.
Whatever service I rendered to God and country came about rather naturally for this Oklahoma boy who grew up during World War II. In that war most kids made their contribution collecting things for the war effort. Supporting the troops then was a family affair.  While some of our extended family went off to military duty, the remaining family "fought the war" any way we could.  As kids we were challenged by our leaders to buy war stamps that eventually would be cashed into war bonds. We collected any scrap metal we could carry all to way to gum and candy wrappers.  We got medals for bundles of papers we turned in. As a family we were challenged to conserve on dish washing soap and were rationed on gas and tires. The women volunteered for Red Cross jobs such as wrapping bandages for the wounded and serving as hostesses for the USO.  Perhaps the conflicts we have had in our country since the Korean, and Vietnam wars and the more recent conflicts in the Middle East are in some measure related to a civilian lack of understanding of the wars and a personal investment in them. For a few days after 9-l1,  some of us thought we would have a sober, thoughtful,  prayerful response to that tragic attack. Instead, we turned it over to the politicians and the military. All we were asked to do was to cheerlead the troops and go shopping.  There came a time in my life when I  could cheerfully sing, "Ain't gonna study war no more." The message I get from the Bible is the time is still coming when we will live in a peaceful kingdom and beat our swords into plowshares.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


We have just returned from a trip to Tulsa where we witnessed and celebrated the wedding of our granddaughter, Jessica with Brad, a delightful young man.  It was a joyful time that reminded me again of the wonder of love in full bloom in God's world with beautiful people. So Charlie wonders this morning-after why I sometimes allow some of my life experiences to leave me disillusioned. Why do I expect more from our congress, for example, than they can provide? As usual, the answer lies in my ego. I expect more because I think I know more than I do. I think I know how they should work together for the good of our country. When I drop the ego and return to my true self, I can continue the joy of the weekend and live in the pleasant now.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


As a pastor and healer of sorts in the Air Force I was known as a protestant chaplain.  This, in spite of the fact that I was not much of a protester. The name came from Christians related to priests who protested some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. I never was a part or that or any subsequent rebellion. I do not have any active part in the current activities of protestors now achieving so much attention in New York, San Antonio or the many cities of the United States and major cities of the world. I am not that kind of protester.  However, as a Christ follower, I do have some sympathies for their essential message as I understand it. Jesus was clearly opposed to greed and always concerned with the plight of the sick, the thirsty, the hungry and "the least of these." He spoke the truth: "the love of  money is the root of all evil." We see what it is doing to our culture today.  He loved the wealthy and showed them how they could share with the poor. Today he is surely using the wealthy who are ministering to the needy through their money.  This includes at least some of the 1% our children in the streets are crying out against. May the Warren Buffet tribes of givers increase. The rest of us (the 99%) must find our ways to make the most of whatever life we are given. Our peace within depends on how we relate to the inequality we find throughout our culture. All religions have a strand of their belief system that says if we are to have peace we must treat others as we wish to be treated. Many of the irreligious know that as well.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Autumn is here in South Texas and after a string of rainless 100 degree temperatures it couldn't be more welcome. Even down here fall is transition time. After being kept in with swollen, painful feet it was my summer of discomfort.  Just in time for fall I am beginning to walk with only minimum pain.  To be out working a little in our yard I am finding new freedom.  I am also able to look back at whatever went "wrong" and see what I have learned and can still learn from it.  That learning involved recognizing whatever the pain was about, it helped me connect with my deeper self. On my good days, at least, I could see that beyond the physical pain was spiritual peace and comfort. I just had to realize that only my negative thoughts about it made the pain worse. It is like Jesus saying to turn the other cheek. That was not practical advice; it was parable, metaphor. What it means for me today is to not take the painful feet too seriously. Whatever happens to them happens only to my outer shell.  What I do with my inner self, beneath my thoughts and other interpretations, determines whether my summer of discomfort is over and I do not carry it  over to a "winter of discontent."

Monday, September 26, 2011


It  sounds crazy but it has taken me a lifetime to make peace with what is.  When things are not going the way I thought they should go, I have to consciously say, "It is what it is" with conviction and accept the reality of the situation. When I can do this, I find immediate release from the pressure of having to change something I have no control over. Without this pressure I am free to explore new options instead of just wishing things were different. I suppose this less frantic way of addressing things I don't like is a part of the aging process: a process of seeing the big picture of life. It feels good to be in this place. I no longer have to push the river.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Move Anyway

Charlie wonders if his swollen, painful feet are trying take him somewhere.  Since I can't walk very far or very fast, I have been forced to go inside myself to do any real exploring. As T. S. Eliot advised, I must "be still and still moving into another intensity . . . for a deeper communion." It is what I called in my previous blog, "home." The home I understand is my truest self,  a self in God where the Holy Spirit serves as a "homing device." The "God-shaped void" is calling. The challenge is that I have to leave behind my "false self" or ego. That is good riddance but hard to shake. But there is a dependable guide in this exploring. "The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has  been given to us." (Romans 5:5). I now have opportunity to practice what I often preached: the call to human being rather than mere human doing.  I am continuing to take my meds and do my p.t. with a view to being more active again. Meanwhile I do most of my exploring inside.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Lord, I confess to an addiction. I have this addiction to having to be right even when it seems to make others wrong.  I have to be right even to the extent of denying the deeper truth. I recognize this as a product  of my ego when my deeper self encourages me to break this habit. Time and time again I settle for the  easy road of using my own beliefs to justify my positions and look for someone else's opinions that seem to justify my own.  In my relationship to you  I use proof texts in the Bible in the same way.  In my saner moments I know you are "The way, the truth and the life". I need to know you more than I need to know what others have said about you (There has been so much confusion about you in the last 2,000 years).
I need you to be my way, my truth and my life. Help me go within myself, past the mind chatter and into the quiet.  There I experience being "still and knowing God". I'm home.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I need  a new flashlight.  This little light of mine doesn't always shine deeply enough for me to see my innermost self, my true being.  Too often I can't see through my ego to see my soul. I guess what I lack at these times is what is called insight. In the darkness I can't distinguish my desire to "right" from the truth about who I AM. Whatever is going on outside of me is often so bright it distracts me from my internal focus.  For starters: this long series of 100 degree days, a government that can't get its act together, the plight of the economy, worried people all around me, wars and rumors of wars, violence and character assassinations, unconscious and loveless people, etc.  Maybe I don"t need a new flashlight, but need to more consciously let "the Light of the world" shine in my depths and beyond. John said, "He came into the world to bring life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it."  So I have enough light after all.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Even though I surrendered my clinical therapy credentials ten years ago, I still trick myself (in some conversations and relationships) into thinking I need to "help" someone with what I think their problems are. They need to be straightened out. They need to know what I know and they don't. By my need to be right, I make them wrong. I gotta say something to change their mind or behavior. I gotta say something when I should be quiet and attend to them as the persons they really are. Only be keeping my mouth shut can I see and hear who the really are.  They are usually not at all what I conceptualized them to be. This is a prejudice problem in the sense of my judging them before I really know them. But it is an understandable mistake since all if us are deep down much more than we appear to be. Each of us are conditioned to think and behave in ways that conceal our real selves. It is only possible to know the essence, the innermost being, of one another. We must get past what they have been conditioned to look like.  For that I need to be still and drop all my preconceived notions about the others including my diagnoses of what I think they need to change. Only then will I be able to see them and love the genuine soul before me. Ironically, with this kind of love and acceptance they often change what really needs to be changed.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Today is the day we take out the trash.  We collect it from all the wastebaskets, dump it in a big blue rollaway container and because I am still dealing with swollen, painful feet, Martha will roll it out to the street.  Soon a bigger blue rolling truck will pull up, scoop up our trash, drive off to a place out of our sight but not out of existence. Three days later it's the same routine to get rid of the recyclable trash.  Next comes the clearing out the clutter of usable stuff.  This reminds me that every day is a good day to empty my collected mind trash. It seems to be a never ending job since I have a habit of tuning into the daily news where my mind scoops up a little good news mixed in with but a whole lot of contaminated information. No, that is not right. The news, like Shakespeare said in another context, "Is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so." The thinking I need to do is to discern the difference  between fact and the many media interpretations of it. The truth that I need about the world gets confused with the slants, multiple prejudices and spins on reality. The media seems to need to dramatize the facts so we will buy whatever they are selling. I, in turn, create my own dramatic fiction to suit my biases.

We throw away the trash at our house so we can more fully enjoy the treasure that is our home and our very lives. Sometimes I can do much the same with the daily news. It is worth digging. There is so much to treasure in our country and world.  The Creator God still says, "It is good." Almost time for the evening World News. Good night.

Monday, July 25, 2011


At 81 I'm living the good life. CHARLIE WONDERS if it is good because I have outlived many of my dependencies on short-lived externals. Temporary and superficial contributions to my happiness, successes, self-actualiztaion, etc. turned out to be just that--temporary, if not just illusionary.  What I thought was so important for well-being were all part of the cycle of life that includes winning and losing, living and dying, ups and downs, sickness and health. Nothing stays nailed down.

So what in our life situation is permanent, solid, and without change? Not very much. When Jesus said, "Don't hoard your treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or--worse!" he wasn't just talking about money. All earthly externals we depend on to make us feel good about ourselves will meet the same fate--decay. Any externals we use this way will end or change in unpredictable ways. The Old Testament teacher in Ecclesiastes wrote,"I applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under the sun and saw all the deeds that are done under heaven . . . I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun and see, all is vanity and a chasing after the wind."  Is this bad news?  No! It is fact. It was has been called "the law of impermanence of all things."

This awareness is one of many gifts of old age. With everything I depended on gone or going, my fear of loss diminishes. In retrospect I see how everything passes away except one thing--my true self, my essence, my being which belongs to a loving God.  Ultimately, the only thing left is our soul, living forever in eternal life.

Monday, July 18, 2011


It's a bird.  It's a plane. No! It's SUPERHEART.  It heads for Metropolis D. C. gliding over the Mall. Now it does appear to be a bird, a dove. It sails over all the memorials, slowly circling the Washington Monument.  Superheart now picks up speed and with renewed energy dips slightly over the White House then heads for the congressional commotion. Wading into the gangs and with supernatural discernment Superheart separates the wheat from the chaff. Many leaders need only to be separated from each other to break up the mob mentality and so each can use his or her God-given intelligence. Some may need rehab to help with their addictions. Superheart believes all are redeemable and usable and will reward those courageous souls who are already trying to use their intellect and power for the common good. When peace settles over the city people can function effectively and Superheart's work is complete. As the Superheart/dove flies away The only sad feelings are those who wanted to vote for Superheart in the next election.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Merciful God, we confess we've done it to ourselves again and need help. For lack of vision, we took your generous gifts of wealth, mismanaged them and painted ourselves into a corner.  You gave us clear enough instructions.  Take just three--all from the teachings of Jesus: (1) Misuse of wealth can be hazardous to your health, (2) Use your resources to care for those less fortunate than you, and (3) Co-create with You a heaven on earth.

 As a bottom line, you warned that we cannot serve God and mammon. We operate from the illusion that we are to use our riches to make more riches. That bucket has a hole in it. Surely we can learn more helpful,  compassionate ways to use the resources you have provided. The key is to not despise our wealth, but to use it wisely. That is where we as a nation seem to bog down.

Even though we continually ignore your directions, for the next few weeks we especially pray for your forgiveness and grace in these national and global concerns. Save us again from ourselves, our lust for power, our addictions to money, our disregard for the needy.

Trusting in your forgiveness and grace, Amen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


One of our daughters and a good friend had a lively discussion on the politics of Stephen Colbert.  The question seems to be whether he is really liberal satirizing the conservatives or is he a Republican in Democrat clothes. I do not know what kind of card he carries or how he votes and I don't care. For my money he doesn't have to be on either side. In fact, I think his genius is in his ability to see the ridiculous in the political antics on both sides, With the depressing news coming from our media everyday, a humor break is most refreshing.  Except for his dependency on junior high locker room talk to get laughs and giggles, I find him very funny and enjoyable.  

Meanwhile, back in my bed, I am quite content to do without the labels when I can.  Labeling myself is just as distracting as labeling other people. I consciously pray regularly to control both.  Labels seem to contract when I need to expand my respect and love for God's creations. When I am successful it is very satisfying to settle for a simple, "I am". It is reported that that is all God needed to describe himself and Paul said of himself, "By the grace of God I am what I am."

The key I guess is not to take our human predicament too seriously and trust in God to help us through even when it does not make sense to our limited minds.  Might as well laugh when we can.

Monday, July 11, 2011


My friend asks if after a month in house with my feet up, do I have cabin fever. I stammer something like, "I have plenty to keep me busy and entertained (like writing down stuff like this). I admit it was refreshing to get out for two doctor's visits and one brief time on the front porch soaking in some sun and swatting mosquitos.

Basically, however, I have not bored myself.  I am learning through this that I do better LIVING than I do WAITING.  When I live I simply accept what is happening and go with that as thoroughly as I can--often enjoying it.  When I just wait for something different to happen I discover I am in fantasy land.  It is a nice place to visit but no place to live--too fleeting and undependable.

So I'm not "Waiting for Godot" and that meaningless dead end.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Occasionally I breakout of jail if only for a few minutes. In these rare instances I am drawn out of the prison of my own mind. I do not know when I will be provided a tool for escape (like a file in my birthday cake). Often it is a chance conversation in which I see someone I care about who is even more deeply existing in a dungeon of mere thought than I am.  They take great pride in their thinking ability as if there is not a universe of possibilities beyond their small world. They treasure their mere thoughts as if they were an expression of the ultimate truth and the highest achievement of life.  May God bless their efforts and keep them focussed on "whatever is true,  noble,  right, pure, lovely, admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.  And the God of peace be with you." (Ph. 4:8-9)

But Charlie Wonders if there isn't in me a level of consciousness far deeper than even my highest thoughts That is when I am motivated to examine the cracks in my prison wall hoping to escape the prison of my narrow, custom-made thought patterns.  There, to my amazement, I discover my most genuine self, my very essence,  the Image of God, the Christ in me.  Here I see an expanded awareness of what is real.  It feels like home.  All around I see wonderful open space away from my noisy thoughts. I sing, "Free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last."

Saturday, July 2, 2011


It doesn't take long being even partially crippled to realize the marvelous value in being whole.  Becoming a whole person is the goal of my life no matter what my age. It is still the command of Jesus "Be ye whole as I am whole."

Therefore, when I am painfully reminded of my incompletion at basic levels, it is a call to specific "acts of kindness."  For generations Christians have prayed a mantra, "Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy." It is a prayer I can pray easily because I think Christ is mercy. My challenge is to have mercy on myself--on my poor swollen feet, to intentionally direct loving kindness toward these faithful 81 year old foot soldiers. The  attitude of gratitude facilitates feelings of mercy and felt healing.  It is a softness spreading through my body replacing hardness of resisting pain. Even breathing is more natural, less breath holding, more Spirit-filled.

Gratefully, I do not have to provide the loving attitude all by myself. My wife has been constantly here (too constantly for her own good), children check in regularly , the church community is on the spot with Christlike compassion and  healing.  Those, further removed, call and send cards and e-mails of support.  God has raised up and prepared a dozen doctors and medical professionals who provided technical skills and care. Neighbors and friends built a ramp on the front parch to help me scoot to the medical facility where I finally turned a corner toward even faster treatment and the hope of recovery. Life is good as God surely intends.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Hey, friends, I got bed bugs. Or did the doctor say, "Bad bugs." The name they use around the clinic is "C. Diff" which I think stands for the Spanish ca-ca dificil or in English, a difficult bacteria that is hard to get rid of.  It showed up in  my colon and I don't know how it got there.  As the crude crowd says on its bumper sticker, it just "happens." After three weeks of diarrhea, I got weak and dehydrated enough to go to the emergency room. They pumped bottled water into me, gave me tests, and an antibiotic called flagyl to stop the growth of the unwanted critters. Two days later I returned with Martha for our regular checkups with our primary care physician.  We went two hours early to get lab tests for the doctor. I had just sat down in the waiting room when the doctor's nurse came in, whispered something to Martha, and kindly whisked me off to isolation. After several hours there I was beginning to wonder what bad thing I had done to deserve isolation confinement. Finally, the doctor came and discussed the above mentioned issue. I am to keep taking the flagyl and keep everything I touch spotlessly clean.  I am to continue on the liquid diet that has been my practice for a week. Keri, our professional food server, fixed me what she proudly called a three-course meal (ginger ale, bouillon, and jello for desert). Already my trips to the bathroom are less frequent. Guess that makes me a distance runner.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


In a TV commercial "Worry, worry, worry,  trouble, trouble, trouble" invade a little dog's mind until he can secure his bone. It's the little dog's nightmare and the American dream. Finding bones and investing them in imaginary safe places, keeps many of us awake at night too. The bones themselves, are just as fleeting as the fantasy that we can keep them indefinitely. We go one step further. We let them define us. We take our identity from what we call success and wealth.  Jesus did not go there. He said that he came that we might  have life and have it more abundantly. The only way we can have life is found in  this instant. The question is not how much money have I made, saved or lost (past tense) or how much I dream about having someday if I play my cards right (future). These are all practical questions that are important in order to survive in the world, but as is often said, "To merely survive is not the same as to live." Scarcity thinking (instead of abundance) leads to fear, greed, injustice, violence, and hostility. The biblical emphasis on abundance encourages us to ask for our daily bread and know that will be enough. As Jesus teaches he looks at the birds above him or the wildflowers around him to illustrate the simple life to which he calls us.  I chuckle when I see the little worry dog.  He reminds me of my favorite possessions that create more problems for me than I need to have. I may not need to, but if I can't let then go in exchange for life, I am in deep trouble. Jesus  helps me see that I can bypass all these material frustrations by simply seeking first the spiritual kingdom of God and claim the promise that what I really need will be supplied.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Like most Americans I have been too emotionally isolated from our recent and current wars.  Last night on a memorial day TV program I felt the pain of wounded warriors and saw their mangled bodies as clearly as I did when I stood beside them in Vietnam field hospitals and rode with them on medevac planes.  But this is here and now.  I heard their stories and those of their suffering families. I wept.  In the night I woke up remembering that Jesus wept.  He wept with a pain of love for masses of people He longed to take under his wing for protection, but they would not allow it.  Last night, when I got to where I could talk, I said to Martha, "Its sad that we just don't learn."  I felt the suffering of our American people, but realized my wave of compsssion was washing up on far distant shores. The masses of wounded people over there, friends and foe alike, are our family, too.  Karen Armstrong, a currently popular student of all religions, is concluding that they all teach a form of the golden rule, compassion. We all weep, but we separate ourselves into little camps and are of no value to each other.   How long, O Lord, how long?

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I am making the morning coffee and realizing I do much better when I wake up before I seize the  day. If  I don't become conscious first I will miss God wanting to be the first of many to tell me to "have a good day." The Bible tells me that God has prepared plenty of opportunities for a beautiful life, but like all of humanity, I tend to miss the point.  According to a biblical image I take my position, raise my bow and let the arrow fly only to totally miss the mark. I'm not awake.  Or are we all drunk on cheap wine.  A centuries old story tells of a drunk walking aimlessly at four a.m. .  A policeman stops him and asks, "Why are you out wandering the streets in the middle of the night?" "Sir, if I knew the answer to that question, I would have been home hours ago." And Rumi, the poet, wrestles with the meaning of soul (and the effects of the wine) says, "I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.  Whoever brought me here will have to take me home."Without the wine, I know the feeling and need a refill on my coffee.

Thursday, May 26, 2011



When I was a much younger man I told my personal growth group that my greatest need on the hierarchy of needs is to belong.  The group made up of other Air Force officers voiced the same need to the extent that they discussed the feasibility of forming a commune.  I told them to count me out. With a wife and six kids I  already had one.  Now decades later I realize that all God's creation already belong to each other.--not just my family or people who look like me or believe like me.  Genesis tells the story of a God who made everything and then pronounced it all good. We don't need to belong.  We do belong and just need to become conscious of that.  Some of us are a little late in realizing the interconnectedness of all created things. For some time philosophers and now even many scientists have come to confirm this truth. We belong to each other. This realization makes the "hard sayings" of Jesus such as "Love your enemies" more reasonable (if only a little less difficult).  By the grace of God (literally) I can do a better job of connecting with all sentient beings. Love ya.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Let Me Go, Ego

I get as frustrated as the next guy with the bipartisan quick-sand our country is mired in. It has been called "identity politics" and that is where I begin to see it as a personal problem.  At the ego level (as opposed to my soul level)  I realize I will never be free to be my best self until I can stop siding with--or against--other ego-driven fellow citizens and leaders and getting my self-worth from them.  I am considered by some to be an old man, but I will never get to be a "wise" old man if I depend on defeating the other side to get there. I choose instead to follow the love route rather than the angry, us-versus-them battle ground.  Since God is the "steadfast love" and Jesus provides the "amazing grace" that overcomes the world, I will depend on that approach and trust that I will ultimately let go of my ego since love and ego cannot coexist.  That feels so good and God always wins.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Is it the Second Half of Life or Even Overtime?

When our offspring were were young adults we marveled at their energy, going to school, maintaining a home and most trying to keep up with little children.  Fast Forward 2-3 generations and Martha and I still watch with astonishment at the tremendous energy they have for their demanding careers.  Now to watch them in their game of life, we climb as high in the stands as our bodies let us and watch the game from a relatively safe distance.  (They know where we are and can reach us if they want to.)  It is clearly our second of half of life and they are getting close to that, too.  Maybe for us it is overtime and we feel blessed to watch them play on.  Years ago our teachers used to predict for us that the second half of life would be played by different rules.  The playbook for the first half would be somewhat obsolete.  The old wineskins, as Jesus said, are not sufficient for the new wine. So Martha and I are  learning to live in the now and that is so exciting--like the grace of overtime. I'll drink to that!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Travel On

As I recover from my avalanche of affection (aka my 81st birthday), I am amazed again  at the grace of God and the gifting of more years to travel on in this beautiful world.  One gift from my kids was a simple paperweight.  Encased in an artfully done glass frame were these words from Henry Miller: "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."  How grateful I am that I did not die with my prostrate cancer in 1992.  I have had many years since then to see things differently. What an exciting and rewarding journey that has been--and is. I discover my deeper "I", my soul, so slowly I need these extra "overtime" years and appreciate each one.  In recent years my inner self has become a map*- which gives clues to God's will for this part of my journey. I'm glad I am not younger.  Been there and done that. This adventure is more exciting.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spoiled by Greed

Every day after checking into the news I get a clearer understanding of why Jesus was so hard on the rich. He knew how much wealth could do when used properly ("Well done, good and faithful servant."), yet he became discouraged enough about greed that he could say, "Woe unto  you that are rich," and "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." These are not angry condemnations about eternal damnation. They are words of discouragement that the "deceitfulness of riches" could so blind good people from seeing the spiritual kingdom He was trying to establish here on earth.  He was, as his daily walk showed, wanting people to use their energies and money to heal the sick, feed the hungry, help the jobless in the market place, clothe the naked, befriend the friendless and the prisoners. So when I see very successful (?) people who could be doing so much for the common good wasting their gifts and assets on childish and greedy pursuits, I feel some of the sadness of Jesus.  No wonder he wept when the crowds missed the point.

Monday, April 25, 2011


My blog about agreeable aging does not imply that as I age I do not have to deal with disagreeable events and changes in my life.  I am now losing my edge in some of my favorite functions.  One group of these falls under the heading of communication.  As far back as high school I found great satisfaction in three functions: public speaking,  journalism, and music. They have all played a big part in my vocation and avocations.  A few years ago I realized my singing voice was no longer dependable especially at the higher ranges. (Not a good sign for a tenor.) My writing climaxed with the publication my book, "Laying the Roles to Rest in 1999 and dwindled down to an occasional blog called "Charlie Wonders." I began to limit my public speaking when I realized that as a pastor, a pastoral therapist, and in relationships it was much more important to be a good listener than a clever speaker.  Most disturbing right now is what I call a "minimal, minimal cognitive impairment".  In addition to the usual short-term memory loss of this handicap, I lose concentration easily and have trouble focusing on a given speaker task. So my participation in leading worship and teaching Bible is limited. Agreeable aging enables me to reframe all of these functions as opportunities to be a more relaxed participant in worship, Bible study and relationships.  None of them define me as I once thought they did.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


A week from my 81st birthday I am set free from a lot of unpleasantness by what I call "agreeable aging".  It is a simple concept.  All I have to do is accept what is going on in and around me.  This beats fighting what is real.  There is always plenty in my environment to make me disagreeable. I look to my right shoulder and see a gash that gives me a little pain.  It also limits movements and activities I like to do.  I can choose to be irritated by it and with a little thought make myself miserable.  Or I can remember that in its place only yesterday there was a sore that had not healed for months. I can be grateful for a team of surgeons that removed the carcinoma and zipped me back up.  They also gave me careful instructions for caring for the wound and expectations that within weeks it will heal. Other irritants are not so easily cut out or fixed.  Some are totally out of my control to change or avoid. In most of them however with enough attention I can surrender them  to God and accept what is.  In the prime of my ministry I printed on the bottom of my business stationary the motto "Opening to life." It is still a good mantra for me.

Friday, April 22, 2011


For fifty years of my adult life I thought I needed more time--more time to get my work done, time with the family, time to exercise, time for home chores, time to study and prepare for whatever was next. Seems like I was always frustrated with the need for more time.  Now that I have more of that kind of time I find I don't need it so much.  That's because I am also down to the essentials of life that do not take clock hours. Instead, loving God and the people in my life, accepting the life I now have only requires gratitude, awareness, and attention.  It does not take more days to know who I am today beyond my surface self--my name, rank and serial number, my biography, my body. This only takes a willingness to look within and acceptance of what I see. I only need to see that it is good to be in this place and realize time as I have known it will soon  be gone.  Eternity is better.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


A few of my dear readers responded with me-too comments on my last blog.  We are not alone. The thinking addiction seems to affect everybody I know. Our thoughts become compulsive. Our minds not only run away with us, we seem to over-value the product of our own minds.  We take them far too seriously.  That leads us way from our true self to a false mind-made self.  We are far more than that. We are created in the image of God, but we cannot think our way into beauty or worry our way  into truth or invent joy. Jesus said "Don't worry your head about tomorrow, we'll deal with that then." Just as unhelpful is to regret or replay the past.  We can't deal with either of these directions.  No matter how much we put our minds to it, we can't change the past or control the future.  We can only handle the here and now.  One thing I am learning about these compulsive thoughts is to practice focusing intensely on what is happening in my mind and heart right now.  Usually this brings an awareness that I have no crisis, no unsolvable problem--just a cool, refreshing sense of well-being.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


When I was in the third grade I was the fastest runner in our class. One day playing a game in the gym I ran so fast I failed to make a turn and ran face first into the closed bleachers.  On my way down to the floor I saw the customary stars and woke up with a big bump on my forehead.  It has now been scores of years since I ran fast.  Now it is just my mind that runs too fast for its own good. Thoughts, opinions, beliefs, memories, daydreams all develop a momentum that take me away from my deeper, healthier self.  These are not particularly good thoughts or bad thoughts, just mental noise that I can take too seriously and give too much attention to. Like white water rapids they bounce me along so fast I believe I have no control over them. Even though most of this stuff is just baggage I picked up from someone somewhere I can think they are me but even that is just a thought. Maybe now that I have "dealt" with them (at four a.m.) I can go back to sleep.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


While reading the morning paper I noticed a familiar disturbance of my body/mind.  It came as energy which I recognized as emanating from my habit of blaming/defending.  It was the recurring theme of I am right and your are wrong.  I realized I was reacting to what other people said was true or false. I forgot that these are only thoughts. So many of the writers seemed to have no respect for opinions other than their own with little or no awareness of their own bias. Perhaps this explains my discomfort. They were mirroring my own tendencies to do the same. My biases were rising up to incriminate me.
After I switched to a more spiritual reading, I realized what I needed was insight not the flurry of thoughts and opinions of human writers. After feeling again the discomfort of struggling against things as they are (and people as they are). I was then ready to see my options: I could fight in my imagination what I didn’t like and make myself miserable or I could just let it all go. Today I chose to let it go and found inner peace, the peace of God. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011


It’s a good day when I can be especially  helpful to someone and do something helpful for myself at the same time. Charlie wonders if that might be the divine plan for everyday, but this day did seem to be special.  Last Saturday we were invited by a friend to participate in “The Hope, Steps & Cure Walk San Antonio”, a fundraising and awareness walk to benefit the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation. This foundation provides support and hope to patients with bone marrow diseases. Our friend, Monica Fairchild, has a sister named Camy who had to interrupt her grad school work when she was suddenly hit with a serious illness. After months of testing, searching, experimenting and treatment she was given a diagnosis of Aplastic Anemia. Eventually she was able to complete her doctorate and tells how this foundation supported her and gave her hope and direction. Monica and Camy have given leadership and endless energy in support of the foundation. My wife, Martha, daughter, Karen, and I were privileged to give support to the foundation by joining the walk. The stimulating two-mile walk with caring and beautiful people was a blessing to us.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


To be creative we have to think outside the box, but who is inside the box? Suppose it is me?  And what if thinking will not get to the me deep within. Part of the process of growing old, I’m discovering, is learning to know and trust my inner self without all the props proposed by folks out side my box trying to tell me  how to live inside. The more I know myself the more I know what is true and it doesn’t come by logic. It is spiritual in nature. I do better when I close the doors and windows so I can’t hear the loud, energetic pundits  telling me who I am or should be. When I nurture the self I find there and treasure it as a gift from God suddenly I know what is true. Trusting these inner values and experiences of God free me from an addiction to external voices and sometimes even from my own wild, noisy thoughts. This whole process is facilitated by a attending to the teachings of  Christ who promised that I can know the truth.  

Monday, February 7, 2011


Charlie Wonders why it is so difficult for him to do the simplest thing: be still. That quiet, spaciousness which should come easily, becomes complicated and almost like hard work. Is this some kind of divine joke? Does God get a kick out of watching us “human doings” repeatedly miss the point of just “being”. (“Miss the point” in  Bible speak is “sin.”)  In a conference for Americans in Mallorca, Spain, we heard our inspirational speaker refer casually to the quiet time he and his wife had each morning.  Later, during a Q and A period, one of our colleagues asked, “Dr. Tournier, what do you and your wife do in your quiet time?” Tournier thought and then answered in carefully articulated, broken English, “We be quiet.”  
Charlie and the Tourniers
Yesterday Martha and I in our quiet time read, “The language of God is stillness.  The rest is a bad translation” (Eckhart Tolle). How could all our chatter about God be otherwise? Did not God say through Isaiah, “My thoughts are not  your thoughts?” When talking about God all we have to work with are our words, our thoughts. Our best thoughts (opinions) are still just stories we made up or heard from someone else. The Psalmist tries to help us with this when he reports God saying, “Be still and know that I am God.” When I can remember to practice this, I am amazed at the wonderful things I can know: God, my true self and the many mysteries we call “spiritual.”  This peaceful quiet doesn’t last long.  Soon I have to do something with it--write a blog?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Is it a contradiction in terms to say that I was shocked at the horrible murders and attempted assassination in Tucson last Saturday and yet not surprised? The “not surprised” part comes from fifty years of listening to people telling true stories of their experiences with the slippery slope of hostility.  I have spent my share of time there myself.  Charlie Wonders if that which he sees in individuals and families applies to a nation. It all starts innocently and properly enough when we become aware of something that is obviously going wrong. Such awareness may lead us to pray the serenity prayer: “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” So far so good--if we let it happen. If we can't do something constructive and can't let it go, our prayers can turn into complaints. We start the blame game, pinning negative labels on our newly created “enemies.” We confuse facts with opinions and viewpoints. Our rhetoric gets reckless. To get attention (and hopefully pick up some allies) we increase the volume at first by raising our voice a bit and eventually, if not stopped, it becomes yelling and screaming, outrage We find cheerleaders to stir us and give us moral (?) support. We easily buy what they sell as the “truth.” We are no longer interested in simple and verifiable facts. When the imagined threat takes a human face and form its only a step from there to aggression and physical violence. Even if you or I would never go this far, someone else may pick up the weapon and finish what we started. Then we can feel shock, superior. The popular definition of insanity (to keep doing the things we have been doing and expect a different result) perhaps explains the surprise. I, for one, have some soul searching to do.