Monday, April 30, 2007


“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

~ James 1:19-21

I think I came out of the womb kicking and screaming, eventually earning quite the reputation for my temper tantrums. My siblings have said that my tantrums became so commonplace that they just learned to ignore me. I can still remember one time when I was about five years old and I was kicking and screaming at the top my lungs. My grandmother (whom we called Nanny) stood in the doorway of the room and kept saying, “Oh, look at the big phony - she doesn’t even have any tears. What a phony baloney!” Of course that just made me even angrier, and so I screamed even louder.

“As a rule, anything that is either shouted or whispered isn’t worth listening to.”

~Frederick Langbridge

My Mom said that she couldn’t get a baby picture of me because I screamed blue bloody murder the day she took me to the studio. She finally got a professional photo of me, but even then I had a furrowed brow and a scowl on my face.

When I was about six months old, I began refusing a bottle. I didn’t want anything to do with anybody – I just wanted to do it myself! (An apparent case of early-onset terrible twos.) Then when I was about nine or ten years old, I told my family that I wanted to grow up to become a witch and rock in a rocking chair on a mountaintop until I died. (Lovely, isn’t it?) My morbid vision of the future earned me the nickname “Icky-Poo,” or “Ick” for short. (My dad still calls me that to this day.)

Although I am still a private person who not only enjoys time alone, but actually needs it, I no longer maintain my former negative, gloomy outlook on life. In fact, quite the opposite! (Can anyone say Pollyanna?)

In all seriousness, I attribute the dramatic change in my attitude to the transforming power of God’s love. When I was 14 years old, I attended a David Wilkerson crusade (author of “The Cross and the Switchblade”) and heard the Gospel explained in a way that I had never understood before. I used to think that I had to be good enough to get into Heaven, a thought which had tormented me with fear.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.”

~ Ephesians 2:8-9

Before that I would literally lie awake at night and think about how eternity went on and on and on and never ended. So when I heard the good news that Jesus died for the sins of all humankind, I jumped at the chance to have the peace of knowing that even though I could never be good enough to earn my way to Heaven, through God’s free gift of salvation, I could be completely forgiven and made whiter than snow, with the assurance of spending all eternity with Him. This revelation gave me ample reasons to rejoice and shed my cynical attitude. Now all I want to do is share God’s love with every person I meet.

“Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. For if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

~ Galatians 2:16, 21b

Nonetheless, I must admit that my former rageaholic tendencies still surface more often than they should.

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

~ James 3:8-10

But like most of us, I am a work in progress, and thank God, He is patient with me.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

~ Lamentations 3:22,23

In Lisa Bevere’s book, “Be Angry, But Don’t Blow It,” she talks about how she tried to blame her temper on her upbringing, her husband, her kids, her ethnic background, her hormones, or the fact that her parents were divorced and her father had a drinking problem. But one day she realized that she had no one to blame but herself, and she finally acknowledged her weakness and took ownership of her own destructive choices. She said it was then that she received the much-needed help that God was willing to offer all along. (As Dr. Phil always says: You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.)

“I have learned that once you get angry, you have only two options: stay angry or get over it; no one can make me angry without my permission.”




Author Unknown

There once was a little girl who had a bad temper. Her mother gave her a bag of nails and told her that every time she lost her temper, she must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the girl had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as she learned to control her anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. She discovered it was easier to hold her temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the girl didn't lose her temper at all.

She told her mother about it and the mother suggested that the girl now pull out one nail for each day that she was able to hold her temper. The days passed and the young girl was finally able to tell her mother that all the nails were gone.

The mother took her daughter by the hand and led her to the fence. She said, "You have done well, my daughter, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one."


“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

~ Ambrose Bierce, journalist, satirist (1842-1914)

“Good sense makes a man restrain his anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression or an offense.”

~ Proverbs 19:11

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hearing and Heeding ~ Part III (A Collage)

“For to draw near to hear and obey is better than to give the sacrifice of fools [carelessly, irreverently]. . . .”
~ Ecclesiastes 5:1 (Amp)

“To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge, to find the will of God is the greatest discovery, and to do the will of God is the greatest achievement.”
~Author Unknown

“Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from grace.”
~ Thomas à Kempis

“Be still, and in the quiet moments, listen to the voice of your heavenly Father. His words can renew your spirit. No one knows you and your needs like He does.” ~ Janet L. Weaver

“The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that they say ‘Amen’ and run away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving Him your ideas.” ~ Frank Laubach

(This next story reminds me of a comment Keen’s sister Kihm made after returning from a recent trip to New York: “You can see the birds, you just can’t hear them.”)

The Cricket
Author Unknown

A Native American and his friend were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square in Manhattan. It was during the lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners and sirens were wailing; the sounds of the city were almost deafening. Suddenly, the Native American said, "I hear a cricket."

His friend said, "What? You must be crazy. You couldn't possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!"

"No, I'm sure of it," the Native American said, "I heard a cricket."

The Native American listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located a small cricket.

His friend was utterly amazed. "That's incredible – you must have superhuman ears!"

"No," said the Native American. "My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you're listening for."

"But that can't be!" said the friend. "I could never hear a cricket in this noise."

"Yes, it's true," came the reply. "It depends on what is really important to you. Here, let me show you."

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty feet turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.

"See what I mean?"


“The voices of the world are loud and sparse, but the voice of God is a constant whisper.”
~ Benjamin J. Elger

“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”
~George Elliot

“And beloved, if our consciences (our hearts) do not accuse us – if they do not make us feel guilty and condemn us – we have confidence (complete assurance and boldness) before God.”
~ I John 3:21 (Amp)
“And it is the (Holy) Spirit Who bears witness, because the (Holy) Spirit is the Truth.” ~ I John 5:7

“Why do you call Me Lord, Lord and do not practice what I tell you? For every one who comes to Me and listens to My words (in order to heed their teaching) and does them, I will show you what he is like; He is like a man building a house, who dug and went down deep, and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood arose, the torrent broke against that house and could not shake or move it, because it had been securely built – founded on a rock.”
~ Luke 6:46-48

“Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart.” ~ Psalm. 51:6

“For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin – that is, whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful.”
~ Romans 14:23b

“I am the good Shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. . . My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me . . . .” ~ John 10:14, 27 (NKJV)

“At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at [His] command they journeyed; they kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.”
~ Numbers 9:23

“It is a vain thought to flee from the work that God appoints us, for the sake of finding a greater blessing, instead of seeking it where alone it is to be found - in loving obedience.” ~ George Eliot

Listening To God
By Connie Campbell Bratcher (used by permission)

Sometimes we talk too much
To hear what God would say.
Other times we're preoccupied
With activities of the day.
Oh, how we need to just be quiet,
And listen with our hearts
To what the Holy Spirit speaks-
The truth that He imparts.
He speaks to us through nature,
Where we see His mighty hand.
He speaks through our circumstances,
And through our fellowman.
Through a still small voice within,
We hear what He would say,
As we look to Him for guidance,
Along our pilgrim way.
But, we need to always examine
That which we have heard,
Making sure it's in accordance
With His Holy Written Word-
For God never directs contrary
To what is written there.
The law He gave so long ago
Still applies to all everywhere.
Father, thank You that as we listen,
Your Spirit leads us right,
Impressing the message on our Hearts
That's written in black and white.

Connie Campbell Bratcher

"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then shalt thou have good success."
~ Joshua 1:8
Many thanks to Connie Bratcher for permission to share her poem. You may read more of Connie’s poems at

“…and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.”
~ I Kings 19:12

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hearing and Heeding ~ Part II

This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it - the Lord is His name. "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." ~ Jeremiah 33:2-3

To continue with the theme from last week’s column, Keen and I have seen this business of listening to our hearts work both for and against us, depending on whether we just “heard,” or whether we also chose to “heed.” Here’s another example: Back when we were waiting for the Supreme Court to hand down a decision in our lawsuit, a case very similar to ours came up for review. The case involved a tow truck driver from Illinois named John Gratzianna whose company was removed from the towing rotation after he decided not to support the local mayor’s campaign for reelection. This case was often referred to as a “sister case” to ours. In fact, the Supreme Court Justices handed down a favorable ruling in both cases on June 28, 1996, by the exact same margin – 7 to 2. (Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented.)

I said all that to say this: Due to our interest in the outcome of the Gratzianna case, I decided to fly to D.C. to attend the oral arguments. Since Keen wasn’t able to get away from the trash business (and Southwest Airlines was running a special two-for-one sale), I decided to take our son Josh along. I thought it would be a good educational experience for him. Well, it was an educational experience all right, in more ways than one. As I was preparing for the trip, I had the strongest feeling that we should make arrangements to stay in a hotel during our visit, rather than staying at my brother Bob’s house. (Bob is the one who successfully argued our case at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and again at the United States Supreme Court.) However, when I mentioned my plan to Bob, he insisted that we stay with them and save ourselves the expense of a hotel. Still, I could not deny this nagging feeling that it would be better for everyone if we made our own arrangements for separate accommodations. So I called one of the hotels in D.C. and discovered that they were all booked. Rather than continuing my quest to locate a hotel that had a vacancy, I decided to override the still, small voice.

To make a long story short, everything about the trip was great, except for the fact that Josh and I did not have our own hotel room. Bob was occupied with work, of course, so after the oral arguments were concluded, Josh and I were left with no other option except to wander the streets of D.C. like two vagabonds. To make matters worse, the weather was cold and rainy, and I only had a thick sweater for outerwear. We visited several museums, and eventually resorted to returning to the museums just to get out of the weather. If only we had booked a hotel, we could have been waiting for Bob in the comfort of our room, enjoying a good movie and a pizza.
A year later, Josh was in a serious car accident prior to a football game at Wabaunsee High. He and three of his friends went for a ride with a fellow student whom he didn’t know very well. Before they headed out on Highway 99, the driver insisted that all of the passengers put on their seatbelts. Five minutes later, the driver met an oncoming car while attempting to pass on a curve. The car rolled several times, landing on its roof and leaving all four young men dangling from their seatbelts. Thank God no one was seriously injured. Several days later, I asked Josh if he had any kind of a hesitation or “red light” feeling (pardon the pun) about getting into that car, and he acknowledged that he had.

Other examples of lessons learned the hard way include cross-country family road trips we planned in advance and later had an undeniable feeling of unrest and consternation about our plans. Nevertheless, we didn’t think that we could possibly back out at the last minute and disappoint our family members who were anxiously awaiting our arrival. So once again we made the ill-fated decision to veto our better judgment and journey onward, only to be met with disastrous consequences such as miserable, rainy weather, forcing 40 people indoors, sick children (i.e. vomiting, ear infections that lasted for months), family feuds (either between ourselves or other family members), and other unpleasant experiences too numerous to mention.

I would be remiss not to mention that there are just as many examples of situations where we have averted potentially catastrophic circumstances by heeding that still, small voice. As I mentioned earlier, it works both ways. Case in point: the time that Keen woke up at 12:30 a.m. with an overwhelming and specific sense that someone had done something to damage our trash truck. He immediately got dressed and went to his shop to investigate. After confirming that the tires had not been slashed, he warily started the truck, paying special attention to the gauges. That’s when he noticed that his oil gauge wasn’t moving, and he immediately turned the truck off before our $10,000 engine was ruined. Keen’s premonition was right on the money; someone had sabotaged our truck in the middle of the night by draining all the oil out of it. But their plan was averted, thanks be to God, and Keen’s trash truck was back up and running that same afternoon.

The bottom line is this: while we may not be able to avoid every negative or unfortunate happenstance in our lives, I do believe that we serve a loving God who will utilize any means possible to help His children.

Whether we heed His counsel or not is up to us.

“Today, if you would hear His voice, and when you hear it, do not harden your hearts.” ~ Hebrews 4:7b

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hearing and Heeding ~ Part I

View of Alma

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

~ James 1:22-25 (NKJV)

Several weeks ago I shared some lessons in listening from the course I took on mediation at Johnson County Community College. During that time, I wrote the following column about a similar theme involving listening to God. Finding myself short on time and inspiration this week, I thought I would share it.

One definition of the word “hear” is to learn by being told. The definition of the word “heed” is to pay attention, listen to and consider. As the above Bible verse indicates, God doesn’t want us to have a mere intellectual knowledge of His Word; He wants us to listen and learn; hear and heed. On the other hand, God doesn’t just give us a laundry list of do’s and don’ts, either. He wants to provide us with valuable guidance and direction in our everyday lives.

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” ~ Mother Teresa

Many people question whether anyone can actually “hear” from God. Well, I don’t have any formal training, but I’d like to share my personal experiences and thoughts on the issue.

First and foremost, I believe that every human being is comprised of three parts: 1) the mental/mind, soul; 2) the spiritual/spirit; and 3) the physical/body. And since we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, our carnal nature will always be at war with our spiritual nature.

“But I say, walk and live habitually in the Holy Spirit – responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh – of human nature without God.For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the Holy Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are opposed to the flesh (Godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other – continually withstanding and in conflict with each other – so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.”

~ Galatians 5:16, 17

The good news is that Jesus paid the price for all of our sins by dying on the cross and being resurrected three days later (thank God for Easter!). Regardless of how many times we sin or how large our sins are, the 8th chapter of Romans tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. However, that doesn’t give us a license to live any way we’d like. Romans 8 goes on to say that we are to be governed by the dictates of the Holy Spirit, not by the dictates of our flesh, because the mind of the flesh (which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit) is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace both now and forever.

The secret is learning to discern between your mind and emotions, and your heart, or your spirit. As Christians, we are Hid sheep, and He is the Good Shepherd. Because we trust Him not to lead us astray, we recognize His voice and follow wherever He leads.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
~ Romans 8:14 (KJV)

This past weekend I purchased a book titled Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality. A sample quote on the back of the book caught my attention: “If you are following God, He never shows you the end. It’s always a walk of faith.”

But just exactly how are we led by the Spirit of God? Well, I believe God speaks to us in a still, small voice. Some people refer to it as a hunch, sixth sense or gut reaction; while others may call it their conscience, instinct, or women’s intuition. It’s that “certain something” you can’t really put your finger on which causes you to feel reluctant or uneasy. And if you try to find logical reasons for why you feel the way you do, you will generally come up short. That’s where faith comes in.

“The spirit of man [that factor in human personality which proceeds immediately from God] is the lamp of the Lord. . . .”

~ Proverbs 20:27

In our personal experience, Keen and I have found that when we have a “red light” or a “don’t-go-there” sense about something and we do it anyway, we almost always regret it (deeply). On the other hand, if we have a “green light” or an “all-systems-go” feeling about something and we go through with it, things work out the way they were meant to and we never have any regrets.

I would have to say that this next Bible verse, which is one of my all-time favorites, best describes the concept of listening to and following your heart/spirit:

“And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from the Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts – deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds [in that peaceful state] to which [as members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful – appreciative, giving praise to God always.”

~ Colossians 3:15 (AMP)

Here’s a good example. Two months after Keen and I were married in 1978, I became pregnant. Seven months later we decided we wanted to move away from the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities in Minnesota and relocate to the country life in Alma, Kansas. Now to most of our friends and family, that decision didn’t make any sense at all. We were moving across country with a baby on the way and no job waiting for us. But Keen and I both felt peace in our hearts about it, and that was all we needed to make that giant leap of faith and trust that God would provide for all of our needs. And He did. After making $2500 profit on the sale of our first little cracker box house, we had just enough to rent a Ryder truck and give us some money to live on until Keen found work. Then Keen’s folks had a house which they rented to us for a very reasonable price, so that gave us a place to live. Now here we are, twenty-nine years later, still happily enjoying the serenity of our country life in Alma, Kansas.

To be continued next week . . . .

Country Road in front of our home in Alma

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Patricia Revisited - Part II

“They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." ~ Isaiah 40:28-31

A brief candle; both ends burning
An endless mile; a bus wheel turning
A friend to share the lonesome times
A handshake and a sip of wine
So say it loud and let it ring
We are all a part of everything
The future, present and the past
Fly on proud bird
You're free at last.

Written by Charlie Daniels for his friend, Ronnie Van Zant of the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Since Patricia passed away, several people have had vivid dreams about her. In one case, Patricia’s friend Roxy saw Patricia smiling and waving. “C’mon! C’mon!” she exclaimed enthusiastically. (Roxy said that made her a little nervous!)

Martha wrote to me about the following dream her partner Jenifer had:

“It’s a party and Patricia is there with all her friends. She is dead, but just the same there and enjoying being with her dear ones. She looks radiantly happy. She and Jen talk – no one else can see her (it is, after all, Jenifer’s dream); she tells Jenifer that everything is wonderful. Jenifer asks if she knows the meaning and purpose of life now. Patricia laughs that wonderful Patricia laugh and says, “Oh, I can’t tell you that!” Jenifer replies that she doesn’t want her to tell her what the meaning and purpose of life is, just if Patricia knows what it is, and with another laugh she says, “Well, of course!” I like to remember the story, hear that laugh in my heart, and choose to believe that she is radiantly happy and watching over us and right here with us when we need her.”


Earlier this month Nikki had an unusual experience which she has permitted me to share:

“Tonight I lit the huge purple candle that I'm lighting every night this month and talked with God. Mostly expressing my thanks for all the gifts I have received in my life and for the people who have touched my heart in countless ways. Then I asked God to take care of those who could use an extra dose of love, care, and compassion. And so, I believe all is in God's hands and heart.

Then as I was talking to God I shifted and started to talk to Patricia – telling her what was in my heart and thanking her for sharing with me the best 15 years of my life. I told her I
never came close to knowing an angel until I met her. Then I started to wonder and began asking some basic questions, (earthly ones of course), in hopes that I might gain some insight into the mystery of what's in the great beyond.

In my wonderings I asked how she was and who she's hanging out with, like her mother, grandmother, God, other Angels....... Next, I asked her if she had a job and what kind of job it was.

Then a huge glow came from my heart and landed on my face as I saw for an instant Patricia teaching other angels how to line dance and two-step. I laughed with great delight and was full of joy. Of course as I was trying to make sense of what I glimpsed, I wondered how Angels, who are known to be light on their feet, could stomp to the music, and if they had halos or wings, if it interfered with the dancing. I know this sounds silly but it's the first time I laughed this hard with so much joy in my heart in a very long time. I suppose Angels might need to take time off to have some fun. (Another earthly thought.)

Patricia loved to dance and she glowed when she was on the dance floor. Maybe the next time I have a glimpse I'll see her ice skating with angels too. These were two of her favorite things to do.

Sending this to you with much love. I hope you enjoy the vision of Patricia dancing with Angels as much as I did.

You are in my heart and prayers.



After reading last week’s column, Patricia’s dear friend Caroline emailed me the following response: (Thanks for allowing me to share this, Caroline.)

Dear Eileen,

First, I absolutely loved your poem and the pictures and all the stories about Patricia, friends, and family. Tears. Good tears.

You know I have to say, I don't miss Patricia every day now. Just most days. A few weeks ago I was cleaning out some things in my room and I ran across her handwriting and then some pictures and then a couple cards. I was smiling and remembering and all of a sudden out of what seemed like nowhere I was flooded, absolutely flooded with tears of grief. It was profound and deep. Odd how that happens. Amazing, too. A gift of sorts. I wanted to call Nikki, but I didn't want to take her to where I was, but when the tears wouldn't stop I just had to call her. She was busy painting the house, but she took the time to listen. And she cried, too, and she was so glad that I called. I could feel it. I think sometimes she (and probably you and your sisters, especially) think that maybe some of us have forgotten. At the same time, I'm sure you know we haven't.

That's all. Thank you so much for sharing your life and your heart with us. We are all blessed for the presence of each other in our lives.

With love,


In closing, I would once again like to share this poignant quote, compliments of my friend Tom Parker, the deepest thinker and greatest writer I know. Tom is the author of Dispatches From Kansas (available at He also writes a weekly newspaper column which he posts on his blog at

“. . . I’ve reached that age where I understand life is finite, that it can be taken away in the next breath, and the realization is less disturbing than it is enriching. That we cannot see far down our trail is our good fortune, for the journey itself is the important thing. We can examine our lives and look back over our past and try to peer into the future but it¹s the step by step by step that gets us nearer to our destination, the placing one foot before the other and the locomotion thereof.

We stand in the gateway, cast one last look behind, shoulder our packs and pass through. The old behind us, the new ahead, and us unapprised of what tidings it brings. The trail goes on. . .”

Patricia and Nikki on Patricia's 54th birthday, 2004, four months before her death