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Listening to Candlelight


The match head bounces roughly along the edge of the matchbook.  On first strike it ignites in a flash of orange sparks and threatens to go out with each step I take. I carefully deliver life to a candle sitting close to my bed.

Technology provides life-saving medicines and jet-propelled shuttles.  Electricity, the pulse of our daily life, continues to flicker on and off with regularity.

Glowing warmly, the candle illuminates a small corner of my room.  At first it crackles and sputters as the wax of a new wick struggles to catch fire.  Soon it burns steadily, with only an occasional flicker when a draft from a half-closed window sweeps through the room.

Surveying my surroundings, I am unaffected by the dust on the dresser or the pair of worn jeans tossed haphazardly across a far corner chair.  I take a book from the nightstand and settle down.   Reading by candlelight sounds romantic, but it is difficult.  Nevertheless, watching television, listening to the radio, or dusting will have to wait.

I close my eyes and am cradled in darkness.  My mind circles and wanders through thoughts of the day.  Resisting the urge to put pen to paper and begin a list of things to do, I allow myself to drift.  The peaceful sound of rain carries me away.

… I grab the shiny chrome handlebars of my new blue Schwinn and snap my eyes shut.  With the confidence I have been given superhero ability to ride a bike with my eyes closed, I pedal fast.  Two seconds pass, possibly five, of blissful riding, then crash, into a neighbor’s sedan.  As I am falling to the pebblestrewn pavement, my mind anticipates my father’s looks and my reproach. I’m not badly hurt, but my superhuman powers are not strong enough to stop a tear from falling as a drop of blood appears from a small cut on my knee.  Softly Mom kisses my wound and tenderly places a band-aid on it. A gentle reminder to be careful and watch for parked cars…

… Easter.  A small yellow mass sits in my cupped hands.  My sister, two years younger, rubs her chubby finger over the baby chick’s head.  I watch carefully, observing each stroke, cautious.  My sister’s eyes are wide with wonder as she lifts the downy soft feathers to investigate the tiny chick.  Being older and more experienced, I am hesitant to let her touch it for too long.  I use my sweetest voice to convince her baby chicks must have rest between petting.   The chick cheeps loudly as it is released. My sister and I watch as it determinedly pecks at invisible things hiding in the grass…

… After asking three times, I hesitate at a fourth for fear of being scolded for breaking mother’s concentration, again.  The highway is narrow. In the back seat, where I am sitting with my window wide open, I feel a whoosh as each car passes too closely, I feel, to ours.  At five, I am a backseat driver. As we travel the single-lane highways of South Texas, I search the horizon for over-the-line autos, stray cows, and soda shops close to a turn-off.  Three hours seem an eternity when traveling to Granny’s house. After only minutes, the games were played, songs sung, snacks eaten, and not one cow in sight.  I curl up on the floorboard and listen to the tires on the road.

Lulled into a sleepy state, I feel the rhythm as we cross a wooden bridge — click-clack, click-clack, click-clack — a rapid cadence.  I scurry up to the window just as we complete the crossing and reach the pavement again.  Back on the floorboard, I am soon stirred by a honk.  I untangle my arms and legs in time to return the bald man’s wave as we pass his car.  Without asking, mother volunteers: only twenty minutes more. Soon I leap from the confinement of my back-seat responsibilities and into the arms of my Granny…

… A temporary captive of lace and bows, I rush to my room and quickly shed my Sunday best.  Almost tripping over the dress as it clings to my ankles, I jump high, finally achieving the altitude necessary to free myself from the bright green material.  Hurriedly I don jeans and a T-shirt.

Piling into the car as we do most Sunday afternoons, we are off — my best friend, his brother, my sister, and our moms.  The winding road to the park reminds me of a snake, weaving in and out of tall grass.  We pass duck ponds, a golf course, and the horse arena, arriving at last to a playground full of adventure — but without swings, slides, or merry-go-rounds.

Unspoiled, this part of the Guadalupe River is teaming with opportunity.  Thick vines cascade from sturdy live oaks lining the river’s edge.  Run-off channels rise from the river up to the street.

“I’m a pioneer,” my best friend exclaims, scampering up the gully on a mission to discover uncharted territory.  Following quickly behind, I search for buffalo.

The afternoon sun beats down. Squinting against the bright reflection from the river below, I watch as my sister struggles to climb up, my friend’s little brother close behind.  We toss a few clods of dirt over the side, a bombardment intended only to discourage younger siblings from following. Mother and her friend pass the time at a picnic table close to the river.

It seems we are there too briefly when a honk signals the roundup has begun. In the car, I take a final glance back as we reach the top of the hill, realizing it will be at least six days before we return to the wonder of this place…

It is still dark outside as I slowly open my eyes.  The vibrant memories of childhood summers pass rapidly.  Softball games with hot dogs, summer camp and mosquitoes, band concerts and school fairs, and endless memories of growing up in a small, weather-beaten Texas town.

The candle burns brightly as I revisit a steady stream of friends and events long forgotten.  As I close my eyes again, I make note not to wait for a storm to plunge routines into darkness before I return to the sights and sounds discovered while listening to candlelight.

HUGE Gift, Small Package


A gentle thud caught my attention. This sound was curiously familiar.  As a bird lover, I know immediately when one has been temporarily blinded by the sun’s reflection, causing it to crash heavily into one of the many windows in my home. I rated this sound similar, yet lighter, reminiscent of one human finger placing a single sharp rap on a pane of glass.

I hurried to the kitchen window that wrapped itself around the right back corner of my house, offering a magnificent view of the tree-filled backyard. Scanning the bushes and grass close to the house, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. I rushed down the steps and reached the bottom just as one of my dogs, Charlie, who had been roused from a nap by the sound, arrived there. We headed in the same direction, stopping at the hydrangea bushes lining the flower bed beneath the window. There, on a single leaf, lay a hummingbird. I scooped up the tiny bird before Charlie could get the notion to do it himself, and headed back up the stairs into the safety of the house. Charlie remained for some time, sniffing for the source of the odd smell that lingered in the air.

Once inside, I opened my hand. Cradled there was one of the most spectacular beauties of Mother Nature, tiny and still. The bird’s eyes were shut. It was stunned by the impact, but it was still alive. I saw it breathing, and with one finger pressed lightly against its chest, I felt the rapid beating of its heart.

It was a male Ruby-throated, the widest ranging of all North American hummingbirds. I remember as a child growing up in South Texas, they were constant visitors throughout the spring and fall. The tiny bird was common in Central Alabama, too. I often watched three or four competing at my feeder. Almost invisible, they dove, and darted, and dive-bombed, and somehow miraculously avoided colliding with each other. Cheeping and clicking, they delivered strong protests to others who tried to compete for a spot to rest or feed. I thought them civilized representatives of a natural world with often cruel and uncaring aspects. They are two-inch-long powerhouses of fierce independence. Hummingbirds are always ready to courageously defend their territory, but in a way in which the birds never seem to get hurt. I thought how wonderful it would be if humans, too, could find ways to settle differences without hurting one another.

Sitting on the porch holding the bird, I was content. Rescuing birds, squirrels, mice, and other creatures from nature’s harsh realities is one of the things I do. It’s a common occurrence for me to make a box for a family of robins upended from their nest by a thunderstorm, or find a new home for the mice I might discover while spring cleaning. This, however, seemed a different and more enlightening connection to the natural world.

I had witnessed hummingbirds so many times but never had been this close. Their wings beat so fast they often seemed more fantasy than real. A blur of color flitting from here to there so quickly my eyes could not follow. Nevertheless, here one was, real and still in the palm of my hand. I was able to see up close how its little clawed feet curled slightly and to study the perfectly uniform feathers that covered its small body. The vibrant, iridescent colors of its wings and throat were truly amazing.

We sat together for several more minutes. With each moment, I wondered if it was going to make it. Tenderly I stroked its chest, watched, and waited.

Suddenly it woke up. Flipping up from its side, it sprang to life. It hesitated for a split-second, seeming to gather its bearings. Then it was off, propelled rapidly upward by its awakening. As it cleared the porch, it made a half-circle and returned to where I was sitting. It hovered in front of me, about two feet from my chair, and remained for what seemed a full minute. Never taking its eyes off me, it stayed back, yet was close enough that I could feel a slight breeze from the rapid beating of its wings. As it looked at me, I thought surely it was saying thanks for plucking it off the leaf and keeping it safe for the past half-hour.

I will never know exactly what the little bird was thinking as it made one final circle above my head and flew away. Later I found some tiny feathers on the porch that must have fallen from its wing or tail. They weren’t green like its body, or red like its throat, but white and black and gray. Today I still have those feathers in a very special bowl.

Holding the hummingbird was a miracle. It was an opportunity that taught me to appreciate the things I love, to cherish each moment, and to courageously get back up when life throws a punch. It was an awesome privilege to be given thirty unforgettable minutes when time stood still and I held the most exquisite creature in my hands, to feel its warmth, and to marvel at its magnificence. That little bird taught me to pay very close attention to life, because often the best gifts really do come in the smallest packages.

The Importance of Equality to Attaining Our Infinite Potential

Couple holding hand at sun rise

I was brought up in a fundamentalist Christian church in Texas. I was taught God is angry, vengeful, and male.

The women in my life trained me to bow to the wishes of men. I was instructed to lose at sports on purpose so boys could feel good about themselves. I was regularly treated disrespectfully by the males in my life.

Although illogical to what can be considered Godly and loving, both genders worked in negative and abusive harmony to deliberately fashion me into a second-class citizen. Yet, it was never spiritually comfortable for me to adopt a “less than” mentality. Feelings of unworthiness, inequality, and shame do not ever align with the values necessary to create healthy self-esteem. It took many years to undo the subtle and overt programming of who I am supposed to be as a woman.

I no longer resent men or dislike being female and I no longer allow myself to be treated as “less-than” by anyone. As I surround myself with men and women who value an equal division of labor and evenly balanced responsibilities in the home, I witness the tremendous difference it makes to the esteem of both girls and boys who have fathers and mothers who are equally emotionally present with child-rearing. Confident, peaceful and responsible children develop as a result of parents who foster equality.

Therefore, I question why we, as a global society, persist in not appreciating, honoring, and supporting one another as equals. I believe a major factor is the continued widespread religious labeling of supreme consciousness as male.

The ongoing disdain for women and belittlement of the values commonly associated with the feminine, have a long history in many of the world religions that were founded by men in times when women had no power. In his book Sex, Time and Power, author Leonard Shlain observes:

“The history of Christianity, Islam and Taoism darkly demonstrates that the religions that flowed from the teachings of Jesus, Muhammad and Lao Tzu have been most unkind to women. In every case, after the death of the founder, men with harsh patriarchal leanings seized the reins of power and revised whatever gentle counsel the originators of these traditions may have had to impart about women.”

One indication the supreme consciousness was placed into male form by male authors and translators of the Christian Bible is found in the meaning of the word Jesus used originally to address the Divine in the Lord’s Prayer.  According to the monk Michael Green, “When Jesus lived he spoke Aramaic, an archaic language that frames matters of the Spirit more softly, and perhaps more appropriately, than the truncated Latin, German or English translations of the gospel that are now so much a part of our heritage. Biblical scholars inform us now that when the Son of Mary addressed the mystery of Godhead, the actual word Jesus used is ABWOOM, a term that has always been rendered for us as Our Father, but would be more properly understood as Our Mother-Father-All-in-All.”

Jesus was not the first or last enlightened messenger careful about placing supreme consciousness into a particular form. The following verses from the Upanishads, a collection of sacred Hindu texts addressing the relationship between our human and spiritual being, were written centuries before the birth of Jesus.

. . . That which makes the tongue speak but which cannot be spoken by the tongue—that alone is God, not what people worship.

That which makes the mind think but which cannot be thought by the mind—that alone is God, not what people worship.

That which makes the eye see but which cannot be seen by the eye—that alone is God, not what people worship.

That which makes the ear hear but which cannot be heard by the ear—that alone is God, not what people worship.

Those who realize that God cannot be known, truly know; those who claim that they know, know nothing.

The ignorant think that God can be grasped by the mind; the wise know It beyond knowledge. . . .

Labels separate, elevate, ostracize, and judge. Human ego is quick to box something into its limited interpretation by placing a specific identity upon it. As soon as a label is placed on something or someone, our egocentric arrogance latches on to it. Labels limits us from being open to see any other possibility, even if the label perpetuates the abuse of power over others with discrimination, domination, suffering, and pain.

Regardless what we have been taught to believe, it makes sense to soul if a supreme awareness initiated the events resulting in the creation of everything, then a part of Divine consciousness must reside in all human beings and in all life. Therefore, by design, the original creative consciousness bestowed a spark of itself equally in both men and women.

Judaism teaches every person (Jewish and non-Jewish) was created b’tzelem Elohim, which is Hebrew for “in God’s image.” For this reason, every person is equally important and has an infinite potential to do good in the world. Something Jesus, a Jew, knew and honored.

You and I are the answer to ending genderism and sexism. We stop allowing ancient controlling systems of religious beliefs to dictate what is timely and true for a society that has advanced light-years from then to now. We get on the same page to collectively teach all children how to respect and honor one another as equals because the creator’s plan for human beings was never misogyny and patriarchy.

I agree with author Sharon Smith as she wisely stated in her article, Engels and the Origin of Women’s Oppression. “The solution is for us to make certain we raise a generation of men who never in their lives have known what it is to buy a woman’s surrender with money or any other social instrument of power; a generation of women who have never known what it is to give themselves to a man from any other considerations than real love or to refuse to give themselves to their lover from fear of the economic consequences. When these people are in the world, they will care precious little what anybody today thinks they ought to do; they will make their own practice and their corresponding public opinion about the practice of each individual–and that will be the end of it.”

To move our universal heart-enlightenment forward we focus on the fundamental premise of all world religions, “Treat others as we want to be treated.” This Divine desire for human beings, to view ourselves as equal children of GOD, will go far in helping us create a world of peace.

Forgive, Because You Know Better

forgiveness with birds

Over the course of life I was deeply hurt or betrayed by the actions of others. For years I held onto the pain of being let down, ridiculed, bullied, slandered, persecuted, and abused. A continuous loop of negative memories played in my mind, keeping me shackled to a suitcase of blame and resentment for the unjust mistreatment.  Each day I grew angrier and more self-destructive from holding on to what I thought the people who hurt me should have done differently.

I was suffocating under the burden of carrying the indignant displeasure and persistent ill will against those who wronged, insulted, and injured me. One day, like a bucket of ice water thrown in my face, the truth opened my eyes.  No matter what had happened to me in the past, I was the one choosing to relive it in the present. It was my choice to keep the hurt and resentment alive by dragging them into each new day. Those who mistreated me had moved on or died or were oblivious to the pain they inflicted.  Even if each of them were to emotionally wake up, assume liability for their actions, and beg for my forgiveness, the past would still remain unchanged.

That “aha” allowed me to wrap my heart around the healing truth in the words of author and poet Maya Angelou, “When you know better you do better.”

I do not comprehend calculus, theoretical physics, string-theory, or quantum mechanics. But there are many people who do. So people who understand these things may think I should be able to understand them too. Maybe some people think I’m not smart because I don’t. The truth is I’m not unintelligent because I do not comprehend higher mathematics, physics, chemistry, cosmology or engineering. My awareness and intelligence lie in other areas. In fact, each of us is uniquely gifted with intellectual and emotional awareness.

This is important to remember since we often get angry with people because we think they should know something because we know something. Just because you and I may comprehend and care about the downside to negative, rude, judgmental, abusive or self-centered behavior does not mean everyone does.

The physician who casually ordered his nurse to leave the room so he could molest me in private viewed himself a powerful member of the community, entitled to behave as he pleased. He rationalized  the ethical standards and honorable responsibilities that applied to everyone else in his profession did not apply to him.

Yes, those who abuse others may comprehend, intellectually, their behavior is wrong, and in many cases illegal and immoral. But no, they do not realize with emotional consciousness, which would enable the sensitivity of their heart to overrule the rationalizations of their egocentric mind in order to control their behavior.

It takes sensitive awareness to remain connected to and responsible for the way our actions impact other people and all life. There are those who do not “know” on an emotionally responsible level how their behavior negatively impacts themselves and others. That is how we distinguish when people have emotionally awakened: when we see they are no longer blind to their impact on others. They begin seeing themselves in other people and other forms of life, and caring for them, to lead with their heart and change their negative, hurtful actions.

Your emotional freedom lies in courageously forgiving what you think would have or could have been different because someone should have “known better.” You wrap your heart around the truth, if the people who hurt you were actually connected to and responsible for the emotional consequences of their actions, they would not behave as they do.

Forgiving others is not about condoning what happened or wanting other people to admit their sins and repent. Forgiving is redirecting your focus from how other people need to change to how you can change. You choose to move beyond your ego’s desire for revenge to the heart awareness regardless of what other people do to hurt you, it is releasing them from your present life that sets you free.

Forgiving also does not mean you must forget the hurt. It does not mean you have to reconcile with those who hurt you. Forgiveness is intentionally choosing to release the control “what happened” has over you. It means, instead of approaching them with a “you should know better attitude,” you seek higher, heart directed ways to effectively communicate, interact and set boundaries with them. Forgiveness is taking your power back by being in charge of what happens to you now and how you are creating the best life in the present.  Forgiveness is assuming emotional responsibility for doing better than those who hurt you because, you do know better.

Download my FREE guide on how to forgive here –