Life is a Jigsaw Puzzle

Original photo by Darlene Franklin-Campbell, 2021

When I was a kid, my mom and I spent hours putting together jigsaw puzzles. I got pretty good at it. This week I put a puzzle together and as I did, I had a Forrest Gump’s Momma kind of moment, but instead of thinking that life is like a box of chocolates, I thought, “Life is like a jigsaw puzzle.”

WE PUT IT TOGETHER WITHOUT A BOX LID TO GUIDE US

Except we don’t get to look at the picture on the the box, because we left it somewhere. And we can’t remember where. We are aware that it had an image on it, but we can’t remember exactly what it looked like. The nuances escape us. We may have some idea that it was a garden or a yellow cat or whatever, but we don’t have the exact image to go by, just some vague memory.

So, we look at the pieces in front of us and try to fit them together. Sometimes, the colors, shapes and patterns match up perfectly and sometimes, they don’t. Often, we’re like nine-year-old children, trying to cram pieces together that don’t really go together and then we get mad because our picture isn’t unfolding in a way that makes sense to us.

It’s not impossible to put the puzzle together without the complete picture to guide us. I have done that a time or two. It just takes quite a bit of slowing down the mind and allowing intuition to come into play, paying attention to those subtle variations in colors, sizes, patterns, and shapes of the pieces. I mean you must analyze every piece in relation to the last piece you put down and the surrounding pieces. When we do this, without trying to force the pieces together to create the immediate results that we want, we soon see a true picture unfolding and each time we fit one piece with another that naturally goes with it, we feel a small sense of exhilaration and triumph.

WE HAVE AMNESIA AND LEFT IT SOMEWHERE.

We sort of come into this world with spiritual amnesia and the older we get, the longer we go without a view of the “box lid,” the less we remember. We start listening to other people tell us how we’re supposed to be and what the picture of our lives are supposed to look like. We start trying to fit the pieces into place according to what others say, but here’s the thing. They lost their box lids, too, and most don’t even know what their own puzzles are supposed to look like, let alone yours! So, they try to tell you how to put your puzzle together based on what they think theirs are maybe, possibly, supposed to be. It doesn’t work. It leads to frustration and to anger. Some people get so mad that you’re not putting your puzzle together like they think it ought to be that they try to force you, even hurt you. Some go so far in their need to control as to destroy another person’s puzzle. They may try to control you, trick you, manipulate you, intimidate you, threaten you—all because it unnerves them that they might not actually be the master puzzle solvers they have believed themselves to be. They might get so fearful that somehow it is going to hurt them if they allow you to put your own puzzle together. They might also get afraid someone else is going to damage their puzzles or steal their pieces, so they set up a guard and vehemently guard their puzzles, not allowing anyone in who doesn’t follow their prescribed rules for solving puzzles. Others scream at you and tell you how bad you are because your picture isn’t looking like the way they think it’s supposed to look.

Sometimes, we feel horrible about ourselves, and we think that somehow, we’re just not good at putting our puzzles together and that there is something wrong with our brains or our hearts or that we are just not “good people.” We walk around feeling guilty and unworthy because we aren’t putting our puzzles together to please others, or we compared our puzzles to theirs and ours looks smaller or duller or more jumbled. We go to the puzzle “experts”, and they tell us how to put our puzzles together. But guess what? They don’t have the box lid to our puzzles either!

So, what do we do?

WE CALL THE PUZZLE-MAKER

Imagine that you know that the original creator of your puzzle and that this creator knows exactly where each piece goes. This puzzle-maker comes and whispers in your ear as you put your puzzle together and tells you which piece to pick up and how to turn it and points to the exact place where it goes. There is no stress on you. Your struggle ceases. The only way you can go back to feeling stressed, guilty, fearful, chaotic, etc. is to resist the help being offered to you, if you ignore the puzzle-maker’s instructions.

I will interject here that sometimes well-meaning people will come along and point out to you that you are in error, because the instructions you’re receiving from the puzzle-maker aren’t the same as what they think is right, so they want to remind you that there’s something wrong with your hearing and they offer their services to translate for you and tell you that you should follow their instructions as they are clearly more qualified to talk to Puzzle-Maker than you, but they’re not, because Puzzle-Maker talks to them about their puzzles and to you about yours.

So, if we trust the puzzle-maker and stop listening to everyone else, we find that we are not only putting our puzzle together almost effortlessly, without relentlessly struggling to jam together pieces that don’t belong together, we’re also having a wonderful time trusting and getting to know the puzzle-maker.

Each person’s life is a unique puzzle that is only finished when we leave our earth bodies. It doesn’t matter if anyone else in the world can see that our picture is unfolding as it should or if they can see the complete picture when we’re done. It’s not their job to see it. It’s not even ours. It’s simply our job to put our puzzle together and we can either do it without guidance, guessing our way through or we can listen to the soft guiding voice of the puzzle-maker.

TRUST THAT THE PIECES WILL COME TOGETHER

I believe that everything in my life is working out for my good, for my highest benefit, so long as I don’t get impatient and try to force the pieces together before the Puzzle-Master tells me where to put them. People can say whatever they want, do whatever they want but as for me, I will follow my internal spiritual guidance system. I paraphrase what King David of Israel once said of his puzzle-maker, “What you say, your word, is a lamp that lights my path.”  There are times when I don’t know exactly what I should wish for or ask for or which way to go, but if I wait, the answer comes. The indwelling I Am in me helps me with this weakness, asking for things so wonderful and deep that my natural mind hasn’t caught up just yet and it’s not even possible for me to speak or write those deepest desires with ordinary speech. Still, they are there and if I only follow the gentle guiding of my puzzle-maker, the whole picture unfolds, a piece at a time.

So, each of us has our own life path to walk, our own puzzle to complete. The puzzle-maker is constantly whispering to us “This piece goes here,” or “no, not there. Not yet.” It’s up to us to choose whether to listen and trust enough to follow the puzzle-maker’s guidance or not. There is never any force involved. If there is force, it’s not the puzzle-maker doing the forcing, it’s another person without a box lid, another person who can’t see the big, eternal picture. If we listen to those Spirit whispers and obey them, our life-puzzles go together so much easier.

As for me, I will live my life trusting the puzzle-maker to guide me in putting every piece into its proper place. If that brings people into my life, great. If that causes some people to walk out, it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them, or love them, it just means that my highest call is not to complete their puzzles, it’s to complete mine.

WHAT’S IN THE NAME OF GOD?

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My legal name is Darlene Campbell, but I have a tribal name, too. I have a sacred name that is known only to Creator. I have family nicknames and other nicknames from differing friends. I have a pen name. I have several forum names for various online interactions. I am sometimes called “Teacher” by my students or even “Ma’am” or “Miss” by people who don’t know me well, but so long as I know someone is talking to “me” I answer. The essence of who I am doesn’t change based on the title someone uses to identify me. I am always—me. Sometimes, I’m given titles by people based on a perceived image of me, whether accurate or inaccurate, it is their perception of me and doesn’t really change who I actually am, because I am more than any one title that is used to describe me. Just as being called different names by different people doesn’t change the essential essence of who we are, giving God many names does not alter the Creator’s character or essence. That is consistent and enduring.

Father. Daddy.

We often read and see the Bible through Euro-centric lens that has been colored for centuries by interpretations from various religious groups and denominations, stemming from European cultures dating all the way back to the birth of the Catholic Church, but the truth is that the Old Testament was written by Hebrews coming from an ancient Jewish culture, worldview and understanding. The New Testament was also written in the context of Jewish culture, albeit, under Roman laws.

According to Rabbi Laze Gurkow in his article, The Jewish Father, in ancient Israel, census records recorded who the father was in Jewish families. It was usually obvious who the mother was. She was the one who carried the child in her body for nine months, but the father wasn’t so obvious, in the days of Moses, the women in the Egyptian culture tended to be more promiscuous than Hebrew women (just check out the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. She was NOT an exemption to her culture.) so the Hebrew fathers legally claimed their children so that the children could receive their inheritances or birthrights.

The Hebrew father’s role was to protect and provide. The Jewish father was a source of provision and protection for his family. If he didn’t provide for his family, he was not a good father, not a good source. It doesn’t matter who agrees or disagrees with that distinction now. It was simply the culture in which they lived, so the Bible (for the most part) was written by Hebrews, coming from a Hebrew culture, which was patriarchal, and it was written through life viewed through a Hebrew lens, but eternal truths remain the same, regardless of the culture by which they are framed.  So, God was called “Father” because God is the source of all provisions.   

In the New Testament, still coming from a Hebrew mindset but written in Greek, both Paul and Jesus refer to God as Abba, which basically means—a personal, loving provider or as we might say in modern American English—Daddy or Papa. It implies not only provision and protection but compassion and affection.

MOTHER. NUTURER.

The phrase “El Shaddai” is used sometimes in the Old Testament. El is a generic word for “god” just any god. But when put with Shaddai (which literally means breasts) it denotes a sense of nurture, loving kindness, and the source of all life. It denotes a mother-relationship, an abiding, Momma Bear kind of love. Some people translate this as Almighty One again, but in various forms of El that are used to describe Creator, we see a kind, loving, nurturing nature that runs after us with a love that will, as Michael W. Smith sings, kick down walls, tear down lies and go to any lengths to come to our aid.  El Shaddi is for us and not against us. The term denotes a love that endures all things, bears all things, is not ego-inflated, but looks out for our best interests, a love that wants us to become all we are meant to be just as a good mother will do anything to protect her children. It denotes a “giver and guardian.”

THE FATHER.

Sometimes the words “The Father” are used in the Bible because it is referring to God as the originator of all things in the same way that we might say, “George Washington is the Father of America.” Well, of course he’s not. He did not literally sire, provide for and protect every person ever born or adopted as an American citizen, but we associate him with the origin of the country.

GOD.

The term “God” as we say it today in English comes from a number of Germanic languages of Europe and was used long before Christianity was introduced. It was used by ancient Germanic peoples (including the Norse who also used the term The All Father) to denote any number of deities or energies or spirts that presided over certain aspects of their lives. It wasn’t until Christianity spread throughout Europe that the god became the one God, denoting supremacy over other gods.

I AM.

Until Judaism left Israel and became a dominant belief system in their known world, the Hebrews used the terms Yahweh (YHWH)The vowels were added by the Masoretes between the 6th and 10th centuries A.D.  And it was the Masoretes who translated Yaweh as Jehovah or sometimes Iehovah because the Latin they used did not have a “Y” in it, so they substituted. YHWH meant “CREATOR.” Or “I Am,” sometimes translated as the Eternal One or All-Sufficient One or Self-Existent (hmmm…that’s I Am, again!) In Exodus 3: 14 when Moses asked who he should tell the people had sent him back to Egypt, the voice from the burning bush answered that he should tell them, “I AM THAT I AM” has sent you. Some versions of the story translate this as “I AM WHO I AM.” But the connotations are: Whatever you need—I AM. I Am is the source of all we need.  

Other words would be added to Yaweh (or Jehovah) to emphasize that there is no limit to the Eternal Source of Existence, the Creator of all.  Take a look at a few of these.

Yahweh Yireh—I Am— Your Provider

Yahhweh Rapha—I Am—Your Healer

Yahweh Nissa—I Am—Your Banner (only used once in the Old Testament to signify a flag carried into battle which identified the warriors. So, it could be used as I Am your Identity or Defense.)

Yahweh Tsidkenu—I Am—Your Righteousness

I AM reminds me that all we need is already within us if we just relax into I AM and trust I AM then WE ARE whatever we need to be and WE HAVE whatever we need to have and WE CAN do whatever needs to be done because there IS NO LIMIT to the supply, the abundance or the power that is working in us and through us. The same spirit (energy from I AM) that parted the Red Sea lives in us. The same power (energy) that raised the dead and healed the sick, lives in us. All that we need to bring into the physical realm, all abundance, and peace, and joy, and strength, and understanding—already exists in the non-physical realm. I call it the Spirit World. Some people call it Kingdom of Heaven. Some call it Glory. Whatever term you prefer, it is that place of abundant existence were the laws of spirit supersede the laws of the physical universe. It’s the place outside this bubble of time-space reality, this temporal zone. It’s Eternal Existence and it’s where we abide once we exit our bodies, make our transitions from physical to pure spirit, where there are no tears because we know as we are known and understand all things.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, After the Babylonian Exile (6th century BCE), and especially from the 3rd century BCE on, Jews ceased to use the name Yahweh for two reasons. As Judaism became a universal rather than merely a local religion, the more common Hebrew noun Elohim (plural in form but understood in the singular), meaning “God,” tended to replace Yahweh to demonstrate the universal sovereignty of Israel’s God over all others. At the same time, the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered; it was thus replaced vocally in the synagogue ritual by the Hebrew word Adonai (“My Lord”), which was translated as Kyrios (“Lord”) in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures.”

Elohim basically translates as Creator. It is often used in other forms to show aspects of Creator’s ability to meet every need in our lives. According to the Hebrew incarnations of Elohim, Creator, is our healer, our provider, our source, our strength, our nurturer, and everything else we need.

NO MATTER THE NAME.

Regardless of what title you choose to give God—the character of the YeHOvah/Yahweh/Elohim never changes; the Spirit remains the same. If I, a being with partial spiritual amnesia in a limited physical body with limited understanding, can figure out who you’re talking to, regardless of which title you use when you talk to me, surely the Great Spirit and Creator of the universe can do so even better. If you know God, then you know God, no matter what name you use, because you know the heart and character. “Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD (YeHOvah–I AM) who formed it and established it, the LORD is his name. Call to Me, and I will answer and show you great and mighty things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:2-3 NKJV)

*the word used here translates from YAHWEH, YeHOvah, the Self-Existing (I Am), Eternal. (see blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h3068/kjv/wlc/0-1/)

https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/896251/jewish/The-Jewish-Father.htm

https://www.etymonline.com/word/god

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Yahweh

https://www.scripturalgrace.com/post/yahweh-yireh-the-lord-will-provide-biblical-meaning-praying-the-names-of-god

https://www.hebrew4christians.com/Names_of_G-d/Elohim/elohim.html

It’s Not Out There

“NOBODY GETS ME,” I told myself that for years. I looked for a true friend, a real kindred spirit. Finally, I get it. It’s not anyone else’s job to “get me.” It’s mine. Their job is to get themselves!

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The Apostle Paul once said that he had learned to be content whether he found himself in circumstances of plenty or in circumstances of scarcity. The New Testament was originally written in Greek and the word used here was autarkhj; according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance it meant, “Sufficient for oneself, strong enough or processing enough to need no aid or support
independent of external circumstances contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest.”
And one of the English definitions for content is blissful happiness or a perpetual state of joy. So, what Paul was saying is that he had learned to be happy–independent of the circumstances around him. He had learned a secret. Happiness, true happiness, is not dictated by anything outside us.

IF IT’S NOT out there then where is it?

You may say, “But if he knew what I had to put up with” or if “if he knew what I was going through” he wouldn’t be so quick to say that. Here’s the thing. Nobody else ever has gone through exactly what you are going through because you are the only you that has faced your unique life with it’s unique attributes. Each of us have our own path to walk. Nobody can walk it for us. One thing I realized when my dad died and I was with him as he came to the time to make his transition into pure spirit was that no matter how much handholding I did, no matter how many times I told him that I loved him, when it was all said and done, he had to make that final step by himself. It was his life and his crossing, not mine. We all begin our temporal journeys as individuals, and we all end them as individuals. Yet, somewhere along the way, we begin to think that happiness lies somewhere outside of ourselves. We start to look for someone or something else to “fix” the things that we don’t like about our lives.

Some people look for fulfillment in the things they can acquire, in fame, in success, in popularity, in money, in appearance, in social media friends, in relationships and likes and shares. Yet, it’s not there and they are left feeling there is something “missing,” something “more.” And there is, but it’s not in the places they’re looking. Like that old song says, they are “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

THE ONLY PLACE true happiness is found is in alignment with the Almighty Source of the Universe. When you line up with the plan meant especially for you, then you find inner peace, fulfillment, purpose; that is happiness. You realize that you can be happy with or without others and that what really makes you happy is doing what brings you peace in your heart. You have to get in touch with who you are inside, your spirit. And your spirit is connected to the Great Spirit, the Almighty Source of life. You discover that you don’t need as much validation and you’re not moved as much by criticism as you once were. Suddenly, you feel you have nothing to prove to anyone, no need to struggle.

WHEN YOU ARE in line with God, you don’t need others to perform or behave a certain way. You get that their journeys are different than yours and that your walk is your walk and you have no need to control them or make them behave the way you want them to. You learn to let God take care of them. You gain peace in your heart that comes from walking your personal God-given path.

If there is a personal struggle involved in the path you are walking, and you constantly feel an internal tug-of-war, there is resistance involved, which means you and God are in disagreement about the way you’re going, about the path you’re choosing. As long as you have internal resistance, you won’t have peace.

“NOBODY GETS ME,” I told myself that for years. I looked for a true friend, a real kindred spirit. Finally, I get it. It’s not anyone else’s job to “get me.” It’s mine. Their job is to get themselves!

Happiness is not “out there” somewhere. Peace is not out there somewhere. It’s not dependent upon the right circumstances. My attitude has the power to change my circumstances. Nothing else does. I don’t need to wait for the perfect conditions to be the person I’m meant to be.

Just before I started writing this blog post, an ad popped up on my FaceBook page with a handsome man’s face, promising to help me find my “special someone.” But guess what? My special someone is the spirit within. No one else can complete me. I’m not half a person. I’m a whole person already.

When you cultivate a relationship with Almighty Source and are spirit-led, you don’t need to be with someone else to feel complete. You are happy with others and you’re happy alone. If you have an attitude of gratitude everyday and refuse to let the fear that the news media and the negativity of drama drag you down, if you wake up each day and say a prayer of thankfulness and allow yourself to find joy in your daydreams whether they are logically possible or not, then I promise you, you will begin to see “good” in your world and things will change. One of my favorite Wayne Dyer quotes is, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

NO ONE CAN ever see life through anyone else’s eyes. If we try to force others to see life through our eyes, we are just wasting our time. We become cynical, judgmental and bitter. However, we live with gratitude, appreciation, joy, and love, then others will see our light and maybe, they will realize they are light, too, and they will begin to shine.

It’s not our job to go around judging another’s perception of life. It’s our job to live ours. It’s not our job to judge. Jesus said that if we judge, we bring judgement on ourselves. Who am I to tell you how to live your life? That’s between you and God. Only YOU know what brings peace and alignment in your life. I’m only responsible to travel my own journey.

I finally understand what unconditional love really is. It doesn’t mean to look at a horrible condition and love the horrible condition, but it means to walk a life that is in line with God’s perfect plan for you. That’s where happiness is found. That’s where peace is at.

Finally, when you decide to listen to the still, small voice within you, to examine your own heart and learn to identify those things that bring you out of alignment with God, out of peace, those things that cause you inner conflict, guilt, confusion and turmoil. When you learn to withdraw from those things if necessary, then you are walking in unconditional love because you aren’t being guided by religious rules, by someone else’s prescription for your life or by the standards of the world’s idea of success but you are truly being spirit-led and that is where happiness is found.

SO STOP TRYING to make things happen, stop the struggle. Make your requests known to God then feel happy and confident that they are as good as done and listen to your inner guidance system which is the peace of God. Let inner peace be your navigator through life. If you’re having to look over your shoulder all the time, if you have knots in your stomach on a daily basis, if you’re constantly sighing and feel a sense of dread, even about things you like, then maybe it’s time to examine what you’re doing that is throwing your inner peace out of whack.

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Hope.

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Darlene Franklin-Campbell, August 31, 2021

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that it’s only in the darkness that we can see the stars. So, the darker the night, the more obvious a star. A literal translation of that for those not so metaphorically inclined is that it’s only in a troubled time, a dire situation, the face of discouragement, that we really notice hope. If all things are going smoothly then we don’t have to exercise hope so much. But hope is that which breaks through our darkness. As Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

Once I went to Mammoth Cave. The tour guide turned out the lights. The darkness was the darkest dark I had ever seen. Then she turned on her flashlight and everywhere that single light source touched was lit. No matter how dark a place is, just one small light, so long as it shines, makes a difference in whether you walk with sure footing or you fall into a crevice. Never underestimate the power of a light, no matter how small it may seem.

Over the past two years, we’ve been bombarded with images of darkness (metaphorically speaking). The news has been filled with disease, plagues, floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, war, threats of more wars, possibly biological warfare (I know the jury is still out on that one) riots, political unrest, upheaval in every realm imaginable; mayhem, death, destruction, despair and discouragement, but but whenever I go out at night, the first thing I notice is the stars, the light. If it is raining or cloudy, then I notice every porch light or every glimmer of the moon that lightens the clouds. Light is energy and it always finds a way to get through, even if it’s just through cracks or around the edges of a shade. One sliver of light drives away the darkest dark. So, I’d like to focus on a few slivers of light, of hope.

Hope is free. It is no respecter of persons. Hope doesn’t care where you come from or what shade of fleshly vehicle you’re driving through your life on earth. Hope is an equal opportunity encourager. Hope is not bound to geographic regions, not stopped by prison walls, not squelched by floods or burned away by fires. Hope is not buried in landslides. Hope, the earnest expectation of what is to come, is unstoppable so long as we refuse to let go of it. Even in death, if we leave this world in hope, refusing to let go of it, we leave a light for others. I believe we are eternal, spiritual beings. You can’t kill a spirit. You can’t kill an eternal being. You can only destroy the body that houses it. Hope is the flower pushing its way up through a crack in life’s sidewalk.

We can each be a source of hope to others and since in the Laws of the Spiritual Universe, we are all connected, each time we offer hope to others, we receive it back to ourselves as well.

How can we be a source of hope? Here’s a few examples:

*A man on my street just mowed his sick neighbor’s yard–no charge.

He didn’t ask what political party the neighbor belonged to or whether or not he was vaccinated. He was a source of hope, not judgement.

*A woman just bought groceries and dropped them off at a sick person’s house.

She didn’t say, “Pay me back for my trouble.” She was a source of hope, not racking up an account on a covert contract.

A nurse in a COVID unit just helped a patient charge his Ipad so he could FaceTime his family.

Even though it wasn’t the reason she was in his room. She went above and beyond her pay. Her kindness was a ray of sunshine, a beam of hope.

A man walking his dog past an emergency room door, stopped to cheer up a woman whose husband was inside with a possible pulmonary ambulism. She waited outside, not allowed in the hospital and uninformed of her husband’s condition.

He didn’t care that she was from a different cultural background. He was an example of human kindness, a ray of hope.

A boss just gave an employee extra time off because her father was ill and she wanted to be with him.

She didn’t complain about someone else having to work extra hours. She showed compassion and empathy, a ray of hope.

A lady in the checkout line just told the boy behind the counter that she appreciated his work ethic and thanked him for showing up to do a job that keeps the country running.

She didn’t complain about having to wait a little longer in line than she usually likes to wait. She offered encouragement, another ray of hope.

A lady in North Carolina just said a prayer for a young man from her hometown who is being flown to Afghanistan.

It didn’t matter that he isn’t her own son. She showed compassion–hope.

A church group of volunteers just set up a free food day in their parking lot to help feed their community.

They didn’t ask for proof of citizenship, vaccination or income. They just fed people and offered them hope.

A young Black girl just celebrated her 13th birthday with her White mother and grandmother, Black grandmother and boyfriend and White cousins who are like brothers to her.

Nobody even mentioned skin tones. They just laughed and loved and played together because they’re family and they all gave her words of a hopeful future, many birthdays to come.

A teacher just spend half the summer setting up her classroom for the students that are coming back. She prayed over every chair and the child that would sit in each seat. She planned her bulletin boards and hung posters and curtains and prepared record books and on and on and on…even ordered hermit crabs and fish, because she loves her kids and wants them to have the best experience possible at school.

She was only given $200 in funding to prepare her classroom. She spent $500.00 and school hasn’t even started. So, most of it came from her own purse. She can only get tax credit on $200 out of pocket expense. She will spend a lot more before the year is out. But she does it in hope that her kids will learn and know that they are loved. For some kids, a teacher is the only rare of love and hope they see.

The good is all around us. The light is shining. Perhaps today you can think of someone who has given you hope or some sign of hope that came to you when all seemed to be sinking around you. And maybe, you are also a ray of hope to someone else. We need each other. The darkness would have us divided over issues and policies, but hope reminds us that we are all great spiritual beings and this life on earth is better if we see each other that way. Not one of us can actually see what’s inside another person’s heart and not one of us knows what miracles a single act of kindness can set in motion because that act has restored hope or perhaps awakened it for the first time in someone’s life.

……………………

Lesson from a Chandelier

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Think of this.

If I clean my chandelier because my aunt is coming and I’m afraid she’ll criticize my housekeeping, or say something like, “I don’t know why I even gave you that chandelier. You never clean it. You don’t appreciate the things I give you,” then why am I cleaning it?

Yes.

Fear of guilt.

Fear of criticism.

Either way, it’s still fear.

If I’m doing it out of fear of being criticized and/or guilted, I become prone to being critical of her criticisms and guilting. I become hyper aware of the criticisms and therefore the thing I fear becomes reality.

If I clean the chandelier because my friends are coming over, and I am seeking their adoration and admiration, then why I am doing it?

Could it be out of fear of not being special?

Maybe it’s of not having some sort of prestige and power in my circle.

Hence, in a sense I’m doing it out of pride. But what is pride? I mean what is it, really?

I think maybe pride is ultimately the fear of looking bad or not being “special” enough. Pride is the need to feel superior to others in some way. In today’s culture, we could call it a streak of narcissism. Narcissism, either overt or covert, is basically–fear of being unimportant, of not being “enough.”

If I clean it because I’m worried that there are germs living on the chandelier and I might get sick, then I am also doing it out of a fear of dying.

But what if I clean it because it makes me happy to see light shining through clear, clean glass?

What if I truly appreciate the clear crystal and shimmer?

What if I clean the chandelier just because I personally love a clean chandelier, kind of how I love to hang prisms in the windows and see rainbows all over the floor?

Then I am no longer cleaning it out of fear.

Now, I’m cleaning it out of appreciation.

And somehow, I feel joy in the cleaning. It’s the same amount of work, but it doesn’t “feel” like work. It feels peaceful, because I’m thinking about how beautiful it will look when I’m done. I’m thinking of how much pleasure I will feel when I look at it. It is no longer a menial task but a labor of love and an act of creating. I’m envisioning the pure light shining through the clear glass and I get happy thinking about it.

If I clean it because I think I have to do it, because I’m afraid of being criticized or guilted or not being special or of germs, then there is no joy for me in the act of cleaning it and the act feels like a burden.

It feels like work.

Obviously, this post isn’t really about cleaning chandeliers. It’s about motivations.

Sometimes, it’s in examining why we do the little things, like cleaning a chandelier, that we discover our reasons for doing bigger things and in making these discoveries, the little things in our lives become the big things. I will henceforth find myself asking, “Why are you really doing this?”

LIAR

words and music by Zach Williams

“For God (the Great Spirit, the Almighty Source, the Ultimate Power, the I Am, the unconditional, unmerited, unearnable acceptance known as LOVE) has not given you a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:17

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
You’ll never be enough

Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear, he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear, he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never changeOh, fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath

Stop you in your steps
Fear, he is a liar
He will rob your rest

Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear, he is a liar

Let your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let your fire fall, your love is all I feel
Let your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let your fire fall, your love is all I feel

Let your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let your fire fall, your love is all I feel
Oh, let your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let your fire fall, your love is all I feelOh, fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear, he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear, he is a liar’Cause fear, he is a
liar


Fear not for I am with you says the Lord. Do not be discouraged. I am your God. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you (lift you up) with my righteous (almighty knowledge of what is good and best) right hand (my limitless power and ability)” Isaiah 41:10

No matter what you face, remember that you are not alone. Right now, many people are hurting and many people are afraid but there is a LOVE in this universe that supersedes everything and that LOVE is a living entity that gives life to all things and connects us. That LOVE is an ALMIGHTY SPIRIT and that spirit resides in all who reach out and believe. That is the same SPIRIT that Jesus talked about, that same SPIRIT can restore us, heal us and remind us that we, too, are SPIRIT. The real me is not the body I live in. My body is just a vehicle with which to travel in the mortal realm. My gender, my culture, my ethnicity, my epidermal melanin concentration, my height, weight, age nor any other facet of my flesh and blood existence on this earth, is the real me. The spirit of me is the real me and I pray that I see past the flesh of others and see them as an extension of the Great Spirit. The real me is an eternal great spiritual being and the laws of the Spiritual Universe override the laws of the physical universe. What can separate us from the LOVE of God, that same LOVE that resides in Jesus Christ? The same LOVE (Spirit) that performed miracles? Nothing. Right now, if you are hurting, if your loved one is sick, if you are facing financial difficulties, if you are hungry, if you are homeless, if you are facing a disease yourself, if you are being bullied, if you are being threatened, if you feel you have to perform to be lovable or that your beauty makes you worthy, if you are feeling worthless or guilty over something you did or didn’t do, accept my “spiritual” hug and know this…you are loved. You are accepted. You are valuable beyond all words to describe and you are a beautiful spiritual being. Don’t let the lies of this world darken you to the truth of who you are, of what you are. Believe that you are an extension of Almighty Love, because you are. The Great Spirit of Love holds nothing against you…nothing. We are enough because of who we are. We just have to know who we are so we can believe it to be true.

Love, Love, Love…that’s all there is. Nothing else is real.

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

In my story, Looking for Pork Chop McQuade, Cupcake has spent her whole life taking care of others, putting her needs last, pushing her dreams to the side, making herself “dimmer” so that those around her can feel “brighter.” How many of us do that in real life? I’d wager, many of us. In my newest work in progress, Anna spent her life believing she was insignificant until a chance encounter with someone from a dimension where the only law is love, turns her world upside down. What if we realized that there is one great law in the universe that supersedes all others, and that law is the law of love?

I’ve noticed a lot of fear around me lately, fear of COVID, fear of the government, fear of the vaccine, fear of control, fear of hunger, fear of losing jobs, fear of…well, just fear of fear. But what exactly is fear?

Perhaps fear is what we experience when we take our eyes off what we want for our lives, even if it’s momentary and put them on what we don’t want. We don’t have to stay there. We can move past it. Perhaps the ultimate fear is the fear of death but what if we realize that the only way out of this life is dying and that sooner or later, we’re all going to do that anyway. It’s the only way out of this realm unless a miracle transformation happens and whisks us all out of here. So, is that the fear? death? Seems like the Apostle Paul once said, “Oh grave where is your victory? Oh, death where is your sting?” Fear is the only sting it has and fear keeps us in bondage, keeps us from being the people we were created to be.  I’ve heard it said, that we aren’t humans having a spiritual experience from time to time. We are SPIRITS having a human experience for a short span in the expanse of forever. What happens to us in this life is brief. Even if we lived to be 150 years old, our time in this mortal realm is still short. Truthfully, nature abhors a vacuum and fear is what fills the void when love leaves the room. Fear is the absence of love. The moment you let love back in the door, fear is gone. It dissipates like water vapor in a desert.

I know I talk about fear and love a great deal, but I am convinced with everything inside me that there is basically nothing else in life as important as understanding who we are, what we are and where we came from and to grasp those basic spiritual concepts of what it means to be alive, we must realize that the ONLY things that matter are fear and love. Ultimately, LOVE is the only thing that matters. The only one. Also, please realize that when I speak of love, I speak of something far, far greater than “romance.” Romance was invented to sell novels, candy, and Valentine’s Day cards. It’s not even necessary to procreate. I suppose it’s just fun but then it leads to this feeling of possession which stems from fear of losing someone which is stems from a lack of love. Jealousy is NOT a sign of love. Jealousy is a sign of the erroneous belief that you have power and control over another human being and that you somehow think you possess them. Love never possesses. It always liberates. Fear possesses and creates bondage. The old saying, “If you love something, set it free,” is true.

So, again I say, there are only two motivations for every act on earth: fear and love. Whatever is not done because of love is done because of fear and vice versa. What so many of us don’t get is that we must FIRST LOVE OURSELVES. That means we must accept ourselves as valuable and of great eternal worth. Jesus didn’t say “Love your neighbor but treat yourself like a doormat.” No. He said, “Love your neighbor AS yourself.” In other words, you also MUST LOVE YOURSELF! If we don’t first love ourselves, we have no hope of truly loving others and we will spend our lives doing things out of guilt, out of fear that someone will get angry with us and out of fear of not being accepted. Yep, there’s that fear again.

So, love yourself like your life depends on it because it does. It’s both simple and hard. We think we fear is a thing, but it isn’t. It’s only what exists when there is no love. We create fear by removing love. I’m going to quote the Bible here. The Apostle John tells us that “God IS love. And everyone that is born of God is born of love and he that does not love does not know God.” Notice that he doesn’t say, “God has love.” No! He says, “God IS love.” You can literally substitute the word “is” with an = sign! I make this point to say that we all come from God, so we all come from love. We are born knowing that we are loved. We come from love and when we die, we return to love. It’s while we are here that we forget what we are.

It is important to remember that we are loved and to love ourselves because when you don’t love yourself you believe everyone else is better and that their message is better than yours. How often do we make ourselves small so others can be big? We dim our lights so that others can feel brighter because we’ve bought into the lie that some of us are less important than others. We’re not. We say yes when we mean no because it’s easier to disappoint ourselves than others. We are facets of God, all of us. If we don’t love ourselves, we don’t allow ourselves to express who we are. We are not allowing a facet of God to express itself through us. Our purpose for being here is to love. You don’t have the right not to love ourselves. We must love ourselves. What is love? Love is sincere acceptance and appreciation of who someone really is and that includes yourself.

Everyday, all around us, people are hurting. We are all connected and if you are constantly needy and in search of validation and approval, if you have a big hole in your life that no amount of praise or validation can’t fill, you bring others down. But if you love yourself and are joyful, happy and fulfilled, then others want to be around you. People who are sick can sense your energy, by the way, and the last thing a sick person needs is negativity around them. Negativity is when you have this black hole that just sucks other people’s energy to try to make yourself feel better but it never works. The only way to fill that hole is to realize that you are loved by your creator, that you are a part of this marvelous universe, that you have worth and you can never get

Loving yourself is a form of being selfless to the people around you. Wherever you go, you bring yourself with you. Your presence is what changes your surroundings. If you bring a needy self, that is what you put out into the world. You are doing a service to the world when you love yourself. This is what shining your light means. I leave off today with this thought, “Love yourself as you love your neighbor.” Accept yourself as work of the Almighty, as an extension of pure love. We don’t have love. We are love and unless we live knowing that we are made of love, come from love and are love, we are living a lie. Love is the only truth, and it is this truth that sets us free to be lights in this world. Be the light. Love yourself.

Looking for Pork Chop McQuade

Straddled with a ridiculous name that has caused her a lifetime of grief, Cupcake McQuade has spent her whole life taking care of other people. In fact, she has been so concerned about others that she doesn’t really know who she is, but she knows one thing–she loves Bob “Pork Chop” McQuade, a conspiracy theorist whose life is going nowhere. Despite the fact that Bob is disliked by—everybody. Cupcake has always seen the “good” in him, even condoning his eccentricities and supporting his devotion to a group of conspiracy theorists, but when Bob becomes a missing person, she fears his conspiracies may be true and reluctantly accepts help from guilt-laden Sheriff Daniel Ransom. When the two of them take to the trail to discover Bob’s fate, they discover truths they’re not prepared to accept.

Buy online

A Snippet from my WIP

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

“John sought stability,” I said. “He liked to eat, and he liked his life to be predictable and ordinary and he built his entire world around me. I didn’t always appreciate him, you know.”

Azariah said, “Sometimes you wanted more?”

“Yes, sometimes I wanted more. I just felt so trapped. I blamed John, but it wasn’t John. It was just me. I’ve spent my life feeling like there had to be more to life than just living and dying and not really making a dent in the way things are, and just going the way of the grave like all my ancestors had done before me. I have felt out of place every day for as long as I can remember, like I didn’t belong to anyone or any group. Don’t get me wrong. My parents were great, but there was always something missing in my life.

“I got married way too young, like a lot of Kentucky girls did back in the day. I gave my life to someone else before I even knew what life was all about and I ended up often resenting John because I felt trapped. I couldn’t leave him because he had nobody else and I didn’t want to hurt him, but I daydreamed about my freedom.

“He used to go to town and while he was gone, I would think about what if he didn’t come back. I would think about all the things I would do if I didn’t have anybody to always have to answer to. Then one day he went out to buy a gallon of milk and he didn’t come back. He had a heart attack in the grocery store parking lot.”

I choked back my tears. “I will never forget that day. I had been fussing at him that morning about all of his junk in the basement and I didn’t even want to give him a kiss when he left that day, but I did anyway, reluctantly. He said he loved me and I mumbled that I loved him, too, but in my heart I was angry at him and I just wanted him to go away for a little while and to stop always being here, always telling me what I needed to do, and telling me the time and the temperature and what the neighbors were doing and stop complaining about all the little things that didn’t suit him, and I wanted all of his clutter and junk to be gone. Then he died and I…” I was crying now. “I felt like I was a monster.”

Azariah stopped doodling and came over to me. “Anna…”

“I missed him,” I said. “I wanted to be rid of him but when he was really gone, I missed him so much. All the junk I hated is still in the basement. I couldn’t find it in my heart to get rid of it. All of the stupid little things he used to nag me about, I missed and all the big things I planned to do if I ever got the chance, I never got to do anyway.”

Azariah put his arms around me. “Anna,” he said again, “you live in a broken world with twisted rules and people who are blind to what they are or how they’re supposed to be. You are not a monster. You are not horrible. You are as Jane says, human….”

***the manuscript is “out there” floating around to agents and publishers and I hope that SOON someone will say a big fat YES to it:)

Parable of a Butterfly

“Love makes us brave and gives us faith. Fear makes us selfish….”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Several years ago a little girl caught a small green caterpillar and placed it in a jar. She fed the caterpillar Queen Anne’s Lace leaves daily and watched as the caterpillar grew fatter and fatter, then one day she was surprised to find a chrysalis in the jar. She placed the jar in a safe place and put a damp cotton ball in there. One morning she woke up to find a beautiful yellow swallowtail flitting around in the jar, trying desperately to fly. Her mother told her that she needed to set the creature free so it could use its wings and do what it was created to do, but the little girl exclaimed, “It’s mine. I raised it from a caterpillar. I took care of it and fed it and watered it and kept it safe from my cat, so I want to keep it. It’s mine.”

“If you keep the butterfly in this jar it will die without ever doing the things it was created to do,” her mother said.

“But I love the butterfly,” the little girl protested. “If I take the lid off the jar it will fly away and never come back. Then I will not have a butterfly.”

The young mother knelt beside her daughter and spoke gently. “If you love something you must set it free when it wishes to go. Love doesn’t try to own another living thing. When we keep a thing because we can’t imagine being without it, then we don’t love, we’re just afraid. Love makes us brave and gives us faith. Fear makes us selfish. Do you understand?”

The little girl nodded. “Okay. I will set it free.”

So, they took the jar into the front yard and the child removed the lid. The butterfly first perched on the rim of the jar, then it flew into the maple tree and fluttered about from branch to branch, leaf to leaf. All at once it flew free of the tree, across the yard, and over the field beyond, going higher and higher, a flash of yellow in the sun. The little girl laughed. “Look at it go, Mommy! I am glad I set it free.”

Years later, a young woman loaded her belongings into her gray car and pulled out of her mom’s driveway. The now middle-aged mother watched her disappear over the horizon, a lonely tug in her heart, tears in her eyes. Her daughter was off to life in the world, to an apartment and a job and a man and a…a whole suitcase full of dreams. As her mother stared at the country road leading away from home she saw a yellow swallowtail light on the mailbox and folding and unfolding its wings and she remembered.

Love liberates. Fear imprisons.

The Life of a BEAST

Photo by Mariu00e1n u0160icko on Pexels.com

Before I go into my spill, let me tell you a true story.

My dad used to tell me that if an animal wasn’t trying to eat me and I didn’t need to eat it, then leave it alone. That’s not to say that he never killed a wasp. He and my little brother were highly allergic to bee stings so when a nest of hornets decided to nest on our front porch, he did what he had to do to ensure that Mark didn’t get stung.

I don’t ever remember my dad killing a snake, either, and the things he did kill, we ate. Of course, our dog, Rusty (half pug, half chihuahua) had no qualms about snake killing. He once grabbed a copperhead just seconds before my brother would have stepped on it.

I do remember my daddy killing a pack of wild dogs, because one of them trapped my brother, Johnny, in the barn. Wild dog packs work in unison. One lures or traps the prey then the others move in for the kill.

If I remember correctly, Johnny had gone into the barn to feed his calf. At that time, our neighbor about a mile down the road had been having trouble with a pack of about thirteen dogs that were taking down calves and picking them clean, leaving only bones in the field. The wild dogs had become a real threat and Daddy had been telling us to stay close to the house. (Back in those days, we kids would wander a mile or more from the house, just playing in the woods and I was bad about wandering off to explore.) Johnny picked up a stick and was yelling, then my dad ran into the barn and started hollering at the dog, it ran out. I am not sure where Rusty was at, maybe off galivanting with me.

Later, Daddy made a decision that went against his nature. He and my uncle went pack hunting down on the creek. I can still recall standing on the front porch, cringing and feeling mixed emotions as I would heard gunfire and then a whimper several times. The dogs had a right to live, too, but I was relieved that my brother was alive and I knew my dad was doing what he had to do in order to protect us. This wasn’t an otherwise good dog in the henhouse like Old Yeller. This was a feral, hungry pack of predators, working in unison to bring down cattle and kids. Maybe they had once been somebody’s pets but their humans forsook them. I remember Daddy saying it wasn’t the dogs’ fault that they were hungry and wild, it was the sorry humans who dumped them.

Back then, people used to drive unwanted animals out in the “middle of nowhere” and abandon them. The dogs would find each other, form packs and attack anything that looked like a meal. We happened to live in the “middle of nowhere” and all of those strays made their way to our home at one time or another, either in the form of a friendly dog, looking for a human family or a wild pack, hoping for a meal. I used to be terrified that the pack would eat me. Even to this day, when I read a story about dogs attacking someone, it takes me months to move past it and I grieve for the families of such horrors. The story of little thirteen-year-old Cory Godsy up in Knott County still haunts me.

Then there were the CATS. In our world there was no such thing as a useless cat. They not only kept us rat-free but they also provided hours of companionship and fun. Some of my best childhood memories involve cats, but I won’t go into them right now.

………….and now………..my spill.

Proverbs 12:10 says, A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are only cruelty.” Now, let me say that in my own words, “A person who seeks to be in harmony with God’s way respects the life of his or her animal and takes responsibility for it but a person who is out of harmony with the higher way of being does horrible things to animals and thinks of themselves as kind. They are spiritually ignorant and don’t have a clue.”

The following excerpt is from a post I did back in 2016 but it still holds true today…………………

“One after one, people are telling me of incidents where their family pets have been shot, poisoned or maimed and nothing was done, where officials brushed complaints aside and did nothing to investigate them, where people are literally afraid to come forward for fear of retaliation against their families...

As I comb through state laws, my mouth just drops open at the unfair, lax laws and nonchalant attitudes some people hold in regards to cases involving children and/or animals...

Let me highlight just two incidents. Someone recently told me that a little dog the children of Sparksville Kentucky’s Antioch Church liked to play with had been shot to death. Who does that? Who kills a friendly dog that an entire congregation of children love? I’m not even sorry to say that I think this is a type of cruelty, not only to the dog, but to those children!.

Sunday, a friend told me that her great-granddaughter… along with nine other children, was walking down the road with their dog in Columbia, Ky. The dog always walked with the children. A man came running out, screaming and cursing at the children. He pulled out a gun and fired eight shots into the dog. Eight red hulls fell to the ground. The children were about fifteen feet from him. He kept firing, even as my friend’s great granddaughter broke into a run toward the dog to try and save it. This man fired a weapon while a child was running toward it, risking her own life to save the dog she loved.  The child, terrified and wailing, fell to the ground and cradled her dead dog in her arms. The man who shot it? He had no compassion, either for the child or the dog, nor the other nine children who were terrified for their lives. The girl’s mother took photographs of the dog and of the evidence, but the police, upon arriving on the scene, refused to do anything because when the dog fell, his head landed on the man’s property. The girl’s parents said they thought it was wanton endangerment of a minor but the police went on to say that because they were only children that their testimony wouldn’t amount to anything in court, that it would simply be the children’s word against the shooters. The officer didn’t have to go home with the little girl that night and hold her when her nightmares started. The shooter didn’t have to go to the hospital with her when she became so hysterical that she needed medical help. Furthermore, when the girl’s father stated that it was against the law to fire a gun in a residential area, the officers told him that it was a “misdemeanor at best.” However, I’m left wondering. How is this NOT child abuse? Would you want your child to witness that? To go through that horrific experience? Besides, officials told the mother that Kentucky laws were on the shooter’s side. The dog had no rights. And apparently, the families of those children have no rights, either. They were brushed off and now, they are afraid to come forward with names for fear of retaliation from a gun-wielding neighborhood bully with anger management problems.….update: the shooter discovered he had cancer not long after this incident and passed away from it. Maybe he was sick at the time of the incident and didn’t know it or maybe, what he sent out into the universe came back to him. Who can say?

…according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Kentucky ranks 50th in the nation in regards to animal protection. And, according to the Animal Welfare Alliance, we rank 56th! Even territories have better laws regarding the treatment of animals than we do! Kentucky is a state known for famous horses and award-winning cattle. Why aren’t there better, more humane  laws in place to protect other animals, like dogs and cats?

I leave  you with this quote from the Kentucky Law Journal.

Several studies demonstrate enhanced animal protection laws could significantly impact society by decreasing human violence. As one scholar states, “[t]he [l]ink between violence to human and animal victims is undeniable.”[39] Cruelty to animals has been associated directly or indirectly with violent crime, including sexual homicide, homicide, and rape..[40]  Large numbers of violent criminals begin as animal abusers.[41] One study showed that 75% of prison inmates charged with violent crimes had an early record of animal cruelty.[42] Additionally, adults who abuse animals commonly abuse their spouses and their children, as well as elderly people for whom they are caring.[43] The FBI now officially recognizes a link between animal abuse and violent crime and has begun collecting data on animal abuse.[44] John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association states, that “[i]f somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human.”[45] Thompson went on to say that “[i]f we see patterns of animal abuse, the odds are that something else is going on.”[46] Putting an end to animal cruelty has the potential to drastically reduce the percentage of violent crime.Anthropologist Margaret Mead once noted, “[o]ne of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.”

For more information, visit the Kentucky Law Journal at:

https://www.kentuckylawjournal.org/online-originals/index.php/2018/05/08/kentucky-legal-animal-abuse-or-weak-protection-laws

A note on my personal beliefs:

*I believe there are only three motivations for every act of humanity: fear, love, and stupidity which I define as the willingness to remain ignorant in order to avoid personal growth and/or responsibility. Deliberate ignorance destroys lives. 

When people fear being powerless they become greedy and cruel in order to feel that they have power, but love (gratitude, appreciation) causes faith (positive feelings and thankfulness for a thing coming to pass as if though an expectation has already been met, even before we see it with our natural eyes) to rise up within us and  when we live in love, fear has no home in us. It can’t stay. Love chases it away. Animal abuse, actually any kind of bullying, narcissism, greed, or abuse is a result of fear of being powerless or not enough. When you realize that you are enough, you no longer have to fear not being enough.  Animal neglect, however, is a result of biting off more than you can chew because you’re ignorant of your own limitations.

 

Green River: A National Treasure

Kentucky is home to more fresh running water than any state other than Alaska. (So let me take a moment to say: when you visit our lakes and streams, PICK UP YOUR TRASH!)One of those rivers was made famous by John Prine in his song, Paradise, in 1971, when the lyrics said, “Daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County down by the Green River where Paradise lay….” But Green River is so much more than just words in a great song.

Green River is one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the world! It is 384 miles long and flows through a KARST landscape, the limestone of which gives it a green hue, and it has caves that open into the river bottom. Entire teams of horses, wagons and drivers have vanished in the “bottomless areas” of Green River. One such place that this occurred was Hidden River Cave in Horse Cave, Kentucky, where my brother, Mark aka Modo, was born! https://hiddenrivercave.com/

Green River is home to more than 150 fish species, more than 70 mussel species, and 43 endemic species (species existing nowhere else in the world; rare and exotic snails, mussels and fish). This includes nine endangered mussel species and endangered freshwater shrimp (the Kentucky cave shrimp). It is a 9,230 square-mile watershed. There are some pretty strange fish in that river, like the gar. An assortment of birds, such as the Little Blue Heron and the Bald Eagle frequent the river to “fish.” Green River gives life to more species of plants and animals than any other Ohio River tributary.

The portion of the Green River that occurs within Mammoth Cave National Park is designated as a Wild River. Green River is one of the best locations in Kentucky to view bald eagles (one man in Campbellsville photographed 14 at once) and contains the only known location in Kentucky for a rare plant species in the pea family.

Russell Creek, in Adair County, Kentucky, is a major contributor to Green River and Native American tools and artifacts have been found along the river.

Muhlenberg County’s, (once the largest coal-producing county in the nation) coal industry depends greatly on access to the river, as does the aluminum industry in Henderson County. The river rises from Kings Mountain, Kentucky, and winds along, fed by multiple streams until it reaches the dam at Green River Lake near Campbellsville. It then continues west and is fed by Little Barren River before entering the Mammoth Cave National Park where it is fed again by the Nolin River. Then continuing westward it is joined by the Barren River. It then takes a more northwesterly turn as it proceeds through western Kentucky. *original photographs taken by Darlene Campbell where Adair County’s Snake Creek empties into Green River.

This Sacred River Land

Oneida, Tennessee, photo by Connie Hensley

https://www.britannica.com/place/Cumberland-Plateau

In his book, Upper Cumberland Country, William Lynwood Montel talks about a culture that permeates Northern Tennessee and parts of Kentucky that stretches from Adair County at the edge of the Pennyroyal Region across Russell, Casey, Pulaski, Wayne, Clinton, Cumberland and eastward to the Cumberland Gap and on down into Tennessee. He calls this region the Upper Cumberland and says that in this region people are “wed to the land.” I suppose one could say that for those of us who’s ancestors arrived during the 1700 and 1800s , the land is sacred. There is a “spirit” in this place that has been here since long before the first European settlers arrived and once you fall in love with this land, it remains with you forever, no matter how far you travel. It calls you back. In that sense, those of us who understand the richness and the history of this place and what it meant to our ancestors, truly are wed to the land. The land which now forms the border between Kentucky and Tennessee was once the southwestern border of North Carolina and Virginia.  Eventually, Tennessee and Kentucky were carved out of Virginia and North Carolina. If Virginia is Kentucky’s mother, then North Carolina is her father and Tennessee is her sister.

This region is known as the Cumberland Plateau which technically encompasses areas of West Virginia, and Alabama, as well. The river that flows through this land is now called the Cumberland, but that was not always the case. Once it was called Wasioto by the Shawnee men, women, and children who LIVED there (not just hunted or camped but LIVED). Wasioto was home to Mound Builders before the Shawnee. The river was sacred to all tribes in the area. One legend has it that there was a terrible massacre there when an encampment of Cherokee women and children were slaughtered at Yahoo Falls near what is now the Kentucky/Tennessee border.

In the late 1700 and early to mid1800s people settled along the Cumberland River in such places as Hawkins, Hancock, Scott, Fentress and Campbell counties in Tennessee and of course, there were no state lines drawn, so some of these families also settled in what is now Leslie, Harlan, Pulaski, Wayne, Clinton, Cumberland, Adair, Russell, Johnson, McGoffin, Whitley, McQueary, Bell, Knox, Laurel, Floyd, Johnson, Perry, Knott, and Casey counties in Kentucky. They came from the New River area of Virginia and North Carolina, many of which were descendants of the White Top Band of Sizemore Indians, some of which are documented as old “Cheraw” or remnants of the Saura people who had been decimated by smallpox. Other were documented as having been born at Fort Christana and a place called Catawba Town. They were a mixture of Tutelo, Saponi, Catawba, Saura and other tribes of the area which had come together due to being decimated by diseases brought over from Europe (mainly Smallpox) for which they had no immunity. Some had Algonquian ties, as well. In time, many of them referred to themselves as “Cherokee” because Cherokee became synonymous with “Indians from the Southeastern U.S.” And, in fact, many of these families did have people of mixed Cherokee, Shawnee, Chickasaw, Creek, and Algonquian tribes marry into their lines.

As their freedoms and rights dwindled in Virginia and the Carolinas, as their lands were stolen, they pushed westward into the mountains, cliffs, caves, valleys, swamps, and gorges of the Cumberland Plateau. They were seeking a place just “to be.”

Thanks to the Racial Integrity Act in Virginia that affected all the surrounding areas, census takers labeled these people based on their own impressions of them. There was a deliberate effort to eradicate the “Indians” by making them either White citizens or designating them as “Mulattos” or “Free People of Color.” It was a time period where being White meant you got to keep your family together, own land and vote. Being mulatto meant you got to live “free,” but you had no legal rights and being Indian meant you didn’t exists unless you agreed to go to a concentration camp (well, they were called Reservations but they were the equivalent of concentration camps.) So, it came to be that Kentucky, once a part of Virginia and North Carolina, had “NO INDIANS.” Of course not, they were politically ripped asunder, buried, ignored, and forgotten.

Due to their inability to point to themselves on Cherokee rolls, they were often denied tribal membership, not because they were not Native American but because they were not documented Cherokee. The descendants of these people make up much of the Upper Cumberland area today. They handed down legends, year after year, generation after generation, of a great-grandmother or great-grandfather who was “Indian.” Some of them remembered they were not Cherokee and used terms like Blackfeet, but many genuinely believed they were Cherokee because it was the only name they had heard repeated. They were made fun of and accused of being wannabe Indians, but the truth is that their heritage was stolen through genocide, sometimes accidental, sometimes on purpose, and in time, they assimilated and became “White” or “Black” just like the government had always wanted them to do.

Sizemore Indians and their kinfolk and neighbors—they often traveled in groups from the same areas, being a mixture of multiple Native branches and Scotch-Irish, Quakers, French and German–and their neighbors settled along the Cumberland River in what is now southern Kentucky and Northern Tennessee. Family names included Riddles, Starnes/Stearns, Bowman, Bolin/Bowling/Bollin, Cox, Wallen, Leach, Harris, Choate, Turner, Gipson, Sizemore, Greene, Smith, Marsh, Moore, Collins, Mullins, Phelps, Phipps, Tallant, Ramsey, Cooper, Harmon, Neal/Neil, Denny, Downey, Wells, Brown, Graham, Blevins, Fields, Fugate, White, Adams, and more.

Now back to the Cumberland River itself, Wasioto is almost 700 miles long and drains from a whopping 18,000 square miles! Multiple rivers and streams flow into the Cumberland River including the Red River, Big South Fork and others. At one point there is only about 2.8 miles of land between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers (which is fed by the Holston River, flowing out of what is now North Carolina and the French Broad River.)

The Cumberland Plateau, the world’s longest hardwood forested plateau, is home to many plants and animals found nowhere else.

The Cumberland Plateau rises more than 1,000 feet above the Tennessee River Valley to a vast tableland of sandstone and shale dating as far back as 500 million years. The rivers of this region, have eroded away the softer rock beneath, leaving rock houses (natural bridges), caverns, cliffs and caves along the river and stream beds. “From Williamsburg, Ky., above the falls, to the Kentucky–Tennessee state line, the Cumberland crosses a highland bench in the Cumberland Plateau and flows in a gorge between cliffs 300–400 feet (90–120 m) high.” (encyclopedia Britannica)

In 1952, Wolf Creek Dam was built to create Lake Cumberland, caves with petroglyphs (according to older local residents that I’ve interviewed) were flooded, never to be explored again. The community of Rowena as evacuated and flooded. The graves were dug up and moved to the nearby Watauga community and the community’s official records were sent to Burnside, Kentucky, a few miles upstream.  Wolf Creek Dam is the 25th largest of its kind in the United States and Lake Cumberland is over 100 miles long and over a mile wide. It is the 9th largest lake in the U.S. and the larges man-made. It has a capacity of 6,100,000 acre-feet of water, enough to cover all of Kentucky in 3” of water.

Over the years the dam has had a multitude of problems and issues, including that fact that 19 years after it was built, sinkholes developed around the electrical grid near the base of the dam and caused a near failure of the dam. In the late 1960s, liquid concrete was pumped into the dam but that didn’t stop the leaks, so in the 1970s a concrete wall was inserted in the earthen part of the dam, but that didn’t work, either. Uncontrollable seepage continued all the way up until 2005 when the dam was on the verge of collapsing and obliterating the town of Burkesville, Kentucky. In 2007, the lake was lowered to 40 feet and a seven-year, $309,000,000 rehabilitation of the dam included a longer, deeper wall built into the dam’s earthen section.  This wall, completed in 2014, is two feet thick and extends 300 feet into the limestone base. The dam is now considered safe by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. However, they say if the dam were being built today, it would not be built in its current area due to the nature of limestone and karst formations. 

Not far from Wolf Creek Dam is the Dale Hollow Dam which forms Dale Hollow Lake. Clinton County, Kentucky, sits between the two lakes with Dale Hollow to the south and Lake Cumberland to the North.

Rich in history, beautiful beyond belief, wild and rugged, a tremendous area for trout fishing, home to abundant wildlife and trees found nowhere else in the world, the Cumberland River and surrounding plateau have their enemies, TRASH, DEBRIS, and GRAFFITI. The trash is a result of human carelessness, laziness, and ignorance. The debris is a result of homes too close to the riverbanks and the graffiti is a result of stupidity and ignorance. There’s just no other way to phrase that one.  I end this little essay with a plea, if you swim the waters, or fish, or kayak or go white water rafting, if you live on the banks, or go on a picnic or a hike or do anything at all, please, please and PLEASE pick up your trash and don’t leave a mess behind you. It is a karst landscape which means everything finds its ways into the streams, caves, earth and waterways.

Original Photos:

Rowena, Kentucky, photo by Darlene Campbell

Cumberland Falls, first three photos by Scott Harris, fourth photo by Darlene Campbell

Big South Fork, photos by Darlene Campbell

Wolf Creek Dam, Photo by Scott Harris

Rock House Bottom/aka: Creelsboro Arch and Cumberland River, photos by Darlene Campbell

Left: Adair County, Kentucky, photo by Darlene Campbell. Left Paintsville, Kentucky in Johnson County, photo by Darlene Campbell and above: Old PennsStore in Casey County (part of the store and surrounding property are in Boyle and Marion Counties, as well.)

SOURCES:

https://www.britannica.com/place/Cumberland-River

https://www.somerset-kentucky.com/news/maintenance-at-wolf-creek-dam-on-hold/article_84fe4566-9167-11ea-9cb8-5f9e5b20759d.html#:~:text=The%20dam%2C%20built%20on%20soluble,lake%2C%20was%20about%20to%20fail.

https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/map/USA/tennessee_map.htm


https://sherpaguides.com/tennessee/upper_cumberland_plateau/

Explore Lake Cumberland [dc1]

Explore Cumberland Plateau [dc2]

Upper Cumberland Country by William Lynwood Montell–1993 University of Mississippi Press, Mississippi

Life in These River Hills by Mary Etta Neal–2006, Old Seventy Creek Press, Albany, Kentucky

A Wandering Tribe: Dispersal of the Catawba Nation 1800 to 1900 by Steven “Pony” Hill | 2016–Backntyme Publishing, Crofton, Kentucky

Cherokee by Blood, Volume 1, Applications 1-1550 Paperback – December 30, 2019; Jerry S. Wright

History of the Cherokee Indians by Emmett Starr, originally published 1929. Now available here: https://www.amazon.com/History-Cherokee-Indians-Legends-Folklore/dp/0806317299/ref=pd_sbs_2/134-6893923-8755815?pd_rd_w=wyVES&pf_rd_p=f8e24c42-8be0-4374-84aa-bb08fd897453&pf_rd_r=X9PQGF4XQX1AZ8B6EJ4P&pd_rd_r=b0e52a4a-86f2-47e4-9ddb-48951c67f087&pd_rd_wg=fFXL2&pd_rd_i=0806317299&psc=1

On Being Humane Beings

I believe in being positive and affirming, even when it’s not popular, doesn’t sell books, make news, gain followers, or make money. I believe in living as peacefully as possible with all people, but in doing that, it means giving up the illusion of ego and the need to be right. Having said that, I’m going to speak my heart.

I just bowed out of a Facebook group in which I had been fairly active because I was constantly bombarded by messages of people screaming for someone else to define them, all the while bashing others who were in the currently “unpopular” camp. Amazing how “enlightened” folks can be so mean, vindictive, accusing, and closed-minded to anyone who has a different or currently unpopular opinion.

I can’t help but think that the Information Age has rapidly turned into a “Self-affirmation Age,” in which people define themselves based on their social media followings, “likes” and opinions of others rather than on self-examination.

In this sea of self-absorption, it’s easy to be removed from the fact that those on the other side of any issue are also human beings and they, too, are so bombarded with messages that they often don’t know what to believe. Some people get so emotionally swayed by digital messages that they literally turn against their own families, putting politics, current events and opinions of celebrities or people half a world away (who may or may not even be aware of their existence) between themselves and the people who have supported them their entire lives! Sometimes, to me, it feels like today’s world is made up of everyone screaming to be heard and nobody listening and as Charlton Hesston once said in Planet of the Apes, “It’s a MADHOUSE!”

It also seems that many people are so polarized. It’s either this or that? Trump or Biden, Black or White, Young or Old, Bigot or Tolerant, Vaccine or Anti-vaccine…but the world, the real one, the one that doesn’t depend on “followings” or have any “likes” or votes to get, isn’t quite so polarized, it’s more blended, muted and free-flowing. It’s the child, the one that has a Black dad, a White mom, and a Hispanic step-sister, sitting in my classroom with two missing front teeth and a big grin on her face, laughing and talking to the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy next to her and the Vietnamese girl beside her. They’re writing a story and illustrating it together. It’s the little girl from San Salvador who tells me she was born in an Amish bathtub and is learning to speak German. It’s the little red-haired, freckled boy who speaks in a thick Appalachian dialect, telling me he wants to be a paleontologist and the little African-American boy who tells me that one day he is going to be an Art teacher and it’s me, telling him that he will be a great Art teacher and that I’m depending on him, because one day I’m going to get old and retire and I’ll want him to take my place, and it’s all the other kids, of many shapes and shades, filled with dreams and wonder, wanting to discover who they are. And it’s my co-worker who just won a battle with cancer and takes the vaccine because she’s so afraid she might die with COVID and it’s my other co-worker who is afraid of the vaccine because she is afraid of side effects. Neither of them are a villainess. They’re just people, each trying to do what’s best for herself and her family, yet there are people out there on both sides of the issue who pounce upon them and try to paint them out to be “monsters.”

Sweeping statements are blind and end up villainizing others. Anytime you hear someone say, “Those Democrats…” “Those Republians…” “Those Biden Supporters….” “Those Trump Supporters….” “Those Muslims…” “Those White People…” “Those Black People….” “Those Christians…” “Those New Agers…” you are hearing a message that pits polarizes and divides and turns regular folks into “villains.” Sweeping statements dehumanize those who aren’t in our circle of thought and somehow makes them less human, which makes us less humane. If I had a motorcycle wreck and was lying on the side of the road, dying. Do you really think it would matter what shade of skin the ETM trying to save me had? Or gender? Or who he/she voted for?

I remember reading Bury my Heart and Wounded Knee and crying to the point that I couldn’t finish the book and I could never endure Schindler’s List, because I couldn’t understand how people could be so inhumane toward other human beings. Now I get it, when you divide people into “them and us” and begin to view the other side as somehow “less than,” you find yourself capable of horrific atrocities in the name of what’s “right.” Remember, Hitler’s snitches were just being “good citizens.”

So, my point is that we are all human beings, regardless of who we voted for, where we live, which bathroom we use, or the shade of our melanin. When we find ourselves getting angry over someone’s “viewpoint,” perhaps it would serve us well as a species to step back and view them as parents, brothers, sisters, children. It takes self-awareness to step outside yourself and be open to the viewpoints of others. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, or forsake your own beliefs, but it will give you a sense of compassion and empathy for others.

I am thinking about Ghandi’s brilliant statement about how that if we live by the rule of an eye for an eye the whole world would be blind and how Jesus said that if we live by the sword, we die by the sword and then there was Saint Francis who prayed not so much to be understood as to have the ability to understand. Jesus said, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who despitefully use you.” What does love mean? In this context, I believe it means to show them basic human kindness, even when you disagree with them. Let go of the illusion of ego and embrace their worth as fellow human beings. I think it means to be humane.