Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Thumper Blog

     In the spirit of Thumper the rabbit, made famous in the movie "Bambi" for quotable wisdom he learned from his father, and to show my intense and sincere desire to find the good in things even if it means getting more dirt under my nails than my garden ever did, I pulled out pad and paper and decided to list the good in our political landscape as I view it now today. 

     The good news: there is plenty of good to be found, so to the haters out there, may I just say it feels a lot better not to hate, so here's to getting in sync with the possible good that can happen here~ if I but allow my creative mind to take it to heart.

Here is a list of the "good" as I see it today when it comes to politics ~

1) We have one very pretty first family. 
     I don't care who you are, this is a bunch of pretty people. Sure they have money, so their clothes should be pretty. But I'm talking about a group. They have a regal spirit about them and I, for one, thought they looked pretty dancing last night and I really liked seeing that one son carry his daughter down the parade route.  If world rule were decided by pretty, our team would win. 
(The Trumps are a bunch of pretty people.)

2) We have a negotiator in the house.
     Being a former fan of The Apprentice (admittedly I have not watched the new one...I've been too busy watching hearings) but just when I thought I couldn't like it more,  John Rich won, and then Trace,  so yes, I've been a fan of the show since its inception...The show was very well produced. This guy DOES know how to negotiate and he knows how to get sponsors on board. (He also likes to fire people. Good luck with that last one. It'll be up to the public and mid-terms when it comes to firing, but this is a blog on the positives and where we stand today and Trump DOES like to negotiate. I say "Knock yourself out!" (And I mean it sincerely.) Your reputation for negotiating should be our greatest asset. I believe that's what elected you.  (Just don't negotiate with that code if you would. Our country is scared enough as it is...My bad...Positive blog...Stay focused Evins, stay focused.)

3) He is CAPABLE of respecting women.
     Let me be VERY delicately as I explain my thoughts on this one. I didn't say he HAS respected women. I don't feel he instinctively DOES respect women. More than anything his disrespect has saddened and yes, sickened me. Let me be VERY clear: his MOST offensive comments and off-the-cuff remarks are despicable and indefensible. But in watching far more of this stuff than I'd care to admit, I am reminded of an undergrad philosophy course and Hempel's Paradox in particular~ (i.e. "All Ravens are black".. a discourse involving inductive reasoning.)  If he is capable of respect for even one woman, he is capable of more and we should not only give him the space to prove this theorem, we should WISH it.  
     How do I KNOW he is capable of respecting women? Because I have seen it done at least once ~  his clear and obvious devotion and NEED for the input of his daughter, Ivanka, says to me "Well, the man clearly respects (at least) one woman. And that one will be advisor and confidant through this thing whether she's paid or not. (Note: this is not a discourse on the ethics of nepotism. Again, this is my Thumper blog.) But I DO think he counts on Ivanka for all things "women" and then some. And so far, I think I'd like Ivanka.  (At least I wouldn't be scared if left alone in a room with her, and I think she has a lot of Ivana in her.) But disclaimers aside, never underestimate the power of a father's love for a daughter and a daughter's devotion to father.  This, more than anything "women-related" gives me hope... It's a lot for her pretty young shoulders, and a stretch for me to even type these words, I admit, but in the spirit of Thumper, I WISH ( how I WISH) and I hope and I pray that Hempel and his black crow logic will apply. 

4) Finally (for the purpose of this blog anyway) the best and greatest thing I can say about the man is he inspires me. (Once again, let me be VERY delicate in explaining.) This man and this entire election process has sent me on a soul search the likes of which I have not experienced in ...I can't say when...and for that I do personally thank him. As I watch today's outpouring of feminine energy I am reminded that there is no more amazing power on this planet than that of us coming together. We may not do it as a nation. I pray we get there; admittedly, we have a ways to go. But we can and ARE doing it, each in our own ways. I believe it is in our wiring...our very DNA to turn to those of like spirit in times of contrast and conflict. The conversations I'm having and the people I am witnessing, both male and female, Dems and Republicans alike are "pricked in their hearts" and as scripture will attest (Acts 2:37) a heart pricked is a heart that's ready to change. This is a state of being from which great change can come, so yes, I am inspired... (From the Latin word "inspirare"~ inspire is a spiritual, even metaphysical word suggesting an otherworldly energy force swirling from within and pouring throughout our beings and no matter your party politics, there are passionate winds a-blowing right now.) 
     This election has not been fun to watch and even less fun to stomach (i.e. feel).  I have felt pain, I have felt confusion. I have felt sadness like I didn't know possible. But I must say I don't know when something inspired me to sit up and take note as it would seem, it's doing to everyone I'm talking to these days. It has forced me to dig deeper, to reach higher, to seek further, and to ask myself the hardest of hard questions about my life both out there in our country, but more here, in my very own heart.

     And if THAT is the ultimate take-away...well it's a dang good one. (Whadoyaknow? Politics went deep for a change.)

     My goal now is to discipline myself to stay poised for the good in whatever is to come, for all that is bad is easily enough spotted...(Why it's as easy as flipping on a remote cable changer...Takes no effort at all, save to find the remote.)  But to rise above literally look at all that makes me weep and ask "Why would this torment me so?" and "What's to bless in this mess?" well THIS becomes a challenge and a day to day proposition to keep at it no matter how much my human mind may be patterned for the wallowing.

     It's up to us folks. It's up to us.

     As I watch my television set today (and this was true yesterday as well) all I could think was "WOW! What a force of power." And to think, the decision lies within us to determine which way that tidal wave shall go.

     If we don't believe in the system, let's at least believe in us.

(I shall  now hop off my pedestal and thump my way back to my little garden patch ~ Never has a girl missed a garden more...2017's the year~ The kids and I can't wait!)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Name That Emotion

     I am so sad this morning I can hardly see straight. (I am in pajamas as I type.) This church of a house that I live in, is somber and quiet. Even the dogs look dismayed (though I'm sure that's just them picking up on me, cause let's face it...that's what dogs do, but I digress...)
     By design I opted to take a knee on this one...Give it a day of silence. Give my emotions a day of rest.
     I am sad to admit that these hearings hit me like a line of crack (Do they do crack in lines? Maybe that was not a good analogy, but you know what I was shooting for...) My point is, for all the discipline of coming off mic and moving back to the country, learning, laughing and dancing with the moods of Mother Nature, getting my hands in the dirt while surrounding myself with funny-faced goats and huggable furry dogs, it only took one election cycle to lure me back in and and remind me all over again why I used to answer the question: Do you miss your former political days with a simple: Miss the players, not the anger. (The anger bugged me then. It's off the charts now. I would not do well to be swimming in those waters ever again....again ...digress)
     I think I have the emotion right. (Sad comes with tears, right?) I decided before this day to do myself a favor and simply keep the TV off. Turns out, with nothing to distract, things bubbled up, and what bubbled up from deep inside of me was a bunch of pure, raw... sad.

     I am sad for the state of our nation...Sad for the leader we've chosen...Sad that in the end, our final option was a "lesser of evils" kinda option.
     I am sad for the state of the world right now...Sad for what others must think of us. Much as I work on not giving a rip what anyone else thinks because I'm told what other people think should be none of my business, well guess what? I'm not that advanced yet. I still care. Whadayaknow? ..Here it is ~ Showing up as sad.
     I am sad other countries don't respect us (Don't get me wrong. I'm sure they fear us, as anything could go wrong with insanity in charge, but that's not the same as respect. Fear is a short term fix to a long term problem and we can't just keep playing the "Fear us" card in hopes it will eventually become respect.
     Most of all I'm sad for what this is doing to our our homes...between our families, our working peers, our friends. I am sad this thing has divided us as it has and I'm frustrated as to how best to cope. (I think a shrink would say I should deal with my sad first....and hey, at least sad beats anger. But lucky for anger, I'm too tired to deal in anger, plus I don't want to add any more pain than is already out there. Anger makes me want to take it out on someone else. Sad just leaves it stuck here with me to figure out. This is exhausting.)

     For what it's worth I am not a big protester kind of person. I like being FOR things. I've heard it said that Mother Teresa was once asked to attend an anti war protest and she politely declined, adding "Now if you made it a peace rally, I'd be there." (I don't have sourcing on this, but it sounds like something Mother Teresa would say.) That said, my heart is with my female friends who today are marching...both in Nashville and in Washington (and I suppose in cities all across the country)  in peaceful protest. They represent me and my heart is with them. I am appalled at some of the things we've so blithely let slide when it comes to the crass and crude comments (not to mention behaviors) of our soon to be commander-in-chief and I cringed like nobody's business when I heard one of THE crudest lines to have ever been uttered when it came to blood and Megyn Kelly, after all Megyn is holding the kind of job I used to have (only LOADS bigger). Those of us IN those jobs look up to women like her and respect the heck out of a woman who worked and MADE it to that level of success. That was not funny to me. That one made me sad AND angry. Most of all it made me embarrassed.
     But to be clear, this is not about my political views or any one specific opinion of what it'll take to best run  this great country of ours (Don't get me wrong; I have many thoughts on this. But this blog is not about that.) And it is certainly not about me trying to persuade anyone to see things from my side and change who they are. (Although  I will say say most folks who think they know me would be surprised at how many views I share when it comes to keeping government to a minimum and I'm hoping like heck this president can at least get that part right as I sincerely believe he does know how to negotiate. I also believe that's why he won and believe it or not, I want these things too...I really do.  But it's the integrity of it all (or the lack thereof) that makes me sad. It's the lowering of the standard that has me hurting.
     I hurt to see Melania who didn't ask to be here and (as I observe it) is trying to protect her child, who (no one is saying, but is probably autistic) ....who likewise didn't want to be here...I hurt to think of a family, rich though they be are as dysfunctional as a family can be. (Take the rich part out and they probably DO represent a bunch of American modern families, so maybe we can relate to the dysfunctional parts, still and so, those  parts too made me cringe before it all got elevated. )
      It makes me sad to think we are probably going to witness our first divorce in the White House. (I can't help but study things like body language,  like no rings and forced hand-holdings. I can't help it. I'm a girl.) I am sad for the hearings that are something between a brag-a-thon and attack-a-thon....And I am sadder yet that all these people with that level of IQ (as Trump has repeatedly bragged) would not anticipate for themselves why certain conflicts of interest might look sketchy before a panel, much less a public. (They weren't ALL in this category let me be quick to say, but those who were, offended me that they did not so much as think they'd be asked the questions.)
     In the end, I guess I am most sad about the distance that is happening between us as the American people. Clearly the "haves" live in a different world view. The have-nots, voted them in out of protest. I am somewhere in the middle I guess, as is most of middle class America (and dang grateful to be given what I see in Aleppo and other war-torn countries). But I can't just hide my feelings under a rug right now because it is politically incorrect to speak out.

     All I can do is say "I'm sad....And these are the reasons why." And then sit with it...all day...distractions and temptations aside. All I can say is "I am sad."

     As a post script to this I would like to share what a dear shrink friend of mine once taught me (I call him a shrink-friend because he was a highly sought after shrink and he was likewise my friend. I would just say "He's my shrink" but I never paid him, save for a sandwich or two, so "shrink-friend" is our agreed upon title.) He taught me that emotions are like house guests that enter our minds... Some we like better than others. Others stay longer than we'd like. But not to worry...They'll eventually leave.

     So as I sit here with my mind-guest named Sad, wishing to heck she'd move on already, I take slightly small comfort in knowing she's not a live-in roommate...nor a partner of some kind.

     Guess the best I can do is pour her some tea...allow her (and me) the tears...And wait till she needs to pee all the while hoping she'll go home soon.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Spiritual Boot Camp

      For the past 5 years, since moving from city to farm, I kinda thought I'd weaned myself more or less from a diet of steady political intake. For 20 years, 5 days a week and in some seasons, weekends, I was a part of some sort of political show or forum discussing the slimy world of politics: what WAS happening, what we FEARED would happen, how to AVOID things happening before they happened to us. (Sadly, it's the exception not the rule that anyone runs FOR anything. As is proven time and again "against" gets the vote out.)
     For those in the business, this meant basically soaking yourself in a steady stream (sadly again) of mostly negative soup. I likened my job as a talk show host to someone back in the 50s who'd landed a gig in OakRidge. Everybody wanted those high paying jobs, but even those who had 'em sorta suspected they were getting cancer from the toxins.
     For the last 5 of our 20 years together, Nashville legend Teddy Bart and I crafted a non-profit entity called The Public Forum, a think tank of political policy and happenings featuring his popular Round Table morning show.
     Now Teddy, for those unfamiliar, had a knack for these sorta things. Anyone who could bring polar opposites together around one (big round) table and manage two hours of civil discourse is a pro in my book. (Face it: this is a rare beast we hardly see anymore these days.)  I'm often asked if I miss those mornings and the excitement of the exchanges and my answer is consistent: miss the people; do NOT miss the anger.
     The anger was just beginning when we came off the air in 2005. We saw the tip of the iceberg and fortunate for us (I say in hindsight), our ship went down early. As I came home to rethink my life, write a few books, start a garden, I came to realize that my creativity quotient was inversely proportional to the amount of "other people's stuff" I consumed when it came to politics.
     But something about this last election got to me~
     Like a recovering crack addict who thinks one party hit for old times sake won't phase things, I soon found myself back with the monkey. First it was Meet the Press. (What's one hour in a week?) Then I started rearranging farm chores to catch another hour...then another. But because weekend political shows fed off the evening news, I started setting the phone alarm so as to not miss the opener of each evening newscast.  Before long, I was flipping on the TV to catch morning reports, pausing at mid-day to see what the markets were doing in aftermath (and I don't even own stock). Before I know it, I'm watching like an addict, not only the chaos of what I can only describe as an embarrassing presidential race (and I don't care which side you're for, it was beneath our dignity as a country to endure this)...but more important, watching a country I love and thought I knew, split itself right down the middle with anger, bigotry and depression.
     I honestly did not see it coming; nor did I know how hard it had hit me until day after the election when I felt like I'd been hit by a bus. Why in the world would I take this so personally? I, like most everyone I had talked to, wasn't excited either way, but suddenly I found myself sucked into the gut-wrenching emotion of it all...feeling lost as to who's going to lead us and saddened as for what it might take to turn this ship around. (Because honestly, if this is our best...there is no simple answer. To me, the only hope of an answer MUST come from the inside out.)
     Day after the election I padded about in my fuzzy slippers and fought the urge to even turn on a TV, but then gave in as I really wanted to see how Hillary handled the speech. I did take a little comfort in her choice of purple. I know it was a (not so subtle) gesture to blend our red and blue country, but more than this, purple is a spiritual color. To me it said, "Don't look to earthly thinking...Look for inspiration...DIG for deeper meaning...PRAY for Divine intervention."
     Two days after the election I noticed a slight shift in my depression (again, this was not about sore losing, as it was "When did we get so angry?" "How did this creep up on us so quickly?") Then I heard from (first) one dark ... another. But the discussions were different. Sure friends are there to comfort us, but with these 1st conversations, the questions were "What can WE of all low-totem-poll people DO to affect change?" (Spoiler alert: That may've been the question we started with; but the question that replaced it was: "What can little folk do to keep OURSELVES in check so as to not lose the only true asset any of us have and that is our hope, our peace of mind...our sanity.")
     Then a funny thing happened on the way to the (no longer here) Forum... (little inside humor there) ... The conversations I was having...with friends on BOTH sides of the aisle...hit new depths. These were longer than usual because we couldn't sum up so easily what we were feeling. These were not quippy updates or jabs at things that stuck in our crawl. These were soul-searching, gut-level, friend-talking-friends-off-ledges kinda conversations, like you have when your world has been turned upside down. (Usually things like the death of a close friend, or loss of something held dear do it...In this case, an election...What's that about?) Since when did I let Politics get under my skin this way? Then it hit me. This isn't about politics. This is about something in YOU, Evins, something that's bothering you ...something that's been ignored...Might be time you dig deeper under those 20 mattresses to find just what that annoying little pea looks like~
     I next reached out to my minister and I shared my feelings...along with an idea that I was mulling...designed as a little test market survey in a sort of spiritual support group therapy setting...
     "More than sadness, I'm feeling a little lazy" I confessed... "...not in a physical way, but mentally...Spiritually."  I've gone back to lazy thought habits and my muscles need a workout. The fact that something so worldly as elections run amuck or gossip replacing substance tells me I'm as much a part of the problem as the problem itself. I can't speak for them, but "I" gotta get fit. After all, I know better. I've been trained better. But what I haven't been doing is applying that training...And how better to do that than to start a workout schedule?
     For lack of a better title, I dubbed it Spiritual Boot Camp ~ (Something I was challenged on first day in, when one of my attendees asked "Isn't that a bit harsh? I mean, Boot Camp doesn't suggest kinder or gentler. It suggests training to punch somebody~" (Valid point.) But MY emphasis was on the spiritual. We've all found ourselves wanting to punch and jab. Heck, we were sharpening our chops just to prep for office Christmas parties, but were we devoting the same kind of training toward our own spiritual beliefs?
     Spiritual Boot Camp isn't about winning debates.  It's not about converting people to your ideology. It's about sharpening your own inner skills so as to know how to step away if necessary, or at the very least, not let things get to you to the point that you're taking it out in road rage or snapping at your spouse.
     Spiritual Boot Camp is about creating a safe place where we go back to the basics of civil discourse and learn how to separate a person's political beliefs from the soul of that individual, after all, we are more than our thinking when it comes to talking the soul of an individual. Beliefs are just one aspect of us...One facet. They are certainly NOT the entire individual. I, for one, needed a refresher course.
     As an example, I opened the first class by asking "How many of you have unfriended someone because of this election?" (Go ahead...Visualize the response. You'd be right.) When we allow something so "out there" get to us "in here" and AFFECT OUR blood pressure, or our health, or our sanity, then it's time to get spiritually fit.
     It is a delicate undertaking, I admit. Keeping the balance, keeping the peace, keeping calm as you watch person after person take someone to task in ways that are far from civil as if it's the new norm. I refuse to let this become my norm!
     It's not our differences we hate. (Our differences MADE this country folks.) It's the tone toward slamming each other personally. It's sensing we've removed all respect from the conversation. It's the emptiness we wind up feeling as we drive home from a job we once loved, no longer feeling safe to crack a joke or enter a water cooler conversation for fear of the backlash...Somehow with this last one, the wounds cut deeper than usual it seems. Or maybe we've grown hypersensitive.
     Like any new venture, (if it winds up at all) it will wind up being nothing like the image I started with. This I know from many years and many creations working with Teddy. We'd have an idea for a show, and once started, the show would show us what it wanted to become. I suspect this will follow a similar trajectory or else it will be a vent-fest that gets us through the transition and we all go back to being the way we were, but depending on who you were, I dare say we can never go back...We can only go forward.
     And it is with that forward-thinking discipline, that Spiritual Boot Camp was created.
     Our next forum is lined up for January 15th ~ You're welcome to join us.(Promise, you don't have to sign up as a member of my church, but my minister would love to have you if you're looking for a church home.)  Bring a journal. Bring your experiences. These become great fodder for approaching the days ahead with a more civil tone and a more grounded spiritual outlook.
     Think of it as a group think-tank for your own individual response to the increasing anger out there.
     I'm especially fond of the song "Let there be peace on earth" but as anyone knows whose ever sung it, the hook is "Let it begin with me."
     SBC is about finding that first step, then a second... then a third ...for YOU personally...the individual. We're not into infantry cadence drills; we're exploring ways to apply spiritual principles as we each march to the beat of our own inner drummers (while allowing those who disagree with us to do the same--AND respecting 'em for it).

Next Spiritual Boot Camp: This Sunday: January 15th.  
1 - 3 pm Center for Spiritual Living Nashville
6705 Charlotte Pike ~ Nashville

Suit up/Join us/Be there

(OK, attire is way casual...We're not really marching, marching... We're mentally marching.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

In Good we Trust

     I've debated writing on this topic because it's personal to me...More intimate than anything I dare say I've revealed to date about the inner workings of my day to day life. This topic has been more or less an anonymous journey until now~ As the causes we have given to in the past have for the most part, been done anonymously or with a giving trust to hide behind.

     In 2002, a successful business man received the news that his cancer (once in remission) had returned with a vengeance... While he had some say in controlling his wealth, his toys, his investments, cancer he could not control, which as you might imagine, was a wake up call like none other.

     With no children of his own and a wife he would leave well taken care of, he took a soulful inventory, re-assessing just what had been missing in  his life and came to the conclusion he had missed the point. In his drive to succeed, this man missed the experience of joy...specifically, the joy of giving...and sharing ... The joy of touching others by way of charitable deeds...the joy of creating miracles for others both known and unknown.

     In the weeks that remained, this man came to mourn the fact that he had not enjoyed his riches as fully as he could've...He'd stored treasures on earth, but if there was to be a heavenly payout, well, he had not been storing up there.

     His family rejoiced when he found Christ...They were moved when their somewhat Scroogey uncle had a drastic change of heart as he came to realize (without 3 Christmas ghosts and a really bad dream) that there was still time to make a difference...With this he, and his compassionate wife, set out to create a trust (the likes of which I have personally never seen...The likes of which continues to evolve today as there was no pattern for us to follow).

     I pause here to interject, I did not know this man. I was introduce through someone I was dating at the time. We met twice (this trust creator and I)...Our second meeting was (unbeknownst to me) to ask if I would serve on this trust and help his wife in what was anybody's guess regarding a trust with one mission: to give away money where we saw a need--no questions asked.

     With that he slapped $1 million dollars into an account to be managed by professionals who knew how to manage these kinda things...(Having great financial advisors was but one of many miracles to witness.) Within 2 weeks of his asking me to serve (with a woman I had only met twice as well, but one whose heart for giving I admired greatly and someone I eagerly wanted to help) I was sent a letter saying I'd soon be given direction by way of a meeting. All I thought at the time was, "No clue what we're doing here, but I'm in."

     The first meeting of the Richard T. and Dawn K. Sadler Trust committee was held Sunday, August 17, 2003. The mission of the meeting: "to provide financial assistance to deserving individuals and meet emergency needs or to provide assistance ... to respond to a improve their quality of life or to promote Christian values or family values or to carry out other good works which the Committee deems appropriate. "(He also added that he did not require us to use "necessity" as a strict prerequisite in any particular case, though most of our cases DO arrive with "need" at their core.)

     Seated around the dining room table of a man no longer living and one I barely knew even when he was, was this woman I had promised to help...and 13 other people -- total strangers, who, like me, had no idea what this trust would become.

     For starters, we were each handed $1000 with the directive to "give it in whatever increments, to someone YOU deem worthy."  This might be an overworked waitress. In other scenarios it was a student about to miss a flight for having misplaced a credit card. In most cases, we did our deeds anonymous. In some, it couldn't be helped. Where we could we tried to stretch our funds to help as many people as possible.

     Another unique trait of the trust was that we were not to worry about the tax ramifications, (which is to say, the trust covers this; we were not always going to have a receipt showing what we'd done, after all, this was in large part about anonymity). It was not mandated we give to non-profits or to causes or situations whereby a tax exemption required a receipt. No. Our funds were to go to people, places, causes that WE individually, spotted--usually short notice (i.e. in the moment)-- something WE deemed "needed" or "deserved" ...Each quarter we would report back the wildest "opportunities" presented to us. In time, we had to draft additions to our bi-laws as certain patterns in gift receiving surfaced almost immediately (i.e. repeat requests; requests by family members or close friends who, upon knowing of our trust might say "Hey...YOU with that old guy's money...Remember me?")

     I know what you're thinking because I've had person after person ask it too..."YOU-- have the TASK of giving away another person's money?" (Like "Is this a trick question?") But to be gut level honest...It's not as easy as you'd think, for with each decision to give comes a deluge of internal scrutiny of "Did I discern this need properly?" or "Will I be ticked if they don't show gratitude?" Thank you notes became a hot topic for me in those cases wherein we DID make it known to the recipient after all, "I" wasn't the one to thank, but if you want to truly show your gratitude, I'm MORE than happy to take your note to my next meeting. (Sadly thank you's don't always happen...That was something "I" had to get over.... Even in this were our spiritual lessons evolving.)

     So now... nearly 14 years later...we've lost 3 members to the overwhelm of the assignment...(Again, you wouldn't think it, but there is a certain emotional burden here if done properly. You might not think this logically, but it IS a BIG commitment to be responsible for giving away another's money...fulfilling another's intention, being lived out by folks here for those no longer living.) Two of our original members have passed, one of which was the man's wife and our leader (which adds another whole layer of "What's it all about Alfie" as now those of us remaining REALLY scrutinize if this is what He AND She would have us do in their stead.)

     Some of the trust's chairs were filled with family~ 3 sisters remain on the trust today, the energies from which I can only describe as heart-warmingly gut-wrenching (so intent are THEY on sticking to their uncle's dying wish)...

     Some of the chairs are held by fellow co-workers or employs who worked with the trust's founder the early years of growing his business...

     Some...(at least one), like my own is warmed by a person the man barely new...but a person he somehow felt might bring something to the table.

     We were given permission to bring larger requests to the group...such as for crises like those we're watching unfold in the Smoky Mountains. Larger needs called for larger contributions. (Last night's meeting spent much time and energy discussing just this.)

     In short, we're a team without our original captain at the helm...A team who regularly keeps to the meetings, but today, watches for signs and direction from on high as to how best we continue accomplishing the mission given to us as we give away money to strangers we (often individually and alone) deem worthy.

     One season we were given the creative exercise of giving our money ($100 at a pop) to 10 people to see what THEY would do with funds. Other times we voted on who  had the most hilarious story. (Trust me. You walk up to a stranger and offer to buy their groceries, their NES bill or their airplane ticket, you'll encounter some awkward moments and moments that can quite often, make you want to tuck tail and hide. Anonymous is our favorite way to go BY far, but you can't always pull that off logistically without SOMEone being in the know as to what's up and WHY?)

     While we can give to other non-profits and often have, it's not our favorite thing to do...The goal of the trust (as I feel it to be in life overall) is to LIVE the giving LEARN from the opportunity, both the good and the not-so-comfortable moments (like looking back when you called one wrong and found yourself gulping hard as you apologized to your fellow trust members for maybe not doing as much soul searching as you should've...Suffice it to say, we've had some tearful meetings along with some joyful ones~).

     We've given to dog causes, homeless causes...We've put families in hotels when their houses burned down. We've bought appliances after jobs or livelihoods were lost. We've paid funeral expenses. We've sent in repair people who were told to simply say "An angel sent me." We've paid last minute electric bills and water bills just before the shut off. We've sent pizzas, crayons, flowers...We've bought hearing aids and dentures...You name it. We've seen it and in many cases, we've funded it.

     But we've also given to folks you might NOT imagine...We've left anonymous, yet enormous tips where others would've gotten a news story out of it. We've slipped cash into the hands of cashiers and said "2 people behind me...Tell them it's covered...Just let me get out of the store first."

     In short, we've done our best for what was asked of us and today still ask "What next God?" when we gather around (now my own dining room table) every third month to say "How long can we keep this thing going?"

     I write all this....confess all this, NOT for praise or glory. (I think scripture is pretty clear on those wanting credit while on earth...This is NOT what this trust is about.) I share this to say the lessons I have lived/learned/continue to grow from are other-worldly...They are lessons in material giving, yes, but more, they are lessons in spiritual growth. These are tough lessons for petty egos feeling the need to have someone say thank you to the team...Lessons in guilt for wondering if perhaps I wasn't the greatest steward this go-round....Lessons in "never take for granted that giving is easy"~

     Don't get me wrong -- There is no joy like it, but giving done right (which is to say, done unconditionally...done PURELY for the sake of giving...of helping...NOT for glory or reward) ....this is an ever-evolving proposition and one we will continue to work on I suspect until the day we die.

     I share this because this trust is now a part of who I am. I'm not asking for folks to start hitting me up for money, and I'm certainly not asking for recognition. But I did, just this morning, feel the need to acknowledge my fellow givers  after reviewing pictures of them holding goats at a meeting, which served to remind just what a sacred bunch of family this is for me. In living this one alongside these who share the mission given us, that I count as the most valuable gift and lesson of all~

     I share likewise to say, giving is a funny thing. It's not natural. It's not easy. The rewards of giving are not logical...they are spiritual. And things like this trust in no way replace what we each ought be doing on our own with our own tithes and gifts... In truth, I believe there is no such thing as altruism...Those who are good at it (and I'm not listing myself amongst these, but the truly GREAT givers we have come to marvel at...the Mother Teresas...the Bill and Melinda Gates...the Rick Warrens of the world....) I am convinced, they do it for a reason....even a selfish one~  That reason is not a reasonable reason, It's an internal, spiritual high, the likes of which cannot be replicated by ANYthing other than the experience itself...The experience of GIVING...The FEELING of knowing lives have been touched by a decision YOU made to do something nice for someone else....Something that affects hearts changes outlooks at deep, CORE levels...that's one thing you cannot convey in words...It only conveys when you've experienced it (no matter how small the amount).

     For some things there are no words...Describing in logical, linear terms what giving feels like...What giving is all about...This is one of those things.

     To tap it...touch it... share in it... takes one simple gesture...One cup of coffee for a toll paid for the person behind you~ One parking meter plugged when you'll never see the stranger for whom your act was a miracle~

     If you don't believe me...Try it.

     I double dog dare you~
    (I double goat dare you~ )

     Here's to a season of giving...

     Like any skill, there's an art to it...To get better at it requires practice...Regular, disciplined, in the trenches PRACTICE.

     Here's to finding such opportunities in your own walk ...

     Trust me. They're out there...They're everywhere.

     (I share only because I want YOU to feel the joy too.)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Resume the Blog...Resume the Blog...Must Resume...

So the voice is no longer whispering...
It now yells.

I KNOW it is in my best interest (she says quite selfishly) to resume a project I recommitted to several months ago ...of tracking this journey from outer world to inner...from city to country (not that you can't live an inner life in the city, you can I'm told...I simply find shutting off certain noises  and removing myself from certain distractions to help.)

Since last I left you, a couple of things have transpired...

For starters, I haven't gotten much paying work completed this year...unless you count selling a few goats, which I pretty much suck at because I keep naming them.

My third cookbook, while laid out, did not get done, and while I planted in April, the garden didn't make it either. (Kinda requires someone to work it. That my goats and pups were loved and cared for while I was away with my brother was more than I could've asked for. There'll be another year for a garden. I simply had to learn to let things slide with this one..."Release Karlen. Learn to release.")

When life calls, you answer. The good news is, what I lack in revenues, I made up for in priceless life lessons. My year took on new depths of meaning and soul searching the likes of which I'll  probably be writing about for the rest of my days on the planet.

But I did complete one task...

I completed my ministerial studies, more convinced by the experiences of this past year that whatever happens, I was probably not going to change, my wiring being "Help first. Figure it out later." Not so great for business, but it's where life found me this year.

So with "resume the blog" now playing daily in my inner intercom,  I share this as my attempt to get back in the zone...(Sometimes it helps just saying it out loud --or writing it--even if to total strangers.) Something about committing openly has a way of kicking things into real go-gear...
(At least it does for me.)

I share with you an article I was asked to write shortly after my ordination.

The request?

Could you write a column about those in ministering professions who forget to minister to themselves? (Because obviously I am so darned good at it...That was a little joke.)  Question is: who heals the healers? Who supports the supporters? These types (and I am nowhere to compare to those who work in healing professions day in and day out) they can often lose themselves in their service roles, seldom stopping to think about the practicalities of what it means to keep giving at all costs...

It's a topic near and dear to my heart, having seen many a good-hearted care-giver, give to the point of exhaustion over this past year...

So rather than re-invent a wheel here...Here's the article I wrote for a ministerial newsletter, but it applies to many other professions and some not even in the business of tending to others, but wired that way. No matter your background or your training, if you are inclined to put others first no matter the cost (which must be DNA for Southern females) ...or even if you're just ramping up for yet another burnout holiday season, knowing before you start you'll be depleted before it ends, well...truth is truth, and this truth may apply to you, so if the shoe fits...

Tomorrow, I'll get back to farm topics....after all, we've got goat babies coming out our ears and if anything makes you want to reflect on the good stuff in life, goat babies will do it.

More important, I have missed writing. Period. Daily.  I need it. All writers must do this. It's writer's law. Even if others 'out there' don't have time or desire to read it, it's therapy, so I  continue...

Meanwhile one last request: #PrayforOurSmokyMountains

My heart breaks along with all the rest of you at the devastation that's happened to our beautiful Smoky Mountains...To those healers on the ground, in the trenches, in those hospital corridors and hectic fire halls up in East Tennessee, this article may be timely for you as well.

Here's praying for healing...
Here's wishing us all a tender Tennessee Christmas~

(Reprinted from DSMA Newsletter Fall 2016; Divine Science International)

    "Don't forget to take care of yourself ... "
     If I heard it once I heard it 1,000 times. But let these words come from your doctor and this notion of healing the healer takes on quite the literal challenge.
     Like many, I was taught that caring for others is Christ-like, thus caring to the point of exhaustion, must be more Christ-like, right? I personally prided myself on being good at this sport. (Some say it's bred into Southern females.) But sadly, somewhere along the way I had confused care-taking, for who I was as a person, as opposed to caretaking as one (of a limited number of things) this body can do.      
     And like so many living lives of ministry, I have yet to master doing for myself what I' ll intrinsically do for others without so much as thinking about it.
     When told to love our neighbors as ourselves, it's assumed there was a healthy dose of self love going in, but who in life teaches us self love? It is not self love (heck it's not even kind) to keep giving to the point of exhaustion. And
nowhere in scripture does it say love your neighbor at the expense of yourself
     While we know and acknowledge that we are creations made by a perfect Creator, how is it we so easily we forget that no one creation is more or less important than another, after all, we are all one.
     For me, it wasn't even that others were asking so much as it was ME on auto-pilot, making myself unrealistically available out of sheer habit.
     To begin breaking this pattern for the sake of my physical health if nothing else, I had to first remove myself mentally from the me I thought I was. By this I mean, I pictured my inner child outwardly, as a physical child, placed in my stead to protect and nurture
     With this image firmly planted, it
soon became clear the effects of my poor choices on an innocent life.
     I pictured myself holding her little hand, her trusting eyes looking to me for support, and I came to realize that not only was I an unworthy mother, I was downright abusive. As I recognized I was allocating NOT the best of me, but
whatever dregs might be left over once I had care-taken the world I shuttered as it dawned on me "It's a miracle child services hasn't hauled me away!"
     That we are each expressions of Divine and endless love is 101 in our teachings, so why is it so difficult to remember that even endless supplies of love channel through earthen vessels, and these clay earthen vessels command respect if they are to be used properly. They require proper maintenance
     Recognizing that self-care is not a suggestion, but rather a decision one must recommit to each and every day, is perhaps the most difficult discipline of all, and yet one we cannot afford to let slide. Self love, self care, and doing-for yourself (at the very least} what you might do for another is not an Healing the Healersoptional proposition. It is as vital a lesson to incorporate into the day to day life of a minister as any lesson our teachings have to offer. 

Authored by Rev. Karlen Evins.

This summer Rev. Karlen was ordained by the Samaritan Institute. She is a writer, journalist, farmer, and goat herder. You may find out more about Rev. Karlen at

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post Election Thoughts on An Uncivil War

     I cannot lie. The elections did a number on my head, and worse, my heart. No sooner do I mourn the loss of a friend do I find myself mourning all over again and at the risk of it turning into a full blown depression, I decided to process it out loud.
     I've been around politics long enough to know you really DO want to keep your political opinions to yourself if you don't want to lose half your friends. Sadly, we have no civil discourse anymore...Disagree with me means you no longer like me, and to me that's just sad. Social media has robbed us of our ability to separate the two, but that's only the beginning of the sad part. Intended or not, these campaigns divided us...They pitted whites against blacks, reds against blues, you against me and us against them. And sadly, you can't spew the kinda bile these folks have been spewing, then day after ask us all to forgive and forget and just play nice and "everybody get along now, ya hear?" I know it's what candidates (say they) do (and I thought she did it with great aplomb), but her thick skin is not MY thick skin. Things said, insults hurled and cutting remarks made, they wounded...They cut deep. You wanted them memorable, well you got it. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can and DO tear us apart...we're living proof. We're human shrapnel.  Too many of the crass comments I heard...They've stuck with me. They're under my skin. I admit it. Respect is earned and I am not in a respecting place right now...
     It won't be instant healing, but there must be healing. I just don't think we can heal in a day because the one who lost asked us to. I'm more human than that.
     More than me being pro or anti anybody, what makes me sadder yet is that most of us (nearly all of us) went to the polls to vote against somebody. Nobody's voting FOR anymore. Greatest voter turnout is not when you like somebody, it's when you hate. It bothers me greatly to hear "lesser of two evils" (meaning we've totally accepted it's gonna be an evil leader whoever wins). It hurts my heart to hear "I hate so-n-so" when describing a candidate...or to see children holding signs with vulgar comments or words like "Kill" slathered on them. Those messages, those off-handed political slams, those barbs get indelibly imprinted in the minds of our next generations...The same generation we're begging to quit their bullying, while looking up to us bullying adults wondering "What's the difference?"
     Like it or not, this entire election has brought out the worst in us...and the aftershocks scare me more than the main quake. We don't have a Lincoln today to lead us through this Uncivil War we're in. We can't tweet our way to understanding. We can't turn a blind eye, pretend it didn't happen and hope for the best. It's going to take more than that...It's going to take time, and it's gonna take (most important of all) a sincere and heartfelt desire in each of us as individuals, to truly WANT to heal.
     I do have hope, mind you. I HAVE to have hope...If as a nation we plan to endure, we MUST have hope ...
     The hope I have? The one silver lining? It has nothing to do with election turn outs at all, but with individual, caring souls... As I sat there staring at my screen in shock and disbelief, one thought came to me, speaking to me not from a campaign loud speaker, but in the stirring of a still small whisper...
     "It was never out there in the first place, Evins...Why are you staring at your set...?" Our answers in life are never someone else's to devise for us. True answers for how I live my life come from within...I know this...What was I thinking?
     If there's a pony to be found anywhere in this pile of crap we called an election, I have found it to be in the reminder to shift my focus, and sooner the better. Get out of the hate game where they can control us...and back into the love zone where we need it most. True healing doesn't come from bureaucrats or oligarchs...True healing and things like compassion, and caring for our fellow man cannot be mandated. No...that comes from hearts --like yours, like mine. And in this, and this alone, I DO have hope.
     My resolve today is to remove the reminders that made me so vulnerable in the first place (namely the evening news and the petty squabbles they dubbed debates). If we are in any way, shape or form hopeful of healing this country, we must start first by healing ourselves. (Don't know about you, but I'm in need of a little self-nurturing about now...I feel like I've lived through a tsunami.)
     Once reseted, centered, back on balance, THEN we begin to lift the rubble...
     And once poised and ready to lift, we do not start with fear...We do not start by pointing fingers of blame. We start with an internal, genuine, passionate desire for healing. It ain't "out there" folks. Nothing "out there" is going to save us. Never has. Never will.
     But "in here" ...each with your own still, small your own loving home...I believe there's hope. Today I turn my thoughts inward. I refuse to give the lowest common denominator the benefit of my most prized possessions, that being my thoughts, my passion... my heart.
     I've got to be honest... Right now I'm not so proud to be an American. But I'm sure as heck humbled to be one...And maybe this country could use a bit more humble than pride right now...Cause if the Bible's right, and the meek are gonna inherit the earth, I can dang sure guarantee you that program won't start in Washington.

(Thanks for letting me vent. I now resume my little life on the farm...I have a choice at what my eyes take in today...I choose love!)
(I cannot look at this shot of Rosebud and not crack up!)

Monday, November 7, 2016

This Thing Called Prayer

“I’m praying for you…”
What exactly does that mean?

I’m praying you will (fill in the blank) _________ recover from this ordeal? I’m praying you walk again? I’m praying you flat out live... Isn’t that how we pray? Isn’t that what prayer’s about? A request to the big guy to grant our own personal, limited view of the bigger picture?

One of the toughest conversations of my life came when a friend of mine lost her teenage daughter in a car accident. Depressed and reclusive for the year that followed, two Christmases later I received  a card. She wanted to talk… “You believe in God. You do that metaphysical show… What did I do wrong ?” she asked (as if I held such answers).

When we got together she painfully relived the worst day of her life…detailing the call no parent ever wants to receive….The call that starts out, “There’s been an accident…” and is followed by a bunch of garbled-y-gook… then ends with words like “Lifeflight" and "Vanderbilt” ~

She described the frenzied race...the speeding down the interstate to get there, get there, GET THERE ...the entire drive one big long prayer to please, please, please, please, PLEASE Oh God...let my daughter live!!

But her daughter didn’t live. My friend was too late. By the time she arrived, her daughter had passed. The doctors did all they could do, but that wasn’t enough.

After a year of blinding depression, her question now was “What did I do wrong?” Followed by “What should I have done differently?”

Would it have mattered if, instead of racing to get there, I’d made 10 calls and asked each of them to make 10 calls…(Does quantity matter?)

Would it have changed things if I’d called my preacher first? (Does the quality of the one praying matter?)

In short, it’s what we as humans do, when we as humans can't alter the outcome, right? We beg God to do it for us. We call in the favors. Isn't that what prayer is all about?

My understanding of prayer is ever evolving … As a child, I prayed like a child, which at the time, involved a lot of rhymes (or attempts at) “God is great…God is good…"  got us through meals ….“Before I wake” and “Soul to take”  got us through the night.

Later, my prayers were basically selfish wish lists… “Dear God, let me make cheerleader…” or “Dear God, I pray I get in...this play...this program...this university.”

With time my prayers became more sophisticated, but they were still rather self serving… “Bless this relationship (usually after a bunch of prayers like “Dear God, let him call”) or “Dear God, please help me not hate this new program director so much...”

I'd like to think some made God laugh; no doubt, there was perhaps some psychological benefit as at least I acknowledged my imperfections, but end of day my prayers were still pretty much me asking someone out there—to fix or make better something, down here.

Granted, it’s habit, hardwired into me after years and years of doing it wrong, but for the most part, I don’t pray like that anymore. Today I approach prayer differently…Prayer is no longer my universal wish list for the world to do things my way, so much as it is a meditative approach to calm my monkey brain while aligning myself to THE Source of all things good in hopes of being better equipped for whatever does wind up happening.

Additionally, prayer is my own centering effort that (when done right) has been known to bring comfort in those times when I have absolutely no control in the matter (which is pretty much all the time if we get right down to it).

Case in point… Two nights ago, in a pocket of extreme “no control in the matter” I not only prayed for my friend who’d slipped into a coma… I reached out on Facebook and asked friends and total strangers to do the same…

For the next two days I watched the count tick upwards of 200, I opened emoticons, I fed off the energy that those short little phrases packed and I DID find comfort…I found great comfort in knowing others cared. That others were with me in thought packed a whale of a punch...That one simple request could net such an outpouring of love was the ultimate prayer benefit if you ask me, after all that outpouring was real…I felt it physically and I pray my friend and his wife did as well.

But last night, my friend passed away anyway…Removing the tubes that had kept lungs pumping, his exhausted body gave way and his spirit soared. (This I believe with all my heart.)

Had I prayed for this? Was this the prayer of my Facebook friends? (I sincerely doubt it.) No. My selfish prayer was for him to stick around…Suffer through if you must. Stay with us Rick. Stay with us! Though I had tossed one in requesting “Whatever happens God, give us the strength and wisdom to deal…” I had not held this as the ultimate picture I was hoping for. Nope. My prayer at its core, was still a selfish one...and I'm sad to say, it is again today.

Today I find myself praying for comfort…my own, yes, but all the others who are missing him too...for his wife, and for those who are sad for his wife...Everyone who'll miss his smiling face. Some might even be praying to understand why (after all, my friend was a young guy…his gifts to this planet, enormous. If you’re gonna take someone God, why not take a deadbeat who drains the system?)

But the fact that my friend is gone, and I awake to news of plenty of deadbeats that made it through the night tells me I clearly don’t grasp the ultimate meaning of what prayer is truly all about.

So today, I’ll practice praying some more…I’ll dig a little deeper…I’ll pray for wisdom to accept the things I cannot change…I’ll pray to be there for the others who, like me, are mourning the loss…

And we’ll pray that maybe, just maybe, we start living as if we really believe this stuff we claim to believe…that life beyond this one is so much greater and that the real prize is getting there and that any of our requests to the contrary come from our very narrow, very limited understanding of the bigger picture…And I’ll pray that maybe, just maybe my prayers will evolve…that instead of praying for petty things like a parking space or my team to win or the phone to ring or that job to come through or…or…or…Maybe I pray to get it right it right next time.

Dear God, today I pray that you help me understand more fully, this thing called prayer. Send a refresher course…Send a user’s manual. Give us all a better, more thorough understanding of what Jesus left us as the ultimate prayer example, as I’m still not convinced we’re getting it right.

And I pray a prayer of thanks…For having known this soul in the first place…For having questioned life and having lived life a little deeper because of these past few days…And I pray a prayer of thanks for what I’m told is a most exciting journey ever ... a journey my friend is experiencing this very minute!

I don't know much, but this I do know…

If praying for a friend (and recruiting others to do the same) nets me a friend who is today resting in peace, then I might want to backtrack and recall just what it is I was truly praying for in the first place.  Cause last I checked, God wasn’t out there for spite…taking sincere prayer requests and delivering a 180 opposite just for kicks.

No. If anyone doesn’t grasp the true meaning and purpose of prayer, it has to be me, so may my prayer going forward be one of asking to better understand (so as to better utilize) this gift we were given, that we perhaps  too often take for granted...This gift we know as prayer.