Pilgrim Cafe

Continuing Conversations on the Human Spirit



Thanks Living


During my Junior High School years (remember Junior High?) My parents placed me under the tutelage of an old, retired teacher, named Mrs. Lee. Mrs Lee, a great grand daughter of the famous Southern general Robert E. Lee, lived adjacent to my school in a large yellow antebellum mansion that was itself a bit mysterious for a young southern boy.

Mrs. Lee was a pint size jolly septuagenarian lady with silver hair and an infectious laugh. She had been a grade schoolteacher in her time and had developed special skills for teaching young persons how to read and continued tutoring kids long into retirement.

The house had tall slender windows with open panes that let in the light revealing flowery tattered wallpaper of an earlier era that revealed its age and the care of its owner. I usually arrived early for lesson, and was allowed to rummage around exploring nooks and crannies, trinkets and memorabilia on display or tucked at the end of shelves in her burgeoning bookcases.

I literally loved going there and being allowed to explore before getting down to the business at hand. One day, I can remember, I discovered a large square cabinet in the adjacent room. On its front were two long cabinet doors and a crank on its right side. Unable to restrain my curiosity I carefully opened the two vertical doors revealing an ornate grill framing oblong cotton cover. Addional inspection revaled that the cabinet top lifted from the front. Peering in I saw what should have been a turntable, but was more like a round tray with a ¼ inch high rim. Just to the right of the tray there was an arm like a phonograph but it had no needle, I could not figure out what this odd player would work. It was different from any I had ever seen. Confused, I asked Mrs. Lee when she enter the room to start the lesson.

“O honey,” she laughingly replied, “That’s an old Victrola phonograph, record player.”

“This does not appear to be able to play,” I replied.

“O, its been that way for years,” she continued, “One day years ago it just stopped working. There are some records in the lower cabinet under the speaker.”

I curiously assessed the apparatus before me once again. I discovered the circular tray was not tray at all. It was the turntable on the old machine. Years before someone had turned the playing surface upside down and left it. Mrs. Lee, not mechanically inclined, left it that way. To her mind it had stopped working. It was broken. I inverted the turntable and it fit perfectly. I turned the crank to wind the drive spring, found an old 78 record and inserted a wooden needle discovered in a small compartment. These adjustments completed, the old phonograph played as it had years before.

“That’s wonderful!” laughed Mrs Lee. I can hear those records once again.” She was like a child with a new toy. She began to rummage through the old hard discs locating music she thought had been lost to her. It was so much fun and I felt like my limited understanding of electronics had truly been useful that day. In the weeks that followed, she would recall with sheer joy how thankful she was at the return to function of her phonograph. I heard her comments as personal gratitude for what I had done.

Have you ever received gratitude for something YOU have done for another? Certainly, you have. Such grateful responses come as moments of great celebration and empowerment. You feel valuable to others and encouraged to do even more.

Thanksgiving is an annual national celebration of just that, GIVING THANKS, for what has been done for us. Ancestors who stuck it out. Weathering hardships most of us can not fathom in order to settle this new land and raise families that would see it as home. Every step we take, we are supported by the life-giving efforts of others who have gone before.
Our weekly services of worship are actually times to pause, in our ever busying routine, to give thanks for the circles of caring and empowerment within which we live. Not just those we can list when we put our mind in gear, but the myriad relationships which we daily continue to take for granted or even those of which we are unable to be aware.

Mrs. Lee helped me experience the empowering feeling of being on the receiving end as someone to whom thanks is given. When you receive thanks, it is like loose ends are somehow tied together. When someone thanks me for something that I have done, it is as though they have validated the relationship, even if I had no ulterior motive in helping out.

A typical response these days, when someone else thanks us for something that we have done, is to quip off, “No problem.” We say “No problem,” rather than you are welcome or glad to do it, or something more relational. I have tried to eliminate this glycerin like expression from my responses for that reason. I suppose, when that is said, it is an attempt not to encumber the other with a sense of obligation. But along with it we eliminate the notion of value that is also implied. If you are someone of value to me, knowing that our relationship is worth investing in is a good thing. My response then is a way of affirming the value of our relationship and by extension, you as a person.

The same holds true in one’s relationship with God. The Hebrew idea of thanksgiving involved a recognition that God was the sole source of power in ones life. It’s a way of recognizing the value of the relationship as an important source and resource in our lives.

At Thanksgiving we remember the early stories of survival recounted by our genetic and spiritual ancestors. We recognize that we are NOT SELF-MADE PERSONS. Our lives are built on the dedication, sacrifices, genetics and spiritual contributions of other persons, often others who will, of necessity, remain nameless to us. Even those of us who have drawn on our own abilities, resources or achievements. We are eternal recipients of the contributions of others even if we don’t know who to personally thank.

Thus, Thanksgiving is not just a national celebration, its not just proper etiquette, it is lifelong state of mind we are invited to cultivate. Thanksgiving suggests THANKS LIVING. It is a recognition of the essential relationships that feed and empower our lives daily.

And so, may I invite you on this Thanksgiving, even if it is over a burger at a fast-food franchise. To join me and think on these things. OK?

Thank you, and

You are welcome.

I Should Cut Down this Old Crabapple Tree

American Crabapple

I should cut down this old crabapple tree.

Lightning seared it years ago,

Then heavy snow broke it almost in two.

I trimmed and culled to no avail.

Now it sits hunched in the yard

An ugly, stunted gnome of a tree,

Dead twigs and stumps of old wounds

Poking strange and ragged from the green.

I should cut down this old crabapple tree.

But last time I grunted into work boots

And limped on aching knees to fetch the saw,

I stood squinting up into its branches,

My one good eye shaded by this hand

Suddenly more old than middle aged,

Breathing hard through the gap in my teeth

Where the dentist had recently culled,

Then stumped back and put away the saw.

I should cut down this old crabapple tree.

~ Robert Jeager

Bob is a longtime friend residing in Englewood, Colorado and devotee of Mehr Baba. Earthy and deeply spiritual, Bob is a prized mentor and brother in the world of words.


meditating buddhaA lovely, unpublishable [not pictured], pen and ink depiction of the Buddha meditating by an undisturbed pool of water rendered by my love Gail Evans speaks deeply to me. The figure sits quietly by a pool of still water that reflects his image to the viewer. One at first wonders if the buddha is exhibiting a cliche, navel gazing, as is commonly expressed. On closer inspection, however, one discovers that he is not narcissistically fixed on the reflection of self, but peering beyond the moment of apparent reality into the pool of pure consciousness itself.

As I regularly consider my own inner pool, it seems that, at times, consciousness is all there is, that there is no other reality. Other times, it seems that even consciousness itself is a construct to appease a simple mind that can only generalize from evidential flickers across my screen. Not to construct a reality from these flicks is to remain between the frames of life’s animating flow or to freeze on one frame as though it were all that needed to be seen.

In these times of clarity, I am a bit unnerved by the thought that reality is but my own construct, my reality and that of no other. I can see, however, that the grand designer, must have wanted it that way by making it essential for us to share views, to network, and to work together in order that a fuller reality may birth among us.

wpid-wp-1412873141813.jpegA lion’s share of my 45 years as a United Methodist Clergy was spent as you see me in the picture above, leading group singing. I became so associated with the guitar and songfests that it may interest you that I was not always confident in such public exposure, infact it frightened me terribly.

I burst forth from  my chrysalis as I left the small east Texas two that had been my home from kindergarten through college. I answered a call to church work thinking I would be a Minister of Music in a large church by entering Southern Methodist University in Dallas as a MSM candidate. It was not long after meeting the many really talented and gifted student drawn to this world calibre program that I came to feel seriously flawed. I was only a meager talent at best and gifted only with a nice, not fabulous, voice and could play no instrument whatsoever. At the end of the first year of the program, it was clear to me that music, though maintaining potential as a lifelong avocation, would not serve me well as a vocation.

The Seminary, Perkins School of Theology, next door became a likely place to explore. It wasn’t long before I discovered a small career subspecialty career field called Christian Education. It was all about Sunday School organization, Youth Group formation, leader training and a bunch of other small print at the bottom of the label in which was hidden the words preferably play an instrument to lead singing.

In my first appointment out of seminary I became the Minister of Youth and Education. I pulled out an old guitar, having finally reached the small print, and began to practice. It was not good. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to risk it, so I let it sit. Then one weekend I took my teachers to a training workshop at a large church in Dallas. The speaker was a famous female Christian educator who had written a book entitled Teaching the Bible to Children. During the workshop, she pulled out her old orange crate Japanese guitar and prepared to lead the group in a children’s song. Her playing was simple and the guitar betrayed the fact that she won it at a carnival and her voice was weak and off pitch, BUT the group sang the entire song and it worked in her lesson. After she was done, she confided that she was not a singer, a revelation that surprised no one, and that she knew her playing left much to be desired, but she continued,

I used my guitar because I wanted to encourage those of you who do play some instrument but have considered yourself not  good enough to do it anyway. If you let yourself enjoy it, others will sing along.

Her words were literally music to my ears and I felt courage rekindle in my heart. I went home pulled out the Mexican Chaquita guitar and began to practice. As I learned a song, I would use it with children.

When I moved to a new church, I would parle with the youth and have them teach me their music and how to play it. Then I would play in the back ground as they lead singing until I felt I knew the songs well enough to take a more prominent role. I copied everyone I could and learned from many. I watched from those who looked natural and adaptive to different settings and situations that arise on stage and developed my own natural style. I became able to read a crowd and keep the energy high. The rest, as they say, is history.


There was the time when my son discovered the backside of his right hand. “Aha! Eureaka! There is something back there! Incredible,” you could just see him think as it finally clicked. “This thing has two sides and I am in control of what I see.” It was a Copernicus Moment for someone only a few months old, and everything sprang from there: pushing away from the breast, lifting himself in the bassinett (remember bassinets), reaching, turning other things over, looking under things, pushing and pulling things to see them move (even if it was off the countertop), eventually walking and then watchout!

It all began with that first aha moment. Wikipedia calls it the Aha Effect or the Eureka Effect. So cool. Life is full of self evident truths that reveal themselves as we grow, as we open our eyes, as we put together the seemingly random pieces of experience that we collect. Remember the time you discovered what the phenomenon of balance felt like? Or how to make (not just sound) music from a string? Or how to whistle? Remember the time you realized that they loved you and would not leave you? Remember the time that you discovered that you could actually hurt someone elses feelings…I mean really hurt them? Do you remember when you discovered that some things heal themselves and some things remain open sores? Do you remember when you discovered that death was not final? There are so many aha moments that make life a continual unfolding journey. So much to learn. So many things you don’t really have to dig for, simply open your eyes!

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