short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Little Stevie Wonder… Father John Shea… and Thanksgiving


I can’t remember where I read it, but I do remember the author, Father John Shea, and the exact quote: “Without reflection, there can be no gratitude.” Without stopping to think, to remember, to re-run those memories in our minds and hearts—there is no way we can muster a sincere thank you.

During my growing up years, there was a standing rule in our house that within a day or so of receiving a gift, we had to write thank-you notes to the givers—or we’d have to send the gifts back.  Talk about tough love.

Now, the notes didn’t have to be long, and we could write as large as we liked  (to fill up the card)—but we had to say “thanks for the gift”, and we had to mention something specific that we liked about the gift.  Some were easy: “Loved the new paint set!…or “The Slinky was great—it’s walking down the steps even as I write.”   Some notes were a little harder: Underwear, socks, new pajamas—favorite grandma gifts—always challenged our creative writing skills. “Cool jammies…100% cotton…the fabric of our lives.”  (Cotton later stole my cool idea.)

“Without reflection, there can be no gratitude.”

I remember Stevie Wonder, decades ago, accepting one of his many Grammy’s.  Wearing his signature shades, dreadlocks dangling, he thanked managers and producers and, of course, family, before the unexpected:  “…And I would also like to thank God…” (pause to collect himself) “…because it didn’t have to be this way.”  Being born blind and black in a culture that was in the throes of a civil rights battle, “Little Stevie Wonder” knew his story could have played out so differently.

“Without reflection, there can be no gratitude.”

So, reflect, folks!  Reflect on that loving family… and that beautiful home.  Think about that strong back and healthy mind so many do not have.  And the job!… and that college education.  Picture those beautiful kids and the joy they bring you.  Reflect on your faith and your church family.  And the list goes on.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving… and don’t forget to write your thank-you’s…

…or the gifts are going back.  🙂




JFK…Maya Angelou…Gerry Hearin…and Great Trees


On this fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I am reminded of an amazing poem by Maya Angelou.  I heard it at the memorial service of Rev. Gerry Hearin, one of the greatest pastor-preachers I have been privileged to know.  You could not read this at just anyone’s memorial service.  It wouldn’t ring true.  But it was perfect for Gerry’s.  It’s a shame it came too late to be read at President Kennedy’s service

“When Great Trees Fall”

–by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder,

lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety.

When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence,

their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile.

We breathe briefly.

Our eyes briefly see with a hurtful clarity.

Our memory suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid,

promised walks never taken.

Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us.

Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened.

Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away.

We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance

of dark, cold caves.

And when great souls die, after a period,

peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly.

Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us,

They existed.  They existed.

We can be. Be and be better.

For they existed.

Here’s to JFK…and Gerry…and all the great trees of our lives.  And while we are at it, here’s to becoming the trees we were meant to be for others.  Thanks, Ms. Angelou for putting our feelings into words for us.


p.s., Go to any online or brick and mortar bookstore to find more of Maya Angelou’s word and wisdom.  I believe you will find, “When Great Trees Fall” in Mom and Me, and other collections of her poetry.


“Characters Welcome?…”

The USA Network has a catchphrase that lets you know upfront what they are all about.  The catchphrase: “Characters welcome.”   So, USA Network is about stories and the people who make those stories stories.  

Without characters, the stories would be various words for boring—uninteresting, bland, blah, one-dimensional.  But with these characters, the stories become animated, engaging, unpredictable—they have layers.  The story lines are important, but we are drawn in because of characters (like us) with all of their baggage and backstories and imperfections—their foibles. (Love that word—maybe because I’ve got so many.)

The word, foible, comes from the world of swords.  The foible is the weakest part of the sword—that section from the middle of the blade to the tip.  Carry the meaning over to people and a foible becomes “…a minor flaw or shortcoming in character or behavior…a weakness….” (Merriam-Webster)

As much as we may dislike our foibles; as much as we try to hide or minimize them—they are probably a very important element in our story.  They may make us a little goofy or quirky or temperamental or put-offish, but they make us “us.”   And our foibles, I believe, are the windows God climbs through to do some of his best work.

Jesus’ parables always involved characters with foibles—people making good decisions…people making bad decisions.  Self-consumed people.  Desperate people. Grieving people. Angry people. Hypocrites. People who ought to know better.

His bottom line response: “Characters welcome.”   “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  To an adulterous woman, he said, “Is there no one left to condemn you?  Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  He ate with IRS agents and sinners. He mentioned, to a middle-aged or older Nicodemus, the possibility of being born again–and dangling an impossibility before our eyes just isn’t Jesus’ way.

I’m thinking that The Jesus Network—if Jesus had a network–might use a catchphrase similar to that of The USA Network.  “Characters welcome”.

Until he gets his own network, I guess The Church will just have to suffice.

Characters welcome?….



Post Navigation

Southern Exposures

Stories, Ideas, and Opinions ... with a Southern Twist


Attentivess That Leads To Action

Little Fears

Tales of humour, whimsy and courgettes

Holy Soup

with Thom Schultz

Hey Preacher!

everything I forgot to say on Sunday

Mind's Seat

Set your mind on the things above

JUMP FOR JOY Photo Project

sharing the joy of the human spirit in mid air around the world


Non-violence. Talking Peace. Everything Aikido.

Tony Romano


Songwriting Pro

Helping songwriters turn pro.