Thomas Merton—Monk, Mystic, Poet, Writer

A Life in Letters

Recently, I have been reading Thomas Merton, A Life in Letters



Happy New Year!!

Drums in my heart are drummin

Ever since I was a small girl, back in the days when Poppa was enthralled with Scotland, home of the Presbyterians, I have loved the song “My Bonnie Lassie.”  Much later I learned it was also the tune of “Scotland the Brave,” a favorite military march. I think I owned the Ames Brothers record with the Bonnie Lassie version. Oh…well…I still love it and was enchanted to find it combined with another favorite “Auld Lang Syne” on a New Year’s greeting e-card from  The lyrics below are from

My Bonnie Lassie lyrics
Drums in my heart are drummin,
I hear the bagpipes hummin,
My Bonnie Lassie’s comin over the sea.
My heart with her she’s bringin,
I hear the blue bells ringin,
Soon we’ll be highland flingin,
My love and me.

(I’ll meet her at the shore,
Playin the pipes for her,
Dressed in a kilt and a tam o’shanter too.
Drums in my heart are drummin,
I hear the bagpipes hummin,
My Bonnie Lassie’s comin, comin to me.)

Somewhere a ship and crew,
Sails o’er the ocean blue,
Bringing, oh, bringing,
My bonnie back to me.
That’s why the drums are drummin,
That’s why the pipes are hummin,
My Bonnie Lassie’s comin, comin to me.


Sad are the lads she’s leavin,
Many a sigh they’re heavin,
Even the heather’s grievin, cryin with dew.
She’s left her native highland,
To come and live in my land,
She’ll love the folks who smile,
And say, “how-de-do”.


Two of my favorite bloggers:  Reverend Bill Peterson, a retired Presbyterian minister, and Dr. R Scott Colglazier, Senior Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.

Reverend Peterson was the pastor of Salem Presbyterian Church in the 1990’s, where my father was pastor from 1960-1968. Dr. Colglazier and I both lived on Main Street in Salem. His mother worked for my first husband’s drugstore, Apple Drugs, and my mother was his third grade teacher. Oh, how I love these webs of connectivity—across the miles, across the web, reaching out through time and space, reaffirming Thomas Merton’s epiphany “…we cannot be alien one to another….”  The line of connection stretches from Connecticut to Indiana to California, a shared experience of place and memories.

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  Prayers, poetry and commentary compiled and distributed by the Rev. Dr.

William D. Peterson, aretired Presbyterian Church USA Teaching Elder/ Minister of the Wordand Sacrament Bill
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Bill Writes:
The world may seem very large geographically, but as Frederick Buechner’s reflections shared this morning indicate, No man nor woman is an island to his or herself.
    In relationship to the following message from R. Scott Colglazier,  his memories of November 22, 1963, when he was in the first grade, relate to the day I was in the fall semester of my senior year at Wheaton College, and driving to E. Lansing, MI, for interviews scheduled for the next day at Michigan State University. Now I know more of our respective ages and stages in life.
As to the “small world” phenomenon, however, in April of 1994,  I was ordained an installed as the Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in the community in Southern Indiana that was the location of the school Scott so vividly describes. Scott himself was no longer residing in the community by the time Kathy and I moved there, or during the six years of our subsequent sojourn with the good people of the community, but members of his extended family were still in the area.
So thank you Scott, for providing such a vivid example of the web of life that directly or indirectly connects us all in good times and in times of tragedy.


Small Boy. Big Memory.

November 21, 2013 by Dr. R. Scott

I remember it with such vividness. I was in first grade. The school building was old. Wooden floors. High ceilings. The hall echoed with voices and footsteps. The heavily-stained oak desks were perfectly aligned and bolted to the floor. (No collaborative learning in those days.) We sat in rows. We sat quietly. We listened to the teacher and learned.

My mother walked me to the bus stop each morning that fall. I wore dark bluejeans replete with orange stitching, and the pants were stiff, as if made of starched cardboard. I wore a white polo shirt for my first grade picture that year. I didn’t smile. I was serious, even as a first grader, earnest and serious. I was sitting toward the back of the classroom on November 22, a classroom ringed with dusty blackboards, and above the boards, art work illustrating numbers and letters. My first grade reading book featured “Dick and Jane.” (Oddly enough, the names of my dad and aunt.) The illustrations in the book were warm and familiar.

I remember sitting in Mrs. Cauble’s class, and then a terrible anguished scream rang out from the hallway. It was not a scream exactly, more like a high-pitched groan. I then heard the sound of a woman running down the hallway, her shoes making a frantic clacking sound against the wooden floors. I later figured out that the woman was the school’s secretary. I don’t remember her name, but she assisted the school principal, Mr. Spradley, who was rumored to have an electric paddle in his office for any student who dared to challenge his authority. A short time later Mrs. Cauble, sweet, old and now shaken, shared the news that the President of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had been shot and killed.

The full impact of this news did not really sink in until I went home, because for the next few days I watched the black and white news coverage on the television with my mother. We were living in a small two-bedroom house on Standish Street, and I remember sitting on the living room floor and watching the procession of sadness – the horse-drawn casket, Mrs. Kennedy in her black dress, the two children, and the sober voice of Walter Cronkite’s as he offered commentary on the proceedings.

I remember feeling confused, upset and afraid. Of course the entire nation was shocked. I now realize that the death of President Kennedy was my first awareness of impermanence. The implacable reality that the universe shifts. I would learn that lesson again with Dr. King’s death. And Bobby Kennedy’s death. And then my grandfather dying. And then two friends killed in an automobile accident. And then a President resigning. And on and on goes the litany of life. Impermanence: You wake up and the world is one way. You go to bed and the world is different. November was such a sad day.

I was a small boy. It is a big memory. I’m still trying to understand that day in November fifty years ago.

Father’s Day Meditation

Father’s Day Meditation–given at Salem Presbyterian Church
Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two Shepherds

I want to honor two fathers who have been vitally important to this church family and to my own family, for the past 50 years. In the hallway collage, there is a b/w picture of these two men, taken about 1965-66. At the top of the picture, my father, Pastor Floyd Doud Shafer, stands in the church doorway, greeting parishioners who are leaving the service, while my husband Max Bedwell is shepherding his young family—Deanna, Steve, and their mother LuAnn–down the steps. That’s how I think of these two men—as shepherds, guiding and directing their own families, as they guided and directed others in their professional lives.

My father and I had a prickly relationship. I greatly admired his scholarship and knowledge, but thought he was too harsh with me—and that his knowledge of how to raise girls was adolescent, at best. He did better with my sister, who is nine years younger, having had some difficult learning times with me. Where my father excelled was as a grandfather, greatly enjoying his six grandsons and one granddaughter, inspiring his oldest grandson to become a scholar, and supporting the education and development of his other grand-children. He had the joy of knowing two of his great-grandchildren, Zoey and Anthony.

Those of you who knew my father probably remember his witty conversation, full of jokes, irony, satire, literary illusions, and sometimes brilliant remarks. He loved to joke and laugh. He loved repartee—-conversation with him was scintillating and fun. My childhood was filled with laughter.

My father was born in Grayville, Illinois; his father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother was a teacher. Sadly, Grandfather Shafer died when my father was 14, leaving my grandmother and father to struggle with poverty during the Depression. After graduating from Hanover College in 1938, he studied for the ministry at the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, earning a Master of Divinity in 1941, and was ordained to the ministry of the United Presbyterian Church in Valparaiso, Indiana in 1941. He entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City where he was thrilled at his good fortune in studying with the theologians Paul Tillich and Martin Buber, receiving a Master of Divinity in 1942. All of my life, I heard my father speak with wonderment that he, a poor kid from rural Indiana, was privileged to study with the greatest theologians of the 20th Century. In March 1942, he and my mother, Carol Jeanne Parsons, were married, a union of 54 years. From 1944-1946, he served as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army, the 96th Division, 382nd Regiment, 2nd Battalion, accompanying the troops in the landing and invasion of Okinawa, and also serving in the South Pacific.

My father always wished to be called “pastor,” seeing his role as that of a shepherd. He served pastorates in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. In his younger pastoring days, he enjoyed working with the youth. I remember church picnics, youth camping trips to the mountains, and fishing and swimming in the lakes of several states. Here in Salem there were hot dog roasts, outings to the Bogg’s cabin on the lake near Brownstown, and swim parties at the DeJeans & Haags’ swimming pool.

A writer as well as a pastor, he wrote Sunday School lessons for Crossroads, the Presbyterian Sunday School series, as well as numerous articles, book reviews, and a book on liturgy. Many of his articles were written here in Salem in his study in our home on Main Street. A scholar, my father studied Latin and Greek all of his life, always carrying around little books with verb or other declensions. He loved books and amassed a collection of 15,000 books, which he left to his grandson, Jimmy [Professor James B. Apple, PhD]. In his ministry, my father took great pride in the written and spoken word. His powerful sermons were literary and erudite, uplifting and intellectually stimulating. When he retired from the active ministry in 1981, he served the Sciota Valley Presbytery as a pulpit supply pastor, retiring in 2002 when his health declined. He spent sixty years as a pastor.

He and my mother, Carol Jeanne, loved Salem Presbyterian Church, finding the years they served here–1960-1968—rich in friendships and shared Christian service. Serving the Church of the Savior out in the Delaney Creek Valley was a joy for him and he loved spending the day or evening in Doc Lopp’s cabin.

The other strong and loving shepherd in my life, and in this church, is my husband Max Bedwell, a father of two, a grandfather of four, and a great-grandfather of eleven. He is also the proud and caring step-father of Jim & Shinobu Apple and Dan Apple. I first knew Max as my brother’s football coach and later as the high school principal for whom I subbed back in the early 1970’s. After he hired me in 1977, I worked for him for 20 years. Max was such a great principal; he shepherded his small town high school with strong values, much inspiration, intense dedication, and a clear vision. The term “slave driver” comes to mind, as he pushed his teachers and his students hard, demanding that we strive to do our best. During his 27 years as principal, Salem High School had 12 National Merit Scholars, five students with National Merit commendations, and at least nine students who were later Phi Beta Kappas at Indiana University, including our own Christopher Beck. That is an amazing record for a small town high school. We all know that our students’ education is a collective, community effort, but Max thought of and spoke of the students as “his”—always so invested in their success. Many of his students won scholarships; many students went on to study at our great universities, earning degrees and doctorates; and many have served with distinction in the United States military. Today, hundreds of his students lead their businesses, churches, and communities. Max wanted his students to excel and he knew that education was the road out of poverty and the road to solid citizenship.

Max has served on numerous boards and now enjoys volunteering and gardening, raising lots of vegetables for his family and friends. For over twenty years, he has represented Salem Presbyterian Church in the Presbytery of Ohio Valley. He served a term on the Presbytery Commission on Ministry and now serves on the Camp Pyoca Board. He is serving his second or maybe third term on our Session. Each Sunday, he is here, faithfully, often with his beloved Addi and now with his loving daughter Deanna.

I want to share a story—an example of the kind of Christian leadership which is so typical of Max.  I wrote in my blog…..

“February 12, 2009:  Our church has been having weekly soup suppers, inviting anyone in the community who wants to come. We have enjoyed this activity no end and several people have joined us regularly, to eat and to visit. Tonight, someone came who really needed help. This man anxiously asked for Max, who had been there earlier to set up the tables and had gone on an errand. The man was agitated, disheveled, and obviously so poor.  Some of the workers kindly greeted the new man,  trying to be helpful and calming. Just then, Max came back. Recognizing the man as a former student, Max got a bowl of soup and sat down across from our guest, chatting in a kind and friendly manner, treating the man with respect and dignity.  The guest began to relax and enjoy the meal. Max asked how we could help and a conversation developed. Soon, we were all chatting and joking.

When I encounter very needy people, my heart is full of compassion. But, I am afraid–I am so frightened that I do not know what to do or say. I think I will be too condescending or too bossy—or too friendly or too helpful. I am not sure how to show proper respect. Max knows exactly what to say and what to do.  He talks in a friendly and conversational manner, making the person feel reassured and comfortable. And then Max thinks up helpful things to do– useful and practical things.”

Max experienced hardship and poverty in his youth, growing up on their family farm in Sullivan County, Indiana, late in the Depression. They weren’t destitute, but his father drank up money that should have been used to help raise his family. Max went to college on a dream and a prayer, working his way though Indiana State, and later earning a master’s degree and a specialist’s degree from Indiana University. Hard as this early start was, instead of making him bitter, Max’s struggles made him compassionate and caring. He began his career as a teacher and coach, and later became a principal. In his long years at Salem High School, he shepherded hundreds of students, guiding them through the transition-to-real-life process; it gave him particular satisfaction to make the phone calls or to write the letters to help poor students to attend college on a scholarship or to help them get a job. Later, when he worked in real estate, he often gave up part of his commission to help needy clients—and he gave mountains of free real estate advice and help to clients and people in need.

Nothing gives Max more pleasure than helping other people; he has a big heart.

The garden he and his friend Verne Ratliff created has just been sold, but Max still has our large backyard. He’s teaching his beloved great-granddaughter Addi to garden, passing on the skills he learned from his mother. His little Greats live around the country and in Germany, so we communicate on Facebook, through email, and by phone—which is not nearly as much fun as when they visit and race each other to the creek.

A dedicated father, Max shepherded his children through the tragedy of their mother’s too early death. He guided Steve and Deanna, and also his stepsons Jim and Dan, and Shinobu, with their educations and career development. He has guided his beloved grandchildren with long phone calls, and visits of support, and tireless directions, and generally patient explanations, and by example. His little Greats play at his feet, and he treasures all of the things they say and do.

His life of dedication and hard work is the model he has shaped for his family.

On this Father’s Day, we honor all of our fathers and grandfathers.

For me, there are these two men who frame my life:

* devoted to their families
* devoted to this church
* devoted to education and learning
* both leaders
* both shepherds
* each an example of what it means to be a loving father and grandfather

Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers and grandfathers with us today.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers and grandfathers who have shaped our lives.

Happy Saka Dawa Day!!

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The Buddha Shakyamuni took birth as a prince of the Shakya clan in India. He achieved enlightenment at the age of thirty-six and entered Mahaparinirvana at the age of eighty-one. These three great events took place on the same day of the year, over 2500 years ago, which we celebrate at the season of Wesak.

As you know, Buddhahood is a state free from all obstructions to knowledge and disturbing emotions. It is the state in which the mind is fully evolved. The Buddha’s declaration, based on his personal experience, was that all beings experience suffering even though they do not wish to do so. At the same time all beings also have the innate potential to achieve the joy of liberation. This realization formed the basis for all his teachings. Because his teachings are profound in insights and skilled in means, the Buddha is referred as a supreme guide.

Although our world has changed substantially since the time of the Buddha, the essence of his teachings remains as relevant today as it was 2500 years ago. Many different schools of Buddhism have evolved in different lands. All possess methods for attaining liberation from ignorance and suffering.

The Buddha’s advice, simply stated, was to avoid harming others and if possible to help them. We can begin to do this by recognizing that everyone is just like us in that they want happiness and dislike suffering. Seeking joy and freedom from suffering is the birthright of all beings. But personal happiness very much depends on how we relate to others. By developing a sense of respect for others and a concern for their welfare, we can reduce our own self-centeredness, which is the source of all our problems, and enhance our feelings of kindness, which are a natural source of joy.

The achievements of our modern age are great. We have put much effort into technological and material development. Such progress is important, but by itself it cannot bring lasting satisfaction. Obsessed with economic and political strength, we lose sight of the effect our actions have on others. Our narrow and self-centered focus results in widespread suffering and destruction of the environment. We need to reassess our motivation and our behavior in the light of a greater sense of universal responsibility.

From the Buddhist point of view all things originate in the mind. Actions and events depend heavily on motivation. A real sense of appreciation of humanity, compassion and love, are the key points. If we develop a good heart, then whether the field is science, agriculture or politics, since the motivation is so very important, the result will be more beneficial. With proper motivation these activities can help humanity; without it they go the other way. This is why the compassionate thought is so very important for humankind. Although it is difficult to bring about the inner change that gives rise to it, it is absolutely worthwhile to try.

 I offer my greetings to all our Buddhist brothers and sisters participating in the Wesak celebrations…. And I pray that each of us, by putting the Buddha’s teachings into practice in our own daily lives, may contribute to creating a happier and more peaceful world