Reflections on Life in Maine

I’ve been living in Maine coming up on two years. I was in Atlanta ten years previously and before that, Rochester, NY, where I grew up.

Beyond the weather, my life in Maine has been very very different from my life in Atlanta. I’ve learned and grown a lot up here, more in two years than in the last ten. It’s really stretched me, and I am glad I made the leap.

Recently, my reflections have been about work. That’s been a tremendous change as I had never worked in a job that required three dimensional thinking.  I was buried in spreadsheets at a computer. Quite frankly, I questioned whether I was going to catch on or if I was wasting my time, time that I feel I have less of as I get older. It stirred quite a bit of anxiety in me. I do feel that I have caught on, and contribute to the team, but it has been a lot of hard work and it hasn’t come naturally to me. Thankfully, I work with very patient and kind people, that is all I will say about that.

My old goal in life was to accumulate enough money so that I didn’t have to work. It’s very different if you really like what you do. If my body was to not give out until I was 80, I might want to continue on til then. I don’t think I would have ever discovered this without moving to Maine.


It is hard to enjoy a job that doesn’t really need to be done. I used to do IT audits for a mattress company that only needed an audit to begin with, because a private equity firm bought the company and loaded it up with a ton of debt and fired all the workers. The bank mandated it. It was tough to find any meaning in that job.

The most important lesson I’ve learned, and better late than never, is how much a single individual, let alone a focused team, can build if they set their minds to it. It’s truly inspiring and opens up horizons that I never would have considered. This I think may be unique to Maine and its rugged “Mainer” culture. Perhaps it is the lack of industry that has forced people to figure things out, but I have met some very remarkable people up here.

I am working with a guy that has built his own house. I work with another guy who took apart an historic house and rebuilt it on his own property, including the chimney—brick by brick.  I met another gentleman who in 50 years accomplished more than I ever thought a single human could accomplish. He built a barn out of old telephone poles. Then, he built a boat shop and a timber frame shop in it. He built his own huge timber frame home along with several other homes. That’s the tip of the ice berg.

They may be a dying breed, but I wish everyone could be exposed to this level of self-determination, because it is sadly and increasingly missing in American culture. So many people, including myself at times, wait for someone else to say yes or change something, but if everyone knew just what could be accomplished by setting one’s mind to a task without giving up, the world might be much different.







The Kingdom

After writing my last post, and for the past few days, it occurred to me that the overarching question for my future is what am I going to do for the kingdom of God? I believe there is a Kingdom, a different a reality that hides openly in this world, waiting for eyes to see it and bring it to fruition.

Having experienced God’s grace, Jung’s words weigh on my heart—”From that moment on, when I experienced grace, my true responsibility began.”

An encounter with grace precipitates a transformation of consciousness and heart and demands a response. For it is in us to, having once received a priceless gift we didn’t deserve, to reciprocate that gift but being unable to give God a gift since He is everything, we must give it to others on His behalf.

When it comes to growing the Kingdom of God, I have two questions I need to answer:

  1. How can I most effectively make an impact given my unique gifts and personality
  2. Do I have the courage and faith it takes?

Where we desire certainty, God desires courage in us to live out the pressings of the Holy Spirit.



Memories, Dreams and Reflections—Carl Jung and Christianity

When I first read Carl Jung’s autobiography, I was floored. I realized I had found someone who had put language to some of my experiences, someone I related to in many ways.

Jung was born in 1895. He created some of the best known psychological concepts, including synchronicity, archetypal phenomena, the collective unconscious, the psychological complex, and extraversion and introversion. If you’ve ever taken Myers & Briggs personality test, you can thank Jung. He was a man of tremendous courage and conviction, and embraced the wonder of life, chasing God in his own wild way. I’ve always wondered whether he was a Christian. Of course, he would never call himself a Christian but I wondered if he ever found Christ.

Three things particularly struck me in his autobiography:

1.) An early childhood vision and encounter with the will and grace of God.
2.) A dream he had as an adult about his father.
3.) His conclusion where he references the apostle Paul.

An Early Vision

In the beginning of the book, Jung recounts his first experience with God’s will and grace when he was twelve year’s old. At a young age, he questioned everything and thought often of God. After school one day, he was walking through town where there was a square. In the square, there was a beautiful cathedral and he was overwhelmed with the thought of, “The world is beautiful and the church is beautiful, and God made all this and sits above it far away in the blue sky on a golden throne…”

Next he describes a choking sensation and a horror of a terrible next thought that he dared not enter his mind lest he blaspheme the Holy Spirit, the only sin that cannot be forgiven. How could he do this to his parents, he wondered? For three nights he describes being tormented until finally, reaching an unbearable point of angst, he began wondering whose will was acting on him and why. He wondered where sin came from and whether it was God’s will for there to be sin in the first place and if so, who was responsible for this impending thought? He determined that, “I must search out His intention myself, and seek a way out alone.”

Can you imagine that as a twelve year old? At this point he says another thought began, to act or not to act. According to conventional morality, to act was a sin to be avoided, but he states that “I could not yield before I understood what God’s will was and what He intended for. For I was now certain that He was the author of this desperate problem…Hence there was no question in my mind that God was arranging a decisive test for me and that everything depended on me understanding Him correctly”.

He concluded that “Obviously God also desires me to show courage. If that is so and I go through with it, then He will give me His grace and illumination.”

So Jung gathered all his courage, “as though I were about to leap forthwith into hell-fire, and let the thought come. I saw before me the cathedral, the blue sky. God sits on His golden throne, high above the world—and from under the throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the cathedral asunder.”

I got such a kick out of this. A God turd! What does this mean? God, in His wildness and unpredictability, doesn’t desire religion or dogma, He desires faith and relationship.

Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound

He says, “instead of sin and damnation, grace had come upon me, and with an unutterable bliss such as I had never known. I wept for happiness and gratitude.

Jung, who had always had issues with his father’s strict dogmatism says that, “The wisdom and goodness of God had been revealed to me now that I had yielded to His inexorable command. It was though I had experienced an illumination. A great many things I had not previously understood became clear to me. That was what my father had not understood, and I thought; ‘He had failed to experience the will of God, and had opposed it for the very best reasons and out of the deepest faith. And that is why he had never experienced the miracle of grace which heals all and makes all comprehensible. He had taken the Bible’s commandments as his guide; he believed in God as the Bible prescribed and as his forefathers had taught him. But he did not know the immediate living God who stands, omnipotent and free, above His Bible and His Church, who calls upon man to partake of His freedom, and can force him to renounce his own views and convictions in order to fulfill without reserve the command of God. In His trial of human courage, God refuses to abide by traditions, no matter how sacred. In His omnipotence He will see to it that nothing really evil comes of such tests of courage. If one fulfills the will of God one can be sure of going the right way…It was obedience that brought me God’s grace, after that experience, I knew what grace was. One must be utterly abandoned to God; nothing else matters but fulfilling His will. Otherwise all is folly and all is meaningless. From that moment on, when I experienced grace, my true responsibility began…Then, came the dim understanding that God could be something terrible. I had experienced a dark and terrible secret. It overshadowed my whole life, and I became deeply pensive.”

I had a similar experience but with none of the same details and it’s powerfully intoxicating. Ten years ago, I was in South Africa visiting a friend from college. At the local church, a woman I had never met and never spoke to again, came up to me and said she had a “word” for me. What she told me later happened. However, it was so much later that I didn’t see a connection amidst my own dark night of the soul, or what Soren Kiekegaard called the great “leap of faith”.

Given this, I wondered was Jung a Christian? Was I now a Christian and if so, what was I before? Jung, in the rest of his book, particularly at the end, dwells a great deal on Job and Christ attempting to think them into a nice little box. Because of this, Jung’s writing captured me and I have turned his words in my head for a couple years now.

One might think that Jung would have become a priest or a minister, but instead he went on to create an entire new branch of psychology, healing schizophrenics and the mentally ill. He gave voice and meaning to “crazy” people. While listening to them, he realized they were having visions of things they could have never known. He showed that physical illness was often spiritual. I believed he was only able to accomplish so much, because of this experience.

He was a confusing and complicated man. I learned later that he elevated Satan to equal status with God or else why would God allow evil reign in the world unless God Himself was evil or He couldn’t stop it. I was confused as to how he was able to arrive at this conclusion after such an experience, but less so after reading later in his book about a dream he had as an adult about his father.


As I mentioned before, Jung had a very difficult relationship with his father. He loved his father, but often wrote of him with an undertone of condescension for he never reached any worldly acclaim or success. Towards the end of his fathers life, he felt his father questioned his faith and Jung seems to think his father wasted his life at least to some extent. Ultimately, this was rooted in the fact that his father never had the “experience” of Jung, which made Jung feel that he had a secret his father didn’t.

Yet Jung’s dream of his father tells a different reality, one where the first are last and the last are first. In his dream, Jung’s father was the wise man, appearing before him with a Bible made of fish scales, speaking with such wisdom and intellect that Jung and the other intellectuals in their “stupidity simply couldn’t follow it”. After the teaching, Jung says, “We climbed a narrow staircase to the second floor. There a strange sight presented itself: a large hall which was the exact replica of the divani-kaas (council hall) of Sultan Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri. It was a high, circular room with a gallery running along the wall, from which four bridges led to a basin-shaped center. The basin rested upon a huge column and formed the sultan’s round seat. From this elevated place he spoke to his councilors and philosophers, who sat along the walls in the gallery. The whole was a gigantic mandala. It corresponded precisely to the real divan-i-kaas. In the dream I suddenly saw that from the center a steep flight of stairs ascended to a spot high up on the wall—which no longer corresponded to reality. At the top of the stairs was a small door and my father said, ‘Now I will lead you into the highest presence.’ Then he knelt down and touched his forehead to the floor. I imitated him, likewise kneeling, with great emotion. For some reason I could not bring my forehead quite down to the floor—there was perhaps a millimeter to spare. But at least I had made the gesture with him. Suddenly I knew—perhaps my father had told me—that that upper door led to a solitary chamber where lived Uriah, King David’s general, whom David had shamefully betrayed for the sake of his wife Bathsheba, by commanding his soldiers to abandon Uriah in the face of the enemy.”

Jung says he, “ought really to have touched my forehead to the floor, so that my submission would be complete. But something prevented me from doing so entirely, and kept me just a millimeter away. Something in me was saying, ‘All very well, but not entirely’. Something in me was defiant and determined not to be a dumb fish.”

Jung knew what these symbols meant—Uriah, stairs, fish, mandala, touching ones forehead to the ground. He certainly knew, yet something in him could not be a dumb fish. It was his father who submitted and achieved what the great Jung couldn’t. It seems that one can experience the blissful grace of God but still refuse the last millimeter.

Love and the Apostle Paul

After this dream, Jung doesn’t discuss much of note until the very end. Jung, a brilliant and learned man, attempts to wrap up his life’s thoughts and work, but feebly ends up in the exact same place his father did—faith. I was dumbfounded when, in an attempt to sound intellectual, he literally admits he knows nothing. This man who travelled to the ends of the earth, studied every religion, births an entire field in psychology admits he knows nothing and that not he, but the apostle Paul, has already come up with the perfect words of which none can be added or taken away.

He says, “I sometimes (emphasis added) feel that Paul’s words—‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love’—might be the first condition of cognition and the quintessence of divinity itself.”

This is a stunning, albeit a half hearted, admission. This man, who was a slave to his intelligence to such an extent that the millimeter between his forehead and the floor might as well have been a million miles, realizes that he only has cognition because he was mysteriously loved into existence.

He goes on to say, “In my medical experience as well as in my own life, I have again and again been faced with the mystery of love, and have never been able to explain what it is. Like Job, I had to ‘lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer (Job 40:4). Here is the greatest and smallest, the remotest and nearest, the highest and lowest, and we cannot discuss one side of it without also discussing the other. No language is adequate to this paradox. Whatever one can say, no words can express the whole. To speak of partial aspects is always too much or too little, for only the whole is meaningful. Love ‘bears all things’ and ‘endures all things ‘ (1 Cor. 13:7). These words say all there is to be said; nothing can be added to them. For we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of comogonic love.”

Unbelievably or perhaps believably, Jung, even at the end, omits part of the verse, which fully stated is, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” What arrogance to omit the words of a saint and then say nothing can be added! I wish I could say, “Yes, Jung, words can be added to them—how about the words you omitted?”

When I realized this, I knew that even though I wanted to, I couldn’t trust Carl Jung.

Then, continuing, he says “Man can try to name love, showering upon it all the names at his command, and still he will involve himself in endless self-deceptions. If he possesses a grain of wisdom, he will lay down his arms and name the unknown by the more unknown, ingotum per ignotius—that is, by the name of God. That is the a confession of his subjection, his imperfection, and his dependence; but at the same time a testimony to his freedom to choose between truth and error.

The question is, did Jung ever lay down his arms?


No person has ever caused me to re-think Christianity like Jung. I owe him a debt of gratitude, for even in his error, he showed me the truth. Like Jung, I wanted very little to do with religion and the sanitized pretty people version of church. I came back to Christianity kicking and screaming.

I have learned that the heart is endlessly deceptive. It’s easier to be like Jung, and go around popping everyone else’s balloons and saying all is all, and very well at that, when it really isn’t, and that in your brilliance you have found the truth, which is that there is no truth, which is after all a truth statement. He gets all the accolades and all the glory by claiming to seek the truth,  but never actually desiring to exist in the truth for he had his chance and denied it—for who wants to be a dumb fish he says, for ascending to the highest place with Uriah meant an end to his scientific career. I say exist in it, because he did find God and the truth as a young boy, yet refused that experience afterward. That is the real reason he didn’t touch his forehead and the real reason he omitted Paul’s words about belief, ironically either consciously or unconsciously, at the end of the book. Even at the end of his book, he can’t bear to lose his scientific legacy by being a theologian or a mystic, which he greatly looked down upon.

Carl Jung has no excuse because he read the Bible through and through, and Jesus already spoke of this when in Matthew, he speaks to the rich man about entering the Kingdom of Heaven, the highest presence. Jesus says to the rich man in Matthew 19: 21-23, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When Jesus says perfect, he is speaking of being perfected through the last millimeter. It’s then that you ascend to the highest presence and meet God. Jung submitted as a twelve year old, but failed to accept that one must continue daily in their heart to close the last millimeter.

Anyone truly looking for truth will find it, but Jung didn’t want to accept it and we know this not from conjecture or unfairly judging him but because he admits it in a book for everyone to read. Both Christians and non-Christians can withhold the last millimeter. Closing the millimeter is the single hardest thing to achieve in life. Many Christians are more lost than Jung. For at least Jung knew that he had a millimeter gap and has the courage to admit he flat out didn’t want to do it. Many “Christians” have no clue.

Like Jung, I have had issues with the church and what I consider unthinking Christians. I have had issues with the dogma and people I see that are clearly are further away from Christ than people outside of the church. I have had issues with the wealth, the separation by race, and the overall unwillingness of the church to engage in society unless society forces them to deal with reality. Yet, God, as evidenced in Jung’s dream, probably doesn’t like it either.

I have had issues with faith in general, but I realized it’s not the faith that bothers me, it’s the repercussions of faith—namely that I am not my own and can’t do whatever I want. For who wants to be a dumb fish? Not me, but love believes all things and hopes all things.

Wondrously Logically Illogical

This book lead me to a wondrous thought, namely that if there is a God, and He is love, He very well might have suspended the laws of science to experience humanity through his Son, make the ultimate sacrifice and and take the ultimate risk, because being fully human, Jesus didn’t have to obey. What if Jesus didn’t? All would have been lost. For God to be the alpha and omega, both love and justice justice for example, having created a duality on earth, some cosmic event that would have risked everything and hurt God in the only way possible, would have had to been planned before time in order for us to have cognition and choose Him. We were loved into existence. It’s both logical and illogical. As Jung says, and he is correct in this, the truth is always both, because we are all embedded with the God image—the soul.

Tim Keller, pastor of a church in NYC, says lack of faith isn’t the absence of something but the presence of something—Jung says something in him was defiant. That defiance is in us all. I want to conquer things with my mind, possessions, and personality like everyone else. There is something in me that wants to entertain endless self-deceptions. I have had to reluctantly admit that the only answers I have ever found for my experiences and the experiences of people like Jung are in the Bible, fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Believe me, I didn’t want this to be the case, but I have chosen to close the millimeter gap now and daily, rather than be like Jung who even after an entire lifetime of searching, was still flirting with the answer, forever dating, never committing.

Yes, most may be reading the Bible wrong, because the eyes of their heart have not been opened, but I have conceded that I must daily continue to submit in my spirit and soul. For Jung submitted once, and thought he was done, but his father submitted every day. Who was the greater man, Jung or his father? In the Kingdom of heaven, the first shall be last and the last shall be first.


I have mentioned being a dumb fish several times, because it essentially communicates what would take an entire volume of book in only two words.  The Ichthys is the symbol for Jesus Christ. Jung admits he knew what this symbol was, mentioning it, but glossing over it. It is the symbol that was adopted by early Christians as a secret symbol known now as the “Jesus fish”.

Being a dumb fish—it’s so unprogressive these days. However, it’s not being a dumb fish intellectually, for who would say CS Lewis is a dumb fish? It’s a matter of the heart. As long as there are people who experience the radical grace of God, there will be people searching for answers, and they will find them in the Words of Jesus Christ—the Ichthys—the innocent that didn’t have to die, but willingly did and then rose again. Even the prolifically brilliant Jung ended up right where he started as a twelve year old, but lacking the faith of a child as an adult, he refused the leap of faith.

I am certain that God was speaking to Jung in dreams and I am certain Jung had read this verse: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Rev 3:20).

Did Jung ever touch his forehead? I certainly hope so and I hope he entered through the door to the highest presence where most certainly a feast was waiting for him.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Georgie Mitchell

Haley with husband Darius and four children

I have been documenting the stories of everyday people who have had dreams, intuitions, or brushes with God. These stories are more common they I would have imagined. This one in particular is about how my Aunt Georgina woke up in the middle of the night with a “knowing” from God that she was going to have twins as a thank you for having her daughter Haley, whom the doctors recommended aborting because of the danger posed to Georgina and the severe risk of birth defects to the baby. Below is her story.

Craig and Georgina

The doctors told me to abort Haley. I had Graves disease which was causing a hyperactive thyroid. I was five months pregnant. They said you are going to have a mongoloid and a cretan. I didn’t even know what that meant. Craig (husband) didn’t know if we should listen to the doctors. It was not be mean, but he said we already have a beautiful baby girl Heather who is 18 months old. He said what are we going to do if something like that happens to us? I told God I want to have this baby God, but I want it to be Craig’s decision. I don’t want to just say I am going to have this baby, because there it is inside me and there is nothing he can do. I wouldn’t have had her without him. So, I told him you make the decision of whether we have Haley or not. He said to me, we will have her. And we did on June 27, 1978. Haley was a beautiful girl with all her fingers and toes.

The first time I tried nursing Haley, she turned blue. That’s when we learned she didn’t have an esophagus. They took my blood right on the table to see if I still had the Graves disease, which is the hyperactive thyroid I had the entire time and why Haley had difficulties. I produced six times too much thyroxin. The same medicine I needed to save my life also would hurt the baby, which is why the doctors told me don’t have Haley. They immediately performed surgery and inserted a gastrostomy into her stomach so she could digest food, but after she was sill coughing up most of her milk. However, she gained just enough weight to be sent home.

Haley struggled with swallowing and repeated bouts of pneumonia. At 7 months, she weighed 10 pounds 1 oz at 7 months. She was dying. The pediatric surgeon said she had lost her body height, her body weight, and in another two to three weeks, she would lose her brain cells. Something had to be done. They performed a second surgery, which saved her life. When she was so sick, I told God, if you take her, I will still love you and trust you. I don’t know how I ever did that.

When my mother died of cancer, I didn’t go to church for a year. I didn’t darken the doors. I was angry, very angry. I said I would never do that again. So, I told the Lord, if you take her I will still love you and I will still trust you. We came through it all. God didn’t take Haley. The doctors performed surgery to save her life and she lived.

Just over two years later, in the 3rd week of July of 1980. I went to bed. I had always wanted twins. I had always wanted to be a mom. When I was a little girl, I used to think about it. When Haley was dying. I told God, you can take her. On the 20th of July, I woke up in the middle of the night at 3 a.m. and in my heart God said you are going to have twins. I heard Him. I didn’t hear an audible voice. I heard Him inside me. I shook my husband and said God just told me we are going to have twins! He said that’s great, go back to sleep. So, I was awake for a long long time. I knew that the twins, in my heart, were my gift for not aborting Haley and telling God I will still love you.

After learning I was pregnant, I received an ultrasound. I said to the doctor, do you promise you won’t laugh? He said, I won’t laugh. I said God told me that these twins that are coming are my gift for having Haley who had no esophagus. The doctor said he had never heard that one before. So, I had the only ultrasound that I had, September 28th and there were two of them. He almost died. He couldn’t believe it. He said, you were right and I said oh I know I am right. And they were healthy too.


This past December marked a year that I have been in Maine working as a carpenter. One day, early on, I was feeling particularly anxious and frustrated and of course, as my mind so easily does, I was presented with this thought—I wouldn’t be struggling if I had the right tools. It was a very deceptive thought, because like all deceptive thoughts, there was just enough truth.

I must have been making comments about how if I had the right tool, things wouldn’t be so hard. A co-worker and a friend of mine, quite casually pointed out that the carpenters who built the very building we were in had no power tools. Yet here we were standing in that building some 200 years later. He said when he started he had the same thoughts but had to learn that you can’t use tools as an excuse or you’ll never finish.

Back then, they had no laser levels, pneumatic air guns, no modern fasteners, no batteries, and no electric tools. They couldn’t pop into Home Depot or hop online to watch a Youtube tutorial. They had hand tools, their minds, and their will. They built buildings that have lasted hundreds of years, buildings that today, even with our modern tools, we would be hard pressed to re-create with the same quality.

Look at the detail and craftsmanship in this home—all achieved with no power tools or computers.

Reflecting on this, I wondered why my mind automatically presented me with the thought that the way forward was to consume my way into solving a creative problem?


I could blame it all on American marketing, because it’s true that it has virtually re-wired us to think that every solution requires a purchase, when it doesn’t. However, it just comes down to excuses. The truth is I didn’t know how to use the tools I had and I was feeling anxious and embarrassed. Our minds, at least mine, opts for the path of least resistance unless we bring it to heal. Left to my own devices, I might have given up, but I had moved all the way to Maine and didn’t really leave myself much of an out.

Finishing something is a function of time, effort, and resolve—not tools. Why? Because given enough time, you can make the tools you need or come up with other creative solutions. Indeed, a better tool can make a huge difference, but ultimately it’s the man or woman that must resolve to finish the task at hand.

In everything we must do the best we can with what we have—a simple but important lesson.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

I never knew until this past Christmas that one of my favorite Christmas songs was not only about the birth of Christ, but how Christ enters in to those hearts ready to receive. No one sees it coming and it is indeed a wondrous gift.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him still
The dear Christ enters in



The Greatness of George Washington

When Donald Trump stepped on stage in his first debate, I was pretty sure that he would not only secure the Republican nomination but beat Hillary Clinton. I don’t think either choice was “great”, but in the absence of any real greatness, power and money usually wins. Hillary got Trumped and the rest is history.

Make America Great Again

America has a culture problem. Somehow, American greatness has been twisted and conflated with power, money, and a “lifestyle”. Usually, when someone says that America is a great nation, what they are actually saying is that:

  1. We win wars
  2. We make the most money
  3. We exert the most cultural influence.

I am not saying we should lose wars, or lose money, but those things aren’t intrinsically great and we need to remember that. This past summer, I read two books about greatness, both by Eric Metaxas. One was about seven great women, and the other about seven great men. I recommend both.

These books defined greatness in the most effective way possible, by telling the stories of indisputably great individuals. One of my favorites is the story of how a simple act by George Washington secured the future of our nation when everything was at stake. It wasn’t an act of power, but in may ways a vulnerable act.

Dollar Bill George

We were all taught, or should have been taught, that dollar bill George was “the man” during the Revolutionary War. However, his biggest impact was actually after the war was over.

I never knew this, but after the war ended, many thought that George Washington would become a military dictator. There had never been a president before and his stature was so great that all he had to do was say the word, and he could take power. But he didn’t. It’s rare for an ambitious man being ambitious for something other than his own power and pride.

The Newburgh Conspiracy

In March 1783, the war was over, and the morale of the continental army was terrible. Soldiers were owed years of back pay, and Congress, completely broke, was unlikely to pay up. Everyone was arguing. The soldiers were understandably angry after facing years of suffering—cold, barefoot, injured, hungry, and sick.

Taking advantage of this anger, a man named Lewis Nichola penned and circulated an anonymous letter in the town of Newburgh (hence the name of the conspiracy). He openly criticized what he felt was the the instability of all republics, calling for George Washington to name himself King.

However, it didn’t stop there. Another man named Major John Armstrong Jr. circulated a second letter, one that contained two threats: “If Congress did not guarantee back pay and commutation, the army would disband, even if the war continued (the peace treaty would not be signed until September 3, 1783). And if the peace treaty were signed , well then, the army would simply and absolutely refuse to dissolve.”

The whole country was Washington’s if he wanted it. This treason jeopardized everything that they fought for.

After learning of the conspiracies, George Washington scheduled his own meeting. On March 16 at noon, with officers gathered, Washington faced the issue head on. He laid out the facts before the men, entreating them to virtue and their sacred honor.

You can read the more of the speech here, but in short, in his speech he called them to greatness one last time. Only someone who has lived a life of greatness is worthy to do this. Power alone can’t move hearts. At the end of his speech, he announced that he had something else to read to the men. He reached into his uniform pocket and slowly pulled out a letter penned by a Virginia congressman. As he attempted to unfold it, and read it aloud, he appeared to stumble over the words. He then reached into his coat pocket to retrieve his spectacles and apologizing for the delay he said, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself going blind.”

The men were moved to tears and many were ashamed. They loved George Washington. Historians say that they looked with great affection at this aging man who had led them through so much—he suffered with them and risked everything with them. Washington read the remainder of the letter, then left without saying another word. Everyone knew in their hearts that the conspiracy was over.

George Washington eventually became the first President, instituting the two term Presidency. He could have been president for life, making it twice that he relinquished power. When told by the American artist Benjamin West that Washington was going to resign, King George III of England said “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

The Paradox of Greatness 

Greatness has a paradoxical quality to it. The most kingly of kings are always the least kingly and the best leaders are always the greatest servants. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. A great person lives a life for others and that’s an act of faith, because people will let you down.

The Complexity of Greatness

Greatness also has a complexity to it, because it can’t mean perfection. If it did, no one would be great. We would all fall short, including George Washington. You see, George Washington owned slaves for his entire adult life and was on the wrong side of the issue politically. That’s hard to reconcile.

According to Metaxas, “Washington had wrestled with the issue of slavery for most of his adult life, and in July 1799, he finally made an important decision. He rewrote his will, not only freeing his slaves, but also ensuring that the young ones would be taught to read, write, and learn a trade, and that the old an infirm ones would be taken care of for the rest of their lives.”

I wonder what “normal”, yet intrinsically wrong aspects of our society will we be judged for a couple hundred of years from now? Hasn’t a global economy allowed us to distance ourselves from more modern and “sanitized” forms of slavery and abuse?

I have never owned slaves, of course, but I consume cheap goods made by exploited labor and resources in third world countries. I also benefit from inflated stock prices of these global companies. Why? Honestly, it’s convenient and socially accepted, the very reasons they probably owned slaves. Perhaps it is time for me to change as well.

To me, a large aspect of greatness is the willingness to change and to risk or give up your life for others. This is the opposite of formulaic consumption of happiness, which is what people mostly think of when pursuing a “great life”. 

It’s very disappointing that he owned slaves, but I still assert that George Washington was a great man a man whose actions paved the way the way for other great leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.

Politics and American Culture

They say that politics follows culture. If that’s true, America has a serious problem to overcome.  When we get angry at politicians, we have only ourselves to blame for what we not only allow, but what we openly embrace individually and as a society. America’s problems won’t be solved with more money or more power, but with actual greatness.

In America, we are relentlessly marketed cheap greatness in the form of a “lifestyle” and we are foolishly buying it, because true greatness is really really hard and not for sale.



River Lee

On occasion, I get an impression of someone and decide to get a little weird by asking them if they have had any interesting dreams, visions, or brushes with God or divine, however they describe it. I’ve been surprised how often the answer is yes.

River Lee, a coworker and good friend of mine, is one of those individuals. He has been a bit of a mentor to me. I’ve learned a great deal about carpentry and about life from him. He is a pretty remarkable and talented guy. He lives in Woolwich Maine with his family on their farm.

In any event, I was working with him and we were building this beautiful deck right on the water. The setting was quintessential Maine. I don’t remember what exactly we were talking about but at one point, I saw my opportunity to bring up the subject and see how he responded.

River proceeded to tell me about the motorcycle trip he took from North America down to the tip of Argentina and how on that trip, while riding through Columbia, he had a vision of an accident. He blacked out and when he came to, he realized he had laid his bike down, but was uninjured. Later on, I asked him to tell his story while I recorded so I could share with you his own words:

“So, I was in Columbia and I was trying to go through Columbia as fast as I could, because I didn’t feel really comfortable. I had heard stories of kidnappings and that sort of stuff. But, I was driving and I was in the mountains and there were S curves. I had just come through an S curve to the other side where it straightened out a little bit and I blacked out a little, kind of like a dream state. I wasn’t aware of where I was anymore. Everything seemed kind of far away. In that state, I saw an accident, a collision of some sort. It must have only been a few seconds, because I came too and I was sideways sliding down the road. My motorcycle was just ahead of me, and I was following it, completely unhurt. I had on all the protective gear. It was a slow speed affair. I picked the bike up and put it on the side of the road. I had to fix one of the panniers that had broken but other than that, it was kind of just one of those things that happened at the right time. It wasn’t on a highway going 60 – 70 miles per hour. There were no other cars around. So, you know, if the circumstances had been different it could have been bad for me. So, I get going and a mile or two down the road on another S curve, there was some sort of big vehicle. A truck or bus. I don’t know if it was by itself, I can’t remember, but it had flipped over. It was on its side right in the middle of the curve, and you know, I couldn’t help but wonder if…I don’ know how long or if the timing was in line with my accident, but I kind of got the feeling that maybe I was being protected so I wouldn’t get into that accident.”

John Whalley

This past spring, I found myself in a small adult Sunday school class in Woolwich Maine. I hadn’t been to Sunday school since junior high, perhaps? Anyway, much to my surprise I actually enjoyed it.

One of the books we were reading had a chapter on the life of Joan of Arc. Joan had an extraordinary life full of dreams and visions that began around the age of 13. Around the age of 16, this peasant girl living in medieval France, with no military training, found a way to convince the embattled crown prince Charles of Valois to allow her to lead a French army to the besieged city of Orléans, where it achieved a momentous victory over the English and their French allies. It’s hard to find a word other than miracle to describe her life. One of the reasons she was able to convince powerful men was that her dreams and visions somehow allowed her to know things like the status of a battle before that information was available to anyone else.

In any event, the Sunday school teacher asked the class if anyone had experienced any type of dreams, visions, or intuitions themselves, even on a very small basis.

Of course I perked up, because this type of thing has always been of interest to me, namely, knowing something that comes to us and through us, but isn’t from us.

One of the folks that spoke up was John Whalley, a well known Maine painter, and he shared a story about how out of the blue, while he was painting one evening, he received an impression or a “pressing” to call his friend and tell him he believed his mother was going to pass away that night. John knew that this man’s mother had been sick for some time, but he could find no logical reason as to why, on that particular evening while he was painting, such a thought might intrude upon his focus with an intensity demanding action.

John related how he knew about the illness of his friend’s mother, but hadn’t spoken to his friend in some time and had no reason or information that would have lead him to make a call that evening. He said it was difficult not to want to dismiss this “pressing” because there was no other reason to call that night, especially at a late hour.

However, after speaking to his wife, he decided to pick up the phone and call his friend, acknowledging the strangeness of why he was calling, but nonetheless calling. The friend’s wife picked up the phone and her response was “How did you know?” You see his friend’s mother was in the hospital in critical condition and she did end up passing away that night.

That evening John was able to comfort his friend and tell him he had no reason to worry about where his mother was, because as he said, “If God can get through my thick skull, he has things handled for your mother”.

How did you know?

I think that question demands an answer. At the very least it demands an acknowledgement of the possibility of the divine and the divine within us. Because how did John know? How did Joan of Arc know?

I believe we’ve all had “pressings” and we are all more connected than we think. There are many words for it. Some say intuition, some say the Holy Spirit or God, and others say the unconscious or collective unconscious. I know what I think, but regardless, it’s something and this something offers a form of knowing that is beyond us. It almost always requires action without a logical cause, a leap of faith. I have seen it time and again that there is a rightness and truth from beyond that breaks through into our reality seeking to manifest itself, the result of which is beauty, grace, healing, love, and all the “ineffables” that push life forward and create meaning.

I think it’s important to tell these stories, because they are more ordinary than you would think. When you hear the knock, I hope find the courage to open the door.


The Baker

My very good college friend (let’s call him Mike), came up to Maine to visit this winter. Normally, visitors want to see and experience as much as possible, but this visit was different. Since it was in the winter, the tourists had long since gone home to their busy city lives and a sleepy blanket of snow covers pretty much everything, tucking in the locals who have built lives here over the years and generations. In may ways, you can’t truly experience Maine unless you’ve experienced a Maine winter. Seeing the sun glisten through the ice and freshly fallen snow as you hike out to the ocean’s deserted beach is magical.

In our own ways, Mike and I are both determined and driven. We’ve both accomplished and experienced a lot and seemed to have arrived simultaneously at a point of taking stock and reflection.

My move to Maine transpired very quickly and seemed random since I wasn’t doing anything related to my previous experience in accounting, websites, or marketing. But it wasn’t really random if you stop looking at life as a linear event and more as a current that moves below the surface. Several years ago, a counselor asked me a question that I couldn’t un-hear and I shared it with Mike, because it was the most direct way explanation.

Reluctantly, I was visiting this counselor, because who wants to go see a counselor? However, I was profoundly unhappy with the very achievements I thought I once wanted. I wasn’t quite conscious of the upcoming choice I had to make, but I had a very stark choice to make.

Often, during my chit chat with my counselor, while I was avoiding the very reason I was paying him for his time, I happened on the subject, of all things, of how much I loved Costco, because their pizza is delicious and their gelato is pretty solid for the price. The counselor asked me why, if I liked Costco so much, I didn’t just take a job there until I figured things out regarding what I was more passionate about. He then followed this up with a brilliant question that forced me to confront a blatant contradiction in my spirit.

Counselor: Let me ask you a question. If you went to Costco and ended up meeting the assistant bakery manager, a guy who had a wife and children that loved him, who was happy at his job, who had interests outside of work, and great friends, would you think he was a loser?

Me: No, of course I wouldn’t think he was a loser. Good for him.

Counselor: If you were that baker, would you think you were a loser?

Me: Crickets.

I couldn’t un-hear that question and it forever made me face the crumbling foundation on which I had built my identity.

There is no way I would be a baker. I went to college after all.

With a single question, that counselor earned his fee many times over. In high school, we took tests to see what type of careers we might want to pursue as an adult. Something deep in my heart desperately wanted to have a career of money and status. I thought, “Dear God, please let me be cut out for something decent.” I remember garbage man was one of my options, and I sat there thinking, “are you freaking kidding me with this? I am screwed.”  In my spirit, I recoiled at being a nobody. Where this odd mixture of fear and pride came from, I don’t know.

They say pride is like carbon monoxide in that you don’t know your suffocating. I am certain that our spirits aren’t meant to whither and die on the vine, choked off by pride. Instead, we must must allow our pride to be stripped from us. This is a bit tricky, because it feels like you’re going to die, but you aren’t. You aren’t your pride. You’re something much more precious. You’re a soul dealing with the challenge of growing into the person you were intended to be.

It’s not a violent act, but it is a painful and terrifying separation. It’s also not something we can do alone. For how can we separate from something we didn’t even know was suffocating us to begin with? How do we know we totally released something so that it doesn’t grow back? Sometimes it takes a bit of a miracle, but life is full of them if you’re looking. 

My conversation with Mike was a beautiful thing. It takes life long friendships to discuss such things honestly. We talked a long time about how he felt he wanted to dial things back work wise and invest more in his family. He talked about authoring a better story when it came to his wife and children.

I think it’s hard to write a great story when our minds seem to do such a great job at presenting us with pre-written chapters that have to be just so. However, the dogmas in our minds can be cast aside. A great story involves transformation of the heart, a hero’s journey, not a net worth figure or a Pinterest board of the house you want some day.

Our minds constantly present us stories that look good from the outside, but it’s the inside that matters, and that’s a sacred space only you grant access to.

I saw how my friend’s eyes lit up when he talked about changing his story from a dad that worked all the time to a dad who loved his children so much he would dial back to have time to take them on great adventures and teach them things. Now that’s a great story, one of true sacrifice and courage. I knew he knew what the answer was and I knew he had made the decision to write a great story for himself and his family.

Remember this, because it is true: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Don’t necessarily think of heaven as this future storehouse of wealth, like your treasure is going into a divine savings account accruing angelic interest for when you croak. It’s right here on earth. It’s all around if the eyes of your heart are ready to see it.