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This is my last post before we leave. Tomorrow morning we will be up and drive I40 from here to West Memphis, Tennessee. Monday we start railfanning through Arkansas, Thayer, Missouri, and will spend the night in West Plains. Tuesday we’ll cross Missouri as close to tracks as we can get, stop for a while in Springfield, and then drive on to Joplin to see family.

Family get-togethers are planned for both Thursday and Friday. We’ll also see our dear friend Grace Nolting, probably eating dinner with her on Saturday. Sunday will find us at First Christian Church, where I was baptized (as were my sister and brother) and where Bill and I were married (and also my sister and brother).

We’ll leave Joplin Tuesday and drive to Paola, Kansas (south and west of Kansas City) for a day of railfanning. Paola has proven to be a great spot to see lots of trains. That evening we’ll drive onto Iowa, where we plan to visit a windmill farm and catch a lot of train action, especially in Cedar Rapids, where we’ll spend two nights. After that we’ll drive to Lebanon, Tennessee and then finally home.

I do not expect to get on a computer anywhere along the road. That’s by choice: It’s a vacation. You can expect a new post from me on about October 1.

How can we not lose our souls when everything and everybody pulls us in the most different directions? How can we “keep it together” when we are constantly torn apart?

Jesus says: “Not a hair of your head will be lost. Your perseverance will win you your lives” (Luke 21:18-19). We can only survive our world when we trust that God knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. We can only keep it together when we believe that God holds us together. We can only win our lives when we remain faithful to the truth that every little part of us, yes, every hair, is completely safe in the divine embrace of our Lord. To say it differently: When we keep living a spiritual life, we have nothing to be afraid of.

When we are anxious we are inclined to overprepare. We wonder what to say when we are attacked, how to respond when we are being interrogated, and what defence to put up when we are accused. It is precisely this turmoil that makes us lose our self-confidence and creates in us a debilitating self-consciousness.

Jesus tells us not to prepare at all and to trust that he will give us the words and wisdom we need. What is important is not that we have a little speech ready but that we remain deeply anchored in the love of Jesus, secure about who we are in this world and why we are here. With our hearts connected to the heart of Jesus, we will always know what to say when the time to speak comes.

From a Letter I sent to a Friend:

Racism is white people’s problem. How black people deal with it is really none of our concern. Stand and fight or flee (and give in to the status quo) are the same choices blacks have had from slavery times. Why some people choose to confront and others choose not to may have to do with personality, upbringing, church affiliation (and, therefore, doctrine) or other factors.

In the 60s there were legal battles to be fought. Those battles have been won. Black and white people now share the same legal privileges. But there is great inequity in the carrying out of the legal sameness. When Martin Luther King Jr. was confronted with the statement that you “can’t legislate morality,” he replied, that you can “make it illegal for whites to treat black people in certain ways.” Okay. That’s been done. Problem is, whites were satisfied with improvement, and blacks wanted equality.

Your black friend has no more duty to fight for equality than white people do. In fact, I say she has less. Racism is sin in the white man’s soul. Racism is more than just prejudice (which is also sin) because it has the power to keep blacks down (with less power and less money). Whites need to remember that blacks have been on the underside of America for 300 years now. If we want equality, we have to be willing to give up being on top. In fact, we might even end up on the bottom. Most whites can’t stand that thought, much less any action that might put them there. The legal battles of the 60s cost black people many lives; it cost white people very little. And yes, the whites who died in the civil rights movement are just as dead. There have always been a few white people who stood with blacks in their struggle for equality. Check out your history.

Before we act, there are hard questions. Are we willing to put ourselves under the authority of black preachers and mayors and governors and senators and a president? Would white preachers be willing to get secular jobs, so black ministers could have their positions and blacks could have other leadership positions in the church? Are we willing to see our sons and daughters work labor jobs, while black kids get the scholarships and later executive positions? This is multi-generational change, and we must be willing to sacrifice our sons and daughters. Do we love them enough to give them such important historical roles? This is where blacks have always been. Do you think King’s parents wanted him to become a leader in the movement, knowing he would be martyred by doing so? White people deny racism while racial profiling still goes on, like what happened to your friend. Before we tell blacks to stand up any more that’s what we need to do ourselves. That store manager isn’t going to listen to her. But he might listen, if large crowds of white people picketed his store with signs. If mobs of white people said, “we aren’t going to take it; these people are our equals. Stop picking on them. We’ll shop at another store.” And then hurt him in the pocket book..

When whites discover racism is true, they tend to tell black people to keep fighting for what’s right. When are we going to take the responsibility for making equality real at our expense? Equality isn’t about quotas; it’s about learning that we can’t always be on top. As long as we measure in numbers, there will always be lower 50%. We need a new way of thinking. Say that, and someone screams “you’re a socialist.” So what? The early Christians were. White Christians are just as absent today in the struggle as they were in the 60s. Only the laws have changed. Oh yeah, things are better now than they were. Well, better ain’t good enough! The church should be leading but won’t. We’d rather fight about doctrine instead.

In a world so full of social and political turmoil and immense human suffering, people of faith will often be ridiculed because of their so-called ineffectiveness. Many will say: “If you believe that there is a loving God, let your God do something about this mess!” Some will simply declare religion irrelevant, while others will consider it an obstacle to the creation of a new and better world.

Jesus often tells his followers that, as he was, they will be persecuted, arrested, tortured, and killed. But he also tells us not to worry but to trust in him at all times. “Make up your minds not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:14-15). Let’s not be afraid of skepticism and cynicism coming our way, but trust that God will give us the strength to hold our ground.

President Bush and the Republicans in Congress have been telling us to wait for the so-called “Petraeus Report” for months before we change the course in Iraq. Now with relentless bloodshed and no political solution in sight, President Bush wants more time for his failed war.

Tell Congress that their time is up — find a new course for Iraq:

All summer, Republicans have used the so-called “Petraeus Report” to delay dealing with growing anti-war sentiment.

In June, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said:

“I think everybody anticipates that there’s going to be a new strategy in the fall. I don’t think we’ll have the same level of troops, in all likelihood, that we have now. The Iraqis will have to step up, not only on the political side, but on the military side, to a greater extent. We’re not there forever. I think they understand that, and the time to properly evaluate that, it strikes me, is in September.”

And in July, President Bush said,

“I welcome a good, honest debate about the consequences of failure, the consequences of success in this war. But I believe that it’s in this nation’s interests to give the commander a chance to fully implement his operations. I believe Congress ought to wait for Gen. Petraeus to come back and give his assessment of the strategy that he’s putting in place before they make any decisions.”

This week, General Petraeus testified before Congress, asking for more time. He wants to wait until March to make recommendations about bringing our troops home.

Tell them that the time to make those decisions is right now — just as they’ve been saying all summer.

According to the Washington Post, many experts have questioned data behind the general’s optimistic assessment of the war, accusing the Pentagon of “cherry-picking positive indicators.” Even in December 2006, the Iraq Study Group reported “significant under-reporting of violence.”

In fact, this has been the bloodiest summer for American soldiers since the war began.

And when it comes to the Iraqi government, there’s even less progress. The surge was supposed to help give breathing room in the political process, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that two and a half years after the first election, the Iraqi government has met just three of the 18 benchmarks set by Congress.

Kenneth Katzman, author of a report for the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, put it this way:

“My assessment is that because of the number and breadth of parties boycotting the cabinet, the Iraqi government is in essential collapse. That argues against any real prospects for political reconciliation.”

Add your name to the list of people telling Congress that this isn’t a war that’s going to be won with military might, now or six months from now. It’s time to change the course and redeploy our troops from Iraq:

President Bush cherry-picked intelligence to make his initial case for war over four years ago. Since then he has stifled dissent and distorted the truth to sell his failing strategy to the rest of us.

The Republicans accuse Democrats of setting arbitrary dates for withdrawal — but it’s the Republicans who set arbitrary dates for delay.

Okay, so I’ll pick up where I left off—by reminding readers about Mule gear. I have T shirts in white and pink and am looking at the sweatshirt, in gray. Oh, and maybe the green one. Anyone can buy them. Wouldn’t this tote bag or this large mug make a great Christmas gift? Ringer shirts, like this one, are cute on skinny people. I’m a former skinny person and would have looked cute in this shirt about thirty-five years ago. 🙂

Babies and grandbabies would look cute in this one.

A purchase from the Dead Mule’s CafePress store helps support the Mule and allows Val to stay home and care for her 90 year old mother Ruth.


Not all of my friends are poets or writers and not all of my interests are literary. My husband and I are rail fans and NASCAR fans, but I’ll blog about that some other time. I’ve made a number of “friends” through literary publications that have published my works. For example, I’ve been published two or three times on Adagio Verse Quarterly and have come to know poets Michael Paul Ladanyi and Patricia Gomes through this publication.

A number of my poems are on TimBookTu, published by Memphis Vaughn. This site is where I met my dear friend, poet and songwriter Alice Parris, whose poems have been on this blog and on the Dead Mule. I’ve also had poems, such as “Borrowed Memories,” (and an essay) on The Centrifugal Eye, edited by Eve Anthony Hanninen. I’ve learned so much about how to tighten up a poem, removing what’s unnecessary, and about line breaks from Eve.

Richard Hansen, at POEMS-FOR-ALL, publishes lovely little mini-chapbooks. Mine are Absolution #322 and Rookie at the Barre #586. Locate them in the check list to see their covers. This press is a labor of love: There is no charge to poets or readers for these little volumes. Mastodon Dentist, published by Gordon Purkis and his cat, has published my poems, including “In the Garden” and one in Issue 2 that has gone missing. 🙂

Well, that’s about enough for now. Guess this post will need a part three. More later guys!


The great danger of the turmoil of the end-time in which we live is losing our souls. Losing our souls means losing touch with our center, our true call in life, our mission, our spiritual task. Losing our soul means becoming so distracted by and preoccupied with all that is happening around us that we end up fragmented, confused, and erratic. Jesus is very aware of that danger. He says: “Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using my name and saying, ‘I am the one’ and ‘The time is near at hand’ Refuse to join them” (Luke 21:8).

In the midst of anxious times there are many false prophets, promising all sorts of “salvations.” It is important that we be faithful disciples of Jesus, never losing touch with our true spiritual selves.

Jimmie Johnson 5060

Jeff Gordon 5050

Tony Stewart 5030

Kurt Busch 5020

Carl Edwards 5020

Kevin Harvick 5010

Jeff Burton 5010

Matt Kenseth 5010

Denny Hamlin 5010

Martin Truex Jr. 5010

Kyle Bush 5010

Clint Bowyer 5000


Okay. Go Tony!

The real difficulty in defining a Christian conscience is that it is neither collective nor individual. It is personal, and it is a communion of saints.

From the point of view of prayer, when I say conscience, I am talking of this consciousness that is deeper than the moral conscience. When I pray, I am no longer talking to God or myself loved by God. When I pray, the Church prays in me. My prayer is the prayer of the Church.

This does not apply only to liturgy: it applies also to private prayer because I am a member of Christ. If I am going to pray validly and deeply, it will be with a consciousness of myself as being more than just myself when I pray. In other words, I am not just an individual when I pray, and I am not just an individual with grace when I pray. When I pray, I am in a certain sense, everybody. The mind that prays in me is more than my own mind, and the thoughts that come up in me are more than my own thoughts because this deep consciousness when I pray is a place of encounter between myself and God and between the common love of everybody. It is the common will and love of the Church meeting with my will and God’s will in my consciousness and conscience when I pray.

Thomas Merton. Thomas Merton in Alaska. New York: New Directions Publishing Corp., 1988: 134-135.


[Emphasis mine.]

September 2007