In 2017 our son in law invited Terry to join him for a wood carving school in the tiny town of Elbigenalp, Austria.  Jenna and Sebastian and I tagged along.  She and I took a lot of walks and spent a lot of time on the little balcony outside our room, just comfortably chatting and  drinking in the scenery, while Sebastian played with his toys.    But one day, after Jenna had been out on a walk by herself, she returned  exclaiming, “Mom, you have to see this! There is a church with all these bones in it!”  

Later we trekked over to the church, descending many stone stairs to the “ossuary.”  An immense pile of skulls and bones were stacked behind some iron bars, an astounding sight I can tell you. 

An ossuary, or ossarium— a chamber for storing human bones—can be described as a place founded to house skeletal remains, often used when cemeteries are overcrowded and burial space is scarce, as, for example, during the plague in the Middle Ages. Bodies are first buried in a temporary grave, and later removed to allow for increased use of space. 

There is an even more extensive history of this practice.  Throughout ancient and medieval times and in the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, displaying and maintaining the bones of the deceased, was a way to honor the dead. The “Bone Church” in the Czech Republic contains 40,000 to 70,000, including an impressive chandelier of bones which contains at least one of every bone in the human body. 

The Bone Church is the result of the accumulation of bones after the mid-14th century outbreak of the Black Death, followed by the Hussite Wars in the 15th century.  The bones were piled up pyramid style in the basement where it was used an ossuary.  In 1870, a local woodcarver and carpenter was employed to organize the bones.  After bleaching and carving them, he decorated the interior of the church, which has been described as “a breathtaking macabre result.” 

Even earlier, Jews in the Jerusalem area practiced “ossilegium,” or secondary burial.  About a year after the initial burial, when the flesh had decomposed, the bones of the deceased were placed in a small stone box, called an ossuary.  These boxes were elaborately decorated and served a similar purpose to our preservation of the ashes of loved ones. 

Prior to the Jews use of “ossilegium,” the Zorastrians, used a deep well for this function as long as 3,000 years ago.  The called it “astudan,”  literally “the place for the bones,” and had many rituals and regulations regarding it.

Despite its practical application when burial space is limited, the bones were intended to remind people of their mortality, encourage them to live their lives morally, and to recognize death as the “great equalizer.”  One dies whether one is male or female, a king or a pauper, beloved or despised.  Worthy considerations as we age.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will” – Chuck Palahniuk

Time Poverty

Consider the following:

“It is a particularly bitter irony that in the developed world with its bounty of goods and services, people increasingly struggle with what is termed time poverty.  They would much rather have a sense of time affluence; in fact, many have reported that they would prefer it to an increase in their income.

This comes from a book review of the book How to Inhabit Time:  Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now.  The author draws from theology and philosophy, as well as from art history, literary criticism, and music theory. 

While  at some point we all have likely said “I just don’t have enough time,” the phrase “time poverty” apparently came into its current usage in the midst of the pandemic.  As more people were working from home, work and home life became more blurred.  Even more reliance on technology was another result, as we sought to stay connected when in-person gatherings were not advisable. 

In a fascinating article by Laura Giurge and Ashley Whillans, the authors explore time poverty and the various factors that contribute to it: “ Although wealth has risen around the world, material prosperity has not translated into an abundance of time; on the contrary, rising wealth often exacerbates feelings of time poverty . Defined as the chronic feeling of having too many things to do and not enough time to do them , time poverty is increasing in society. Data from the Gallup US Daily Poll – a nationally representative sample of US residents– shows that, in 2011, 70% of employed Americans reported that they “never had enough time,” and in 2018, this proportion increased to 80%.”

Giurge and Whillans identify organizational, institutional, and psychological factors that contribute to time poverty.  One example: globally the average for time spent commuting is 300 hours per year travelling to and from work.  Statistics on government paperwork are even more startling.   In 1980 the United States Congress passed the Paper Reduction Act, which was revised in 1995 to further address the time consumed in paperwork.  Yet Giurge and Whillan report that “In 2015, federal government paperwork demands cost US citizens 9.78 billion hours or the equivalent of $215 billion a year in lost wages. In 2019, the US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)—the agency that oversees the implementation of governmental regulations—estimated that paperwork burdens had grown to 11.6 billion hours.”

These factors would seem to interplay.  Someone applying for Medicaid has eligibility paperwork that can range from 24 to 31 pages.  How difficult for some of these folks and how stressful and depressing that could be.

Despite the challenges these factors present, we can cultivate attitudes that are intentional about our use of time and that help us to care for ourselves and one another.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “The bad news is time flies.  The good news is that you are the pilot.”  Michael Altshuler

Astonishment and Wonder

 Four years ago, Terry and I were taking care of our grandson Sebastian.  Our son-in-law was immersed in a frantic effort to get from his work assignment in Africa to Maryland where our daughter was hospitalized in unexpected early labor.  As if that were not stressful enough, Sebastian woke up pulling his ear and crying “Take it off! Take it off!”  We got him quickly to the doctor’s office. His ear was so full of wax that it had to be cleared out before the ear could be examined.  In the following days, Sebastian was astonished by the gift of his renewed hearing.  He would frequently say “Listen!” or “Did you hear that?”  How much he had been missing!

Sebastian wasn’t hearing things because of his infected ears.  But how much do we miss because we simply aren’t paying attention?  Mary Oliver, whose poetry I have recently quoted in this blog, wrote “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”  What a succinct and delightful formula.  What might be the outcome of living in such a way?  I would love to hear from readers about your own experiences with paying attention, how it impacted your experience of wonder, and how you have sought to share what you have discovered. Please put your comments in the spot designated for responses.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: The good news from that week I described was that  our son- in- law was whisked from the airport directly to the hospital and was there for the birth of Sebastian’s baby brother, who arrived safely after several difficult days.   Happy fourth birthday, Gabriel!

Dangerous Times

Glory be!  I discovered my copy of Woven Flecks of Thought , which I despaired of ever recovering.   “Dangerous Times” in this collection caught my eye. 

As a child in my small Oklahoma town, I roamed pretty freely.  One day a woman I recognized from church stopped to offer me a ride.  I was five. All I could think was I should never accept a ride from anyone.  Maybe she was disguised as someone I knew.  I refused the ride.  She was clearly offended.

 I must have passed this on to my daughter.  When she was six, I was delayed at work, which meant she needed to be transferred from the after school program to the 24 hour day care operated by the same folks. She expected I would pick her up and this did not seem trustworthy to get in a van to go somewhere else.  She fought them as they tried to get her to go in the van.   

As a young woman in my 20s, driving from Dallas to Waco on an extremely hot August day, I saw a man, overweight, likely in his 50s, trudging down the road, gas can in hand.  His face was beet red and sweating.  I went through the entire litany in my head about the danger of offering rides.  The image of my mother scolding my father for, once again, having offered rides to servicemen who were hitchhiking from the base in Wichita, when he had been there visiting his father.  My higher instinct kicked in and I stopped.  He was so relieved.  I drove him to the next exit which had a gas station.  It seems like I offered to wait and drive him back to his vehicle but as I recall he was calling his brother-in-law from the gas station. 

What halcyon days it seems now when the biggest fear was about accepting or offering rides to strangers, the days before 24 hour news cycles reporting bombings of mosques and churches, mass shootings in schools and concerts and city parks and theaters.  How do we respond?

Hopefully not by living in fear, which is a “mind-killer….the little-death that brings total obliteration,” wrote Frank Herbert. He continued: “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “Dangerous Times”


Yesterday, I saw you up ahead

climbing the long hill.

Your left leg buckled as you pushed on

stumbling with the bags you carried.

I know that road; I drive it every day

Old houses leaning under the kudzu vines

Deserted gas station

Bus stop half a mile away.

You stopped to rest on your cane.

I wanted to offer you a ride, but caution won.

These are dangerous times, we understand.

I hesitated,

but I drove on.  I am safe.

My heart is heavy.


At the red light you stand under the store awning

Rain and wind whip your light coat

You are drenched and shivering.

The light turns green.  I want to help you.

I drive slowly on and watch.

You shift your bundles and bow your grey head against the


and fighting your umbrella, cross the street.

I argue with myself.

Life is hard. 

What harm can come?  Just two women.

I back up, turn around, offer you a ride.

You look at me, smile weakly, shake your head no and walk


I know…yes,

These are dangerous times.

              Mary Campbell Monroe in Flecks of Thought

Remembering Mary

Every time a Mary Oliver poem crosses my path, I am again astounded by her profound sense of life.  Her writing is so powerfully beautiful, elegant, exquisite.  Yet she is so succinct in conveying her thoughts. I was searching for her poem “The Cosmic Dancer,” when I encountered this one:

 “When Death Comes”

When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn;

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measle-pox

when death comes

like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:

what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common

as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,

tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something

precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver left this world in January 2019 at age 84, clearly not having “simply visited this world.”  Reading her words reminded me of another Mary, a published poet as well, and a dear friend of mine, who died in January this year, having been well on her way to 102.  Mary Monroe was a delightful little sprite.  She had her own style in every way, yet her poetry had the same way of captivating me both with its beauty and its concise delivery.  Single poems had won awards and been published.  But in 2020 at age 99, she selected some of her favorites into a book titled Woven Flecks of Thought. Sadly, I think my copy did not survive this move.  I am in search of another. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Cafe Bonus: “Poetry … is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.” — Salvatore Quasimodo, from a speech in New York, quoted in The New York Times


Before the pandemic, I had been attending a dream group at the Center for Mindful Living in Chattanooga.  I have always found dreams fascinating, likely an interest first sparked by my mother’s captivation by them.  When I came across a six week course in dream work through Spiritual Directors International, I decided to sign up, despite the fact that this is the same six weeks of Lent.   I hardly need anything else on my plate, but I recognized I missed having that group. And it is rare these days that I do something simply for myself. 

The first session was a reminder of some of the basics about dreams, items I recalled from the Chattanooga dream group.  These basic principles are:  1) There is no such thing as a dream with only one meaning or level of meaning.  2) No dream comes to tell you, the dreamer, what you already know.  3) All dreams come in the service of health and wholeness. We are encouraged to keep a dream journal,  and to record dreams in it in first person, present tense.  We are instructed to give the dream a title and date it. 

I have had some periods of intense, vivid dreaming.  I spent a full year or more after Terry’s heart attack having dreams where he would be present and then he would just fade out.  Alternatively, I would be trying frantically to reach him, usually during a storm.  Those were easily understood to emanate from my anxiety.  Some are less clear.  This week I had a dream where I was nearly paralyzed and only after much effort was I able to speak what I wanted to say.  I have pondered this one.  Where in my life am I feeling that?

There are those who dismiss dreams as random neurons firing or offer some other explanation.  Maybe some of them are.  But the possibilities they offer for exploration are, in my estimation,  one more avenue available to us to learn and develop.  I find that tantalizing.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  In ancient times, people put a lot of stock in dreams.  Rulers often made important decisions based on dreams and their interpretation.  This was the impetus for my book Dream in Progress, a book of meditations based on dreams in the Bible. 

Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs

Tonight I realized I missed a meeting early in the week and two zooms today, and suddenly thought: “Did I ever write a blog?” (Uh, no). I thought of the theme from the old sitcom “Frasier,” “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs.” If you’ll recall, Dr. Frasier was the sometimes pompous, sometimes a bit scrambled himself,  but ultimately kind psychiatrist with a call-in advice show.

I discovered the following explanation of the theme from the songwriter himself, Bruce Miller:

 “Hey baby I hear the blues a-callin”-refers to patients with troubles calling into the radio show
“Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs” (mixed up things)
“But maybe I seem a bit confused”-Frasier’s personality was a bit????
“Maybe, but I got you pegged”-Frasier does understand these people and helps them.
“But I don’t know what to do with those Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs”-it’s a tough business….gotta deal with these “crazies” every day.
“They’re calling again”-oh, oh….should be self explanatory.

I had spent much of Sunday evening working out details of an airline ticket for Terry to fly home for the funeral of our sister-in-law.  We had gotten up before 4:30 Monday morning to drive to the airport for his flight out.  I sit here now as I type this, watching the clock for the time I must leave to go pick him up.  But I have been home with my duties here and really was unaware I was apparently so affected by these events. 

Perhaps you’ve had these times too.  The worst I ever had was after my mother died and I couldn’t recall how to operate the washer and dryer.  I remember standing in front of them feeling completely mystified and overwhelmed. And, as I write this, I am thinking that this past week was also the anniversary of my mother’s death and of her funeral. (Hmmmm…… do you think these things might be related, Dr. Frasier?)

There is a quote that states “Self-awareness allows one to self-correct.”  I advocate paying attention but failed to do so myself, even as, looking back, I was feeling some sense of strain.  Someone even said to me “You look so tired.  Are you okay?”  It pays to pay attention! Not only did I miss my own cues, I disregarded those of others.

As we navigate our lives, may we give our minds and bodies the honor they are due, and care for them accordingly. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: Ben Franklin said “There are three things extremely hard:  steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”

Balcony People

This week in my FaceBook memories, I came across a post I had written following my recovery from hip surgery.  The memory now has mostly faded of how difficult physical therapy was.  But in the post I recounted how during the most painful of treatments, I would think of all the people who were pulling for me, praying for me, and it would help get me through it.  One of my friends had replied: “Your Balcony People.” 

What a descriptive term!  When I hear it I think of all the people who have been such for me.  So many of them have passed on from this world.  In the successive years 2008 and 2009 my mother, and then my father, died.  The year 2019 was full of loss: my dear Uncle Harley in April, my cherished friend JoAnn, in June and my beloved brother Ed in October.  Yet I feel their continued presence in my life.  And so many others are still living, still cheering me on through life.  

In 2001, as I drove down the driveway following the ambulance carrying my husband, I called my friend Diane,  just wanting the assurance of a caring friend.  But in less than an hour she and her husband were at the emergency room and brought a meal for me.  In 2002, barely four months later, when Terry had restenosis in the stent he had only just gotten, once again Diane showed up in the waiting room.  In 2009, as I waited in the Emergency Room where my father was being treated for a stroke, my friend Ann showed up. So many encouraged me through the long process of preparation for ministry, have supported me through dark times and celebrated successes with me along the way.  Balcony People are priceless. 

Knowing how much those people mean to me, I strive to be a Balcony Person for others.  Life is full of opportunities to fulfill that role.  Mercy knows, we can all use someone in our corner. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration, and we all need to assemble around us the people who care about us and support us in times of strife.” – Tim Gunn


Recently Terry and I began watching a series called “I Am a Killer,” featuring interviews with prisoners convicted of murder.  The stories tend to be heartbreaking.  The last one we watched was the story of a man with an IQ of 70 and a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder).  He seemed as baffled as everyone else why one moment he was chatting with an elderly neighbor on her porch, and the next he had pushed her into her house and had begun to brutally murder her. 

The detective who had investigated the scene of the crime was understandably horrified by what she found.  She saw her role as the advocate for the victim in the legal proceedings.  As part of the documentary, she listened to part of the prisoner’s interview.  In it, he talked about being brutalized by his father.  Without blinking an eyelash, she said “Well, lots of prisoners claim they were abused in childhood.”  Perhaps because many of them were?  The percentage I saw reported was 44%.

I am always struck by the approach that operates from the mindset that involves treating inmates as less than human.  How does treating people who often have been made to feel worthless throughout their lives do anything but perpetuate the same?

On the other hand, I read this week an article from a minister who taught a course at a local prison and became acquainted with an inmate who had persuaded the prison administration to let him cultivate flowers in the middle of the prison. This was one of his tactics of survival for incarceration. 

The author of the article also described a book he had come across written by a prisoner in a facility near the Santa Rita Mountains in Arizona.  The prisoner had painted and sketched plants, animals and insects he was aware of in his surroundings.  He included stories about how he and his friends would welcome birds to build nests on their window ledges, between the bars, leaving bits of food for them.

Label me a “bleeding heart,” if you like.  I recognize we are talking about people who have committed crimes, sometimes horrific, repulsive ones.  Yet I see no way for us to make any headway in reducing crime if we continue to think only in terms of punishment, with little or no effort towards rehabilitation. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Years ago on a visit to our exchange daughter in Germany, we were shopping with her in a town nearby to her home.  We came across her father, a policeman, with a fellow just walking along with him.  We exchanged greetings and her dad and his companion went on their way.  Later, back at their home at supper, we asked who had been with him.  Oh, he said, it was his prisoner.  No handcuffs.  No indication he was in any trouble.  By all appearances, just two men walking through the village.

Authentic Voice

After talking for several years about writing a blog, the pandemic presented the perfect opportunity.  Looking back, I see my blogs tend to fall into three categories:  1) some bit of information or experience that caught my attention that I wanted to share; 2) some slice of life from this little town I now call home; or 3) something uplifting, some words of encouragement I hope to offer.  I can tell you the third category gets the most response.  How much we all seek to be uplifted!

As my pastoral duties take precedence, I sometimes struggle to give my blog the attention that fulfills me and hopefully provides something worth my readers’ time.  So I was struck by a daily post from the Frederick Buechner site I follow.  Buechner, a favorite author of mine, spoke of his early writing that had “very little” of his “life’s blood.”  Sometimes I have achieved the discipline of writing and posting without infusing it with as much of myself and my passion as I would have hoped.  For that I can choose to “offer myself some grace.” 

So my intention is to offer you my authentic voice always.  When I am faced with a blank page blinking back at me, and stumble to fill it with something that approximates that voice, perhaps you also will give me some grace!  More importantly, when there are times in your own life when you feel you haven’t measured up, when you have disappointed yourself, when you find yourself mired in some disconsolation or despair, discover the healing balm of giving yourself some grace. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  from another favorite, John O’Donohue: “To Come Home To Yourself”

May all that is unforgiven in you

Be Released.

May your fears yield

Their deepest tranquilities.

May all that is unlived in you

Blossom into a future

Graced with love.      From To Bless the Space Between Us

(As my pastor friend Tonia says, “I bid you peace.”) 😊