The Whistlestop

As railroads became a means of transporting goods and people in the late 1800s, my current home in Columbus, MT, was  on the Northern Pacific Railroad line. The  typical small town train depot in Columbus housed a freight warehouse, a passenger terminal and the station master’s office.  As late as 1967 there were two eastbound and two westbound trains making stops in Columbus.  Early in the century there were eight trains daily, three passenger and one freight each direction.  That was the impetus for the Whistlestop Café, located directly across from the train station.  It has been a fixture in this little town for decades, beginning in 1927.  Pictures of the early years line the walls, telling the story of a little restaurant that has evolved but in its essence has changed little.

When I moved here, the hours were 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, which I found rather strange for a burger and ice cream place.  Recently, the Whistlestop has come under new management.  They are open later in the evenings and have Saturday hours to include breakfast beginning at 6 a.m. In another month, they will be offering breakfast on Sunday mornings as well.  The burgers are old fashioned and delicious; the ice cream is ridiculously good and the baked goods on Saturday mornings are outstanding.  But the real attraction is the opportunity for a gathering place….families having a meal together, neighbors chatting as they wait for their orders, children getting ice cream cones.  As a town of less than 2,000, eating establishments are few and places for building a sense of community are limited. 

I have never attempted to open a restaurant but I understand such a business is demanding. With food prices skyrocketing, the risk the new owners are taking is astonishing.  So I salute these folks, a couple not yet even thirty years old, for taking that gamble in this small community.  I appreciate the spirit of camaraderie they are creating and the extraordinary effort they are putting into creating it.

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:  Freight facilities in Columbus in earlier years included an automobile loading and unloading platform, 4 stock pens, water for stock and a wool warehouse. Many Montana Northern Pacific towns had wool warehouses, as the Northern Pacific was the major carrier of wool out of Montana. The wool warehouses were eventually all closed with centralization of wool collection in Billings.

What If?

I was going a totally different direction for this blog.  And then I read from a favorite book of mine, Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, this line: “To be aroused by life is to cherish every moment and to not miss a thing.”

This is not a new thought but it seems to be one for which we need periodic reminders lest we lose awareness of daily gifts.  What better time for a reminder than as we enter a new year? The authors quote Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, best known for her classic work on the stages of grief, On Death and Dying, “It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth—and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up—that we will begin to live each day to the fullest as if it was the only one we had.”

Terry and I just finished the Netflix series “Dead to Me,” full of rich character development as “Jen” and “Judy” navigate life and their relationship, culminating in Judy’s death from cancer.  Judy spends her final weeks living each day to the max, with full awareness that each day may well be her last.  How many people have I heard with cancer or other end of life medical conditions say what a gift their disease was because it brought them into such awareness?   When we so resist that recognition, we cheat ourselves of fully experiencing life. 

What if we were willing to cultivate such a response to the opportunity to live another day? Living in this manner is a challenge, but not an impossible task.  The sign in my meditation space calls me to “Start each day with a grateful heart.”  As I drive to my office I pray blessings on living out the day in grace and gratitude.  When Terry and I walk I seek to pay attention to the beauty of the day. At night I seek to fall asleep with gratitude for the blessings of that day. I have not integrated these things daily. But the more often that I practice this approach to life, the more often I experience peace, contentment, even joy; and the more I am capable of passing those blessings onto others.

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:  “Setting your intention is like drawing an arrow from the quiver of your heart.”  Bruce Black

Insight 46

My inbox is full of so much that I rarely get around to reading.  But, waking early and scrolling through my gmail, I opened The Conversation, where I found a series of in-depth articles on a variety of topics to include Insight 46.

In March 1946, in the early months after the end of World War II, Britain initiated a study about maternal health, which came about because of a decades-long concern about decreasing birth rates, infant mortality and a need to grow the postwar labor force.  A representative sample of the babies born in a particular week in March 1946 were followed.  Over the years the study developed multiple foci.  Over the years it became the longest continuously running study of health over the human life course in the world.

In 2016, a sub-study of 502 people from the cohort, dubbed Insight 46, was begun  to address brain ageing and dementia.  Dementia is an ancient word meaning “out of mind,” but today it refers to a syndrome of acquired (not present from birth), progressive cognitive impairment, severe enough to interfere with everyday activities such as planning meals, managing bills and medicines and housekeeping, alzheimer’s disease being the most common form.

Every year the researchers send participants a birthday card with a newsletter that summarizes key findings from the cohort over the previous year.  Over the years, study members had attended research clinics to have their hearts, blood vessels and bones scanned.  Those leading this study wondered if these participants would be willing to travel to London to be injected with a radioactive tracer, then lie in a scanner for an hour for the purpose of beginning to track their brains.  They report from sessions led by a focus group expert, that the response was affirmative.  Some feedback from these meetings:

“You tested our hearts, bones, why not our brains?”

“I think anything that we can do to try and limit, reduce the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, dementia, absolutely has my 100% support.”

“I’m happy just even talking about it now, I feel less scared…”

One man wrote: “I am happy to boast that I have been described as one of the best-studied people on the planet.  And I’m quietly proud that information about me, ranging from how many pairs of bootees I had at birth to the state of my memory now, has appeared in at least eight books and 700 other publications.”

How wonderful that people are willing to do this not only for their own sakes but for that of others!

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:  All that has been learned from this study that originally was directed towards maternal health and infant mortality speaks to how our contributions can grow over time, leaving a legacy we never imagined. 

  • Information as reported in The Conversation dated December 28, 2022.

Time in a Bottle

“Christmas?? Already??” I began my yearly holiday greeting letter.  Where did the year go? A frequently expressed sentiment!  So I was quite intrigued by an article I came across in the Huffington post.  The author, Jillian Wilson, described that there is a reason why we may feel “like the years moved slowly when you were a kid, but zoom by now.”

Experts say, Ms. Wilson reports, that our perception of time greatly changes as we age due to several factors.  Are we in the moment experiencing an event or are we looking back on it?  Memory and how much one has experienced influences perception. For example, in the life of an 8-year-old, a week is a big portion of their life.  For an 80-year-old, a week is a much smaller portion of their life, making the experience of time feel much faster.

Curiously, the brain “lumps time together when the days or weeks are similar,” with the result that for an 80-year-old whose days generally run the same course, the year is going to blend together and seem to pass very quickly.

When one stays active with a variety of activities and variation in routine, time seems more expansive.  Adrian Bejan, professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University, encourages folks to experience things that are new and out of one’s usual routine in order to contribute to a sense of time expanding.

When I explored this topic, I found numerous related articles, articles on time perception and ADHD; on time perception and depression; relationship to substance abuse, to schizophrenia.  I even found an account of research exploring “tired brain cells” as a cause of time distortion. ( I think I have some of those!)

Come next year, I can almost guarantee I will be saying some version of “where did the year go?”   I am not sure I entirely believe that varied routine and new experiences give the perception of expanded time.  It seems like the more active and involved I am, the more time seems to speed by.  But I do find it  fascinating that we each have the same 24 hours in every day and the length of minutes never varies.  Yet our perception impacts how long or short those minutes and hours and days are.

Henry Van Dyke would remind us:

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.

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 you are the pilot.”—Michael Altshuler

Happy Holidays

“If someone says ‘Happy Holidays’ to me, I just say ‘To you as well.’  I’m a Christian, not a jerk.”  This was a FaceBook post I came across this week.  I haven’t heard too much lately about the “Christmas wars.”  But that post struck me as conveying how misguided we are to take offense to a simple greeting.  More broadly, why take any action that creates a sense of hostility where none existed? 

Peace-loving soul that I am, I find it puzzling that people would seek conflict, would cultivate it.   On a site I found called Shift, this enigma is addressed thus:  “As humans, we oversimplify things. We don’t want to waste our mental energy looking at the vast interplay and complexity of every situation and experience. This can be helpful at times, but it can sometimes also leave to us facing more challenges in life. The dualistic black-and-white thinking can lead us to developing an internal belief system where we see certain aspects, powers, and forces as ‘good’ while others are ‘evil’ in our eyes. We view people as either friends or enemies.

This is a mistake. That is, it means we lose out on the incredible opportunities we have for growth that would not come in any other way.”

I just know that the Christmas I was in the Middle East when a clerk at the grocery store, dressed in full abaya and hijab, wished me “Merry Christmas,”  my belief in humankind was affirmed.  She could have chosen to consider me “an infidel,” an “ugly American.”  She saw me as another human being, with no conceivable reason not to be courteous towards me.  And I was very gracious to her.  That’s how this world works best.

So Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Have an amazing Kwanza!  (Or as you may remember from the old 1997 Seinfeld episode “Happy Festivus for the Rest of Us.” 😊)  May this season just inspire us to be good people to one another year round.

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: “Blessings to you and yours for peace, love and cherished memories this holiday season and in the coming New Year.”  — from the

Advent and Adversity

                                           Much of my time lately has been focused on preparations for Advent season, now underway.  More than ever this year I am aware of an acute sense of dissonance between the season as it is portrayed and the way it is lived out in reality.  If the ads and store displays are to be believed, everyone has a home to decorate, money to load up the tree with presents beneath it and a loving family with whom to share the holidays.  And yet, Advent is by its nature a time of darkness, in which we seek light, in which our intention is to kindle hope.  As many Christian traditions are, this season’s celebration has pagan roots.

                        Wikipedia recounts that for Pagans back in the day, Christmas was a celebration of the sun god, Sol Invictus. In the late 3rd century, Roman emperor Aurelianus had a massive temple constructed to please Sol Invictus, and it was inaugurated on, you guessed it, December 25th. So as a Pagan holiday, Christmas is a celebration of the “birth” of the sun god Sol Invictus. These ancient Romans knew this day as Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, translating to the “birthday of the Unconquerable Sun”. 

December 25th was believed to be the sun god’s birthday because of its proximity to the Winter Solstice. As you may know, the Winter Solstice (December 21st) is the shortest day of the year, after which the days start to have more and more sunlight. For this reason, the ancient Romans believed that this is the time when the sun won its battle against the darkness, hence the name the Unconquerable Sun.  (from Wikipedia).

              For those who may be experiencing their own darkness right now, or simply would appreciate something uplifting, I offer you a blessing from Jan Richardson, artist, writer and ordained Methodist minister:

              ON THAT NIGHT: A Blessing

              On that night when

you are holding

              your very last hope,

              thinking to let it go

              as too small to be saved,

              or sanctified;

              on that night when

              you turn away at last

              from the far horizon

              over which you had thought

              your life would come

              to find you;

              on that night,

              believe me,

              this is where

              the ache

              will give way

              to the mystery

              and the blessing

              that seemed so distant

              will quietly

              come to meet you,

              holding your heart

              in its two

              luminous hands.

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:  Ms. Richardson has written numerous books, to include The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief; In the Sanctuary of Women; Circle of Grace and In Wisdom’s Path, to name a few. 

A Little Bit of Heaven

“When we feel certain that the human soul is no longer at work in the world, it’s time to make sure that ours is visible to someone somewhere.”  Those powerful words of Quaker author Parker Palmer just grabbed me this week.  We may want to shrink from our surroundings when we despair that “the human soul is no longer at work in the world.”  But that is the time when it is the most necessary to “make sure that ours is visible to someone somewhere.”

Jesus said the kingdom of God is “at hand”… present and available.  And we are “agents” of the kingdom when we make sure our soul is visible to all those we encounter.  Pretty awesome when you think of it:  in those circumstances when we may feel the most powerless, we remain in a position to demonstrate kindness, compassion, understanding, love. 

One of my favorites, that I return to periodically, comes from Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.”

Or, as I once read, “If the kingdom of God is within you, you should leave a little heaven wherever you go.” (Cornel West).

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:  Consider where have you left “a little heaven” lately.


              Years ago our Thanksgiving tradition involved having the extended family at our home.  I would get up in the wee hours to prepare the turkey for baking.  I am not a “morning person” but I loved the early morning reverie as I basted the turkey:  covering it inside and out with a dry mustard rub, tucking butter pats in between the joints, putting onion and celery in the cavity, placing bacon across the top, laying cheesecloth soaked in olive oil over it to bake it.  Ah!  So moist, so delicious! 

The entertaining was always rather exhausting but rewarding. One year our daughters and their spouses and my nephew and his family were all there.   I remember they were visiting around the table.  I was lying on the couch, all energy expended, too tired to move, but enjoying the sound of their conversation and the sense of all being right in my world.  Nothing better than having our children with us.

Another year, when my parents were no longer driving, my brother drove them out to Tennessee from Oklahoma.  Sadly, our dog died that Thanksgiving morning.  My brother discovered me crying and just folded me into the most tender hug he had ever given me.  My brother’s efforts to get my parents to Tennessee and his sensitivity to my loss were both great gifts.

We have had to adapt over the years as circumstances have changed.  When the extended family gatherings ceased after my mother-in-law died, and our children were often living elsewhere, we began to always do the Grateful Gobbler walk, a fundraiser for homeless services.  Sometimes we celebrated with friends after.  Sometimes we celebrated alone, savoring the day just the two of us.

This Thanksgiving we had an invitation to a church member’s home.  Afterwards, we went to the  Palladium, a local pub which was hosting a community Thanksgiving.  I noticed a woman alone at the bar and decided to reach out, knowing I would want someone to reach out to me if I were alone on a holiday.  I discovered she has been widowed 12 years.  The friends who had invited her to join them had become ill and had to rescind the invitation.  Our conversation led to the discovery that we had both lived in Waco, Texas, and that she is the neighbor of some of our church members.  A serendipity!

Traditions are lovely.  But life evolves. Flexibility is essential to our well-being.

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 recipe to which I refer is “Marie Louise’s Turkey and Gravy” from the Cotton Country Collection cookbook. 



As a child, I lived in a neighborhood in a small town.  In an age when cell phones didn’t exist and the very idea of even young children having their own phone was unthinkable, some folks still might ask to use a neighbor’s phone.  Borrowing a cup of sugar wasn’t unheard of.  If a neighbor was sick, you likely took some soup.  If someone was new to the neighborhood, you took a plate of cookies, or perhaps a casserole.  People behaved in “neighborly” ways.

One of the “rituals” in this Oklahoma town were the gatherings in the spring when there were tornado watches.  We congregated in the neighbor’s storm shelter, where we would catch up on the latest news in everyone’s lives.     I did live through a few tornadoes while I lived in Oklahoma, but there were so many tornado watches that there was never a real sense of danger any of the times we took to the neighbor’s shelter.  These were rather convenient opportunities to get together! 

I have lived in other neighborhoods over the years.   But for last thirty years before we moved here, our closest and really only neighbor, was our niece down the driveway from us.  So now, once again in a small town, we have neighbors. 

A great gift to us have been our neighbors across the street and down a few houses, who sometimes invite us for coffee, and to whom we sometimes extend the same invitation.    They have made us welcome in many other ways, including us in activities at their home, introducing us to their friends, making us aware of opportunities in the area.  I have no doubt if I needed something, they would do their utmost to help me. 

 We are blest with others locally who invite us to do things.  Pastor colleagues have reached out to me.  We just returned from a trip to Tennessee where we were reminded of how much we appreciate longstanding friendships there. 

At this time of Thanksgiving, when folks make special effort to express gratitude for life’s blessings, I am most grateful for friends like these, for the friendships over the years that have enriched and sustained me. 

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: I discovered there are some funny quotes about neighbors.  For example:

To get a roaster clean, send something like baked apples in it to a neighbor. Neighbors always return pans spotless, and you won’t have to use a blow torch on it like you usually do.  Phyllis Diller

But the sweetest one I found was this: What are we doing in this world, and why are we here, if not to contribute to the wellbeing of our neighbors?  St. Mary Euphrasia

Happy Thanksgiving!


                  What a ruckus!  Everywhere you turn in this town, the roads are torn up, closed off, impossible to know from one day to the next which roads are open to get where you want to go.  Old water pipes are being removed and new ones put in, a good thing in and of itself.  Perhaps we won’t have to deal with the burst pipes every winter as in years past.  But now progress is disrupted by the recent snow, which continues to fall.  It is a rare conversation lately that doesn’t include some reference to the roads.     

  Perhaps we could use a few reminders:              

 1) This is a “first world problem.”  How many people live with disruptions that have much more serious consequences for their well-being?  We could be  Ukrainians trying to stay alive in the midst of war.  Or  refugees fleeing extreme violence in our country.  Or someone who is stranded in an abusive relationship with no resources.  Or ( and I only learned this this week) we could be residents in our local nursing home, which suddenly announced its closing and intention to get all occupants out before Thanksgiving.  

And 2) disruption is a part of life and sometimes a necessary one. 

And 3) good can come of disruption.  For example, no one would like to repeat the covid pandemic.  But after years of trying to raise the minimum wage, employers were forced to raise them in an effort to secure their work force. 

                  Some have succinctly described this:

“ Trust me, you can’t change anything without causing some degree of disruption. It’s impossible, that is exactly what change is. Some people are uncomfortable with the disruption that change causes, but the disruption is necessary if anything is going to change.” Afeni Shakur

“Change is inevitable and the disruption that it causes often brings both inconvenience and opportunity.”  Robert Scobie

While I admit I have groused right along with most of the folks in our little community and these reminders are for me as much as anyone, I find some gratification in the bond that this disruption has offered.  We all are experiencing the problem to one degree or another.  We share our frustration.   At a time when so much division exists, there is some little blessing in this “opportunity”  to unite in our common “misery.”

 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: Where do you see opportunity in the midst of some disruption affecting you?