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Outside my study windows, September evokes subtle leaf changes in my shrubs: the pickle-green lilacs, the laurel-green forsythia, the moss-green of the London plane tree, and the hunter-green of the snowflake verbena. All have lost their glossy coats, Spring’s gift, and will eventually cast them within stripping winds and pelting snow crystals. Yet, occasional root drenching-rains prolong this process like sparrows in slow motion.

I feel like one of these leaves: the loss of my greening-zest and its intrusion into my identity. But change, I must continue until properly stripped. This takes daily willingness, only wrought through prayer. Within each twenty-four hours, I draw courage from the shrubs, in their de-coloring and de-leafing, outside my windows.

Yet, lime-green berries flourish on my Christmas jewel holly, December’s chill reddening them through the winter months.

At 7:35 A.M., I awoke to this corrective dream:

I wear a hospital gown and lie upon a gurney, having just been rolled into the operating room for total knee replacement surgery. Last week, I had the same surgery and don’t understand why I have to go through this again. I look around. The room appears unclean, smelly; the nursing staff wears soiled scrubs—one of the nurses injects my mid-back. It stings. To my left, sets a leaden trough with body parts surgically removed from previous patients, earlier in the day.

This dream reveals darkness in my psyche that confounds my spiritual faculties: thinking and choosing. I am powerless, unable to stand on my own, so I believe. More knee surgery would remedy that, another concludes.

The gurney, a wheeled stretcher, takes me to the operating room, the theater of high drama where medicine, fused with technology, often brings about beneficial changes to patients, but not without physical and emotional pain. But this operating room is a toxic environment, with high risks of infection or loss of life. Despite knowing this, I remain helpless to change my circumstances.

Even the body parts surgically removed from previous patients should have roused me. I say nothing and let the plan proceed.

That my psyche was stunned by new energy diminishment the past two days is obvious: gnawing fears of being victim, of self-pity, of still working things out on my own. The dream seems to call for greater trust in God’s plan for my demise, not some credentialed authority in my psyche.

Although weak, I do have a voice.

As I recall the Genesis story of Cain and Abel (4: 1–16), I’m not as shocked by our distraught world, shimmering with incurable disease, violence, and corruption. From its very beginnings, evil has seeded our world with the Seven Deadly Sins: anger, pride, lust, greed, sloth, gluttony, and envy. I know, because I have all of them, as does everyone else.

When failed instincts succumb to temptation to have more, to be more, or to leave a trail of monuments in their honor, violence inevitably ensues, whether around the kitchen table or the conference table.

Examples of evil in my lifetime are rife: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. The Killing Fields in Cambodia, Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago, Castro’s Cuba, and the corruption of Central American governments—all buzzed on the AP, but only handing out piecemeal information. The 1960s assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Dr. Martin Luther King revealed the agendas of the underworld.

Lynchings and other nasty racist practices also killed bodies and spirits. Our legislators declared war on unborn babies. Clergy sexually abused altar boys, leaving irreparable psycho-social harm. The proliferation of drugs contributing to the watered-down ethos in global societies still smells to high heaven. And the hype of the sports and entertainment worlds distract from significant life values.

But as with the plight of Cain after he murdered his brother, we are not left without resources to thrive in the midst of this madness. Those practicing faith in God are marked and will find their way, even to their deaths.

The Twelve Steps help scrutinize my behavior.

Available on Amazon

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