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“Hello, Liz! May I come in?” North Carolinian origins warmed her voice as she pulled open the screen door and stepped inside. “We meet again,” she said, smiling and extending her slim hand toward mine. “From what you shared on the phone, you’ve come a long way—More settled with the lower dose of Dexamethasone.” It was Eunice, the hospice chaplain. She was so right. The steroid had tripped Swiss-cheese brain and runoff of my mouth, both messing with our first visit.

“Yes, thanks, I’m much better.” She looked so serene, settling into her chair and crossing her feet.

“I gathered as much from reading your blog—a window into your world.”

Her willowy appearance exuded simplicity: a single gold band on her left hand, her only adornment; her brunette hair caught in a ponytail; her lavender long-sleeved shirt downplayed any vestiges of drama. She was simply herself.

“It helps slow down what’s happening—Ever since I retired from hospice, I’ve been preparing for this critical time—My patients taught me lots.” I still cherished the memories and loved to tell their stories.

“That explains your readiness to participate in this process. Most patients are still reeling from their doctors’ decision to stop treatments.” I, too, had had that experience.

Then, I said, breathing deeply, “Let me share more fully how I got here—It’ll help to hear myself speak.”

Beneath rimless glasses, her dove-like eyes began tracking each word that brimmed from my fullness. Instantly, we were in seamless dialogue, our inner worlds playing off each other. On her spiritual path, too, she was a seasoned explorer.


He was a simple man: He loved his family, was fiercely loyal to his clan, and prospered in trading. Like new city dwellers living in seventh-century Mecca, he, too, sensed the restlessness, the discontent, brought about by too much change, too fast. With dull hearts, everyone amassed fortunes, grew fat. The centuries-old Bedouin ethos of providing for the marginalized, the destitute no longer seized imaginations.

Known as al-Amin, the Reliable One, he was also given to solitary prayer and retreats. Like those around him, he listened to stories shared by Jews and Christians with whom he traded: how their eyes glowed describing the revelations of Moses, of Jesus. And how he yearned for such a prophet from among his own people to confront their malaise and rejuvenate their spirits. But the shock of becoming such a spokesperson for Allah, the Arabic word for God, almost killed him.

We are talking about the prophet Muhammed (c.570-632 CE.), found within the pages of Karen Armstrong’s biography, Muhammad – A Prophet For Our Time (2006).

Her meticulous research, drawn from the four extant biographies composed after the prophet’s death, reveals a man of hilm: patience, forbearance, compassion and mercy; not a man of the sword. For twenty-three years, under duress, the angel Gabriel/ Spirit seized his spiritual faculties and provoked him to recite revelations streaming from the heart of Allah. Inherent within these recitations, later compiled into the Koran, was a rigorous discipline few had the inclination to practice: it was too costly.

As Karen Armstrong points out, Muhammad’s modernity lies precisely in this discipline. Therein, still lies the way to Life’s fruitfulness.


“Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life … Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:24; 36)—Thus proclaims the theme for the First Sunday in Advent; its dire words startle, if anyone is listening

Like first-century Palestine, the setting for this mandate, our times are rife with turmoil, with reversals in values, with rampant greed, with untoward events that decry expression. Covert and overt oppression hold people hostage. Homelessness, actual or psychological, sours hearts. Indeed, whole cityscapes appear inert, frozen in toxic fears. And Black Friday’s madness launched the shopping craze until the eve of Christmas. This scenario, ramped up by devotees of Evil, continues emasculating spirit, year after year.

Yet there is another voice that rings through the centuries: ”Watch yourselves …” To heed its imperative toward conversion of life requires humility, prayer, and selflessness. Through the practice of these disciplines emerge stalwart hearts, clear vision, and unflinching truth. That’s what really matters.

But such disciplines are counter-cultural, many protest. I’d much rather hang out with my buddies at the bar or go shopping. That’s where real life happens.

Yet the challenge remains: to go apart, alone, in silence, and see whom we meet.

It works. It really does.



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