Fall leaves are dropping,
autumn arriving in typical
colors and smells.
A cool breeze hints
at winter. But not just yet. 

A lady sits on a front porch,
smiling, as she watches
a brilliant-red cardinal
clinging, calling out from
his perch. 

His persistence pays off
and a young female
swoops in, shy but determined.
The lady on the porch rocks
slowly, smiling.

She calls out to the
cardinals—Hello mom, hi Chaz,
and goes back to
waiting for her
expected guest. 

Memories prance
through her head,
retelling days of
swings and sleepovers, of the
sand and the ocean. 

Her guest arrives,
reaching for the
wooden rail.
The first step creaks.
The guest steps into view. 

He is old—well, getting old.
Older than before the
trouble started. Older but
born anew. Better

She looks in his direction
and their eyes meet. She
stays in her rocking chair
evaluating, determining, hopeful
that it’s truly different this time.

Hi mom, he says.
Hi son, she replies.

©2020 Steven Barto

Colors Other Than Gray

A glimpse inside, riding the
tide of my emotions, until a
wave knocks me down near
the side of a stone jetty.
The lifeguard blows her whistle
and signals that I’m in danger;
I’m at risk;
too near injury to be left alone.

It’s sunny today, with
blue skies.
Background music of baritone
teens imitating the Ramones,
down the shore, just a quarter mile
from Barnegat Light.

I might, for the first time
in a long time,
be seeing life again as
it’s meant to be seen.
Feeling the warmth of our
giant solar orb on my face,
and catching glimpses of pretty young girls
in bikinis, clad in
colors other than gray.

© 2017 Steven Barto

Jesus Calling

©2004 Sarah Young
February 17

Jesus Calling Cover Art.jpg

I AM THE RISEN ONE who shines upon you always. You worship a living Deity, not some idolatrous, man-made image. Your relationship with Me is meant to be vibrant and challenging, as I invade more and more areas of your life. Do not fear change, for I am making you a new creation, with old things passing away and new things continually on the horizon. When you cling to old ways and sameness, you resist My work within you. I want you to embrace all that I am doing in your life, finding your security in Me alone.

It is easy to make an idol of routine, finding security within the boundaries you build around your life. Although each day contains twenty-four hours, every single one presents a unique set of circumstances. Don’t try to force-fit today into yesterday’s mold. Instead, ask Me to open your eyes so you can find all I have prepared for you in this precious day of life.




Of Modern Poetry

Ask ten different educated, well-read people to define modernism, or the “modern” era [you know, the one right before our total disillusionment and our adoption of post-modern thinking] and you’ll likely get ten different definitions; or at least ten different sentiments about that period in our history as a nation, as a people. Certainly, going in to the modern era, we thought (or were at least were hopeful) that science would solve all our problems. There would be vast improvements in industrialization, medicine, peacetime, reduction in world hunger, and the advancement of the rights of man, woman and child. Then came World War I, the stock market crash, and World War II. We dropped a nuclear warhead on a Japanese city, instantly killing 80,000 people. The shock wave was felt for over 18 kilometers.

Novelists, poets, painters, and many other artists put their angst on display through the medium of their choice. I found the following poem by Wallace Stevens. Try reading it as if you were living in the early 1900s. Feel his emotion, his worry, his outrage, quiet as it may be in this piece. He comments that the poem of the mind had not always had to try so hard to find its scene. Its place. Things usually didn’t change so fast, so drastically. Stevens wrote this poem three years before the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Many more horrific and inexplicable changes were yet to come…

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice. It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
Then the theatre was changed
To something else. Its past was a souvenir.
It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.
It has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time. It has to think about war
And it has to find what will suffice. It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage,
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speak words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
Not to the play, but to itself, expressed
In an emotion as of two people, as of two
Emotions becoming one. The actor is
A metaphysician in the dark, twanging
An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives
Sounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly
Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend,
Beyond which it has no will to rise.
It must
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.
©1942 Wallace Stevens

The Goal, Attitudes and Dangers of Counseling

Counseling is neither easy nor simple. But the problems connected with it can be reduced to a minimum by carefully adhering to biblical directives.  Those who fail to do so harm themselves and reduce the possibility of being effective. Because it involves the welfare of others, how counseling is done is vital. Some, becoming aware of the dangers, withdraw altogether and disobey the command to restore one another. God will not allow that; He has called me to this ministry as a believer. Since I may not back out of the responsibility to counsel, I must learn how to set proper goals and objectives, how to develop appropriate attitudes, and how to avoid the many pitfalls inherent in counseling .

The ultimate goal behind all Christian activity, including counseling, is to glorify God. (Col. 3:23) Christians are never to be humanistic. In each endeavor, there is an overall objective that one seeks to reach in order to glorify God. What,then, is the overall objective of lay counseling? The Apostle Paul calls us to restore erring brothers and sisters to their place of usefulness to Christ in His church. (Gal. 6:1) Restoration to usefulness, therefor, is the objective of Christian counseling. Whenever you counsel another you need to ask, “How has his usefulness been diminished by his problem.” And you must not rest until usefulness is restored.

The goal of restoration ought to guide the whole of one’s attitudes and activities. The counselor counsels not to punish, or to expose the failures of another. He counsels to restore the person to usefulness. Moreover, with this goal constantly in mind, the counselor will  do what he is doing not only to help the counselee (as important as that is),  but also to accomplish other goals. It is perfectly correct to care for the counselee and to seek his well-being; apart from such caring in which the counselor may even “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice,” neither the ultimate goal (God’s glory) nor the overall objective (restoration) are possible. However, Christian counselors, unlike others, are not merely oriented toward the counselee; they want to honor Christ and, like Him, they also care about His body, the church. The welfare of the whole body is adversely affected by the failure of any part. Counseling, therefore, is not only an interaction between a counselor and one or more persons in a counseling room; it also interacts in any number of ways with the whole flock and all of its activities.

The one essential attitude, beyond caring for the counselee’s well-being, is having a spirit of meekness. This is an attitude of being humble and gentle. Such a counselor is not weak. Someone who approaches you in a spirit (attitude) of meekness can have a much greater impact than one who judges, or bullies, or makes demands. Whatever force he possesses is in his character and personality. In practice, he is the opposite of the person who would say to you, “Well, I see that you’ve been at it again,” or, “Well, I told you so.” Rather, you are more likely to hear him say something like, “I’m here to help you because you need it and because Christ sent me. I am not any better than you are.” Indeed, his attitude is expressed most fully when he says, “I’m helping you today, but who knows whether I may need your help next week?”

In Galatians 6, Paul wisely points to a phenomenon in counseling that is well known to us in other areas of life. A drowning man may also drown his rescuer along with himself unless the one doing the life-saving knows about this possibility and has learned the proper precautions to avert it. Many counselors, for example, have become involved sexually with clients whose sexual problems were the object of counseling. This phenomenon may explain Jude’s concern about showing mercy to others “with caution, hating even the clothing spotted from the flesh.” (v.23) One must despise and avoid the sin that has debilitated a counselee as he would the pus running from an open wound caused by an infectious disease. With all he does in counseling, he must take the utmost care to maintain a righteous condition so that he will not become a victim of the sinful condition of the counselee. A wise counselor will do whatever is biblically legitimate to preclude self-infection.

All counseling aims at change. Without this element, a person may be attempting to do something, but whatever that is, it isn’t counseling. In the word restore, a term that is used often in Christian counseling, the need for change is clearly implied. Something (or someone) that has lost its usefulness is changed (or restored) into something (or someone) that is now, as a result, useful for the purpose for which it was made. The counselor must determine what is it that must be changed? What will bring about that change? The goal of the counseling sessions is to find answers to these questions. There are a lot of sayings that have been written over the years about change, or lack thereof, but my favorite is Nothing changes if nothing changes.

In order to counsel effectively, the lay counselor must spend much time studying the Scriptures carefully so that he may minister the Word with accuracy and efficacy. The proper study of counseling, as of man himself, is the Bible.

Why Do I Freeze Up and Go Silent? Move Beyond the Separating Power of Shame

The following is an excerpt from “If the Buddha Got Stuck: A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path,” by Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D.

Shame is a great paralyzer. To become unstuck we need to explore this troublesome feeling. When people are left, excluded, shunned, or abused, they often slide into persistent shame, which can result in depression, isolation, anxiety, and illness. Shame is a mired down, wretched feeling that arises in response to believing we are intrinsically bad, worthless, and defective. It can become a visceral, hardwired reaction that stems from having been humiliated, degraded, embarrassed, and diminished into an object for someone else’s use.

Shame is like an old experience ready to be resurrected when someone talks or responds to you in a way that echoes an earlier shaming situation. For example, if someone in the past frequently implied or referred to you as stupid, feelings of shame can be instantly triggered in current time when anyone so much as implies you’ve done something wrong. When this happens, you are basically reliving an experience from the past and falling into a child state. The reaction is often a wish to disappear, hide, punish yourself, retaliate, defend, or give up on yourself. When this happens, we tend to avert our eyes, blush, collapse in the chest, close the heart, isolate, and sometimes slink away as if in disgrace. The flow within the body becomes constricted.

Shame keeps us from learning. If you’re taking music lessons, for example, and you translate every suggestion the teacher makes into, “I’m no good, I have no talent, I’ll never make it,” you are creating a lot of inner anxiety, which blocks learning. Shame is like a non-stop negative evaluator that thwarts fascination and curiosity because you’re so worried about being judged as bad or wrong. And, unfortunately, trying to prove you are smart, talented, good, and right won’t counteract it; it will just lead to inner combat.

Shame also keeps us stuck because it stops us from taking action – you don’t apply for a new job, tell your partner you’re upset, take a class, try a new venture, or value your talents because you’re afraid of feeling shame if you’re turned down (which you call rejected), you make a mistake (you’re not perfect), or if someone doesn’t want to spend time with you (they’re abandoning you). To counter entrenched feelings of shame, some people blame, counterattack, change the subject, get defensive, make excuses, become arrogant or cruel, or exert power over others through leadership roles.  They appear in charge, but do great harm with little understanding of their impact on others. Addictions often are a cover for a feeling of deep shame.


Easing Your Feelings of Shame

Name it. Observe it. When you feel shame, say to yourself some version of the following: “There’s the feeling of shame. What happened or what did I say to myself just before feeling it?”

Realize you are not your shame. Say to yourself, “This shame is not my essential self. It is an intruder, like toxic chemicals, pollution. It was put there when I was abused, left, hurt, shamed, seduced, teased, neglected, scolded, or not allowed to voice my thoughts or feelings.

Think of what you don’t do for yourself because of your shame, and then give yourself permission to do it anyway. This could include standing up for yourself, expressing feelings, initiating a conversation, asking for what you need, inviting someone to get together with you. Having a feeling of mastery over yourself in current time helps counteract the old experience.

Imagine having a new response to a shameful situation. Imagine being centered, confident, and at peace with yourself in a situation that has previously triggered shame. For example, you could say to someone, “It’s not all right to talk to me like that,” or , “Please ask me what you want without all the innuendos about how I did it wrong.” You could also try, “Something about this conversation doesn’t feel right, and I need to end it for now,” or, “Could you tell me what you meant by that? That feels like a shaming remark. Was that your intention?


Kasl, C., Ph.D. (2005). If the Buddha got Stuck: A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

A Room With A View

I lived in a lot of towns growing up. Dad was in plastics, and his career took him to some really cool places. One of my favorite spots to live was outside of Springfield, Vermont. I have never seen so much snow! We did a lot of sled riding. I also loved living in Winchester, Virginia. I did a weekly radio show on WINC. Moving can be a huge stressor, especially when you’re young and trying to form lasting friendships. And who really likes getting boxes from the local grocery store and cramming all your belongings into them and carrying them to the moving van?

I had hoped to develop a liking to change. Of seeing things from a different perspective. Instead, I had a hatred for change. The “familiar” escaped me. Later, during my second marriage, I would typically freak out if I came home from work and the living room furniture was moved around. What happened here? I liked my recliner by the window! Despite my disdain for change, at some point I came to appreciate different rooms with a view. I began to accept the unfamiliar as a challenge and not a threat.

So when I saw this Writing 101 assignment, “A room with a view,” I immediately thought about where I’d love to go. I am a voracious reader, and I love to write and journal and blog. I think my favorite place among places is the local public library. We’ve all heard the sayings about how we can expand our horizons and change our viewpoint by reading. About how the library is a window to the world. This is true. I have been a library patron since I was a child. I currently work part-time at the local library. I couldn’t be happier.

My ideal trip would involve time travel. Nothing would make me happier than traveling back in time to visit the library at Alexandria. My imagination runs wild as I think about the materials that would be available. I’m sure the architecture would have been breathtaking. So much to see. So much to learn. I know I live for learning and for experiencing. I’ve been able to accept change in my life lately. Sure, it can still give me reason to pause at times, but it’s something I welcome today more than I did over the years. You see, I’ve had to change. It’s the only thing that has preserved me and allowed me to grow. My anxiety level is much less today than it ever was.

What a blessing to wake up in the morning eager to face the day. Willing to learn. Able to adapt and adjust to my ever-changing environment. I am no longer afraid of change. I see it as instrumental to my growth. Embracing change also allows me to exercise acceptance. And that is the key to all my problems today.