My mind was still reeling from having just returned from seeing Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church where three innocent little black girls had died when their church was bombed on September 15, 1963. The National Civil Rights Museum filled with artifacts, photos and stories, and across the street in The Ingram City Park,  Ronald Scott McDowell’s steel statues of vicious attacking dogs,  policeman’s powerful water hoses and billy clubs, which had all had been used to  prevent blacks from registering to vote in Alabama, also troubled me.  But what was even more troubling to me were local senior black Birmingham residents sitting on park benches willingly explaining what it was like when this occurred to them in their city. Even as a Christian of long standing, I did not understand how there was not even a hint of anger or animosity within or among them. Apparently, they had completely forgiven their oppressors.

Upon our returning to our home at Jenner’s Pond in Pennsylvania, my wife and I attended the West Grove United Methodist Church on Sunday morning where coincidentally the Lead Pastor, Monica Guepet delivered a sermon entitled, Forgiving and Remembering. She began by explained where the phrase, forgive and forget, had originated and stated that the words forgive and forget are not found together in the Bible. I had already known this, but what I had not known or understood is what she made clear next; it was not only alright, but helpful and necessary for humans to remember their story and name their hurts whether they had occurred intentionally or unintentionally. She credited Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu in their book, The Book of Forgiving published in 2014 for helping her and other readers to understand and practice forgiving, noting that we all have the choice for revenge or forgiveness. After apartheid was resolved in South America in 1993 the Tutu’s sought to find a way for blacks to not rise in revenge. From Archbishop Tutu’s position in the Episcopal Church  citizens were led to forgive and  build relationships with their former oppressors. Nelson Mandela, who had been in prison for 27 years simply because he was black and spoke up for equality, was released and elected  president. He provided a leading example too!

Guepet said that forgiveness is not easy, it may seem almost impossible, but with God’s help and the help of others, it is possible. It worked in South Africa in families, societies and the country too! In fact it was working in Birmingham,  Alabama where I had just experienced it.

Following are helpful descriptions of what What Forgiveness Is Not from the Tutu’s book that were printed in Pastor Monica Guepet’s bulletin that morning.                                                   Forgiveness is not easy – It requires hard work and a consistent willingness.                     Forgiveness is not weakness – It requires courage and strength.                                                 Forgiveness does not subvert justice – It creates space for justice to be enacted with a purity of purpose that does not include revenge.                                                                               Forgiveness is not forgetting – It requires a fearless remembering of hurt.                               Forgiveness is not quick – It can take several journeys through the cycles of remembering and grief before one can truly forgive and be free.

I bought a copy of Tutu’s book to see the Revenge and Forgiveness Cycles for myself which  was especially helpful to me in realizing how the black residents of South Africa and Birmingham choose not revenge but forgiveness. This copy of the cycles is from their book.


Personally, although I have experienced the need for forgiveness and forgiving, I have never experienced the cruelty of racial injustices and of course do not know how I would react if it occurred to me, but I believe I would rely on the lesson indelibly imprinted on my mind and heart by Guepet’s Forgiving and Remembering sermon after we returned from touring The 16th Street Baptist Church, and struggling to try to understand how Birmingham Alabama blacks unpretentiously, quietly, wholeheartedly and unquestionably displayed forgiveness to us and many other tourists. She broke down Tutu’s forgiveness path into four steps—Telling the Story; Naming the Hurt; Granting Forgiveness; and Renewing or Releasing the Relationship.The crowning touch for me came when Guepet reiterated the third step in Tutu’s Forgiveness Cycle in which I was able to get in touch with recognizing my own as well as others Shared Humanity.

No one, not me or you or anyone else, even Jesus Christ had or has a corner on forgiveness. It’s a gift provided within and hopefully among us before we were even born. We may choose to use this God gift for our own as well as others well being, health and welfare. It’s a gift which Jesus and His followers then, as well as today continue to share. In Church we seek in every way to practice forgiveness in His holy name. Thanks be to my black brothers and sisters as well as Monica Guepet, who helped me understand, accept and practice forgiveness with myself, one another, others and even strangers in the holy name of Jesus Christ. This is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!

Since that time I have thought, prayed and decided to take Desmond Tutu and and his daughter, Mpho 30 Day Forgiveness Challenge. I’d like to become as good as I can at forgiving. In completing the first day’s assignment, I was encouraged to invite several friends to take the 30 Day Forgiveness Challenge, so that we might talk and help one another by sharing our forgiveness experiences and learning. I’m therefore forwarding the site in case you wish to try. Please do not feel obligated; however, I hope you’ll at least venture a look at it. By spending 15 minutes a day on it, we’ll be able to share our experiences and learning when we can get together.



Brian Mock

Brian Mock looked forward to the peace, and quiet of an an unhurried life and getting to know residents in a small picturesque upstate New York village after retirement from serving in the United States Air Force in South Korea.

Brian had been married twice and ended up rearing children that weren’t his and one biological son of his own. He loved and cared for each of the children while making a living in upstate New York. Evidently, he had one outstanding military friend and boss, who  always made him feel better about his life when he contacted him even after retiring from the military. His name was David Hurst, whom he routinely Skyped until the latter part of 2014, when routine connections with him had inexplicably become non-existent.

In searching for connections in order to rekindle Brian’s relationship with Dave, he came across Dave’s obituary, which prompted him to call The Harmony United Methodist Church, Preston, Maryland which was mentioned in the obituary as his home church and town. Brian knew that he was on track, because he’d often heard Dave talk about the Church in the  little village of Harmony in which he’d grown up. He phoned and talked with June Cox Gehring, the secretary of the church, who provide him with the details of Dave’s death which had occurred on September 9, 2014 in the Philippines. She also gave Brian Dave’s brother’s phone number to call for more information, which he did.

The secretary had given him my phone number, and since I had placed the obituary on line and knew most of the details regarding his death, which had occurred mercifully as a welcome release from painful pancreatic cancer. It was a comfort for Brian and me to talk with one another.

Brian told me how affectionate Dave was in caring for anyone, even animals. He remembered once when Dave’s South Korean wife called to tell him that their dog had eaten some rat poison and was dying. Dave rushed home, and performed mouth to mouth CPR on the dog on their way to the vet hospital, the dog consequently lived.  Brian’s story of Dave helped me to understand and appreciate my brother. His whole life seemed to be given to caring for others, even dogs, who might need special help.

I explained to Brian that in Dave’s death, he had been cared for by a Philopino mother and her children, who were living in his Philippine home and a 30 year friend, who lived  just two houses from his home. Enquiring, I asked the reason Dave had meant  so much to Brian. He responded that in David’s retrirment  career from the military he managed a military bowling recreation complex in Seoul Korea, where he encouraged and at times pushed the rules to get Brian connected with the love of his life, bowling. He had even set him up to manage a bowling alley in a nearby military recreation complex, but Brian had to retire from his military service and come back to the states before that arrangement was completed. Currently,  since he was in the process of opening his own bowling alley in upper New York state where he now lived, he needed to tell Dave, his close friend and advocate. He said that he always felt that Dave was not only his boss, but a special friend with whom he always appreciated talking. Dave he said, was more like a father to him. Brian needed to talk with Dave and tell him the good news about his pending bowling alley entrepreneurship, so he told me, Dave’s brother.

I told Brian that I had included a chapter about Dave called Wayward, in my book, Living in Harmony an Eastern Shore village redeems discord, and he promptly ordered a copy. I hope that the chapter about my brother Dave, lived up to Brian’s expectations.  Dave was wayward in the sense that he wasn’t often back home in the village in which he grew up, but  he remained connected for life, death and resurrection with those who were close to him no matter where he was in the world. Thanks for calling me Brian Mock and telling me what a good friend my brother Dave was to you.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

This morning I read for the second time an article clipped from the Wall Street Journal and given to me by a friend, who serves on our Jenner’s Pond library book selection committee. She noted, “thought of you when I read this.” It was a review titled, Where Earth and Water Parted authored by Gerald Helderich in reference to Aaron Hirsh’s new book, Telling Our Way To The Sea.

Describing Hirsh’s pictorial writing of his personal explorations of the Sea of Cortez and information from John Steinbeck Sea of Cortez adventures, Helderich makes a perfect pitch for persons to read Telling Our Way To The Sea.

I was grateful for my Jenner’s Pond friend cutting out and giving me this book review not only because I have taken people sailing on The Sea of Cortez, but because it reminded me of an important practice of giving credence to those who have gone before us in creative ways.

In this review the author makes use of Hirsh’s reference to Steinbeck before him. It helps me as an author to remember and practice this in creative ways not only because Hirsh  does this in his book but because memorable practitioners including John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham and Jesus, called The Christ, have done so. However, as far as we know, Jesus did not write it down, just filed it in his memory, and pulled it out and used it whenever applicable by mentioning the laws and prophecies before him, whenever and wherever it helped give credence and persuasion to his presentation. He noted that he was then not only able to fulfill the law and the prophets, but expand and enlarge interest and engagement of  the people with whom he was talking in their own vernacular. Our memorable great presidents did the same thing. John Kennedy reminded the American people “to not ask what their country could do for them but what they could do for their country”, a saying that had originated many years before in ancient Greece.

By reading the article a second time which my friend gave to me, I was helped to practice my own deliveries in talking and writing as an author by including the gifts of those who have ventured before me in their exploration, understanding and projection of the subjects I wish to talk and write about. Thanks to my friend, Mary Jane Hofmann for her note.

Another way of looking at this wrinkle which needs to be ironed out whenever talking or writing is what I once heard at a Successful Church Leadership Conference in reference to speaking and writing when Robert Schuller said, “give credit to those from whom you received the information or idea”. Claiming credit for something we’re said or written by not giving credit to those from whom we’ve received it, is called plagiarism. The truth of the matter is that most of us have few if any completely new ideas or understandings. We simply continue to learn from others mistakes and successes as well as our own and we build on them. It gives us and whatever or whoever we’re talking or writing about give credit where credit is due.

I’m humbled to be reminded that my thoughts and feelings have probably been thought and felt long before I ever experienced them. This prompts me  to creatively express them in significantly new  and meaningful life changing ways of our own time and place in practical  vernacular of our listeners and readers today. Give credit where credit is due, sticks in my mind and hopefully my writing.

Thanks for coincidentally reminding me to give credit where credit is due dear Jenner’s Pond friend.

Learning To Be A Better Writer



The Bay To Ocean Writers Conference sponsored by The Eastern Shore Writers Association, held at Chesapeake College on Saturday, February 22, 2014 from 7:30 AM until 5:00 PM, was everything I expected and more. I met writers from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia  and Washington, D.C. over breakfast and lunch as well as at the four workshops, I selected out of a possible 24.


I began by looking for honest, forth-right and open-hearted writers. They weren’t hard to fine. I found a man sitting by himself at a breakfast  table with two women at the other end. Once introduced by using only our first names we began talking. He didn’t need to tell me what he did for a living, nor did he need to know what I did for a living which was good because; I’m a pastor which can cause acquaintances to become pious. Seeing his last name, Sean, on his name tag, I questioned, “Irish”. He nodded with a smile and thereafter, we hardly had time to eat our breakfast as we gave one another undivided attention and told hilarious stories colored by our common Irish ancestry. It was hard for us to break away to attend our chosen workshops.


I met and conversed with six other congenial writers who inspired me with  their varied nationalities, backgrounds, interests, experiences, hopes, and dreams. Bay To Ocean is a mecca for writers overflowing with Interesting, enjoyable, encouraging, invigorating, inspirational and courageous   conversations. They all want to learn and help one another to be better writers.


By attending workshops, I learned…..

……To state the purpose of my writing with indisputable clarity. I realized that I stated my purpose in my vocational endeavors but had not applied purpose to my writing. A huge difference in the my writing has occurred by knowing what I’m trying to accomplish in my writing and why. I want my writing to enable characters to live out core values and personal discords and attractions which might help the readers to redeem their own villages of discord.

…….That my writing requires daily discipline and sacrifice of time and effort. Since I’m retired, it’s easier for me to write  than writers preoccupied with a vocation or employment. I don’t consider it a sacrifice for me to write.  I don’t watch TV, listen to radio, read newspapers, play games, answer the phone, entertain guests or even eat breakfast from 6:00 AM until 12 noon when I am writing. The only thing that I take with me to my computer affectionately called, Mackey,  is hand written notes of ideas that have occurred to me anywhere or anytime and fresh coffee. And since my mind works best while I‘m asleep and I’m not trying to control it, I begin writing with fresh ideas. Obviously, I’m a morning person. Writing’s my current chosen vocation which I enjoy five mornings a week. I spend afternoons, evenings and weekends with my wife, family, friends and volunteering to help others, especially  when I’m writing, so I end up feeling that I’m not giving up anything or neglecting other people, who  are important to me. Writing, like sailing and biking, is a rewarding avocation for me. It ranks high on my vocational list but not at the top, being a pastor, I retired, so I could accomplish writing. It’s equally rewarding and freeing for me, particularly in this stage of my life, to be writing.

…….To intensify my characters’ dialogue in my writing, by having them speak for themselves. I’m privileged to stand back and listen to them. I often feel they’re talking not for me, but with me. I listen and learn from them.

…….To read my stories, paragraphs, sentences and words aloud. This practice, overlooked since I was a child learning to read, has proven to be exceedingly helpful. It puts the dialogue outside of my head and in the open for me and readers to see, hear, feel, understand and appreciate character’s emotions. Since I write from emotions which I feel occurring within me as I write, this suits me fine.

……..To allow characters to speak, think, feel and act for themselves without me, the author, getting in their way, I purposely have learned to hide their thoughts and feelings to give the reader a chance to introduce their own thoughts and feelings  for characters, too!

……..That blogging is writing, too! I also learned to use seller headlines, format color, short paragraphs, white space, images with clear, bold subheadings and to check my blogging effectiveness by charting and grafting hits and comments. Learning to blog may be helping me generally to be a better book writer, too!

……..That conflict (not necessarily murder or cruelty but differences and opinions) and suspense (changes, challenges, victories and the unknown) are critical to under girding my major and sub plots to gain and keep readers engaged. Consequently, I struggled but I’m learning to include conflict and suspense. I’ll probably in another blog write the story of  how difficult it has been for me to apply this learning.

…….That protagonist and antagonist may engage the reader’s involvement ethically, morally, financially, politically and relationally, and when a conflict is about to be resolved, additional conflicts occur which usually leads up to the big one. Writing with this practice in mind, enables me to extend my writing to include another book or even a series of books. Consequently, I’m now writing my second book which features the life of the brightest star in my life, clearly outshining all other stars, my wife, she’s the most significant person in my world.

……..To be an advocate for my reader by choosing first, second or third person  point of view helps me to identify which character(s) lead. This also helps the reader to identify and express his/her own ideas, opinions and decisions in response to, with, for or against the character. It’s all required when writing to help the reader.

………To put whatever I’ve written, edited and corrected aside to give me time to read it again and again before publication. It may take hours, days, months, years or never be ready for publication. I’ve learned to  not allow undue pressure of a publisher or any other circumstances or situations to breath down my neck thwarting creativity. For instance, I delayed posting this blog for over a week which enabled me to delete much of the distracting and irrelevant.


……..With the help of other writers who attended, and my learning gained from the workshops, I’m learning to be a better writer. Being an unabashed opportunist, I’ll be one of the writers, limited to 250, who will register early to make sure I can attend the next Annual Bay To Ocean Writers Conference to be held February 28, 2015.


Don Hurst, author of LIVING IN HARMONY an Eastern Shore village redeems discord,  already rated nearly five full stars by Amazon is  learning to be a write better.

A Native Eastern Shore Author

His gripping stories in LIVING IN HARMONY: an Eastern Shore village redeems discord are all true, and happened in Harmony where he grew up.

Don Hurst, the author, a Western Kentucky University and Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C. graduate, who specialized in counseling and church growth, pastored United Methodist Churches in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He also guided foreign tours and took people sailing over the world to gain wisdom through his years before writing about Harmony which strives to live up to the meaning of its name.
Filled with heart-warming childhood, family, friends’, Native Indian, pastoral and  sailing stories, he avoids the trap of simply listing chronological events of his life by weaving together personal memories with Maryland’s Eastern Shore history. He includes a gun dual, the murder of a young girl, and other atrocities, such as bigotry and slavery in which patriotic heroes and others stepped up to create harmony, when discord tried to reign. He highlights his family and friends, who helped shape his life and development as a pastor and sailor, and guided him as he built healthy faith communities throughout his career and gathered sailing friends to find peace and wonder in families, churches, communities and the beauty of nature. No matter where or when readers were born and reared, his stories inspire readers to think of how their childhood history and environment  may play a significant role in developing harmony in life.

His book published at, is also available at, and or postage free for $19.95 mailed with your address to Harmony Hurst Books, 3202 Greenbriar Lane, West Grove PA 19390 or at book signings, where he is appearing at Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania book stores, news centers, libraries, schools, businesses, history societies, county summer festivals, school reunions, churches, conferences and family events.