Tolkien, Trees and a Naturalist’s Notebook: Noticing Nature Even as Mordor Looms

"In all my works I take the part of trees against all their enemies," J.R.R. Tolkien wrote late in his life.  The Master of Middle Earth even referred on one occasion to The Lord of the Rings as "my own inner tree." With springtime erupting everywhere, I've been reading Humphrey Carpenter's J.R.R. Tolkein:  A Biography.  … Continue reading Tolkien, Trees and a Naturalist’s Notebook: Noticing Nature Even as Mordor Looms

Three Words to Guide a New Year of Hope

When I told a family member I wasn't doing much on New Year's Eve this time around, he responded, "Yeah, I'm noticing that in a lot of people.  It's an angry time.  Lots of people don't feel like celebrating." I hadn't connected my less-than-celebratory plans with a national mood, but he made me think twice … Continue reading Three Words to Guide a New Year of Hope

Advent’s First Week: It Is Better to Light One Candle

December days are short, hemmed in darkness. Grateful for a new liturgical year with its wisdom of waiting and preparation, we place new candles in the old Advent wreath. We light the first candle. Just the first. In silence, preparing to read the first scripture of the season, an old proverb rises in the heart: … Continue reading Advent’s First Week: It Is Better to Light One Candle

In the Night: A Song for Your Playlist of Hope

 "At the very moment when we need faith the most, it can seem most elusive." The man who wrote these words is losing his eyesight, and I'd begun reading his book on suffering only a day or two before the news of a mass shooting at the Sunday morning service of the First Baptist Church … Continue reading In the Night: A Song for Your Playlist of Hope

George Herbert’s Secrets of Soul Revealed in a Package of Poetry

He suffered with poor health throughout his life and died of consumption in 1633 at the age of 39.  Before he died he sent a collection of poems to a friend, the founder of the Anglican religious community, Little Gidding. This request, it is said, accompanied the manuscript: Sir, I pray deliver this little book … Continue reading George Herbert’s Secrets of Soul Revealed in a Package of Poetry

What Do You Want Your Pain to Become? How Forgiveness Releases Prisoners

I had rarely heard the word incarcerated before becoming a counselor, but years of work with at-risk children accustomed me to its cadence. It first surfaced on the lips of a dark-haired high school junior who'd come to my office to change her class schedule. Describing her family, she chatted nonchalantly about her grandmother and … Continue reading What Do You Want Your Pain to Become? How Forgiveness Releases Prisoners

Links to the Soul-Washing Art of Marc Chagall

Art washes from the soul the dust of ordinary life.  --Picasso This simple sentence makes exploring the world of art and artists accessible, removing the fear that I'm not deep enough or educated enough to find enjoyment in its kaledescopic worlds.  Art washes the dust of ordinary life from the soul. One artist who does … Continue reading Links to the Soul-Washing Art of Marc Chagall

Pollyanna vs. Curmudgeon: The Case for Realistic Optimism

I've neither read nor watched Pollyanna, but I know I've been insulted when someone applies the name to me. When you've just been equated with a syrupy fictional orphan, you've pretty much been put in your place. I'll elaborate briefly. "Read THIS, Pollyanna" means "take a look at reality, Happy Pants." "Back it down, Pollyanna" … Continue reading Pollyanna vs. Curmudgeon: The Case for Realistic Optimism

Need Evidence? Three Reasons to Increase Your Positive Speech

Overcoming our negative speech habits is so challenging that it's tempting to stop working on it.  We fail, and that's discouraging.  We're only human, after all. Why keep trying? When our good intentions evaporate and the truth conveyed by saints and scripture no longer inspires, we can always check out what researchers say about speech.  … Continue reading Need Evidence? Three Reasons to Increase Your Positive Speech

Choose Something Like a Star: A Christmas Contemplation

Starry skies call those who long for silence: leave the party, the mall, the jingle bell rock, the trivial TV. Step outside. Look up. Robert Frost's 1943 poem “Choose Something Like a Star" speaks to our position beneath the glittering skyscape. Alone beneath the stars the poet addresses "the fairest one in sight." He admires … Continue reading Choose Something Like a Star: A Christmas Contemplation