Spiritual Life

Treasures of Darkness

I will give you the treasures of darkness…” (Isaiah 45:3)

When I was a child, I was afraid of the dark.  I was certain that hideous creatures lurked in the shadows, ready to pounce the minute I let down my guard. At bedtime I insisted that the hall light outside my bedroom door remain lit until after I fell asleep, convinced that it would keep the other-worldly beings at bay.

Like most children, I eventually outgrew the need Keep reading

House of Grief

Earlier this year I visited the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.  Built by Sarah Winchester (1839-1922), the widow of William Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, it’s famous for its staircases that lead nowhere and windows that look out onto brick walls just inches away. This house is an unwieldy affair.  Any attempt to navigate it without a guide and you’re sure to get lost in its endless tangle of rooms and hallways that don’t align in any logical way.  They just go on, and on
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Turn of Winter

“Do you have half of your wood left?” our neighbor who lived down the road and up the adjacent hill asked as he pulled out of our snow-dusted driveway.  “There’s still a way to go this winter.”   He and his wife were among the first people we met when we bought our house.  Being from suburban New Jersey, we had no real idea how to manage Vermont winters.  But kind people like our neighbor were generous with advice, which generally came at unexpected times – like that night, when we were driving to a choral rehearsal.Keep reading

One Good Thing

“You’ll never make everybody happy.”
“Don’t do other people’s jobs for them.”
“We’ve been doing it this way for years; we’re not going to change now.”
Like many newly minted ministers, the people in my first churches taught me far more than I could possibly have taught them.  Their lessons have stuck with me over my decades of pastoral work. But one gem in particular stands out.  I’ve shared with more people than I can count. “I look for a good thing – just one small, good thing – each day and hold on to it.
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Angel at Our Door

It’s Christmas and our power is out.
Like so many others, our area was hit by a powerful storm that featured everything from unseasonably warm temperatures and rain to a rapid chill with fierce winds. That’s a recipe for a power outage.
But we’re among the lucky ones.  We have a generator that supplies enough power to keep us warm and well-lit.
Until it didn’t. After running continuously for more than 24 hours, it quit.
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Holding Hope

I received the paperweight in this photo more than 40 years ago during what had just become the darkest Advent season of my life. 

“This is a gift from Mrs. McCord and me,” the president of Princeton Seminary said to me as he pressed it in my hand. 

A freak accident had injured my (at that time) husband, and radically altered the course of both of our lives.  Sitting in the hospital chapel, having just received the news and allowing the gravity of the situation sink in, I was surprised to look up and see President McCord slide into the pew beside me.  “I’m here to pray with you,” he said. Keep reading

Gratitude

Expressing gratitude is something I had always taken for granted.  By that I mean that I just did it when I remembered (like sending thank-you notes), but otherwise didn’t think much about it.  I certainly never considered expressing gratitude to be a spiritual discipline.  And the possibility that such expressions might be therapeutic never occurred to me.

But recently that changed
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Imagining Christmas

To refresh your memory of the ancient story that holds us all enthrall this time of year, read Luke 1:2-55; 2:1-20. As you reflect on the Christmas readings from Luke’s gospel, I invite you to use your imagination to call to mind and into your heart some of the people who have been important to you, and who may or may not be with you right now. As you do that, you’ll be guided by several of the characters youâ’ve met in this ancient story. First, the Angel Gabriel who invites Mary to do the impossible and assures her that…

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent, a day that falls pretty much in the middle of my favorite period in the season –  the week of the O Antiphons.  The O Antiphons are verses that are sung or chanted at vespers from December 17-23. They are called the O Antiphons because each of these short verses begins with the word, or letter, O, and addresses Christ by a different title: O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, O King of Nations, O Emmanuel. The hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is based…

Speak Tenderly…

I’m tired. I hear this every day.  I hear it from family caregivers who miss the opportunities for the much needed breaks they once had in the “Before Times” when people could come into their home to relieve them for a few hours. I hear it from the newly bereaved whose grief is complicated by pandemic-induced social distancing mandates that come at a time when they need to be physically close to those they love.  I hear it from front line health care workers and teachers and therapists and pastors and activists. I hear it from parents who are desperately…