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Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Be wary of praise.
You will get some.

There will, of course, be criticism,
much of it framed as "a suggestion"
and some of it will be hard to hear.

Which is why words of commendation
will be so welcome. You'll be tempted
to lap it up like a puppy at a milk bowl.
Yes, you did work hard on that sermon.
You thought the ending was especially strong.
No doubt it was.
Several people told you it was.

But now, let it go.

Be wary of praise.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


"Suffer the little children to come to me
and forbid them not: for of such is
the Kingdom of God."
   -- Mark 10:14

Just between you and me, Simon,
sometimes I just don't understand him.
Bad enough we've got people lined up
wanting their leprous skin made clean,
their blind eyes opened. And over
by the fountain a bunch of Pharisees
have their heads together, cooking up
another accusation. It's getting late
and these parents bring their brats to him
for . . . what? To touch them, give them
a hug? As if he had all the time in the world!

You there. You with the little girl.
Step aside. Can't you see he's got
more important . . .

Yes, Master.  I . . . I'm sorry.
Yes. Yes.
I think I understand.
I think.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Every now and then get up early
Slip on your robe and slippers
Steal down the stairs
Open the back door
Listen to the dark silence
Stand there awhile looking east
Say a prayer if you are so inclined but
Say it short and soft
Don't expect anything to happen
Anticipate no epiphany
Just be

then go and have your coffee

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


I had a chance to be a banker.
The bank president sat behind his desk
and painted a picture of what
my future would look like:
good salary, opportunity for advancement,
status in our community, a life of significance.
It was all there, and more, he said,
for the taking. Just finish your college
studies and seize the day. He may even
have said carpe diem, though perhaps
my memory has gilded the scene.
I do remember feeling flattered.
I thanked him but said my goal
was to become a teacher, a teacher
of English. He pursed his lips,
gave his head a sad shake and
did not say "Good luck with THAT."
But I think he wanted to.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


It must be terribly confusing.

The grey squirrel sitting
on the deck railing is back,
devouring the bird seed.

Last night's snow triggered
our outlay of provender
for sparrows, juncoes, cardinals.
Not for squirrels.

What looks to him like beneficence
on his behalf is, apparently,
no such thing. How else
explain why we open the door
and shout him away?

It must be terribly confusing.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


My mother finished high school.

There was a photo of her fellow graduates
   -- Milton Grove School, Class of 1924 --
      three girls in white dresses,seated,
      and behind them, standing,
      four boys, soberly attired
      in unaccustomed suits and ties

It hung on the wall of my parents'
bedroom, testimony to her
first-one-in-her-family achievement.

Twenty-three years later, when I was
about to begin my own venture
into the "realms of academe,"
(a phrase she had learned
from her favorite teacher,
Mr. Becker), she pointed me
to the photograph and recited
the names of her classmates
along with a brief biography
of each, ending with . . .
"and now she . . . and now he . . ."
followed by a description
of their current station in life.

She was especially proud
of Adam, who, she said,
was now living in Japan, employed
as a teacher. The point of her
review was clear to me
and required no further explication.
School, I saw, was my passport
to possibilities undreamed of.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I hope you won't take
what I'm going to say
the wrong way,
dear, but now maybe
you'll believe what
I told you months ago.

I know, I know,
they were only sheep herders,
but this morning when I saw
them kneel there on the straw
and stammer out
that they'd heard
a heavenly choir
and said they'd come
to worship the babe
they knew would save
us all, I believed them.

Didn't you?