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Tell Me About Your Family

I was reading this week about Mary Karr, the poet and author of The Liar’s Club, the runaway bestseller from a few years ago. I was surprised once again by how normal it is to be “abnormal,” and yet how frightening that is to be. Karr was born in 1955 in Groves, Texas, a small town…

Cry of the Heart

I am on a plane. There are three mentally handicapped men two rows behind me. I saw them at the gate. Actually, I heard them at the gate—heard someone cry out, as if in sudden pain. I turned immediately to see what was the matter. It was a man whose body was torqued, whose face…

Tomorrow is Not Real

Yesterday I sat with a man who was worried. Someone he loved was sick. Chemo. A scan in six weeks would tell the tale. Meanwhile, the loved one was feeling fine. There were sick days around the infusion, but then it was as if nothing was wrong. Still. The scan in six weeks. Increasingly I…

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

There is a baby in my life. His name is Dashiell, born almost five months ago, my grandson. I spend a lot of time looking at him. I can gaze into his eyes for hours and neither he nor I am embarrassed about that and look away. He gives me a sense of peace, especially…

The Power of Awe

When they lose their sense of awe, people turn to religion. -Tao Te Ching Awe. This is the state of wonder and gratitude in which we are meant to live. To wake each day still unable to believe that we are alive. To wake each moment—if only we were willing!—and see the glory in a…

66,000 Crossing Guards

A few days ago I was sitting with a friend. “If you look at the world,” he said, “it seems to be unraveling.” There was the usual bloodshed in the Middle East, and then rival biker clans in Waco, Texas had come to blows, which escalated to chains, clubs and knives, finally to guns. Nine…

Everything Has Already Happened

We are all pro-choice. The “freedom to choose” is among the most sacred tenets of our culture. If something offers people “more choice” in some matter (Which television program will I watch? Which yogurt will I buy? What gender shall my baby be?), it’s pretty much an assumed blessing. So it caught my attention Sunday…

I Have an Appointment with April

A week ago Pam and I went out into the church grounds and clipped tall branches of brilliant yellow forsythia. We were hosting a dinner at the rectory, and we wanted to brighten the house with flowers—without spending all that money. There’s a bank of forsythia running fifty feet along the church driveway, a riot…

The Power of the Act

Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “The act teaches you the meaning of the act.” This is pure wisdom, but we have mostly counseled its reverse. We have tried to teach people the meaning first to see if we might coax them into the act. If we taught people to believe that God calls us to love…

Letting Beliefs Go

This morning I read this: A broad group of scholars is beginning to demonstrate that religious belief and factual belief are indeed different kinds of mental creatures. First of all, they have noticed that the very language people use changes when they talk about religious beings, and the changes mean that they think about their…

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