Bannocks (Loaves) of Bread

IONA IS A SPIRITUAL CENTER IN A WHIRLING VORTEX. Geographically removed, it is planted at the heart of a groaning creation, a “thin place” in the eye of the tempest. Steady offshore gusts are reminders. The worship that week was among the most compelling I have ever encountered. The liturgies were a blend of a timeless living …

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Some Wisdom From Woodchuck

RULE NUMBER ONE from The Book of Homiletical Proverbs, like rule number one from The Proven Means of Investing, is to “cut your losses.” According to Saint Homileticus, “After you’re done mining (please, don’t say “minding”) the Text, and have sufficiently butchered the Text to suit your own purposes, you’ll need to wash the sediment …

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The Slaves of My Ancestors

DICK, STEPHEN, CHARITY, AND LUCY were their given names—these beloved “Negroes.” They were the propertied slaves owned by my fourth great grandfather at the time of his death in the year 1810. At the top of the inventory of all of Philemon Davidson’s worldly possessions, the court appraised Dick at 120 pounds sterling, Stephen at …

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Grace Given As Grace Received

THERE ARE STORIES PASSED DOWN about my grandfather Clarence, who died several years before I was born, to the effect that he could take quickly to the stern edge of his character and at times be brusque, impatient and demanding. While he was an industrious and productive Virginia farmer who certainly knew the meaning of hard work, …

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A World of Surprises

BEING MOTHER OR FATHER TO YOUR OWN LIFE’S WORK is like the stone-deaf Beethoven birthing the Ninth Symphony’s Ode to Joy. The craft of creativity is far more formidable than comprehensible. We become infinitely more dependent upon what we do not know than upon what we know. Who knows for sure whether this score will ever …

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“Best and Deepest” Self-Portraits

IF ONE TAKES THE TIME to study Vincent van Gogh’s numerous self-portraits, it is apparent that there are several “Vincents” dwelling within the one Vincent. Never, though, do Vincent’s self-portraits exhibit an outright display of mirth. Like a hound tracking a faint whiff of exotic expectation, one must hunt for the glee hidden beneath the surface of …

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“Follow Me When I Try to Explain Something”

VINCENT VAN GOGH ONCE WROTE OF HIS FATHER with whom he had more than one verbal altercation while living under the same roof, “I seem to detect in Father proofs . . . of his really being unable to follow me when I try to explain something to him. He clings to a part of what …

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Quiet, Please! While The Fox Is Passing!

AMONG THE PURPORTED BLESSINGS OF LIFE in the countryside is nature’s primordial gift of tranquility. This is reason enough to take the wilderness trail that rambles toward Eden. To a human actor too long accustomed to the raucous rattle of the internal combustion engine in its endless procession over miles of concrete freeways, the world-stage of …

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Of Mites and Miters

MINISTRY IS LIKE SPORTS. It is subject to the pointless competition of the steeplechase, the serious injuries of boxing (with shadows), and the deadly leisure of line drives aimed straight at the preacher—absent the benefit of recreational drugs (religion alone is dangerous enough as opiate). It is like golf minus the combat compensation of seaside, …

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