Sunday, December 13, 2020

      My wife, Maurine, stays in touch with United Church of Christ ministerial annuitants (pensioners) on behalf of the Board of Pensions to let them know their service is valued. I asked her to share her holiday letter to them to remind us of deeper dimensions of Advent/Christmas. 


For Such a Time as This
     Esther 4:14

Dear Annuitants,

          Ah! What a difference a year makes!

          As we have visited this year – all by phone of course! -

               you have shared different realities.

                    Frustration; wonder.

                   Goodness; pain.

                    Anxiety; creativity.

               Covid – 19 has created a different way of living for us.

                    Facemasks; social distancing; hand-washing.

               Yet the blessings of God' presence abide

                    in some unusual ways!

                    Zoom! Walks in the beauty of creation,

                    Quiet times to reflect. Face time.

               God's presence abides as it always has.

         This Advent/Christmas 2020, as we stay home and adjust,

               My mind wanders to the event that began this tradition -

               The journey that became Advent/Christmas 0000 -

          The year Joseph & Mary, instead of staying home

               as was customary for the birth of their child,

               traveled for the Census, and there delivered

                    the one we know as Jesus, the Christ.

               How different that must have felt to them,

                    and yet, they managed.

               As will we.

          God has blessed us “For such a Time as This.”

          I am certain that each of you

               will continue to embrace opportunities

               to share the love, joy, and peace of God,

          and I thank you for sharing those gifts!

          Happy Advent! Merry Christmas!! Blessings in 2021!!!

          We'll speak again next year – and in the meantime,

               you know how to be in touch in the need arises!


Friday, December 4, 2020


Set Us Free

Our world needs truth, lies take a deathly toll

We hear the cries of those in deepest pain

Bring tyrants down let a just love prevail

May those be judged who prey upon the poor

Raise up for us leaders both bold and true

When justice reigns we will be free to love

     This year I will add a candle of Justice to my virtual Advent Wreath.

Our nation may survive Covid-19. Thousands of people won't. That fills me with deep sadness. That so many suffer and die needlessly because of callous indifference, greed or malice makes me angry.

Scientific creativity with the help of health care professionals will give us the choice to end the pandemic.

A fresh slate of political leaders will provide the same choice for a societal reformation. I applaud the desire to unite and heal our dysfunctional democracy.

But if we ignore the evil and refuse to hold perpetrators who caused our distress accountable, we will be telling ourselves and our children that unjust and immoral actions are only normal.

Love without justice has a hollow ring.


Saturday, November 28, 2020


Dealer's Choice

Then I could

     have said

          yes ma'am

Attitude was all

     I had to


Today's sign

     hope wanted

          apply within





     backward from

          the dark

Wear a

     mask to show

          our strength

Dream and fall in

     love as long

          as it takes

Reset the

     holy in

          turbulent times

Saturday, November 7, 2020



They said it

     would be hard to


Warm strength

     of principled


Stuff and

     the chance to

          assemble hope

With those

      who think

          and feel alike

Well tried



Well ordered

     efforts to



     hemmed in

          soul stifled

Pretending no hurt


          frescoed walls

Spirit worn down

     by cultivated


Fatigue complicit

     eroding essence

          of compassion

Lest imperative

     dissolve to


Better rootless than

     wingless vision


Go now

     shift the



     risk dial

          to hope

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Day Auburn Was Integrated

Auburn was just never going to be kind or even fair to Harold Franklin, Jr. in 1964. The faculty had been warned by Governor George Wallace and by the President of the University to make it as difficult as possible for Auburn's first ever African American student to succeed. His professors were complicit. When Harold and I reminisced thirty years later about his historic entrance into the University, he talked little of his pain and anger or of the blatant discrimination that finally forced him out without a degree. But I knew. And I knew it was all the more painful because the injustice of it all had yet to be addressed.

Then in 2001 the University gave him an honorary doctorate. Fourteen years later a historical marker commemorated the integration of 1964. But still there was no attempt to address the racism Franklin endured. He had to wonder if anyone really wanted to hear his story.

This year, over a half century later, Harold Franklin, Jr, now 86 years old, was invited back to defend his Masters thesis, which he still had. He claimed the time to tell his story. The usual committee of four faculty members was joined by the entire faculty, including the dean of the graduate school who listened, thanked him, and awarded him his Masters Degree in History.

 I didn't see any mention of an official apology in the news release.



Friday, August 28, 2020


No One Left Behind

Grace under siege

overheating rage

Combustible fear


Counterfeit lawful

order recycling 

 Evil impulses escaping

their cages

Scabs pulled off

scars sighted

Masses unhuddled

yearning still

Weakened by

enfeebled hope

Diluted by archaic


Across widening chasm

buddy system

Reciprocal respect

fueled by caring

Together lifted from

the sorrowing

Manage the rage for

the arduous trek

Threatened with


We twist and turn to

find the light


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Wanted, a Safe Place


Mask Covid's spread
Uncover denial
Recall for duty
Hope's spirit bearers

Friday, April 24, 2020

Unforced Hope

Deflect panic
consecrate the good
convert pain
Hear the evil see the
good feel the pain
hope translates
Despair alone
For God's sake which
is to say our
The smiling spirit
transparent beneath
the mask
Leave breathing space
for heart piercing
Challenge the spread
of contagious
Filter the fog
of bureaucratic
On guard for placebos
that trivialize
the grief
Prepare to be
startled by unrestrained
Act with loving
presence to
reshape the pain
Pray into the presence
of a God whose habit
it is to walk with us
Face the world
boldly with
tragic optimism

The last line of the poem are the words of Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning. Simply put, tragic optimism is the ability to say yes to the no of even the deepest suffering. It does not mean that we ignore reality or that we don't do everything we can to stop the suffering. Case in point: to withhold or mismanage resources we have presently to combat Covid-19 is inexcusable if not criminal. And not to pay attention to the science is dangerously shortsighted. But tragic optimism also means we go deep in our soul to find the hopeful strength to triumph.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

 A Walk in the Woods

Mid December
     rain slowed to
         a slow drizzle
Time for a ten-year
old and his
                long absent father
Slow quiet heart-filled walk
in south
                   Alabama woods
Over a carpet of rain soaked
leaves birds and small
          animals the only sound
Carrying shot guns
          just in case a squirrel
         or two for supper
See that hickory
the one with a
                hole 'bout 12 feet up
I could see it coming
          a story but I had to give
       him time to tell it
When I was a kid on a day like today
my Dad and I saw a tall dead tree
 with a hole half-way up
We never thought
about a snake
          being in the hole
Went home got the wagon and
a crosscut saw came
                back and cut if for firewood
Threw all the pieces onto
              the wagon never thought the
                     one with the hole had a snake
Stacked all the pieces out
              back of the house including
               the one with the hole in it
Burned that wood all winter
            and come early spring threw
                       the one with the hole on the fire
He quit talking I waited
             as long as I could was there
     a snake in the hole
I don't know
I never
                      thought about it

     One year when I was nine, going on ten, my grandmother died and my mother and I moved down to stay with my grandfather in south Alabama for a couple of years to help out. My dad, who had been teaching for some twenty years with a two year teaching certificate took that time to go back to college and get his degree. Money was tight and I don't remember seeing much of my Dad during that time. The one time I do remember was when he came home for Christmas the year I turned ten and we went squirrel hunting, just the two of us. That was when he told me this story. I tell it now with no overarching purpose except to offer a diversion for these trying times. I don't know, can snakes climb trees? I suppose I could google it.
     Are you still there? Got another minute? I have another take on I never thought about it.
     The morning after I composed this poem, I had a video appointment with my cardiologist. At the end of the visit, he said, "Just be sure to wear a mask whenever you leave the house."
A couple of days after the call I went outside to set the sprinklers. From a comfortable distance I watched a neighbor visiting with the mail man, neither of whom wore a mask. After he got his mail he came over to see what I was wearing around my neck and we visited. A few minutes later as I was making my way to the backyard sprinklers, I met another neighbor, who also was not wearing his mask, getting his mail and we visited for a few minutes in my driveway. I finished my work with the sprinklers and came inside. That evening my wife asked, "Why weren't you wearing your mask?"
     My answer? I never thought about it.
     All this in the midst of the Covid19 virus pandemic. Think about it. I certainly will, from now on.
          Be smart, stay safe

Sunday, March 29, 2020


These are the times
     that open
          the soul
Pernicious evil
     the smothering
Deny oxygen to
     the nerve-wrecking
     the simmering
Save that
     energy for
Raise the humor
     volume to
          balance the tension
Breathe the bloom
     filled air see the
           hope-filled elegance
Hold the heart
     door open
          for the stranger
Poised together we
     shape the world to
          fit God's dream
Wake up
     to a new

     Covid-19 has hit hard and keeps on hitting. What can I do? I wash my hands, keep my distance, donate, and pray. I compose a poem. And last week just before our Mayor imposed more restrictions, my wife drove me to the Blood Bank and I donated a pint of my best. (She can't donate because her immune system is compromised). I'm told my blood will help three other people. That's a pretty good return on an investment. It was something I could do.
I share this as a prompt for all of us to continue to find our own appropriate ways to overcome helplessness and contribute to hope and healing for all.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Open Hours
Shrinking interludes
expanding horizon a
present challenge
Time shrinks
between waking
and sleeping
endows existing
slowness for a
world on speed
Spending time
to practice
Feeling the contours of
a moral and
spiritual life
I can't keep up
read what everyone
is reading
Know what
everyone is
Fear of being left
behind stresses
the spirit
Revisit the intermissions
remove the
stumbling blocks
Egress from
a season of
To a chance
to embrace
And find new
ways of
growing up

My Dad

Contrary to conventional wisdom, I contend time does not move in regular intervals. To be true, circumstances may determine the amount of time we have, but each one gets to decide for ourselves how to use the time we have. One year when I called Dad to wish him a happy birthday, my mother answered the phone and told me Dad was out back planting walnut trees. She asked me to wait while she went to get him. When he got to the phone I asked, "Dad, you're 80 years old: are you planting the trees for the nuts or the lumber?" He answered, "I've got time." When he died, 17 years later, the trees were bearing and could have been cut for lumber, but that, of course, was not the point.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A Penitent's Prayer

I pause on
the borderline
of prayer

My soul
simmering in
sorrow and joy

Searching for
a place to
push off from

Prophets of quietude
distracting with
empty phrases

Declaring love is
justice and

Grace does not

Replace the counterfeit
with fresh and
honest words

with the substance
of hope

Linking transcendent
myth and
reasoning truth

Tools I can
use to repair
my story

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Prized Possession

I told a
story well
with humor
His hungry
heart said ummm
is that all
A compound
fracture left
Let me
Funny as it
is life is
no joke
Answers without
questions don't
nourish the soul
The serious may well
lean toward
story refreshed
A holy man (aren't we all)
finds a
precious ruby
Freely gives to a dispirited
pilgrim who
They part company
reunite years later the
pilgrim still heartsore
He pleads give me now
what allowed you
to give me the ruby
there is
And the way out is not
the way
we came in

*This poem was inspired by a response to a Sufi story I once told to a group of college students who had gathered for worship. I asked them to imagine what happened after the pilgrim and the monk reunited. I waited but there was no response. After awhile I said, "I'm serious, I would like for you to help me complete the story. Any ideas?" Again I waited. Time passed. After several more minutes, I noticed that a young woman sitting on the front row was starting to cry. I said, "What's wrong?" Her voice was hardly above a whisper. "We're not supposed to think, you are supposed to tell us." Later when I was alone, I cried..