• Remembering Christmases Past During a Challenging Present

    We are  approaching the Christmas 2020 holidays with misgivings because much about it this year is so un-Christmassy. With the COVID-19 pandemic running wild in our midst, along with bruised feelings in the aftermath of our national election,  it certainly isn’t getting to feel a lot like Christmas.  Perhaps we can make things have a little more of the “joy to world” spirit by laying aside today’s constraints and looking back–getting a little nostalgic, going back to a time when there was no pandemic, no quarantine, no social distancing, and no political malice. I was revising the manuscript of my follow-up book  to Dark Days on the Fairest Isle a…

  • And Forgive Us Our Shibboleths

      Shibboleth. Is this one of your favorite words? Just kidding.  Very likely you’ve never used it. But it’s a real word,  one that has relevance for these times. In the Hebrew, the word shibboleth  means “ear of grain,” but today, according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary,   it is  “a usage  or custom regarded as distinguishing  one group from another.” It is “a word or saying used by  adherents of a party or sect or belief group.”  The word itself is used in the Bible in a dramatic encounter between two tribes–the Gileadites and the Ephraimites.  You can read the story in Judges 12:1-15.  The two tribes went to war,…

  • On Fire

      From the startling images  of uncontrollable flames we’ve been seeing every evening on television, along with the hourly reports on our radios, it seems that the whole world is on fire.  In the U.S.,  California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State are burning. This devastating situation was preceded last year by the searing scenes in Australia and was joined recently by Syria,  a place not usually associated with wild fires. In California  3 million acres were ravaged in one week, and more than 5 thousand square miles have burned so far this year. Our hearts go out to our fellow dwellers on this fragile planet as the walls of flame…

  • Changing Together

      Most major global events leave their mark for good or ill.  I became keenly aware of this fact recently  when I re-read “70 Years Later: How World War II Changed America,” by Rick Hampson. The many changes  the war made were transformative. Living in a time of a crucial global event, we too  can  expect to see some important changes. During the war, two young men in San Bernadino, California, seeing a chance to meet a need to provide working families with “cheap meals served fast,”  opened a drive-in restaurant. They were the McDonald brothers, and their business grew and prospered.  Today the “golden arches” are everywhere, and fast-food…

  • Monumental Mistakes

      Memorial services are an integral part of our culture. During these sometimes elaborate exercises, the mourners sit and listen to tributes that seem sincerely meant. Some are authentic enough, but a lot of times much of what is said seems close to  make-believe. Listening to these  oftentimes lengthy panegyrics, one wonders who the person delivering the tribute is talking about, because the portrait is so one-sided, painting an exaggerated portrait of the dear departed. Something like this must have happened with the selection of many of the memorials that  have dotted our national landscape. Those who chose them looked upon the subjects through biased eyes, exaggerating their visible deeds,…

  • Wearing a Mask

      Over the past few months, masks have assumed a prominent place in our lives. In some cases, they are “suggested”; in others they are “mandated.” And with  COVID-19 ravaging the country, we have been  given guidelines  on how to combat the virus: wash your hands, practice social distancing, and wear a mask. Some people quibble about the need for wearing a mask, seeing a sinister purpose behind the requirement, linking it to oppression or an assault on their freedom. But health care professionals know better;  they see the mask as a means of survival in the fight against a deadly pandemic disease.  Yet  some high profile individuals have consistently…

  • Altruism

    The one-word title for this month’s post may seem like a throw-back to my weekly vocabulary blogs, but we’re still working on doing monthly articles.  My word choice has relevance to our present COVID-19 pandemic experience. As with our earlier vocabulary posts, a definition is in order. Altruism is the belief or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.  The word was coined by French philosopher Auguste Comte, who used  ottruisme as the opposite for egoism. The Latin root  for altruism is alteri, which means “other people” or “somebody else.” “The world is a pest-house!” This  stark assessment of our planet was written in 1993 by …

  • Bird Songs

      It’s springtime, and despite the COVID-19 virus hanging on in our midst, the welcome signs of the season  are all around us in the gorgeous azalea blooms, dogwoods, and fresh breezes. Another welcome part of springtime is the birds in their bright plumes.  Bird watching is enjoyable. I had a taste of it when I worked hard to fulfill a requirement  for one of my biology courses in college. Birds singing is even more enjoyable. I hear them in the woods behind my house. The notes are clear, repeated with the same rhythm as if they were reading from sheet music. It’s fun listening to hear if they miss…

  • Once Upon a Time

      Greetings everyone! I hope that you are coping well during this difficult time for us,  as individuals as well as a nation. We must remain positive and believe that although it may seem that the sky is  falling, it really isn’t. It was put in place by a mighty hand, and He is still holding it up.  “Fear not” (Isaiah 41:10).   “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). “Peace I leave with you” (John 14:27). Be encouraged. Stay strong. Recently, while  I was looking at some  designated national times for celebration, it seemed to me there’s  a day or a month or even a year for almost  everything—from…

  • Living Past Cynicism

      Whenever we have free time to let our mind wander, we contemplate a variety of ideas. but I venture to say that if you’re like me, cynicism is not one of the topics you think about during your mental meanderings.  I began thinking about it, however, after a satisfying talk with one of the readers of my book Dark Days on the Fairest Isle. She said some nice things about different aspects of the story, and in her  analysis made this comment about the character Derrick: “He is so cynical.” I was surprised; it was something I hadn’t thought about. Frankly, I liked writing about him and appreciated his…