Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night
By Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

"Do not go gentle into that good night" is a poem in the form of a villanelle, and the most famous work of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914–1953). Though first published in the journal Botteghe Oscure in 1951, it was actually written in 1947 when he was in Florence with his family. It was published, along with other stories previously written, as part of his In Country Sleep, And Other Poems in 1952.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lazy Weekend

Some days are meant just for being lazy. That's how this weekend was. Saturday, I did have tentative plans but they fell through. Sunday, I was forced to be lazy. I had a major headache, worse than I've had in a while. I took the appropriate medication and it went away for a while, but then it came back. I'm hoping that I wake up this morning without a headache, but only time will tell. Minus the headache, sometimes it's good to be lazy and catch up on some television.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Psalm 112

Psalm 112

Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.
Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.
Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.
He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.
He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honor.
The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.


Those who respect God, those who follow the Lord, and love God do not need to live in chronic anxiety of bad news. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians do not need to live in constant, debilitating fear of the unknown, of being discovered.

The pslamist tells us that God has given to the poor. Compared to straight people, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people have little power. The God who reigns over the earth is pouring out blessings on the poor, on the powerless. God's blessings are being poured out on the Creator's gay, bisexual and transgendered children. Just one of those blessings is salvation. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Big Interview

I probably have the most important interview of my career as an oral historian today. I will be interviewing a retired army general. He is the highest ranking military officer from our school. To say that I am nervous would be an understatement. Luckily, the general is very down to earth, and I am interviewing him about a subject he loves. I hope I can keep him on topic. He is notorious for getting off topic. It's going to be a challenge, but hopefully, in the end it will be very rewarding.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore passed away yesterday. One thing I will always remember her for is what has gone down in history as the funniest scene in television history: the funeral of Chuckles the Clown. 

From the Mary Tyler Moore Show: "Chuckles Bites The Dust" Background: 

Chuckles the Clown is dead. He had dressed as the character Peter Peanut, and a rogue elephant tried to "shell" him during a parade. The unusual circumstances of Chuckles' death provoke a wave of jokes ("You know how hard it is to stop after just one peanut!" and, "He could've gone as Billy Banana and had a gorilla peel him to death"). Everyone is consumed with uncontrollable laughter, with the exception of Mary, who is appalled by her co-workers' apparent lack of respect for the dead. 

 ... and now... the funeral of Chuckles the Clown. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017


I'm off work today. Since I worked on Sunday, I get a day off during the week and today was the day I had nothing scheduled for, so today is the day. I plan to spend the day relaxing. I'll sleep late. Maybe watch some tv. Maybe read a book. I'm not sure what I will do today but I know I won't stress over it. I'm just going to relax.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let Them Not Say

Let Them Not Say
By Jane Hirshfield

Let them not say:   we did not see it.
We saw.
Let them not say:   we did not hear it.
We heard.
Let them not say:     they did not taste it.
We ate, we trembled.
Let them not say:   it was not spoken, not written.
We spoke,
we witnessed with voices and hands.
Let them not say:     they did nothing.
We did not-enough.
Let them say, as they must say something: 
A kerosene beauty.
It burned.
Let them say we warmed ourselves by it,
read by its light, praised,
and it burned.
About This Poem
Jane Hirshfield said this poem was written well before the Presidential Inauguration and without this event in mind. But it seemed a day worth remembering the fate of our shared planet and all its beings, human and beyond.”
Jane Hirshfield’s most recent poetry collection is The Beauty (Knopf, 2015). She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets

Monday, January 23, 2017


A coworker and I had to drive down to Cape Cod yesterday for museum business. I would have taken a nighttime walk on the beach, but it started raining, so I just turned in for the night. I did watch part of the Patriots game, but the NFL doesn't really hold my interest. What did good my interest was the beautiful waiter at the restaurant where we ate. He was tall, dark, and handsome, just my kind of man. I'd have loved to have had him for dessert, but instead I had to settle for a toffee cake which was as delicious as I assume the waiter would have been.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

God Loves You

Can a gay person really be saved? What does the Bible really say? According to the Bible, I found that the answer is yes! Furthermore, you don’t have to "stop being gay" in order to be considered righteous by God!
This article is based on two assumptions:

First, God sent his Son into the world for all of us. According to John 3:16, 17 there are no conditions on God’s love. The only condition set on obtaining everlasting life, or salvation, is to believe in Jesus.
John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (KJV)
Second, what we are to believe about Jesus is that he died and was raised from the dead on the third day. If we believe this with our hearts and confess with our mouth that "Jesus is Lord" then we will be saved according to the Bible:
Romans 10:9-10
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (KJV)
TRADITIONAL TEACHING: Gays are an abomination...

According to the general Church community gays are an abomination. Gays are told that they have a no hope in God; they will end up like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah; and they are treated as though they embody all evil. A Christian co-worker once told me that the antichrist is going to be a homosexual man. She believed that he was going to be in the closet at first to make everybody like him. She said that when the time comes for him to show his evil he will come out of the closet. I want to proclaim to you that the concept that gays have no hope in God, as gay people, is not a Biblical teaching but a traditional teaching.
Colossians 2:8
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (KJV)
There are many examples of traditional teachings that served no other purpose but to separate people from God.
  1. Galileo discovered that the earth revolved around the sun. The Church considered this heresy according to their misinterpretation of Genesis 1. They sentenced him to life imprisonment under house arrest.
  2. The Church used Genesis 9:21-27 to "prove" that Blacks were cursed by God into a life of slavery in order to justify what was done to them during the plantation days and to justify racism. The fact is that the curse fell upon Canaan, one of Noah’s grandson’s. Canaan was one of four brothers. His three brothers settled in Africa but Canaan settled in the Middle East.
  3. Another example of a traditional teaching with no basis in Scripture is the hatred of Jews. Some think that God condemned the Jews because they killed Jesus. If it were not for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there would be no salvation. Jesus himself was a Jew!
Finally, the Church community is wrong when it uses God’s Word to condemn you for being gay. The fact that you care what God thinks about you, proves them wrong! The fact that you have suffered hurt, humiliation, guilt, rejection and shame at the hands of these people proves that they are misrepresenting God!

The God of the Bible is full of justice, mercy and love. Yes, He has gotten and will get angry with people, but this anger is always precipitated by three things: abandoning Him in exchange for another god, abusing others morally, financially, sexually or otherwise, and abusing ourselves in the same manner. You will see this consistent theme from Genesis to Revelation.


Friday, January 20, 2017

A Black Day

It's a black day for America and the world. Democracy will die today. I am honestly scared of what is to come in the next four years. We will have a president without morals. We will have a president who lacks intellectual curiosity. I can't believe we have stooped so low that we elected a reality tv star as president. 

A professor at University of Vermont was recently asked: Is Trump a fascist? His response was "Not yet." What did he mean by that? By most definitions of fascism, the fascist needs a militia of their own. As of now, he lacks that. He is however a nationalist. He uses race as a scapegoat. He's anti-equality. He believes that government should be run like a business. He believes that he can rule through executive order and suspension of the law.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Will & Grace Returns

After plenty of speculation surrounding a possible “Will & Grace” revival, NBC has confirmed that the series is officially coming back for a 10-episode run. The network shared the news on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. 

“We’re thrilled that one of the smartest, funniest, and most defining comedies in NBC history is coming back,” NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt said in a statement obtained by Variety. “This groundbreaking series for everything from gay rights to social and political commentary — all disguised as a high-speed train of witty pop culture — is coming back where it belongs.”

As of now, there is no date set but Sean Hayes, who plays Jack on the sitcom, said it will air during the 2017/2018 season. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pretty Picture Day

I got sleepy and woke up last night, and I really didn't have the time or energy to write a significant post.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

America Singing

I Hear America Singing
 by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
     singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or
     at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
     the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
     robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
I, Too, Sing America
 by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Headache, Again

All weekend long, I have had a headache. The worst was yesterday. I took medicine, a nap, and more medicine, with nothing helping. Hopefully, it will be better today. I know a lot of people have today off for MLK Day, but I do not. I have to work like any other Monday.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Christian Dispute

When it first began, The Rick and Bubba Show was a harmless morning radio show about two Alabama bubbas and the funny stories they told. However, since the death of Rick Burgess' son several years ago and the election of President Obama, it has become a show about conservative politics and even more conservative religious views. Here are two stories from al.com.

Brandi Burgess, bisexual daughter of Rick & Bubba host: 'I am praying for my father'

By Brandi Burgess, daughter of Rick Burgess of Rick & Bubba, and an actress and activist living in Philadelphia

I have always believed stories carry healing powers. Bible legends of heroes and outcasts. Fables with neatly packaged morals. That friend at every gathering who lit up the room with fantastical tales, the one who left my sides hurting and my eyes streaming and made me think, "my god this is my life, it is so ridiculous and wonderful."

My first memories are of me sitting under my father's radio desk, listening to him talk. Rick Burgess has built an entire career sharing the stories of his life. He has amassed an incredible following, because he speaks his truth. People love him. People hate him. His boldness has always inspired me.

As I grew older I became a prominent character in his stories. I was the exuberant softball player whose passion got her thrown out of games, the angsty teen late to church, the young woman in Israel almost traded in marriage for 40 camels. I was a punch line, a glittering prop, a cartoon.

Then - in his eyes -- I failed him.

Gone were the stories of my boyfriends being taken down "to the hunting room" before first dates. I was erased. Recently, I've returned, cast as the prodigal daughter.

The story my father tells is one of a lost lamb, covered in shame. In his public musings, he speaks of my sin. Without my consent, he uses me as a cautionary tale.

For the past three years, my father and I have been debating God's stance on homosexuality. It started with my Instagram post at a Pride parade: a picture of a mother holding a sign saying "I love my gay son." I got a text demanding its removal: "How dare you compromise my platform!?", "Remember who you represent.", "Are you a gay?"

I have been praying, researching and meditating on the many emails, sermons and verses my dad has sent me. I always come back to the same conclusion. Love is love.

I shared this with him. "I love you. I'm sorry. I still love God." I promised to be discrete.

This led to a constant barrage of shame.  "You think you're so mod, so special. But you're nothing. You're typical."

I blocked everyone in my family from my social media because it was "killing my grandmother." I grew silent. I mourned my family. I believed I was selfish, a fraud.

I visited home this summer. I wasn't allowed too close to my siblings, for fear of infecting them with my queerness.

My stepmother took me out to lunch. She told me about a recent vacation with my father. "He couldn't go in the water. You know he has panic attacks around water ever since your brother drowned."

Why didn't I know that?  Why couldn't my father let me hold him, tell me his fear. I would have given him rest, said, "Me too, dad. When I babysit, I have to tell the parents that I can't take them to the pool. I know exactly how you feel."

As I was pondering this, Sherri asked me "are you seeing anyone?" I took a deep breath, and held on to hope. The Greek word for hope means "cord." My dad taught me that.

"Yes. I am. I am deeply in love. It is....not with a man." I had my speech ready, about fluidity, non-binary queerness, Lin-Manuel Miranda quotes, etc. 

"No. You choose this or you choose us. After all your father's done for you, how could you do this to him?"

I was whisked away to the Rick and Bubba office. Dad was waiting, bible in hand.

I believe that my father's actions were intended as love.  I believe he can't know how powerfully he hurt me.

My story is not that of all queer people from an evangelical home. I have the privilege of now belonging to a safe community. Yet, I let my father's message of shame define me. I hated my body, sabotaged relationships, believed I was unworthy of love.

So now, I am writing to the young women who feel like they don't belong in their bodies, to the boys who want to kiss boys, and those on the spectrum between:

Perhaps you have heard my father on the radio and it makes you want to go to sleep and never wake up.

I love you. Your worth is untouchable. Find a good friend. Invest in therapy. Dance in the middle of the night and hold yourself accountable to the life you've always wanted. At the root of all this hate speech is fear. This is not your fear to carry. Release it.

I am redeemed. I have surrendered to the beautiful mystery of God's love, have witnessed its vast complexity.

My partner whispers to me as I fall asleep: "Your worth is intrinsic, your beauty immeasurable." Their love is divine, it is of God. I know this in my bones.

I am telling you this because I can no longer avoid my own eyes in the mirror.

I am praying for my father. I am holding onto hope and it is outstretched toward him. Perhaps he will take hold. Perhaps we will find we were holding the same cord.

Here is an article about her father's very unchristian response:

Rick & Bubba's Rick Burgess speaks about his bisexual daughter

Rick Burgess of the Rick & Bubba Show was asked this week to comment on his daughter's choice to speak out about her bisexuality. He declined, saying "God has given me my own platform in which to clearly state my views on this issue that is impacting our society and the church."

He and his wife, Sherri, addressed the issue on the radio show this morning.

The comments were largely focused on scripture, and Rick said he hopes his daughter, Brandi Burgess, finds her way back home to God. He said he and Sherri have "taken on the role of the father of the Prodigal Son."

To Brandi, he said: "I told you before and I'll say it again you're my daughter and I will always love you. But I love you enough to tell you the truth. I'm not going to come up with some version of love that really isn't love at all, that pats you on the back to justify you all the way to hell."

He said Brandi is misguided.

"This has become a new version of Christianity which is not biblical in any way shape or form," he said. "Sadly our daughter and others have bought into this new hippie version of Jesus."

"Quit making up a version of God which is your own - which is idolatry," he said

Sherri Burgess, Brandi's stepmother, said she didn't believe Brandi when she initially said she was bisexual.

"I just didn't believe it but over time she's convinced me she really does feel this way," she said. "This is not a battle between Rick and me and our daughter. It's a battle between good and evil,  the Bible versus the world,  God versus the world."

On Brandi's comments about her own journey, Rick said "we now release you to that journey and we pray and we hope that it brings you back to repentance."

Sherri said she advised Brandi not to live according to human passions, but according to God's will.

"I don't care if you're happy. I don't care if you're healthy. I care about your eternal salvation," she said.

"I know there are people out there who really struggle with this and it is hard. But Jesus is there not only to forgive you but to cleanse you of all unrighteousness."

Rick said "We love her with all our heart and we love her enough to tell her the truth, but in this article instead of declaring the Lord Lord, she's declared herself Lord."

He asked people to be kind.

"I would just say again I know how these things can get ugly because Bubba and I have been in the crosshairs ... Let's see if we can stay away from that, please. It may upset you. You may be offended. You may say this is disrespectful, and certainly we've gone through those feelings ourselves. But please just understand she's lost. She's just got scales on her eyes and she needs those to fall."

Rick forgets that Jesus condemned divorce, while never condemning homosexuality. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Holly Dunn

The year 2016 was a sad year for celebrity deaths. If you Google “2016 celebrity deaths” the numbers are staggering. One of those deaths truly broke my heart though. She was a singer from the 80s and 90s and one of my all-time favorite country singers. Holly Dunn, a country singer who wrote the hit “Daddy’s Hands” as a Father’s Day gift for her preacher father, died on Monday, November 14, 2016 in Albuquerque. She was 59. The cause was ovarian cancer, said her nephew, Daniel Dunn, the mayor of Temple, Tex.
Ms. Dunn’s wistful “Daddy’s Hands” won two Grammy nominations (best female country vocal performance and best country song) in 1987, and her “Are You Ever Gonna Love Me” and “You Really Had Me Going” (both written with her brother Chris Waters Dunn and Tom Shapiro) reached No. 1 on the country charts, in 1989 and 1990.
Those three also wrote “I’m Not Through Loving You Yet,” a Top 10 country hit for Louise Mandrell in 1984. Ms. Dunn recorded the duet “Maybe” with Kenny Rogers and sang on records with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. She was named the Academy of Country Music’s top female vocalist in 1986 and the most promising newcomer by the Country Music Association a year later.
She also described herself as a pioneer in a mostly male-dominated recording industry because she wrote (often with her brother), produced and performed her own material. “I think this gives me a real legitimacy, a genuineness,” she told The Associated Press in 1990. “I’m not just up there standing where they tell me to stand, singing what they tell me to sing.”
Holly Suzette Dunn was born on Aug. 22, 1957, in San Antonio, the daughter of Frank Dunn, a Church of Christ minister, and the former Yvonne Campbell, a Texas Hill Country landscape artist. Reading her obituary in the New York Times, I was amazed to find out that “She is survived by her wife, Melissa Taylor, and her three brothers, Chris, Jerry and Rodney.” I had never known she was a lesbian. She was a very private person and had retired from music in when she released her final album, Full Circle, which was her first gospel album, in 2003. Her paintings deal primarily with subjects from the Southwestern United States, and are available through the Peña+Dunn Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Though she had not produced any more songs since 2003, she was always a favorite of mine. I never got to see her in concert and I had always hoped to visit her studio in Santa Fe to one day meet this hero of mine. Sadly, I will never have that change. Maybe someday, I will have a chance to own a piece of her art.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


By Robert Browning

Out of your whole life give but a moment!
All of your life that has gone before,
All to come after it,—so you ignore,
So you make perfect the present,—condense,
In a rapture of rage, for perfection’s endowment,
Thought and feeling and soul and sense—
Merged in a moment which gives me at last
You around me for once, you beneath me, above me—
Me—sure that despite of time future, time past,—
This tick of our life-time’s one moment you love me!
How long such suspension may linger? Ah, Sweet—
The moment eternal—just that and no more—
When ecstasy’s utmost we clutch at the core
While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Rogue One


I went to see Rogue One yesterday. My first impression was that it was good, but not great. Honestly, the more I watch Star Wars movies, I am convinced that the original three were by far the best and all the others just can't compare.

The more I thought about the movie, the more disappointed I was in Rogue One. The ending was dissatisfying. Such a disappointment. I like a movie with a happy ending.  Not to give this one away but it has a happy ending and at the same time doesn't. This movie leads up to right before Episode IV begins, so you know ultimately good comes from it, but it was still disappointing and overall depressing.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

How Great Thou Art

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:


Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:


And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.


When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, My God, how great thou art

In 1885, at age 26, Swedish preacher Carl G. Boberg wrote the words only of a poem entitled "O Store Gud." Several years later, Boberg attended a meeting and was surprised to hear his poem being sung to the tune of an old Swedish melody.

In the early 1920s, English missionaries, Stuart K. Hine and his wife, ministered in Poland. It was there they learned the Russian version of Boberg’s poem, "O Store Gud," coupled with the original Swedish melody. Later, Hine wrote original English words and made his own arrangement of the Swedish melody, which became popular and is now known as the hymn, "How Great Thou Art."

The first three verses were inspired, line upon line, amidst unforgettable experiences in the Carpathian Mountains. In a village to which he had climbed, Mr. Hine stood in the street singing a Gospel Hymn and reading aloud, John, Chapter Three. Among the sympathetic listeners was a local village schoolmaster. A storm was gathering, and when it was evident that no further travel could be made that night, the friendly schoolmaster offered his hospitality. Awe-inspiring was the mighty thunder echoing through the mountains, and it was this impression that was to bring about the birth of the first verse.

Pushing on, Hine crossed the mountain frontier into Romania and into Bukovina. Together with some young people, through the woods and forest glades he wandered, and heard the birds sing sweetly in the trees. Thus, the second verse came into being. Verse three was inspired by the conversion of many Carpathian mountain-dwellers. The fourth verse did not come about until Hine’s return to Britain.

Friday, January 6, 2017


I had a sudden and terrible headache last night, so I took some medicine and went to bed early last night. Luckily today should be a stress free day at work.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Back in Vermont

I made it home shortly after midnight. Lots of bumpy plane rides, and then rain on the way home. Needless to say, I drove very carefully home. The closer I got to home, the more snow was on the ground. It nearly covered the road, so it's a good thing I knew where I was going.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Wreath

Humanities Commentaries on VPR

Peter A. Gilbert's Look at Life through the Humanities

December 24, 2007

Simple holiday wreaths made of evergreen branches make me think of a wonderful poem: “A Wreath” by George Herbert. Herbert was an Anglican priest who lived in England about the same time as Shakespeare. He wrote metaphysical poetry, poetry that emphasized wit cleverness or startling similes, rather than comparisons and images that seem natural—like love and roses, purity and fresh snow.

Image of Christmas wreath

In high school, you may have read a poem by John Donne, another seventeenth-century Anglican clergyman, in which a man tries to seduce a woman by comparing their potential encounter to a flea that has bitten them both. It’s hard to imagine a less romantic object or argument to make his case—and that’s the poem’s charm.

Donne wrote another poem that compares two lovers saying goodbye to each other to a compass, the kind of compass with which you draw a circle. Although the lovers must part temporarily, they continue to act in sync: as the man travels around, the woman stays put at home, but leans toward the circling man. And its the woman’s standing firmly at home that causes the man’s circle of travel to stay true and not wander. These two poems are classic metaphysical poems built on an idea, a conceit, a clever and startling comparison.

Now to Herbert’s poem “A Wreath.” The poem’s wit rests in the fact that each of the poem’s twelve lines overlaps with the next line, just as the evergreen branches in a wreath overlap one another to form a circle. You’ll hear how the end of one line kind of repeats at the beginning of the next line. And the end of the poem, you guessed it, brings you back to the beginning—like a circle, a wreath, or a garland that crowns a hero.

It’s a religious poem, but one doesn’t have to be Christian to be struck by the poem’s beauty and technique. Here’s George Herbert’s “A Wreath”:

A Wreathed garland of deserved praise,

Of praise deserved, unto Thee I give,

I give to Thee, who knowest all my ways,

My crooked winding ways, wherein I live, —

Wherein I die, not live; for life is straight,

Straight as a line, and ever tends to Thee,

To Thee, who art more far above deceit,

Than deceit seems above simplicity.

Give me simplicity, that I may live,

So live and like, that I may know Thy ways,

Know them and practice them: then shall I give

For this poor wreath, give Thee a crown of praise.

So, because of its structure or style, the poem itself literally becomes, as the last line says, a wreath, and that wreath-poem becomes, in turn, a garland—a crown of praise. Clever indeed.

This article first aired as a commentary on Vermont Public Radio.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The New Year

New Year's Day is always a day of family and reflection for me. My family always comes together for a big New Year's meal, with all the traditional dishes. We had our black-eyed peas for good luck, our collard or turnip greens for wealth, and our hog jowls for wisdom. In addition, we had ham, chicken and dumplings, hash brown casserole, macaroni and cheese, cracklin cornbread, and an array of desserts. We had lots of food, and all of it was good.

The day is more than just food and family though. It is also a day of reflection on the year past and the year to come. The year 2016 was not a stellar year for me. Yes, I have a good job in which I am happy, but I still wish were closer to home. It was also a year largely filled with fighting depression and anxiety. When I had gotten my job in 2015, I was elated, but then I suffered the loss of a dear friend and my world was shattered. The depression and anxiety gripped me like nothing else, but I saw my doctor and he prescribed a new antidepressant regimen and sent me to a neurologist for my headaches. Both helped tremendously once my medications were regulated correctly. By the end of 2016, I was doing so much better. I have cultivated new friendships and gotten a new kitten that is such a joy.

The year 2017 looks to be a good year. I think my blog suffered some in 2016, but I hope to get it back to where is was in 2015 during the coming year. I also vow to be healthier and lose some weight. It won't be easy, but it's something I have to do. What are your "resolutions" for the new year? I hope each of you have a wonderful 2017.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Second Chances

Bless the LORD, O my soul, 
     and all that is within me, 
     bless his holy name! 
Bless the LORD, O my soul, 
     and forget not all his benefits, 
who forgives all your iniquity, 
     who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit, 
     who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 
who satisfies you with good 
     so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 

The LORD works righteousness 
     and justice for all who are oppressed. 
He made known his ways to Moses, 
     his acts to the people of Israel. 
The LORD is merciful and gracious, 
     slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 
He will not always chide, 
     nor will he keep his anger forever. 
He does not deal with us according to our sins, 
     nor repay us according to our iniquities. 
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 
     so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 
as far as the east is from the west, 
     so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 
As a father shows compassion to his children, 
     so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 
For he knows our frame; 
     he remembers that we are dust. 
As for man, his days are like grass; 
     he flourishes like a flower of the field; 
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, 
     and its place knows it no more. 
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, 
     and his righteousness to children's children, 
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. 
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, 
     and his kingdom rules over all. 

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, 
     you mighty ones who do his word, 
     obeying the voice of his word! 
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, 
     his ministers, who do his will! 
Bless the LORD, all his works, 
     in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! 

Psalms 103

With the new year, we often think back on the old.  We attempt to think of resolutions to help us correct our flaws, and hopefully, give ourselves a second chance in the new year. We are blessed to have a God who grants second chances.  In fact, He grants an infinite number of chances.  This is good news because most of us mess up the second chance fairly quickly. One of the amazing facets of God's character is His incredible patience with us. Psalm 86:15 says it well: "But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." 

How many times have any of us done something really stupid, and realize it right after, or right in the middle of it?  Do you ever feel like you can't do anything right, wondering why you bother trying as you're going to fail anyway?  I've had instances when I really didn't mean to hurt someone, yet I did, and I didn't know how to set it right.  I must admit, I've experienced this on more days than I want to admit. It just seems like no matter how hard I try, things just don't seem to work out, or not that often anyway.  Yet, in each instance I look to God for guidance, and he shows me the way.

Just as God is patient and forgiving, He wants His children to be patient with and forgiving of others. "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Colossians 3:12). He gives us second chances, and we must give the same to others. Jesus gives a stern warning to those who refuse to forgive, saying that if we will not forgive others, God will not forgive us. If someone is truly repentant, then we are obligated to forgive.  Matthew 18:21-22 says  "Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Forgiveness, however, is not the same thing as reconciliation. Many people struggle to find the balance between showing mercy and enabling a harmful person to continue harming. We should forgive everyone who wrongs us, just as Jesus forgives us. Forgiveness is between our heart and God's, removing any barriers that non-forgiveness brings. When someone continues to unrepentantly violate another person's boundaries, a wise person learns to set firmer boundaries.

Giving someone a second chance means we give him another chance to earn our trust. But that does not mean we instantly forget what experience has taught us. Trust must be earned over time, and we are foolish if we give trust prematurely. We can have a loving and forgiving heart that also practices wise guardianship over our lives.

When we have wronged someone, we have no right to demand another chance. But we should work to earn another chance by continued demonstration of repentance and change.

God does everything possible to draw us to repentance, offering forgiveness and second chances (2 Peter 3:9). But if we continue to reject Him, the offer is withdrawn and, at death, there are no more chances (Hebrews 9:27). God's grace is our model. We can offer second chances to others until a healthy relationship is no longer possible.

In this new year, we should try to emulate God more.  Just as he gives us second chances, give others a second chance as well.  Maybe that someone deserves even more than a single second chance, then offer them more chances as long as they are attempting to do what is right.  However, if that person is continuously hurting you, then forgive them and walk away.  Just because someone has hurt you, it does not mean that it was intentional.  Give them that second chance, just as God would give you a second chance.  Yet, when it is intentional hurting, sometimes it is best to just cut ties.  It is often difficult to do so, but it is occasionally what is best for both.  Sometimes, it's easy to just cut ties, but evaluate the situation.  Could you help that person more by giving them a second chance?  If so, then that is what god asks us to do.

Let God give you a second chance in the new year, and resolve to be a better person. Also, try to give someone in your life a second chance, maybe they truly deserve it.  I hope each of you has a blessed and happy 2017!