Category Archives: art

Life Changing

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. Buddha

[July 20, Daily Peace; Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2016]

It’s been a rainy, flooding, smoky, humid July in Vermont. For the past few days, I’ve had the added pleasure of a summer cold. But the sun came out today, and today’s Daily Peace quote prompted me to step out onto the back deck. The dozens of Jerusalem artichoke flowers I could see each had at least one bee. My potted thyme is also covered in blooms.

These are not rare species. They are as common as can be. In a world that values what is rare and delicate, it’s easy to undervalue, underestimate, and overlook the beauty in the common and hardy. It’s a peculiar and pervasive blindness – and one I might have kept had the words of the Buddha not intervened.

Forgive and Forget

[Daily Peace; Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2016. Image by ArTDi101(shutter stock)

Forgiving is an act of releasing someone else from the burden of causing us pain. It’s an act of will that can restore the inner peace of another.

Forgetting is an act of releasing ourselves from the burden of pain inflicted upon us. It is an act of grace that restores our own inner peace. Until we offer this grace to ourselves, we are only halfway through the forgiveness process.

[This is one in a series of writings. For more information, click Daily Meds above.]

What We Deserve

There are countless people who sit in church pews throughout the world, hearing words of love that they cannot bring themselves to accept or believe. Love freely given gets mistaken for benefits that must be earned, and that is no love at all. Why is it that harsh judgement is accepted as deserved, but love is not?

Stephen Chbosky is a novelist and film writer. Judging by the words above, he’d make a decent theologian, too.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three: and the greatest of these is love. I Cor 13:13

[Daily Peace: 365 Days of Renewal; Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2014. Stephen Chbosky is the author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, among other things. Photographer: Steve Schindler]

Angels In Our Midst

Snow Image, January 2023

I’ve known two people who could see auras, sometimes around people they knew and sometimes around strangers walking down the street. Neither saw them all the time, and neither talked about it much – it made too many people nervous. The same goes for a couple of people I know who have the gift of healing through touch. All four were quite sure that these spiritual gifts weren’t a sign of superior spirituality, and all were emphatic that they weren’t something that was earned or deserved. These four have offered God’s love in uncommon ways, and have made the world a better place for the sharing of their gifts.

Most of us haven’t seen any members of the heavenly host winging through the air, bearing greetings and do-not-be-afraids to those who are asked to go on a mission from God. But we have seen messengers who bring a word of assurance and loving touch when we are afraid, and a steady if small light when we are in dark places. Such angels may not be sporting wings or haloes, but they bring with them a glimpse of God’s presence – and they leave behind the impression that something holy has visited us.

Lesser Lights

Vermont Night, February 2023. Photo by Dave Fredrickson

High winds and subzero temps kept us inside for most of the weekend, so it was with delight that we stepped into a beautiful winter night this Sunday. Planets and stars walked with us, with just an occasional cloud passing in between. Other than a few house lights in the distance, and the odd string of lights on one of the neighbors’ houses, our path was illuminated by what the night sky offered. The moon was still half hidden by the Green mountains as we began our walk, rising steadily until it was well above them when we turned into our driveway to head inside. A few paces down the driveway and the house lights took over, outshining the softer gleams of heavenly bodies.

I often think about the lights we create, the lesser ones that only shine on our little section of this universe. From my limited view, they are brighter than the much grander celestial lights. I am grateful for the light they shed, and for welcoming family, friends, neighbors, and strangers as they walk to our door. I am also grateful for the truth they reveal:

In the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to forget that what is near and familiar often appears larger than it is. And what is truly grand can be mistaken for a lesser light because it is beyond my own back yard.

And my path is illuminated by both…

Making Waves

February 4, 2023

Last night, the temperature dove from one to seventeen degrees below zero. The wind howled and turned tree branches into a percussion ensemble. This morning’s sun revealed in the snow a still life of what is never still: the breaking of an incoming wave. A wind-sketched ocean has taken up temporary residence in this Vermont valley. How vast is nature’s power to create through severe weather the same pattern in two places that will never meet.

I wonder if it is just such power that drives us to create such patterns. How vast is the power of the Spirit moving through our lives that we sketch its pattern in words and images. What is scripture, liturgy, architecture, and music if not our best attempts of giving future generations a glimpse of the pattern God has impressed on our holy lives?

Manchester Center, Vermont – February 5, 2023

And Keep Cold

No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm;

But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.

How often already you’ve had to be told,

Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.”

excerpt from Goodbye and Keep Cold, by Robert Frost

Soon after moving to Vermont, I planted some bulbs along the front walk. Nothing special, just some irises and daffodils from my Massachusetts garden. Then I planted chives off the back porch. With minimal care, these plants will be thriving long after I am gone.

Still, I’m concerned. Lately, the temperatures have shot up into the upper 40’s, and the ground hasn’t remained frozen. With the recent move, I’m not sure if the plants can survive the temperature swings. Winter is nap time for plants, a time to hunker down until it is time to produce again. It’s a rest period, a pause before expending energy in the form of flowers and leaves. What happens when there isn’t enough snow covered down time?

It’s something I think about in my own life, this need for a period of rest. If I don’t take a break from creating and producing, it won’t be long before I cannot produce much at all. Everything has a season, and dormancy is as critical a season as any.

But what if I stop producing? What if a dormant season isn’t a season – what if it stretches to become a barren life? That’s where trust comes in. That’s where the wisdom of seasons is embraced, and the faith that a growing season will return. Or, in Frost’s closing words,

But something has to be left to God.


Snow Steps

On a snowy afternoon, I took a right out of the driveway instead of my usual left, walking away from the cloud-covered mountain view in favor of the smaller scale quiet of trees and stone walls. No breeze played in the branches and all the houses stood silent. My own breathing and the tck-tck-tck of my boots compacting the snow were the only sounds overlaying the peth-peth-peth of falling flakes. In the snowfall-filtered light, at the end of my road, I entered a sanctuary as holy as any stone cathedral.

It remained only for a few minutes, bourn away by the sound of a truck engine starting somewhere close by. I turned around and pointed my boots homeward. Mine were still the only impressions in the snow, marking a solitary progression from home to unexpected holy ground. They would soon be lost, buried by the falling snow or overridden by tire tracks. That’s okay -such signs don’t need to remain once their work is done. The encounter, not the sign, is what lasts – an impression and a message: surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.


Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

Heavenly Host by Thomas Nordquist

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

Luke 2:1-14, NRSV

Gracious God, give us the wisdom to seek angels, and to see them in our midst. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to love. On this holy night, make us holy. Amen.

Art offered by Thom Nordquist, child of God who is with Jesus.