dear graduate

Two years ago, when my oldest son graduated from high school, I penned most of this post. As son #2 experienced the pomp and circumstance so sweetly yesterday, I sat down to craft something new. Yet as I reread the below, I was pretty sure this still needed to be said. Hence…

Dear Graduate,

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

Now that you are formally entering adulthood, allow us to address a few more brief truths as you take these next few, albeit humongous steps…

First, there is that time for everything — every activity under heaven, every season under the sun. The reality is you will not enjoy nor desire each of these times. But one of the quiet truths in life is that how you respond to circumstance is typically more important than the circumstance itself. Such is a key to wisdom. Seek after wisdom. Always.

Remember that you have a choice in how to react; too many forget that. Instead of intentionally weighing the wisdom, it’s tempting to become self-focused or demanding. Resist that. Learn the difference between enjoy and embrace. When the time comes to tear down or turn away, embrace the time; when the time comes to grieve, grieve… dance, dance. Maybe even dance a lot. But remember that learning from the experience is most important. The wise one learns and grows from each season, even embracing that which is hard.

Second — and don’t let me shock you — but contrary to perhaps your long-held belief (or some fictional, parenting mantra) — you cannot be whatever you want to be. I’m sorry; remember: we are wrestling with reality. Similar to the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and jolly old St. Nick, there are a few things we’ve told you for some reason, that aren’t actually true.

You cannot be whatever or whoever you want. Also true is that you are not entitled to any of those desired positions. However, you can be something better. You can be all that God created you to be. Embrace your gifts. Utilize the individual, unique wiring within you — the wiring that makes you distinctly and beautifully, uniquely you! Don’t compare yourself to another, falling prey to society’s hollow teaching that another person’s wiring or set up is somehow better or worse than your own. Simply embrace your strengths and grow from your weaknesses. Quit attempting to cover them up. Seek God first; seek his intention for your life. Then be who he created you to be.

And third, our brief rapid fire of encouragement…

Love deeply. Offer grace generously. Never view grace and truth as opposites, as each can be applied in full measure. Always. Wash your sheets — at least before you have company. Don’t be selfish. Be slow to anger. Be fast to forgive. Be humble. Forgive again. And again and again. See the wisdom in forgiveness. Recognize that sometimes intelligence gets in the way. Don’t be bitter; you will be the only one harmed in the long run. Eat healthy. Know when to not. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, as well. Separate the reds from the whites. Be charitable. Be noble. Save some; spend some; give some away. Don’t be afraid of sorrow. Recognize that you can feel sorrow and joy both at the same time. Turn off the XBOX. Sometimes. A lot of time. Value other people. Be sharpened by their differences. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t ever think of equality with God as something to be grasped. Listen to the elderly; invest in the young. Bow and curtsy when appropriate. Open the door. Show respect — in what you say and how you think. Remember that respect does not mean accepting all as equally good and true. Know that all things are not equally good and true. Know when to be loud — when to be silent. Look another in the eye. Use your napkin. Watch what you put on Snapchat. Be discerning. Be aware that just because something feels good, it still may not be wise. Be prayerful. Figure the faith thing out; know that another can’t do it for you. And embrace each and every season shared above… the time to laugh… the time to cry… the time to grieve… and yes, that time to dance.

There is a time for everything. God has made everything beautiful for its own time.

Graduates, without a doubt, now is your time…

Sweetly, With a Special Salute to Our Grads…

here’s to moving forward in 2017


Each year seems marked by its uniqueness…

’41 was the attack on Pearl Harbor, the escalation of WWII and the USA’s involvement…
’63 was when a nation mourned the death of its sitting President, stilled by the poignancy of his young son’s salute…
’97 saw the deaths of two of history’s most beloved, benevolent contributors in Princess Diana and Mother Teresa…

It makes me wonder how 2016 will be historically remembered, as there was division manifest in far too many arenas. How do we move forward? … through the masses? … how do we do so wisely?

Allow me to return to my family’s unique experience a year ago. We found ourselves in the middle of Times Square as the ball and confetti dropped at midnight on New Year’s Eve. We had never done that before — “a bucket lister,” said one enthusiastic son. And so with an approximate 999,995 others, we did our best packed sardines imitation — albeit mostly without the odor and oil.

Picture the most crowded place you can imagine — a stadium, a massive conference room… people everywhere… with little room to do anything more than raise arms with your smart phone, in order to capture the next snapshot, chat, whatever. But unlike such typical scenarios, where a crowd of massive size would be aware of varied interests and individual wants, needs, opinions, emotions, etc., we were all focused on the same thing…

We were all excited about the same thing.

We were all looking in the same direction — eyes focused — waiting and wanting for the big ball to drop.

Without a doubt, there is something inherently beautiful laced in the meaning accompanying the dropping of that New Year’s ball…

Instead of focusing on our differences and maximizing what we don’t have in common — noting that in an actual, estimated crowd of one million people, countless significant differences exist — we shared something greater. Indeed, it was far greater… so great, in fact, our individual differences did not matter…

Our individual differences were also not watered-down. They did not have to be ignored or removed in order for the celebration to ensue. We were each excited about a celebration greater than self.

Hence, after the uniqueness of 2016, I’m wondering if the way forward is to find a way to focus on the same thing. What could that be? What could be that good?

I’m reminded of the interaction between my youngest son and an older New Yorker that night. Josh, that incredible kid who has never been disabled by his special needs, said ‘hello’ to an elderly New Yorker. Note that previous to our trip, we had (sadly) cautioned him in regard to taming some of his typically more overt, overly friendly interactions in Manhattan. But after a brief, positive acknowledgement from the gentleman, Josh was encouraged. He meekly continued, “Hey… want to be friends?” The man was first taken by surprise; there was a slight pause. And then he lit up with a humongous grin, articulating a hearty, warm Italian response, and said, “You just made my whole night!”

Here was a man and my son who from most first glances had little in common. The individual differences were obvious. But they did not matter. Their focus on the same thing brought them great joy — and helped them navigate through the masses (and sardines) in a beautiful, God-honoring way.

Here’s to the start of 2017, friends… as we wrestle with our individual differences, may we always do so respectfully.


after christmas


Just a few words this day…

As the decorations are dismantled and all hung with care keeps coming down, my thoughts turn to the reality after Christmas.

I paused the other evening, as I, too, sat seemingly amidst a sea of crumpled wrapping paper and contented kids, hearing that iconic pop singer, George Michael, passed away. As choruses of “Freedom” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” quickly danced in my head, I was again reminded of reality.

Immediately, many lamented the challenges and pain of the year behind…

… the deaths… division… and undesired outcomes…

All of the above existed in 2015. They will be again exist in 2017.

But depending on who are the deaths, where is the division, and what are the undesired outcomes, the reality affects different people to different degrees. Reality affects us differently.

And so I immediately think back to the bells heard on Christmas Day… the messages of hope, proclamations of peace, and the depth of a great, great joy.

What is beautiful about that hope, peace, and joy is that it lasts for far more than a day; it’s available more than a single day each year; and it has the power and potential to transcend the pain within any of our realities.

As the Intramuralist continues to reflect on the end of the year, we wish you great blessing… including that hope, peace, and joy… always…


what it’s about


Sometimes the most powerful messages are shared in the simplest ways, such as 51 years ago, in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Near the animated special’s end, a discouraged Charlie Brown mutters the following:

“I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about.

[shouting in desperation]

Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”

And then Linus van Pelt — Charlie’s best friend, Lucy’s younger brother, and the show’s seemingly calming philosopher however insecure — chimes right in…

“Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

Lights, please. [a spotlight shines on Linus]

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not:

[Linus drops his security blanket on purpose]

For behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

That’s what it’s about… peace on earth, glory to someone bigger than self, good will toward others, and a joy-filled confidence and hope that allows for the intentional dropping of all that qualifies as our security blanket.

Blessings, friends. For all those celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or neither this day, the Intramuralist wishes you peace, hope, harmony, and joy. Always.

May we each love all people well.

Respectfully (… with a few extra ho-ho-ho’s this day)…

a proclamation of thanksgiving


It was 1863…

January first brought us The Second Battle of Galveston. Three companies of Union forces under the command of Col. Isaac S. Burrell were captured or killed both on land or by sea by the armies of Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder. Magruder had prioritized the re-seizing of the city. 26 people were killed. 117 were wounded.

January later brought us The Second Battle of Springfield. Confederate General John Marmaduke attempted to overtake a Union supply point in Springfield, Missouri. It was unique battle in that it was an urban battle, fought actually house-to-house. It is estimated that 70-80 persons were killed and over 200 were wounded.

February was The Battle of Dover — March included battles at Brentwood, Thompson’s Station, Vaught’s Hill, and many more. April was the first fight in Charleston, South Carolina.

Look at the fighting… states, houses, peoples all attempting to harm one another. And the battles didn’t cease as the year went on. Suffolk, Vermillion, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg… these were fierce fights. In fact, the war was ongoing the entire year. It did not end until Pres. Andrew Johnson’s formal declaration on August 20, 1866 — over two years later.

And yet, on Thanksgiving in 1863, then Pres. Abraham Lincoln wrote this:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…”

In a year filled with unprecedented battle, Lincoln exhorted that we dare not miss the blessing… a blessing that is always present, always available… no matter the struggle… no matter the suffering… no matter what.

The giving of thanks is a beautiful thing… It takes the focus off of self; it reminds us of the source from which our blessings and bounties come; and it softens the individual heart.

Lincoln continued…

“… I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

Lincoln acknowledged a day set apart, encouraging all to think of far more than self, to think especially of those who have suffered greatly — the widows, orphans, mourners, and more. Yes, there is much strife in this world. This is not — nor should it ever be mistaken as — heaven.

The great beauty of Lincoln’s proclamation is that in a year of unprecedented struggle and strife, he calls on all people to come together, kneel in both reverence and humility, and fervently ask the Almighty to heal our nation’s wounds.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May we spur one another on to good things. May we love our neighbor well, do our part in building unity, and may we sincerely embrace the restoration and full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union in our land.

Respectfully… with Thanksgiving…

why I love America


One of the best things about celebrating the 4th of July is that it brings together people from all demographic backgrounds… rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, you-name-it… It prompts us to push all this polarizing crud that we’ve allowed to fester — that our so-called leaders have encouraged — to nothing more than the background. There are things that mean more to us… our liberty… and our love and respect for all mankind.

In acknowledgement of America’s 240th birthday, several articulated the reason why they love our country so much. From blogger Ivan Raley: “… It is a land of new beginnings, a land where you can dream, a land of millions of unselfish people with outstretched arms to embrace others. My land is a land of goodness, hope, joy and inspiration. Never have we fought a war where we kept the land of others, demanded payment for the price of our young men and women who have fallen in death. Always we come home leaving the land of struggle with new hope and greater dreams. I love America; it is my home, my joy and the legacy I leave to my children and theirs. Here freedom is real and dreams are always possible.”

From “The View” co-host, Candace Cameron Bure: “We all have a vote. I think that is why this country is so great because we all do have a voice here, and we have the chance for opportunity here. We have the ability to love God here. I don’t ever want to see that taken away from us. We have freedom here that is what makes America so great and that we have people that are willing to fight for that freedom on a daily basis.”

Perhaps it’s best, iconically expressed by John Wayne in his 1973 narration…

“You ask me why I love her? Well, give me time, and I’ll explain…
Have you seen a Kansas sunset or an Arizona rain?
Have you drifted on a bayou down Louisiana way?
Have you watched the cold fog drifting over San Francisco Bay?

Have you heard a Bobwhite calling in the Carolina pines?
Or heard the bellow of a diesel in the Appalachia mines?
Does the call of Niagara thrill you when you hear her waters roar?
Do you look with awe and wonder at a Massachusetts shore…
Where men who braved a hard new world, first stepped on Plymouth Rock?
And do you think of them when you stroll along a New York City dock?

Have you seen a snowflake drifting in the Rockies… way up high?
Have you seen the sun come blazing down from a bright Nevada sky?
Do you hail to the Columbia as she rushes to the sea…
Or bow your head at Gettysburg… in our struggle to be free?

Have you seen the mighty Tetons? …Have you watched an eagle soar?
Have you seen the Mississippi roll along Missouri’s shore?
Have you felt a chill at Michigan, when on a winters day,
Her waters rage along the shore in a thunderous display?
Does the word ‘Aloha’… make you warm?
Do you stare in disbelief when you see the surf come roaring in at Waimea reef?

From Alaska’s gold to the Everglades… from the Rio Grande to Maine…
My heart cries out… my pulse runs fast at the might of her domain.
You ask me why I love her?… I’ve a million reasons why.
My beautiful America… beneath Gods’ wide, wide sky.”

My prayer is that in all this festering, polarizing crud that surrounds us — especially in an election year — we never miss the beauty embedded in the Kansas sunset, Arizona rain, Missouri shore, Michigan chill, Alaskan cold, or in the Rockies, way up high. May we never be numb to God’s beauty.


mothers day 2016


None of us would be here without our mothers. Likewise, none who is a mother would be the same without their children… without all the joys, tears, and teaching embedded within the obviously, divinely-designed experience.

As I wrestled with what I most wanted to say — about why we love our moms, appreciate our moms, thank them, bless them, and why we miss them when they’re gone, why they miss us when not near — acknowledging that this day is merry for some and mournful for others — or maybe a little bit of both for several of us — I saw this comment from one parent: “I almost missed the incredible gift in front of me.”

… missing the gift… I don’t want to miss the gift…

I used to think that as a parent, we would engage in all this teaching. We would teach and train our kids, training them up in the way they should go, and it would be this amazing, educational experience. Whether it’s for biological or adoptive children… whether is for young ones who we are called to be a “mom” to… it would be this awesome, sharpening experience. And it is…

For us.

I almost missed the gift that the teaching would have on me.

Said by one parent who seems to have realized that, from “Love That Boy” by Ron Fournier, a nationally known journalist and parent to a special needs teen…

“… Our son is learning to connect and belong, and we know he will be a happy, thriving adult. Rather than sweat over his Asperger’s, I see how much I’d miss if he wasn’t an Aspie — his humor, his bluntness, his unaffected obsessions with everything from video games to family.

In the spring of 2014, my father died. Mom decided to rent a boat and scatter Dad’s ashes in the Detroit River. After my mother, my siblings, and our families had boarded the boat, we filled the 30-minute ride with awkward conversation. How’s the job? How about those Tigers?

My sister, Raquel, lost her composure, dashing below to find a bathroom. She almost ran into Tyler at the bottom of the stairs. He recognized her distress and said, ‘I don’t know what to say to make you feel better, but I can give you a hug.’

That was exactly what she needed. ‘He hugged me so tight. And kept hugging me,’ Raquel told me later. ‘It meant the world to me.’

At the appointed spot, the boat stopped. Raquel poured Dad’s ashes over the side, while Mom stood alone behind her. My brothers made eye contact with me. What should we do?

Rather than step forward to comfort Mom, I stepped back. It was not my finest hour. But Tyler exceeded my expectations, walking over to hold his grandmother tightly. He whispered to her, ‘Everyone thinks I’m comforting you, but really I need comforting.’

Finally, I know what perfect is. It’s a child blessed with the grace to show goodness, even on the worst of days. No, Tyler is not my idealized son. He is my ideal one.”

I think that’s it. I think that’s what I most want to say. I like how this parent sees his child as the “ideal one.”

We don’t get to pick our parents. We don’t get to pick our children. But I used to think it was the parent that always teaches the child. What I’ve since learned is that the children teach us even more.

With a heart that is humbled and sometimes knows not exactly how to say all there is to say…

Happy Mothers Day…

a few q’s from MLK’s dream

photo-1444351274028-b348e6da5f67Monday was America’s annual observance of Martin Luther King Day. Oh, how I love that so many have so much respect for the message of that man. Let’s revisit his most infamous words, one of the most significant speeches in American history, delivered in August of 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Read an excerpt of his wise words before a few simple Q’s…

“…It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment…

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force…

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition’ and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together’…”


  • What would be Dr. King’s wise words to all of us now? Would they be the same?
  • How would Dr. King have responded to the Black Lives Matter protest?
  • What would be Dr. King’s message to police?
  • Who among us knows the exact answers Dr. King would offer?
  • Is sharing the same skin color necessary to know Dr. King’s perspective?

I often wonder how each of us contributes to the fragility of racial relations… how each of us either intentionally or unintentionally fuels the intensity of any division… how we fuel it or mend it… how each of us contributes… where we become demanding — shouting at one another… You just need to understand! …You are the problem!” … We spend a lot of effort and energy focused on “you.” We point at other people.

Maybe that’s part of what Dr. King wanted us to comprehend… where the rough places can actually be made plain and the crooked places straight… when we no longer point at anyone other than self… when we look inside our own hearts, questioning whether we love all people well… looking at our own pockets of judgment… as opposed to always pointing at the crookedness in someone else.

Maybe. Just asking questions, friends…


washing away 2015

photo-1418260555520-c1538e5c2df6Greetings, friends. ‘Tis time to say goodbye to another year. And while some years feel better to say bye to, it is my prayer that each is a year in which we can say we have learned and we have grown.

Some of the learnings of the past year have been challenging. Some of our experiences have been ones we’d like to forget; and some of the ways people have chosen to discuss what’s happening around us have been awful and disrespectful — albeit not here. Thank you for being committed to dialoguing with respect. Solution cannot come otherwise.

Since this blog began over seven years ago, we made a commitment to delving into all issues and ideas respectfully — knowing full well we would not agree on all things nor on all angles. Our growth comes not in convincing all others to finally “think like me,” so-to-speak; our growth comes through active listening, humility, and the willingness to be sharpened by persons other than self.

And so as another year washes away, my desire is to encourage you and thank you for being committed to that growth. It is my true privilege to pen these posts, interacting with you.

Also — in a bit of a foreshadowing teaser — I’m eager to share with you how we spent New Year’s Eve in our family. Alas, such shall wait for another day. 🙂

Blessings, friends. Allow me to take this time to wish you and yours a new year of deep peace and great joy… a year that isn’t quickly wanted to be wished away… and a year in which we each continue to grow.

Respectfully… always…



photo-1428940253195-53483a1de2e6[Borrowed and slightly edited from a blog by Justin Taylor, Crossway Sr. VP & publisher, in a historical account giving each of us hope amidst our pain — putting life into perspective… still relevant when Christmas is done for the year…]

In March of 1863, 18-year-old Charles Appleton Longfellow walked out of his family’s home on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and—unbeknownst to his family—boarded a train bound for Washington, DC., over 400 miles away, in order to join President Lincoln’s Union army to fight in the Civil War. Charles was the oldest of six children born to Fannie Elizabeth Appleton and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the celebrated literary critic and poet. Charles had five younger siblings: a brother (aged 17) and three sisters (ages 13, 10, 8—another one had died as an infant).

Less than two years earlier, Charles’s mother Fannie had died from a tragic accident when her dress caught on fire. Her husband, awoken from a nap, tried to extinguish the flames as best he could, first with a rug and then his own body, but she had already suffered severe burns. She died the next morning, and Henry Longfellow’s facial burns were severe enough that he was unable even to attend his own wife’s funeral. He would grow a beard to hide his burned face and at times feared that he would be sent to an asylum on account of his grief.

When Charley (as he was called) arrived in Washington D.C. he sought to enlist as a private with the 1st Massachusetts Artillery. Captain W. H. McCartney, commander of Battery A, wrote to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for written permission for Charley to become a solider. HWL (as his son referred to him) granted the permission.

Longfellow later wrote to his friends [Sen.] Charles Sumner, [Gov.] John Andrew, and Edward Dalton (medical inspector of the Sixth Army Corps) to lobby for his son to become an officer. But Charley had already impressed his fellow soldiers and superiors with his skills, and on March 27, 1863, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, assigned to Company “G.”

After participating on the fringe of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia (April 30-May 6, 1863), Charley fell ill with typhoid fever and was sent home to recover. He rejoined his unit on August 15, 1863, having missed the Battle of Gettysburg.

While dining at home on December 1, 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself — wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement. The theme of listening recurs throughout the poem, leading to a settledness of confident hope even in the midst of bleak despair…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,
 Their old familiar carols play,
 And wild and sweet the words repeat
, Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
 The belfries of all Christendom
, Had rolled along the unbroken song
, Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
 “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
 “For hate is strong and mocks the song, 
Of peace on earth, good will to men.


Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
 “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
 The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.


Till, ringing singing, on its way,
 The world revolved from night to day,
 A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
 Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Respectfully… with hope… always…