April 9

There are three things

which I do not believe—

four that I

will never understand:

The ninny

who announces

that she doesn’t like bacon,

the philistine

who posits

improvements of baseball,

the charlatan

who espouses

a god in his own image,

and the ogre

who identifies

his favorite season

without stating

first and foremost,



irrevocably and unceasingly–


April 9, 2022

Walking Home from a New Jersey Diner

The sights and sounds of a tow truck are among those few things in life that evoke almost the same feelings in almost everyone in almost every situation. The somber whirring of the cables, the sharp clang of the hooks and chains, and the slow lurch of the vehicle onto the flatbed are each slightly jarring in their own way and unique to the experience of being towed.

Collectively, those elements are saturated with feelings of overwhelming helplessness, trauma, and/or loss. It is a uniquely emasculating experience to stand idly by while a stranger tows one’s chariot away, maybe permanently–to have the desire to work, to act, to help, but to be prevented by policy and insurance terms. Recollections of regret, relief, embarrassment, shock, disappointment, worry, fear (or all of the above) can flood the soul on a Tuesday morning while walking past a stranger being towed.

How immeasurably complex is the human experience! How wonderfully we have been made to be able to think and feel and remember and share these things.

March 28, 2017

Wrong Way

The WRONG WAY road sign stands unique in the pantheon of road signs. Barely more verbose than the abrupt STOP, and definitively more forceful than the deferent YIELD, the WRONG WAY sign is alone unto itself. It does not speculate like BRIDGE MAY BE ICY, and it does not equivocate like SLIPPERY WHEN WET. No, WRONG WAY has a warning and declares it in bold and frank and certain terms.

The other unique attribute of the WRONG WAY sign is that you rarely ever see one. They are usually only posted for travelers who, in a state of severe discombobulation, or under the influence of a controlled substance, and/or perhaps on the front end of a wild police chase, are traveling the wrong way down an otherwise One Way street.

Granted, we who are correctly cruising on the right side of the highway, and ably navigating our life’s course through the vistas and valleys of this world, do sometimes catch an errant glimpse of an askew WRONG WAY sign. It’s usually a startling and unnerving moment, albeit brief. But our fears are quickly assuaged by a thousand points of solid reference—“Ah! No, that sign wasn’t intended for me. I am going the right way in the right lane.” (But that’s a metaphor about life in Progressive [so-called] America for another day).

If the WRONG WAY sign isn’t the most severe of all roadside warnings, it’s certainly one of them. What could be more dangerous than driving into oncoming traffic on a closed highway? What action behind the wheel could put more people at more severe risk? The WRONG WAY sign should get our attention immediately. It should stop us in our tracks and cause us to get help, get turned around, get going the right way right away.

But the sobering analogy is that we all know that friend, that family member, that congregation, that leader, etc. who has been blowing past the WRONG WAY signs for miles. Withdrawing from fellowship, nurturing callouses, despising a spouse, abusing a substance, erecting an idol, embracing heterodoxy. The list goes on. How did he get so turned around? Why is she continuing on that path—and at such speed?! Where were their WRONG WAY signs? Did they see them?

Tolerance is a good and necessary principal to practice in a multi-faceted society. But there are plenty of things that we are fools to tolerate: day-old anger (Ephesians 4:26), sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3), laziness (Proverbs 6:10), idolatry (Romans 1), apathy (Philippians 2:12), fear (1 Peter 3:6), heterodoxy (Galatians 1:8), etc. etc. There are plenty of WRONG WAYS to be avoided at all costs. There are roads that are objectively harmful, hazardous, and lead to certain destruction.

Maybe better than asking where did that friend go wrong or when did she miss the WRONG WAY signs in her path, we should consider Who? Who were the friends, family, neighbors to flash the WRONG WAY signs? Who followed up with the brother who slunk out the door after Sunday worship without speaking to anyone? Who could have made a point to have coffee with the withdrawn housewife? Who should have spoken up after a man’s harsh words to his wife? Who could have macheted through “busy schedules” and “I’m fine” and “life’s just so crazy right now” to get to the heart of the matter? Who could have spoken the truth in love, called a spade a spade, and administered faithful wounds of a friend?

Maybe you’re watching that loved one hurtling the wrong way right now. Maybe you think your friend has made a few wrong turns. Maybe you know that your own life is not headed in the right direction. Maybe you’ve already made a shipwreck of your family or a friendship or your faith. Maybe you know what’s at the bottom of that slippery slope because that’s where you wake up every morning.

There is good news! There is hope for the hopelessly lost. Today can be the day you turn around. You don’t need to dwell at the end of the road you’re on. There is forgiveness for the wayward. A feast and a robe and a birthright for the prodigal son who comes home. From the hymnal: “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore. Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, grace, and power.”

From the book of Hebrews: “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

March 19, 2021

Such A Time As This

The books of I and II Kings read like current events. Weak, wicked kings capitulating to a wicked, rebellious populace. Strong, wicked kings leading eager subjects into further debauchery and idolatry. Cycle after cycle, a progression of increasing heinousness and decay.

But sprinkled into the timeline are a few righteous kings who know the truth and restore (for a time) a semblance of morality and order during their reigns. A measure of prosperity and favor flow from the brief times when these monarchs help lead the people back to the one true God by both edict and example. The coming judgement due an increasingly wicked people is stayed, albeit briefly.

I think I took these “good” kings for granted when I read the Old Testament as a child. After all, didn’t everyone know God’s Word and his standard for kingdoms, clans, and families? Didn’t everyone know the right thing to do and know they should do it?

But we are now raising children in a post-truth era when the spirit of the age is incessantly taking the nuclear option to any as-yet-untoppled bastion of Judeo-Christian morality and ethos. Our cultural icons leapfrog each other down the second half of Romans 1 at a breakneck pace, a veritable pageant of brazen immorality parading as Progress. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

It’s enough to tempt a parent to unchecked anxiety or maddening speculation. How are we to know what lies in store? What is the future arc of our country and culture? Are these the latter days of an evil Abijam with a righteous Asa in the wings, or are we just beginning 55 years under an abominable Manasseh? If the latter, and if the cultural fallout proves irreversible, how are we to live in these evil days?

The stories of Joash and Josiah are among the things keep me from forlorn disenfranchisement. As a baby, Joash was kept alive in secret and then crowned at age seven by a brave priest after his father’s entire family was slaughtered by an insurrection. And Josiah is the most unlikely of righteous kings—the grandson of Judah’s most wicked ruler, and thrust onto the throne at eight years old when his father gets the Et Tu Brute at the hand of conspirators. There is nothing in either of these boy kings’ heritages or circumstances that would cause anyone to expect the righteous reigns that follow.

Yet each of these boys rise from the charred ashes of idolatrous fathers and despicable grandfathers to become righteous kings over God’s people. How? How on earth was wanton wickedness succeeded by the fruit of righteousness and justice?

The simple, ordinary answer is that these boys were each mentored and taught and raised in the way of the Lord by the members of a faithful remnant who had not yet bowed the knee to Baal. There were chaste, orthodox citizens ready, willing, and able to instruct and guide a future generation onto the the paths of life—out of the scorched earth of their fathers’ depravity.   There were faithful men and women who preserved the truth and taught it to the next generation.

Maybe the course of our debased culture won’t be reversed in your lifetime or in mine. Maybe our trajectory has dipped too far down with too much momentum. Perhaps the toothpaste is irrevocably out of the tube, as they say. But in hope and expectation, let’s parent and teach and grandparent as if the next Josiah was on our lap. Let’s homeschool and Sunday school and counsel and care for the next generation to equip them for the rebuild.

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for God’s people from another place… And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

January 28, 2022

The Last Bath

Will we know it when it happens?

And (if so) how will we know?

Will we know that we know?

Will we be able to recognize it?


Will the moment herald itself

  with the shout of an archangel?

Or will we anticipate its coy arrival with

  a kind of parental prescience?


Will we decipher cryptic foreshadowing

  or detect an otherwise obscure clue?

Will we commemorate it in the moment,

  in real time, en diem?


Will we parade it down the staircase

  like Calvin’s living art?

Will we celebrate it, savor it,

  memorialize, or mourn it?


Perhaps, like a winter holiday

that we tacitly cling to,

it will unceremoniously,

surreptitiously pass us by—

a moment unmarked,

unheeded, unnoticed—

until finally, in years distant,

as erstwhile nesters,

we cringe and discard

the last of our last child’s bath toys?


There are notes of melancholy

  in every goblet raised to Progress.

Often a veiled pain accompanies

  the celebration of success.

Milestones are marked and praised,

  and dreaded as much as desired.

We long for what’s next

  while we pine for what’s past.

And we never really know

  which Saturday evening

  will bring us

The Last Bath.

January 7, 2022

Melting Pot on Nostrand

Before our client starts construction in the vacant lot (foreground), I need to photo-document the conditions of the outside of the neighboring building and the interior walls of all the apartments bordering the site. I have been granted access to 16 apartments this morning and am waiting on five more after 3:00pm.

Although the floorplan of each apartment is repetitive, walking across each threshold is almost like traveling the globe, visiting a different culture in seemingly every home. The superintendent says there are tenants from at least Haiti, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, India, and South/Central America—not to mention the tenants native to this borough. She estimates there are at least ten languages spoken in the building (she only speaks two!).

I could only begin to mention all the sights, and sounds, and aromas of this six-story melting pot. Prayer mats, quotes from the Quran on the wall, a crucifix above a bed, wigs on the bedposts, mattresses on the floor, a Skype call to India between toddler and father, and a superintendent who knows each tenant by name and greets them all with affection and warmth.

In my 36.5 years of life, I have never left North America—but on days like today I feel like I’ve travelled the world.

December 21, 2018

Thy People Shall Be My People

How often do we reflect on the profundity of the simple proverb Opposites Attract? It’s a brief axiom as familiar as a surname and ordinary as an apple, but to probe its meaning and implication is to plumb a mine shaft of mystery. What do we mean when we say, “opposites attract?” Why are we so often compelled to audibly acknowledge this lucid, conspicuous truth? Why do we so frequently delight in this revelation and bask—as if it had fallen afresh upon Creation—in the joy of its light?

We feel attraction to the Opposite because so much of our lives is spent in the enduring embrace of the Known, the Familiar, and the Like. Our friends and follows, our politics, and even our pantries are all neatly curated and discriminately culled. Little about our lives anymore is foreign or happenstance. Insular unto ourselves, each unto his own, and ever more so ad infinitum.

So many of us, if left as unchecked captives to our wants and desires, would otherwise descend further and further into the inertia of our own self interests. Our affections would be guided chiefly by clannish and tribal mores. Our pursuits would be fed by the familiar and perpetuated by the predictable.

But that which is Other sparks a flash of novelty across our familiar, placid landscape. And Opposite dances a Funky Chicken to the offbeat of our innate and incessant rhythms. The Opposite in another can unexpectedly attract us because it is outside and apart from us. We can become bewitched by another’s polarity and find ourselves inexplicably and inseparably intoxicated by one’s differences in behavior, opinions, and worldview. Opposites, as they say, attract.


One of the most delightful and enduring means by which Other has been introduced into my life has been my marriage to a daughter/granddaughter of the Roszel family. The portion of my life spent conjoined to my Rebecca Rose has been one bright, burgeoning ray of newness and novelty. My wife is both my singular Compliment and my supreme Opposite.

Of course, we share a number of overlapping interests and a similar list of essential tenets. Music, literature, and time outdoors comprise a significant portion of the former. The orthodox Christian faith, familial devotion, and conservative, constitutional patriotism the latter. The concentricity of our passions and creeds is no small portion of our relationship’s Venn Diagram. But the Otherness and even the Opposite of our personal histories and heritage is what continues to fuel an attraction.

So knitted are the events and changes of our last 18 years together, that it’s hard to recall just how many differences we brought to the His and the Hers sides of our relationship in the beginning. I was a Presbyterian minister’s son from the most densely populated state in the Union. She was a dairy farmer’s daughter from a place where you can only hear the neighbors if they’re shooting firearms or fireworks (or both). My home life was stable, almost sedentary. She was a child of divorce. Rebecca grew up on a diet of Uriah Heep, John Mellencamp, and Van Halen. My home rang with peals of Canadian Brass, Handel’s Messiah, and Peter Paul and Mary.

Rebecca met my dad while he was chaplain at Camp Susque. In a way, you could say she met him while he was “at work,” teaching and preaching at a summer camp. My first impression of her father was similar—except he was crouched under a cow, rubbing iodine on a teat when I made his acquaintance. Oil paintings and rose gardens v. beaver pelts and rifles. British Canadian traditions and manners v. Susquehanna County sensibilities. Jacob v. Esau—Opposites.


It wasn’t until we welcomed children into our own home that Rebecca and I reflected on the unique blessing that we both held in common: Both of our fathers worked at home during much of our childhood (and these were days before people pretended to work from home on things like Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and meetings a la Zoom). Our fathers were actual masters of crafts and tended shop right upstairs or down the dirt road. We were like little smithy’s kids. I remember how my siblings and I were shushed outside when Dad had counseling appointments or sensitive phone calls, and I greeted the men of session like family. Rebecca brought her dad lunch out in the hay fields and chatted with the visiting farm vet like a familiar family friend.

Our close proximities to our fathers and their domestic professions gave us each access to their persons in a wholistic sense. We knew our fathers’ schedules and obligations and needs because our own worlds orbited and intersected theirs. We watched them bear their burdens and toil against the thorns. We felt the weight of the hard times and we shared in the celebrations of their modest (but meaningful) successes. We knew our fathers because our fathers were part of our lives. They were present—more than present—they were active pillars and living fixtures of our lives.

As I reflect now on the breadth of what was occurring seventeen and a half years ago as a young engineer from northern New Jersey was asking for The Blessing of a second-generation Pennsylvania farmer before proposing to his daughter, it seems like so much more than a bestowing of permission. It was more than a declaration of intent and a corresponding assent, more than a confession of young love and a nod of an elder’s approval. I was—there at the barn in the pre-dawn light of a Sunday morning, and then a year later on a Saturday afternoon at the front of a church sanctuary—asking for permission and then later vowing to steward another man’s greatest treasure. There was in that conversation and in our subsequent covenant a transfer of headship, and an entrusting to me and to Providence the care of a good man’s only daughter.

My mind keeps coming back to that morning at the barn in these days since the death of Rebecca’s father in July. It stands now as one of the bookends of a relationship that has ended here on earth. I continue to reflect on what was asked, what was promised, what was granted, and what was given. I consider all the ways that those things have played out and have been fulfilled over a year-long engagement and 16.5 years of marriage. But I am surprised to realize that never—neither at his Blessing nor in any of the subsequent days—never did I once consider the fact that I would be caring for Rebecca after her father’s death. The shortsightedness of Youth is blind to even the most obvious facts of fate.

At 22 years old, standing before a man exactly double my age, I had no wealth or portfolio to present as dowry. I could not hang a persuasive speech upon any assurance outside of myself and my aspirations. My career at that point consisted of a summer internship and a week of entry-level orientation. My debts far surmounted my assets. I was at best earnest and honest and eager to try. But beyond my words, I offered hardly anything more than a pink carnation and a pickup truck.

Since that Sunday morning conversation with her father, I think that I have in many ways spent 17.5 years striving to—humbly, respectfully, with a good and grateful heart—be considered worthy to stand in the place of that man, my father-in-law. This is no small thing, and it occurs in no modicum of time. Both in his sight and beyond it, within his home or my own, I had aspired to earn his respect, to make good on my simple youthful promises, and to assuage beyond reasonable doubt any fears for his daughter’s condition. My wife’s hands had, as it were, always been just-received into my own from her father’s at the head of the aisle. The answer to “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” still as ardent a focus, as magnificent a burden of duty, and as joyful an aspiration to fulfill.

Under normal circumstances, from the vantage of youth, marriage does in many ways feel like standing in the place of a man—with fear and trembling at times. And Youth hardly knows any better (in fact, Christ’s rebuke to the sons of Zebedee, “You do not know what you ask,” comes to mind). But young men in ages past and present have hardly ceased to scale those mountains and to stand astride their summits. This is at least a small part of what is meant when a man is said to “leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife.” But beyond the wooing and the wedding, beyond the rings and the vows, a young man at his wedding receives a vetting and a validation. When a young man receives The Blessing of his father-in-law, he is being entrusted—invited, even—to stand in the place of his wife’s protector, provider, and primary authority. There is a real transfer of stewardship, and a profound charge of the most precious kind.


A father-in-law/son-in-law relationship is unique in many ways. It is one of the rare instances where two men can love the same woman without significant tension (or bloodshed). It is a love without jealousy or competition, without subversion or sabotage. It is an extraordinary and many-splendored thing in the world of Men. So the death of my wife’s dad was more than the loss of my father-in-law. It is more than the greatest source of earthly sorrow that my bride has ever known.

Here we now stand together at this new threshold, Rebecca and I—the loss of the first parent between us. I am lacking the distant but affectionate approval of my wife’s father. I have lost his “Old Son…” wisdom and a seat at his hand-made table. I will miss the thrill of psyching myself up to tell him a story and the quiet euphoria of occasional successes. My wife, though, is more likened to a satellite thrown off its orbit, tumbling through the ether past the memories and memorabilia of her father’s life. It is at the loss of her father that we have truly and most accurately started to plumb his impact and legacy in our lives. It is only in his wake that we realize what a wide berth he occupied on our horizons.

Suddenly I find myself, as it were, rowing in the boat alone, my fellow oarsman no longer pulling from the other side. I may heave and strain against my oar earnestly, but there are very real ways in which our modest craft is only spiraling, albeit broadly. It is a question of balance, and the answers remain elusive. No longer does my wife draw assurance and security and affection from that other oar. My wife has lost the other great love of her life. And she has lost that special man who loved her first, as the country song says so well.


Perhaps a young buck thinks that he is loving his girl well if he loves her better than her father did (or still does). Perhaps the ideals of immaturity can be forgiven for aspiring—innocently, ignorantly—to stand in the place of father, brother, uncle, grandpa, etc. with a love that is unique and enticing and debonair. But the humility and wisdom that only come with age teach a man that his greatest aspiration should be perhaps to only stand alongside his wife’s kin with his devotion—a love enduring and ethereal but different. He will, after all, only ever (if he does his job well and for long enough) establish himself as a primary oar on one side of his wife’s galley.

A young man does well to live a married life worthy of standing in succession to his father-in-law, be he nobleman, journeyman, hero, or hermit. It is the wise man who realizes with contentment that his wife’s heart is never really his sole possession, whether in sickness or in health, in joy or in sorrow, or “‘til death do us part.”

Autumn 2021

The Maples of Broad Street

The maples of Broad Street were slumbering in bed,

They were dragging their feet as if gilded in lead.

They’d put off preparation until late in the season,

And kept snoozing their alarms for some quite unknown reason.

But the maples of Broad Street, to a tree, knew their duty.

The maples of Broad Street have (at last!) shared their beauty.


The maples of Broad Street have ceased to be tame,

The maples of Broad Street are shaking their manes.

They’re screaming out oranges, and roaring bright reds;

Up and down the street is colored, from our lawns to their heads.

The maples of Broad Street are a fiery glow.

And the spectacle on Broad Street continues to grow.

October 19, 2016

A Simple Wooden Glider

A simple wooden glider at the curb for Bulk Trash Day. Its rear cushion sags and hangs tenuously by a loop re-sewed twice. The armrests have long since lost the softness of their pseudo suede and are worn and polished like a haystack rock on the Oregon coast. Years ago, the chipboard seat support bent and then failed. It was replaced with a custom-cut piece of plywood that improved support at the expense of sustained comfort.

But this tattered piece of nursey furniture is more than just a portion of the homeowners’ 500-pound annual allotment of bulk residential waste. Its function and form are associated with the most tender maternal attributes of my wife, while its presence on the curb recalls the sharp sadness of the longest and most chasmic disagreement of our marriage. This chair has supported a mother and her infant babies for hours too numerous to be quantified and in moments more precious and intimate than can be described. This chair has rocked four babies to the hymns of heaven and has held and supported a tender-hearted woman who in the darkness of newborn nights was at times crying harder and more desperately than her child. This cushioned glider has been a silent, supportive partner in cold winter midnights and a cheerful companion on bright summer mornings.

This chair has borne my wife and my four children for a decade and contains within its rhythms and textures and scents and sounds so many of the memories and moments that make a mother-child relationship so singular and precious. It has served faithfully and has more than earned its retirement. Even from a father’s vantage, it feels less like discarding old furniture and more like bidding farewell to an old friend.

October 10, 2020

In His Time

Every year I marvel more and more at how long it takes for the Aster and the Goldenrod to bloom. Think back to when you saw your first blossom of Spring. Maybe it was a Crocus against your house, or perhaps you spied Snowdrops in Central Park. But now, in the damp of an autumn morning or the dry warmth of an October afternoon, they seem like memories more distant than a high school romance. Even the Daffodils and Tulips of early May feel less contemporary than Christmas decorations at this part of the growing season.

Why do some flowers jump out of bed and race into bloom at the first light of Spring while others dawdle and delay for months and months on end? Relative size is not the answer—after all, the Maples blush red at even the first hint of warmth on the March breeze. The Aster and the Goldenrod seem like twin hares yawning out of bed with drooping ears and mussed whiskers, expecting to sprint to the flower finish seemingly unaware that a veritable parade of tortoises have been bursting into bouquets and nestling into nosegays since April.

Why do some flowers bloom in March, and some in April, and some in May, and still others in June, July, August, and even now in September and October? Why such a spread, why such a timeline? Why doesn’t everything bloom during some uniform window of ideal conditions? Why don’t the flowers just hold a grand convention in the third week of May? It would certainly save the Goldenrod the annual embarrassment of oversleeping for six months of broad daylight only to arrive for the gala after all her friends and relations have been plucked, mowed, or laid to rest weeks and months before.

Why do the October flowers wait so long to bloom? Why do they hold out this late? What makes them grow with such persistent sloth, forming stalk and stem and leaf but withholding the blossom until first frost is upon us? Isn’t the answer in the question? Isn’t the most likely conclusion that the reason there is a wonderful progression of the earth’s blooms is because it is wonderful to have a progression of flowers throughout the temperate months? Isn’t this just simply a gift from God?

Endless options for the tireless drone.
Unceasing inspiration for the aspiring artist.
Unlimited opportunity for the wayfaring romantic.
Infinite doxologies for the awe-filled eye.

“He has made all things beautiful in His time,“ says the Preacher. “Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,“ says our Lord and Creator. Indeed he who has eyes to see, let him see.

October 8, 2021