Author Archives: Rich Neal

Where’s everybody going?

“I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” So Karen Blixen begins Out of Africa, the account of her life in Kenya. At the beginning of the movie based on the book, Meryl Streep repeats that line wistfully, as if invoking a memory. “I had a farm in Africa . […]

This call is for you

When our celebration of Christmas ends, the work of Christmas begins. According to theologian and poet Howard Thurman, that work is: “To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among brothers [and sisters], To make music in the heart.” The […]

At the gate of the year

Since I was a child, hardly a new year has begun when I don’t think of my grandfather Howard Fullerton and a little poem we discovered after his death. Let me tell you the story of that poem. In the dark, uncertain days of late 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War II, England’s […]

The Innkeeper: Ruminations for Christmas Eve

Sometimes the tiniest act of kindness can save a life. It might even transform the world. I’m thinking of some of the players in the first Christmas story. They’re given no credit in the cast of characters, but you know they were there. Take the innkeeper, for example. He’s not even mentioned in the scene […]

On growth and change

Growth and change are equal partners in any pilgrimage, any journey toward wholeness – you can’t talk about one without also talking about the other. Not all change involves growth, of course; some involves regression, degradation, decomposition. People spiral down as well as up. But all growth involves change. Much of what makes change an […]

Sweeping clean

It’s time for another purge, I wrote in July, referring to the prospect of ridding myself of writings that have accumulated since my last major purge several years ago, “to clear myself of how I once saw things, hoping to see the brand-new landscape of my existence.” Two months later, I’ve done it: blog entries, […]

When the world falls apart

“When the world falls apart, what can the good hope to do” (Ps. 11:3 ICEL)? The psalmist’s question has been with us for maybe 3,000 years or longer, and today it’s as relevant and penetrating as ever. I’m not sure the world is falling apart – we’ve survived hard times before – but the news […]

The call of the cicadas

Waiting, I noticed the midsummer sound of cicadas, their dry rasp foretelling summer’s finale and autumn’s approach, and soon after that, winter. Some find it a sad sound, herald of the season’s ending. I find it mellow comfort: an invitation to rest; to return to the earth, my source; to reground in what is more […]

Old canoes and old sermons

Some years ago, a fellow from the Adirondacks called Willem Lange, one of Vermont’s treasured storytellers, wanting to know if he had the time to restore an old canoe. Lange didn’t have the time, but since it was the kind of thing he could do in the evenings, and since he loved old canoes, he […]

The ruckus of the birds

It’s the season for sleeping with open windows – even as the dog days begin – and waking to the sound not of an alarm clock but of birdsong. When I carried the burden of more outer commitments, I’d turn to the television for an early news and weather report. Had another act of terrorism […]