Author Archives: Rich Neal

The way of love

Sometimes we make love too complicated. We make too much of it, our images so high, our ideals so perfect they’re out of reach. Maybe that’s why we’re not very good at marriages, nearly half of them ending in divorce or separation. But I’m not talking about that kind of love, the Hallmark movie kind. […]

The difficult grace of hating evil

Hating what is evil and holding fast to what is good (Rom. 12:9b) seems obvious and sensible advice until I try putting it into practice. Then it gets complicated; it starts causing problems not easy to solve; it unsettles the way I’ve been taught to think. Take, for example, this bit of wisdom from a […]

When night ends and day begins

There’s a game that might make your Lent a little more interesting; it does mine. It’s called “Purgatory,” named for the waiting room where, some Christians believe, your sins are purged and your soul is purified before entering heaven. The way poet W.H. Auden invented the game, writers with contradictory views of life would be […]

The tree with the lights in it

Have you seen the tree with the lights in it? I don’t mean the Christmas tree you took down months ago or the outdoor tree with the landscape lights. I mean one like the backyard cedar Annie Dillard described as suddenly “charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame.” She wrote that her experience was […]

A test of faith

Some people think God never leads anyone into temptation; it’s the devil who does that. If you’re one of those people, think again. God not only leads us into temptation, God led even Jesus into temptation (Luke 4:1). Mark’s gospel tells us God drove him to it (Mark 1:12). When we pray in the Lord’s […]

Walk in gift today

The season of Lent, as I first learned about it, was a sack-cloth-and-ashes season when we church people felt sorry, maybe even ashamed, for how we had been living and the bad things we had done; we repented and tried to get back into God’s good graces; and we deprived ourselves of something we liked […]

The transforming choice

In an old Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown wonders, “Why would they ban Miss Sweetstory’s book from the school library?” Then he speculates, “Maybe there are some things in her book that we don’t understand.” Violet responds, “In that case, they should also ban my math book.” Frankly, if we were to ban books containing things […]

A gospel of cooked turnip greens

Among all the favorite foods my mother served up when I was a child, there were some that made me gag: liver and onions, for example, or cooked turnip greens. When Mother served something I thought for sure was going to poison me, there was one simple and firm rule. I didn’t have to eat […]

The gospel on a level place

A long time ago I learned you don’t mess around with someone’s favorite passages of scripture. The connection people feel with their favorite passages is deep, even holy. There’s a reason, sometimes many reasons, why those passages are dearly held. Upsetting those connections can be more than disturbing: it can be deeply harmful, so proceed […]

Shutting the door

“Anyone can retire into a quiet place, wrote Evelyn Underhill, but it’s the shutting of the door that makes the difference. Solitude is a time for stripping away everything in order to focus on God. (Matt 6:6)” (Sue Monk Kidd). Lent is not far away, beginning in just under three weeks with Ash Wednesday on […]