A Righteous Man


He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God.—Job 1:1-2

My father didn’t quite have the patience of Job, but he was a God-fearing man who persevered.

Daddy wore many hats:  son, brother, husband, friend, soldier, farmer, cattleman, fisherman, salesman, deacon, elder, and more. Most importantly to me, he wore a father hat, and he wore it well.

He had the wisdom of Atticus Finch, the work ethic of Charles Ingalls, and the devotion of Bob Cratchit. He was also funny and folksy like Andy Taylor.

Before I was born, my father served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He received an honorable discharge so that he could return home to help care for his invalid father, disabled brother, and their family farm.

Not once through all this did he blame God.*

I’m sure he and my mother struggled to make ends meet in the early years of their marriage, but he persevered. They lived in an upstairs apartment over a garage; and during those lean years he worked in a factory on weekdays, pumped gas on weekends, and sold Bibles door-to-door on weeknights.


When [he] walked downtown and sat with [his] friends in the public square, young and old greeted [him] with respect. [He] was honored by everyone in town. All [his] dealings with people were good. [He] was known for being fair to everyone [he] met.

My father didn’t have any formal education beyond high school, but he was an avid fan of Dale Carnegie. He did enroll in several Carnegie courses, and he learned well how to make friends and influence people. He never met a stranger. He eventually used his “Carnegie” skills to become a Nabisco salesman and later sell insurance.

Daddy was an active member of the Masonic Lodge and was honored to receive the 33rd degree. He always tried to live by the Masons’ “square and compass” philosophy of placing God first (as Solomon did when he built his temple). He believed in the edification of others, and he often quoted these lines from a poem by Carmelo Benvenga:

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

I believe it would behoove us all to “chew upon” these words.

[He] was known for helping people in trouble and standing up for those who were down on their luck. The dying blessed [him], and the bereaved were cheered by [his] visits.

Like Jan Karon’s Father Tim, Daddy was a friend to the waitress at the local diner, the mechanic at the gas station, and the guys down at the lodge. When our neighbor across the street lost her husband, he helped mow her yard and discipline her five children. I remember several occasions when our family piled in the car and traveled across town or drove to “the country” to help a friend or relative in need. As a deacon, elder, and lay  speaker in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Daddy believed in sharing the gospel and serving others.

I am thankful for my father. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a hero to me. Like the daddy in Amy Parker’s picture book, he taught me, took care of me, and tried to be a good, good father.



One of my earliest memories of Daddy reminds me of the trust I had in him and also the trust he taught me to have in God the Father.

Marthe Jocelyn’s description of young Aggie Morton speaks to me of this memory.

aggie morton

The bicycle wobbled along, meeting each pebble as if it were a boulder. I concentrated on balance, and also on steering. The pale, holy glow of the moon transformed familiar hedges into monstrous tree spirits.
“Thank you, Papa,” I said out loud, my voice a funny quack next to the clickety-clank of the bicycle and the silence beyond. Papa had spent many hours holding the seat of my child-sized bicycle while I learned to pedal up and down the drive. He’d tricked me in the end, trotting alongside in a pretense of holding me up, but having let go many minutes before.  

I don’t have many pictures of my father because he was always the photographer. However, this shot shows him in the shadows as he is urging me to ride my bicycle, to do what I thought I could not do.

bicycle image 3

My father died over thirty-five years ago, but I can still see him in the shadows. I can still hear him encouraging me and giving me advice. Like my Heavenly Father whom I also cannot see, I know He’s there when I need Him.

If you’ve never known your own father, or if you’ve not have the blessings of a good relationship with a father figure, know that you have a Heavenly Father who holds you in the palm of His hand. He hurts when you hurt, he smiles when you smile, he rejoices when you rejoice. He’s always there for you, even in the shadows.

If you can, spend some quality time with your father, your grandfather, an uncle, a brother, a mentor, a righteous man, the Heavenly Father. Honor him, and show him your appreciation.

“Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”–Dale Carnegie

“She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father.” –Harper Lee

James 1:19-20; Genesis 6:9; Psalm 15

*Verses taken from Job, Chapter 29 are from The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language.

A Tribute to Virtuous Women


A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.*

Proverbs 31 must have been written about my mother. I’ve never met a more virtuous woman. She was classy. She was strong. She was devoted. If you are familiar with Margaret Anderson on the old TV show Father Knows Best, you’ve met my mother.

She possessed many characteristics of Caroline Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, Mrs. March from Little Women, and Marilla from Anne of Green Gables. She could also rival Aunt Bee from Mayberry in the kitchen.

She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.

I don’t know how she managed without a microwave or the modern conveniences of today’s kitchens, but my mother could prepare an elaborate homemade Sunday dinner (including meat, several vegetables, rolls, and dessert) and still make it to Sunday school and church with time to spare. She also worked outside the home and was a Hidden Figures kind of woman.

She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth.

Having been raised by farming parents, Mother knew how to can vegetables and create something beautiful out of nothing. She was athletic and good at basketball, badminton, and bowling. She planted flower gardens. She wrote poetry. She made ceramics, curtains, and baby quilts. If she’d had a Pinterest account, she would have had many followers.

Her clothes are well-made and elegant.

Mother was a domestic engineer. She made most of the clothes my sister and I wore until we graduated from high school. She tediously stitched together numerous outfits for our Barbie dolls.

For my first high school dance, I begged Mother for a store-bought dress. At the time, I did not appreciate her skill or her sacrifice. My mother gave in to my pleas, and we found a dress from J. C. Penney. I wore the dress, but I came to realize it did not hold a special place in my heart. The following year I requested one of her hand-made creations, a beautiful royal blue velvet gown with silk sleeves, a gown which I cherished because it was made with love.

She always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks, she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.

Mother was a strict disciplinarian. She spoke softly and carried a peach tree limb, but she never failed to explain why she needed to use the rod and not spoil the child.

“This is going to hurt me more than it will you,” I believe she said on several occasions.

Mother led by example, and she made sacrifices for her family.

mommy reading

My mother read stories to me when I was young and instilled in me a love for language. I can still hear her voice imitating a poet or a character. We didn’t own a storehouse of books when I was a child, but Mother read to us from her old high school textbooks. She especially loved Eugene Field’s classic poem “Little Boy Blue.”

“Now, don’t you go till I come,” he said,
“And don’t you make any noise!”
So toddling off to his trundle-bed
He dreamt of the pretty toys.

 I never understood the sadness of this poem until I became an adult, but Mother made it special because of her empathy for the characters.

mother cat and kitten

My mother was also a great listener. When I struggled as a young teacher, she quietly allowed me to share my frustrations of the day and then gave me sage advice.

i love my mommy book

Like all the mothers in Laurel Porter-Gaylord’s beautiful board book I Love My Mommy Because, my mother gave me many reasons to love her and honor her and call her a virtuous woman.

My mother suffered the emotional pain of the unexpected and untimely death of my father, and she suffered the physical pain of treatments for breast cancer and a brain tumor. All the while, she never complained.

This May, if you’ve been distanced from those you hold close, remember that you are loved. Whether you are a mother of one or a mother of none, whether the world compares you to Mother Teresa, Mother Goose, or June Cleaver, know that someone appreciates you. While many of you are juggling traditional and not-so-traditional roles of mothers, teachers, caregivers, and other strong women, I salute you for your virtues.

This is my tribute to Gean McCullough, my own mother, and to all the other virtuous women. The world has been a better place because she and you have been a part of it.

Mother 2

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent.—Lord Byron

“The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlid here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter.” –Louisa May Alcott
“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, for hers is where yours begins.” –Mitch Albom

Philippians 2:2-4; Proverbs 19:14; Proverbs 31:10-31

*Proverbs 31 verses are taken from The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language.






All Creatures, Praise God!

doxology crossThese days I have been singing “The Doxology” as I wash my hands.

I understand others may be singing “Happy Birthday” as they follow the current guidelines for cleanliness. However,  I prefer “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow,” the common doxology. I have been singing this song every week of my life for as long as I can remember. My family sometimes also sings it as a blessing before meals.

Doing this several times a day now is an awesome way to praise God!

I have also taken the time in the last few weeks to become more in tune with nature. On my daily walks I have heard the birds sing more loudly than ever. I have seen rocks and roots and roses that I never seemed to have noticed before. This unusual spring is allowing us all the opportunity to realign our focus.

This Easter we may not be able to raise our voices in praise as a congregation, but we can praise the risen Lord. As “The Doxology” instructs, we can show appreciation for our blessings. From a distance of six feet apart, all of us creatures on earth can praise His name wherever we are.


Like all the characters in Jill Roman Lord’s board book The Quiet Crazy Easter Day, every duck, every butterfly, every fish, every frog joins in to praise the King of Kings and celebrate His resurrection. The disciples shout while the peacock shows out! Locusts provide percussion as all God’s creatures join together in song.

peacock easter book image

In her interview on The Bible for Kids podcast, Jill Roman Lord describes her inspiration for this Easter celebration story. Based on several passages in Psalms, this book encourages young children to pray and praise and celebrate Christ. (You can listen to her full interview at https://waynation.com/podcast/jill-roman-lord-the-quiet-crazy-easter-day/.)

Another author celebrates the resurrection of life in a more symbolic way. In the story of “Gareth and Lynette,” one of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, a young man takes on a pilgrimage (much like John Bunyan’s famous Christian) to prove himself worthy of becoming a knight. The road he travels is narrow and difficult. However, when he finally faces the “Death” knight, he discovers new life.

Arthur and Christ

At the end of Gareth’s journey, Tennyson says, (like the characters in The Quiet Crazy Easter Day),  “Everyone, with dance and revel and song, made merry over Death.”

And then the sun rose! AND THE SON ROSE!

This April let’s celebrate spring and this special Easter season with a renewed sense of hope. Let us go out in joy and be led forth in peace. With the mountains and the hills, let us burst into song. With the trees of the field, let us clap our hands (from Isaiah 55:12).

Alone or together we can give God the glory!

Let “The Doxology” be your song of the day, and take a moment to quietly reflect upon your blessings as you listen to this instrumental version.

“All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice with us and sing, Alleluia, Alleluia.” –St. Francis of Assisi

1 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:9; Psalm 66:4

Homeschooling Help

comma poster

Blanche DuBois, a character in Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire, is most famous for her line, “All my life I have depended upon the kindness of strangers.”

Yes, the worst of times can often bring out the best in humanity.

During this time of isolation, I would like to share some kindness in the form of comma exercises for those of you who may be struggling with homeschooling your kids. When a friend asked me for help with her son’s essay, I decided that others might need some help as well.


Below you will find printable PDF files for comma rules and comma worksheets for elementary, middle school, and high school students.

Since the comma is the most misused mark of punctuation, I think students should know why they are used. According to Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition, the last and most important rule, not to use unnecessary commas, requires knowledge of why they are necessary.

In the file labeled “Comma Rules,” you will find fifteen rules with examples. For the parent who hasn’t studied grammar in perhaps fifteen to twenty years, I have also included explanations of terms such as participial phrases, adverb clauses, etc.

Comma Rules

In addition to the rules, you will find a worksheet for three different grade levels.

In the My Weird School worksheet, your elementary child can identify comma uses while learning more about Dan Gutman and his awesome books. I have also provided an answer key if you need help. My nieces and nephew love A.J. and his weird school antics!

Elementary pdf Comma Exercises

Elementary pdf Comma Exercises answer key

In The Hobbit worksheet, your middle school child can learn about Tolkien and his world of Middle Earth. I would encourage you to watch The Hobbit movies if you haven’t already seen them.

MiddleSchool pdf Comma Exercises


Finally, the high school worksheet contains information about Shakespeare and his three famous plays Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth. I encourage you to engage in conversation with your child about his or her knowledge of this great playwright.

High School Comma Exercises

High School Comma Exercises AnsKey

I think my students enjoyed their quests to be “Comma Conquerors” and “Knights of Commalot” when we were studying literature with a good vs. evil theme. However, they  tackled these comma rules after several months of studying the underlying principles of grammar.

With that in mind, don’t be too concerned as a parent if your child doesn’t fully understand “two independent clauses with a conjunction” or a “nonessential adjective clause.” Take time not only to analyze the comma usage but also to learn about these authors and their literary works. Look up unfamiliar words, find places on Google Earth, or try to write a sonnet together. Just make a connection, and be kind with one another.

If you have any questions, feel free to follow this blog by entering your email address. You will then see a comments section where you can address your concerns. I will do my best to respond.

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination; and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” –Aesop

Psalm 31:21; Proverbs 31:26



Spring 2020 Newsletter


Dear Reader:

Welcome to March 15, 2020, and my spring newsletter!

Today marks an important day in the world of Shakespeare enthusiasts. Those who have studied Shakespeare’s plays may recall a soothsayer’s advice to Caesar to beware this day. Alas, Caesar should have heeded this warning, but we need not fret. March 15 marks another day closer to the official beginning of spring and a reminder that hope abounds! (Romans 15:13)

In this newsletter I want to show my appreciation for your following. Because I collect bookmarks and I often find profound ideas in the books I’m reading, I have created a page of poetic printables for your enjoyment!

idea image

If you click on the link below, you will find a page of colorful bookmarks containing some of Shakespeare’s memorable lines. These may be printed in color on card stock and used to mark your page in that awesome book you are reading.

Shakespeare bookmarks

When I was teaching full time, I always celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday (on or around April 23) by making advice cupcakes (as opposed to Chinese fortune cookies) for my students. Inside the cupcakes I placed laminated quotes advising my students to be true to themselves or to “love all, trust a few, and do wrong to none,” etc.

These bookmarks can be a new way to carry on that tradition. Please celebrate the coming of spring with me, and enjoy a good book and some of Shakespeare’s sage advice!

As I write this newsletter, people around the globe are concerned about the threat of a potentially deadly virus, an economic crisis, war, uncertainty, and many other issues. However, Shakespeare reminds us that “present fears are less than horrible imaginings.”

I wish you all peace and hope, and I leave you with the words of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Lovingly yours,

The Literary Lyonesse

Song of Solomon 2:11-12; Job 29:23; Matthew 6:28-29


Seeds and Signs of Hope

seed imageMarch is a month of hope. Some people focus on madness, but I am looking for signs of hope.

I planted iris and tulip bulbs in late fall, and I believe my yard will burst with color soon. The signs of hope are already there.

Last week one of the students in my youth Bible study appeared to be napping and not listening to the lesson. This week that same student quoted verbatim the theme of the lesson. Some seeds must have fallen on fertile soil. I took it as a hopeful sign.

I recently received a message from a former English student who told me she had been reading Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare to her young children. Her six-year-old son was especially enjoying King Lear!

“I wanted you to know,” she said, “that you planted a seed.” What a wonderful legacy and harvest! Yes, the signs of hope are there.

In Glenys Nellist’s book Little Mole Finds Hope (illustrated by Sally Garland), a young mole sees only the darkness surrounding his burrow. When his mother sees his sadness, she tells him, “Hope is hiding in the darkness. Sometimes it’s hard to see. But it’s always there.”

little mole 1

Little Mole’s mama shows him a beautiful daffodil that has pushed its way out of the dark earth. She helps him envision the bright green leaves of the newly budding trees. She also shows him a chrysalis that will soon break open to release a beautiful butterfly.

little mole 2

When Little Mole takes his focus off the darkness, he finds hope. The signs are there; he just needs to look for them. In the end, Little Mole says, “Now I know that there’s always hope, even in the darkest places.”

When we take our focus off the darkness, we, too, can find hope.

I can relate to Little Mole’s feelings of sadness. It’s been a long fall and winter, but I have the assurance that spring is fast approaching.

The seeds of hope are getting ready to sprout. I believe they’ve been taking root and will soon burst into bloom. I know my garden will grow. Hebrews 11:1 reminds me that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.”

Miraculous things are happening all around us. Cardinals flock to our feeders, tufts of green grass grow here and there, and daylight lasts longer than the day before.


We can trust God to do something special with the seeds we have planted, and He will give us signs that those seeds have taken root.

So try planting some seeds of hope today. Leave a legacy. Focus on the light, not the dark. Look for the good, not the bad. Imagine the possibilities!

If you are down and weary and troubled, allow the One Who Gives Hope to raise you up above the darkness. Allow Him to show you the beauty above the baseness.

Take a moment to bask in that beauty as you listen to the song “You Raise Me Up” by Brendan Graham (performed by Josh Groban).

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” —Romans 15:13

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair.” –J. R. R. Tolkien

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”–Emily Dickinson

Psalm 130:5; Ecclesiastes 11; John 1:5; Galatians 6:7


How Do You Say It?

littlegoldenbookHow do you say, “I love you”?

Alison Krauss sings, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning famously counts the ways she loved her husband Robert.

Shakespeare believes “love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.”

When Piglet asks Winnie the Pooh how to spell love, Pooh answers, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.”

In the Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow, lions say it “with a purr and a cuddle,” and wolves say it “with a howl and a huddle.”

lion cuddle

All of God’s creatures have the ability to express love in many ways.

According to Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages, we can express our love through words of affirmation, acts of service, gift giving, quality time, and physical touch.

love is kind image

Little Owl, a character in Laura Sassi’s book Love Is Kind, speaks all five of these languages when he sets out to buy his grandmother something special for her birthday. He gives words of affirmation to Beaver, provides a service for Mrs. Mouse, graciously accepts a gift from Rabbit, and spends quality time with Grammy. In the end Grammy holds Little Owl in her lap and thanks him for spreading love to everyone he has met.


He has put the needs of others before his own.

“And that is the best gift of all,” said Grammy.

The book of Matthew tells us that love should be the biggest priority in our lives.

In Chapter 22, verses 37-38, Christ says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Our society needs to hear and heed these words today.

The song “Written in Red,” penned by Gordon Jensen in 1984, speaks to the ultimate love, the agape love, revealed by Christ when he gave His life for all of us.

Written in Red

In letters of crimson, God wrote His love on the hillside so long, long ago; for you and for me Jesus died, and love’s greatest story was told. I love you, I love you. That’s what Calvary said. I love you, I love you, I love you, written in red. Down through the ages, God wrote His love with the same hands that suffered and bled, giving all that He had to give, a message so easily read. I love you, I love you. That’s what Calvary said. I love you, I love you, I love you.

(Click on the link below, and allow this song, performed by the Gaither Vocal Band, to speak to your heart.)


There has been no greater love than this. (John 15:13-17)

Tell someone you love them today. Words are not required.

Say it with patience. Say it with kindness. Say it with forgiveness. Say it without envy.

Commend someone for a job well done. Hug your spouse or your child. Graciously give of your time and energy.

Let’s not just say it. Let’s live it.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love, no, not just for some, but for everyone.”

(Hal David/Burt Bacharach ©1965)

1 Corinthians 13:4-5; 1 Corinthians 16:14; Proverbs 3:3-4



Going out and Coming in


I recently spent some quality time on the beach in Florida. While watching the waves roll in and out, I reflected on the purpose of the ocean tide. Not being a science guru, I didn’t fully understand the “ins and outs,” but I was awed by the magnitude of what lay before me.

I sought a simple explanation. According to almanac.com, “The regular rise and fall of the ocean’s waters are known as tides. It is high tide when water covers much of the shore by rising to its highest level. It is low tide when water falls to its lowest level and recedes from the shore. The highs and lows are caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of Earth.

This explanation attests to the symmetry and wonder of God’s creation.

“You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them.”Psalm 89:9

As I watched the water recede, I thought of the falling away of an old year, one that for some may have been marked by pain, suffering, and heartache. When the waves reversed and the water reached toward my toes, I thought of the coming opportunities of a new year, one that may be filled with hope, joy, and blessings.

In Act IV, Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus advises his soldiers to take advantage of opportunity. He uses the tide as an analogy:

There is a tide in the affairs of men, 
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. 
Omitted, all the voyage of their life 
Is bound in shallows and in miseries. 
On such a full sea are we now afloat, 
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

 As this new year begins, all of us have the choice to “seize the day,” to act and move forward, or we can choose to sit back and watch the tide roll away. As we begin the voyage into 2020, let us focus on the full sea of opportunity that surrounds us.

In Pat Miller’s children’s story Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, the main character’s friends advise him to find an opportunity to “make a fresh start.” With the help of the other animals in the forest, Squirrel learns he has the gift of encouraging others, and he resolves to help someone every day.

squirrelbkLike Squirrel, all of us have many opportunities every day to make a positive difference in the world. Like the going out and coming in of the ocean waves, we also have the choice to let go of the old and embrace the new. I encourage you to “take the current when it serves.” When the tide starts rolling in and the opportunity presents itself, think about what you can do to help others.

Happy 2020!

Psalm 96:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; John 13:34-35; Jeremiah 29:11

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.” --Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes 
in it yet?”--L. M. Montgomery






The Greatest Story Ever Told


Many members of the #writingcommunity have been asking people to share their favorite Christmas story. Responses have included everything from Clement Clarke Moore’s classic story to movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life.

I love all the classic books and movies, but the greatest story ever told is written in the second chapter of the book of Luke.

My father traditionally read this story aloud to our family on Christmas Eve. After his death I took over the tradition by reading it aloud to my young nephews. After they were grown and had children of their own, my sister began a new tradition with this story.

Using one of her many nativity scenes, my sister encouraged her grandchildren to bring the story to life as they added the characters to the scene.


The greatest story set in a stable
Is a tale that’s real and not a fable.
The setting is humble; its characters are true.
A baby is born to save me and you.

I’m thankful this story has been such an important part of my life. I cannot imagine a world without it. This Christmas I pray you will hear the angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

I hope you find the time this season to read the second chapter of Luke. Ponder these things in your heart as Mary did when she received the angel’s visit. Make this story the most important story in your life.

Luke 2

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”–Charles Dickens