For decades outside my study window, the summer’s sun has enlivened the juniper bush in my back yard. Its greenery laced with bluish berries affords sanctuary to sparrows; its shade, to mounds of ivy and Vinca. However alarm seized me noting hundreds of thatch-like cylinders hanging beneath the boughs, gentled by breezes. A closer inspection revealed bag-worms, if not removed, would endanger the shrub by next spring.

Collecting my shears and a plastic bag, I set to work, holding my breath, warily clipping the nasties from their host branches–one, two, three–a tedious process; then another ten. My bag was filling. Yet the pace was too slow. Heartened by the progress I was making, I pocketed the shears and began tearing off handfuls, at the same time taking satisfaction in the clean branches around me. Submerging the bag-worms in a hot soapy solution was the next step.

Later this experience gave me pause. When I am not vigilant, my character defects, like the bag-worms on my juniper, glob onto to my perceptions and judgments and take me far afield. If not corrected, even deeper harm results within me and to those around me. Fortunately, I’ve learned what to do, but it is a never-ending process.

With the Psalmist, I cry out, “Create in me, O God, a clean heart!”