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It was happening again—outside my study window.

Like hard hats, nubs tipped the branches of my old lilac bush, caught up in the play of trickster winds. Over the winter months, the nubs appeared dormant, as if pondering their eventual burgeoning. Overcast skies, drenching rains, and bone-chilling temperatures imprisoned them in darkness.

But not so this morning—There was a change: the swollen nubs were splitting apart; beneath the shriveled skins glimmered a new green, and with more growth still to come, regal purple blossoms to delight the senses.

It seems that many life forms originate within buds. Once their protective function is served, they split apart and wither. For a time, greening plants, shrubs, and trees flourish, then begin to lose color, fade, then produce buds for the next season. The same holds true for the offspring of humans and animals.

In a related sense, I believe that the aging body also functions like a bud. When life’s energies and responsibilities begin to wane, the spirit seeks an increasing solitude within the womblike darkness of the body: therein, to remember, to pray, to forgive, to give thanks, and to embrace the Unknown.

This continues to be my experience—as I await my transition, whenever, however…





Loose soils engorge spidery bulbs beneath wintry graves.

Hesitant greens wiggle and meander among mulched beds.

March rains drench tentative shoots like children forgetting their lines.


Weeks pass.


Spiked blades pattern gardens like players on chessboards.

Hard nubs stretch like infants flailing rubbery limbs.

Flickers of pink balloon and soften the petals.

Within such freshness glistens Creator God, the Master Colorist.


The same Colorist also brings forth spring shows within us, if we wish.


We give thanks!


It was time. Latecomers filled the remaining empty seats. The buzz deepened. Suddenly, hilarity turned heads. It was John O’Leary, lean and wiry, his eight-year-old-son, Patrick, under his arm, moving toward the speaker’s table. Anticipation mounted, the introduction made, the book signing at Barnes & Noble began, and with it, the firestorm that subdued the audience.

John’s words, scored with lightness and spontaneity, witnessed to another way of living culled from his having been salted with excruciating pain as a child.

In January 1987, his body became the crucible for a gasoline fire that burned one hundred percent of his body. Five months of treatments, multiple skin grafts, and amputations in St. John’s Mercy Hospital followed. As he scrambled away from the brink of death, his spirit flourished; it was fanned by supportive parents, siblings, medical/nursing staff, peers, and by Jack Buck, sportscaster for the St. Louis Cardinals. Promises of prayer from around the world poured in, including ones from Pope John Paul II and President Reagan.

Not only did that fire burn John’s flesh when a child, it also purified his spirit and refined his story; its lessons challenged the charred places in our psyches. Within the fiery love of God, change happens. We experienced this in John, His firebrand.

Should you or someone you know be stuck in life, do recommend On Fire – the 7 choices to ignite a radically inspired life (2016). A best seller on Amazon, it is also available at Barnes & Noble.



Available on Amazon

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