The Child Door

I think it is time I introduced my beloved George MacDonald. Perhaps some of you might be familiar with his children’s literature. I began reading him as a child and have never let up.

MacDonald was born in Scotland in 1824, became a minister, and because of his honesty with his parishioners about what it really means to follow the teachings of Jesus, he was slowly forced out of his parish. Offered a lower and lower salary, as his wife produced more and more offspring, MacDonald was finally forced to retire. I say, thank God for this because it gave him the time and inclination to write. This he did with a fury for the rest of his life, piling up forty novels, many fairy tales, several children’s books and reams of poetry.

My first introduction to him was a book written for children called The Princess and the Goblin, the first of two books about Curdie, the son of a coal miner, who helps to rid his kingdom of goblins. The book is very beautifully written, and captured my heart.

There is a metaphor for God in the book, a mystical grandmother of sorts, which illuminates the ways in which God might work in our lives. I have read the book many times since a child, and memorably revisited it when I went through a particularly painful failure (or so I viewed it) of one of my plays in New York, when I was in my early thirties. Grateful to have my good friend by my side, I was much comforted, and learned to see the experience as instructive, a gift rather than a beating.

I’ve read this book so many times before and since this experience that it has taken up permanent residence on my bedside table.

There is a door, I believe, in each of us, that I will call The Child Door. It’s through this door that the simplest, purest philosophical thought will sometimes enter. This is the door that allows us to welcome truth without the weight of dogma, to begin to remember what we might have known before we came into this life. I hope to write a piece for Listen Well about the wisdom of keeping this door ajar, or if somehow it has been allowed to shut, to attempt to pry it open.

I would recommend, if you wish to invite these simple truths into your life, that you consider reading George MacDonald. You might begin with The Princess and the Goblin, and continue on to his collection of Fairy tales.

Happy reading,



Shout out to my agnostic peeps

Ok, so a Christian a Muslim and an atheist walk into a restaurant. One of them gives the waiter all sorts of hell, complains about his table, sends his food back, twice, and refuses to leave a tip. Do we care what the man’s theology is?

I would like to give a shout out to my atheist and agnostic peeps. I have known plenty of people who deny, or are unsure of the existence of a spiritual world, but whose daily practice of loving-kindness would astound. If I understand the basic teachings of Jesus correctly, anyone who treats his neighbor as he would hope to be treated is a practicing Christian. And, we are all just practicing our creeds, our philosophies. I would rather see the teachings of Jesus acted out in service than in lip service.

I am heaps more uncomfortable with the fundamentalist than the atheist, though it is possible to be a fundamentalist atheist, and these can be pretty frightening. Any philosophy can be twisted by a rabid mind.

I will not always recommend books whose authors wear their religion on their sleeve. There are some books that are written with such a loving pen, such generosity toward their characters, that I consider these books to be transcendent. I will try and recommend books that have taken me to a place where my mind has been lifted into the finer atmosphere of love.

One such book is The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer. The book is a memoir of the author’s upbringing on Long Island, raised by a single mother and the kindly regulars of local watering hole. “Everyone has a holy place, a refuge, where their heart is purer, their mind clearer, where they feel close to God or love or truth or whatever it is they happen to worship,” writes Moehringer, of the bar where his uncle bartended, and where he found a group of fathering souls.

I fell in love with this book. I hope you will too.


The Land of Narnia

You might have noticed that the Listen Well site has undergone a shmancy new upgrade. At some point during discussions with my web designer it was suggested that I might wish to write a small blog.

“But, the spoken word pieces serve as a blog!” (or a blab, as I like to call it),  “Wouldn’t this be redundant?”

But then it occurred to me that I might use the space to do what I like most to do to my friends: nag them into reading the latest book that I have fallen in love with.

Continue reading The Land of Narnia