Philip Gulley began writing essays for the members of his Quaker meeting in Indiana and wound up reading them on air to 24 million people who listened to Paul Harvey Jr.'s radio show. Since then he has written 14 books including Porch Talk. This collection of stories, published in 2001, are organized around the nine Christian virtues mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These character qualities can be found in people of all walks of life and in everyday events. Gulley has a special knack for doing just that.
The author tutors us in the art of kindness with stories about a cantankerous member of his Quaker meeting, a woman who's not interested in being nice but who is trying to do good, and a fellow minister who is always trying out new approaches in his church. Gulley points out how difficult it is to be patient:
"Impatience is epidemic. We order clothes from a catalog and pay five dollars extra to get them a day sooner. We expect children to walk at our pace, not theirs. And yellow means 'speed up' instead of 'slow down.' "
Equally difficult is learning how to let go of ideas we have grown too attached to:
"My slogan-truths, my mini-truths, and my shadows of truth have had to make room for other pieces and variations of truth. This causes me great pain. Letting go of past 'truth' is like watching your children leave home for good. You know they must depart, but their leaving brings tears."
Gulley excels when he probes the meaning of gentleness and joy. Of the latter he notes:
"It isn't that God withholds it; joy is always looking to climb into our laps. It's just that joy needs silence and this seldom settles into the lap of a noisy person. It's only when we stop talking long enough to whisper grace that joy has a way of rubbing against us, curling in our lap, making its presence known."