Shutting Down...

You probably noticed a different look here, like somebody was messing about with things, moving boxes outside, setting them on the porch and stuff. That's me. I've decided to shut down the Dirty Shame...its time. I wrote a few words on Facebook the other day about doing something surprising, maybe even startling. Well, this is my something.

The good news is that I'm moving across town, so to speak, and I'll now be blogging at I hope you'll continue checking in from time and time and pondering the cockeyed thoughts of yours truly. And please know that any comment you leave, even if its a one-worder, is appreciated more than you'll ever know.

It'll be the same batman, just different bat channel - make sense? Well, shucks, this is harder than I thought...I'm about to cry. I guess its best to just ride off. So from here, adios. Hope to see you on the other side...over at the beautiful.


Smack Dab...

This one releases in September from Thomas Nelson, a full-color children's book by Brennan Manning and me. Nicole's illustrations are beautiful. I really think you'll like this one. Its a good story to read to a child, or to read to the child within. Again, I'll share more as time grows closer...its available for pre-order from all the usual suspects. 

All Is Grace...

Sometimes a writer finds himself a part of something much larger than a book...he looks up and wonders 'what kind of story have I fallen into?' Such was my experience working with Brennan Manning on his new book. It releases this October from David C. Cook Publishers. You can pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, et al.  As time grows closer, I'll share a little more, do what I can...but for now the cover and title - All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir - are sufficient. 

The Saturday That Was...

'I don't know where we went wrong other than that we obviously don't understand the Scriptures in the way that we should.'
- Tom Evans, board member of Family Radio

Maybe - its one of the most beautiful words in our language. Its a word that keeps us just a little off balance and possibly just a little humble, if we'll let it. Was Harold Camping wrong about May 21st? Well, maybe...I thought about this yesterday because I kept seeing/hearing/reading jeers. My opinion is even the faithful who said 'no one knoweth the day, Harold' still said it with a grin of 'see, I told you so.' Its fairly easy for the right hand to feign concern for those folks who gave up their life savings, while at the same time the left waves them away as 'moe-rons.' Most of how we feel, one way or the other, about Saturday hinges on a literalism; it didn't happen in the literal way we think it will or thought it would. But what if (three more beautiful words) something happened just a little less trumpet-blasting-sky-splitting-wish-we'd-all-been-ready style?

I'm not a theologian nor do I play one on tv, but I wonder if maybe seeds were planted on Saturday that will take time to bud? Sure, God could just start beaming believers up to the Spirit in the sky...or God could drop a seed of discontent in the mind of a man or woman or child, a seed that would sprout a root of bitterness for the jeering ways of this world, a root that would wrap itself 'round that man or woman or child's thoughts to the extent they would live in this world but not of it. Is that the rapture as we and Harold and co. see it? I doubt it. That's not very literal. That sounds all quiet and hidden and subversive, like the sorta thing God might do...maybe.

Sure, God could line us up, one by no-one-righteous-one, flash the story of our lives on a jumbotron for all the world to see, then finger the lines in an oversized Book of Life to see if our name's written down...or maybe God could ordain a day, any day I guess, maybe even a day like May 21st, as the end-of-tarrying, and allow us to judge other words, its within God's parameters to let the way we faithed, hoped, and loved on Saturday to be our best shot. Am I saying we oughta live every day like its our last? Well, I prefer to encourage living every day like its your first, but yes, that is the gist. If we were judged by how Saturday went, how'd we do? Was spending the day online holier than standing on a hillside with suitcase in hand? That gets a little fuzzy for me.

But isn't there then a sentencing after the judgement, where we're all revealed as either sheep or goats? What if Saturday was judgement day and now we're living out our sentencing here on earth...that God's letting us feed in the green pastures a little longer or butt our horns against the gate a few more days. Then again, it may one day be revealed we're neither sheep nor goats but pigs and God decided to let us wallow in it. Not a very literal judgement, huh? But something along those lines could happen...maybe.

The dearth of imagination in our collective faith never ceases to amaze does the short leash of mercy we extend one to another. Oink.

More Is More

The yellow box clearly states
'At Triscuit, we believe less is more.'
If that's true, then how did I
consume all the quattro formaggios in one sitting?
Ah, I see, as the box clearly states -
what's inside is 'a kind of cashmere of wheat.'
Now I've felt cashmere before
and by god it made me blush
because it felt like tracing
the clavicle of a doe-eyed angel
from neck to wing
and back again.

From now on any questions of nationality
I will answer with one word - Nabiscoan.
I'm choosing to adopt this race of alchemists
as my genesis for they didn't just
'weave some goodness' -
no, they've harvested desire.


I sat in the second row this morning as my son, my first-born, my strength, was confirmed in the Lutheran tradition. I had mixed feelings about the whole thing, not that there was anything wrong with it, but that I didn't know how it fit in our lives and as such, how it might fit in his. You see, we're spiritual mutts. I grew up Southern Baptist and my girlfriend grew up Catholic. We married and I was a Southern Baptist pastor for over ten years, a decade into which our three children graced this earth. Then we moved to Colorado as part of a non-denominational church, a painful experience lasting a year to the day, after which we were strangely comforted by an Anglican church a decent commute away and I was shortly thereafter confirmed as an Anglican (nobody else in the family, just me). Then, in an attempt to be 'local' in all things, especially when our kids began middle school years, we joined a Lutheran church in our town and have been found there for over two years now, years in which our son and oldest daughter began the confirmation journey. Our thinking was when in Luth do as the Lutherans.

Maybe you can see why I was slightly conflicted. I didn't want to overstate this day - we're not dyed-in-the-tuna-hot-dish Lutherans, so being confirmed wasn't this epic life-stage where all the folks from Wobegon drove the same time, I didn't want to underplay the importance of faith steps my beloved son is taking in his one wild and precious life. I've also been conflicted because of shame, my own...I am a rover in the faith, a gypsy heart chasing the God of dusk...but I've so wanted to be constant, steadfast like my beautiful father, but the truth is I am not. I have and continue to pray that my prone-to-wander-ways will not be held against the son and daughters I cherish, but sometimes I get scared they'll one day resent being mutts...or maybe being my mutt.

Alright, hang on. Jesus spoke to me this morning while I was eating GrapeNut flakes and drinking coffee. He hijacked the first part of a verse I memorized as a boy - 'Do not be ashamed of the gospel.' That's all he said...and like grace always is, that was sufficient. Now I'm well-acquainted with the gospel of Christ, the power of God unto salvation, no problem...but the breakfast epiphany prompted questions like what about my gospel, the gospel of John, the story of my life and my vagabondish days as ordered by an infinitely tender hand? Jesus answered 'don't be ashamed of your life, John.' He who hath ears let him hear.

So I sat in the second row this morning a man with his nose rubbed once again in the grapenuts of grace. And I trembled when my grown-tall-boy knelt at the altar surrounded by parents and priests and his life was further sewn one-thread deeper into the fabric of God, that vast blanket in which I too am hemmed, as is my father. I had planned to pray many things over him in that spot of time, but there was only this: 'Please God, may he not be ashamed of his life. He is my only son, and I love him so.'

And so we mutt on...confirmed but not crushed, roving but not unto despair...debtors to a grace unashamed.


Just Before Dark

I strain for a lunar arrogance.
- Jim Harrison

Many an evening, just before dark, I stand on our back-stoop and pray. By pray I mean looking, listening, smelling, feeling. It is a practice of coming to my senses, a return to that often lost in the strum and drang of the day. It is, I believe, communion.

Just last evening the May chill took my breath away more than once. I rolled down my sleeves and snapped my cuffs, for I am not a portly man. I closed my eyes as the coal train clattered by, that iron-linked-sausage bringing warmth to late spring nights. I recently read a man's thoughts about trains being confining and single-destinationed. He felt compelled to make trains a spiritual metaphor and found them wanting. Praying on my stoop, just before dark, saves me from such nincompoopery.

The wind whipped 'round and my nose burned with the fresh dung dropped by the dog who lives with us. The house catty-corner to us is empty with a hint of the burlesque. All the shades are hiked up like skirts revealing two stories of empty, all a tease. But houses aren't metaphors. They need people in them, and maybe dogs too.

The clouds to the north resembled my mother's mashed potatoes, lumpy and lush. The sun's swan-song was ladling salmon-blood gravy over them, a combination that made me feel like a boy and miss home. How quickly my childhood stirs. From my stooped-vantage point the single crow appeared to be birthed right out of the train car, an ashen phoenix rising black as coal. All this sensed against a denim sky.

Then my daughter's voice - Dad, aren't you cold? 

I said yes, a variation of amen, then stepped back over the threshold into a kitchen warmed by love and coal.