Sunday morning comin' down. I promised myself that today would be a Sabbath. Really. Last week, I worked all day Sunday; writing, mowing. Started the week on Monday so damn tired I could hardly make it. Lived most of the week half-assed. And I believe it was all because I didn't rest on Sunday. I've tried to do Sabbaths on other weekdays, back when I was a pastor. But there's something about Sunday that I believe is special; it's intended to be the day of rest - Tuesdays just aren't the same.

So I'm going to rest today. I'm going in to church for awhile, reconnect with folks and God. Communion is very significant to me these days; I try not to miss it. The sermon might be mediocre, but I can dream while he's preaching. This afternoon? Well, maybe a little writing, just because I'm so far behind in a project, but I won't sit all afternoon long, looking at a screen, while my heart grows weary. I won't. I can't. Maybe I can take a nap this afternoon. Napping - what a forgotten art. One of my most favorite men in the world takes a nap every day after lunch - every day. He's one of the most productive souls on the planet. People know not to bother him between 12:30 and 1pm; he's napping. Sabbathing, I guess; even on Tuesdays.

The line from the movie I watched (half-watched) last night was, "Life in every breath." That's how I want to live today, savoring life in everything from my cup of coffee (I'm on number two now) to the lean-in to take communion wine to the roughhousing with my kids this afternoon to the holding of hands around the dinner table while we say grace to the now I lay me down to sleep at day's end. Life in every breath. Hard? Goodness, yes. Worth it? Goodness, yes. I think I'll go read the paper before showering up for the day. See what's going on in the world, see if somebody, somewhere out there is savoring life in every breath. Maybe there's one. Just one. I think Abraham Heschel, or however you spell his last name, said something about the Sabbath being a sanctuary in time. He's the guy who wrote the book on why bad things happen to good people. Maybe it's because they don't Sabbath; they don't rest enough. Maybe these good people, like me, wind up starting many Mondays half-assed and the fraction goes down as the week goes on. By Friday, we're one-eighth-assed; can't do much good with that, huh? We just keep dipping from the well, assured it will never run dry. But it does. Sabbaths are days to get your ass filled back up or your heart or your soul or maybe I'm talking about the same thing, just different names. It's a safe place to get your fraction back up to 1 again; a "whole" number. That's what I want today - to be filled back up, made whole, or at least get close to 3/4 or 7/8 or something. Taking life in every breath is probably the way to fill back up. If you took it in every breath, why hell, you might go beyond 1 - you might start a Monday with 1 and 4/5 or 2 and 1/3. That'd be starting your week out at a trot. Yes, I'm going to Sabbath today. Don't call me; I'm not going to answer the phone. And if you see me breathing funny, it's because I'm trying to take in life, in every breath, in every step. Live fully alive. Forgive me, Father, for breaking the commandment to keep the Sabbath. You knew I needed it.

To Church or Not To Church

These are tense days for me in regard to the church. I was given two books recently that describe this tension; their titles do, at least. The first is Loving the Church by Larry McKain. The second is Leaving the Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. Larry is a Nazarene pastor, now involved in helping people, well, love the church via a non-profit focused on pastors, churches, denominations, etc. Barbara was an Episcopal priest who finally said, "Enough" and now lives on a farm in Georgia and teaches at a nearby college. Larry's book was given to me because I've been contracted to write weekly devotional thoughts based on his book for his non-prof's website. Barbara's was given to me by a trusted friend who knows that I'm struggling with the thought of pursuing ordination in the Anglican church; in other words, getting back on the horse in a certain kind of pasture. I dismounted a few years ago...but that's another blog.

Larry's premise is based on the scriptural exchange between the Lord and Saul on the exit ramp to Damascus. Saul is asked why he's persecuting the Lord. And we know that Saul was persecuting the church at that time. So the connection between the two is made: Lord = church. Therefore, to love the Lord is to love the church. Problem: the earthly church is full of idiots and power-mongers and folks who spend way too much time reading the book of Revelation. Larry's response: Don't say you love the Lord and not try, at least, to love the church. That's the only hope we have. The church will always be a goofy place, but that's who Christ died to save. Don't say you love God, whom you have not seen, and not love the church, whom you can see. Fair enough and scriptural.

Barbara's experience is based on years of pastoring, preaching and counseling. Some would dismiss her immediately because she's a she and "women are not to be pastoring anyway," they'd dismiss. That's unfortunate, because doing so would cause you to miss a very moving and human document, full of genuine love for the church; but alas, finally having to leave a certain definition of the church. Here's two of many "keeper" quotes:
"I wanted out of the belief business and back into the beholding business. I wanted to recover the kind of faith that has nothing to do with being sure what I believe and everything to do with trusting God to catch me though I am not sure of anything."

"What if people were invited to come tell what they already know of God instead of to learn what they were supposed to believe? What if they were blessed for what they are doing in the world instead of being chastened for not doing more at church? What if church felt more like a way station than a destination? What if the church's job were to move people out the door instead of trying to keep them in, by convincing them that God needed them more in the world than in the church?"

I read Larry's. I resonated with Barbara's. But is there a middle here, some kind of loving the church without leaving the church scenario? Or is it either/or? I've heard Larry's viewpoint before; what some would think groundbreaking has been around for years. I've read Barbara's heart before; in fact, I could probably have written most of her book. But I don't want to vote too quickly. Two books given to me with two different perspectives, both focused on one word - CHURCH. And I feel that's where the rub is: How do you define church? Stayed tuned for the next episode, same blog page, same web address.

All In A Song

Twenty-fifth day of the month, morning reading, "LIFE" section sidebar of the Denver Post:

TOP TUNES - Here are top song downloads last week (
1. Promiscuous, Nelly Furtado and Timbaland
2. Crazy, Gnarls Barkley
3. Hips Don't Lie, Shakira with Wyclef Jean
4. Ain't No Other Man, Christina Aguilera

Twenty-fifth day of the month, morning reading, The Book of Common Prayer:
"Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger." Ps.119.54

The core of Psalm 119 is LIFE - life that comes from God and God's decrees, commandments, statutes and words - or as the Psalmist calls them, "songs." The songs are what keeps the life alive, keeps the rhythm and beat going. I wonder what would happen if I downloaded the spirit of Psalm 119 into the top song downloads from last week...

I don't know who Nelly Furtado is or even what a Timbaland is, but my download would speak to promiscuity and the ripples it causes. The life that God sings is a song about faithfulness, fidelity, commitment. Something along the lines of Dolly Parton singing, "Eeeyyyeee, will always love you." Promiscuity might be fun for a night or a weekend, but we're talking about something that can carry you for LIFE, the long haul, all four verses of the songs. And promiscuity runs out. Quick. And maybe Gnarls Barkley has a substantive message in "Crazy" (I'll try and listen sometime - maybe); but maybe he doesn't. I say "he" because I'm not sure how to gender ole' Gnarls; the name sounds like an angry dog. But maybe Gnarls would think my download crazy, that promiscuity is full of life and faithfulness is old and stale and boring. But if the people or places that I've pledged faithfulness to have become stale and boring, then it's a red flag that I've lost my sense of WONDER - definitely a "crazy" way to try and live life. Patsy Cline sang about being "crazy" for the long haul, in an over the river and through the woods kind of way; and she didn't gnarl or bark at all. Shakira is no doubt telling me "Hips Don't Lie" whilst shakiring her own; I don't know what Wyclef Jean is doing. Maybe she's there to say, "Amen. Hip it sister." But if you're taking your LIFE cues from someone's hips and the truthfulness or lack of in those hips, then your gaze has fallen a little low. Better listen to Peter Gabriel sing "In Your Eyes" and focus on the windows of the soul and the truth that is always there. I've seen some pretty lying hips before, promising the universe; but the eyes attached to those hips knew the offer was empty, devoid of LIFE. I'm fairly sure I saw Christina Aguilera on a magazine cover once in some buckskin lingerie, looking like Pocahontas in heat. She sure was surrounded by a whole bunch of other men to be singing "Ain't No Other Man." I'd say the guy believing that one is a first class sucker. The song title is one that promises fidelity; however, this is one of those times when Shakira knows of what she sings - hips don't lie and Christina's are giving us the kind of "Crazy" Orwellian double-speak that our culture seems to believe is LIFE. At least according to I'm not sure Tammy always did it, but when the Why-nette sang, "Stand By Your Man" I believed her; still do. For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health - words of promise, not promiscuity. Words that are really CRAZY if you really think about them. Words that stand by the hips when they don't shake anymore, the breasts when they sag, the tire when it inflates beyond the recommended psi, the hair when it grays, and the knees when they give out. Words from the mouth that match the ways of the body, being as faithful in your buckskin as you are in your vocals. There's only one letter's difference between LIFE and LIE. Oh, be careful little pods what you load...

Somewhere In Time

Well, we got in to see the dentist this week and he successfully pulled my son's tooth. The dental assistant was very compassionate and sensitive and Will (premedicated this time) did fantastic. After the extraction, he remained on the dental chair for a few moments breathing pure oxygen, instead of the extraction mix. I could tell he was really woozy. The assistant informed me that I might have to carry him out - "happens all the time" she said. Mr. Dentist said, "O.k. See you guys next time" and Will began getting up out of the chair; however, what was slowly getting up began rapidly going down. I moved in to stabilize him and swooped him up in my arms and carried him out to the van. He's almost too big for me to carry - almost; I will not go gentle in that mediocre night of my son growing up. As I held him in my arms, his head was on my shoulder and his eyes were shut. And I was suddenly lost in memory...

About thirty years ago, in a small East Texas town, a dad and his son were in the doctor's office. The son was scheduled for a shot that day, probably tetanus or something, for those were days of barefeet and glass and rusty nails. The shot was given and ample time for the son to regain his legs was taken. The sun was unveiled that afternoon, bright and hot. Dad held the door open for me and I stepped out into the bright and then everything went dark. The only sensation was that of falling, rapidly. I remember coming to in the arms of my dad as he carried me, almost too big for him, back to the car and safely home. Although I don't remember seeing it, I do remember feeling swooped up into my dad's arms; arms of strength and safety and compassion and determination. I imagine his arms raged as well against the dying of the light of my boyhood; against a son becoming more than his dad could handle. But on that hot afternoon in Naples, Texas, my dad was my hero. I put my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes, safe.

Little did I know that moment in time would revisit me; different details, same love. How I wished that walk to the van the other afternoon would've lasted; why couldn't that distance have been miles instead of moments? Too fast, too soon. But for that moment, I was his hero and he was my boy, head on my shoulder, eyes closed, and safe. Me? I kept my eyes open, trying to take in as much of the light of that moment as I fatherly could. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light...


My wrist-alarm went off this morning at 5:01. I snoozed for 10 minutes, just letting the morning "simmer" a little (a tip from Sam Keen). Then it's off to the kitchen while the children and wife are still snuggled in bed. Sit down at the kitchen table for some water and energy bar and thank God for the chance to try again. The energy bar is heavy stuff, filled with some Melaluca-super-duper vitamins and minerals and such; it's takes two glasses of water to get it down. Then it's off to the holy of holies for some sit-down, devotional time. Nothing base about that; it's something as regular as the rising of the sun. The Mela-bar needs about fifteen minutes to settle in, so I've got time to sit and think. I rise lighter, happier. I think I'm tired. Change clothes, like some long-haired Mister Rogers, replacing bedtime boxers for wicking t-shirt, running shorts and socks, and trail shoes. Downstairs to the treadmill this morning (I run trails on the weekends). I approach the NordicTrac 2000, step on, adjust the settings, and begin the slow warm-up. I love running. Today is speed day. I run three times a week, one day for strength (hills), one day for speed (all out fast), and one day outside on the trail for distance. I figure this gives me a rounded workout for the ole' heart. Each run is followed up by some weights, Bowflex, or dips and chin-ups on one of those power-tower doohickeys. Keeping exercise at three days a week is a limiting-discipline for me. I could do it everyday and used to; but there are other things to do these days, other people to care for, other things more important than big biceps or cannonball calves or six-minute miles. Thank God.

I feel strong this morning. I bet I could run for hours. My breathing assumes a rhythm that my body recognizes (hey, we do this three times a week) and the sweat begins to form. Before long, my body is running by itself. The rhythm has been established and the legs, heart and arms are doing the work. My mind is thinking about books I want to write, editors I hope I can find, and publishers with the brass to publish what is most dear to me. I consider that prayer. My eyes aren't closed (fairly dangerous on a treadmill) and my head's not bowed, but I'm bringing to the surface the people, places and things I love and I lift those thoughts to the Grace that keeps this world. I run/pray a little for my friends seeking adoption. I pray/run for my wife and three kids. I run for a man who's about to jump into the unknown, leaving his job and life as he has known life. I run and run and run. See John run. See John pray. See John run for strength, speed and distance. See John pray for hope, faith and love. I bet I could pray for hours...I think it was that Chariots of Fire guy who said he felt God's pleasure when he ran. Yeah. I know what he meant.

The Beast Within

My son was to have a tooth pulled yesterday. We scheduled it on a day when I was off because his mom doesn't do well with the dentist scene. We showed up and the assistant told us that it would be about a twenty minute wait - they were running behind. We looked at each other and said, "O.k. We'll wait." Well, we did - for almost forty-five. Will went through every kids magazine in the racks, I read (literally) an issue of National Geographic Traveler, and we listened as some dad seated next to us read the entire text of "Beauty and the Beast" (complete with voices and sound effects) to his daughter who was also WAITING to see the dentist. I'm all for "story" but by the time the beast became a man, I was about ready to send that dad to the Magic Kingdom for some one on one with the lost boys.

I could feel my son's anxiety growing exponentially after about thirty minutes. He was trying to be brave; he really was. The assistant finally came and escorted us into the room of extraction. I experienced her as really chatty, almost too chatty, almost like the tea cup from Beauty and the Beast. The dentist was going to use gas for the major sedative and so the assistant got the mask ready to put on Will. Well, I could see real quick that the mask was the straw that broke the waiting camel's back - he went ballistic on her. It was a new-fangled mask with two tiny tubes through which the gas was vented; the kicker was that the two tiny tubes were inserted into the two tiny nostrils of my anxious son. He began to cry and I moved in to try and comfort him, but the truth is that he was finished, through, stick-a-fork-in-me done. The assistant began a chatty assault on Will, trying to tap into his male sense of pride, but the spell was cast and my son had become a beast. My responses to her moved from initial pity to downright anger as she just kept yappin' - you know that nervous, chatty crap that people do when they realize their impotence in the moment? Well, the spell began to meander over to ole' dad. I began to feel like David Banner and instead of a Disney-esque beast, I sensed my eyes turning green and I swear my jeans were getting tight around my thighs (If I've lost you there, I referring to the Incredible Hulk). I wanted to grab my son out of the chair, fling my now-ripped-to-shreds-t-shirt at the dental ASSistant, run back through the waiting room, growl at Disney dad and tell him to grow a pair, and violently burst through the adobe fire exit. I could've run through side-streets with Will on my shoulders, cursing at Escalades and knocking down every political campaign sign I could. We would then have somehow made it home, where I would have put him on the front steps and retreated to the backyard where the reverse transformation would've taken place. And my family would've discovered me, shirtless, clinging to the fence, wondering what had happened.

But that's the fairy tale. The reality is we dried our tears - we tamed males, made an appointment to try again, and politely left through the front door. We got in the van and...well, how do you try and soothe a weepy beast? I allowed myself to become the beauty. If you've read Bly, I went copper instead of being iron. "It's o.k, bud. That would've freaked me out, too. We'll try again. It'll be o.k. I love you." Slowly, ever so slowly, on the drive home, the beast began to turn back into a boy - laughing, farting, and glad to be with dad. He stepped back into boy-dom and he's good, on the exterior. But there seemed to be some residual shame to that experience. And an overall feeling of femininity. I wonder...what if my son would have seen his dad go beastly? Conjure up the ole iron John and let him roar, if just for a few seconds, at how shitty the whole episode had been handled. Not start whacking off heads with the broadsword, but just raise it and let it glisten in the noonday sun. Chances are the "tea cup" would have runneth over and we'd have been asked to leave, toothache and all. Mr. Disney would've wet his pants and scooped up Tinkerbell and got the hell out of Dodge. But maybe my son and I could have felt strong together. And maybe the spell of the tooth would have lost it's power for a moment - maybe for good. Or maybe I would've scared the scooby-doo out of my son; revealed to him a dark side he's probably never seen before, but loves to see in comic book heroes. As it was, we left limpish, trying to reassure each other that next time would be different - that we'll be stronger, braver, wilder. I hope we can. I hope I can. After all, who wants to live happily ever after? I just want to live full-blooded and awake, right here, right now. But we gotta' get that tooth out...

Perchance to Dream

The "said author" from the last post was Eugene Peterson. Peterson translated the Bible into contemporary English about fifteen years ago in the form of The Message Bible. It's good stuff - it really is. He's also written several books that I've truly enjoyed, many of them dealing with issues specific to being a pastor. You may not be a pastor (probably just cause to say, "Hallelujah!"), but you may have a pastor or know of one or make fun of one on t.v. or something.

Mr. Peterson addressed a large audience that morning and ended the time with some q&a. I posed a question about pastors being poets and artists and wondered if he felt there was an openness to that on the part of most pastors/preachers, etc. He agreed with me that pastors should be poets, but felt like there was NOT an openness to that. And unfortunately, he felt, after many years of advocating just such a mind/heart-set, that he had not made much of an impact on pastors. As we adjourned to lunch a few minutes later, I asked him what's the best thing a pastor can be doing. His answer - "Read poetry and read novels." Of all the things this learn-ed man of 75 years could have said, but he chose the answer, "Read poetry and read novels."

Now you may be wondering, or you may not but you know a pastor who might wonder, or you may make fun of a pastor who might be wondering, "Why read poetry and novels?" Allow Peterson to speak again: "Because they teach you the language of intimacy. Most everything else is either informational or motivational; nothing wrong necessarily with those, but they are NOT the language of faith." I'm considering starting a school for pastors, or maybe a weekend retreat for preachers, where we do nothing BUT read poetry and novels. But I'm afraid most pastors might consider it a waste of time. Come to think of it, most people who have a pastor or make fun of pastors, would probably consider that a waste of time - and there's the rub. But what a dream - gathering pastors from all over the lower 48 in a lodge somewhere with huge, open decks and lots of windows and giving them headlamps and travel mugs full of Henry's Blend and passing out copies of Peace Like a River or Gilead or Plainsong or The River Why or Of Mice and Men or big bundles of Rumi, Rilke or Bly or Oliver or Keats or Whyte or Levertov. When these pastors would ask what the agenda (common word among pastors) was for the weekend, I'd say, "Just go read. Take a break and then read some more. Get some sleep and read yet again." After they'd read a little, for most pastors are fairly passive at the first, they'd probably say, "How is this going to benefit me and growing my church (another common phrase among pastors)?" And I'd say, "Well, if you read Gilead, like I told you to, then you would have come across this passage: 'This is an important thing, which I have told many people and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation?' Or maybe a little further down the page you should have read this: 'Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience. That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our own behavior, and the reaction of God to us might be thought of as aesthetic rather than morally judgmental in the ordinary sense.'"

Most of them would probably say, "What do I do with that stuff?" And I'd begin to cry. But there might be four or three or two - or maybe just one who would begin to cry as well and as he left, he'd pick up all the copies of Gilead that the others had left on the floor, and he'd take those copies back to his congregation and they'd spend Sunday nights reading aloud to each other and learning about intimacy and themselves and God. And after they finished Gilead, he'd pull out Oliver and they'd wrestle with the angel of poetry and not let go until it has blessed them, for they didn't "want to end up simply having visited this world." And that might be a pastor you might like to have. You wouldn't make fun of him though because you'd know he was a real pastor. And that's a rare thing.

Whatcha' Need

I had the privilege of meeting an admired author yesterday. I've wanted to meet him for some time and he was in town for some meetings. A friend I know invited me to an intimate luncheon, of which said author was the guest. It was really a pleasure. He was exactly how I imagined him - quiet, listening, wise and gracious. I asked him a few questions and he readily answered them, complete with smiles and eye contact. I tried hard not to weigh down the moment with author envy or any of the other common sins of us wanna-bees. I went into the day really believing that my lunch experience would be all about this gentleman; however, it wasn't...

Our lunch table arrangement was less than desirable. The U-shape of the tables left me about four people removed from the author, sitting beside an editor I had met once before. Out of person-seated-next-to-you-courtesy, we began talking about books, writing, faith and melancholy. And what began as courtesy quickly transformed into delight. Said editor is quiet, listening, wise and as I quickly discovered, gracious. He doesn't have the name recognition of the author, but interestingly enough, he edited many of the author's books. I ended up lobbing a few questions at the author just to justify my presence at the luncheon; my real desire was to keep talking with this editor. Funny, isn't it? You wait for something for a long time, and then discover it's not about that thing but something else. I think brother Mick articulated it best: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need."

The trick is being able to realize this in the moment and be graced by an editor or who or whatever else the moment is really about. I could have spent the rest of the day ticked off because I got a crappy seat by an editor, for Pete's sake. But thanks to the Grace that keeps this world, my heart happened to be open that afternoon - open enough to see what...or who was right beside me. I think brother Merton articulated this best: "My chief one desire and my one joy should be to know: 'Here is the thing that God has willed for me. In this His love is found, and in accepting this I can give back His love to Him and give myself with it to Him.'"

Yeti Sighting

Our family just returned from a week of recreating ourselves in Estes Park, CO. It is easily one of our favorite spots in the state. This is a photo of my son, Will, and the oft-elusive mountain Yeti (me). Much is captured in this photo: our smiles (common fare when we're in the mountains), beautiful backdrops (this one is Sprague Lake in Rocky Mtn. Natl. Park), shorts and fleece (warm days and nipply nights), and being close to family (the Yeti sprang from behind a Ponderosa Pine and grabbed Will, eliciting a smile from a 9-year old boy that's worth it's weight in gold). We had a good week and hope to live there some day...seriously.

There's nothing like coming over the rise and seeing Estes Park sitting quietly down in the valley, with Longs Peak before you and the Stanley Hotel (remember The Shining?) off to your left. Or peeking out before sunrise and seeing elk grazing beside your minivan. Or eating ice cream cones every evening after dinner for four days straight; not small, mannerly cones mind you, but large, mountainous scoops of chocolate in a sugar cone that drip all over your fingers so you have to wipe them on your shirt or pants. Or leisurely simmering in the morning with a cup of Seattle's Best and the novel Gilead (two thumbs way up) and wool socks. Or hiking with three kids a mile and a half route up to Alberta Falls and hopefully helping them to see that to experience beauty, sometimes you've got to hike for it or fight for it or suck it up, buttercup. Or buying your wife a turquoise cross for your 16th wedding anniversary and seeing her wear it around her neck and truly realizing her love affair with this western place of rock and snow and turquoise and moose. And Yeti.

Million-Dollar Question

I was given a tract today at work; some guy just handed it to me as he passed. I guess he thought I looked reprobate or something. Although I hope not, you may have seen this one - it is in the form of a million dollar bill, plenty of zeros and Ronald Reagan's picture on it. Flip it over and the backside has these words around the perimeter: "The million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven? Here's a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God's name in vain? Jesus said, 'Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart'...Please repent (turn from sin) today and trust Jesus, and God will grant you everlasting life. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.'"

It was funny because after I read the million dollar question and the million dollar answer, I immediately went and devoured two Wisconsin brats baptized in hot mustard, fudged the truth to a co-worker, and had a lustful thought. Or two.
I that really the million dollar question? "Will you go to Heaven?" David Whyte has a poem that begins with these lines: "I don't care if there is one god or many gods; I want to know if you belong or if you feel abandoned." ****You could get bogged down in that first phrase about one god or many gods...but I'd lobby hard against that one - you'd miss the forest... The question that follows is priceless; in my opinion, quite possibly worth a million dollars or more: Do you belong or do you feel abandoned? Do you belong? Or do you feel abandoned?

The poet is pushing us to look at a deeper question, one that cannot be printed around the perimeter of a gospel tract, but rather one that hides in the shadows of our hearts: Do you belong or do you feel abandoned? Is there a gut-level sense of belonging to this dark and bloody planet, welcomed by its grace and beauty, or do I live my life as one completely abandoned by all there is, adrift on a sea, always unmoored. Do I live with a feeling of being needed by this world, that somehow I matter to the humus I walk on, that my life counts, or I've a role to play in God's drama? Or am I a stranger to all that is; in Goethe's words, "a troubled guest"? Will I die one day (hopefully headed to heaven) with grief printed around the perimeter of my soul because this world is a place of breathtaking beauty or will I breathe my last lamenting the fact that "I had only visited" (Mary Oliver)?

I don't have a problem with the answers to the man's tract; but I do believe he's asking the wrong questions. And asking the wrong questions in this life will keep you "moving" (GO to heaven), but they won't allow you to stay for awhile, otherwise known as "belonging." Tract-man handed me his answers and "moved on" - I guess someone could say, "John, you were touched by an angel." Then again, I may have been handed a nicely apportioned tract from a well-meaning man who feels abandoned in this world; therefore, he has nothing to look forward to but the next - "brushed by a stranger." I wished he would've stayed awhile, sat down and visited with me, incarnated himself, belonged to the moment. I would've shared my brats and my shortcomings. But he didn't and I believe that kind of living is taking the Lord's name in vain. Maybe someday he'll repent (turn from sin), shed his shoes and realize he's on holy ground. But then again, maybe he'll just keep moving, handing out tracts, repeating the answers...and that'll be a goddamn shame. Do you belong? Or do you feel abandoned?