Open Doors, Open Hearts

A very liberal columnist for the Denver Post wrote an article not long ago about Halloween. He talked about how two words struck fear in the hearts of most kids in the month of October - "fall festival." I had to laugh, remembering all the semantic gyrations our churches used to engage in so as to offer something on that night, but not cater to the whims of the world. Fall festivals indeed.

Overall, the article was not a keeper, but there was one point that I found very intriguing. He said that we, as Americans, need Halloween as a holiday. Why, you might ask? Well, this gentleman believes Halloween to be the one remaining holiday built on the premise of opening our doors to the stranger. And if there's any time in the history of the good old U.S. of A that we need a discipline to help us be more open to those we don't know, those who don't look like the rank and file, those of lower economic status, those with the courage or the gall to ring our doorbells and open their sacks, hoping for a treat - well, it's now.

Is it possible that we might look beyond the ghouls and goblins and see that our children are being taught something beneficial, even if it comes via something not so perky and nice? That if we don't go out and trick or treat, at least we would keep our porch light on, answering the door and opening it in order to give something away. And not just anything, but M&Ms or Hershey bars.

I'm familiar with the darker elements of the night and I'm not entirely certain what we're going to do tomorrow evening. But I felt the liberal columnist raised a point worth considering. For some, Halloween should be banned outright. It's a distraction and participation in it opens the door to all sorts of stuff. For others, it's no big deal, just ease up and put on the Homer Simpson mask. But is there a middle way, to be of but not in, to be willing to open our front doors to mask-wearing, bag-holding kids of all ages, red and yellow, black and white, Harry Pottered or Jack Sparrowed, and extend to them a gift of sweets and a whispered blessing: You are the stranger. I don't know you, but I welcome you. It's dark out there, why don't you come up into the light, if only for just a moment? Mercy covers the borders of this door. May mercy cover you as you step back into the night.

For Pete

Pete Fishing,

The Dirty Shame is a little saloon up near the Canadian border. I learned about it via the writer Rick Bass. Most nights, the Shame hosts games of chance; games that don't involve any particular skill or savvy, but essentially let the dice roll. It is in that spirit that I write here. I roll the dice.

Your responses/questions have used words like "universalism" and "emergent/emerging" and even someone named "Doug Pagitt." For me to try and give clarity to those would be attempting to bring some skill or savvy to this; that's not what the Shame is. Furthermore, my nose tells me you're looking for an answer rather than clarity and those are two entirely different things. Your scant profile indicates you're a student, so I'd say be a student; wrestle with these things and come to an answer for yourself. Your ability to craftily use words like that and put webcasts in the heart of blog comments, something I still can't do, indicates you're above the bar in resourcefulness.

And while your gentleness stands in contrast to old mr. spurgeon, I wouldn't be too hard on him. We all have places in our lives that cause us to speak or act in those tones. In fact, when it comes to being self-righteous and arrogant, I'm afraid I've got him beat by a mile; that "chief of sinners" stuff you may have read of.

You asked about a book recommendation to help you in your quest to "fit in." I'd suggest The Work of Wolves by Kent Meyers. It speaks of a kind of universalism, that of becoming a man and stepping away from the views of others and standing in your own boots. It beautifully shows how resistant we are to emerging into something or someone new, but how necessary that is for life. It's not leaving your roots, but it's branching out in new ways to catch the sun. It doesn't have anyone named Doug Pagitt in it, but it does follow the life of Carson Fielding, a horse-whisperer of sorts, and the ways in which his preternatural gift is only fully realized in the presence of others. He realizes that it's not all about him, but in a way it is all about him. Risk. Gamble. Paradox. Image. Metaphor. The kind of book that sits on the shelf of the Dirty Shame.

I'm truly thankful you've found some of this enjoyable. I guess miracles still happen.

Fairy Tale

It was just me and the kids last night. After some pancakes and chocolate chip cookies, my daughter asked, "Dad, can we watch my movie?"

"Sure, babe. What is it?"

"It's Anastasia."

It's the Disney version, so fact and fiction weave together like a double helix. There's plenty of catchy tunes and wonderful imagery to keep three kiddos and one big kid fixated for about 90 minutes. A good looking male character with the voice of John Cusak and an even better looking female character with the voice of Meg Ryan. What's not to like? Oh, and there's also a dog. Yep, homerun Disney.

Here's the Disney Cliff Notes version: Anastasia is a daughter of royalty. She lives in the palace and is dearly loved by her royal father. The enemy is Rasputin, once assumed a holy man, but actually someone who hates the royal family and sells his soul to gain the means by which to kill them all. His promise to wipe out the royal family sends them fleeing for their lives. As Anastasia is about to board a train with her grandmother for safety, she slips and falls and is left behind. Her fall leaves her with amnesia (wow, that's a sentence, huh?). The grandmother longs for her princess, now lost. And the rest of the story is an adventure is rediscovering who she really is; not an unwanted orphan, but a royal daughter, the princess.

Born of royalty. Sound familiar? Feel familiar? Pursuit by a once-holy-esque-one who now wants nothing more than the destruction of the royals. Ring a bell? A fall that results in amnesia, clouding the true identity. And the rest of the story is the adventure of rediscovering that true identity and living out the birthright. The enemy still pursues, but there are friends nearby for encouragment. And One in particular who loves with a never-ending love and is willing to sacrifice all so that...

"Yeah, John, but all the facts are all wrong. Disney took liberty with the facts and skewed everything."

"Yes. But as the poets say, 'Facts often have little to do with the truth.'"

We've fallen and forgotten who we are. Amnesiacs. We are the beloved of God, that is our true identity. But the deceiver pursues us like a lion, desiring nothing more than our destruction. Let a moment or day of clarity arise and the accuser will rush in with a vengeance to steal it away. And although that struggle is not against flesh and blood, it usually comes by flesh and blood. There are usually two or three gathered along the way to en-courage us on the journey of rediscovery, finding out. They are as necessary as oxygen. And there's grandmother with the voice of Angela Landsbury or the Father with the voice of Morgan Freeman waiting, longing for reunion. And there's the One who is with us every step of the way, the true hero of the story, who has sacrificed all so that...

Oh yeah, and there's a faithful dog or cat (Br. Murray) to accompany us all the way back home. Nah, you're right, that sounds too good to be true. But then again...

A Few Simple Thoughts

"I've read of other men my age experiencing the same thing - all men, it seems - one day becoming themselves, but also their fathers. Just like with legends, men build the base of themselves with parts of their fathers, with the basic truths...and then go on from there, of necessity, to alter other things, grow in new places, and become fathers themselves - but always growing out of the basic truths, a few simple things. And when you are twenty-five or thirty, and the world's becoming smaller, and things are starting to move, finally, like a train slowly leaving the station, picking up a little power, a little speed, that is when, at first, you're lifted by the bootstraps as you're going out the door, pretending you are him, doing the right thing, doing what he would do, until in the end, by rote, you learn it, and just in time."
- Rick Bass, Winter

The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
- T.S. Eliot

The Bachelor God

The Bachelor. One of tv's Monday night must-see shows. It's been on a few seasons and still seems to carry a captive audience. Since it began, I've probably seen it twice but my girlfriend and I have watched the last few weeks. You know - it's 9pm, the kids are finally in bed but not asleep, you click on the tube to catch some news and viola! there's The Bachelor. So, you watch. Or at least we do.

Premise, you ask? The show begins with one eligible bachelor and a room full of equally eligible young ladies. And each week, after dates and pool parties and intense conversations over candle-light, one or more of the young ladies does not receive a rose; in other words, they get sent home. The show builds to an ABCesque conclusion with only two or three ladies left and only one will get the coveted rose and ride off into the sunset with The Bachelor and live happily ever after. Or at least we hope.

I'm sitting there the other night, watching this show, and suddenly I realize: That's a prevalent picture of God. Not by folks out in the world, but by folks who profess to be closest to Him. God is the consumate, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, Bachelor. And we, humanity, are the young ladies. Although some could care less, there are some of us who desperately desire to be with The Bachelor God. And so we do and do and be and be and try and try and hope and hope to be one of the ones who gets the rose, a.k.a., ends up with God. But The Bachelor God holds all the cards and has the power to extend or with-hold the rose from us. Sometimes we think we know what he wants and so we speak or act accordingly and all seems well. However, other times we think we know what he wants, only to find out it's not so clear sometimes, and we're left reeling, wondering what kind of a deal this is.

And although you might say, "Well, I'm not so sure about that. I mean, come on, God's not capricious." O.k. But look at how we act; again, this is folks who profess to know God. We're respectful enough of one another but competition lurks just below the surface. We judge one another worthy or unworthy of the rose of God's love based on how we vote in elections, what kind of movies we watch, our stance on Harry Potter, if we have debt or not, whether our kids know scripture, and the list just goes on and on. And so we strut our stuff, hoping to win the approval of The Bachelor God, truly believing that he loves us, but somewhere, inside the back of our hearts, also believing it could go south at the end. No rose. No nothing. That we would do our best by God, well aware of our faults but also sincerely desiring him, but still not get the rose because of something about ourselves that just doesn't cut it: our looks, our family history, our views on controversial issues, our commitment to the "church"...that one day God would say, "Tom, will you accept this rose?" And Tom gets misty eyed, hugs the Lord, and says, "Oh yes!" And then Katie's left standing there without a rose and St. Peter says, "Katie, take a moment and say your goodbyes." Katie becomes overwhelmed by grief, hugs the Lord who says, "Katie, you are an amazing person and I've truly enjoyed my time with you." And then she goes to hell.

I believe The Bachelor God to be a lie. When Christ died on the cross and said, "It's finished," that secured enough roses for every created person since time began. They're laying on that silver platter in the throne room of God. Interesting, isn't it, that we believe the question God's going to ask us as we stand before him is: "Why should I let you into my heaven?" What if the question is going to be: "Shirley, will you accept this rose?" And she gets all knee-bowing and tongue-confessing and says, "Oh yes!" But then she turns around and Warren is behind her and his life has been quite a departure from her's and his stance on many things has been decidedly different and he begins to grow overwhelmed by despair. But then the Lord steps forward and says, "There are roses enough for all. Don't be afraid. Warren, will you accept your rose?" And Warren falls on his face before the Lion of God and cries, "But Lord, you know I didn't...and sometimes I...and there were months when...and..."

And then the angels of heaven gasp in astonishment as the the Lamb of God bends his knee and extends his nail-scarred hand and says, "My son, I know. I know you didn't...and sometimes you...and there were years when...and...But I love you, always have. I am jealous, but I am not fickle. I am holy, but not capricious. I am love. And mercy always triumphs. This rose has your name on it, that name I've chosen just for you. I want you to have it and be with me forever." Warren struggles to his feet, hugs the Lord, and then enters into his rest, to live happily ever after. But as he walks he continues to look over his shoulder, unable to keep his eyes off the Lord. "Who is this One?" he says. And the angels cry out, "It is the Lord, the King of Glory."

The Scarlet D

"Doubt is the ants-in-the-pants of faith."
- Frederick Buechner

I was in a conversation recently where "doubt" was the topic. Initially, everyone was very enthusiastic about talking about it and seemed to be grateful that the permission to discuss such a thing was being granted. Words and phrases like "finally" and "yes, I've felt that too" surfaced from almost everyone in the room. The consensus was that "doubt" is a part of every believer's life and we shouldn't shy away from it.

And then we shied away from it.

It was hard to detect just when it happened, but a subtle shift took place in the room. If I recall, something like, "But where is this going?" was all it took. Doubt about doubt. A conversation that was open and vibrant quickly had the life sucked out of it and talkative doubters suddenly became the nervous-nellies heading back to the shoreline. Words and phrases like "hope" and "we mustn't stray too far from our orthodoxy" quickly brought everyone back to their senses. I was disappointed.

Doubt was acceptable on a very short leash. We choose clean underwear over ants-in-the-pants every time; clear definitions and air-tight answers over "well, maybe...I'm not sure." Although I fully understand the desire for such clarity, I cannot sign off on such a stance because faith is all about the unseen, the things hoped for. I have heard "doubt" discussed as a sin in the life of a believer; the scarlet "D." But doubt may just be an indication that someone is really moving into the waters of biblical faith, where you can't touch the bottom and you can't make it work out on paper and you can't tell how it might turn out.

Far too often, we adhere to a flat-earth theory when it comes to our faith. There are acceptable boundaries, known landmarks, that define who we are and what we do. If you should venture beyond those, you'll sail right off the edge of the faith. "Well, maybe."

"To come to a doubt, and to a debatement of any religious duty, is the voice of God in our conscience. Would you know the truth? Doubt, and then you will inquire." - John Donne

"If my religion is true, it will stand up to all my questioning; there is no need to fear. But if it is not true, if it is man imposing strictures on God...then I want to be open to God, not to what man says about God. I want to be open to revelation, to new life, to new birth, to new light. Revelation. Listening. Humility." - Madeleine L'Engle

As I age...

"I grow utterly absorbed, as I age, by two things: love, thorough or insufficient, and grace under duress. Only those two."
- Brian Doyle, Credo


"It is not that what is is not enough, for it is; it is that what is has been disarranged, and is crying out to be put in place."
- Madeleine L'Engle, Walking On Water

I live in a Christian subculture where "more" is the order of the day. Cries like, "Isn't there more?" abound in almost every book written and conference attended. "There's got to be more" falls from the lips of many a disgruntled church member and inhabits the lines of many of the songs we currently sing. Now, I understand "holy discontent" and wanting to know more of God; that's not what I'm talking about here. There's a discontent behind this current verbiage that doesn't feel holy at all.

Something about this rubs me wrong. I'm not exactly sure what I'm feeling, but I know I'm feeling something. I came across Madeleine's words the other day and they stopped me in my tracks. It really felt like she was articulating what I was feeling. What if what is is enough? What if the people and places and things of my life, right now, are enough? What if the discontent that I feel or experience is because the "enough" of my life has been "disarranged, and is crying out to be put in place"?

That feels more true to me. I'm not talking about NOT seeking out new faces and places and experiences; shucks, I'm a seeker and always have been - a rover, a wanderer/wonderer. Honest seeking is a vital part of the life of faith. But the current quest for "more" that I see and hear feels dangerously close to fickle-ness, an inability to be in place or present; it's almost a stance of I'm-not-of-this-world-and-I-really-don't-want-to-be-in-it-either. It's a stance of I-don't-want-to-do-the-hard-work-required-to-rearrange-things. And maybe that's it - laziness. Laziness cloaked in the guise of "surely there's more" and when the guise is removed the real words are "surely there's more than fallen people and fallen places and..."

A little down the page, Madeleine L'Engle told me what you have to be in order to live in this disarranged world. An artist; men and women and children putting their hands to the plow of co-laboring with God in the rearrangement of the world. You might even say, "His Kingdom coming and His will being done."

God, you have surrounded me with enough this day. Grant me the courage to work toward it's rearrangement. It is crying out to be put in place, O Lord.

Saved But Lost

Yesterday, a friend (Ragamuffin Diva) reminded me of this prayer from Thomas Merton:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

And then yesterday afternoon, these words from another friend, a trusted heart:

Jesus, I have no idea where to go from here. But I invite you in. Bring me all the joy you have for me. Help me to see it when it comes. Help me not resign myself to surviving. Restore my joy.

Yesterday was a difficult day. Some things happened that were heavy, weighty. They left me feeling lost, helpless.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.

Jesus, I have no idea where to go from here.

I am grateful for the gift of friendship. And in particular, friends who share words. These two phrases accurately reflect my feelings from yesterday. And this morning. They don't "make it all better." But they do make it less lonely. Because I know others have felt this feeling, others have stared this demon, others have stood and faced the rising sun and declared, "I have no idea where I'm going." You say something like that when you're twenty and folks think it natural. You say something like that when you're forty and people get concerned; there's a rush to "make it all better" somehow. There were days, as a child, when some could "make it all better." But I'm becoming a man, and I'm putting away childish things. And sometimes, when you put away your childish things, you're left with no idea where to go. So you step out with nothing but the words of the FRIEND:

Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Scary, huh?

Lose the Madness

"For my own part I am pleased enough with surfaces...Such things for example as the grasp of a child's hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of a friend or lover, the silk of a girl's thigh, the sunlight on rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind - what else is there? What else do we need?"
- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Traffic. Traffic. Traffic.

I almost had three wrecks yesterday on my morning commute. That's down one from the usual two. The closest I came was when a lady decided not to yield to me and turned right in front of me. Both of our lights were green, but I had the right of way. Because of the flow of traffic behind me, I wound up right on her back bumper. I don't often lay on my horn, but yesterday I LAID on it. A sheepish grin in her rearview mirror and an even sheepier wave to me was her response; it felt like that "Oh my, did I just turn in front of you and almost cause a major accident that possibly could have ended your earthly existence at age 40? Oh wow, I am sorry. Silly me. Thanks. Have a good one. Ohmygod, I'm getting a text."

There's a line at the beginning of the move Legends of the Fall where the old Indian narrator talks about the colonel going over the mountains to "lose the madness." That's what I wanted to do yesterday after that incident - go somewhere over the mountains and lose this commute madness where people don't yield for anything, don't leave a car length between them and you, where she puts on makeup at 75mph and talks to someone on her cell phone at the same time, where he lights a cigarette with both hands and uses his knees to hold the steering wheel, and I could go on. Madness. God never intended a morning commute. It's stark evidence of the Fall. Folks trying frantically to get somewhere other than where they are, so they can go be someone they're really not. East of I-25. East of Eden. Banished from the garden.

I got home and told my girlfriend about it. She knows. She drives in it when forced to. I told her that one of these days, I want to be where the morning commute is walking to the edge of the driveway to pick up the paper. The only thing I'd have to yield to might be a rabbit or a fox. There would be someone right on my tail, but it'd be my dog and he doesn't wear makeup. No one would be important enough to talk to on a cell phone as I walked for the paper. I'd be alone with my thoughts, with the surfaces. The feel of an autumn chill as it finds the spaces in my red union suit; the perfect commute fashion statement. The honk of geese overhead - now there's a group that knows how to drive. The horn of a lone pickup that passes with an accompanying wave that's not sheepish but friendly. The beat of my heart. The pleasure of opening a virginal newspaper. The heat on my fingers from my coffee mug and the taste of Major Dickason's coffee going down my throat. The knowledge that where I am is right where I want to be. And the only madness is that the deer have been in the roses again. But that's easily forgiven.

Before Samson was a dog...

We're sitting around the dinner table the other night when one of our kids says something about someone named “Samson.” Being the engaged father I seldom am but dream of being, I quickly ask, “And who else do you know named Samson?” Our middle daughter responds, “Samson was the name of the dog in that movie.” It is said matter-of-factly, her siblings seem to agree, and the conversation moves on to something else. My girlfriend and I just look at each other. “Baby, we gotta do something.”

We are the parents who have gently, and at times forcefully, moved away from structures such as Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and those after-school-memorize-a-kazillion-verses-so-you-can-put-patches-on-your-vest programs. We haven’t abandoned our faith, given up on God, or written off sermons; well, the jury’s still out on sermons. But we have stopped to think about all the programming we grew up with. And while at the stop sign, we’ve wondered if we want our children to grow up in the same fashion. We want our children to have a vibrant faith measured by heart love for Jesus instead of head -knowledge of scripture. We want them to have the heart before the course. We’ve been in too many B-Christian subculture movies where someone could quote chapter and verse blindfolded and then turn around and do something completely opposed to what they just quoted.

But how do parents like us pass along a biblical literacy to their children without it becoming rote memorization in order to get the prize? How do we help them hide the Word in their hearts but not so well that they can't remember where they put it? How can I introduce my daughter to Samson before he was a dog?

Being the creative dad I dream of but seldom am, I'm going to try a few things. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm not wringing my hands in some chicken-little "the sky is falling and my kids don't know who Samson is" moment. Anxiety is not becoming of a believer. Our kids love "God and Jesus" - they always talk about them together like that. That's cool; I feel like God and Jesus are really pretty close. We pray at mealtimes and other moments when prayer feels right. I remember praying with one of the kids when they were constipated - "Lord, help me to go" - and it was just as natural as breathing for them. If we can't ask the Lord for help when we're blocked up, then we're really in trouble. Yet I still want them to know of Samson and David and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Of Adam and his girlfriend and Noah and his zoo. Of Nathan and the healing waters of Siloam. Of young Timothy and his upset stomach. Of Elizabeth, who got her womb rocked by jumpin' John the Baptist. Of Joseph, who did the right thing and married the girl God got pregnant. These are good folk. Friends for the journey. And then there's Jesus, the lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world.

Well, John, you realize that you know all those people because you rotely memorized verses and attended VBS all those years and sat under faithful Sunday school teachers every Sunday, don't you?

Yes, I do. And I believe all those things prepared me for suchatime as this and suchakids as these. A nod to good-looking Esther seems a fitting way to sign-off.

Back then...

I've watched a couple of episodes of Ken Burns' war documentary. PBS, one of our four channels, is running it this week. I'd read about it several weeks ago as being "something to watch." It has that distinctive Burns feel; masterful images, hauntingly appropriate music, and selah-esque pauses so you can catch your emotional breath. I highly recommend it.

One of last night's segments focused on the death of President Roosevelt. At a pivotal time in the war, the commander-in-chief died. Silver-haired people recalled how everyone, everyone, gathered around the radios to listen to the reports of his passing. Fragile veterans remembered the news reaching their units and men jumping up and attaching bayonettes to their guns and charging the enemy, saying, "This is for the Old Man!" Yet another, who was overseas at the time, looked directly at Burns' camera and said through tears, "I felt great loss." And one gregarious grandpa talked of how his parents were Republican and hated Roosevelt, but "all us kids loved him. He was the face of America."

As I've watched both nights, I've been moved to tears. We routinely speak of the loss of innocence in our country. We harken back to a time when things were simpler. At least some of us do. Some find that kind of talk silly. They believe that things were as they are now and our memories are deceiving. But as I've watched the past (funny phrase), I believe that things were different back then, people and places had an innocence to them, and yes, times were simpler. People had faith in one another, in institutions, and our leaders. Was it naive and misplaced? Maybe. But at least it was there to be naive and misplaced. I'm not sure we have "faith" at all these days, in anyone or anything. Not even ourselves. And there was a simple-ness to time. Sure, the war itself was gradually making things less simple, but the images of those people and their journals of those days have a clarity to them that I do not see and hear today. The images are not populated with a number of "things," but rather always have a lot of "people" in them. Family. Community. Friends. And the voices speak of love and loss and "the Old Man" whereas the air today is full of hate and greed and the possiblity of a woman in the house that's white. Those aren't just different words, those are different values. And our values indicate what kind of a people we are. And we're different.

I feel great loss. Burns' work keeps us from historical amnesia. It is a gift. But it must be opened.

Species of Silence

"I had an intuition that when you really annunciate what you want in the world you will always be greeted...with some species of silence. It may be that the silence is there so that you can hear exactly what you have asked for, and hear it more clearly so that you can get it right. If the goal is real and intensely personal, as it should be, others naturally should not be able to understand it the first time it finds its own voice. It means in a way, in a very difficult way, that you are on to something." -
David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea

Do you like to be greeted with silence after you've annunciated something you want to the world? Yeah, me neither. I like for folks to fawn all over it and declare it brilliant, groundbreaking, truly inspired. But if Whyte is right, and I believe he is, then when that happens, it may be an indicator that I've not really annunciated what I want. I may be playing to a particular audience, telling folks what I know they'll fawn all over or find truly inspiring. It may, no doubt, be something I do have an affinity for or be gifted at, but it may not be what I really want. Heralding the real stuff to the world is always greeted with "some species of silence." Rats.

But the wisdom of the quote above rings through again, for this "silence" might reveal I've annunciated something "real and intensely personal." How could someone else possibly understand it? It's something foreign to them, at least at first. I love Whyte's phrase - "intensely personal." Intensely personal could be read as "odd" because it is those things, those hopes and dreams, those affinities or quirks that reveal our "differentness" from others. We all share this thing called humanity, but we're not all the same.

I wonder if the same kind of thing happens when we truly annunciate what we want to God? If the silence we often experience in prayer is not absence but allowance? An "allowing" us to hear exactly what we've asked for? An "allowing" for that prayer or desire or hope to really find its voice? Maybe some of our prayers begin as personal, but God allows the experience of silence so that they might become "intensely personal." Maybe.

If you really read the quote I began with and you really read that last paragraph, then you might respond with, "Well, Dirty Shamer, are you saying that possibly God might not understand some of the things we pray, at least at first? And that He needs time to learn us and those intensely personal things about us? Are you saying that God might not fully know us and His knowledge of us is ever unfolding as days pass? Are you crazy enough to suggest that God may have created us with some things hidden to Him and that by design He discovers new things about us along the way? Are you even remotely hinting at an open, ever-evolvingness to the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore?

If I were to say those things, you'd think me odd. And probably respond with silence.