I want to tell you a story...

He was a preacher back then.  He still is to this day.  He is my father.  I can remember him standing behind the table with the words etched across the front: in remembrance of me.  He would say the words needed to bless symbols of stale saltines and microscopic tumblers of grace juice.  But those memories are slight, fleeting.  The memory that endures is his stance before another table, this one a polished veneer console. His voice was not required at this table, only his hands.

He would rise early of a morning before sun and sons and wife.  His ritual was to stack the albums he loved and then let the needle slowly drop.  The volume would be barely a whisper at the beginning; every five minutes or so he would stroll back by and increase the sound slightly, smoothly.  While other houses were roused by alarm clocks of bells or beeps, our home gradually simmered each morning in the juice of music: Johnny Cash, Sons of the Pioneers, the gentleman Jim Reeves, Rod McKuen, Ray Conniff, there were others. As that cheap needle drew crackled sound from warm vinyl, so were my brother and I drawn from sleep to face the day.  His morning ministrations were priestly; you cannot convince me otherwise.  I was there.  I am witness.

I had prodigal days of Cougar Mellencamp and Boston and Journey, there were others.  I stepped away from his table of remembrance.  But now, in my forties, probably the age he was in those days, I have found an AM station that plays Glen Campbell and Tom T. Hall and Andy Williams...and Cash, always Cash.  I listen each morning on my commute and think of him, of my father's body broken and blood spilled for me in ways a son will never know that I might live and grow and find wife and children of my own and sleep and dream.   It is my daily communion. I take and eat and drink and do it in remembrance of him.  He has not crossed over Jordan yet; he knows the joy of his children's children.  But I find it no sin to remember the living while the day is still called today.  And so I do.   

The crackers and grape juice of my youth were quarterly symbols; they never became the literal body and blood of our Lord.  But my father's music...

Giving Out Wings...

Thanks to everyone who entered the Dirty Shame Autumnal Equinox Giveaway. Here are the winners:
  1. John Santic
  2. Andrew
  3. ForHisGlory
  4. Kari Kounkel
  5. Sheila
  6. Jennifer
  7. Sande
  8. Juli
  9. Ginger@From The Cocoon
  10. Emily
My email address is  If you'll send the name and mailing address of the person you would like to gift with a copy of Touching Wonder, I'll sign and send it on.  Don't forget - if you'd like me to indicate who the book is from, I'm happy to do that; if not, I won't.  

For each of you that entered, the fact there was someone you were thinking about, maybe even two or three someones, tells me you have people in your life you care about - a.k.a., friends.  And no man or woman, no, not one, is a failure who has friends. 

Still Teaching Me to Pray

I write at a kitchen table.  But there are times I leave the table and go out into the world.

It was one of those glances, the kind of thing that happens in the twinkling of an eye or two, but then lingers.  Daylight was finally surrendering to dusk and I was headed to the gas station. As I drove down the street, I looked over and she was standing at her kitchen window, working hard at something in the sink with a wax on/wax off motion.  Let's say her name is Victoria. About the time I noticed her, she looked up and noticed me.  She stood out against the lengthening shadows in her white; Victoria was washing dishes in her bra.  This was all of about four seconds.

You might think a forty-two year old man seeing one of his neighbors in her bra about dusk would elicit arousal; that's fair, I am a man like other men and don't pretend to be otherwise. You could think this a scene out of some Victoria's Secret catalog, but this time you'd be wrong. In that spot of time, I felt tenderness to the point of tears.  What I saw in those three or so seconds was framed exhaustion, a woman bone-tired, weary-eyed.  I don't know this lady real well; only as a neighbor.  I do know she has a husband, two kids in grade school and one on her hip not a year old, a dog to wrangle, I'm sure all kinds of laundry and homework to do, and evidently some dishes requiring a fair amount of elbow grease to clean.  As far as I know, there are no flashing runway lights in her house, she doesn't have big angel wings sprouting from her back, no high heels or pouty lips.  No, based on what little I know, I'm guessing this Victoria doesn't have too many secrets these days because there's not many moments to herself and when she does find one she's so worn out she can't think straight.  One of her secrets was that somedays around dusk she says shucks, I'm just gonna wash dishes in my bra.  But I know that one now.

What I witnessed that evening was a woman knee-deep in the things of this earth; a lady that works at her marriage and makes sure the children are fed and taxied hither and yon and labors so that everybody's clothes are washed-then-folded and remembers to feed the dog.  And the dishes?  Well, sometimes the stains are too stubborn for the dishwasher, so she pulls out the sponge and strips down to her bra and sets to work. In a very real sense, women like her, like Victoria, keep this old world spinning and turning; without them...I'm not sure I want to think about that.  Still, I wonder if she sometimes thinks Dear Godis this it?  It's not that she's ungrateful, it's just that she's so blooming tired.  Maybe she does wish for some of those glossy catalog wings, not so she could strut a runway, but so she could fly, fly away and take a break or a load off or a nap and dream like she did when she was a little girl, back before dishes stained with dusk. 

I saw Victoria that evening and now I see her differently.  As I am learning to pray for the little boy, Icarus, who jumps so high on his trampoline not far from me, I now also am learning to pray for Victoria-of-the-one-less-secret who lives close by.  I don't know if anyone else on the planet is praying for these people, remembering them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I'm trying.

I write at a kitchen table.  But there are times I leave the table and go out into the world.

From you via me to George or Mary or Zuzu or Clarence...

I'm not a praying man...please, show me the way.  I don't know what to do...

I'm wondering if you know anybody like this?  Someone who has had one of those years? A man or woman, named George or maybe some other name, who is at that point of feeling they might be worth more dead than alive?  A precious creation birthed from the heart of the Grace that keeps this world who might be whispering at this very moment a tear-filled-please prayer?  Maybe it's been the loss of a job, loss of a home, loss of a spouse, loss of a dream...  

Some of you have indicated that you've ordered my book - Touching Wonder.  To say "thank you" is to fail at words; it means more than you'll ever, ever know.  If you have read it, might I ask you to take the time to go to Amazon and leave a reader comment?  I'm not asking you to fudge or anything; if you liked it, say that, but if you didn't, say that. And if you put it under a table leg and it's keeping said table nicely balanced so the butter-n-rolls don't slide off, then say that.  Fair enough?

I'd also like to make you an offer because I do believe in this little book and the spirit that runs through it; namely, that each one of us matters to God.  Here's the offer: If you'll leave a comment here I will put your precious name in the official Dirty Shame drawing box and at the right time, I'll draw out ten names.  If you're one of the ten, you get to gift someone having a George Bailey year with the book Touching Wonder. I'll write a brief note and sign a copy of the book and send it to the person you know who's down on their luck or down on life or just down on themselves, which may best the worst down of all.  You might want it to be an anonymous gift and that's fine. But if you wanted me to say "this is from Rachel and she's thinking about you" then I'd be happy to do that as well.  Is this making sense? It's an opportunity for both of us, you and me, to reach our hands across to someone with tears in their eyes and say, "it really is a wonderful life...and you've no idea how important you are to us and to God above and to people you've never even met before."  Still making sense?  The person receiving the gift may not know who-in-the-sam-hill John Blase is, but if they read the book they just might be reminded of who God is and maybe even who they are and well, that could make for a merry Christmas.

This has been on my mind; it may be a foolish idea, but that's about the only kind I can come up with anyway.  Leaving a comment on this post enters your name.  I'll draw the ten names ten days from now, September 22nd, the first day of fall.  I'm coming up with two or three other giveaway type things to follow this one, so stay tuned.  And again, if you've bought the book or might even be considering it, thank you very much. 


Teach Me To Pray

I write at a kitchen table.  There are days when I'd love to have a writer's desk with an old Tiffany lamp perched just so and fountain pens in an empty soup can and copies of The New Yorker strewn about the edges and...but that would be someone else's story.  I write at a kitchen table.

As I wrote yesterday, I could see him.  Then he'd disappear.  Then I'd see him again.  Rising. Falling.  Rising again.  You see, his backyard has a trampoline, like our backyard does.  I watched him turn flip after flip after flip, I bet twenty in a row, his eyes closed.  He was poetry. Our trampoline has a black safety web that feeds our abandon.  His does not; he jumps without a net.

The lights in his house stay on all night long and the windows are always, always open, every last one, and people are always yelling or screaming or crying or hollering.  Sometimes, when I'm writing at the kitchen table in the wee small hours I see the lights and hear the sounds. Sometimes I stop writing and pray.  There used to be a daddy in his house, but now he's gone. There were rumors about, well, they were rumors.  Now there's a boyfriend in his house and rumors of marriage.

Sometimes I stop writing and wonder about him.  It used to bug me that the lights stayed on all night but then I thought what if that's because a daddy loved darkness rather than light?  That was the rumor.  It doesn't bug me so much now, after that thought.  And I used to wonder why he would spend long stretches of time doing flip after flip after flip.  But then I thoughtsometimes even a new boyfriend can't put humpty together again and maybe he asks God to make him a bird so he can fly, fly away but God doesn't listen, so the closest he can get to the sky, to being untethered by the things of this world, is to barrel outside and close his eyes and spread his wings and jump without a net.  

If I had that writer's desk like I mentioned, it would probably be tucked away in some corner of the house surrounded by books that reached to the ceiling.  If I had that desk, I couldn't see Icarus; I wouldn't know how to pray.  

Just a piece...

“My friends, I don’t have a sermon for you this morning.  I know that will disappoint some and thrill others, so ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘your welcome.’  I tried to prepare a sermon on the familiar.  Instead, I’ve decided to tell you a story on the not so familiar."

One day a man, a good man, a godly man, was taking out the trash when he saw a young woman by the side of a dumpster.  She’d had a life growing within her, but the life died, and so, in a way she was dying too; she was half-dead.  Although she looked like a child herself, she was not.  Her eyes told the story of years of suffering.  This good man dropped all of his plans, everything that everyone around him thought so important, and took her in his arms and carried her home.  The man and his wife nursed the young woman, doing what they could, praying as best they knew how.  The woman regained enough strength to tell the man and his wife her name: Isabel

What the woman did not know was that many years before, the good man and his wife had a little girl named Isabel.  They had dreamed of her; only God knew how much they loved her.  One Sunday morning, as the good man prepared to go and speak of holy things, he backed out of the garage and did not see Isabel playing behind the car.  She was rushed to the hospital, but her injuries were too severe.  Isabel died. 

The good man dreamed that one day God would give Isabel back to them.  And so, when Isabel was found among the trash, this man believed his dream-prayers had finally been answered.  But after two days of caring for her, the man and his wife awoke to find Isabel was gone.  It was sadness upon sadness, simply too great to bear.  The man found he could no longer speak of holy things; he counted himself among the half-dead. 

One day, the half-dead man met another man who spoke of holy things; he said ‘if you cannot speak of those things, maybe you can do those things.’  And so the half-dead man did try, and one thing led to another and maybe the God who is great and the God who is good saw those holy things and believed they were as good as words, maybe better.  

The new friend who spoke of holy things asked for his help; a woman had been killed, and in the face of tragedy, two together are stronger than one.  As the two men stood before the young woman’s body, the good man, the man God still believed in, realized it was Isabel.  Whether or not it was his daughter was not the point; her name was Isabel.  

If you were to ask this man, this good man, about this story today he would say ‘there are our plans which most of us confidently travel in the direction of, and then there is life, usually somewhere to the side, asking us to pause and really live.  I longed to hold my daughter throughout her life, but that was not to be the story.  I did hold her at the beginning and in some way I was able to hold her again in the middle, when she had been discarded, almost lost…and I was able to hold her again at the end, to tell her goodbye and how beautiful she was.’ 

And it was then that Jordan Ross, pastor of Grace Church, began to weep.  He wept for good friends in Kansas who were at that very moment standing before a casket holding a beloved father.  He wept for a young college girl, gifted with the compassion of the saints of old, who now sat in fear at a violent world that had suddenly become much closer.  He wept for a military widow and her two sons who were on this day observing the anniversary of the death of their most loved soldier.  He wept for a man without a home who was just moving into a new town with new faces but possibly the same old prejudices.  He wept for a woman named Isabel and the suffering she endured at the hands of those who used her and those who ignored her; who in this very second he prayed was safely in the arms of Jesus.  And the pastor wept for a good man, a godly man, who was not far away placing fresh lilacs on the grave of a little girl that he and his wife hoped to see again one day, some day, when all, when everything that is broken is pieced back together again and everything is beautiful.

When September Comes...

That little Christmas book releases today.  Be sure and get your copy soon.  The early bird gets the awe...