There Are No Unsacred Places...

Alright, the 12 Weeks of Christmas Book-And is coming to a close. I realize we only made it to week 6, but after some book publicity travel and Thanksgiving, I'm turning around and wham! it's December and I so want to be intentional about these days leading up to Christmas.  Writing a book about savoring the slow-born-wonder of Christmas and then not practicing what you preach...well, I'd just hate to do that...most days I'm a card-carrying hypocrite; there's no need to dig a deeper hole.

Besides, the Dirty Shame has been feeling like some show giveaways and promotional verbiage and razamataz. Maybe it hasn't felt that way to you, but it sure has to me.  The Dirty Shame is a place where folks can come and warm themselves by the fire of words and phrases stoked just so.  I want to try and get back to that...I'm sorry if things got off track.  Please don't hear that as some pious claptrap; the world has more than enough of that...more than enough.


We spent Thanksgiving in St. Louis.  My wife's cousin was married on Saturday afternoon in a gorgeous little Episcopal church in Webster Groves.  Later that evening, we all converged on a banquet hall for a dinner/reception.  The atmosphere was celebratory, people were laughing and carrying on...but then it happened...someone got up to "give thanks" before we ate.  Now I don't know who this person was, probably some friend of the bride's family that is considered religious.  I'm sure her heart was in the right place, but her words were not.  She constantly invoked the great God and used the word community at least twice.  I seriously thought I might start crying.

I pray with my eyes open; it's just how I do things these days.  As I looked around the room whilst the great God was being intoned, it looked like that room in the White Witch's castle in Narnia, the one where everybody is frozen and blue and almost dead.  Not a minute before people were full of mirth, but in two shakes of a "let us pray" the life of the party ran and hid.  Fortunately, after the pray-er said amen, one of my wife's aunts (a rabid Razorback fan) said Go Hogs!  And with that the spell was broken, the winter was past, and the green of spring returned as we ate and drank and were merry and abandoned all thoughts of community.

My lord.  Why do we do that?  I use the collective we because I've been there before many times and on more than one occasion I've been the one asked to "give thanks" and about all I did was chill things for a few seconds.  Now some of you might say but John, there needs to be a distinction between the sacred and the profane, the earthly and the heavenly...a margin between the common and the divine.

"...there are no unsacred places/there are only sacred places/and desecrated places..." - Wendell Berry

Once upon a time, there was a wedding in the town of Cana.  Jesus was there.  The atmosphere was celebratory.  A need arose in the margins of that party.  Jesus stepped in, bridged it with a miracle, and the only pause that occurred was the one where the host said hey, this is even better than before, this is like, well, home.

Something to ponder.
Go Hogs!



  1. Oh to have seamless, transparent relationship ... I would die for that. Hang on. SomeOne already did.

    Good thing that cause now I can approach those I love with skin on the same as my very Favorite.

    Guess being at the end of oneself does help this situation. No one calls out in desperation with a holy dignity.

  2. This resonates like the first post I read at the Dirty Shame. Welcome back!

    I pray with my eyes open, my face lifted, and a smile of joy -- often so blessed with the Holy Spirit, I want to dance. Today I'm praying others find joy in their own prayers.

  3. actually, john, i think i'll sit out this opportunity to ponder.

    but i do wonder. has my humanity ... my unknowing ... my misunderstanding of the things of God which has caused me to miss-step publicly and in the presence of some on-lookers' scrutiny been the subject of sarcasm on a blog post? Lord knows my living provides plenty of opportunity.

    i wonder how many times people have spoken or written something behind my back when God was hoping they'd touch me face-to-face with grace and mercy and lovingkindness?

    a homeless man in our midst died from exposure sometime in the dark hours of night outside his tepee downtown. Ray Medina. a homeless man. a sinner ... wart-ridden like me. a Christ-follower perhaps. living a life of many miss-steps perhaps. accountable for a slew of idle words and not so idle words which filled his mouth for a lifetime and which some found ugly, inappropriate and unacceptable. praying prayers that invoked a winter chill to some perhaps.

    his living got him his picture in the local paper and many words two days in a row and not a one of those words was in judgment.

    i'm glad that while man looks at the outward appearance ... God looks at the heart, john. and i know that you do too.

    whoever this lady was, she will remain faceless and nameless but her prayers warm my heart just now.

    your post has given me an opportunity to take inventory about my judging others and i don't like what i see. may Jesus forgive me ... i am the worst of sinners.

  4. I pray both ways (eyes open and closed). For me, praying with my eyes closed helps me concentrate--to "be present", so to speak. I'm so distractible that if I can get rid of on incoming stimulus, then I can focus more one God.

    Loved this. This card carrying hypocrite will continue to try to get over myself when being too Jesusy for Jesus. And I get to be in front of Laure as the worst of sinners.

  5. Laure, I'm sorry all you heard was sarcasm. I obviously failed in my attempt to communicate the ways in which we keep God un-incarnated...and I am sorry to hear about Ray Medina.

  6. Gretchen,

    The trophy for worst sinner goes to...well looka there, the envelope says it's a shared award...

    Hope your clan is well!

  7. Sande, yes, that desperation piece is important...

  8. Kari, I hope when you're prompted to'll dance...

    Is your Christmas skit all set??

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Glad to get back to your contemplative posts, John. I'm enjoying daily contemplations reading your book SLOWLY and urging those I've given it to along the same lines.

  11. Me too, Lindsay. Slowly and savory-ly like.