The flight of los pobres...

en busca de los pobres - it was the only phrase I could see from where I was sitting.  I believe it means "for the poor..."  

She'd been intently reading since before takeoff.  But every time I tried to peek at the book, she'd turn it, almost as if she knew.  Writers can't help it; we're curious or at least good writers are.  In addition to holding the book, the last two fingers of her right hand, ring-man and pinkie, grasped a rosary.  She'd read a little and then finger the beads, a few more pages, then a few more beads.  This read-bead prayer lasted the flight's duration.

Was she afraid to fly?  I don't know.  I do know that at one point she dozed for just a second and startled awake by grabbing my arm, as if she might be falling or something.  Cuanto lo siento.  I believe that means "I'm so sorry."  I waved away her embarassment and she returned to her prayer.  As she readjusted in her seat, the book turned my way and I stole a glance: piensa en alguien que.  I believe it means "think of someone who..."

Maybe, just maybe, the lady beside me in 17D was thinking of someone poor and then remembering him or her or them to the man melded to that cross dangling on the end of her rosary.  And then she'd think a little more and remember another poor soul.  

I'd like to believe that maybe, just maybe, that lady realized the poverty of her seatmate in 17C - me.  I'd love to believe that maybe I was a bead in the hand, which in the economy of prayer is worth two in the bush, and that this abuela made mention of me to the Man of Sorrows.  Maybe she also mentioned the young girl in 17B who told somebody "I sure do love you" just before takeoff and then slept bobbleheaded the rest of the flight.  And maybe she also mentioned the man in 17A who huffed and puffed most of the flight due to bobblehead girl; maybe also the airline attendant who looked so lonely; maybe also the pilot who kept coming on the intercom saying "I'm sorry for the bumpy ride folks; keep your seatbelts fastened."

It really was a turbulent flight.

As we exited the plane, bags in hand, heads unbobbled, I passed the pilot and made mention of the ride.  He looked at me intently and said "Man, you folks had no idea."

I'm sure the wonders of aircraft construction, wings and things, ensured our place in the clouds.  But I wonder if a certain plane on Monday was truly kept aloft by the weathered fingers of a righteous Hispanic grandmother as she made her way around the beads.  Maybe the dips we experienced were the spaces between the beads and as she grasped the next one, we'd level out.  I don't know this for certain, but in the economy of prayer I'm convinced most times we have no idea.

I've lately become fairly pragmatic about prayer; if it works for you, do it.  I may invest in a rosary and keep it close, especially on plane rides.  If I sit beside you and you notice my fingers, you'll know what's going on.  Regardless of our point of origin or final destination or connections in-between, we are all los pobres...

I wish I would've told that lady gracias.  I'm certain it means "thank you."  



These Memories of Earth

"You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you've never seen before. A pair of somebody's old shoes can do it. Almost any movie before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.  They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are. More often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and to summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next."
- Frederick Buechner

It's turned warm this week in Colorado; temperature up around 70 or so.  Folks have had to roll up their sleeves; I've had to roll down the windows on the daily drive home.  One afternoon, Tuesday I believe, I was veering slightly to the right, exiting from the interstate, the windows were down, and I was listening to the AM station - all hits of all time.  And this thing called a radio, which still marvels me, started playing "Danny Boy" - 
And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
And that was that.  Tears, unexpected tears.  

Wednesday night our family sat in a bricked gym while the combined choirs in our school district gave their annual concert.  One of the many school-aged choir kids was a certain fifth-grader who happens to look a lot like me; they didn't charge for tickets at the door, but I'd of gladly paid to hear her sing.  We sat high up in the gym's bleachers, up where all the heat rises, for almost an hour and a half, listening, applauding, listening again, applauding once more.  It was a gathering of all the slices of pie in our area: rich, poor, blond, bald, dressed-to-the-nines, shorts-and-a-t-shirt, young and restless, old and still, plain, handsome, and then that lady sitting catty-corner from me with her thick legs wrapped in black hose stuck out in the aisle just daring folks to step on her toes.  The third song for the evening was an Israeli folk song - "Hine Ma Tov" - performed exclusively by the elementary kids, including that girl who resembles me.  The lyrics, in Hebrew, look like this - 
 .הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אָחִים גַּם יַחַד 
which translated reads - 
"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony."
And that was that.  Tears, unexpected tears.  

And then just yesterday, a day I'm glad is done and gone, someone broke the window in my girlfriend's van and stole her purse.  There wasn't any cash in it, us being regular and all, but the purse was a gift from my parents and she absolutely adored it.  And the purse had her iPod in it, a gift from me not long ago, and she'd just about got it all loaded with favorite songs; trust me, it was a hard day.  I took the afternoon off to help her, be with her.  When our girls arrived home after school, I told them what had happened: they got mom's purse and iPod.  My two little girls, all hot and sweaty from the schoolday, learning Hebrew folk songs and all, immediately teared up as if someone had slapped them or injured them in some way.  I hadn't cried any up to that point.  I'd waxed eloquently with a few sentences full of words you don't say in church while replacing the locks on our doors, but no tears.  But seeing those so fresh from God well-up at the pain of another, another they love dearly...well, that was that.       

In Praise of Regular

Regular: recurring, attending, or functioning at fixed, uniform, or normal intervals regular income; regular churchgoer; regular bowel movements.

I'd like to say just a word or four in praise of regular.  I'll start with gasoline and then hit the three italicized in that definition above.  

I've always put regular gas in my vehicles.  Mid-grade and premium are words not found in my lexicon of petrol.  Maybe my cars would have performed more efficiently if I had used a higher grade of gasoline, but I've always gotten where I was going.  And isn't that the point?  If my current car were more efficient, I'd probably drive faster and more racy like and probably miss the fox that scrambled along the fence line yesterday or the ravens perched on that dumpster behind the Village Inn.  I don't want to miss gifts like that.  

The main reason for regular gasoline is that I've always had a regular income; it's what I could afford.  I'm using the word regular to describe amount, not schedule.  Sure, compared to some folks in some countries, I'm living on king's wages.  But compared to folks in this country, I'm making regular money.  Now maybe my fortune will change one of these days and I won't have to worry, yes, worry, about the money and the bills and the money.  But God's been good and God's been great and there's always been food on the table and every once in a while, a little extra to get milkshakes and such.  Every morning, I pray that prayer the Lord taught his disciples to pray.  About midway through, that same old phrase drops from my lips: Give us this day our daily bread.  Bread for today, just today.  If tomorrow comes, well, then I'll pray the prayer again, asking for that day.  If I had too much money, which I wouldn't mind trying sometime, but if I did, I might stop asking for daily bread.  And if I stopped asking for daily bread, then I might stop asking for forgiveness for my sins and the sins of others and praying to be kept from the evil one and the kingdom/power/glory belonging to the Father.  I don't want to miss gifts like that.

I've been a fairly regular churchgoer in my life.  I realize the term churchgoer probably makes many current pastors and leaders cringe, as it indicates someone who attends rather than belongs or something like that.  That's too bad.  I've gotten up and gone to church, yes, a physical place, most Sundays whether I felt like it or not.  And some Sundays the sermons were slow as molasses and the music would bother the dead.  And then some Sundays, a word or phrase renders me a man undone; or a child waves at me during the service for no reason at all; or the bread is placed in my hands and the wine crosses my lips and all I can say is a teary Amen.  Church is kinda like life; you've just got to show up.  And if you show up regularly, your chances of receiving or giving gifts like that are better than if you're irregular.  Which brings me to my last word.

I have regular bowel movements.  Yes, a cup of coffee first thing in the morning keeps me on time like the noon stage, except the train just pulls in a little earlier.  I'm thankful for that, I really am.  I wonder sometimes if all those folks running yellow lights in the morning or talking on their cell phones in the grocery store so I can hear them three aisles away are doing such things because they're constipated, literally and figuratively.  Remember, as the body goes, so goes the soul.  Regularity can be seen as some stuffy, stodgy adherence to the rules.  It can also be seen as something that leaves you lighter and brighter for the day ahead.  I spent some time, years ago, as a hospital chaplain.  I'd visit folks every day, preach a little gospel, sell a few bottles of dr. good, that kinda stuff.  One of the men I remember vividly was constipated with a capital C.  I'll never forget the day, days later, when I visited and he was beaming like an angel who'd just got his wings: Son, I had a crap!   The man had tears in his eyes, I kid you not.  Pray for me, son.  The Book of Common Prayer has a lot of tricks in it, but I had to improvise in that moment.  We bowed our heads and closed our eyes and praised the good Lord for the gift of regular.  I kid you not.  

May we all be regular folks.  Amen.          

I'm Not Sure...

[a scene in the third season of David Simon's THE WIRE where Baltimore Police Major Bunny Colvin gives some rare straight talk on the futility of the drug war]

WOMAN: I come home from work, I can't even get up my front steps 'cause they occupied by the drug dealers. Is that in the picture you got up there?

POLICE MAJOR COLVIN: I'm Major Colvin. I apologize for giving you the wrong impression tonight, we mean no disrespect. I know what's going on in your neighborhoods, I see it everyday. Ma'am, it pains me that you cannot enter your own front door in safety and with dignity. But truth is, I can't promise you it's gonna get any better. We can't lock up the thousands that are out on those corners. There'd be no place to put them even if we could. We show you charts and statistics like they mean something, but you going back to your home tonight, we gonna be in our patrol cars, and the boys still gonna be out there on them corners. Deep in the game. This here is the world we've got, people. And it's about time that all of us had the good sense to at least admit that much.

MAN: So what's the answer?

POLICE MAJOR COLVIN: I'm not sure. But whatever it is, it can't be a lie.

Last night, I watched Bill Moyers interview David Simon, a newspaper beat reporter turned television writer and producer. The program began with these words from Moyers: "When television history is written," one critic says, "Little else will rival 'The Wire.'" And when historians come to tell the story of America in our time, I'll wager they will not be able to ignore this remarkable and compelling portrayal of life in our cities.

What followed was a brilliantly angry voice I'd not heard before, one who spoke with conviction and experience and honesty. Simon spoke specifically of the drug war and inner city realities, but the larger backdrop was America, for better or worse, the America "in our time."

I woke up this morning about 4am, couldn't go back to sleep, so I figured hey, why not go online and read the entire transcript from last night's PBS program? That's what most people do early Saturday mornings, right? Anyway, I did, and was again both shaken and stirred.  Here is the link. 

Police and law enforcement have waged the war on drugs for years now. However, regardless of what statistics you may hear to the contrary, drugs are more readily available these days and more pure than ever before. Obviously, the war efforts are not working. As Simon says, "...this war's lost. This is all over but the shouting and the tragedy and the waste."

Here are two scenes I'll share from the interview, both taken from THE WIRE. As you read through them, I'd encourage you to consider them in light of the Church...that's where these scenes and this interview took me.

BILL MOYERS: And there's a wonderful scene in which this kid, himself, talks to the teacher about the hypocrisy of the very system that you've just described. Take a look.


NAMOND BRICE: Like y'all say, don't lie, don't bump, don't cheat, don't steal or whatever. But what about y'all? What, the government, Enron, steroids? Yeah, liquor business, booze-- the real killer out there? And cigarettes, oh [deleted]. You got some smokes in there?

FEMALE TEACHER: I'm trying to quit.

SOT: STUDENT 2: Drugs paid your salary, right?

HOWARD "BUNNY" COLVIN: Not exactly, but I get your point.

NAMOND BRICE: We do the same thing as y'all, except when we do it, it's like, "Oh my God, these kids is animals!" It's like, it's the end of the world coming. Man, that's bull [deleted]. 'Cause this is like, what, hypocrite? Hypocritical.


And then this one -

BILL MOYERS: Yes, one of my favorite scenes, in Season Four, we get to see the struggling public school system in Baltimore, through the eyes of a former cop who's become a schoolteacher. In this telling scene, he realizes that state testing in the schools is little more than a trick he learned on the police force. It's called "juking the stats." Take a look.


ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL: So for the time being, all teachers will devote class time to teaching language arts sample questions. Now if you turn to page eleven, please, I have some things I want to go over with you.

ROLAND "PREZ" PRYZBYLEWSKI: I don't get it, all this so we score higher on the state tests? If we're teaching the kids the test questions, what is it assessing in them?

TEACHER: Nothing, it assesses us. The test scores go up, they can say the schools are improving. The scores stay down, they can't.

PREZ: Juking the stats.

TEACHER: Excuse me?

PREZ: Making robberies into larcenies, making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and major become colonels. I've been here before.

TEACHER: Wherever you go, there you are.


I'm hoping you can draw at least a few parallels. The Church has waged the war on sin for, well, let's just say a long time. However, sin is just as available and pure these days as it was, let's say, a long time ago. It is possible for us, as the Church, to come clean? What of the confessional church? And I'm not talking about creeds. Folks adverse to church have long said "it's full of hypocrites." Why can't we say "Absolutely! And I'm one of them"? I know there is an atmosphere in many churches right now of "getting real" and "authentic" but I believe there is a ceiling on it; we will only endure so much "real." A church full of gypsies, tramps and thieves won't make the front of Outreach magazine's Top 100 Churches; it just won't, for that would indicate a failure of leadership or vision or mission or something. Might it indicate the way things are?

And as to "juking the stats", well...goodness. What of all the Church's efforts to teach our children well and make sure our kids stay Christian in college and create community so we can do life together and live out the "one anothers"? Might those efforts be juking the stats? If we can just come up with something for folks to do or memorize or support or assemble for, we feel that progress is being made and someone might take notice of us and write an article about us or ask us to write a book about our paradigm shifts or invite us to speak at conferences on how we facilitate change. Might all of these "things" be assessments of ourselves and not assessments of the least of these that we, the Church, have been called to serve? An ongoing "trick" to fool ourselves into thinking that wherever you go, you're not really there?

Sorry for such a long post, but my mind is reeling. If you think this some mad rant against the Church, you're not listening. Only those who love her can think such thoughts...

Well, John, what is your answer to all this?

I'm not sure. But whatever it is, it can't be a lie.

Life's Whisper

"Friday's child is full of woe..."

Lord, why is snow white?

Why do you ask?

Oh, I don't know exactly. I'm just sitting here watching it fall and wondered what snow would be like if it was, say, red.

Red? Really?

I realize that kinda ruins the "whiter than snow" thing, but it was just a thought. The other night, as you well know, we watched Charlton Heston's staff turn the waters blood-red. What would folks do if something like that happened today, to the snow?

John, you do remember what today is?

Yes. It's been ten years, right?

A thousand years is as a day to me, so it feels like just yesterday. Whatever snow white innocence remained in public schools turned red that day, blood-red.

I read where someone from Princeton called it "the iconic shooting."

That may be the most profane thing I've heard in a long time.

(a moment of silence)

Lord, thank you for bringing Joel and Jude's baby safely here last night.

Oh, Ava? Yes, she's beautiful, still so fresh from me...a newborn baby's cry is my staff stuck in the blood-red waters of this world's hurt and pain. It's not cinematic, DeMillesque drama, but soft, gentle, sometimes hidden, almost common to some. Life's whisper against death's howl.

Lord, red snow was just a thought. I'm glad snow is white. It's a good contrast.

Contrast? Yes. I like that. Sometimes a multitude being covered leads to forgetfulness. I want you to "zakar" - remember.

(a moment of silence)

Practicing Resurrection

Were the first disciples skipping rocks
when Jesus came calling?
Instead of immediately saying follow me,
did he hold his tongue, the better part of valor?
Did he hear be still and know from his Father who art in heaven,
urging the only begotten's blood to rise at the edge of innocence...
to witness a side-armed throw and one-footed release
and dream of a cross too-handed to carry;
to revel as shore rocks cry out three, four, five times before
it is finished,
and feel the point of a soldier's spear;
to hear unburdened men laughing like boys, framed by a beautiful dusk,
and wish a veil torn and darkness at noon;
to see what he is not here would mean for all men
and then, and only then, after seeing hope at a stone's throw,
suffer the little children to come?

[poetry-prompt image provided by Christine at]

The Way We Are

"Death steals everything except our stories." – Jim Harrison

I’m sitting across from this woman, each of us typing on laptops - typing…typing…typing.
Will that coffee keep you awake tonight?
Not a chance.
She knows this, just as God knows what we need even before we ask.
But there’s love in the asking.
The refrigerator we’ve had too long hums in the corner, the freezing unit occasionally dripping water in the silver cake pan we set on the top shelf beside the milk.
Damned old refrigerator’s gonna peter out one of these days.
Think so?
She knows I do, but I’ll keep emptying the pan. The white Kenmore, littered with homework and magnets, fits us.

Three small frames in the sill above the sink hold snapshots of children we once had; they’ve now outgrown the frames.
Our baby’s gonna be in second grade next year, J.
I don’t respond, although she knows I heard her.
I can’t, as thinking about that makes my heart hurt.

Portuguese Water Dog! That’s what I was trying to remember!
President can’t even buy an American dog.
Shush. It’s cute.
The Beagle is asleep in the middle of our rug, belly so full of kibble you can almost see it.
Why didn’t they get a Beagle?
I suppose because they wanted a Portuguese Water Dog.

In three months, it’ll be nineteen years.
We didn’t know what the hell those vows meant that June afternoon. But we’re starting to now.
We stood, as Stafford said, children with “faces of promise, places where the scars will be.”
She’ll probably leave later this month for a few days, visit her daddy.
He’s taking chemo, back in Arkansas.
I’ll empty the silver cake pan and feed the Beagle and tend to the children while she’s gone.
We’ll talk every night.
Now you’re coming home tomorrow?
Yes. I can’t wait to see you.
I know this.
But still I ask.

The Neverending Last Supper

You know how the story goes, but I'll tell you how it went.

Last week, for three nights, three hours each night, I was Footwashing Jesus in our church's dramatic Holy Week offering. It really was a little daunting; I don't play myself very well, much less the Lord. Here are a few thoughts in the wake. Do with them what you will...such as I have, I give.

First of all, it felt sorta, well, important, washing the feet of the disciples. Being all robed up, accentuated by sandals and a little middle eastern music in the background just makes serving, well, kinda cool. But when the music fades and the robes are swept away, then the real scene begins: responding to a child in mercy instead of justice; being patient with a co-worker who brings their life's problems to work; doing whatever it is for the millionth time, again; holding your tongue's "I told you so" when its screaming to get out; fidelity to a spouse, a family, a place; blessing those who curse you; mucking out the stalls and such. You see, we want to put all our eggs, Easter and otherwise, in the basket of the Lord bathed in the dew-kissed glow of that morning, risen, victorious, anthem-like. But the example he gave and urged us to remember is the upper-room-bended-knee-kinda-crap that drives most of us to phrases like "Lord, isn't there more?" And Jesus responds (and I have this on good authority) "The servant is not greater than the master." Rats.

Second, there were those who joined in the moment and sat on the floor with us and participated in the passing of the bread and wine. And then there with those who did not. For whatever reason or reasons, they stood and sat at a distance. There was a time when I would fret over those at arms' length, doing all I could to make sure they "get it." But no more. I am not the author of this play, but a character. If his grace is truly sufficient for all at the table, from John the beloved to Judas the betrayer, and I believe, if I believe anything at all, that it is, then I'm free to share what I have and then let it be. If you or anyone else "getting it" is finally dependent on me, then we are of all men and women most to be pitied. It is a liberation via prepositions: I am responsible to you, not for you.

Third, and last, and somewhat related to the first. One thing I noticed during my three nights of Jesus was that I could keep it fun by altering the scene ever so slightly each time; an added line here, an edited gesture there, using actions rather than words or vice versa. The first night I sounded like King James; by Friday, Jesus was uttering phrases like "Aw, Peter." My partners in crime (John the beloved and Peter the raucous) followed suit. This improv kept the scene fresh, not so much for those anew in the room, but for those, us, called to do it over and over again. Life gets stale without improv; routine without flecks of the unexpected; entombed if you stay chained to the script. The endless play goes on and you may contribute a part. What will your part be?

I was relieved to hang Jesus' robe back on the hangar and get back to the art of being John. I kinda think Jesus was relieved as well...

(the character in the picture beside me is Peter, played by Tim Bergren - a gentleman and a scholar, with incredibly clean feet)

The Hanging Tree

But it was done. And the body hung there
like a butchered thing, naked and alone
in a sudden hush among the ravaged air.
- B.H. Fairchild, "The Deposition"

Our Father, who art in heaven,
gallowed is thy Name,
*gallowed? Updike's Rev. Marshfield allowed the "happy Freudian" to stand in A Month of Sundays. I will too. It stops my daily Lord's Prayer after only two lines: the gallowed God.

gallow - a frame, typically wooden, used for execution by hanging.

And so, Lord, here we stand, on this Good Friday, a month of Sundays and then some from that Friday so long, long ago. Who are we kidding? We can't relate to the nails and plaited crown; we're too far removed. They cause us pain via church dramas and silver screen productions. But we can wipe our eyes and walk away, each believing we are right in our own eyes. It is true - the only ones who speak of crucifixion are those who've never witnessed one. But we do know of the hanging tree.

Can you see him, dear friend? We have to look up, up from the life we're trying to save, even if it is our own. The rope is so taut you could tune it. His weight is such as a man has in the pride of life. His hands are pulled behind his back; a direct mockery of the body language of power. His feet are jerking, jerking against the crown of rope around his neck. Although he tries to raise himself in the air, it's no good - he cannot breathe. The air is mercy-less. The grip of forsakenness yanks his tongue and eyes out in the grotesque visage of some clownish nightmare. The naked form who did not consider his divinity something to be grasped flops in midair, truly a fish out of water. He rages against the dying of the light until the darkness covers all. A final cough of bile and blood mixed sour rushes over teeth and lips and spits his chest. It is finished.

All that remains is the rhythmic creak of the rope as the gallowed God swings gently, back and forth. The ravaged air is hushed; you could hear a God hang.

My part in Holy Week

Our church is hosting a Holy Week event Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The guts of the buildings have been transformed into the scenes from the Passion; a children's classroom is now the Garden of Gethsemane, the sanctuary now the hill called Golgotha.

I was invited to be a part of this. I'd love to think the invitation came due to some acting aura I naturally emit or that my level of compassion is just so overwhelmingly biblical that folks said "Oh, John must be asked." But our church tries to deal in the real, not the fantastical, so for now, for this week, it was the beard and hair; a Holy Week presentation has to have a Jesus.

I will play Footwashing/Last Supper Jesus. I wasn't asked to be Garden of Gethsemane Jesus (dark and moody, very few lines) or Crucifixion Jesus (kinda the superstar); no, I'll be literally washing feet, breaking pita bread, and passing around a chalice of Mogen David. Hey, you play the cards you're dealt.

We practiced yesterday afternoon and I feel it'll go well come Wednesday. I really do. Although we had some background mood music playing, my head was filled with the soundtrack from the film The Gospel Road, featuring Johnny Cash. I was exposed to the movie at a very young age; a gift from my dad. Johnny sings and narrates the Passion week scenes. My parents have told me that I used to believe Cash's voice was God's voice. For some reason, I believe God would be o.k. with that. The song in that film which accompanies the scene I'm in this week is a rollicking ballad with that hallmark steam engine feel; it shows the disciples and Jesus enjoying a meal. But there's one line in the lyrics which kept repeating itself in my head yesterday afternoon: For tomorrow, I must die.

There's plenty of keyboards out there writing about the divinity of God, about the holiness inherent in this week so long ago. It should be so. However, my keyboard tends toward the human facet. There's got to be a few of us who keep saying "Yes, he was fully God...but he was also fully man." If this was your last week, your last meal, your last lecture, your last whatever, what would you be doing? How would you feel? What would you say?

There's a part of me that says Jesus knew he had to return to the Father; it was the next scene to be played. That same part of me also says that Jesus looked around at his ragtag friends and the pita bread and the Mogen David and the dust kicked up by unbroken colts in the street and the children playing in earshot and the old men standing around telling of the loaves and fish and the beautiful dusk and way divinity was wrapped up in flesh and bone and sweat and said "You know, I'm gonna miss this. I really am."

Did e're such love and sorrow meet?

I've renamed my scene Lake Wobegon Jesus; that descriptor won't show up in the printed material for this week; it's a card I'm playing close. I pray, I really do, that whatever aura I emit later this week is overwhelmingly melancholic grace; a snapshot of the Son of Man who inhaled tomorrow, I must die and exhaled I'm gonna miss this. I really am.

You know how the story ends...but I'll let you know how it goes.

Comes A Horseman...

Why are you doing this?

That's what the men asked as we untied the colt.

The Lord needs it, I said. That's what Jesus had instructed us to say. The men seemed to know this even before our answer. It was as if the moment had been prepared beforehand.

Why are you doing this?

That's what I wanted to ask him as he sat the colt. I'd never seen Jesus ride any kind of animal, much less an unbroken colt. He always walked, everywhere, always. And we followed. But I didn't ask why. Days of questioning seemed to be over; the hour was growing late. As we threw our coats as a makeshift saddle, I remembered.

Bartimeus stood up and threw off his coat. The garment didn't fall from his shoulders or slide down his arms. No, the blind man wrested himself from it and ran toward the Lord's voice. And then the Lord's question.

Why are you doing this?

Timeus' son said Rabboni, to see.

I'd never seen a blind man dance before. He looked like some unbroken colt, heaving himself in bucks of joy. Jesus simply smiled and started walking toward Jerusalem. And we followed.

We had been the ones dispatched to retrieve the colt. Now, the two of us walked shoulder to shoulder behind the procession. He, the one who would betray, whispered into an air filled with hosannas: Why, why are you doing this?

I paused a moment while he continued to walk. His rearranged his coat and looked back into my eyes. The brokenness I saw scared me. I saw that same expression in the garden. The blessed palm branches then replaced by fire and sticks and stones. I wondered aloud: Why are you doing this?

His answer that night blinded me: The Lords needs it. And then we, the eleven, scattered, wondering why?

[I have no idea whether or not Judas was one of the two in this scene, but for some reason, I see him and John as "the two" - the beloved and the betrayer, each feeling the weight of the other's words and actions]


The snow delayed their departure one day...sometimes, one day is enough. My girlfriend and my mother drove off to places like Michael's and Hobby Lobby, places, I believe, ill-suited for men. My three kids hunkered down in the back bedroom to play Wii games like Mario and My Simms, games designed, I believe, for young folks.

Being men and in our sixties and forties, my dad and I were left with, well, one another. And sometimes, one another is more than enough.

I'm aware that not everyone has a good relationship with their father. On the list of classic human themes, the father-son dance has always been high on the list. I believe it always will be. But these days, these later days, my love for the man who gave me my name is such that it undoes me to even type about it. It is a gift, a grace unearned and undeserved, a beautiful dusk.

We found ourselves sitting in the den, my dad with his laptop resting on the faded jeans he so often wears. He wanted to show me a song he'd found on YouTube. And so as the kids in our lives progressed to the next level and the ladies in our lives scanned the wicker-aisle, we sat close to one another and listened as an Irish lad wept

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

And he began to weep. I then asked if he'd heard "Requiem for a Soldier" - he typed it in and we listened as an operatic beauty sang

You never lived to see
What you gave to me
One shining dream of hope and love
Life and liberty
With a host of brave unknown soldiers
For you company, you will live forever
Here in our memory

And I joined his weeping. He then asked about an artist I'd mentioned to him - Pierce Pettis. A quick type of the keys and we listened as a quirky young man strummed about a "State of Grace." The tears were not light, gentle drops, but water from the deeps, grace-fed springs.

So, basically, my dad and I sat around listening to music and wiping our eyes on a Saturday afternoon as the sun inched closer to its hiding place behind the mountains. It was one of the best days I've had in a long, long time. You may ask Why the tears? I do not know for certain. Maybe we wept for the fathers and sons separated by wars and rumors of wars, both literal and not so; men, young and old, who did the best they could in this world and hoped it was enough for the next. Maybe my dad wept for his father, now gone, who often fills his dreams. Maybe I wept for my son, still here, who is my dream come true. And maybe we wept at the feet of something called grace which defies definition, but you know it when you hear it or feel it on your cheeks or sit beside it. So many times, the desire to define leads us far from our hearts. And maybe we wept because men usually cannot; we are so often called upon to be steel. Tears of sorrow and longing and wonder and gratitude; a literature of hope read on our faces.

When the ladies returned and the games were all over, our clan drove to Carl's Jr. for dinner. We're simple folk. My dad and I both ordered Kentucky Bourbon burgers which did not live up to their hype. Nevertheless, as we ate them across from one another, someone in our group said It's been a good day. My father reached across and took my hand: Yes...we don't know how many more we'll have.

No, we do not. But sometimes, one day is enough. More than enough.