Parson Brown...

In the meadow we can build a snowman
then pretend that he is Parson Brown
he'll say 'are you married?'
we'll say 'no man'
but you can do the job
when you're in town.  
I don't preach much anymore, not from behind a pulpit at least. But maybe for a few weeks here, during these adventus days, I can pre-tend to be Parson Brown...and try to do the job 'cause I'm in town, sorta. And what, you rightly ask, would be the job? Well, somebody needs to be asking questions, not necessarily like 'are you married?' but other ponderings, musings appropriate to this most wonderful time of the year.

Advent. The season of waiting.
So what are you waiting for? 

Allow me, the goodly parson, to pose that in two ways. I can ask as if we're both standing on a busy street corner beneath holiday lights and you're obviously waiting on someone or something to come along and I say So what are you waiting for? I can also ask as if we're both standing in front of a Blue Bell ice cream truck and the driver is offering you the one fudge bar he couldn't sell. He says 'here, take it, my treat' and I say So what are you waiting for? Same question, slightly different takes.

Maybe 'your Advent' this year (or switching those words you have Advent-your...impressive, huh?) is to wait for someone or something to come along. The temptation would be to make it happen, go ahead and do it, find a good deal or a steal, put it on the plastic...but your Advent-your is to wait for him or her or it or whatever to come to you. 

Then again, maybe, just maybe, your Advent-your is to reach out and grab what's looking you square in the schnoz. Maybe its been there for days, weeks, months even, and its high time and quite possibly the right time to act, move, seize, carpe! 

You might think one take easier than the other, but I'd gently, parsonly disagree. Both takes are hard because fear crouches at the doorstep. Fear that he or she or it will never come along...or fear that if you do grab the gusto it might not be the correct gusto (a whacked out fatalism) or if it is, then you'll grab too hard and kill it/ruin it. But the only way to experience an Advent-your is to have courage, take heart...or, in the words of the Good Book - fear not!

So what are you waiting for?  

A Song of Harvest Home...

The great God sits the rim of the universe, his long legs dangling over the edge swinging kid-like, back and forth, he’s watching, listening…

My father will look around the ornate table he and my mother bought years ago, a table large enough for the family that has grown to include grandchildren and their mothers. He’ll catch each of our eyes for a mere twinkling and then tears will pool his aging sockets as slack-jawed wonder shoots hot through his marrow – how’d I get so lucky? 

He will then take my mother’s hand, our signal to do the same with the blood kin beside us and my father will bow his head and close his eyes and raise the song of harvest home.  I no longer close my eyes, not in dumb rebellion, but for fear of missing something here, even one breath. While my father extols the leader triumphant, I will look around the great table at our lives and echo his refrain – how’d we get so lucky? 

That word – lucky – a dice-roll of letters that can hold both wheat and tares together sown for as the table will fat with decent health and deviled eggs and some-day-dreams, it will also lean of loved ones here no more and pang with disappointments too dark to name and owl with questions like who, who, who am I? The joy and the sorrow are one, inseparable, stitched, all the world is God’s own field.  There will no doubt be turkey on the table, but the real birds in the room are ducks, each of us, one and all, a brace honking out our best gratitude in calls loud and soft with tears on our cheeks and pumpkin pie on our minds, witnesses that yes, for one more year God our maker doth provide, seldom if ever as we’d prefer but always sufficient, always enough. And so we’ll squeeze one another’s hands as my father says amen and then babies-no-longer will lean in and pass the rolls their grandmother makes, while brothers will laugh again like boys as our wives sit close and talk with tenured voices, and my father and mother will rest from their labors, basking in the unmerited warmth that keeps this world, as outside ere the winter storms begin. Beyond frosting glass a mustering of angels sweep, back and forth, peering into our cockeyed lives, flapping with envy at the powerful gift of being alive...their voices ride the wind what a bunch of lucky ducks!

The great God sits the rim of the universe, his long legs dangling over the edge swinging kid-like, back and forth…he is watching, listening to a fowl gathering lucky he forgets not his own.

Monday's Mild Rant...

What you're after is this antiphony. This calling back and forth...
- Barry Lopez

The African-American pastor stands before the congregation and says 'I'm not gonna make it unless you help me.' The people nod and sway and begin their 'yes, yes'...the response...antiphony.

Its what we want for Christmas. Its what we want for Easter. Its what we want for our birthdays, anniversaries, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Boxing Day, any day for that matter. The antiphony, the response.

I heard a sermon not long ago, impassioned, loud, on the subject of marriage, about how its never to be a 50/50 deal, give and take, two way street, but rather we should love 100% regardless of the other's behavior or attitude. When I listened to the pauses in that sermon I heard a man's silent cry - 'dear God, I hope what I'm saying isn't true, what a life without parole that would be.' I read a blog post recently where the conversation in that domain proclaimed that comments were not important, that the writing was for the writing's sake, maybe even for the ever popular 'audience of one' - whatever that means, and that whether or not you and I read and respond are, in the final analysis, rather beside the point. When I paid attention to the margins of that blog what I saw was armor, protection, resistance to hurt.

Both of these examples had a strong whiff of spiritual on them, the Bible was stood upon, verses were waved, God's name was invoked, a fleece of devout placed just so. In both of these instances my heart grieved 'dear brother and sisters, this should not be so.' Once that bathroom Polo of holiness dissipates I believe a stench arises, one where the other is not important, one where forth is all that matters and back don't mean a thing, one where response is driven from the camp, antiphony crucified.

Spend fifty years, a rarity these days, of giving 100% in marriage while the other never responds and you might die some Hosea-like-saint, but your bitterness and regret and pain will be as dark as your age spots. Spend a lifetime writing for the writing's sake with no concern for hearing from the other and maybe when you die we'll publish your stacks of journals and you shall be more powerful in death than in life...but then again, maybe your mountains of print will be burned as wood, hay, stubble by relatives who never got the chance to respond and, to be quite honest, are glad to finally be rid of you.

When the call is 'thank you'...the response is 'you're welcome.'
When the forth is 'I love you'...the back is 'I love you too.'

The response is not only what we want, it is what we need. It is courteous - a word akin to courting, that old fashioned dance of manners and nuance...(I'll have to return to drive that post another day).

Antiphony...break that word in half and you have anti-phony, the antidote to a phoniness that all too often passes for some humble-bumble devotion that's shiny at first blush but upon careful inspection is revealed to be the currency of fools.

Antiphony. It is, I believe, how God so loved the world and therefore how we should then love it and one another too. Without it, we're not gonna make it.

Playing our song...

He was wise enough to keep the sermon short and not invent Shane's goodness but to simply speak of loneliness and how we can't completely know another human being.
Kent Meyers, Twisted Tree

That word - lonely. Say it. A word defined largely by its sound, the long O creating a moan leading into the n allowing you to rock on it a moment before tipping into ly and then it drifts away.

That word - lonely. A word with origins, like all things, in Eden, when the first two ate from that fated tree. Many say sin was birthed in that moment. I say that's when lonely was born. They looked at each other with egg on their faces and felt something new, something not yet named, the pang, the oh. They sewed and sewed until their fingers bled, God knows, but the fig skins could hide only naked...not lonely.

Yes, yes, alone had been around, the man could not find like bones, like flesh. God declared it not good and so the woman ribbed forth. But it wasn't until after she came along, after the bones and flesh lost themselves in grassy splendor, after God rested, after that first black communion of take/eat and they did, after all was both said and done, then he and she knew lonely. The old book calls them cherubim and flaming sword, but those are words used west of the garden. From where they stood, he and she saw them as Eden's neon rainbow, flashing stabs of lonely. The man and woman went forth to cultivate and have relations...and dream. Put another quarter in, for that is where our song begins...the first note, the first word. Dance slow, dance close. Its our song.  

Thank you...

You can't just walk away from yourself, she said. You don't expect a waitress to say something like that. Maybe more coffee? or would you like to see the dessert tray? but not that. Guess that's why it pierced, meaning, oracle. She smiled, paused a moment as those wild-bird words settled, then said you just can't. What would possess a middle-aged Native American woman to say that, out of the blue? There hadn't been conversation beyond hello, how are you, patty melt medium, potato salad, and iced tea. Everything normal, usual, comfortable. And then that, something not ordered but offered, a tip in reverse. Ate every bite, as mother trained, and left 20% as dad taught. The restaurant door was paned with that old timey glass, thick, wavy. Caught my face it in as she pushed it open, at first carnival-contorted, then clear, placid, myself. Her voice touched from behind. Pilamaya she whispered. No, I thought, thank you.