Shutting Down...

You probably noticed a different look here, like somebody was messing about with things, moving boxes outside, setting them on the porch and stuff. That's me. I've decided to shut down the Dirty Shame...its time. I wrote a few words on Facebook the other day about doing something surprising, maybe even startling. Well, this is my something.

The good news is that I'm moving across town, so to speak, and I'll now be blogging at I hope you'll continue checking in from time and time and pondering the cockeyed thoughts of yours truly. And please know that any comment you leave, even if its a one-worder, is appreciated more than you'll ever know.

It'll be the same batman, just different bat channel - make sense? Well, shucks, this is harder than I thought...I'm about to cry. I guess its best to just ride off. So from here, adios. Hope to see you on the other side...over at the beautiful.


Smack Dab...

This one releases in September from Thomas Nelson, a full-color children's book by Brennan Manning and me. Nicole's illustrations are beautiful. I really think you'll like this one. Its a good story to read to a child, or to read to the child within. Again, I'll share more as time grows closer...its available for pre-order from all the usual suspects. 

All Is Grace...

Sometimes a writer finds himself a part of something much larger than a book...he looks up and wonders 'what kind of story have I fallen into?' Such was my experience working with Brennan Manning on his new book. It releases this October from David C. Cook Publishers. You can pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, et al.  As time grows closer, I'll share a little more, do what I can...but for now the cover and title - All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir - are sufficient. 

The Saturday That Was...

'I don't know where we went wrong other than that we obviously don't understand the Scriptures in the way that we should.'
- Tom Evans, board member of Family Radio

Maybe - its one of the most beautiful words in our language. Its a word that keeps us just a little off balance and possibly just a little humble, if we'll let it. Was Harold Camping wrong about May 21st? Well, maybe...I thought about this yesterday because I kept seeing/hearing/reading jeers. My opinion is even the faithful who said 'no one knoweth the day, Harold' still said it with a grin of 'see, I told you so.' Its fairly easy for the right hand to feign concern for those folks who gave up their life savings, while at the same time the left waves them away as 'moe-rons.' Most of how we feel, one way or the other, about Saturday hinges on a literalism; it didn't happen in the literal way we think it will or thought it would. But what if (three more beautiful words) something happened just a little less trumpet-blasting-sky-splitting-wish-we'd-all-been-ready style?

I'm not a theologian nor do I play one on tv, but I wonder if maybe seeds were planted on Saturday that will take time to bud? Sure, God could just start beaming believers up to the Spirit in the sky...or God could drop a seed of discontent in the mind of a man or woman or child, a seed that would sprout a root of bitterness for the jeering ways of this world, a root that would wrap itself 'round that man or woman or child's thoughts to the extent they would live in this world but not of it. Is that the rapture as we and Harold and co. see it? I doubt it. That's not very literal. That sounds all quiet and hidden and subversive, like the sorta thing God might do...maybe.

Sure, God could line us up, one by no-one-righteous-one, flash the story of our lives on a jumbotron for all the world to see, then finger the lines in an oversized Book of Life to see if our name's written down...or maybe God could ordain a day, any day I guess, maybe even a day like May 21st, as the end-of-tarrying, and allow us to judge other words, its within God's parameters to let the way we faithed, hoped, and loved on Saturday to be our best shot. Am I saying we oughta live every day like its our last? Well, I prefer to encourage living every day like its your first, but yes, that is the gist. If we were judged by how Saturday went, how'd we do? Was spending the day online holier than standing on a hillside with suitcase in hand? That gets a little fuzzy for me.

But isn't there then a sentencing after the judgement, where we're all revealed as either sheep or goats? What if Saturday was judgement day and now we're living out our sentencing here on earth...that God's letting us feed in the green pastures a little longer or butt our horns against the gate a few more days. Then again, it may one day be revealed we're neither sheep nor goats but pigs and God decided to let us wallow in it. Not a very literal judgement, huh? But something along those lines could happen...maybe.

The dearth of imagination in our collective faith never ceases to amaze does the short leash of mercy we extend one to another. Oink.

More Is More

The yellow box clearly states
'At Triscuit, we believe less is more.'
If that's true, then how did I
consume all the quattro formaggios in one sitting?
Ah, I see, as the box clearly states -
what's inside is 'a kind of cashmere of wheat.'
Now I've felt cashmere before
and by god it made me blush
because it felt like tracing
the clavicle of a doe-eyed angel
from neck to wing
and back again.

From now on any questions of nationality
I will answer with one word - Nabiscoan.
I'm choosing to adopt this race of alchemists
as my genesis for they didn't just
'weave some goodness' -
no, they've harvested desire.


I sat in the second row this morning as my son, my first-born, my strength, was confirmed in the Lutheran tradition. I had mixed feelings about the whole thing, not that there was anything wrong with it, but that I didn't know how it fit in our lives and as such, how it might fit in his. You see, we're spiritual mutts. I grew up Southern Baptist and my girlfriend grew up Catholic. We married and I was a Southern Baptist pastor for over ten years, a decade into which our three children graced this earth. Then we moved to Colorado as part of a non-denominational church, a painful experience lasting a year to the day, after which we were strangely comforted by an Anglican church a decent commute away and I was shortly thereafter confirmed as an Anglican (nobody else in the family, just me). Then, in an attempt to be 'local' in all things, especially when our kids began middle school years, we joined a Lutheran church in our town and have been found there for over two years now, years in which our son and oldest daughter began the confirmation journey. Our thinking was when in Luth do as the Lutherans.

Maybe you can see why I was slightly conflicted. I didn't want to overstate this day - we're not dyed-in-the-tuna-hot-dish Lutherans, so being confirmed wasn't this epic life-stage where all the folks from Wobegon drove the same time, I didn't want to underplay the importance of faith steps my beloved son is taking in his one wild and precious life. I've also been conflicted because of shame, my own...I am a rover in the faith, a gypsy heart chasing the God of dusk...but I've so wanted to be constant, steadfast like my beautiful father, but the truth is I am not. I have and continue to pray that my prone-to-wander-ways will not be held against the son and daughters I cherish, but sometimes I get scared they'll one day resent being mutts...or maybe being my mutt.

Alright, hang on. Jesus spoke to me this morning while I was eating GrapeNut flakes and drinking coffee. He hijacked the first part of a verse I memorized as a boy - 'Do not be ashamed of the gospel.' That's all he said...and like grace always is, that was sufficient. Now I'm well-acquainted with the gospel of Christ, the power of God unto salvation, no problem...but the breakfast epiphany prompted questions like what about my gospel, the gospel of John, the story of my life and my vagabondish days as ordered by an infinitely tender hand? Jesus answered 'don't be ashamed of your life, John.' He who hath ears let him hear.

So I sat in the second row this morning a man with his nose rubbed once again in the grapenuts of grace. And I trembled when my grown-tall-boy knelt at the altar surrounded by parents and priests and his life was further sewn one-thread deeper into the fabric of God, that vast blanket in which I too am hemmed, as is my father. I had planned to pray many things over him in that spot of time, but there was only this: 'Please God, may he not be ashamed of his life. He is my only son, and I love him so.'

And so we mutt on...confirmed but not crushed, roving but not unto despair...debtors to a grace unashamed.


Just Before Dark

I strain for a lunar arrogance.
- Jim Harrison

Many an evening, just before dark, I stand on our back-stoop and pray. By pray I mean looking, listening, smelling, feeling. It is a practice of coming to my senses, a return to that often lost in the strum and drang of the day. It is, I believe, communion.

Just last evening the May chill took my breath away more than once. I rolled down my sleeves and snapped my cuffs, for I am not a portly man. I closed my eyes as the coal train clattered by, that iron-linked-sausage bringing warmth to late spring nights. I recently read a man's thoughts about trains being confining and single-destinationed. He felt compelled to make trains a spiritual metaphor and found them wanting. Praying on my stoop, just before dark, saves me from such nincompoopery.

The wind whipped 'round and my nose burned with the fresh dung dropped by the dog who lives with us. The house catty-corner to us is empty with a hint of the burlesque. All the shades are hiked up like skirts revealing two stories of empty, all a tease. But houses aren't metaphors. They need people in them, and maybe dogs too.

The clouds to the north resembled my mother's mashed potatoes, lumpy and lush. The sun's swan-song was ladling salmon-blood gravy over them, a combination that made me feel like a boy and miss home. How quickly my childhood stirs. From my stooped-vantage point the single crow appeared to be birthed right out of the train car, an ashen phoenix rising black as coal. All this sensed against a denim sky.

Then my daughter's voice - Dad, aren't you cold? 

I said yes, a variation of amen, then stepped back over the threshold into a kitchen warmed by love and coal.


'Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture...'
- Harold Camping

I do not live beyond doubt's shadow,
but I still believe.
So I bought a horsehair belt,
an outward sign of my inward hope
in the Rupture -
that day the sky will cease its falling
as bluebells thrust up to horses' bridles,
that day creeks born of April snowmelt
will swell and not grow weary,
that day heaven will come up
and poets will leave off rhyme
in favor of clover's perfume,
that day roses will no longer
need rain as the tears of men
will do just fine.

For the last good country to
shed the husk of fear
the Rupture must occur, that broken
and blessed day rising toward our soles.
So I gird myself with a horsehair belt
and fix my eyes on the ground,
for behold, no man knows and some don't doubt,
but this fool still believes.

(for Winn)

From One Far Away...

She's getting the hang of email.
Oh she still prefers a phone call,
well actually she aches for 'in the flesh'
but we're so far away now.
She rarely begins a thread,
rather she replies to one I've started,
sometimes months ago,
just tacking on a hem -
how are the kids? or your dad and I are fine
or we're proud of you.

I've noticed a signature closing evolve,
sort of a finding-her-electronic-voice.
Now she always signs off Hugs, Mom.
Hugs - akin to the Norwegian hugga
meaning 'to soothe or console.'
Of late I've dreamt her an Old Norse mother
wrapped in reindeer hide, bent at the keyboard,
war-worn hands faithfully weaving
that two-word warmth, that telling affection
for those so far away now...Hugs, Mom.

Now git...

     Blue Duck smiled. "I raped women and stole children and burned houses and shot men and run off horses and killed cattle and robbed who I pleased, all over your territory, ever since you been a law," he said. "And you never even had a good look at me until today. I don't reckon you would have killed me."
     "He would have killed you," Call said, annoyed by the man's insolent tone. "Or I would have, if need be."
- Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath: for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay', saith the Lord."
- the Lord, Romans 12.19 KJV


My father raised me on a diet of the King James Bible and western movies. Those two elements were formative to the man I am. Crack open my bones one of these days and you'll find thou and begotten and the theme song from Shane; a strange marrow of mercy and justice. That's just the way it is. And as such, days like yesterday make my bones ache.

Sometimes - 'if need be' - there is a reckoning. In this world ye shall have Osamas and Blue Ducks, tribulation, that's just the way it is. But when the reckoning rises that scene must be framed by a mercy we the people mishandled Sunday night. Its alright, I believe it showed our age as a nation - still quite young. Nevertheless, even in our youth I believe we can reflect and mature for the next time...for yes, there will be a next time.

I cannot recall a single shoot-out where the prevailing aftermath was revelry. No, it was always a sigh of relief, a brief mending. My western heroes always paused in the gunsmoke of death with a knowing, a reverence for the weightier matters of justice and mercy, and also a knowing that there is none righteous, no not one. The soul of the offender was never judged, but rather his actions for damn sure. Then on the turn of a spur they walked into a temporally scrubbed dawn, a parades or prattle, just stepping aside so the town could get back to the essence of life - braiding a little girl's hair, planting tomatoes, cleaning the mirror in the saloon, sweeping the boardwalk, mucking out the livery stable, replacing the flowers in the cemetery, getting a haircut and a shave, maybe even axing a stump.

I pray that's what we get back to today, all of us.
Now git.



A Good Man Charged

A good man I know was ordained several weeks ago. He is now a deacon in the Anglican tradition. Following a six-month stint of service among his people he shall be, God willing, ordained a priest...collar'n'all. I'm so very proud of him.

I attended his ordination ceremony, sat in the back, soaked it all in. There is always a moment in a such a service when a 'charge' is given, a braid of words to both exhort and inspire. I adore such moments, pregnant as they are. I attest the charge given was orthodox, seamlessly hemmed and cuffed with appropriate chapter and verve. But as I've tried to recall the content, I cannot. Alas, it was not memorable. Oh, John, you just wish you'd been asked to give the charge, right? Ah, dear reader, thou knowest me too well. Yes, I confess that wish. Had I been charged to charge, here are the words. Alright, John, but are these words for a deacon or a priest? Yes.


I charge you with a phrase from the gospel of John, Updike that is: Your only duty is to give the mundane its beautiful due. You step from this moment with scripture and stole a man ordained to the ordinary. Ours is an existence in something more than the husk it once was but not yet the bloom it shall be; in other words, you are charged to the in-between, the middle-class, us. Yes, our lives are sewn on occasion with a texture of joy unmistakeable, the foretastes. But many days, if not most hours, reek of repetition, a mundane rising and falling punctuated with what the old hymn writer penned as 'seasons of distress and grief.' The relief you are charged to bring to our souls in times like these is beauty - nothing more, nothing less. It is your only duty. Give up all other ambitions for the dross they are. Give the mundane its beautiful due. Bear witness to the truth we so often bury, that our lives are shot through with drama, interest, relevance, importance, and poetry. Live among us, story by story, with both precision and surprisingness. Help us to believe in God by startling us with the kicker - God believes in us. Know this - yours is not so much a high calling as it is a careful attention... you are to be a man of prayer, not big britches.
Once you begin a gesture it's often fatal not to go through with it, so please, for the love of God and us and you, go through with this. The world for you may be even harder from here on in, but most things worth doing are hard. So break and bless and preach and teach and laugh and sing and weep and rage and whisper at the altar of this astonishingly splendid fallen world. Give the mundane its beautiful due. Amen and amen.         

But The God Reborn On The Sabbath Day...

But the God reborn on the Sabbath day
is bonny and blithe, bonny and blithe.
He sends us a'running, shuddering and wild
crying He is alive! He is alive!
     Life now ennobled, forgiveness of sins,
     the sermon of Easter is always Love wins.
So remember this day until he returns
and follow him true, follow him true.
The God born on Sunday lives for the weak,
yes Jesus loves me and Jesus loves you.

Saturday's God Works Hard For A Living

There are those who speak now with authority of the great abandonment, as if they were there, as if they know without doubt's shadow. My question for them is 'Were you there when they crucified my lord? Were you?' I was and I believe it was divine bewilderment: 'My God, how could you have done this to me? I cannot be allowed to die so young and so close to the top!' He was courage struggling for oxygen.

Then he was finished.

Afterwards, it was strange, for most of the visible disciples scattered while the secret ones walked into view. Moments like that remind you of the folly of judging the follower's heart. Joseph, Nicodemus, and those fierce women performed a necessary, valiant compassion. Later, I found myself walking, searching the heaven and earth of my mind, trying in some way to restore the arch to the sky, desperately measuring the grains of time that might transform catastrophe into tragedy. But death's pall was too thick, it was too soon. I had followed him into the smoke and fire, and I was left bearing the witness: 'My God, how did this happen? What on earth was he doing?'

Friday's God Is Loving And Giving

He was ruined. They scourged him repeatedly, taking turns to catch their breath. It was clear to see they were not trying to maim a man, but rend a god. Then the thwing, thwing as hammer pumped iron and the man previously pinned to the tail of a donkey was now pinned to the roof of the world, a specimen for all to behold. It was excruciating to watch the frame I had leaned against only hours ago. Dear God, they ruined him. They ruined the one I loved.

As I stood, my life flared before my eyes, not the sum of my days with Zebedee, but those years after the nets, when my life truly began, those three beautiful years. There were short-breath moments during his time with us when I felt inspired, compelled to capture his words and miracles, to write them down. One day he asked 'You like to tell stories, don't you?' I answered 'Yes, I like to tell stories that are true.' Then he spoke directly in my eyes: 'One day, after it is finished, you can write our story. Only then will you begin to see.'

I found myself short-breathed again as I writhed before my friend and two thieves. Words from somewhere beyond me rose up my throat causing me to gasp: 'God so loved the world that he gave.' I would remember and record those words years later when I was too old to be a fisherman much less a disciple. Of all I've penned, it is that phrase of which I am most proud, for they are the words most true. The love of God haunts me.


Thursday's God Has Far To Go...

That supper was the end of the innocence. That's how I remember it. Yes, I believed things were changing when he got on that beast and the pilgrims cheered, but even then there was still the 'follow me' that hung in the air, we were still the little boys dressed in new, chasing after the piper. But after that supper we knew there would be no more parties, no more dancing, the fifes had grown still. His was an evening show-and-tell, a command of how we must dress for the grisly hours that followed, and beyond. Jesus gave us hand-me-downs, blackened shrouds of love for one another, the rags of a true disciple.

As I leaned into him, literally, I felt the maundy pulse and it chilled me. What we all-too-soon experienced was an appalling succession of bleak and bare, a way filled with thorns of a seemingly eternal winter. What we would witness was Thursday's God becoming Friday's clown. And he still had so far to go to get there.


Wednesday's God Is Full Of Woe...

In those passion days he had eddies of tenderness where healing and blessing would swirl and pool. But then there were the shoots. He had raged at the Pharisees before, but this time stands out in its structure and effect, he was at the height of his powers. So many now cling to the sylvan great commission; rarely, if ever, is much made of Jesus' great derision.

'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!' We all knew who he was addressing, but each time Jesus named them, each time more fearless than the last. To see and hear him was to taste the wild, a primeval fang and froth that dared not yield: 'You are born dead! You have ceased to be sons of living fathers! You have become contented with your condition! You have acquired a taste for it! Woe, woe to you!'

I believe he touched the quick of their lives that day. He ached for them to know whose side to be on, where to give their allegiance, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise. But they stood defiant, mucked-up geese relentlessly preening in a field of mint and dill, a brood of blind bones slithering in a lost city, a grievous long prayer bloated with blood instead of mercy.

The rocks that only days earlier yearned to cry out shuddered at his lamentation, as did I.


Tuesday's God is full of grace...

He was taking us on the grand tour. First the Hosanas!, then his razing of the Temple. He was long freed from self-necessity, but his passion days seemed a new beginning with an old theme. I could scarcely imagine what was next. As was his custom, it wasn't a what but a who.

Jesus waved us still, then sat down and said 'see over there, look at the splendor.' At first we thought he was speaking of the heavy sums many dropped. But like time after time, he altered our vision. 'No, that is merely self-righteous blotches. No, there, her, the difficult splendor.'

Two coins. That was it. Though her life was bent her eyes radiated the sanguine dream. Jesus smiled at her poverty. He did not approach her, he would not bruise the shapely form. Rather he raised his hand and blessed her as he sat: 'You shall have love.'

Monday's God is fair of face...

I called to him 'Lord, Lord, where are you going?' But he kept walking toward the Temple, and then he began to run. I'd only seen him run one other time, for Lazarus. That story is told now in a strange manner, that Jesus hesitated, dawdled even for two more days while his friend was sick. But I was there, I saw his fury. He was being hobbled by the Father, he knew it, I sensed it, we all did. So for two days he strained against the reins, obedient, but still straining.

Then without warning, his words: 'I'm going to him.' He took off walking toward Bethany, and we followed. He paced with urgency the better part of a mile, shoulders squared, upright, not a word. Then his posture deepened, he leaned forward, and began to run. It was as if he'd been told 'now!' We struggled to keep up, such was his unbridled swiftness. Then Mary was there, falling at his feet, weeping. I saw him begin to shake violently, and then he wept. Jesus wept. The weeping madman ran on to the tomb, crying desire: 'No! No, Lazarus!' I witnessed in that moment the depths of his enmity with the old sorrow. He had come that men might live.    

His body sunk into that same posture as he ran toward the Temple after the Hosanas!, like he'd been told 'now!' We ran and followed, breathless. As he stepped inside he began to shake, and then he wept once more. Jesus wept again and howled 'No! No! This should not be!' As if replaying a scene, the unhobbled God ran from corner to corner damning the merchants' world: 'No! This shall be a gentle place!' We simply stood and watched. With Jesus' words the prey suddenly appeared, the lonely ones, the lost and wounded ones, those hindered until then. The Lord spoke 'there is still time' and then he healed them, all of them, and they lived.


A Palm Sunday reflection from the disciple Jesus loved...

I could not bring myself to utter the words. Me, the one he, the one some say closest to him. Maybe that's why I could not speak my mind for I knew, I knew he was like flint now, unswerving. I knew I had to be like that too, for him, for me, for the rest of us...I had to will myself to hold my tongue. Had my lips been loosed, they would have pleaded: 'Master, please don't get on that beast. Please.' But he did, as I knew he would. He spoke to me, once, just before the clop of hooves began: 'Remember, John...courage.'

And so I followed him, as I'd followed him those brief widening years. His ride was so very awkward. Had it not been for the press of crowd on either side, he would have fallen off more than once. But they hemmed him in that next chapter of the tale. From where I followed it appeared he rode their shoulders instead of that innocent beast. Jesus, to the crowd a shoulder-high hero; to me, my Lord and my God slouching toward Calvary. But on he rode as they brayed their praise. I believe he chewed this cud of words: 'Father, forgive them, for they don't know...'

You see, it is remembered as a triumphal entry, something in contrast to his cross-laden steps only days later. But I saw it as the death gyre, all of it, from the green of the palms one day to the red of his wrists that soon followed. And if I am honest I have to confess that I feared the center would not hold, that this man I grew to love like no other would drown and be lost. That I would wake one day to the sound of the sea licking the boat's edge and find it all only a dream. And I would be alone again.

But no, no, no, we had come too far, so I decided to mimic him. And so I placed the fear in my fists, as I'd seen him do time upon time, and I strangled it away and cast it among the crying stones that day. I had to be courageous, for me, for the rest of us, and for him. When he'd gone far enough, he dismounted and turned round twice searching the crowd until he found me. He stepped toward me and placed the rope in my hands. His face still a rictus of elegy. I told him I would see to the beast. He said 'yes, John.'

As he walked on with the crowd I noticed his hands clenched in fists at his side. I knew then that surely the revelation was at hand. He was not a dream. He was perfect love loosed upon the world, the madman from Galilee.


The Sweet Return (15)


I'm ready for these Lenten days to be over. They've gone on too long now, dragging and slogging. I know the calendar says Easter is still days away but I'd be well and fine to celebrate your resurrection today, this day. What if your people roused themselves and said 'we're ringing in Easter a week early, we can't wait, this is silly!' I'm sure some folks would say 'what, you couldn't wait a week?' Some folks always have something to say, don't they?

I'm going to try and celebrate today, Lord. I pray that 'up from the grave he arose' would permeate everything I do and say this day. I pray that you would huff and puff and blow this Lenten pall away, and that you'd do it early. I pray that you'd passover our passover dramas and surprise us, not necessarily like the thief in the night, but more like the favorite uncle we've not seen in months who just shows up on the doorstep and says 'hey, I started to call but then thought nah!' and we squeal with delight because we've missed him so and we love him so and its been too, too long.

Come Lord Jesus.

The Sweet Return (14)


I birthed a baby today, sorta, but you know that. The umbilicus was cut and now its in the care of others. Will they find it pretty? Ugly? Smart? Slow? What kind of score will it receive on the Apgar test? My work is not over by any means, but I've got to welcome the eyes and ears and thoughts of others now. Feeding the lake...

Thank you for the gift of being able to hear a group of rascals called The Rend Collective on the noon hour, their thick Irish tongues witnessing to the enduring nature of love. Lord, you know that most worship music, for me, has all the thrill of a salad. But these boys served up a dark and rich draft with a head on stuck to my bones. Bless 'em, I pray.

And for my friend, Lord, you know the one...give him grace.

The Sweet Return (13)

I've been thinking about you, because I've been listening to Charlie...but you know that -


The Sweet Return (12)


It was one of a handful of times when I've heard you, audibly...but you remember that. We'd spent seventy-two hours in the merciless magical of the Grand Canyon, those two friends and I. As we stepped back up over the rim we'd descended three days earlier, I was exhausted, ragged, satisfied, my mind and emotions in a thin place. I looked back over my shoulder at that glorious ribboned tear in the earth and a firmament bluer than blue and I heard you, clear:
Its all love. Don't be afraid.

I remember showing my dad the trip pictures once we returned, the evidence. I would describe the scene then pass the photo for him to hold. Near the bottom of the stack was a snapshot of my face, clicked moments after I heard your voice. My dad paused as he cradled that spot of time and said 'you look happy.'

Make us happy as you are happy. May others see it in our very faces. Speak those grand words to us again, Lord. The photo quickly fades.
Its all love. Don't be afraid.

The Sweet Return (11)


It was my birthday yesterday, but you know that. Forty-four years, Lord. Forty-four years.

The perigree moon has been nothing short of brilliant. Thank you for the eyes to see it. I read where the last time it was this close to the earth was March 1993. I was twenty-six then, Lord, married for three years, and pursuing a Masters degree in theology so intently I no doubt had my eyes in a book instead of peeled on the horizon. I'm forty-four now, married with three kids, and pursuing a life of wonder. I didn't miss this one.

Thank you for my life, Jesus. The whole shebang, good, bad, ugly, all of it. I had a passel of family and friends send me birthday wishes yesterday. It meant the world to me, Lord, it really did. Some of them simply said 'happy birthday' which was more than sufficient for me, but some of them said they loved me and a couple even said they respected me. My, my. I felt like the richest man in Bedford Falls. Still broke, but rich indeed.

Thank you for my life, all of it.

The Sweet Return (10)

Now to sleep me down I lay,
its been a Glocca Morra day.
I beg you, not before I wake,
JesusGod, my soul don't take.
'Cause there's so much I'm still to be,
to hear and smell and touch and see.
If this is it, I'll miss the smiles
when walking daughters down long aisles.
I'll miss my firstborn fight out loud
to find his voice amid the crowd.
I'll miss her empty-nested tears,
the letting go of mother's years.
I'll miss the books I want to pen,
the stories stitched with grace and sin.
I'll miss the jack of growing old,
of braying no to what I'm told.
The good book says none know the hour
but by Your wonder-working power
'pass over me' is what I pray
come back again some other day.
But should I die before I rise
I want to donate both my eyes,
give blinder flesh the glass to see
the bitter-wonderful from Thee.

The Sweet Return (9)


You know I like ABC's What Would You Do? I like it especially when there's a string of passive people then along comes a fierce one who 'can't stands it no more.' I believe in those moments you are proud of the race of men.

I also like the show, Lord, because I feel that's really the question; not WWJD? but WWYD? You've already done you, already revealed to us in gospel snapshots what your life on this earth looked like. I understand the generalities, the themes...I get it, Lord. But I believe you're asking me this day: what will you, John, the almost 44-yr-old man/husband/father/son who lives out west but grew up in the south...what will you do, knowing what you think you know about me and my consuming fierce love...WWYD?

I pray you'll be proud of me, of us, this day.

The Sweet Return (8)

Give 'em hell.

That's what he said to me, but you know that. As he was finishing up a noontime run and I was lacing up to begin mine, those were his parting words. The wind was strong out of the south, probably 15-20mph, I was headed north but the return would be, as he said, 'in your give 'em hell.' And so I did.

I can see you, Lord, shuffling along the shore, coming upon a boat about to cast into the wind, maybe a 15-20mph-er, and you calling out to the men on board with 'its in your give 'em hell.' And I can sense those men tremble, as I did that day, as the low string was plucked and the masculine stirred. I can see them grin and wave back or  raise a chin and then go give it to 'em.

Wild at Heart was 20 years ago, Lord. Maybe we took it too far, things got too wild, too ballsy, too hairy...but I do remember those as days of being both shaken and stirred, halcyon days of the low string. I miss those days, Lord. And I miss those men.

The Sweet Return (7)


I'm so sorry. Love is not winning in this season of Lent among the faithful, but rather hate.

In weeks crafted to be those of quietness, we are shouting.
In days to be still and know that you are you, we are defending ourselves.
In hours set aside for prayer and good deeds, we are linking and tweeting.
In minutes pregnant with the splendor of this gift called life, we are aborting our greatest witness - unity.
At the sound of the 'Bell' we have come out fighting, fists clenched, chests puffed, convinced this is a contest, a struggle, a mound worth dying on. At this rate our cries on Easter of 'Risen indeed!' will be nothing more than sounding brass and clanging cymbal. I'm not on Facebook these days, Lord, you know that, but still the mob's furor has reached my ears, it is loud like the whirlwind.

Then again, maybe there is design in all this, a graphic rendering of who we are and what we're capable of in the name of you...we are carnivores, people who love the blood, the bite and devour of one another.

Jesus, forgive me, forgive us...we still do not know what we do. Have mercy.

The Sweet Return (6)

But these things happen.

The conversation had to do with the heartbreak in Japan. That phrase was the old man's contribution, along with the shake of his head: 'But these things happen.' The young turks turned and walked away, you saw them didn't you? The loud one called him 'a stupid old bastard.' But I stayed and shook my head along with him. His phrase was strangely comforting to me, Lord. His spavined words did not explain, but comforted. Funny that you promised to send the Comforter, not the Explainer. Oh how we prefer the latter, but you're insistent on the former.

When I was a younger man, I used to speak and reason like a younger man. But I am beginning to see now, now that I am not a younger man, that sometimes 'these things happen'...they just do.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Lord.
Comfort us,

The Sweet Return (5)

I want the fairytale. 

Pretty Julia made that line famous, but you know that.
Lord, I believe that line pulses in every man, woman, and child on this planet. Some of us can just come right out and sing it, others entertain the notion, and in many I fear its been choked out by briars and picked near-clean by crows. But I believe its still there, in the marrow, the desire.

The ladies want the prince to come, someday, somehow.
The men want to slay dragons of self-loathing and rescue maidens both fair and plain.
The children want to live happily-after-all.
Creation groans...

God too good to be true, help us this day to smell and hear. We, all of us, know we must quest far and wide but please always, always keep in our perishing nostrils the sweet fragrance of the flowers of home. And on a wicked-witch-Monday grant us ears to hear at least a few notes of the bluebird's song to remind us of what you knit together in us all...the hope, the dream, that line.

The Sweet Return (4)

If you are the Son of God, then command...
If you are the Son of God, then throw...
If you are the Son of God, then bow...
Jesus said to him, 'Get away, Satan!'

If...then. Conditions - the WMD this world's prince uses relentlessly, his campaign of crock and awe.

If you are a child of God, then...
If you are a believer, then...
If you are a Christian, then...
If you are a fully devoted follower of Christ, then...
If...then. If...then. If...then. If...then.

Scripture quotes you: 'Get away, Satan!' I wonder if the original autographs read 'go to hell' but the world-bound translators washed your mouth out because if you are Jesus then you don't talk like that. I do wonder. 
I prayed the other day that I could give up anything or anyone too small for me...may that also include images of you, Lord.
Shock me,

The Sweet Return (3)

My friends lost their son, their only son seven years ago today. His name was John. I simply do not know how they carry on, but they do. I have seen pictures of John, his face...he was beautiful. Please, Lord, please comfort my friends as they remember their son and soldier on and grieve with hope. His name means 'beloved' and he was and is...Lord, have mercy.

But those swept away today, those in Japan, I do not know their names. But I have seen pictures of the Japanese people, their faces...they are beautiful. Is the fountain filled with blood drawn from your Immanuelish veins deep enough to receive the beautiful multitude plunged beneath that literal flood? Are your flowing wounds wide enough to welcome a Buddhist's scream for mercy? Is your grace sufficient, Lord? Is it? Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be til I die, so I can do no other than pray yes...I pray in a poor, lisping, stammering tongue that your precious blood would cover them with yes, yes, yes...and that today they would be with thee in paradise! I do not know their names, Jesus, but I ask you would welcome them even now as seven years ago you welcomed 'beloved'...Lord, have mercy. Amen.

The Sweet Return (2)

Sometimes it takes darkness
and the sweet confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

Its been awhile since I've read Whyte's poem. I found it again yesterday. No, here in my 40s I know better, it found me. Thank you for that. I pray that's the case these Lenten days; I don't want to follow some pre-formed course but rather have words or poems or thoughts find me. I know, I'll have to pay attention, stay a tip-toe. 

Maybe the poet's words are a facet of what Lent is truly about, a season of learning that 'anything or anyone that does not bring me alive is too small for me.' I can already hear somebody chiding me for focusing on my aliveness instead of your suffering. Lord, I'm so weary of that kind of that narrow world-is-flat theology that says there's some edge to you I'd best not sail off of. That sounds so incredibly arrogant, Lord, probably similar to Columbus' brass when he set sail for new worlds in his sweet confinement of ships and dreams...but oh the beauty that found him.

Give me, give us courage, Lord, coeur - heart. Let the darkness cover us, and the night wrap itself around us, for even darkness to you is not dark, and night is as clear as the day. May what or who we 'give up' this season be only that which is too small for us.
Bring us alive!

The Sweet Return

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Well, its here - Ash Wednesday - but you knew that. 
I don't like that line, the one about 'dust.' I know its scriptural, but I still don't like it. Each day has enough trouble of its own yet here we go adding ashes to injury. These candle-snuffing ashes of 'dust' which rhymes with 'just' - like in that Neverland movie: 'He can't climb that mountain, he's just a man' or 'That's not a diamond, it's just a rock.' 

Ash Wednesday: 'You're just dust.' Its hard for me to hear you saying that line. I don't want to pray in an unorthodox fashion, Lord...but I am. So here goes. 

Jesus, most of us are knee-deep in ashes everyday, you know that. As foreheads everywhere are smudged with dust, I pray you'd cross our hearts this day with reminders of how you see us, who we truly are in your eyes. Lord, show us our beauty. And please help us to see the beauty of others, that she's not just a politician or he's not just a teacher or they're not just the neighbors or the Church is not just a bunch of hypocrites.

Your beautiful breath kicked up that genesian dust and we became beautiful. May we hear another priestly whisper this day: Remember you are beautiful and to beautiful you shall return. 


that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone.
- Psalm 12.8

Charlie Sheen crouches with tiger blood in his veins and growls,
'Defeat is not an option!'
It helps to have goddesses on your side.
Maybe. (snickers)

Rob Bell binds himself to the altar and dares,
'Love wins!'
The orthodox take the bait and light the torches.
Predictable. (yawns)

Miracle Whip refuses to tone it down:
'Don't be so mayo!'
Pauly D says its a deal-breaker.
Seriously? (rolls eyes)

Then Tom Hooper gave a prince's speech crowned with
'Listen to your mother.'
Behold the wheat and tares, they groweth up together.
Yes, ma'am. (sits up straight)

From Both Sides Now...

...I remember the fortyish man who rang my office bell one summer night. He was tall and lean, athletic and well-dressed, the father of four children, and an usher in our church. His face was sad on this occasion as we settled down solemnly to talk. He told me he was leaving the Church and he wanted me to know. He said it wasn't anything personal and that he had grown to consider me his friend. But he was tired of a Church that would not treat him as a man. He was tired of money drives and overcrowded schools, tired of living in a world that only spoke of varieties of sin, tired of empty confessions and rites grown meaningless and cold...I could not answer him; my defensive eloquence was gone. He was not a complainer, not a wild neurotic, not a proud and angry rebel in the crowd. He was the kind of man I hoped to serve, the kind of man I longed to be, a strong and loyal friend. He shook my hand and thanked me for the services I gave. I asked him why we failed, what he wanted from his Church. He said quietly that all he wanted was a home, a touch of wisdom to see him through the week, a word of mercy that made it all worthwhile, an understanding Church that reminded him of God.
- James Kavanaugh, A Modern Priest Looks At His Outdated Church

Kavanaugh wrote his book in 1967, the year I was born. I'd love to say his words are no longer needed, here in my fortyish years, but I can't.
I've looked at Church from both sides now. With the exception of a few rare appearances behind a pulpit, I've spent the last seven years in the pew. Its been kinda like that William Hurt movie (The Doctor) where he played a successful physician suddenly diagnosed with throat cancer. Then the doctor became the patient, and everything looked different. It might not be a bad idea if every two or three years a preacher/pastor/minister/priest took several months off and sat among the people. He's there anyway, in theory, but sometimes in practice, not so much.

Two things struck me when I first read the words above, and by 'struck' I mean 'tears fell' - 
But he was tired...Several years ago an author, widely-read, wrote that most men in Church are angry and most women are tired. As I look today, from both sides now, I believe both men and women are tired, weary. 
He said quietly that all he wanted was a the ongoing discussion among leaders in the Church as to 'who and what are we to be?', there are some of us off to the side, hanging on to the edge of the pew, quietly whispering one word - home

Dear preacher/pastor/minister/priest,
We're tired. Just know that when you're preparing sermons or homilies and song sets and emphases of different durations. What does that mean? We're not entirely sure, but keep it simple. No, we don't want the cookies on the lowest shelf, that's not what we're talking about. Yes, we're sheep and goats, both not always the brightest in the barnyard, but don't forget that before that, we're men and women. We need you, we really do. Whether you like it or not, you represent God. Aren't we all ministers, the priesthood of all believers stuff? Sure, you bet, we know that and more importantly, we believe that. But we still need someone to hold our hands from time to time, someone to stand shouldered to us, remind us of the truth...someone to break the bread and bless the wine and say the words this world ignores...someone to wrestle with the Text, because we're wrestling with texts all day long, many of which are not profitable for doctrine, correction, or reproof...someone to lift holy hands in prayer for us, for our children, our mothers and fathers and friends and lovers...someone to proclaim the good news and not fret about what we do or don't with it, just proclaim it, just tell it, just sing it over again to us, do it beautifully, classically, timelessly, profoundly, be creative to the nth degree, don't worry so much about making angels weep, seek to make men and women pause, and long for home.
Your friends    

Lent...What to do?

He grew up Baptist, in the South. This doesn't explain everything; then again, it comes close.

Lent. He could remember hearing folks say things like 'I'm sure I lent you that rake last fall' or 'look, numbnuts, I lent you $20 already.' He couldn't recall anyone saying 'my, Lent is such a poignant time' or 'the Lenten retreat last weekend was simply cathartic!' Of course there was always the alternate spelling - lint - and he could hear his mother's voice: 'still damp? check the lint filter on the dryer.'

Lent. The season leading up to Holy Week, sacred days with the cherry on top deemed Easter. Now Easter he knew, that was old stompin' grounds - 'up from the grave he arose (he arose), with a mighty triumph o'er his foes (he arose). Easter was the old rugged cross nailed from head to toe with lilies, choirs belting out Sandi Patti anthems and always a soloist crooning that Dallas Holm standard, sunrise services where two or three were gathered together facing east to greet the rising sun, spiraled ham and green bean casserole for lunch, and afternoon egg hunts for the kiddos.

But Lent? From what he'd observed the last few years, years where he'd been a rover among the faithful who loved to light candles and sip communion wine, Lent was quiet and still and damn near sad. You were encouraged to ponder Christ's sufferings all decked out in the appropriate seasonal hues of contemplation and contrition. It was sorta like 40 days of hearing Jesus say 'look, numbnuts, I lent you my blood on the cross, what have you done for me lately?' It was sorta like that, he thought.

He did not voice these musings to his immediate circle of friends. They were, without exception, Lenters. Where he grew up, folks used to press if you'd prayed the sinner's prayer. If you hadn't, they were usually happy to help lead you through it, line by line, so you didn't spend an eternity where the worm never dies and Hitler dines with Judas. These days his friends would talk about Lent with almost the same weight, sorta like it was the sinner's season, and if you didn't observe 'the bright sadness' and by chance happened to fall into a wood chipper or something, you just might be the ticker-tape in the hell parade. At the very least skipping Lent left you unprepared to truly experience all the stations of Passion Week. About the only remedy for this is slamming a case of quick-penance, e.g., watch that Mel Gibson movie three or four times to get really good and Mel-ancholy.

Lent. What to do? He pondered this in his quiet time, a residue from his Baptist youth group days. The Lenters, without exception, gave up things they enjoyed during the season. Last year his friends temporarily broke the idol-chains of coffee, chocolate, the movies, and the internet, to name a few. He didn't give up anything and seemed to weather the season with aplomb while he watched his pleasure-denying Lenter friends get snippy and snippier and a couple of times just downright mean. It was sorta like his friends were having a 40 day menstrualpalooza, he thought.

Still, Lent. What to do? Then he realized his question was too universal. He needed to get specific, local, bring it downtown; the real question was - what would a Baptist, from the South, do? As soon as that thought crossed his quiet-timed mind, he heard the Sunday night special that always made him weep as a boy - 

In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter's snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.

That's it. While his friends were suffering the mortifications of the flesh and serving the least of these with justice and moodiness, he would lent his prayers to the world, both neighbor and numbnut. He purposed to write them out on his blog beginning on Ash Wednesday, not store-bought prayers addressed to the Ground Of Our Being (god help us), but word-groans hurled right into the nail-scarred mitts of Jesus. His hope? Well, he had a college prof, back in the South, who introduced him to Tennyson's line: 'more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.' He would lent out his prayers with the hope to wrought dreams. Yes, that's what he'd do.

He decided on a heading for his prayers -The Sweet Return. He felt good about this decision. It fit him. 

Stay tuned.  

Addressing Life

'Suddenly life has become quite full of monoethic ninnies and nannies who address life solely as a problem to be solved.'
Jim Harrison, Off to the Side

I just finished a new novel - Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich. It reads fast, really fast. I started it in Denver and finished it by the time I reached Atlanta, flight-time that is. Erdrich's writing is always rich in the particularities of her Native American roots; this novel is no exception. However, this time she masterfully grafts those roots into the general trunk of marriage and children and individual identity. There's something here for everyone.

Irene America and her husband, Gil, are in a spiraling marriage. Their three children - Florian, Riel, and Stoney, along with the savant-like dogs - are both witnesses and participants in the gradually rapid descent. This is a complex story; an etiology of love. Its raw and dark and tender and surprising. It doesn't end happily, but it does end honestly. I found Erdrich's writing fearless, and as such, brilliant; it'll definitely break you out of the suburbia of your mind.  

If, in Harrison's words, you 'address life solely as a problem to be solved' I'd steer clear of Shadow won't like it. That 'address' in my opinion characterizes much of what passes for books on the themes of love and marriage and family. It goes something like this: my husband, my wife, my children, my marriage, my life for that matter, are all, at root, a problem and I need someone to help me fix/solve him or her or them or it or me. That 'address' again in my opinion is a fairly surefire way to miss the raw and dark and tender and surprising gift of existence. 

If, however, you address life as a drama to be lived, you might consider the latest from Louise Erdrich. Here are two quotes to potentially further woo - 

✠Infatuation, sudden attraction, is partly a fever of surfaces, an absence of knowledge. Falling in love is also falling into knowledge. Enduring love comes when we love most of what we learn about the other person and can tolerate the faults they cannot change.

✠To have meaning, history must consist of both occurrence and narrative. If she never told, if he never told, if the two of them never talked about it, there was no narrative. So the act, though it had occurred, was meaningless.


To my Valentine, 2011

I seriously considered a night at the Broadmoor
just you and me and room service
but then that vacuum went out
and lord knows with that darn Beagle
the Dyson was a must
and then tires and shocks and struts had
to happen for that minivan 'cause even
though we got Farmers (bum bum bum bum bum bum)
people drive nuts these days
and then that movie he wanted his friends
to see for his birthday only showing
in 3-D which everyone knows is code
for 'that'll be a few dollars more, sucka'
so hell, I guess luxury'll have to wait.
Besides, you hate chocolate
and silk boxers, especially
red ones, make me nervous -
still I did dream of walking
with you around that majestic duck pond
lit only by the moon and quiet.

Faces and Souls and Twits, oh my...

I'm knee-deep in a mammoth project right now, its due April 1st...ah, blessed irony. Its one of those projects where a number of people, let's say a whole bunch, are expecting me to deliver. To say I'm stressed right now is an understatement. I've been tempted to start smoking or something, you know, some vice to help me make it through the night. But my teeth are stained enough from coffee and I would like to run a half-marathon this year, so for now, no cool-Mad-Men-smoking-John.

So I'm blogging a little these days, but not too much...and maybe that's just fine. Here's something I've thought about lately, I'll slow-pitch it high, give it a lob, a chance to linger a minute before you swing. I've wondered about Facebook and the social networking gig now firmly ensconced in our world. Native American people were shy about having their pictures made, a feeling that being captured like that on film was an intrusion of territory and privacy, it thieved something at the soul-level. What if, and yes its a big what if, but what if that same belief applied to Facebook? - that every time I post an update or change my profile pic or link to my blog or display an array of photos of me and mine, I lost a piece of my soul? It brings to mind a verse I've read a few times, that of gaining the world but losing one's soul...could that maybe, sorta, possibly be along the lines of gaining a following or gaining more friends or gaining herculean 'likes' to a particular quote/witticism? Hopefully I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but there's a kaboodle of posturing on Facebook, putting on our 'best' faces...and I'm sorry, I tried Twitter, but I never 'got it' and the word is too close to 'twit' and I don't have a smart phone and I really couldn't stand that perky bird.

I don't know about all I said, its something I've been chewing on lately. To even type it feels old, stodgy, Luddite-ish, the old hairy crazy guy who lives back by the creek and yells at kids...but that's fine, I don't care. I stepped away from Facebook last year during Lent and I'm planning on doing it again in a few weeks...a season to not be so plugged-in/connected because I'm not a machine, I'm a man, a man who believes in territory and privacy and that just because you don't see my 'face' doesn't mean I don't exist, it means I believe there is more, so much more to a man or woman than the faces we choose to reveal to others...there is something deeper, more enduring, something that remains...the soul...and that the soul is something that can be lost if we're not careful. If you should un-friend me, I'll be alright, a country boy can survive, but if I should lose my soul, that's like losing me, face and all, and...

Well, gotta run, I'm heading over to post this on my Facebook page...hope you like it.

Now I Know...

I dropped him off at school this morning, the birthday boy, 14yrs and countin' lord. He registered for high school last night, made his selection for classes - Spanish, beginning guitar, and of course stuff like Algebra. While at the high school, his mother, also my wife, treated him to a new hoodie emblazoned with the high school logo...that's what he was wearing when I dropped him off this morning. About the time the car door shut, my parents called hoping to catch mr. birthday before school. They didn't catch him, but they did catch me, right in the act of humbled awe at my 14 yr old son all tall and proud and hoodied walking into the last few months of his middle school stint because high school's on the horizon where he'll be strumming Spanish guitar tunes and asking girls for help with algebra. I painted this water-logged canvas for my parents on the phone and without hesitation they said 'now you know how we felt.' And I choked a whisper - 'yes, now I do.'

Your parents tell you a lot of things when you're young, sorta like I do with my kids. And like my kids, I didn't listen too much to my parents, but I do recall that phrase 'one of these days, you'll know.' Its really unfair to throw that at a kid but life's not fair, so you do it anyway with the hope that it'll lodge in his brainpan somewhere and years later, like some time-delayed depth charge, he'll be sitting in front of the school watching his first born, the very strength of his life who is all of a sudden 14 which comes right before 15 and 16, and BAM! off it goes and he realizes 'now I know.'

Moments like that leave you tender, or at least they do me, toward those still young (your kids) and toward those grown old (your parents). They even leave you a little tender toward yourself, which is really not a bad thing at all. You promise yourself, or at least I did this morning, to take it a little easier on folks, especially those you love, maybe even yourself, because you've survived long enough that yes, now you know...and you know it hurts, god it hurts like those big beer horses are stompin' all over your heart, but you wouldn't have it any other way, no sir...but it goes oh so very, very fast...for once upon a time, my precious son, we were so very young.

Fortunate Son

What a privilege to carry...

We were up early, the two of us. I fixed bagels with vulgar amounts of cream cheese while she got dressed, straightened hair, gathered her things. We left the house in time to drive through Starbucks, 'grande Chai, please Daddy.' 'Alright, but you'll have to whizz like a racehorse not five miles down the road.' She grins. She's in a speech tournament today, all day long, on a Saturday...still, she's bright-eyed, happy. We pull up beside the yellow dog she'll board for the host school, she leans over on my shoulder, a gentle good-bye, I kiss her hair and inhale the scent that's left me for years now a man undone. 

As I drove away I was suddenly misty, kensho, an awareness of the utter privilege it is to carry a child in this world. Not all moments bring this clarity mind you, but this one did. There is much I've to do today, the ten thousand things - continue to chip away at a mammoth writing project, fill up cars with gas, dispense antibiotics to the dog I've spent ungodly amounts of money on lately, try to get a four or five mile run in before the snow begins again, call my parents, and so on and so forth. But of all these things, and all are vital in their own right, the spots of time where I carry my children are those I truly cherish. I used to carry them,, all of us slightly older, I carry in different fathering looks and feels a little different. Still, what a privilege...

To finish the phrase, so to speak, I did - everything to God in prayer. I prayed for my middle girl as I drove away, my twelve-year-old wobbling the slackline these days between girl and woman. I prayed to the God from whom all blessings flow, the One who art in heaven and is also always near...I asked for her safety this day while she's beyond my view and for her safe return (the universal parent prayer)...and I said thank You for the privilege, thank You for the chance, thank You for the divine roll of the dice on me, the bet that occasionally I would see and know the privilege...I am a fortunate son.      


Once a man asked Why do you bother? You never know, I said. The ones you give some semblance of burial, to whom you offer an apology, may have been like seers in a parallel culture. It is an act of respect, a technique of awareness.
- Barry Lopez, Apologia

Lopez intentionally engaged himself in the discipline of removing roadkill from the highway - jackrabbits, porcupines, raccoons, a red fox, sparrows, a big doe, even a badger, 'each animal like a solitary child's shoe in the road.' Sounds crazy doesn't it, deranged, like a man off his rocker. 

I was raised a pastor's son, spent quite some time in my father's footsteps, and have lived the last few years, still credentialed, but off to the side. This is what I see - roadkill, the Church is strewn with it, the air acrid, the ground stained. But we just keep on truckin', pursuing the visions in our own heads, barreling down the highway in our pink cadillacs of missional love, forgetting what lies behind, no turning back, no turning back. Everyone seems heavenbent on being part of a movement, if not leading one. I'm sure they're out there, but I can't hear a single voice interested in a stop-and-back-up-ment, maybe a pull-over-on-the-shoulder-ment. If we just keep moving the cries are muffled, hardly a whisper. We've got places to go, busy, busy, busy. 

This discipline of apologia (I am not talking about our current fascination with apologetics) is dirty work, takes time, effort, pride-swallowing, you might have to brake your three-year visionquest, pick up the phone, write a letter, take a trip and leave the ninety and nine for the one, two, or three. It begins with the guts to say I'm sorry. There is so much more that follows, but that's the first step, or better yet, stop: I'm sorry, please forgive me. Making amends is a powerful antidote; it possibly has the power to heal. 

Why bother? Because you never know...


At the end of the day

k c u soon -
her slip of message
sufficient to
quicken pulse,
summon revenant tears.
I would see her soon,
the after-school her,
the her pushing through
double-glassed doors
into a slouching sun
to stride near grown
in fur-lined boots,
finally finding
the ferryman
with nose and eyes
and name like her own
to usher her safely


I'll always be Baptist,
like I'll always be from the South.
That's how it is.
I contemplated becoming a priest,
it seemed good, a delight, desirable.
Then the dream, that of being collared,
easily leashed, led.
I woke up bitter.

John the Baptist did not live long
but by God he lived -
the forerunner,
the vox clamantis in deserto,
the unworthy footman,
among those born of women
none greater,
a honey of a life.

And then a pluck of
southern comfort:
easy to come undone
when young girls dance;
best carry necktape,
a collar or somethin',
not lose your head.
I'll always be a man.