Thursday, June 30, 2005

tat 2

Triquetra, which here means, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as do three pronged ivy leaves. The green of ivy represents the eternal. Ivy grows on a vine and reaches forward and back in time from the center, which is where I tend to find myself.
And of course, where there is a vine there are branches, of which I am one, reaching along, led by the vine, fed by the vine.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

of my mind

Last year I told you about some windmills I saw outside Bowling Green, Ohio. Monstrously large. Graceful, standing in the middle of a corn field. A lot a clear thoughts ensued upon viewing those powerhouses standing in the gentle breeze. But they weren’t moving, and there weren’t many.
Today, Allison and I got to see 44 of them lined across the ridge outside Thomas, WV. We left Morgantown this evening and headed west on I-68 to Friendsville, Maryland. We traveled from there to Oakland and south to Thomas. As we came close to Thomas, we caught our first glimpse of the windmills towering above the trees at 328 feet.
I’ve seen construction in these mountains before. I’ve seen manmade things litter the pristine beauty of the mountains. As a matter of fact, nothing is more common in these hills than the evidence of coal mining, an endeavor undertaken for the same end as those windmills – power. But the extraction of the non-renewable coal imposes traumatic scars upon the landscape. Everywhere are rusted and falling coal chutes, falling buildings, abandoned machinery and even completely stripped-off and leveled hilltops, not to mention the traumatic scars imposed upon the miners. Electricity made by coal fueled power plants causes mercury to build up in marine life.
But these windmills are quite different. My first thought at glimpsing the line of propellers was, “this must be what was meant by the command to subdue the earth.”
"Inspiring, majestic", I said.
"harmonious," Allison said. Yes, harmonious with one another and their context. All lined up where they know the wind will be, ready, spinning.
Allison said, “wonder why we’ve done no better at harnessing the power of the sun?” Harness? Can’t be done. She agreed. Tapped-into. That’s more like it.
One can’t harness the power of the sun or the wind. One can stand in the wind and let it move him. But those 747 wingspan blades don’t catch any wind - they are merely manipulated by the wind. Moved. Even the sun, whose energy can be stored, is closer to being harnessed than the wind. The wind is wild, unpredictable, mysterious, invisible, and powerful. All you can do is be there when it blows.
As we drove away I thought of an observation by G.K. Chesterton, who said that it used to be that folks thought the trees were moved by the wind. These days, everyone knows that it’s the motion of the trees that causes the wind. As I took a final glance in the rearview of all those propellered monstrosities, I thought of how ridiculous it would be to look across there and to think that their purpose was to create wind. Let’s burn some coal and create some electricity to power the windmill engines and create wind. What a false spirit that would be – reverse, meaningless, damaging activity.
What a foolish pursuit it would be, to attempt to manipulate the wind.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005


so Al and I got the kids off to camp yesterday morning at 7:30, went home desiring to sleep for a week, but instead, packed, returned to the car and drove 465 miles back up up to WV. Funerals for a 91 year-old jewel are such sweet sorrow. Granny had completely planned the service, so it felt as though she were issuing requests as we executed her wishes. Her best friend spoke of their 70 year relationship and Granny's life. At the graveside, doves were released and we all watched metaphorically as a single dove was led by three into the blue sky and out of sight.
Afterward, family visited together and reminisced, wondered at the connections of the folks who had attended the funeral. Granny had infused herself into the lives of countless people, all of whom she seemed to know intimately. She knew whose kids and grandkids were playing ball, what team they played for and when their games were, who went where on vacation, who attended who's recital, etc. This was true of neighbors and community members as well as extremely extended family.
It is not uncommon to hear Grannies claim to be granny to everyone. But it is much less common when everyone claims one as Granny. Today there were in-laws of in-laws expressing great loss emotionally. There were deep relationships evident between people who in many families might have never met.
I don't know if this is the gift of encouragement, or hospitality, or what, but I have a suspicion that it is a characteristic that is expected of everyone born of woman. I want to be like this.
Today we laid to rest, in Morgantown, WV, the Queen of Community. The epitome of brotherly/sisterly love - a gem, who no doubt was dreaming of her friends and family when she passed on in her sleep early Friday morning. I'm sure that's what she's jabbering on about right now.


Monday, June 27, 2005


Kids! You take care of them, watch out for them, protect them, teach them, cherish them, brag about them, show off your pictures, and you get no respect or gratitude. Last week, as we prepared to head off to the mountains, my little wrens were tiny raw-chicken-looking, helpless, featherless, beak-fed worm-consumers. I left the garage door open about four inches and instructed the mother wren to care for them in my absence.
We returned five days later to an empty nest. No wrens anywhere in sight. A tidy empty nest. Thanks for nothing baby wrens. No fluttering, fledgling, clumsy flight instruction. No swinging from garage door cables. No spinning after landing on bicycle pedals. Only crusty, white droppings on the gas tank of motorcycle and other sundry places.
Where did you go? Where’s your last week’s rent? What colleges have you applied to? How will you make it in that great big world beyond the garage? Will you miss me?
Don’t let the garage door hit you in the tail feathers on the way out.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

the ballad of Alice Eddy

Last year, on May 25, I road my bike up Broad River Road at twilight and watched Venus slowly sink into the tree line. I didn’t quite make it all the way to Spartanburg, but I did ride a long way. I’d started early, and so rode a good long way before she disappeared. I was very infatuated with the twilight sky last spring, headlined by Venus. I was very aware that the Venus season was changing, and that she’d soon disappear from the evening sky and be visible only in the east, in the morning just before the sun came up without the beautiful colors of evening.
As I rode west, eyes glued on the planet as the sky darkened, I thought of Allison’s Granny, up in years, down in health, ready for the season to change. Venus, and my thoughts seemed to be a metaphor for Granny that night. I thought of how Venus was brightest when she was only a crescent, because she was closest to us. I thought of how that meant that she was in full glory when farthest from us, and so looked dim from our vantage point. Granny was appearing more faint and distant as the days passed, though she was getting closer to fullness. Soon she’d be gone from us completely, for a season. Too much to contemplate.
Venus, the mythological epitome of the feminine, a jewel in the soft colors of the evening. Surrounded by pink. Soon to disappear for the evening, for the season.
Yesterday, as we re-entered civilization and picked up a cell signal for the first time in days, we received voice mail that Granny had finally become full. Seemingly furthest from us, but in full phase. Ironically for me, she held on as Venus was absent from the evening. She stayed around until within a week of my first evening Venus sighting this year. Thirteen months from her disappearance, I saw her again and contemplated time and eternity and infinity - all fresh confusion for me as I join with my adopted family as we contemplate our own measured lives, mourn our loss, rejoice in her gain, and celebrate a colorful life of beauty.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

direct link

A while back, a friend from Spartanburg who was giving a the friendly ubiquitous invitation to visit, said, “some day when you’re out on your bike, just stop by for lunch. Did you know that you can ride all the way from Columbia to Spartanburg on Broad River Road?”
You can ride a long way on Broad River Road. I really like roads that go from here to there, roads that are common to several towns. Just yesterday, on the way home from our fish/raven/bear filled week, we stopped off at Hawk’s Nest State Park to gander into the New River Gorge. From US Rt. 19 south, you turn right onto US Rt. 60 to get to Hawk’s Nest State Park. It’s only about 7 miles. But if you go just past Hawk’s Nest, you start down the mountain, and by the time you reach the bottom, the New River has met with the Gauley River and they’ve become the Kanawha, which you follow all the way to the State Capitol. If you stay on US Rt. 60 for 35 more miles, you’ll enter my hometown, only a block from my parents’ house.
A bunch of nonsense? Not for Rod’s brain. So as we were making the short trek atop the New River Gorge to Hawk’s Nest, I announced this to my children. “Children, this is the main street that runs through Papaw and Mamaw’s town.” They, too, were fascinated. Go figure.
I guess, back in the day, this was no big deal. There were probably very few roads linking towns, and they tended to go directly there. One end of the road was the main drag of one town and the other end was the main drag of the other town. Maybe it went on through and linked another town too.
These days, most roads link up to a larger highway or freeway that in turn dumps you off at an exit at which you connect to another road that will take you to where you need to go, or take you to another road that will take you to where you need to go. This is all very convenient – for the trip – but it seems to have reduced towns to stops along or near to the freeway, rather than destinations that are connected to one another.
Even when I was a kid, there was only one way to get from our house to where I was yesterday. Now the interstate allows you to travel northwest, where you meet 19 and travel south to Rt. 60. The whole trek starts on Rt. 60 and ends on Rt. 60, but you’ve spent very little time on Rt. 60. Most people would do it this way. Take the highway, go really fast. Get to where you’re going. But you miss Glen Ferris, Kanawha Falls, Gorgeous gorge views, and countless tiny towns filled with friendly people who wave when you drive by.


Friday, June 24, 2005

guest blog 3

Allison Goes to Cran”beary”

They’ve asked me to “guest blog”, an honor I’ve never expected (nor, to tell the truth- ever wanted!) but there was this bear, and for some reason, someone thought my side of the story might be interesting.
You see, everyone in the family has had close encounters of the bear kind at Cranberry except for me. Feeling very left out, I had to settle for stories about “hoot” owls that hollered and chipmunks that stole bread. But all that changed early Thursday morning. Learning from past experiences, Rod had carefully cleaned (most) of the food off the picnic table and locked the peanut butter up in the car. We then stayed up way too late, talking around the campfire. No sooner had we retired to bed when we were rudely interrupted by the clanking of the trash can lid. He smiled at me and said, “Our friend is here!”
I had always thought I wanted to see a bear- even to have one come into our camp site- as long as it was under my conditions- daylight, kids well protected or at least under the protective glare of the propane lantern. As I started to worry about the kids being alone in a tent between us and the trash can, Rod poked his head out of the tent door and came within kissing distance of a huge black bear! “LOOK!” he coarsely whispered. I quickly stuck my head out beneath him and saw the bear sizing up our picnic table.
Now one of the bad things about bears at night is that they are black- almost imperceptible to the eye. They are also silent- which seems crazy for their size. They are also deceivingly agile and quick. I became terrified and was afraid to breathe. I couldn’t keep track of him as he disappeared into the shadows and I was ashamed of actually wanting to see such a thing…what if something awful happened?
I prayed guardian angels over the kids sleeping totally unaware in their tent. When the bear zig-zagged back towards our tent my prayers suddenly turned to our own safety.
He finally tired of the lack of fare at our meager site and stole off into the woods.
In the morning, as I was cleaning up our tent, I found two knives tucked neatly under Rod’s pillow.
I guess if I can’t dictate how and when disaster enters my life, it’s good to know I’ve got someone by my side who’s ready to protect me, fight for me…and even kiss a few bears if he has to!


Thursday, June 23, 2005

dang this river

Tonight, the third night of our skinny-dipping, river baths, was definitely the most meaningful. It was tonight that as Will finally got the nerve to submerge his body under the rushing, frigid current, he came up out of the water and said, “dad, this is addicting. Now I finally know what you meant when you said the mountains take away a part of you.” Jack said, “especially this river, it literally washes a part of you away.” Will said, “dang this river.”
I knew it had happened. Both boys had spent the evening fishing, jumping from rock to rock and feeling the water flowing all around. And just like it always happens, they were being absorbed and they didn’t even realize it. “I’m going to remember this trip for a long time,” Will realized. Not only that, I thought, now you’ll always have to come back. I think tonight the boys felt the absence of the missing parts that had been stripped from them the countless times we’ve come here before. Since they were babies, they’ve been dragged into the woods by their dad, absorbed by the mountains, and washed by the river.
But this time, it includes the first willing metaphoric bathing, and an awareness of the bonding that such activity allows, complete with countless euphemisms and wisecracks not fit for mixed company, but completely guard-dropping when done between father and sons.
I will remember this trip for a long time, I thought as I watched parts of my sons wash down the river, under the hemlocks, and around the bend.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005


River is a river is a river is a river
Water can’t be counted or numbered
This river, that river, same water.
Two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen.

It’s just water. Volume. Weight.
Surface tension. Least resistance.
Water here, water there.
Pour it together and it’s just water
There isn’t this water and that water.

Water flows. Water stands. Water runs.
Evaporates. Freezes.
Condenses. Thaws.
The water that passed by an hour ago was
Exactly the same as the water that is now.

This river finds as its source a spring atop the mountain.
Where does the spring get its water?
Same place as any other spring.
Same water.

This river will find the Gauley and together
They will meet the New and form the Kanawha.
The four will feed the Ohio and
Travel to the Mississippi and empty
Into the Gulf of Mexico

At that precise moment,
The same water will bubble up on
Top of the mountain and flow downward toward the Gauley.

Time can’t be measured by the journey of water down the river to the sea.
No time passes. Forever passes. Same water.
Begins as it ends. Always beginning. Always ending.
Same water present at every point of the journey.
Every point in the journey present in every moment.
Alpha and Omega.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005


In the middle of the river
Surrounded by water,
white, flowing water.
But I’m not without care.
I cast,
But I keep reeling it back in.


gone fishing

We're all in the mountains, the whole fam. I've come to be with those parts of myself that they've taken from me over the years. I know where they've hidden some of me, but there are parts I'm just going to have to look for.
We drove up this afternoon and landed at my parents' house. We're off to the wilderness as soon as the kids wake up. Last time we were here was Thanksgiving weekend, and broke out of nasty, stormy weather as we drove up the mountain into Virginia. Tonight, as we climbed and looked back over Mt. Airy, we caught the first glimpses of the nearly full, waxing Strawberry moon. It followed us all the way here. Amazing how a simple metaphor can be so meaningful.
It will be especially meaningful to be in Cranberry under the full Strawberry moon tonight. It should be a berry good night. (sorry, that's not like me at all)
Also on tap for this week under the Strawberry moon, is a very special rite of passage for my first born. We are going to hike in to nowhere and celebrate his becoming a man. Maybe wrestle a bear, dance around under the moon, but in any case, lots of prayer and deep conversation between father and son. Pray for a meaningful passage.
You won't know him when he returns. He'll have lost a part of himself to the mountains, washed away by the river. I'll introduce you.
See you Friday night.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

of words and souls

the reclamation of a neutered word
still understates the sentiment.
O, how very fine you are to me.


Friday, June 17, 2005

flowing like a river

Usually I’m at the gym during the time that I was on the bike tonight. Allison and I have been heading to Gold’s as soon as the kids are fed, and using the less crowded hour just before they close to get in a workout. It’s also good for the exhausted body to have nothing left to do after you exhaust it. Just rest.
Before we placed the gym time between 8:30 and 10:00 pm, I often took a ride during that time. I think it’s the most beautiful time of day with long shadows and deep greens across the fields. The first stars are popping out and the half moon is high in the sky. I found twilight rides to be a perfectly relaxing ending to a day. The Compline ride.
The gym closes at 8:00 on Fridays, so one must punish himself earlier if he’s going to do it. So tonight we went at about 6:00, I came home and cut my grass and the yard beside us, and jumped on the bike to cool off and take in the last moments of daylight.
I almost headed east because the moon had not yet started falling and was just barely on that side of the sky, but I changed my mind and rode off into the last, fading colors. Just at the end of highway 6, as I sat and waited for the light to change and invite me out into the less-traveled roads, I caught a glimpse of a teasing glance from behind a colorful cloud. Just for a moment, we made eye contact. Venus, still shy from her unsociable year of evening exile, peeked out. I saw her and she saw me.
When the light changed, I continued into the fading sunset and after a mile or two, the sky cleared and there she was, still slightly veiled, but in full view.
Back in April, when I was riding in the sunset, I looked up and missed her. I pondered my insular, self-absorbed nature that caused me to think she should be right where she was at this time last year.
Despite my cyclic view of things, I actually spend a lot of time thinking about it, or the absence of it. I like to ponder the idea that time isn’t really real. Is there some way that I could get a tiny understanding of eternity? Growing up I tried to imagine no beginning and no end. We wondered about this in math class – drew little arrows on the ends of number lines. But that was a very juvenile endeavor, because I still tried to think of eternity as if it were linear. I guess I had it confused with infinity, which seemed to begin where I was and go infinitely in opposite directions. But I can’t really fathom non-linear existence. I can’t get my head around the idea that everything is going on at once. I know this is another juvenile undertaking and perhaps someday I’ll be a step beyond. I do exist in eternity, but for now, shrouded linearly in time. I should embrace that, I’m a musician. Rhythm, meter, pulse.
Somehow I’ve always felt I could understand God better if I could get my head out of time. Get just above the clouds where everything just is. Everything is ageless, random access history. But then I realized that time is not a figment of my imagination. Time is a part of creation. God doesn’t just live outside time, He lives in time as well. He instituted it, composed it, set the tempo and joins the song. Of course I still believe that He was and is and will be, but also that He is then, He is now, and He is in the future. What’s more, He travels the linear path with me as well.
There is a peace in realizing that you were created to live in time and that time was created for you to live in. Way back when there was nothing, God created a rough, formless, and empty earth, and before he did anything else to it, he created light, divided it from the darkness and instituted evening and morning and called it a day. The rest of the entirety of creation activity is measured in time. Evening and morning, day one. Time was created, we were created in time an d placed in time. We are inserted between barlines in an asymmetrical meter, measure our lives and count our days and grow old.
We turn to the beginning of our Bibles and ponder whether we’re reading a literal account of the origins of the universe, or metaphor, or myth. We argue about it, whether or not we’re actually convinced of our opinions, and we get bogged down and forget to feel the pulse. We don’t move our feet, we don’t join the dance. We wither up, long for the end of the song and die having never played our instrument.
According to Moses, God placed the lights in the night sky on the fourth day, for signs and seasons – to measure time, to tell us when to begin and when to end. A celestial metronome.
So now I’m sitting here on the deck, still thinking about Venus long after she’s gone to bed for the night. The moon has just reached the height of its climb and sits in the tree limbs over the roof of my bedroom. She lingers at this point just a moment longer it seems, than any other place along her path. That apex of the arc she draws each night. There seems to be moment of ceased motion as she stops and changes direction like a yo-yo at the bottom of its path, or a baseball thrown straight up into the air, or a pendulum changing the direction of its swing. She’s the keystone of the firmament for a moment. The axis that is me with arrows pointing infinitely in opposite directions.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

enjoy them while you can

Just thought I'd put in an update pic of my wren family. You may not be able to see very well at this size, but if you click the pic, you can see a larger version. There were five eggs, and I can't yet pick out five beaks, but maybe in the next couple days. The guy on the left of the photo is the most active. He sticks his head up at the least sound in the garage and wiggles himself back and forth. They aren't making any noise yet. I'm watering the lawn to try and bring the night crawlers up. Gotta make life a little easier on the new mom. I told her enjoy them while you can, they sure grow up fast. She said she knew that, remember last year?.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I'm pregnant!

Today I looked into the wren’s nest to see what I could see. Nudity! That’s what I saw. No eggshells, no feathers. Naked birds. Huge eyes, ridiculous beaks, and naked bodies. But we know how quickly this innocent fledgling freshness dissipates.
Today I’m thinking about familiar but miraculous things. Miraculously familiar? So familiar that even metaphor is cliché. So miraculous that they deserve fresh metaphor, fresh eyes and heart, fresh poetry to remind us that the miraculous is so familiar that we completely miss it. We’re out looking for a statue to cry, or a face to appear on a potato while right before our eyes, miracles are so abundant that they are familiar. No wonder no one believes. And every miracle a metaphor.
Familiar? Yes. Fresh? If we’ll experience it for what it is.
When I looked into the nest this afternoon, sure that momma would be absent from the 100 degree garage, I wasn’t even thinking about my Peterson reading from this morning. But the more I contemplated those five naked babies all swaddled in pine straw in a plastic orange pumpkin - this feeding trough for greedy, begging, sweet-toothed children - the more I felt the metaphor.
This morning, Peterson was telling me about witnessing the birth of his grandchild. I, too, remember that of every beautiful thing I’ve seen, every beautiful experience, nothing in my life compares to that. And THREE times! Who could ever get used to that? Each time the reality of the miracle touches deeper, each time, the joyful tears flow more readily and soak more deeply, each time the metaphor fresh and new. New life. The creator still creates. There is something infinitely more here than Allison and me, something greater than a zygote.
And I, Rod, so present in metaphor, have worn out tons of them on this very subject. Spring, New Moon, dawn, flowers, eggs, butterflies and Phoenix. Redemption, new life, fresh start. I remembered just a couple days ago talking about Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. How to get into the kingdom? You’ve got to be born into it. And no one has been born into it – save the first born of all creation. So Jesus, in his seemingly humorous metaphor, causes Nicodemus to ask how a man can go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time. Jesus says, that’s not what I’m talking about. The wind blows where it will, but you can’t see where it comes from or where it goes, so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. Born of the Spirit? I can do that? Isn’t that how he was born? That’s more miraculous still.
I wonder if I could do a miracle as well. Or rather, be a miracle. I got Allison pregnant! But I didn't grow the children. Could I become pregnant and give birth to new life? Paul said that he experienced labor pains. Could new life grow in me until it is born and I share it? I think I may be as blessed as Mary, and certainly no less has been asked of me. I’m pondering these things in my heart.


Monday, June 13, 2005

give and take

Recently I blogged about being filled in giving to someone as opposed to being depleted from having given. Why do some relationships flow and fill with both members giving to the other, while other relationships that have both members giving deplete both members. In the same token, some relationships flow with only one member giving, but the other receives, rather than takes. In this case, the giving member receives not only through his giving, but also in the other’s receiving.
Not many of us would care to admit that we are takers in a relationship. This is true partly because most of us are depleted in relationship, and therefore we feel that we are always giving. But there is a scenario that keeps us from being filled in giving and our gift being received, because we are taking through our giving. Perhaps we have some need to be needed and we give to fill our own need to be needed rather than give to fill another’s need. This is taking under the guise of giving, and in taking, we have closed ourselves off to the ability to be given to, or the abilityGiving and receiving to receive. When taking, one can only take.
Since we don’t care to admit it, or we don’t even recognize it, we feel that it is easy for us to give, and if we feel any inadequacy in our relational capabilities, we attribute it to our inability to receive from others. You’ve heard this. In sincerest intended humility, “it is very easy for me to give, but very difficult for me to receive.” We may even admit (maybe even errantly), that this is a pride issue on our parts, because we think it is weak or demeaning to receive. So we only “give”. But our giving isn’t selfless and is done for our own sakes rather than the one to whom we are giving. It makes us feel good to give. When we are intent upon (even subconsciously) taking care of our own needs, we don’t leave ourselves open to have someone else minister to us or speak into our lives. What’s more, most people can sense whether our giving is selfless, or self-absorbed, and will be hurt by feeling used.
My shocking bottom line statement here is that I don’t think one can honestly give unless he can honestly receive. I believe this is biblically sound. Simple even. Unless we can learn to receive, we have absolutely nothing to give. Unpack.
It all starts with receiving something that we can’t create or do for ourselves. For this reason we need God, and for this reason, God created us to need each other. This is not a theology that is commonly taught or accepted. We teach (rightly) self-denial, sacrifice, generosity, humility, but giving to fulfill your own need to be needed, is none of these. Quite the contrary. So once again we embrace the direct opposite as its counterfeit.
Self-denial recognizes my inability to do for myself and therefore receives what I can’t do. Sacrifice means giving without regard to my own needs. Generosity gives with no expectation in return, but is returned in the joy of the one ministered to. Humility recognizes that I am not needed and I can’t be filled by being something that I am not.
So to say I can give, but can’t receive, is mutually exclusive. Giving becomes taking, and as a result, one neither gives nor receives.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

you, and me too two

A couple days ago, I was reading Christ plays in ten thousand places and Peterson was talking about Jesus’ conversations with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. I will probably end up blogging about some of the stuff that he unpacked, but actually, while I was reading, my mind brought together a different set of observations. Probably because I’d just posted an interpretive version of the Beatitudes, I noticed a connection between Jesus’ “blesseds”, and some points Peterson was making about his conversation with these two people.
Last year, I read with friends, Dallas Willard’s, The Divine Conspiracy. There were many things that strongly impacted me in that book and that experience, but one thing that was baited, or stood out last week was his discussion of the beatitudes. Willard’s thoughts were so much different than anyone’s I’d ever heard before. I won’t explain away my interpretive list from last week, but will say that it appears that the inclusion of Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, serves precisely the same purpose. These two conversations are a microcosm of Matthew, chapter 5, which contains the most concise, thorough and shocking teaching of Jesus, all together in a single talk to a large crowd of ordinary, everyday people. So it begins with an all-inclusive invitation. Even these people are blessed, because this kingdom living is for everyone.
In John, chapters 3 and 4, we find conversations with two entirely different kinds of people, the highest of men in the religious culture and the lowest of women in the religious culture. Both are offered the same thing, by the same means. Nicodemus, “Israel’s Teacher”, as Jesus calls him, was offered to be “born of the spirit.” The woman was offered a drink of living water and the opportunity to worship in spirit and truth.
So the first connection I see is the all-inclusiveness of the message. The two conversations represent polar opposites of religiosity and culture and standing. The most educated, wealthy, religious man had missed it just like the lowly, cultural castoff woman.
The second connection is that his teaching to the crowd in Matthew was all about being. He was teaching them how to be. He expanded the dos and don’ts of the law to be and don’t be. It’s not enough not to commit adultery, if you lust in your heart, you already have. Nicodemus comes to find out what to do to get into the kingdom, but Jesus explains how he must be. Jesus knows about the woman’s five husbands and current live-in lover, but says nothing more about them, he just tells her about how she should be, in what manner she should worship. Blows away her notions about where she should worship and what she should do.


Friday, June 10, 2005

far far near

so yesterday morning Allison and I decided to drive to Myrtle Beach to have lunch with a friend who is vacationing. We packed up the kids, hit the road, played in the ocean all afternoon, had supper at a tex-mex establishment and stayed.
We woke up this morning and prepared to rush around and pack up and check out, but decided instead to stay. So we played in the ocean all afternoon, picked up a pizza, ate it on the balcony overlooking the Pavilion and came to B&N for coffee.
At the end of this short post, we'll walk through the surf in the dark, feign to look out into the invisible vastness toward Bermuda, feel the breeze and mighty rushing wind, and think of the Spirit hovering over the waters.
Listen. Can you hear his breath formed into speech?


Wednesday, June 08, 2005


is there such a thing as self-help theology?


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

you and me

Blessed are the soccer moms,
for they can find rest.
Blessed are the Joneses,
for they will slow down.
Blessed are the skaters,
for they could flow in the freedom of Christ.
Blessed are those who compensate,
for compensation has been made.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst,
for they can be filled.
Blessed are the seekers,
for the Truth is out there.
Blessed are the sure in heart,
for they will be surprised.
Blessed are the peaceniks,
for it is available.
Blessed are the tree-huggers,
for they will be hugged.
Blessed are the addicted, alcoholic, perverted, and lost,
for there is a healer.
Blessed are those who are the prudish goody-two-shoes,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the legalistic fundamentalists,
What you can’t do, has been done.
The law is fulfilled.


Monday, June 06, 2005

david and nathan

Twice this past week I ran into people from church at the gym. I didn't know or recognize either of them, but that's the strangeness of being up in front of a large congregation every week. This is compounded by the same situation at work as well. So every week I'm in front of a couple thousand people whose faces are members of a body of faces. People speak to me in stores, restaurants, at the gas station, at the kids' schools, nearly everywhere I go. Fish bowl man.
The first encounter last week completely bogarted my workout. I had done abs and went to the pull up bar when I was stopped. The conversation went on until we were run out of the gym because they closed.
The second encounter lasted less than a minute. A man came up to me while I rested between sets. He told me who I was and introduced himself. Then he went on to say, "I really enjoy and appreciate what you do every week, you have a wonderful voice when you speak to us."
Now only a few of you reading this will know the significance of that statement. But at this point in my life, I'll hear every subtle whisper of Spirit-brought encouragement in the midst of what he's been impressing so strongly upon me lately through the voice of the owls, my own daughter, etc.
Every week, people stroke my guitar, my singing, the songs; but it's not often that they speak of the voice that speaks. I revisited all the thoughts I had when Molly told me my voice was one of the pretty things about me. I thought about what I'd blogged in response to that, that the voice of truth can be beautiful to some and frightening to others. I thought often through the weekend at how timely this particular encouragement was. I thought about wondering if the scary owl was speaking to me, or telling me to speak. Then...
This morning after church, a boy with autism, who had spent the day at our house last week while his mom carried out duties, but who had not spoken to me all day, walked up to me, looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm sorry." I looked at him and waited for a more detailed context, but it didn't immediately come, so I thought that it was just some disconnected thought that happened to be verbalized while I was present. So I said something to the effect, "Well I'm sure you don't need to be sorry, what are you sorry for?" He stood there for what seemed like a LOT longer and finally said, "I'm sorry I was afraid of you." Then he smiled from ear to ear and walked away. He turned around as he walked and kept smiling.
I thought of the unfathomable unlikelihood of the voices that are chosen to speak the message, and how even more unlikely are the voices that are chosen to speak to those who are to speak.
The man at the gym was named David and the boy after church was named Nathan.
God's got a serious sense of humor.


Sunday, June 05, 2005


Two twigs lying in the dirt -
leaves withered, stems splintered,
wounded bark peeling.

Searching eyes find them,
gentle fingers lift them,
living water nourish them.

Graft them to the Vine.


divine offices

at dawn, I have felt you
in sunshine, I have seen you
I have longed for you at dusk.
in darkness, I have known you.

with blue skies, you have warmed me
in mercy rain, you've washed me
in thunderstorms, you've held me
in rainbows, you have smiled on me.



I’m sitting on my deck at dusk
Under the darkening first blue sky in 7 days
The torrential rains have left standing puddles everywhere.
Hundreds, clouds, of mosquitoes buzz around my head and arms
Searching, searching, buzzing, circling, sniffing
Desiring to suck the life out of me.
They know I’m here, but they can’t find me.
I can’t be bitten.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

hub and spoke community

I’ve had so many thoughts about just a few thoughts in reader comments to yesterday’s blog, I thought I go on and flesh them out some more. When I complain about “community oriented language” being tossed around, I hear it as co-opted by a diminishing generation that hasn’t really applied it.
I’ve thought a lot about this and about my observation that an entire generation can observe college students and think that they have no fellowship or community because they don’t exercise it in church. It appears to me that an entire generation has required actual time set aside in the church service to “fellowship”, has written and sung songs that are entirely lateral in focus (“we are one in the bond of love”, “they will know we are Christians” “blest be the tie that binds”, “bind us together,” “make us one”, “I love you with the love of the Lord”), and therefore don’t recognize community as it happens outside of the service. I once had a well-respected church member tell me after church that the music was too loud, and he didn’t like the way the platform was set up so that all the focus was toward the front of the church. I responded that I didn’t feel like the focus was on the worship leaders. “But it’s not on one another. And because the music is so loud, we can’t hear each other singing. How can we have fellowship, if we can’t hear each other singing?” Now no one likes to hear the crowd singing more than I do, but I gotta say, fellowship is not the reason we are singing. I had a great epiphany from that conversation. How can we be singing a prayer to God with our mouths, and in our minds be worried because we can’t hear our neighbor singing?
Younger folks have a more vertical focus in church and “fellowship” like crazy afterward. They eat together after church, they play ultimate together on the weekends, they group date. They do not require planned, structured, formal “fellowship” to help them feel community. It has all just appeared so strained in the past. Witness sitcoms and television drama from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Dinner and cocktail parties in practically every episode. The era that spawned the Tupperware party and the garden club. Of course, when this generation goes to church, that manufactured fellowship mindset is still a part of life’s methodology.
So far, I’ve just seen this previous generation’s lateral focus and blindspot to the new vertical focus. But I’ve recently begun thinking about what could have usurped real world community for a generation that then had to try so hard to manufacture it. Maybe you have to look back another generation. Recently I heard an older gentleman talking in generalizations and stereotypes to summarize the characters of 20th century generations. Builders, Boomers, Busters, Xers, Yers, Millenials. I was amazed at how accurately and nearly completely, one’s generation can be summed up in a sentence or a couple of bullet points. Of course there is never any understanding offered as to how we came to think like that or what the generational progression can tell us. We just muse at the different mindsets that emerge in our children.
The builders. The greatest generation. One sentence description: Loyalty to The Man. Here is a generation that has been rescued from the depression, who are thankful for jobs, even military, and always leery that it all might just fall apart again. Were it not for the Company…
This is a generation that profited when the company profited, willingly suffered when the company suffered, stuck it out in community for the sake of the machine, the company, the… But in the end, the Man emerges by the sweat of the loyal labor force, begins to exist for himself, and the workers begin to learn that their friends were really his friends and no one drops by to see him much anymore. Translation: Community has been built through each individual’s loyalty to a single entity. We are in community because we all have a common benefactor; a common enemy. Outside of that connection, what really holds us together? I’ve always observed that kind of loyalty in the grandparent generation, and I was recently made to think about it when I saw the movie, “October Sky” again. The children of this generation saw some of what held them together fade as war time manufacturing slowed, depression busting government programs, ceased, etc. Everyone had a relationship with a single entity, but no one actually had relationships with the other people. The children hadn’t learned community without the hub. Christians among this generation longed for that connection, needed community. Church provided for it. A common bond. And so fellowship became the central focus of a generation of church goers. They had potlucks, sung about one another and called it worship, instituted “meet and greet” times as a part of the worship. But it seems so often that this generation doesn’t know how to individually have relationships or grow community. It has always been provided through, planned activities, “ice-breakers”, curricular bible studies. Each individual’s connection to the group has made it unnecessary for any connection to one another. This generation saw an astounding increase in divorce, broken families, loneliness. It seems to me that husbands and wives had common relationships, but no relationship between themselves. So many relationships seemed to be “V” shaped with the husband and wife at the points on the open side. There was no line to turn the V into a triangle.
Somewhere there is a subtle(or not) difference in coming together to do something, versus doing something to be together. Both are valid, but should not be mistaken one for the other.
Oh, I don’t know, I’m just rambling.


Friday, June 03, 2005

the conversation

Two brand new books on my now reading list use the word conversation in their subtitles. That may sound like a strange place to start once I get going here, but it is my blog.
Back in the Fall, I posted a blog called, communication theory. I really have tons more to say about all that, but it is still floating around in my mind being organized. Every day I experience more fodder for that ramble. But essentially where I was then, was in noticing the ramifications of a generation (especially in my context of teaching) whose communication theory is broadcast and print, clashing with a generation whose theory is digital. I noted that for the most part, broadcast and print generations have gathered information. In my context, most gather information and pass it on to students. We have entered an age of digital communication theory that is both interactive and immediate. Folks embracing this theory are more likely to be interacting and contributing to the formation of culture, than to be gathering information about culture to pass on to a third party. And in this context, the third party, to whom the gathered information is passed, is more and more often the digital contributor from whom the information was gathered.
Already we have seen the digital communication world topple giant personalities in the broadcast communication world. Many, about the digital world and in print media, are saying that there are bloggers with more credibility than some network anchors and broadcast journalists.
I have mentioned in some rants that I have not yet posted, how so many people are co-opting language that doesn't apply where they are using it. This word, conversation is one of them. For over nine months, emerging church folks have been waiting for the publication of a book called, becoming conversant with the emerging church. All the voices, digital communication theory/emerging church types, have been in an ongoing conversation asking one another in near-real time, "has he talked to you?", "no, has he talked to you?" So what does it mean to "become conversant with?" Does this really mean, "become conversant about?" How can one write a book called, "becoming conversant with", without ever conversing with anyone about whom he is writing?
Anyway, more rants about that later. That's not where I'm headed. I just needed to drive the word conversation home.
In nearly every conversation I've had with anyone about digital/interative communication theory, I've sent up red flags that some sort of virtual community and relationship paradigm is replacing real life, physical space community and friendship. "All my daughter wants to do is IM with her friends." Yeah, and your generation didn't talk on the phone into the night. "I think we should be very careful not to think that online community replaces real life." No, it expands the community and adds to the conversation. The folks who hole up in their living rooms with the internet and never have relationships, are the same type people who holed up in their living rooms with a remote control and never had any relationships. The difference is, some of the folks holed up with the internet are actually interacting. Folks with the remote are mostly being spoon-fed drivel.
It seems to me that now, in retrospect, I can see digital interactivity inserted in between two poles that existed before, the gathering of information, and relationship. In my context, they might be said to be, the gathering of information and the dissemination of that information, because most of the relationships of the information gatherers are relationships of passing along information. For many, it is all about the flow of information, and it all goes one direction. So they see digital interactivity as a replacement for relationships, while I see digital interactivity as a replacement for one-directional, after-the-fact information gathering. In this case, it is all about relationship, and the interactive sharing of information is a part of relationship. The whole process is truly a conversation in which everyone can participate rather than one group becoming conversant about another group.
Even if I am wrong about relationships having become about information flow, a person's communication theory can be determined by what they see digital communication replacing. Is it replacing person to person real-life relationships? Or is it creating more relationships by replacing one-way information flow?
We are in an age where community and community oriented language is spoken and tossed around, but where real community is rare.
We speak of mentoring and discipleship, but what we mean is curriculum based, one-size-fits-all, get-with-the-program formation. Cloning.
In a broadcast society, every tweenage girl dresses and acts like Britney Spears, but in a digital communication society, the would-be trend setters and heroes reflect the personalities of everyone involved in the conversation. The music sounds like the people, the books reflect real life.
oh, I don't know. I'm just rambling.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

return of the wren

The astute reader will remember that a week or so ago I mentioned that I was planning to take the fam to Cranberry to camp and trout fish this week. I resigned that no matter the weather that normally greets us when Allison accompanies, I was going. Rain or shine. As the Monday departure approached weather dot com promise showers and thunderstorms every day that we'd be there. I decided that my resolution was silly, when we could just postpone and enjoy a week at home and then possibly catch a dry week later this month at Cranberry. So here we are, at home, swimming in the x inches of rain that we've had since the weekend.
The even more astute reader will remember that this is the same week that we went to Cranberry last year and experienced only a damp time. Last year's trip produced a lot of blogs, including my most hit blog to date, "of birds and baby people." When we left to go camping, we left behind a Carolina wren's nest with 3 eggs in the garage. I was sure that they'd never survive, but I left the door up about 4 inches so that the mother could come and go. Well, you know the rest of the story.
She's back. She came back on Sunday, the day before we were once again to leave for the mountains. She came to the porch with twigs in her mout while I was blogging, looked at me and then flew to the garage door. When I went to open the door, she flew away, so I thought I'd misunderstood her. Then Tuesday morning, when I went out and opened the door, she landed on my shoulder for a split second before flying outside for breakfast. I guessed that she was pretty torqued for having been locked up so long, so I didn't even check for eggs. Today, she flew out again when I opened the door, so I climbed up and looked. Five tiny wren eggs in the plastic orange pumpkin.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

in te domine

I try to stand up
but I can't find my feet

I try to speak out
but only in You,
I'm complete

Oh, Lord, loosen my lips.