Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fat Tuesday

By third period I knew I had to do something. I was getting stares and comments all morning.

I wrote on the board that I was a long-term sub and that Mr. G would return in April. I sent out an email to staff with my picture, explaining to the other teachers and administrators that the teacher in room 25 belonged here and that the district office said that I did not need a new id card.

I’ve shaved my beard.

After over 32 years I have a naked chin.

And it feels weird. Heck, even my dog stared at me for a bit.

I have taken it off to provide myself a constant reminder of who I am, and what is the season.

I am a Christ-follower. It is Lent.

What a reminder it has been.

I woke up and I instantly felt the difference. I remembered. I prayed.

Thank You, Lord. Thank you for Your steadfast love. Thank You for getting me through this year and helping me to become someone who loves You even more than the year before...

Before my shower I looked in the mirror at the chin I haven’t seen in over three decades. The skin is a little red, unused to a razor.

I ran the hot water...

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, give me this day...

I washed my face with hot water and slowly lathered up.

It was trickier than I remembered. Of course the beard of a man pushing fifty is much tougher than the beard of a 17 year old, so it is a tougher job.

...forgive me my sins, as I forgive...

The razor slides through the foam, scraping away the bristles that have grown through the night. Like blemishes, like sins, scraped away, inevitably they will return, but I will keep scraping...

Why did He do it? Why would the creator of all things let men grab him, drag him before a mortal for judgment for crimes He did not commit, and permit them to spit in his face?!

lead me not into temptation... O mighty Lord, help me to see clearly any temptations I am to weak to overcome and help me to turn before I cause you sorrow...

I washed the film of unused foam from my face. Ran the razor once more over spots that were not quite clean enough.

I used aftershave for the first time since the 70s. This new stuff is a lot different than the Old Spice I remember.

And all day long I kept touching my chin, rubbing my cheeks... and praying.

Lord, You were stripped of so much for my sake, for our sake... thank You. Keep me mindful of this season. Give me wisdom to follow You better...

All day long students and colleagues made remarks about my changed appearance. I cracked jokes with them, and inwardly prayed.

...Lord, provide for me today, by the time I fall asleep, a verse that I may meditate upon for the next 40 days...

This season, this prelude to the celebration of our risen Lord, is part of the cycle of my life. I want to embrace what is hideous, what is ugly, the torture and death of the almighty God, and taste that bitter story, swallow that meal purchased at such a great cost, and in consuming it make it a part of myself, of who I am.

Tonight I will watch The Passion of the Christ, and it will hurt. Tonight I will take communion and it will be a token of my admission guilt, and my salvation.

I have invited my children to come with me. It is their decision.

If they do come I will answer their questions, helping them to assimilate this awful truth: the Lord God, maker of all things, is so much the essence of love that He wished to share it with other creatures and created us. We rejected Him, and He made Himself mortal to show us how a man might live, truly live, and then He permitted us to lay hands upon Him, to beat Him and to puncture His body, and to nail Him to a piece of wood.

It’s Fat Tuesday. But the world is starving. We feast on pleasures and foods and intoxicants because we have been cut off from the source of life. It’s Fat Tuesday because we want to fool ourselves into believing that we can fill our own bellies. But we are all truly starving.

I want to eat and drink from the infinite.

Come Lord Jesus...


Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Wind on My Face

Blessed is the man whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

For He wounds, but He also binds up;
He injures, but His hands also heal.

From six calamities He will rescue you;
in seven no harm will befall you.

Job 5:17-19

I’m a blessed man.

Oh I moan now and then, but life is like that, filled with discomforts, filled with challenges.

But the rewards are mighty.

Thank you O Lord!

The last few days have been wonderful. Jeremiah is still a little sick (he is recovering from bronchitis, but the bloody noses have nearly ended).

I feel buoyed since my last post. Brenda and I cuddle, and pray, and are kind to each other. Not a cross word, not a moment of ir
ritation. (...He injures, but His hands also heal...)

A perfect start for what comes next. I am so excited.

Tuesday Lent begins.

Lent is supposed to be a time for spiritual reflection, a time for folks to reflect on the life of Jesus and mimic His forty days of reflection. It begins the first instant of Ash Wednesday.

That’s why New Orleans kicks up its collective heels at this time each year. “Carnival” Latin for “farewell to meat,” is a time for feasting because soon they are to fast and consider our Lord’s suffering. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is a bacchanalian frenzy which ends with the serious business of Lent. It's like planning on going on a harsh diet and eating a half gallon of ice cream the night before.

I am sure that Mardi Gras is somewhat of an embarrassment for many Catholics, though I think most folks recognize that it has little do with faith anymore. But it has its origins in the idea of the restraint of the coming season. I want to approach this
lenten season with a heart closer to the purpose... I want to follow my Lord out into the wilderness... I want to think about what He did for me... I want to draw closer to Him... now.

I start it on Tuesday. I’m not Catholic so I can make up my own rules. Tuesday I set aside to prepare my heart for the season.

I haven’t the history and cultural inertia behind me to push me into this season. But I have passion.

Some folks make New Year’s resolutions. Not me. I don’t make resolutions at all. I make changes. And this is the season I look at my faith and challenge myself.

Serious business. I look inside my heart, I find that spot where my Lord dwells, and I ask Him to tell me what to do.

Two years ago it was cigarettes. Last year it was prayerful artistic expressions.

Last year prayer became something important. What I learned during the last lenten season prepared me for what the year would bring. (...For He wounds, but He also
binds up...)

This year...

Well, I’ll talk about his year’s changes some other time.

I begin each Lenten season by watching The Passion of the Christ.

Not easy to watch. Frankly, it makes me weep. (And I come from a family where men don’t cry, no matter what...) I don’t like the pain it brings my heart, but I cherish the sacrifice it shows. I feel that if He could do that for me, the least I can do is to peek at what happened.

That is how I start this season. I arrange to let whoever in my church wishes to view it come. There will also be a communion, so we can reflect on the last supper.

I get my heart right. I start Lent.

I teach a Sunday School class, and one of the little old ladies was asking about the purpose of Lent. She couldn’t understand why people give up certain things for this season and then go back to them... like meat, or chocolates.

I told her I believed it was to give their spiritual life focus. That in giving something up the desire becomes a reminder.

I’m giving up something a little odd this year.

I’m giving up my beard.

My beard was thin when I turned 18, the day my dad told me to move out (months before high school ended). Out I went. I moved into the neighbor’s basement, $50 a month.

It was a typical beard for a youth. Thin, sparse. A little pretentious, a tentative claim on manhood, a timid statement of nonconformity, counterpoint to my father’s clean, stern jaw line.

Over the years the beard has thickened. It lengthened and shortened in response to changing lifestyles and jobs. It was long and wooly when I was roamed western highways and mountain trails. Trimmed short as a cook. Bushy in college, short as a graphic artist. Wild when I was living off a garden and animals I raised, and trimmed neatly as a teacher. But for over thirty years it has kept my chin warm.

Now it is full, neatly trimmed, and has quite a bit of grey in it. And for the next month and a half it will be gone. Every morning I will shave, and while doing so, I will pray.

And every time I step outside I will be a little surprised at the sensation of the breeze on my naked chin, and I’ll say a little prayer.

It will be a reminder of the season, help me to focus.

And what is the point? Why struggle with my faith, especially when things are going well (relatively)?

Because that is why I am here. To experience life.

I have lain in the wilderness, waiting for death... I have held my dead child, laid him in a grave, carved his marker... I have seen my children dance for joy, and bathed in the warmth of my wife’s smile (what joy!). I’ve walked the John Muir Trail, and I’ve had a gun pointed in my face. I’ve gone blind, had amnesia, and seen evil spirits
dancing in the dark. I've been kidnapped and had a tent shredded around me in a sandstorm.

Experiences. Change. Growth.

But I am still standing. Heck, I’m dancing! And that doesn’t seem rational... for life is hard:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished...
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes...

And all of it... all of it is making me into something my Lord can better use, something He is pleased with.

That is enough.

I want to be an example for my children, to show them that a man can be committed to his marriage, to his faith. (My father is getting his fifth divorce.)

I want to help my wife, be a leader of my home. Support her efforts in school, help around the house, take the lead in our spiritual life.

I want the challenges, the growth.

I know there is still a shadow prowling the edges of my life. And I have a righteous anger at him, and I know he isn’t done with trying to hurt us.

But today... Oh today... I am dancing in my heart.

Because the creator of the universe loves me.

That joy I feel when I see Brenda smile is small compared to the joy I feel when I sense Him smile.

I have faltered, I have stumbled, and I have fallen. But a hand has lifted me up every time, and its bleeding wound has been pressed to my skin and I cannot forget that love of His.

So... the beard comes off. I want to feel the wind blow and be attuned to what He would have me feel.

(Feels weird)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pretty Messy

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
--Job 2:7-10

Life is messy.

My wife says I think her a monster. I know she doesn’t mean that. I know that she understands I love her.

But sometimes I am frustrated and I let it show. I do not always exhibit the patience and kindness my wife needs from me. I’m not saying we are heading toward real problems in our marriage. But I am not as patient, as gentle, as kind as I should be. (Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... Ephesians 5:25)

Job was obviously frustrated with his wife. That frustration is born of hard times, difficult paths. Sometimes life sucks.

Do you remember falling in love? Do you remember how your heart beat so hard, so fast not only when she was near, but even when you just thought about her? I remember.

Love is a disease. A mental illness. But as mental illnesses go, it is usually pretty good. Skip the Prozac... I want to feel that!

My wife and I met on Leap Year’s Day 1980. We got married a year and a half later in my dad’s backyard. She wore a simple little dress, I was in a borrowed suit. This Fall it will be 25 years.

I love her.

She is flawed. She makes mistakes. I think her beautiful. I love her.

She has trouble believing I think her lovely. You see, she has been hurt. People who have been deeply hurt sometimes think their hurt makes them unacceptable, unlovely.

I love her.

She struggles, and I think her struggles are also beautiful. She quit drinking New Year’s day two years ago and hasn’t had a sip of anything alcoholic since. It isn’t easy for her, for when her struggles become very difficult she used to turn to alcohol.

She works hard at it. I am grateful.

But she isn’t perfect. She feels that somehow life has cheated her. She hasn’t carried a child, hasn’t given birth. That is a deep wound for her (and it has hurt me also). She lives in a house with a husband and two sons. Even the dog is male. And to be honest, males are animals. We are barely house broken and it is often a woman’s task to civilize the males in her life. We are messy.

I think a couple of the fish in the living room fish tank are female, but that isn’t the same as having a little girl. That hurts her.

I understand.

I’m educated. She is a very smart person, but she feels intimidated by the vast reservoir of useless trivia I carry around in my head. It’s mostly stupid stuff, but still, it makes her feel less than she is because I can pull out a quote, or a statistic, or scientific fact, or a passage from the Bible. She is going to college now, but still she feels inadequate sometimes.

I have been blessed with a number of skills. I am artistic, and I know a little bit about technology, and I can string a few words together to express what I think and feel.

But she is lovely. She works so very hard, and cares so much.

The task we face in raising our children is daunting. She sees the world in a way very different than I do. I think most women do. She worries about the immediate tasks. The dirty house, the meal that needs to be prepared, the laundry that needs to be done.

I think men generally take a longer view and we tend to not get as excited about the immediate. Of course that also means we sometimes let things roll along and not take the immediate action that needs to be taken.

There are things I have trouble understanding. She is still so angry about the things that have happened. About the formidable task of raising special needs children. About the recurrent news about a fire that took much from our church, and demands a new set of challenges of our church family. Life is messy and she doesn’t like a mess (hey, it’s been decades since I left my underwear on the floor).

I know I can be insensitive. Often I am wrong, and I just don't see it. Sometimes there is something wrong, I can feel it hanging in the air, and I know that I said something, did something that triggered it, and I just haven’t a clue.

To me women are mysterious creatures. They seem mercurial, like shifting sands.

When I was a kid one of our favorite games on my dad’s job sites (he demolished houses and moved earth) was “Riding the Roof.” Dad would weaken the sides of a two or three story building and leave it wobbling as it balanced on interior walls. Then we would scramble into the bucket of the loader and ride up to the eaves. When we were in the middle of the roof we’d flash him a thumb’s up and he would smack the roof edge and snap those interior walls, giving us a ride down to the ground amidst jets of dirt and debris and flying boards spearing up through the shingles.

Sometimes marriage feels like that. Only not so fun. This isn’t to say that I am thinking about divorce, or that we are fighting a lot, or that things are... well anything extremely serious.

It’s just that things have been rough for a long time and we are both tired.

I have my perspective, and I have just enough insight to realize I have a lot of failings that contribute to our difficulties.

But sometimes I think that my wife is just not getting it.

Yeah, this isn’t the life we thought we would get. Our kids are probably not going to be the kinds of kids we hoped they would be. Jeremiah has an IQ of 46 and that means we will need to always be a part of his life. Isaac's is 76 and that means he also needs a lot of support.

I read the Bible, and Scientific American, and the Credenda Agenda and National Geographic and The Smithsonian, and they struggle with comic books.

These children don’t look like us and Brenda did not carry them in her womb. That is a deep sorrow for her (I have accepted it, which adds to her mixed feelings). They are both boys giving her no relief from the maleness of our home. This just isn’t like the families we saw on television when we grew up in the 60s.

But I wish we could just move on. I love these boys, and I know she does also, but dissatisfaction with our life’s bigger setting makes dealing with these individual crisis's harder.

She works too hard. I am partly to blame for the extra burdens she shoulders. My psoriasis makes certain tasks difficult for me. If I mow the lawn my hands will be bleeding the next day (even if I applaud at a presentation a few times that will happen). I can’t expose my skin to soaps and many lotions or solvents or cleaners without the skin flaking into huge rashes that itch maddeningly. My hands swell, and flake, and split, and bleed, and ache... and she does many of the things I should be doing.

Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself today. But I sense Job’s frustration with his wife. He is dealing with crisis, looking at the loss of his wealth, business, employees, children, and his wife is telling him to bail on his faith.

Brenda isn’t doing that, but I feel I am trying to carry her with one arm, carry my children with the other, and trying to move forward on my own broken legs.

And it’s getting old.

Sheesh. I can’t believe what I whiner I can be! Today there are parents in the Philipines looking at a vast field of mud where their children had gone to school and they are despairing. I am relatively healthy. I have a career that is satisfying and important. I have a very real sense of my Lord walking beside me.

But I look at my wife, and I see her confusion, her anguish, and no rational words, no reflections on faith, no whispered words of love and encouragement seem to soak into her depression and nourish her.

And that’s my job. I’m supposed to be able to give her what she needs. I’m supposed to be able to guide my household, and I am inadequate.

I hesitate to go home sometimes. Today I found many tasks I “had” to do before walking in my door. I swung by the studio to talk to the station director (Dang! He wasn’t there.). I went to the drug store and bought Brenda a card telling her I love her. I stopped by the library to see if they had a copy of the Fiddler on the Roof CD (for a video... they didn’t). I stopped by the church to pray. Finally I went home. She was in a great mood. I was taken aback.

Most of this post was already written. Am I being a jerk? I give her the card. We hug, kiss, watch a movie with the kids.

And now I’m at my computer while she studies. Life goes on.

It’s so dang messy. Jeremiah is still sick (Brenda will stay home with him tomorrow, the mother in law covered the last couple of days). I have so much to do at work (what's up with 6th period?!).

I will go to bed tonight, Brenda and I spooning each other while we drift off to sleep, and I will feel guilty about these words I am typing, probably regret posting them (If I actually do post this).

So what is the point?

I feel like a little at a time Brenda and I are growing stronger in our faith. Sometimes we take a step or two back. But in general we take one small step forward at a time.

I know that many folks think that Christians have it all together. I don’t think any of them do. I know I don’t.

So what is the advantage to living this faith?

I think that I am slowly maturing. I don’t like the process. And part of that growth is involved in growing with and through this woman the Lord has given me.

Part of it is helping her to grow, and part of it is learning from her so she helps me grow.

Gosh, what a fragmented, scattered post. Not at all the polished stuff I usually try to write.

But perhaps that is the point I am trying to make today. Life is messy. And though I usually express myself with carefully edited, clean little soliloquies of my life, all tidy and clear, and theologically uplifting, sometimes life just sucks.

Job understood that. So does my Lord.

And my guess is that you do too.

Monday, February 20, 2006

I Want to Take my Glasses Off and Stop Being Clark

So Lex Luthor sidles up to Lois and whispers sibilantly: “It’s good for you. Makes you smart, a real woman.”

She bats her long lashes and blushes a little.

And before she knows what she’s doing, she opens the lead crystal case, the glowing light bathes her, and she places the pretty green stone in her mouth.

“I’m not sure, Lois,” Clark mumbles.

“Oh go ahead. It gives you a little ‘oomph.’”

So Clark puts one in his mouth also.


Have you seen the movie “Because of Winn Dixie”? If you haven’t... well perhaps you should treat yourself. Don’t pass on it because it seems like it is a kid’s movie. There is a lot there for adults to think about.

A small element in that movie involves a hard candy... Littmus Lozenges are sweet, good, yet they taste strongly of their secret ingredient: sorrow.


You know, I am an immortal... at least the part of me that belongs to my Lord. But my physical parts get rather tired.

This past weekend has been a strange journey of spiritual blessings, parental challenges, and physical weariness.

Jeremiah has had a series of nose bleeds, almost continual. One on Saturday was so bad it ruined six towels and three rags. Sunday he bled for most of the afternoon and into the night and I finally took him to the emergency room at 10:00 to have it cauterized.

I woke up this morning to that wet cough of his signaling another round of blood and tissues and towels.

I’m tired.

I want to focus on the message of yesterday’s sermon (you can read the sermon here).

I want to pray and think about turning all that I have over to Him, but I’m tired. I can’t hardly read (so why the heck am I writing?).

I was thinking about Superman.

I was thinking about being immortal. And I was thinking about my sin which causes me to be so tired, to be so weak.

I try to get the sin out of my life. I call upon my Lord to strengthen me. When I think about my sin I spit it out because it tastes of sorrow, and then, almost without thinking, I pick it up again and slowly suck on the poison that strips me of my strength.


Heavenly Father... I am Your servant. Lead me where You would have me go. Tell me the amount you would have me pledge toward rebuilding our church and I will do it. Provide me Lord with the wisdom to raise my children so they will grow to honor You. Teach me how to better nurture my wife. Lord... make clear to me every next step You would have me take in this world, and grant me the faith to step out when I cannot see the ground. --Amen.

Friday, February 17, 2006

"Give me Your Money"

I’m walking in downtown Portland and this homeless guy stops me on the sidewalk. They call it aggressive panhandling. He obviously doesn’t have anything beyond a bundle of stuff that is lying beside the road. A bunch of his buddies are leaning against a building.

He’s got long hair, a longish beard, and is wearing not only sandals, but this old robe that looks like it might have come from a monastery or something. It’s got a couple of holes in it and the hem is frayed.

I smile at him, a little nervous, and run through a quick calculation of what is in my wallet, how much I really need today, and come up with a sum that is generous in my circumstances.

“Excuse me, sir...” he begins. (At least he’s polite.)

“...I haven’t any money for something to eat. Can you spare a few?”

“Sure,” I say, and reach for the wallet in my front pocket (I keep it there ever since I had my wallet stolen when I was 16).

I hand him $6.

He looks at me with sharp, clear, brown eyes, piercing eyes.

“This isn’t enough.”

I’m more than a little surprised. It’s more than I usually spend on my own lunches, and it is pretty nervy of him to ask for more when most folks would have pulled out the change in their pockets and left him looking at 62 cents in his palm.

A little offended, I ask him how much he needs.

“All of it.”


I look beyond him to see if there is a cop or someone of authority in sight.

“Pardon me?”

“I want it all.”

For a moment I think about it. Maybe I could skip my own lunch. He probably needs it more than I do. This almost seems like some kind of test, so I pause, I consider. I reach into my wallet for the last $3.

“That’s not enough,” he says.

Now I am getting a little uncomfortable, and maybe a touch more than a little testy. I size him up. He’s about three inches shorter than I am, but he looks wiry, strong.

“Just what is it you want from me?”

“I want it all. I want your wallet, and your car keys....

“I want your pin number for the ATM...

“I want your house and your job, and your kids, and everything.

“I want your life.”


We had a meeting at our church and we voted to build a new and better church out of the ashes left from the night my son played with fire.

It is going to cost an additional $800,000 over the insurance settlement.

During the meeting there was a lot of discussion about how we can come up with that money. It was decided we would ask ourselves to pay for it out of our own pockets, without a loan. Sacrificial giving.

There was a suggestion that we learn what churches in surrounding communities charge for folks to rent facilities similar to the one we are going to build, you know, for weddings and such.

I loved the response from our elders and pastors.


This building is on us. We will pay for it, somehow, and it will be an asset to our community. The use of the facilities will be free.

Church is supposed to be a place where the world is welcomed into our lives. A church building is the foyer to God’s kingdom. It isn’t a business.

I’m not sure how two or three hundred people are going to raise that kind of money, but the fact that it is challenging gives us the opportunity for Him to work through us.


I’m giving everything I have to the man with the long hair and sandals.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


A loud moan woke me from a restless sleep.

Brenda was trying to scream from the depths of a bad dream; only a strangled gurgling sound came out.

I placed my cheek against hers, woke her with soft words of safety and encouragement. I prayed over her, stroking her hair, holding her close.

I can only partially understand the psychological demons that plague her subconscious. I can only partially understand the spiritual demons that plague our home. I can grasp a little better the emotional, financial, and physical demons that prowl the edges of our life together.

I love this world.

Really... I do.

This terrible place where babies are born dying of AIDS, where land mines amputate children at play, where bombs fall from the sky, and placid oceans rise up and sweep away villages.

I love this world.

From where I am sitting I see tiny violets blossoming in my lawn; the mower will crop them within a day or so. They grow where they cannot survive. Ephemeral, beautiful.

I love this world.

Brenda asked me how a good and just God could let evil things happen to a child.

That is the central question to the Book of Job. How could a good God...

I can see in my mind’s eye the photo of two years ago, a Haitian child making cakes out of dirt and lard to feed herself and her little brother.

I sat on a rock the other morning. It was good. I went back that afternoon. And again the next day. I watched the river flow.

It is very beautiful. A heron glided in, landing in a tree across the river. A coyote yipped, startling the deer by the trees a hundred yards away. The river swirled below me, dark and swollen from an unusually wet winter. In places it flowed the wrong direction, a backwater sweeping foam through the clutching branches of trees that, for this year, this season, find themselves standing in dark water.

The Willamette River flowed past my perch, almost exactly as it did when Jesus let men stretch him out on a roughhewn post and drive nails into His body.

I love this world. This place that is so painful, so hurtful.

I love this world that has me confused and searching for steadiness where all is swirling in ways that do not seem to make sense.

I love this world filled with things of beauty destined to be mowed.

I love this world of confusion and choices.

Our choices. My choices.

Place my desires first, or follow His commands?

It’s freedom. Freedom given us by a God who wants us to love Him and each other because it is a choice.

He lets us have our way for a century, give or take a few years, so we can have choices.

How could a good God? Because He wants us free to choose to not think of ourselves first.

We can choose to follow a difficult path, or we can bail. (So many bail. So many hurt and hurting.)

This freedom means there are people who become monsters, hurting children, and there are people who run into hallways where bullets fly, pulling children to safety.

Tonight our church is voting on the architect's plan for rebuilding our church from the fire my child started. The cost for the new building is $800,000 more than the money received from the insurance company.

Tonight I will worry a little about my home, my children, my wife, my finances, my spiritual growth... and the oh so many questions and emotions that churn within my heart, and I will ask Him once again to show me the next step on this shadowed path.

Tonight I will try my best to set aside my fears for my family, my strange mix of emotions regarding the fire, and prayerfully, worshipfully, make choices about that new building, just as anyone else in the membership will do.

Tonight I will approach this meeting with thoughts about my wife’s nightmares, and the fears still hidden in the hearts of my children, torn from horrors and placed in my home, and the apprehensions about my work, and the repairs my home needs, and the lawyers sniffing around for assets, and the rashes on my hands, and... and...

And I love this world.

You see, in this place, this world, I am learning what cannot be learned in Heaven. I am learning the difference between being a naturally selfish man and a servant of the God who wishes so much we didn’t hurt and cry and ache and moan in our sleep.

In this place I can leave crowded cities and walk in woods and watch herons fly and sit on a rock above a confused river.

In this world I can stop and pick the violet from the grass, and lay it on my desk while I type a blog post, before the mower comes.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sitting on a Rock

Dearest reader:

Please pardon this very rough post.

I am just plain tired. I'm drained. Physically, emotionally...

I want to write something of beauty, but I’m tired.

So I am going to let my mind drift along a bit and see what flows out. I’m not going to go over this post and change the words slightly here and there, or edit, or go through two or three rewrites. I’m going to go gently down this stream, listening to some old folk music, and see what will come.

It has been a long haul of late. I’m not complaining. I am following my Lord and there are lessons in the events of my life which will lead me to a place that is good. But I would like to find a rock to sit on and watch a few clouds drift by.

Did you know that hunter-gatherer societies have the greatest amount of leisure time?

They do a little hunting. They eat some fruit. They nap a lot.

Sounds pretty good.

I stopped by my church on the way home. I prayed for a while. I drew a little.

I have found my artistic talent again, and I’m exploring what that means.

The current picture is of a torso. It is all colored pencil and scribbles of variously colored Sharpies. There is a heart-shaped stone rolling aside, revealing a brilliantly glowing heart with light streaming out from a white cross. There is a hint of of a long-haired, bearded face, and a swiftly flowing river in the background. Swirling around the heart and the torso are scriptures about redemption and the story of the prodigal son.

You see, a friend of mine has been praying for a very long time for his brother, a homeless man. There is a tremendous story behind this man who found himself once again surrounded by family and opening his stubborn heart to the Lord.

I want to write more about this tale that has touched my heart, but I need certain permissions first.

I have been experimenting with my artistic talents this past year or so. I have drawn and painted other things as well. Perhaps I’ll write about them.


Listening to Judy Collins...

...And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them" ...

I’m not sure what the song writer meant by that... but it makes my heart ache a little...

...He spent a long time watching from His lonely wooden tower, and when He knew that only drowning men could see Him...

We are all drowning, aren’t we?

Life is too busy. The busyness of life interferes with opening our hearts to Him, doesn’t it?

I think that is what is wrong with me right now... I need some quiet.

It is all good. But it might be too much. I would like to share about some of the troubles I see in children’s lives. Drugs, poverty, divorce, hunger... But I can’t. It isn’t my place. But I wish I could love them all they way they deserve to be loved. Every child should have a loving home, a place that is safe.

I think of that Yanamamo Indian in his hammock somewhere along the Amazon... I love my comforts too much to want to join him, but I think that his life is closer to the life God had planned for Adam than the life I have.

Ah, dearest Lord... I could be much more spiritual, I could love You deeper, sing Your praises with passion, if I could spend a few seasons sitting on a rock counting sheep and watching the clouds glide by.

Sweet Lord, my master... life is so busy, I ask just a few small things, Lord. Lord, first and foremost, grant me the ability to see where You would have me go. Make clear my path, provide me with the wisdom to guide my family and make the choices You would have me make. Also, Lord, please grant me the wisdom to care for my students and my children in a way that honors You. May the actions of my life show that I have a master that dictates me to be more than I could be otherwise. And lastly Lord, I ask that You permit me the real sense of Your presence as I walk through my life. Grant me the peace and serenity that comes from knowing that You are near. --Amen.

I think I will get up early tomorrow... go down to the river before work... sit on a rock... and pray a bit.

Writer's block

I have started two posts. Neither grabbed me.

I usually try post every Sunday afternoon and a time or two through the week.

Please come back soon. I'll see if I can find something to prime the writing pump.

If you are hankering for some writing from weird Will, you might check out the last story I put on my other blog last week. The blog is Willzilla.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


She held her little boy’s hand as best she could. The five-year-old squirmed and pulled. She was talking to her neighbor, a sixty-year-old gentleman who lived a few doors down in the same boarding house.

Leukemia would take her within a few months. She hadn’t any money. It was 1916 and she could barely do her job at the laundry. The mining explosion in childhood had burned her hands so badly she couldn’t fully open them, but they gripped laundry well enough. Now they struggled to hang onto a little boy.

Who would take care of little Albert?

Robert looked down at his neighbor’s child.

“I’ll do it.”

“You will?”

“Yes. I’ll do it. I’ll marry you, and Harvey will be my boy. I’ll take care of him. I’ll raise him.”

So, the little boy, Harvey Edstrum, son of an occasionally drunk, occasionally abusive father, became Harvey Greenleaf. His mother died. He grew up, working with his dad as a migrant farm hand. He married, and 18 years later, divorced. He moved in with his son, my father.

He taught me how perseverance at an ice cream machine crank paid off. He taught me how to tip a waitress for a morning cup of coffee (leave a nickel under the saucer). Grampa bought me cherry Mountain Bars at the cafe on the way to kindergarten each morning, and a Squirt soda and maybe a box of Cracker jacks (with real toys) on the way home.

He moved out before I finished kindergarten, bought a grocery store in Paradise, California. He married a woman with three teen sons (one of them broke my bike). A couple of years later those stepsons got drunk, argued, and killed him.

That’s all I know about them. I don’t know my great grandmother’s name. I don’t know her first husband’s name. I failed to learn and remember little more of my family history than a few paragraphs, a faint echo of their lives. In less than a century the struggles and achievements of a life are forgotten.


We want people to know who we are. Today. Forever. We want them to love us, respect us. We ache to be noticed. We are born needing constant attention. If we don’t get it we will die. We demand to be fed, to be held. It doesn’t stop when we learn to feed ourselves.

It’s more than a physical need. It is a soul need.

Something deep inside wants attention, craves it, needs it.

Why write this blog? Is it a personal exploration, or to help others, or is it a cry for attention? Am I crying into the darkness, into an empty spot deep inside and shouting “Look at me! Hear me! Think of me! Look at how I string words, thoughts, together! Let me affect you! Let me show you truths and in doing that you will see me. Then I will know I exist.”

Why do I get upset when my wife is a little controlling? Because I want to be recognized for being the man of the house. Because I want to be respected. I want to be king.

Why am I irritated when a student interrupts me? Because I want to be the source of authority. Because I want to be respected. I want to be king.

I want to be important. I want to make a difference, I want to be remembered.

I want...

I want to be loved.


What is the point in raising children? Those who cannot have biological children learn something about the need for them that others often miss. When the children don’t come, when the heart has moved beyond sex and is forced to consider children in and of themselves, something deep inside begins to throb, to ache, and the heart and the mind start casting about for a way to grasp the source of that ache and fix what is broken.

I used to think children were about reproduction. I thought they were about the need to replicate ourselves, to create an echo of ourselves. To pass on our insights and ideas and views and attitudes. To do such a good job in raising children that in someway we would survive. It was about leaving a legacy.

Today I am wondering... maybe the act of raising a child is an echo of something else, something more real.

Today I’m wondering...

I sense a spot in my soul, not in my mind, or in my spirit, or in my body, but in a part of me that seems eternal, that longs for something magnificent. I sense a spot in my soul that longs to reach out, to reach up, to see my Creator and pull His face towards me.

I think that is the truest part of who I am... a being who yearns, who longs, for his Creator to look at me.

Perhaps the raising a child is about that longing, that relationship.

I feel something when I look at my children, it is difficult to describe. As I think about my feelings toward my children that spot in my soul throbs.

I think that spot has a name. An inadequate name, but a name that touches upon the yearning, the longing, the “father thing,” and the stuff Jesus tried to explain. I think that spot is called “love.”

I was created with a soul, a part that is above the mind, beyond the body, a connection between my spirit and eternity. In that soul there is a place that is designed to plug into God, where I am supposed to be getting instructions. I am supposed to be connected to something bigger than myself. I’m supposed to be in the presence of the source of all things. It is something that will tell me who I am and what I am for. That spot is called “love” only because we haven’t words to describe the thing, no, the person, that makes us complete in a way that being a husband, or being a father, cannot do.

I used to think that I would be someone great. That I would leave a mark in the world. Now I know that billions of people have lived and died, struggled and achieved, struggled and failed, and their great grandchildren didn’t even remember their names. Their echoes faded away.

I’m not concerned about that anymore. And I’m not concerned if anyone is reading this blog. I like it of course. Just as I like being a husband, a father, a teacher.

But I am more concerned about what is supposed to be in that spot. I want to reach in there, like it is some hole into another dimension or something, and grasp the hand of my creator and have Him pull me through, to turn me inside out and have that hole become my skin, to cover me and not carry it on the inside, but spread it over all that I am and let it fulfill me.

I think the longing I feel, especially at this time of year when I prepare my heart for Easter, that empty spot throbs harder, louder.

I think that in my craving to love and be loved I am echoing the throbbing I hear when I listen closely to what is coming out of that void. I think my whole life, in trying make my children an echo of who I am, is all about trying to amplify that deep throb inside.

My failures in loving those around me as my Lord commands is really a failure to echo clearly the voice of God who is speaking into my own void of sin.

When I try to make a mark on my world, whether it is in doing what is right, such as raising my children, or doing what is wrong, such as being impatient with my wife, whether producing a cable tv show, or creating a video for my church, it is all about shouting who I am because I am having trouble hearing who He is.

How trivial will my efforts seem, my shouting to be heard, when that void is one day filled for all eternity.