Friday, January 30, 2009


(Or More than anything else Life wants to Live)

Those few cells
torn from your heart
will still beat rhythm
in a Petri dish.
Living cells make noise—
listen to the choir in the yeast
of Sunday morning's
toast sing high c.
Can you imagine scientists
hearing a scream
just before death?

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Rules to a game are easily accepted and determinedly enforced. Or not. Certainly they are not law. Even with laws we allow ourselves at least two miles an hour over the limit. The beauty of gray.

Frost that melts away.

What if rules, commands from God, are the way He knows me, the way recognize His son in me. Not legalism, not in the sucess of my endeavors, but in my loving God enough to attempt to do what is right.

What is getting away with something, really?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wooden Woman

A self-portrait of that awkward feeling,

duty taking a firm stand somewhere between responsibility and obligation.

Oh, she knows the right thing to do, with that thickened spine and those formidable logs, er, arms spread wide and heading straight for you. That iron head. Look out for her love. Just like embracing an elm.

Though I’m certain God gets to know us through our obedience, what I am talking about here is that stiff inhibition, that gawky, graceless, overpowering sense of self-consciousness.

Thomas Merton says our minds cannot help but include self in everything. But in the end, he says, nothing (that is, no self) is preferred, that only when self is so small as to be missing can we fully comprehend the greatness of God.

Gone entirely?

Oh dear, my missing self. Missing myself. Now I am missing Wooden Woman.

Surely Thomas, this is not a call to first lose all identity. I’ve tried. I cannot make my self go away. I cannot even ignore her.

Being a little more than self-conscious in moving ahead (perhaps backwards according to Merton), it still seems reasonable to search out the greatness of God—dragging Wooden Woman along. To allow my self to witness God as big, bigger, even terrifyingly immeasurable, until little me by comparison is, in the end not gone, but utterly insignificant.

OK, it’s not perfect. But think of it, it’s hard not to give something that colossal all your attention, never mind any artless lumbering.

Have you thought about the kind of attention that comes to you from something that immense and unerring? Love

willing to give all, to pay any price, complete self-sacrifice.

Yes, I noticed that right away, too. Small, inelegant as she is, Wooden Woman is, despite all self consciousness, willing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Water. The act of swimming is very much like flying. I have always wished I could swim with my eyes closed to enjoy the movement without the distraction of the visual. (Someone once told me this meant I wasn’t getting a very good workout. Eyes closed in concentration not rest, Brad. Oh never mind.)

Still, the thrill of flying through liquid is dampened by the chill and the occasional nasal douche when attempting to perfect the flip turn at the end of the pool, not to mention sharing a lane. Flocks of birds, schools of fish, angle and turn, ebb and flow through the currents with nary a collision. Even with eyes open, I rake the thigh of the passing swimmer, and ingest the crest of his wave.

Very occasionally, I’ve found myself the only swimmer. No one to watch, no one to distract from their hard workout, neither laughing or learning. Lord help me, it feels like a workout.

Yesterday, I rounded the corner into the shower area hopping on one foot, head cocked to get the water out of my ear. A woman, perhaps 65, with photo gray glasses (still grayed), stood in her skirted swim suit at the other entrance wiping her hands on paper towels.

Water in my ears, I explained.

She countered with, So that’s the entrance?

To the pool?

I’m new, she says.

Yup, right this way, I gesture back from whence I came.

She made her way in baby steps across the wet tile in cheap water shoes (those flat bottoms which tend to trap a sheet of water under them, creating the ultimate frictionless flight onto your bum). She balled up the paper towels, opened the lid to the swim suit spinner, and tossed them in.

This is why I go swimming.

Monday, January 19, 2009



Hoar Frost. You don’t need a picture. The mind does it for you, because of memory. Memory imbeds words into the visual.

But there are also words with no visuals. Abstractions like love.

How interesting that God describes Himself as the Word. In the beginning the Word was with God, and the Word was God. How is that for covering everything and nothing? How does the mind grasp that?

Name. God’s name is not Word, He is Word. But He also has many names. Is there any honor greater than being named?


A name, it’s like choosing a tribe, winning the draw, being finally chosen. You are.

Can you imagine Adam naming animals?

So even those billions of dirt brown birds, are named, along with the hairs and stars and sand on the beach and those ubiquitous shreds of plastic gently rolling down a pitted street in Africa.

The Word says I will have a new name in Heaven. Unpronounceable here, no doubt, I imagine one of the syllables in every name there to be yes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


We call it banter—

a mad whirl of thought, preceding a volley of conversation wherein it is expected you will stuff in your two cents, with no regard for the usual polite pause and slight raise of brow to indicate the floor is now yours, no, this is grab and run—true industrial strength banter is a dizzying revolution of listening noises, flourishing amidst the hundred ways we can finish each others sentences and still agree, or not, punctuating radical turns of direction with YES and AMEN, or WHOA WHOA WHOA, one word tripping over its precision, while others drip and wheeze, being almost what we mean, but not quite. The one I kill you breathe back to life.

No one really knows where it goes. But we are the explorers; we don't want to miss a thing.

Banter approaches the holy like shepherds dragging each other headlong into the Bethlehem, toward the rumor, the mystery, the fright, with all the wit that can be mustered, sometimes marshalling no more than wild gestures and noise. Banter is one mind baring itself to the others, regardless of how small a thread we hand off. Truth is, we all know that we don’t know. But we love the speculation; we adore the push-pull of intellect. We crave how it fills and enlarges the heart.

PS Banter is not debate. It is not commentators failing to listen, bullying their point of view into first place. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with my instrument over yours, it is the song: melody and chorus, lilting descant wrapping it all together.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Great Bird of Love

Father Janos tells me not to forget that my sin cannot put me outside my position as an heir in the kingdom. Family ties are involved now, the security of the blood relative thing. Ahhh, the Calvin/Armenian snarl.

I am vaguely disinterested a spar. More interested in story and poetry, ahhh yes, the demonstration of the Great Love Bird tucking us under a Wing.

And do we not pray to Him from this feathered cove as if alleviating suffering in this world at any cost is the greatest good— our prayers great lists of wanting?

CS Lewis calls this Kindness. Happiness demanded on any terms.

However noble, he says, kindness (the removal of discomfort at any cost) is actually reserved only for those about whom we care nothing—those with whom we have no real relationship. Rebuke and discipline (can we say certain kinds of pain) by their very nature are reserved solely for the intimacy of family. Sons and daughters. Thus, no surprise, we of faith are often not only uncovered, but shoved, along with the downy lining, from the nest.

He, who has thus far merely nurtured, elongates and distends into Unstoppable. Formidable. Terrifying. Altogether Exacting and Insistent. But also unmistakably in the same instant, He unfurls and surges forth wide wings of Unrelenting Forgiveness, and wields Great Talons of Protection, and exudes Willingness in every moment to plummet into the greatest Sacrifice for just me.

True Love.

Do you see? It comes to this: the Father will not, indeed cannot, love me—love me like this—without KNOWING me as His child.

The conundrum of knowing, the pain of life, the ceaseless pulse love love love

Saturday, January 10, 2009


An opening: finding a way inside. Also to uncover, reveal. To unfold.

I am not afraid to drag the slimy thing out, all elbows and wet wings, and unfold my sin before Him. He already knows what I've become.

Confession by its very nature comes after the fact.
There follows a certain kind of embarrassment over choices I've made, covered with fervid, but ever impotent, thanks.

But does this constitute Him knowing me any more than he knows all things that happen?

There is a gnawing desperation for God to know me, not just as history, but in the way of consummation.

Is it possible to allow God to stand alongside me in real time as I commit an offense? Me watching me watch God watching me.

What if I open myself completely in the moment of falling. What happens then? Knowledge?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Alas, I never knew you

"...Alas, I never knew you..."

This was Jesus' response to those who wanted in to heaven because they called him Lord, Lord, because they did good works in his name.

I've spent a lot of time trying to know God through devotions and prayer and believing that doing the things that I think that He thinks are important is the highest call.

What does that mean—I never knew you? What do you do that God KNOWS you......