Exchanging Letters 2

Dear God,

As I sit here in this moment listening through the cracked window, how I wish to sing every morning like the sparrows, and fly like the barn swallows. How I hope to enter into exactly what you created me to be. Not to draw attention, but to give attention to the space within my proximity. I want to thank you for the senses you have given me to receive the wonder of nature, and the nurture of human connection. Although there are seasons where solitude sits on a bench, and invites me to feed the birds, the thick threaded reality of relationships gives voice to this life. I don’t understand why I can be so aloof, self-absorbed, and judgmental toward others, especially when You said it is not good for us humans to be alone. I want to leave this solitary place and enter the world, pay attention, and be a giver.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, sinner.

Jerry

 

Dear Jerry,

I will have mercy. And love. And justice. And prudence. And, and, and.  Thanks for noticing my creative acts around you. You keep using the word ‘mystery’ when you share your thoughts lately. I like that. You keep growing low among the grasses like my servant Wendell Berry. Humility will better connect you with humanity. You were made for connection, but solitude has its seasons too. How about I sit on the bench and wait for you to come and tell me about your connections with this world. I’d like that.

God

Sunday Psalm

Slip off your shoes,

before the dew

distills the

spirit of this day.

 

Stroll the field

for evidence

between your toes,

wet blades sewing.

 

Cup your ears,

to hear the sun

paint the top

of the sycamore.

 

Praise with the white

of your teeth,

head bowed

to the forest floor.

 

Find breath in your bones,

marrow reaching,

flowing to the sea,

to the sea.

Exchanging Letters 1

Dear God,

Sorry I left you behind. Sorry for the fear of you. The hesitant kind of fear that brushes you off and finds ways to hide behind pride. Maybe you are a big black lady in a sundress making breakfast in a secluded Shack. Big enough to hide behind. In any case I am attempting to hide. It’s fairly easy, but totally delusional.

I realize life has gotten the best of me. Literally. I bounce off circumstances and restrain my emotions. I think it started when I sinned against myself and would not repent or forgive. Wedged in a great tightness as Pooh stated.

Then my ability to receive began to wane. My dependence on emotional highs didn’t cut the crap. Beauty was fleeting and fleeing fast, because I turned my back on it and ran. I became a member of the Liars Club. I lie around way too often, and reach for the Kool-Aid as it were.

The great trifecta pressed in and I acquiesced. The world swirled around and I bought into its advances. My flesh broke out in hives, and the devil laughed and laughed.

Best, Jerry

 

Dear Jerry,

Thank you for your candor. I like the idea of being a big black lady. But I Am so much more. You are right though, there is no hiding. I Am light, and I bend around corners, under shrubs, and flow down the steps to the cellar.

I am intrigued with your idea of hiding behind Me. That is worth some exploration, as the therapists would say. What better way to stay close to Me, yet not have to look me in the eyes. Your arrogance precedes you. Don’t worry though, you have lots of company.

I Am Love, and I love you too. There are two sides to every story, and similarly, two sides to every relationship. I never left My side of ours.

Here’s something to consider. Is there a possibility I can handle you? Think it over.

Sincerely Yours, God

Prayer, Sunday Morning

Touch deep unto deep,

And scour my spirit

Of all derision.

 

Cleanse me of all

Circular thoughts

Of piercing despair.

 

Awaken my soul

To trust beyond reason.

To rest between the lines.

 

Settle me in the crux

Of Your mystery,

Grace and truth.

Stream of Consciousness

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,

we have come to our real work

and when we no longer know which way to go,

we have begun our real journey.

 

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

― Wendell Berry

 

Stream of Consciousness

 

Maybe I’ve been sitting by the wrong stream.

Its quiet depth and broad shoulders

have me nodding off.

 

I sought peace away from the paradoxes,

away from the tinkering creek

of arias and punk rap rhythms

 

and water rolling over bands of rocks.

It’s time the sound of the shallows

penetrate the deep space of the soul.

 

I’m heading upstream, above the tributaries,

where water flows over pebbles,

and jigs off the impediments

 

like a singing tap dancer.

 

“To everything there is a season.” Ecclesiastes

Stardust

Use the word life

sparingly in a poem.

Too vast an idea.

A subtle cliché.

 

Its meaning spread

as the dark spaces

between fireballs.

 

Its poignancy

as constant as

leaky faucet.

 

Each drop a

beat of the heart,

each beat a part.

 

But death,

be not proud,

big banging stops.

 

Drip, drip, drops,

fall like a star,

not far, not far.

 

Hope, One Motivator of Creativity.

“If I have to sweat for it, dear God, let it be as in Your service. I would like to be intelligently holy. I am a presumptuous fool, but maybe the vague thing in me that keeps me in is hope.”

Flannery O’Conner, A Prayer Journal

Flannery talks about a novel as a holy endeavor. Basted in hope she wrote. Ah, the top three: Faith, hope, and love. She mentions hope. I too, would like to be intelligently holy, but hope dawdles behind my presumptions.

Hope seems always like the odd man out of the big three. Hope often suffers from the middle child syndrome. Faith, HOPE, and love. Faith the firstborn, always leading the charge, self-motivated, moves the mountains and such. Love, the baby, the spoiled, everyone goo gahing over it all the time. Hope tucked in the middle, often overlooked, underrated. I don’t know what Flannery thought of faith and love, but she uses the term ‘vague’ when referring to hope, at least when it comes to writing anyhow.

I hope to keep on writing. Hope, whether I acknowledged its presence or not, is what encouraged my fingertips settle on the keys this morning.

A friend asked me, “do you have hope?”

“Yes.”

“Well, hope doesn’t disappoint.”

I put those words in the glove compartment of my heart. Poor ole hope, tucked away again. But not forgotten. I knew where to look for it this morning.

Do you have hope? Put faith and love aside for a moment. I know they are close siblings and all, but for a moment pay attention to the middle child.

Flannery-O'Connor 1947.jpg

Flannery O’Conner

Carry Ons, So We Can Carry On In Authenticity.

“Why is it our childhoods carry so much weight?”

Sure we must move forward, but if there was nothing behind us we wouldn’t have anything to move forward from. I realize splitting semantic hairs might slosh some philosophy around, but this is two lives together, melding past with present to reach for the future.

My wife and I talk a lot about our upbringing and the baggage we packed. I believe our good experiences sometimes get stowed in the cargo hold, while our carry-ons, filled with the disappointments, keep dropping on our laps from the overhead. We’re sitting next to each other, so often our stuff gets mixed together when we hit some turbulence. We try to help the other sort the mess out. We divvy up his and hers, zip up the bags, and put them back up where they belong. We try.

Lately I’ve been trying. Barbara, my wife, hasn’t stopped trying. In the midst of a large family, with two adopted sets of four children each, added to our four bios, the turbulence settles like a fog periodically. Yes, that’s twelve children. Twelve. So to deal with our personal “stuff” is tricky amidst all suitcases laying around. We become baggage handlers and run out of hands. I say we loosely, because for the majority of our journey my independence has left my wife flying alone with the children, pre and post adoption.

So, “Why is it our childhoods carry so much weight?” That’s what Barbara and I ask each other from time to time, not in so many words. Often the question doesn’t form from our lips, but plays out in our ‘doing life’ together in our ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ existence. Our late night debriefings after a turbulent day occasionally drop personal baggage contents in our laps. My baseline is to disengage, sweep issues under the tarmac, and hop a redeye to a book, or write, or ride the lawn mower with headphones on. I know these activities are not bad in themselves.

Counselors. I have experienced many. Group therapy. Yup. “My name is Jerry, and I have baggage.” They have to start somewhere. Sure I’ve gone into therapy with an immediate issue in my lap, but a good counselor will quickly see beyond it and help explore origins. Origins mean childhood, upbringing, and apparently parents. Always. The reason for this is not to help me settle into some victimhood, fall asleep with headphones on, and entirely miss the flight experience. I see it as the counselor offering me a window seat to gain perspective to experience the fear of flying, or heights, or clausterphobia along with the wonder of flight.

Wonder is one of the updrafts of childhood. Sometimes childlike wonder wanes under imperfect parents, culture, religious ambiguity, and lands into adult realities far too soon. The flight lands, and childhood is taxied to the myriad of concourses of grown-ups. The baggage is pulled from the carousel and the perspective of wonder is diminished.

I realize I might have stretched this aeronautic metaphor a bit, but simply put, my childhood matters. The good and the bad and the in-between. It is part of the mystery of the whole or ‘hole’ I carry around with me.

I imagine the flight attendant offering me something to drink. I choose a glass of wine and lift it toward the other passengers as I glance out the window.

Prayer: Oh God, you knit us in our mother’s womb. You saw us when the turbulence shook us when we were yet children. Come help us be as little children again, and hold us in mid-flight. Amen.

Elton got me thinking today…

 

Stream of Unconsciousness

“You don’t know

what you don’t know.”

 

Walking around half awake

with no thought of the other half.

 

Little secrets spoken so soft,

so long ago, even the whisper’s

 

faded into white noise

of unnoticed.

 

There’s always a dark side

of the moon

 

even when it is full of itself.

 

Psalm 139, the hope of being known, the hope of knowing.

“Kicking at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” Bruce Cockburn

Why Write? Asking Again.

It feels good to be up before the day takes on a life of its own. My diligence to pan for words in the shallows, hoping for a few nuggets, has waned. I sought places I shouldn’t have and the purity of writing slipped yet another notch. So I’ve kept the screen closed along with desire and longings.

This morning I read the first chapter of Laura Boggess’ book Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World. Her words were all about the longings. Words of want and desire before the world out there gets ahold of them. She references Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis in the first few pages and I headed for the back of the book. It’s what I do before purchasing a book normally. Who authors reference, especially in non-fiction writing, is a deciding factor for me. She did not disappoint.

I closed the book and grabbed the keyboard.

Words do matter. Written, spoken, or sung, words can reach to the broken parts. Words can underline mysteries. Words can carry human people through despair, and fill in the space between one hope and another. Words can express joy.

I have been editing my life with the help of a good counselor, my wife, and our large family. Any writing for the last several months has served as cathartic. My brother texted me recently: Praying for you today. Your pen is quiet. I groaned. I miss sharing with the world, yet this passion for writing is once again under the microscope, (any serious writer is nodding their head right now in empathy) and motives are suspect.

Writing is a heart issue, a spiritual issue, a ‘calling’ issue for me and many writers. I think of the first sentence of John’s gospel. “In the beginning was the Word…” The Genesis account documents God speaking (with words) and the material world coming into being. If words are important to God, well then, they should be handled with care.

This is a restart of sorts. I will put my fingers to the plow again for the world. It will be a stutter step engagement for a while as I continue to work through heart issues. More cathartic cloistered thoughts will be written than clicked out into the cyber world for now.

My desire is put so aptly in a haiku by my friend and comrade in writing Peter Dehaan.

Why I Write

Linking letters

wielding words to create art

for God, my patron

 

I am so grateful for the writers who fought through the dregs, bogs, quicksand of personal issues, and ‘oh, the humanity’ to share with the world. Thank you Laura Boggess. Thank you Peter DeHaan. Thank you God for the ability to read and write.

 

The haiku shared with permission by the author. It is also published in Imagine This, An Artprize Anthology.

You can find out more about Laura Boggess at lauraboggess.com.

You can find Peter DeHaan at  http://peterdehaan.com/blog/