Why Two Days Changed My Fussbudgetness.

Lucy, from the comic strip Peanuts, was often referred to as a fussbudget. Over the past few years I have become a fussbudget, my heart traipsing around the landscape of complaint, unbelief, and fear. Recently I described it to someone as brooding. I can’t seem to nail down a solid description of my state of mind. Needless to say, my silent grump grump aint helpful to those in my proximity.

Then two days, one right after the other, a couple of weeks ago, shook me out of my inward sourpuss self. May 17th two of my children decided to take a giant leap…out of an airplane. Be honest, what do you think of first when skydiving come to mind? Exactly. What if the chute doesn’t open? I don’t see this thought as pessimistic, but realistic. Planes have wings to keep humans up there in the wild blue yonder, unless some zealot or deranged person uses one as a missile of mass human destruction. My son and daughter fell to earth with hardly a thud, safe, exhilarated, and the determination to do it all over again. (They’re adults, what can I do? I know what I can do… Give them an Applebee’s gift card for their birthday next year. Yes, they jumped on our dime right into their bucket list.)

The next day my longboarding (i.e. big skateboard for riding hills, not do stunts) daughter took two of her brothers to surf a local neighborhood. She was merely 3 to 4 inches off the ground and fell to earth with a thud. She dropped and rolled, but in the dropping she sustained quite a blow to the basil part of her skull. 911 was dialed, and an hour or so later she was in a medically induced coma for a closed head injury. She had a basil fracture, broken cheek bone, but no other broken bones. There was hardly a scratch on her otherwise. Barbara and I were beside ourselves with concern as the first twenty four to thirty six hours were a roller coaster of emotions and worry as the doctors came and left with assessments.

I said short prayers to God.

Not today. No funeral today God. Help!

            Other people said the longer prayers. Lots of people said the longer prayers. Our entire family is grateful for the longer prayers, and all sorts of other support through this reality. Today our daughter is in a state of the art rehab facility called Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids Michigan. Today she is. Today she is the same captivating daughter after her chute didn’t open on that hill. Today she is a self-proclaimed “safety nerd” as she deeply regrets not wearing a helmet. She is not finished healing, but is coming along much faster than predicted.

Thank God.

That is the reason I am writing about these two days. This is why I confess to the world and God my own fractures. Just because we are human, we flake out sometimes. Come on, admit it. God went looking for Adam and Eve in their nakedness. Why would God not look for us? I know this opens up the Pandora’s Box of why many things don’t make sense, all the way from 9/11 to a weak baby chick not surviving. I, for one, need to hop off my little private, arrogant self, and admit I have a lot less control than I thought.

Today, I thank God for those who continue to hold us through prayer, presence, and embraces. Life is mysterious. God is mysterious. So, if you find yourself in a fussbudget frame of mind, that’s okay, no judgement here, but consider the possibility of coming out from hiding. God is looking for you, along with some human humans.


God, thank you for all the loving people in my life. You show up when they show up, whether I admit it or not. Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.



Burn brightly in the rain,

send your rays across the field,

or sit silently, wait, and whisper

on the wandering breeze.


Set your golden lips,

the ones mimicking the sun,

and blow her yellow kisses,

lay them golden on her olive skin.

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.

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?”


“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

The Laziness of Despair. The Nerve!

What? It takes much effort to despair. There is the resistance of asking the questions to break despair’s vice grip on this hand-cuffed free agent. To disengage in the tension of all there is to be tense about… that takes work. It takes energy to avoid the linear or circular arguments as to why things are the way they are. Lazy Mr. Merton?

That is like what my friend told me about loneliness. “Loneliness is ultimately selfish.” My first thought was don’t take my loneliness away from me. Ha. How selfish that sounds. Oh, the arrogance of island living. “No man is an island.” That was the parting phrase after that same friend dropped everything and listened to me gripe and grumble over unresolved tensions which clamored for my attention.

My wife, the one closest to me, labels it stubbornness. Despair has whittled me down to a stub on the inside. Oh, woe is me. I am victim, hear me whimper.

I suppose loneliness and despair are kissing cousins. A pair indeed. An undynamic duo nurturing any passive soul willing to engage in their auspices.

We are not lazy, my wife and me. Even now I am thinking about what I can physically accomplish this day. But personally I can clean the outside of the cup, spit shine it, straighten things up, but on the inside is a dank, musty ole grave. Stubborn. Selfish. Set in stone. My heart can continue to acquiesce to the lonely lazy despair or…

Look to a good God, who is Love, and operates in justice, mercy, and grace. Who holds my tension if I set it in His open palm… you know, the one with the hole in it.

Sound too simplistic? Well, just remember every island is surrounded by water, and if we walk long enough we will touch the edge of the water’s great expanses and be refreshed.

Prayer: Oh God, thank you that I am not too much for You. Thank you that my tension can be placed in your palm. Thank You that I am never alone, and hope is just a prayer away. Help those who find themselves in similar states of mind and give them grace to turn to You. Amen.

Let Us Go From Here, You and I

Take this blank page for instance.
This square white cloud,
blinding, silent as snow
with nowhere to go.

It’s like a Monday
when a weekend
ended weak.

The party’s over
and duty calls
Cliché’ “Hey you.”

Blank pages


A Time To Cry. Sung Prayers.

Have you ever said to yourself “I could use a good cry?” Sometimes there need be no reason for this type of release. I recall a nickname from grade school days…crybaby. I had reasons for spilling tears alright. How dare they laugh at my stripped overalls? But these days, brimmed with history, carry the simple weight of being human in a human filled world. As I settle into my fifties the rear view mirror sees more eye action than the windshield perhaps.

Words like regret, sorrow, and grief shove hope, grace, and forgiveness around like the bully up the street. Humans often reach for these words at one point or another, or we find ways to dull their sharp edges and drift into a catatonic glare of being more or less human. Literally. Either we find a way to be superhuman or we fly low like drones.

Somewhere in the middle is where the healthy people live. They dance between regret and grace. Their sorrow is lucid, malleable, and not without hope. Their grief is experienced and eventually drinks from a chalice of forgiveness and acquiescence. How?


My wife gave me the Les Miserable’s movie for Christmas and with the rush and stress of the holidays over, we finally sat to take it in. It was just the two of us humans in the chilly basement. No popcorn. No fizzy drinks. Simply the big screen HD and us snuggled on the couch.

I remember crying when we saw Les Mis on the bigger screen in the theatre. This time we afforded ourselves total immersion. The kids were in bed and Buford lay down after circling a spot just to the side on the floor.

The uncontrolled sobs came when prayers were sung. Val Jean and Fantine slit me open with their aria-like approach to God. Their prayers were released like a bow across the strings of a Stradivarius. I thought of the last time I aired it out to God.

I had fallen asleep after days of vigilance at my mother’s side. My head rested against the womb of my birth. I awoke to find my mother gone. She left while I slept. I thought I was done crying, my eyes had burned for days, yet from deep within a groan filled prayer surfaced. A wail interspersed with language only God knew. The secret lyrics of the heart directed to God. For a moment two of the greatest mysteries, birth and death, encircled the room. I sensed God sitting on the edge of the bed with a hand on my shoulder. I hadn’t realized Barbara had come to be with me and share in my grief. What comfort.

Ecclesiastes states there is a time for everything, even a time to weep. Jesus wept. When was the last time you allowed yourself to cry? It is one of the rhythms of the God given human condition. I am not a crybaby but I do cry sometimes.

When Church Gets Cancelled…

It comes as a relief. Did I type that out loud? Sometimes I cancel church myself without any winter storm warning. Bedside Baptist is what I used to call it. Skipping church some call the equivalent of AWOL. I know in my Catholic beginnings, missing Mass was a Cardinal sin. I didn’t know what a bright red bird had to do with God, but before my parents separated we went to church.

In grade school once I hid behind our garage all day to walk into the house just minutes after the dismissal bell rang. The only hitch; it was a fifteen minute walk from West Main Elementary School to the dead end of Grand Avenue, my childhood home. Either my mother ignored the incongruity or she was still at work when I arrived home thirteen minutes early.

I don’t remember why I skipped school that day. Maybe it was fifth grade, the year I cussed out Mrs. Linde a few times. She sent me to the principal’s office so I could throw the same “wash my mouth out with soap” words at him too. If I didn’t get some educational concept easily, frustration would turn to tantrum and Mrs. Linde was first responder. School work, she reasoned, wasn’t the root cause of my behavior.

I ended up hanging out with other troubled kids in Mrs. Hoenes’ office on occasion. She was the school social worker who introduced me to Mr. Gregory, a jolly man with a jolly big stomach. Some of the best hugs, which swallowed my body whole, came from Mr. Gregory, the counselor. He showed up as Santa Clause at our house and I didn’t know it was him until he hugged me. When he showed up at my High School Graduation open house years later, his hug wrung tears helplessly down.

Before that day behind the garage, skipping only meant a happy jaunt down the sidewalk. Since then it has taken on a duality of joy one moment, avoidance the next. Church, over the years, has occasionally taken on elementary school ambience. I have walked out of many services, mid stream, with the same frustration and tantrum tendencies of my youth. Within the walls of stained glass light sat a boy hiding behind a garage. Underneath the steeple the same boy wished for a jolly God that could stomach him.

Mary Karr’s Liar’s Club autobiographies’ title catches the mutability of the processes in which I am engaging. There are lies to be addressed. Not people or God per se, not even church, but the whole of perception and perspective inlaid in twisted interpretations of situations.

As snow keeps falling down like flakes of forgiveness and grace covering the tracks of the past, I will shovel as needed to keep walking forward. I know walking on snow could be like walking on water, like faith steps over injury and those I have injured. Sometimes in the sinking or drifting there are lessons to be learned. I pray that less snow will be needed in our future, but I am thankful it will snow again.

Theatre Of The Mind.

“Theatre of the mind” was an interesting turn of phrase. The counselor threw it out there as a place in which to change inner conversations. I started seeing thoughts as characters choreographed into a play, entering stage left, interacting with other thoughts, exiting a scene.

“All life’s a stage” according to Shakespeare. Now the stage is being coaxed to shrink into the infinity of my mind. Metaphor, sure, I like metaphors. The theatre behind the frontal cortex curtain ushers interaction of memory and history to compile new thoughts and prayers onto this string theory of neuron highways and cul-de-sacs.


“I think, therefore I am” births into “I’ve been thinking, therefore I’ve been becoming.” There is literal moving of props and scenery thoughts into positions which set the next scene.

What? What?

My tendency is to think my way out of action. So many thoughts, so little do’s. Over thinking, some might say, and the stage gets cluttered and confusing. The plot gets crowded out, and meaning and purpose start acting out of character. Such a mess.


So I begin again to grow up at the front end of this year. As much as I would rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy, neither choice would reset the stage nicely. A counselor will suffice, especially when he talks in interesting metaphors. The theatre of my mind can handle some flood lights and direction.

Romans 12:1,2

Blessed Be The Binding That Ties. (New Year Schtuff.)

I’ve been running silent for weeks now. Like a submarine drifting below the light and foam of the tips of waves, my words echo in this steel hull of a brain. I say little, even to myself.

Barbara and I purged yesterday. Tossed out of our room so far are three kitchen bags for goodwill and a large black bag of “Why are we keeping this?” While Barbara sang her made up song about purging I reset books amongst other things. I didn’t organize them. I consolidated the three different areas of books in our bedroom.

The short stack sits on a simple one drawer desk, where about a dozen reside for easy access. Against a wall is a four story bookshelf made of time darkened cherry wood. No vacancy there. In our walk in closet books line three long wall shelves crowded together, bindings out.

As I said, I didn’t organize them, which used to be one of my favorite putzing past times. I simply made sure they fit properly in the spaces provided. A handful of them were purged, plucked out with the attitude of “I will never consider turning these pages again.”

The remainder is resting quietly with nothing to say until the pages turn. I feel like a book on a shelf, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling, especially as a New Year pulls on my bindings. I call myself a writer, and when that dad burn memoir is published I know eventually the binding will be silently standing at attention getting no attention. That is what most books do.

I don’t want to be “that” book. Who would? So, today I start counseling again. My name is Jerry, and I need help. There are times when the pages get stuck together and we need help peeling them apart, don’t you think? No pity party here, just determination to read between a few lines and change the story line.

I want to begin writing worn out religious words minus the cliché ambience they sometimes hold. Words like forgiveness, restoration, redemption, and that old bugger repentance to bring the plot points of this life some resolution this side of the Way Over Yonder. I will say “I’m sorry.” I will say “How can I help?” more. I will engage in the small talk and the large talk. I will see my wife more. I will see my children more.

God help me. God grace me. Good God show the way.

I suppose this is a New Year’s Resolution…What the heck…How about New Year’s Revolution?

God help us all to be open books in a way which makes the world a bit brighter this year.

Happy Belated New Year!