Friday Flashback: Fam Ford Escort

Indeed we were! We were a Ford Escort family. I remember the old light blue wagon that you could hear from a mile away because of the loud muffler–or lack thereof–that my dad drove. Later on we had a white one that was pretty snazzy, and I had the dark blue one in college. Stella Blue I called her. Had some great times in that thing! Me and Toph drove up to Salem, VA for a Panic show in 1999 and drove home afterward! On like a Tuesday. Wild. I also drove it to Knoxville and back for Panic in Chilowhee Park in Knoxville.

But it’s the dark gray late 1980s? model that I want to focus on today. This was the first car I drove when I was 16. I inherited it from my brother. I also inherited his tapes that would play in the cassette player–Harry Connick Jr. 20, Shenandoah, and… that’s all I remember. Probably had some Jimmy Buffett in the mix back then.

This fine automobile had the automatic seatbelts that when the door was shut would move on the track and close in on ya. Better watch out because it isn’t stopping. Of course, though the intention was good, it didn’t do much good, because it gave the appearance of having a seatbelt on, but you still had to manually attach the lap belt, and well, I was 16 and you can’t tell me what to do… 🙂

It was this car as well, that featured in the 7th grade science project video that my friend JC (happy birthday today) and I created! It’s a classic and will surely find its way into a Friday Flashback episode at some point. But… 2 confessions about the ol gray escort:

One time I drove over to our friend’s house near the country club. We were going to, you know, have some times of fellowship… and such. I’m sure Aladdin or Lion King or something was slated, and then the few of us would discuss the literary merits of the films. That’s what 16 year old guys do when they’re with their girlfriends, right?

Soooo… I parked up at the top of the driveway, which was on a significant hill. I got out and was walking in aaaannnnnd… holy *(&%…. the escort was rolling back down the hill. Dowwwwnnnn the hillllll. Across the road. And into the trees across the way. I ran down, probably at first trying to stop it, but when I got down to the bottom I looked into the car. Confession time: I quickly and secretly shifted the gear into P from R. It seems I had left it in Reverse when I got out. I, of course, told everyone that it was in P, and I didn’t know how it happened. Come on Escort… don’t let me take my key out if it isn’t in P. Embarrassing! I don’t remember how we got the car out or if I even stayed for the date…. but what are you gonna do?

And then… me and Gabe one time were on a double date with two Shelby High girls. We were headed to the movie theater to see I don’t know what movie. We were driving around Peach St. in Shelby and there’s this pretty big hill that drops off on a side road. And we got the great idea to see if we could jump the hill in the… Escort. In the Escort. Ridiculous. But I was a sucker for peer pressure. And the girls were egging me on. First run I hesitated and didn’t get enough speed and so we just barely felt anything. Do it again they said. They said. I blame them ;).

So we took a second run at it. MORE SPEED. We got airborne! I froze up in the air and hit the brakes… I mean we were probably like 2 inches off the ground is all… but in my mind it was an action movie scene. You know, in the Escort. And being the dumbasses we were, we were doing this over a hill that takes a sharp hairpin turn to the left shortly after the hill.

So… we landed, and skidded off the side of the road into some trees. Swiped the side of the car and knocked the side view mirror off. And my tire went flat. At the time, being 16 and stupid, I hadn’t had any experience with changing a tire yet. And we now had a flat. Thankfully my big brother was home from college that weekend, so I called him up and he came out like a faithful big brother can, and helped me change my tire.

I told my parents that an animal ran out in front of us and I had to swerve. Terrible. HAHA… in fact, a few years ago around my folks’ supper table I was confessing this story to them, and my mom just made me stop. She wanted to maintain the image of me being good and smart and not stupid and dumb.

We did make it to the movie. But that may have been the last date with those two Shelby girls.

Ahhh… the Ford Escort. After the Escort I inherited Melba T. A beat up 1986 mustang. Have to work that in some Friday as well.

Happy weekend y’all!

Uncle Walt

O Me! O Life!

BY WALT WHITMAN

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

  Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Source: Leaves of Grass (1892)

Philippians 1:18b-26

‘I wish I could go all the way with you to Rivendell, Mr. Frodo, and see Mr. Bilbo,’ said Sam. ‘And yet the only place I really want to be in is here. I am that torn in two.’

‘Poor Sam! It will feel like that, I am afraid,’ said Frodo. ‘But you will be healed. You were meant to be solid and whole, and you will be.’ 

I hear you Sam Gamgee! Torn. And Paul hears you too. Departing or remaining… Paul says he is “hard pressed between the two.” “To live is Christ to die is gain.” Now that will get the old wheels turning ’round.

There’s a passage in Jack (Marilynne Robinson) in which one of the characters thinks about what it means to see the soul of another. In all the crowd of humanity she has seen the soul of another. I get that. I don’t do that passage justice here, but I really don’t want to provide any spoilers–you should read these books!

As I read that passage though one of those thoughts flooded my mind. It was write-it-down-now worthy. So I did write it down. And all it says is that ‘I am more than my body.’ Of course I am. Right? But reading that particular passage about seeing someone else’s soul–you know really seeing them for who they are. Their essence. Even if it’s just a glimpse here and there. And considering that other people may claim the same about me. Maybe they see me that way. I am more than my body.

Now… I have moved on from Robinson for the time, and am now re-reading NT Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God. And if I haven’t admitted yet, Wright is one of the major influences on my life in the last decade or so. The first book I read of his was Surprised by Hope and I have since read just about everything he has written–excepting Climax of the Covenant because too much Greek (and I don’t know Greek).

I am more than my body. But… what I have gleaned from Wright and what has settled into my thinking is the reality of the body. The physical. I may find this difficult to convey in these few words, but Wright tackles the we ‘go to heaven when we die’ notion and says that it is incomplete at best. He argues that we aren’t just headed for some spiritual netherworld when we die, but that instead the hope of the gospel is the resurrection of the body. The material. That what we do and experience here and now in this age matters. That we somehow get to create the building blocks for the new world.

Now, Wright says that there will be a transformation of some sort. It won’t be these bodies exactly as they are necessarily. And, of course, this is just his viewpoint, though well researched and put together. I include a terrible summary of it here only to point out that the body is phenomenal. The physical, material world was made good, and very good, in the beginning in the story of creation.

But this body does fade. It does. It is fading. And reading that passage in Jack, or being influenced by Wright’s thinking, or a sunset in Montana, or a winning question in trivia, or experiencing a moment together listening to the Dreaming Tree or whatever… there is a Spirit that connects us all. The Spirit moves in all things JB wails. Soul. And there is a sense of the good in that kind of thing. The beautiful. The peaceful. The eternal.

And the Hope is that it will be. And the Hope is that the connection that we experience at the soul level, at the beautiful/peaceful/eternal level, that it will be. It will be. Always it will be. And the Hope is that we will experience the goodness of the body. The physical. The material. The laughing and crying and constant battling to rest in the present. The touch. The glances that we receive that revive and reveal. By God it is good! And so I learn to rest in the Glory–everytime we dance–that awaits. That is already and will be. And I learn to rest in the present Body. Working and struggling and sharing in the majesty of existence. And learning to see the souls of others and accept that they see me. As we live in the now that is always. The eternal moment. Maybe that’s where the two really meet. The now and not yet. Maybe they converge in this very moment.

At the end of LOTR Sam walks in to his Rosie, after letting Frodo go, and… he takes a deep breath. Yep.

…Tomorrow I’m thinking some words from Walt Whitman, Friday I’m leaning towards a Flashback about my old Ford Escort, but not certain, Saturday I declare war on the word WOULD… Sunday RCL, Monday Acoustic Syndicate… Thanks for reading y’all!

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. 20 It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Church of 6

The phrase was coined one afternoon on the front porch if I remember right. The initial concept referred to the fact that there are 5 of us in my family and that we would commune on the regular with our hermano Daveed. 5 plus 1. I spent a little time, maybe 6 or 8 different episodes, ranting about various things on Instagram under the name Church of 6 last spring and summer. The list of folks who followed along was phenomenal. Good, goodpeople. And so the name morphed a little bit I suppose. I began to conceive of the 6th person being you. Being all of you. In a way like the 12th man refers to the whole crowd at a Seattle Seahawks football game. Remember crowds? Daveed and I think of getting tattoos sometimes with Co6. If I was an artist of any talent, I would try and design such a thing–maybe with fire and a rose. Or a sailboat with its mast on fire. Or maybe something else that I don’t know about yet…

But why? Great question. And the answer is for so many reasons. I was a part of a group of folks for about a decade here in town, and tasted some real deal goodness and grace. I learned a lot about myself during that time and a lot about Jesus. I read and studied on my own, and listened and learned from so many soul searching folks. I was able to lean on a group of men during some really difficult trials and was able to offer my shoulder or a laugh or a helping hand in kind. We loved each other. We learned more about loving each other. And in a great blessing we really liked each other, too. Some really good memories. Really good.

But… time and change and things happen. Pieces started moving and the strain became too much for the fledgling experiment to bear. In the swirl of trying to hang on as best we could, and approaching that rescue from all different angles with too much or too little urgency and with breakdowns in communication and emotions steaming and clouding out the grace that we knew was the way… well, friendships were broken. Broken.

I recognize and still agonize over my part in the tragedy of disintegration that unfolded. I want to be clear about that. I have, though, analyzed my motives and intentions for years now. I don’t fault myself in that arena. I know what I wanted to happen and why, and I had a pretty good vision of how to make it happen. I still believe to this day it could’ve worked out. I don’t know about should’ve… but it could’ve. But I’m off track. What I mean to say is that I know my motives and intentions were as pure as I could muster, but that I fully realize and appreciate that others didn’t and maybe couldn’t perceive it that way. I say that because it helps remind me. It helps me remember. It helps me emphasize to myself to grant Grace as freely as I possibly can. Because what I may perceive and what someone may be intending… those things may not line up. I don’t know the full story of where someone is coming from. I don’t know. I wish as Thoreau says, that we could see through another’s eyes for an instant, but that miracle isn’t granted to us for now. I may disagree and I may choose a different path, but I don’t want to be one who discounts or dismisses another human. This paragraph has gotten too long…

Why C06? We were leaders of the congregation that disintegrated. To be clear there is a group of folks from that body that still meets. By disintegrate, I just mean it became not integrated as it was. And we were very much wounded and scarred by the process that unfolded. Still are in some ways. Probably more than “some”. I believe in the Good News. I want to teach and preach it. I want to learn better how to love the outsider and offer Hope to those who have misplaced it. We tried a few other churches afterward. We even tried to rejoin the group that still meets. But it wasn’t to be. We just couldn’t. Maybe that is a shortcoming and flaw of my own. Maybe that says more about me than anything, but it was a real thing. We tried having a house church for a bit–it was cool for a spell, but I was trying to fit some traditional notion of church meetin’ into our setup like I like to jam a puzzle piece in to make it fit where it doesn’t really…

But I still seek. Search. Wonder and wander. And Sarah does too. And our kids are sponges for that kind of life. And not just that. They teach me as much as I teach them. And Daveed is a soul searcher as well. He was open to it. Here for it. And I love teaching. I’m good at it. I reflect and contemplate and ponder and then I like to figure out how words can somehow match with the spirit of that pondering. I like words. Language. Communication. Communion.

I don’t want to write or speak or whatever for likes on Insta. And I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. An addict. So I retreated here to the world of 2005 in this blog. I’m learning to write and think and express what I believe to be the gospel without the need of acknowledgement, much less affirmation. I like those things, don’t get me wrong, but this is a good process for me.

But I do feel… hmmm… I don’t know about called. Maybe called. Driven. Drawn. Motivated. Desirous. Eager. I don’t know… I do feel the urging to teach people. To commune. To break bread and pray and share all my possessions. It’s why my Insta handles have been 2:42 and 2:44…. those verses from Acts are my go tos. So we shall see how it all goes.

It won’t be a standard thing. At least I don’t imagine that. I love music obviously. But I like the Grateful Dead way better than Hillsong. I recognize that people can feel things and be moved by whatever the latest worship song is… but hearing JB sing Gradle, or Jerry sing Stella Blue… that’s what’s up. Maybe I’m not being gracious. Forgive me.

I imagine sitting by the fire or on the deck with the grill smoking or tossing discs towards the cage in the back yard or playing ping pong. I imagine conversation. Real talk. About humanity and life. About suffering and death. About joy and loveliness. About the regular parts of every day life. About humanity and life. I imagine considering each other better than ourselves and remembering each other in thought and intention.

But I don’t know about all that… I do know that I find Hope in the story and teachings of Jesus the Christ.  I know that I want to live like that.  And I want to teach that Hope.  Not a program. Nah.  I don’t imagine I will ever come at it from a stance of a stance.  Haha.  I don’t imagine that I will proclaim that the mystery is revealed.  I will proclaim the mystery, but I will stop short of landing on how it all fits together.  My faith isn’t rooted in certainty.  It’s rooted in faith.  Hope.  Love. 

So… there are some words.  Maybe they make some sense. But that’s my initial attempt to answer why Church of 6. 

“May your family share laughter, your songs always play, may your wishes come true, even those left unprayed… May your heart’s doors be open and forever and ever may your glass it be filled.”  –JB

Rituals and such.

Obviously we’ve been unable to observe some of our rituals and practices. Graduations and proms and end of the year concerts and the like have been conspicuously absent over this past pandemic year. These events help us mark time and bring a sense of order and accomplishment. Alas…

A singular custom that we will get back to perhaps this Friday is Friday night football. That’s right. February. But it’s those first few drum beats, you know? Ok, maybe you don’t. My high school’s fight song is the Horse (Cliff Nobles). When the football team first tears through the banner to run out onto the field on a fall Friday the band strikes up the song led by those first few drum beats. Bum, bum, buh buh buh. 43 years old and it still hits me deep. So yeah, we’ll see what February football with 100 fans in the stands is like, but at least it will be an echo of that longed for ritual.

Personally, I have my own morning ritual that has developed over this pandemic. Much of it revolves around music–this is Music Monday after all. When I wake up, which is around 5:45am pretty much every morning these days, I check the amazon photos from on this day through the years. Then I get up and make my way to my special nook. It’s a place I created in our new second bathroom with a nice blue chair, grateful dead bear fuzzy blanket, ninja coffee maker, a set of books I read, pics of my peeps, incense, a super cool lamp (I am modern chic no doubt), posters framed of bands I love, and my JBL speaker near by.

To start my morning, I dial up some Lang Lang playing Bach, or maybe some selections by Chopin, Beethoven, or Mozart using Apple Music. I’ll tap on the Daily Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary and read and ponder those while Lang Lang makes his magic. This is while I’m having my coffee that my Ninja makes for me on the timer. It’s the little things that make me glad 🙂 After my coffee, and before the morning shower, I’ll flip over to the ReListen app.

I should’ve said that before I get out of bed, after I check out the Amazon photos, I’ll scan the ReListen App for shows from the current day. There’s a ton of music on that app, but I only look for three bands. I check to see what Widespread Panic shows were on this day (OTD), then Grateful Dead and Phish. If there’s a show that I went to (Panic or Phish) then those take priority, and there are certain years of shows that I prefer as well. But that app is so awesome!

I do have to admit that I’ve cheated a little bit the last few days, and gone to a show from 11/11/73 from San Fran. The Dark Star –> Eyes of the World –> China Doll is in the top tier of what I would classify as the best music of ever.

The newish ritual/practice is to drive over to watch my youngest boy practice tennis. During that I’m usually on the SiriusXM app listening to either Phish, Dead, or Dave Matthews. Or maybe some 80s on 8 if I’m feeling spunky.

As a family, and perhaps I should’ve led with this, we have a few rituals as well. We don’t do the traditional sitting around the table to eat dinner kind of thing. A few nights a week when we order take-out we will gather around the peninsula–we don’t have an island–and eat and carry on together. But our house layout doesn’t really consist of a dining room per se. Going out to eat is a ritual that we had established, but… well pandemic. (First jab on Saturday though!!!!)

So, I began to wonder about what our family rituals are. I’m still thinking, but a few that we have do revolve around TV. Judge me. We are watching iCarly all the way through–Spencer makes me laugh so much. We watch an episode of it together at 7:30 each night; sometimes two. Mondays we watch The Neighborhood with Cedric the Entertainer, and Fridays we watch Whose Line is it Anyway? We do all the laughing!

Sarah and Sydney, or Sam and Sydney, or me and Sydney go on drives most days. And pretty much any long drive we take we listen to Hamilton all the way through. Isaac as Lafayette is what you wanna hear!

We are always in the house. Always. It’s raining and cold so much lately. And we are pretty faithful to the establishment rules regarding the pandemic. So we all do spend a lot of time in our own rooms decompressing. But the times we are out watching and laughing are really grand. Time marches on and things change. But I am proud of my family for how we have adjusted to these disruptions of the flow we had gotten used to.

Let me recommend 2/22/73 Dead and 2/22/97 Phish for your Relisten enjoyment today.

Also, let me know what rituals you have developed over the Pandemic year or ones that have endured through the Pandemic.

RCL: First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15

Beloved. You are my child. My kid. All my love belongs to you. My love is because of you. You and my love cannot be separated. They flow together like water. You are my beloved.

That’s what the voice from heaven expresses to Jesus, and it is the same message, I believe, that is expressed to us. The Christ has made us new. We are not separate from the Father. We are one as they are One. Beloved.

And in turn, as we are made new, as we experience the renewal of all things–that is already and not yet. The renewal that has already been accomplished and is also being worked out. As we experience that renewal that washes away the old through dying to ourselves with Jesus, and coming through death and out the other side in his resurrection… well… we get to be a part of the renewal! Behold, a new creation! And as the body of Christ we get to take part in the building of the Age to Come… ? Can that be so?!

I’ve been thinking some about the plight of humanity. The human condition. Specifically, how it seems that most people through most of time have had tough lives. At least from my modern, comfortable perspective. Suffering and death were real. Imminent. And perhaps the divisions over the proper methods of baptism and splits in the church over such things were due to the existential necessity to be firm in the translation of their experience. The rigidity was a byproduct of the reality they faced. I don’t know about all that, but I do know that we, that I, fail to live up to the calling of Beloved. Yet, I receive that same voice from heaven over and over. Each day. Renewed. Grace.

If you haven’t heard, I’ve been immersed in the 4 books by Marilynne Robinson set in the town of Gilead, Iowa. Almost finished so don’t worry… then I will move on to another writer from whom I will bombard you with quotes. But here’s maybe a last one… maybe… and certainly one that I’ve already shared at least once. But it captures baptism perfectly in my opinion:

“There is a reality in blessing, which I take baptism to be, primarily.  It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is power in that.  I have felt it pass through me, so to speak.  The sensation is of really knowing a creature, I mean really feeling its mysterious life and your own mysterious life at the same time.”

The acknowledgement of sacredness. The voice from heaven. May I have eyes to see others through the lens of sacredness. May I hear the voice of heaven saying ‘beloved’ to everyone I meet.

Midlife Crisis: “Sometimes we live no particular way but our own.”

Or perhaps I should write crises, because surely this isn’t my first. Maybe it will be my last. Either way, it will become increasingly more dishonest to call them midlife as my beard keeps getting grayer 🙂

As this online journal is an attempt for me to process all my thinking and perhaps give a glimpse into depth of humanity, mine and yours, here’s an update on my happenings over the past month or so. Health-wise in particular.

I had what was likely a flare up of diverticulitis last May. Not fun, but relatively mild from what I read. I didn’t have to go to the doctor and didn’t take any antibiotics or anything, just changed up my diet for a bit and it subsided. I had hoped that was gonna be it. But… it wasn’t. I had another episode in the first few weeks in January. This time I did head to urgent care and got some antibiotics–the side effects of which were that it could make my tendons weak. Weird. This last flare up occurred during the week that my dad was fired from the college in town–I don’t even like to type it’s name. I’d rather say Voldemort. So yeah I was under a considerable amount of stress. My dad has been diagnosed and is battling cancer, he got fired, I was spending a ton of energy on Facebook raising awareness to the injustice done to him, we’re a year into this pandemic… you know… stress. It’s a real thing. Anyway. More on the issue at the end, but first, there are some positive things to come out of this episode.

I was already eating pretty healthily, but now even more so. I have a spinach, berry, pineapple, yogurt smoothie in the morning. Dark Chocolate (85% cacao) mid morning. Egg and cheese bagel with avocado for lunch–yeah I know the cholesterol in the eggs may not be the best thing. My afternoon smoothie consists of Ka’Chava protein full body meal powder superfood (Thanks Andrew and Jane for the tip on that), with frozen kale, more spinach, blueberries, organic almond butter, and sometimes the other half of the avocado. Supper is grilled organic chicken, sweet potato or baked, green peas, no sugar applesauce. Also, I drink all the water! And I have at least one green tea and one ginger tea through the day.

I’ve never been one to eat a lot of veggies, so I’m still trying to work on adding more of a variety of those into the mix, and also trying to eat a fish or so a week, but that’s tough too. Salmon is ok, but not nearly as good as chicken. Been thinking about getting into tuna though.

I’ve been exercising on the reg as well. I’m a peloton guy! I was off the bike for a spell while I recovered, but have recently gotten back on and try to ride every other day when possible. That junk makes me sweat so much. On the alternate days I have begun doing 100 pushups (up to doing 40 consecutively without stopping–which of course is what consecutively means), along with 4 sets of curls with 20lb dumbbells–15, 12, 10, 8 typically. Then I do the reverse tricep pushups that I learned from Ali back in the Pilates days, followed by crunches–I’m up to 25 now, but shew. On days when the sun is out and it isn’t freezing I also try to walk for at least 20 minutes. I’m down to 181lbs which is the slimmest I’ve been in many a year. Cutting out the beers also has helped of course. Haven’t had even a sip in 2021 so far.

In case you’re thinking none of this sounds like a midlife crisis, it’s important to know that I’ve also ordered some V-neck t-shirts and may have looked into waxing the hair off my chest. LOL. But then I read about how painful that is, and decided against that route. Nad’s though. Further, I am a month into a commitment to grow my hair out long enough for a ponytail. Gotta get some of that horse shampoo like we used to do back in the 90s. So yeah. MLC.

Since I had 2 episodes of the gut inflammation within a year, and I’m 43 and not 63, it was suggested that I book an appointment with the GI doc and likely get some imaging done. So that’s gonna happen at the end of March. The colonoscopy thing is recommended at 45 now anyway, so I imagine I will get the friendly camera work done a few years ahead of schedule. Joy.

I’m also going back–or trying to if they will ever call me to set it up–to the chiropractor and functional nutritionist in Charlotte, Dr. Ernst, whose plan and care helped bring healing to Sarah when the traditional medicinal routes weren’t able to. I’ll do some labs with them as well, and see what recommendations they have for optimal gut health.

What I really wish is that I could change the angle at which I approach these kinds of things. More positively instead of negatively. A better explanatory/interpretive style. I searched around for some positive thinking books on Amazon this morning and ordered a few from Martin Seligman–I teach him in AP Psych anyway, so might as well know his work. Of course, I’m looking for that magic formula that will transform my thinking. I’m just so dang quick to figure out the worst outcomes and then even transport myself into that imagined future and dwell there–even rehearsing conversations and reactions!

I wish I could approach from the positive side first. In Belief. In Faith. In Trust. I’m sure in part because I know that thinking that way is actually healthy. I’m such a twisted individual. I’ve always admired folks who pray for healing and that’s all they pray–no “but if not” kind of words. They pray in belief. But I know I’m not unique. I know that some people pray and they have all the faith and they still get sick. So I often hedge my bets–maintaining some level of hope but coming from the negative angle, so that hope isn’t dashed. I need more Ted Lasso, obviously.

Forgive my ramblings that verge on madness. I’m an ever wondering wanderer after all. Continuing to battle today. Continuing to dig in and see if I can’t find a bit more rest in Hope than I had yesterday. And when I fail at that digging in and trying again the next day. Wanting to live now. To enjoy the magic that I have now, and not squandering any of it away with some imagined outcome even if I experience reminders of such outcomes.

Thanks for reading. Tomorrow is about baptism. Monday about rituals. Tuesday about the identity and hopes of the Church of 6. Tell your friends. Leave a comment. 🙂

Good things to come out of this episode.

Friday Flashback: Davidson College

I can’t explain how stoked I was to be accepted. I applied early admission, and I still remember opening the letter in the parking lot of my mom’s office and jumping about 3 feet in the air. Ok, ok. More like 4 inches in the air, but still. My brother and sister-in-law and her whole family pretty much are Davidson alums, so I was proud of myself for being one of the 400 or so applicants to get accepted. But… well. It didn’t quite work out.

My defense mechanisms have surely blocked out a lot of the experience from my conscious recall… you know in combination with some other things. But here’s a choppy summary of my time as a Davidson Wildcat.

First, I should track down my roommate John and apologize. We didn’t run in the same circles on campus, but he was a fabulous person! I, on the other hand, was a slob and likely an inconsiderate roomy. Davidson, at the time, still had a laundry service for the students. I would put my number, it was 435, on the tags of my clothes, take them to the laundry, and in a day or two I could pick them up in a brown paper bag all folded and nice.

My problem was that I would put the wrapped sack of clothes on the couch, tear open the top and then just grab clothes out when I needed. Or maybe I at least put them on my bed. Either way, I did a lot of sleeping on that couch and in that bed. I don’t think I was overly messy or rude otherwise, but yeah, sorry John.

I wish I could remember more about the classes I took. I got in on the Humanities track and I do remember a bit about my humanities prof who picked Genesis and other books of the bible apart. Growing up in the CleveCo bubble, that was quite a shock to the mental system–good for me in so many ways, but still took me for a spin out of the gate. I know I had a history class, but can’t remember much about it. I do remember Dr. Henke who I had for German and for a class called Nazi Culture. Those classes were fascinating. My crowning achievement was in Freshman Comp in which I earned a B+. That was the most rewarding grade I’ve ever gotten in all my years. Overall, in the first semester I ended up with a 2.5 GPA, which was around average at Davidson College. All night study sesh’s were not uncommon on campus. Rigor is a real thing at DC.

I did get in on the fraternity scene. Sigma Phi Epsilon to be precise. There were a couple of guys on the hall that pledged with me, Ryan the water polo player from La Jolla was one of them. That dude used to always get 10 packets of ketchup to go with his fries. And one of our RA’s, Tripp, was a Sig Epper, so I’m sure that played an influence. I was actually chosen to be the Pledge Class President. We had some good times down at the house. Some too good. And Papa D was the chef for the house, which is primarily the reason I think I picked SPE in the first place. Those quesadillas he made late night were on point. I still remember the chant for the fraternity, but I never did make it to the end and full membership.

The sports scene was pretty cool. Basketball was really fun. I had a friend who was the point guard for the women’s team. Jen was from New Jersey, I think. And a friend named Lisa who played field hockey, so I went to see that too. I remember Landry Kosmalski for the Hoop Cats.

But yeah… I wasn’t ready. Or something. I was lonely and felt out of place. Most of the folks there called me Dan. Dan? Nah. I had a 2.5GPA first semester, but second semester I turned in a stellar 0.0. I’m not sure how many classes I actually went to in the second semester, but it wasn’t many. I didn’t show up much at my work study job either–even though those folks were so gracious to me. I would spend a lot of time driving my old raggedy ’86 mustang, Melba T, to Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Wilmington, spending long weekends or more on my old boys’ couches or floors. Not a good recipe for success at any college. And then one night I called my mom and cried and pleaded for help. She didn’t bat an eye, and I was enrolled at Gardner-Webb the next fall. I still had some growing up to do there as well, but eventually I was saved by a former BRIO girl named Sarah.

I tell this story to my students. Well I tell them part of it. If I would’ve done what I was supposed to do, and attended classes, my life would’ve turned out completely different. That is not to say I am proud or glad that I failed. Flunked out. It took me a long time to be able to use those words to myself, much less to others. But I figured a way to get myself back up after it all, and now 25 years later I have my Sarah and Sam and Sydney and Isaac. I have a career I love and a pretty solid role in the community. I don’t advocate for failing. I don’t encourage wasting all the money and going through that darkness and fog that I went through.

But I learned from it. I am still learning from it. And I am where I am because of it. And that’s a real thing.

Postscript. I have been back to campus a few times in the last couple years for AP Government and Politics weeklong workshops. Each time I set foot on the grounds at Davidson I feel the magic. The history. The tradition. The excellence. The charm. The mystique. I love that place. I wonder how I would’ve measured up to it all. Either way, I am honored to have had even a short and not so productive time there. And I look forward to every time I get to visit.

Thursday Thoughts: Marilynne Robinson

A million quotes from Gilead, Home, and a few from Lila. I don’t know what they will mean to you out of the context of the hauntingly beautiful narratives she provides in these great works, so you should read them all. Jack just came out recently.

Robinson Quotes

“… I realize there is nothing more astonishing than a human face…. It has something to do with incarnation.  You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it.  Any human face is a claim on you, because you can’t help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it.  But this is truest of the face of an infant.  I consider that to be one kind of vision, as mystical as any.” 

“People don’t talk much now about the Spanish influenza, but that was a terrible thing, and it struck just at the time of the Great War, just when we were getting involved in it.  It killed the soldiers by the thousands, healthy men in the prime of their life, and then it spread into the rest of the population…. People came to church wearing masks, if they came at all.  They’d sit as far from each other as they could.  There was talk that the Germans had caused it with some sort of secret weapon, and I think people wanted to believe that, because it saved them from reflecting on what other meaning it might have.”

(in context of scrapping preaching about the immortality of war) “But Mirabelle Mercer was not Pontius PIlate, and she was not Woodrow Wilson, either.” 

“There is a reality in blessing, which I take baptism to be, primarily.  It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is power in that.  I have felt it pass through me, so to speak.  The sensation is of really knowing a creature, I mean really feeling its mysterious life and your own mysterious life at the same time.”

“Dear Father, you are patient and gracious far beyond our deserving.  You let us hope for your forgiveness when we can find no way to forgive ourselves.  You bless our lives even when we have shown ourselves to be utterly ungrateful and unworthy.  May we be strengthened and renewed, to make us less unworthy of blessing, through these your gifts of sustenance, of friendship and family…”  (Jack reading his blessing at dinner with Boughton and Ames.)

“…God does not need our worship.  We worship to enlarge our sense of the holy, so that we can feel and know the presence of the Lord, who is with us always.  He said, Love is what it amounts to, a loftier love, and pleasure in a loving presence.”

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly forgotten, as a dream

Dies at the opening day. 

“Good old Isaac Watts.  I’ve thought about that verse often.  I have always wondered what relationship this present reality bears to an ultimate reality.

A thousand ages in Thy sight

Are like an evening gone…

“No doubt that is true.  Our dream of life will end as dreams do end, abruptly and completely, when the sun rises, when the light comes.  And we will think, All that fear and all that grief were about nothing.  But that cannot be true.  I can’t believe we will forget our sorrows altogether.  That would mean forgetting that we had lived, humanly speaking.  Sorrow seems to me to be a great part of the substance of human life.”

“I heard a man say once that Christians worship sorrow.  That is by no means true.  But we do believe there is a sacred mystery in it, it’s fair to say that.” 

“In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence.  Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable….” 

“There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality.  It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal”

“Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration.  You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see.  Only, who could have the courage to see it?”

“There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent, and they occur together. One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world, and the other is when we feel the world’s mortal insufficiency to us.” 

“What could the old man say about all those people born with more courage than they could find a way to spend, and then there was nothing to do with it but just get by?”

Philippians 1: 12-18a

“…Grace is not so poor a thing that it cannot present itself in any number of ways.

“…nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense.”

Tomorrow is Thursday Thoughts which consists of words from others so prepare for a slew of quotes from Marilynne Robinson from the books Home and Gilead… I’m starting Lila today so probably be some from that too. The quotes above are from Robinson’s writing and they pretty much sum up all I would want to say about this Wednesday’s passage from Paul… but, you know me, I’ll write a few more things 😉

I’ll start with what I’m not sure about. In this passage, Paul is glad that the message of the Messiah is getting out while he’s in prison. And he’s fine with the fact that many may even be spreading the word as a mockery of him while he’s locked up. He doesn’t care as long as word is getting out. What I’m not sure about is if there are instances when the way the Message is presented or perhaps with subtle, or not so subtle twists to the True nature of the gospel… I’m not sure if Paul would be glad about that. I’m not sure if maybe the way the gospel that encourages division and defensiveness and sometimes even offensiveness… I’m not sure if that’s still achieving the goal of the gospel being spread. Maybe it is. But that’s what I’m not sure about.

In my reading and contemplation and relationships I have encountered the counter to the idea of original sin. There are some who claim that it should be original goodness. In other words, before The Fall, the Garden was good and the creation was good and very good.

I realize that in my past several posts I have been apt to reveal and consider corruption–my own and in general. And the more I reflect, and the longer I live, I am more and more aware and remorseful about my own failings. That being said, I do believe that the creation is good. I believe to say we are made in Imago Dei is to by definition express the goodness of humanity. How and when that happens I couldn’t say. I couldn’t claim to grasp the mysteries of atonement and incarnation and the like.

I only make that brief statement to agree with Paul that it doesn’t matter how the good news of the forgiveness and restoration that Jesus offers, that Jesus supplies, that is a result of the cross and the empty tomb, or at least that is a grand expression of what always was… again I don’t pretend to grasp the mystery of it all. But there are times and messages and gifts and encouragements for all. And they can come to me now and I will understand them one way and they can come to me later and have a profoundly different impact.

I don’t claim to grasp the mystery, but I do recognize it! It is quite familiar to me! I suspect because of that original goodness. And as strange as it seems, my failings and inadequacies and darknesses are all a part of the mystery. Those things make the light shine brighter! Somehow the devastation and misery and utter human depravity of something so brutal as execution on a wooden cross is transformed into the earth shattering revelation and renewal of the risen Christ. Hallelujah. What other word even works there?

That holy mystery is familiar to me in a book like Gilead. Lives filled with tragedy and hardship and distrust and overt disregard for others. Those lives moved by the receipt and offering of grace from each other. In a glance. A hand on the brow. A forgiveness. A recognition of the mirror image of humanity that we are all a part of. I don’t do it justice. You have to feel it. It’s a soul moving experience. Like the gospel itself.

So whether you experience the movement of the spirit in literature, in a formal worship setting, in the opening notes of a favorite song, a knowing glance from someone you love, the kindness of a stranger…. or fill in the myriad blanks that could follow. Wherever, whenever, however you experience that Grace or are blessed enough to be one to extend that Grace… “in that rejoice!”

12 I want you to know, beloved,[f] that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[g] and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers and sisters,[h] having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word[i] with greater boldness and without fear.

15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18 What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.