unpublished drafts

Drafts of 16 posts written by my eldest son, William, remain unpublished in the list of posts that I’m able to see as the administrator of the blog I set up for my kids.

William is an excellent writer, and the unpublished drafts include works of fiction, poetry, journaling, and philisophical observations filled with honesty of emotion.  His mind engages his environment with insightful and introspective clarity.  I’m sincerely impressed, and not just as a parent-fan, and I’ve told him so.

He has a litany of reasons for not publishing his thoughts.  “It’s all crap,” he says.  “I can assure you it isn’t,” I reply.  He laughs.

I have had difficulty conversing with William, always, but more lately.  Arbitrary, superficial, tyrrany-of-the-urgent stuff usurps a dominating role in our lives, but that’s not the full explanation.

In the flash-flood of my all-too-often, anger-fueled lecturing tirades, he has struggled  to keep his head above the water.  I heard somewhere once that in spite of theatrical evidence to the contrary, it’s impossible to cry for help when you’re drowning.  Apparently, you can’t gasp for breath and verbalize your need at the same time.

William and I are quite alike in so many ways that I’ve often belly-ached to God for his cruel mockery of my weaknesses by having them appear so obviously in my son’s predisposition.  Of course, William also has been gifted in ways for which I’ve only wished and prayed.

I love him fiercely.  I’m often caught unaware by the depth of the emotion of it.

Unpublished drafts give me a window into his thoughts, those he portends with silent, desperate gestures as he drowns in my flood of words, or the expectation of them.

I wonder about the misunderstandings of so many relationships incurred by the inability of one party to gain administrative access to the unpublished drafts of other parties.

So much is left unsaid, unpublished.  So many misunderstandings persist, and become historical fact, under the constant pressure and pace of time, and our passive-aggressive ability to assume and impose motives and rationale on the empty spaces of conversations.

Imaginations run wild, offense is taken, defense is mustered, assumptions make what they will of us.

After going to bed last night with misunderstandings busily building mountains of molehills, it took 2 calls and 45 minutes this morning for me to hear my wife clearly, and to explain myself adequately to draw out her typically gracious response to my shortcomings.  “Thanks.  That helps,” she said.  That was an understatement of abundant grace akin to Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they’re doing.”

Lives become past-tense with unpublished drafts of real words divulging truth only to audiences who remain perpetually unaware of their existence.

God forbid, please God, that precious gifts and their days are wasted without notice on misunderstandings borne and sustained by silence.

God, please, make me a listener, especially to the silence.

And grant me, always, please, administrative access to unpublished drafts, or at least to the knowledge of their existence, so that I might, with love and grace, persuade their publication.

And thanks, God, for the depth of the well dug in William’s earth.  May it be a fountain of living water.  May your grace be sufficient for us both.

May your grace be sufficient for us all.

baking in the heat of the moment

The heat necessary
to bake the ingredients of our lives
into something worthwhile
out of all of its well-beaten batter
comes from the friction
created by the moments
flying by us
and pushing past us.

 

We ought to seek to embrace
their slippery substance
more forcefully
to take advantage
of the friction more desperately,
so that we become edifying earlier
rather than living most of our lives,
if not all,
as half-baked messes.

 

Given an adequate awareness
and sense of desperation for life,
we are supremely capable
of having well-baked,
warm, and nutritious offerings
harvested from the ovens of our hearts
not just once in our lives,
as if only some grand opus
were all that mattered,
but several times a day;
here a little, there a little,
but always good
and comforting
and nourishing.

 

These thoughts were inspired by a conversation in an orange-vinyl-covered booth in a diner over a table covered with eggs, pancakes, gyros, french toast, sausage, coffee, and little pitchers of syrup surrounded by foil-wrapped rectangles of real butter with my friends Seth and Max, who happen to be wonderfully tasty treats of inspiration, of whose substance the world is scarcely worthy.

 

These thoughts were written in an email message to my lovely, soon-to-be-seventeen-year-old daughter, Hannah, who happens to be someone I aspire to be like, someday, of whose substance the world shall surely never be worthy, in which I apologized for the pitiful and grievous mistake of squandering moments which were offering opportunities to hear the overflow of her heart’s music.

 

I could write a thousand words, or two, more and hardly exhaust my longing to relate all that stirs here, but I think I’ll go home instead.

the instinctive desires: nourishment and reproduction

Recently, I’ve been puzzling over this question, raised entirely anecdotally, rather than scientifically, as part of my perpetual efforts to make sense of this crazy life:

What should I understand about God when I recognize that he has seemingly made only two instinctive desires common to every living thing – both plants and animals, as far as I can tell?

Those two things:

  1. The instinct to pursue food, the sustenance of life, at all costs and at great lengths.
  2. The instinct to reproduce.

Now, recognizing that chuckles and smirks are running rampant among my few readers right now, partly related to the fact that I’ve just typed, and you’ve just read, the word “reproduce”, and mostly because this is all coming from a guy who has 11 children, I acknowledge the risk in “going there”.

Don’t worry, I’m not raising this question with regard to any agenda about reproducing excessively.

Furthermore, I’m not really raising this question to open the door to an avalanche of sheepish innuendo, though that’s bound to happen.  (I wish I had a quarter for every time someone has asked me if I know what causes babies.)

And furthermost, I’ve predetermined that I won’t offer a full-blown answer to this question – partly just because I don’t know if I have one and what I’ve got would take too many words for a single post, and mostly because I’m curious to know what you think about it.

So, let me just offer this brief primer:

Various and sundry creatures will migrate great distances in a seasonal cycle, sometimes once in a brief life, or multiple times over a lengthy life span, to do two things:  eat and reproduce.

Plants offer extravagant schemes to both seek nutrition through roots and leaves, and to reproduce.  Have you ever taken an up-close look at the elaborate mechanism a dandelion uses to harness the wind and scatter its seed abroad?  It’s fantastic!

If you’re God, and you’re using those same concepts over and over again in your creation with so many variations, you must be really convinced that this is a good thing, a critical thing, a prerequisite thing for whatever it is you’re planning to accomplish.

Of course, we humans tend to think highly of our sophisticated, emotionally complex, dating games.  We hold love – the desire to love and be loved – in highest esteem.  Love is a many-splendored thing!  Seriously!

And, maybe you can say that all of our love games aren’t about reproducing, and I can buy that, but isn’t it part and parcel the same instinct, at its core?

So, that’s enough of a primer.  You tell me, if you dare.  If you dare not, I’ll just continue to contemplate solo.

What’s God driving at?  Is he using these instincts to take us somewhere?  Where?  Is he aware of all the ways we’ve corrupted those instincts and the damage we’ve imposed for their sake?  Does he still think that’s a good thing?  Why?  How?

Thanks for playing.

Lord of all

Just watched this video again from an old post, here.

It’s still good.

In spite of all of our very real and mostly petty differences, when we worship God together with the simple truths of our faith in the forefront, heaven is moved and earth is sustained.  My heart is stirred by seeing the people in this video singing words that mean everything to me.

And for the record, Jesus really is Lord of all.

Furthermore, HE IS STRONGER than all of the stuff stacked against any of us individually and all of us together.

He is stronger.

And, in light of that, may his name be lifter higher, be lifted higher, be lifted higher . . . and higher.

the knowing

A recent installment of my treasured daily emails from The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor included a beautiful poem entitled Mozart with Kathleen by Bill Holm.

(By the way, I highly recommend you take advantage of the free subscription to those daily installments, and furthermore, that you click those links – the blue, underlined text – to see why.)

In that poem, the author relates the story of going to a piano in honor of the death of his friend, Kathleen, to play his half of a “four-hand Mozart”, a duet, he’s spent years trying to learn with Kathleen.  He describes the way her half of the piano – the bass – is “sadder now” because the tune has “disappeared into the winter air” and is now “closed for the season.”

The poem concludes with these lines:

“We’ll get it right yet, Kathleen, but only you and I will ever know or hear.”

After reading the poem, I forwarded it with a note to my daughter, Hannah, who also receives the daily installments, which we occasionally enjoy discussing.  In the note, I tried to relate the way I was profoundly moved by the poem.

This is what I wrote to Hannah:  “I like this poem.  The last line is perfect.  The knowing, even private, inexpressible knowing – maybe only private inexpressible knowing – means everything to the human soul.”

Strangely, I found those words were articulating something I’ve felt but have never been able to express because I had never understood the feeling in that way before.  They were a revelation to me, discovered as I trod through the swamp of thoughts evoked by the poem.

” . . . but only you and I will ever know or hear.”

The knowing.  The priviate, inexpressible knowing of a person who has spent years with a friend at the piano, and in her absence is able to hear her, to see her, to envision her movements and reactions and expressions in a way that only the intimacy of closely shared time and space could engender.

In such a knowing, there is the substance that means everything to the human soul.  The intimacy of the sharing of such a knowledge, the value of knowing another, and being known by another, which comes to us only through the gift of deep, communal relationships, becomes the substance and driving influence of our lives.

Perhaps it’s too much.  Perhaps I’m asking too much of the few words of the last line of a poem not intended to carry such a weight.

Let me make this more about me and less about the human race.  Perhaps those words can carry my pitiable, sappy, whiny weight, at least.

I want to be known in such a way that whether in my presence or absence, I am understood; in such a way, that the substance of my life, rather than the shell of my superficially witnessed character, is acknowledged, appreciated, desired, comforted, and needed.

As narcissistic as that may seem, it is nonetheless true.  It means everything to me.

Of course these words fail to adequately express the felt power of the private, inexpressible knowing.

The knowing.

To know and be known.

I’m grateful for the few people I know and those who know me, especially in those relationships carrying a deeper, more genuine knowledge.  Honestly, though, most of that mutual knowledge is extremely limited.

My mother knows me well enough, in the way that only a mother can, especially when she is also a true friend, but even her knowledge is limited.

My wife knows me best of all, after 22 years of married life, she’s seen and experienced the best and worst of my life’s expression.  This is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given, and as far as I can tell, it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being known by another person in the way I mean by this post.  But, it breaks my heart to acknowledge that even this knowing is limited.

Things stir inside me, thoughts come and go, and experiences move by so quickly, that my wife would have to be connected to my thoughts in ways humanly impossible to satisfy the deepest heartcry for knowing.

All of this brings me once again to a conclusion that may seem so obvious, but is so often taken for granted in our Christian circles because it seems so obvious:

I need Jesus.

I need to know him, and know that I’m known by him.  I need to know he sees and understands all of me, all of the substance of me.

The knowing.

It means everything to me.

the strength of its substance

Since shortly after writing my last post, jealous for me,  I’ve been bothered by something but have resisted writing it until now.  I’ve been fasting from this and trying to let that post just stand for what it is – a cute clever little post with a sharp edge.  I can’t stand it any more, but I’ll be quick about it.

That post seemed to imply that I have moments of doubt regarding Jesus’ love for me.  That’s not really the case.

In what I think has been a sideways response to this irritation, I’ve discovered myself saying to a few different people recently that I’m not certain of many things, but I am certain of two things for sure, and maybe a couple more, but at least two.  I mean really certain.  Those two things are these:

  1. God gave Renee’s love to me and in so doing obligates me to all that relationship requires of me and blesses me from all that relationship provides.
  2. God loves me without limit or hindrance and my relationship with him is sound.

As I’ve examined and turned over the words of that last post in the fingers of my mind, I’ve discovered those two things to be irrefutable to me, and I’ve been compelled to say them.

However, in defense of that post, I find I also must say that I continue to be surprised by the abundance of those things.

When I run into the reality of Christ’s love for me, I am frequently and most profoundly overwhelmed by the sheer truth of it, and the strength of its substance.

Though it is never news to me, as if I had not known it, it is always more powerful than I’ve previously experienced, more penetrating and more enlivening.  In that regard, Christ’s love is never in doubt, yet always new.  I am moved by it, broken by it, restored by it, and sustained by it.

He is jealous for me.

On my best days, I live and breathe in the abundance of that truth.

jealous for me

He loves me.

He loves me not.

He loves me.

He loves me not.

He loves me.

He loves me not.

He loves me.

Funny.  No matter how many times I play this game, it always comes out the same.

Watch this:

He loves me.

He loves me not.

He loves me.

He loves me not.

He loves me.

See.  It happened again.  Love never fails.

You’d think I’d learn that lesson, once and for all, and stop playing this game.

Or, at least, you’d think I’d stop being so deeply surprised by the conclusion.  Every time I conclude with “He loves me,” I’m caught off-guard by it.  It’s such a shock to my heart.  He loves me!  Wow!  There I go, swept off my feet again.

I’ll play again tomorrow.  The end of it will be the same.  Every time.