unpublished drafts

Drafts of 16 posts written by my eldest son, William, remain unpublished in the list of posts that I’m able to see as the administrator of the blog I set up for my kids.

William is an excellent writer, and the unpublished drafts include works of fiction, poetry, journaling, and philisophical observations filled with honesty of emotion.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Unpublished drafts give me a window into his thoughts, those he portends with silent, desperate gestures as he drowns in my flood of words, or the expectation of them.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misunderstandings of so many relationships incurred by the inability of one party to gain administrative access to the unpublished drafts of other parties.

So much is left unsaid, unpublished.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.

indebted

I have borrowed from all of my tomorrows to fill today with more than it can contain in a poorly-conceived, idealistic grasping after comfort.

My fears, my certainties of inadequacy, are driven by such bonds of debt, obligations to tomorrows which cannot be met in today’s currency of unsecured hope.

Hopeless.

In folly, I have borrowed.  In arrogance, I have stumbled.

My weakness has produced and strengthened my chains.

My chains have brought me unto a death.

A death has prevented life.

A death has borne life.

“For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake . . . ”

For Jesus’ sake, but unto death nonetheless.

Sounds noble, is painful.  Vain?  Like dying.

Dying to be living?

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

“So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”

Who?  You?  Us?

“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus . . .”

But I came here of my own weakness, my own vanity, my own folly, my own ingratitude, my own, mine.

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

“That sin, by the commandment, might become exceeding sinful.”

Debt.  A promise which tomorrow cannot bear.  Tomorrow is only real when it is today.  Today is always inadequate to its obligations.

Where then is hope?

In weakness.

“Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

“Take no thought for the morrow . . .”

But I have sold myself into slavery unto it.  It lords over me in expectation of calamity, in the assurance of brokenness.

“The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath set me free from the law of sin and death.”

“There is therefore, now, no condemnation . . .”

“The assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”

Bankruptcy.  Emptiness.  Vanity.  Overwhelming need coated in desperation and soaked in abject poverty.

“Corruption must put on incorruption.”

“Apart from me, ye can do nothing.”

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Dying.

Dying.

Dying.

Sabbath.

“Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:  because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.”

Living.

Living.

Living.

“Nevertheless I live.”

rich mineral deposits and grand aquifers

Oh God, I’m not sure you’re a blog reader, but what if you are?

I just wanted to tell you, in this public space, that if there’s any way you could open our eyes a bit, even temporarily, and allow us to see a bit of the deeper things of what you’re doing, that might help us.

It seems we go about assessing the value and weighing the outcome of your influence based on the circumstantial and tangible.

I’m pretty sure that’s hardly a glimmer of what’s really going on, and subject to vast misinterpretation, if nothing else, just due to the constant discomfort such things bring to our lives, even if they’re offering temporary pleasure.

Moreover, I’m pretty sure that what’s really going on, and what really matters, and what really draws us into this saga of your reigning power, is active in deeper places; mostly dark, unseen, cavernous depths where the foundations of your creation are moored and alive beyond imagination.  And I’m pretty sure the chiefest elements of those depths are in us.

We get confused.  We start to believe the evidence of boiling water – the unwieldy, random, violent bubbles rising to the surface – are also the intended product of the boiling.  That can’t be true.  They’re just the by-product of the heat.  The heat, and its effects, are producing the transformation.  The bubbles are just evidence that something’s happening, and they’re subject to vast misinterpretation.

They’re like a dying man on a cross.

If that’s all we see, then when the earthquake comes and the rain starts to fall, we run to our homes without a concern other than keeping our heads dry and making sure our favorite knickknacks didn’t fall off the shelves.

So, it would be great if you could just let us see more for a bit, or feel more, and then maybe we could shake ourselves free enough to be a bit more enthusiastic about what you’re doing.

We get weary and confused, Lord.  I’m sure I’m telling you nothing new with this.  You get it, I’m sure.

I’m glad you’re gracious about it.

Thanks.

Amen.

waiting

“He watched the handful of people who stood motionless in the silvery air, waiting, as he found himself waiting . . . for more than the time when he would step up with his ancient words to the neat, square hole where a mat of artificial grass covered the raw earth and the urn had already been placed down inside by the undertaker and his assistant who stood at a tactful distance now, also waiting. Waiting for it to rain perhaps, waiting for it to be time at last to go home and forget . . . Waiting for you, he thought, always you, though half the time we hardly know it’s you or that we’re waiting. Come be with the living here and the dead and the ones it’s hard to tell about.”  –  from The Final Beast by Frederick Buechner

Please Lord, come and be with us. Please.

Help us to live like the truth is true and like it matters. Like we matter. Like life matters.

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.

goodbye Papa

I wasn’t with my father when he died.

He was in a hospital in Bakersfield, California.

I was at my sister’s home in Brush Valley, Pennsylvania.

It was the 5th of May, 1995.

The memories are vague now.

I awoke to my sister standing at the basement bedroom door.

The light was on behind her and it pierced the darkness of our room.

She was crying.

I took the phone from her, and walked out of the bedroom where my wife and children were sleeping.

I remember feeling awkward that I was wearing only my underwear.

It was my mother on the phone.

She said, “He’s gone.  Papa’s gone.”

She wasn’t with him either, and she was crying, too.

It was three o’clock in the morning in Pennsylvania, maybe.

Midnight in California.

Mom was in her apartment in Arvin, California, straining to get rest.

Only nurses and maybe a doctor, the night crew of strangers, were with Papa.

Maybe the night janitor was pushing a dust mop across the cold-tile floor in the hallway outside his room.

In some ways, except in his best moments, we were all strangers to him then.

He knew us, when he remembered us, but he was mostly forgetting.

He spoke mostly of his mother in the days before he died.

He spoke to her.

I didn’t know her, but I wish I had.

Her name was . . . well, I can’t remember.

I wish I could remember.

He always spoke her name with such affection.

I remember the affection, but not the name.

Perhaps she was with him when he died.

I wish I had been there.

I wish I could have said goodbye.

I wish I could have looked in his eyes, and held his hand, and said a proper goodbye.

I hope he was not lonely, or afraid.

I didn’t know, then, that I would wish I had been there.

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.