unpublished drafts

Drafts of 16 posts written by my eldest son, William, remain unpublished in the list of posts that I’m able to see as the administrator of the blog I set up for my kids.

William is an excellent writer, and the unpublished drafts include works of fiction, poetry, journaling, and philisophical observations filled with honesty of emotion.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Unpublished drafts give me a window into his thoughts, those he portends with silent, desperate gestures as he drowns in my flood of words, or the expectation of them.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misunderstandings of so many relationships incurred by the inability of one party to gain administrative access to the unpublished drafts of other parties.

So much is left unsaid, unpublished.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.

wonders never cease

Lord, your wonders never cease. I scarcely behold a fraction of them. Yet, when I do, I’m overwhelmed by the extent of your engagement in the affairs of this world.

I’m persuaded there’s no place, no life unaffected by your intervention, your care and invested love.

As a gardener perceives every inch and aspect of his garden, touches it all with pruning, planting, cultivating, pervasive care, weighing each element and it’s relation to the whole – the threats, the nourishment, the slope, the shade and light, the weeds, the pests, the healthy and the ill.

The gardener takes everything into consideration and becomes invested in every part for the overall well-being and benefit of the whole – invested heart and soul: physically, mentally, spiritually, presenting the garden as a poetic expression of the essence of his own being.

Lord, there’s nothing you haven’t touched, contemplated, known and loved; even in acts of discipline, scourging, and purifying.

All things work together for good . . . you make it so.

Yet, we see in part and know in part.

We testify to your presence in the small, infrequent, more obvious ways.

It’s like witnessing the presence of water only when we turn on the faucet. The water – in the pipes in our homes, the rivers and reservoirs, or in the springs and aquifers hidden in the earth – is always present and flowing, available regardless of our awareness or access of it.

I’m grateful for this reality.

The truth and power of your unseen involvement, persistent presence, a force always exerted in every moment: the air we breathe, life and death, the hope and sorrow, the grief and joy, the struggle and pain, the power and glory.

Beauty. Inherent, ubiquitous, permeating, persuasive, constant, unfailing.

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.

they come hoping

A gathering of what could loosely be called friends sits in an awkward, incomplete circle in the dimly lit corner of a large room, closed for business but quietly open for more meaningful transactions, on a cold, blustery autumn night.

They come individually and in pairs, cautiously, clumsily, waiting for confirmation they have been expected, welcomed, recognized, and they join the circle in what they hope, by careful selection, will be the safest of the all-risky locations, deflecting insecurity with timid chuckles and lukewarm teasing.

They come, driven by uncertain, nearly skeptical hope, from the corners of the body collective, at least the corners of this local manifestation of that many-membered conglomeration, having each borne the wounds of their individual, yet eerily common, trials and travails to arrive at this destination.

They come hoping.  They bring desperation and the weak coercion by which it forces them to hope, and to stand.

They bring various flavors of the profound, crippling weakness we all bear, on the interminable verge of profound, world-changing power.

They bring the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for, the inexpressible and perpetually embattled assurance of ancient promises written indelibly in the hidden crevices of their hearts.

In weakness.  In desperation.  Hoping against hope.

They come in union with, but lacking conscious awareness of, innumerable companies of pilgrims joining dimly hopeful, yet persistently confident, awkward circles of desperation in small, covert spaces in every corner of every country and every community in this small world.

Hoping.  Praying.

They bring reports of hardships suffered in dark places, and struggles and strife born in agonies which cannot be adequately uttered.  They speak of brokenness and weakness, of sacrifice and steadfastness in the ever-imposing face of adversity.

They speak of hope, overcoming power, and deeply running, pure waters of life.

They recognize they are unable to meet the needs.

They recognize that in weakness and poverty, they are unable to fix the broken, persistent manifestation of pervasive depravity.

They pray.  They weep.  They worship, with unmerited certitude, proclaiming an unworldly confidence in a power considered too good to be true, yet thoroughly true in the nearly tangible testimonies of their own hearts.

In weakness individually, but powerful in unity, they come.

Cast down, but not destroyed.

Perplexed, but not in despair.

Having nothing, yet possessing all things.

Jesus responds

Dear Dale,

Jesus here.  I read your post, “a better way“.  (Well, actually I was reading as you typed even though I knew what you were going to type, but that sounds a bit creepy.)  Thanks for coming to me with your questions.  It’s about time, really.

Sorry I’ve taken a couple of days to get back to you.  As you know, things are busy, but that’s not really the reason for the delay.  Things are always busy.  That’s the way I’ve made them, and trust me, you don’t know the half of it.  I can handle it though.  After all, it’s mine.

Frankly, I just needed to let you sit in that for a while.  Furthermore, you’re not really finished with it yet, but I figure I can provide a bit of help on the way.

But, hey, before I get started on that, let me just say about that other post, “an open letter to anonymous husbands“, that was great!  You really crack me up sometimes.  I enjoy laughing at you.

But, yeah, you’re going to need to go ahead and repent for that one.  I mean, it was funny, but not really very nice – version 1, that is.  Actually, I know the intended audience for those words, even better than you know, and it’s seriously breaking my heart more than it breaks yours, and you might actually need to say some of those things – without the name-calling and insults, of course – to that person.  I’ll let you know if and when.

For version 2, oh yeah!, I totally get what you’re saying there.  It was a bit patronizing, but, wow!, that stuff drives me crazy, too.  I mean, can I get a little authenticity, please?!  Sheesh!

Anyways, I’m working on that, too, and it’s kind of interesting to watch, but, trust me, it all works out fine in the end.  Really.

Which brings me to the other prayer about a better way to get this done:

It’s too bad, but I can’t possibly explain to you the whole picture here.  There’s just too much, and I realize that’s frustrating for you.  But you need to trust me.

I’ve got your back, and – it may be cliché in english, but in the heavenly language I speak (no, it’s not King James’ English, either), it’s a resounding sound of victory – everything’s going to be alright!

Again, trust me.

Now, I can tell you a few things in answer to your questions:

  1. Of course I can hear you, and I’m listening!  You’ll be surprised to know, though, that I’m listening even when you don’t want me to listen.  I’m listening before you say, “Dear Jesus”, and after you say, “Amen.”   So watch your mouth!  Just kidding.  I listen to your thoughts, so watching your mouth won’t help.
  2. Yes, I know about all your doubts, and far worse things about you.  Don’t worry, I forgive you.  It really is the Christian thing to do.
  3. Financial independence isn’t in the cards – don’t even ask.  Trust me, it’s not a good fit in the plans I have for you.
  4. There is a better way for you to set priorities:  ask me.  Constantly.  Don’t worry, I can handle the logistics.  I mean I know that’s difficult for you to sustain, but basically, I got your GPS right here.  You listen, I’ll direct.  It really works.
  5. Prayer that really works.  Done.  It’s working.  Here I am, after all, responding to your latest.  I know, this is hard for you.  There are so many variables at play in every life at every moment, you can’t possibly understand.  Let me explain a little, though:

You had 30, plus a bunch, on your mind when you wrote that post.  First of all, I’ve got the whole world in my hands, including the ones you think you’ve got, so stop whining, already.

Second, you can’t possibly understand how the whole plan works, but you having those 30 on your mind is what I needed you to have.  Think about every person like you all over the world – all of those who are engaged in some way in this work of the gospel.  There are many more than you’ve ever imagined.

I know, it’s easy to be cynical, or even just skeptical, about my people, but for all their weaknesses, they are truly accomplishing more than you’ve ever imagined, for my sake.

Well, each of those people have their 30 or 100 or 1000 about whom they are concerned and for whom they are engaged in prayer and service.

On certain days, you feel entirely inadequate and exhausted with the weight of the portion you know, but you’re an effective and critical part of what I’m doing all over the world, and your exhaustion is what keeps you coming back to me.  If you could do this without becoming exhausted, you’d be . . . well, you’d be me.

This is the stuff that holds the world together:  I in you, you in me, and we, yes we, are getting it done.

You might want to let people know that I’m the one who invented the world-wide-web.  It’s people on their knees, and in their offices, and in their prayer closets, and in coffee shops, and in fields, and in homes, and places you would never expect to find me.

I wish you could see it from here.  It’s pretty cool!

And it’s working!

You do what you can.  That’s what I need from you.  It’s more than you think you can do, and less than you feel like you have to do.  (See #4, above.)

Trust me.  It’s going to be alright.  All of it!

Well, I gotta run, now.  You know, things are happening and I’m needed.

Thanks for writing!  Keep it up.

I love you, too!

Yours truly,

Jesus

P.S.  John 3:16!  🙂

P.P.S.  You’re going to need to work out that stuff with Katie.  Talk to her!  Soon!

P.P.P.S.  Stop being so crabby!  After all, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine”; a.k.a. “Cheer the hell up!”  😉

an open letter to anonymous husbands

[Author’s note and warning:  Version 1 of this letter, found immediately below, is the unfiltered, uncensored, generally unacceptable,  un-Christian approach to counseling a husband.  I apologize in advance for its publication and will probably regret it and repent tomorrow.  If you can’t stomach it, please do the Christian thing and forgive me, then close your eyes and scroll past Version 1 to Version 2 of the same letter, posted below, representing the more Christian-correct method of confronting marital discord, which I’m sure will make you a proud reader of this blog.]

Version 1:

Dear Imbecile,

Stop being such a jerk!

You are blessed to have a wife who is devoted, supportive, and loving, not to mention gifted, and you’re breaking her heart.

She is not your servant or your doormat!  You are not intended to control and dominate her for your own selfish, misguided pleasure.

She works just as hard as you do, if not harder than you, and shouldn’t be treated like she isn’t making a fair contribution.

Can’t you get it through your thick, selfish head that if you would just treat her like the treasure she is, allowing her to flourish in the freedom of your support, encouragement, and gracious attitude, the blessings of the fruit of all of that would come back to you a thousand times over, and your ugly little, miserable world could be overflowing with all of the stuff you’re so desperately trying to coerce into existence?!

And don’t give me that crap about her not being so perfect!  Of course, she’s not perfect.  Does that come anywhere close to excusing you for your constant, incessant emphasis of her imperfections?  Come on!

You’re suffocating her, and in the process, what you can’t seem to realize is that you’re choking the life out of the one thing that might just make your own wretched life meaningful.

It’s pathetic.  Stop it!

I love you, too.

(And yes, I see the plank in my own eye – it hurts – thanks very much for your concern.)

Version 2:

Dear Brother in Christ,

Isnt’ God good?!!!!  All the time, right?!!!!   🙂

Listen, I have ignored the gossip – I can’t stand that tool of the devil – but the Lord has really impressed on me lately that you and your precious wife might be having a little tension in your relationship.

Don’t worry, brother, it happens to all of us from time to time.  You know, the devil is wicked and always seeking a way to attack the Lord’s precious ones.

So, bro, I’m lifting you up in prayer and wanted you to know that if you ever need someone to talk to or pray with, you just let me know.  I’m here for you, just like Jesus said we should be for each other.

I know your wife may be struggling, but she’ll get it figured out.  Maybe you need to spend a little extra time in the Word with her over the next couple of days.  I would suggest Proverbs 31.

You know, some seasons in life are just real hard, but God is good!  When we get to heaven, things will be great over there, won’t they?

I’m praying for you!

God bless you!

Yours in Christ!

Your loving brother!

John 3:16!

a better way

So, Jesus . . . uhhmm . . . Hi, this is Dale . . . again.  I, uhhmmm, I hate to be difficult or anything – I mean, I know there’s a lot going on, and frankly . . . well, sometimes I’m not really sure you’re even listening or . . . capable of hearing.  Sorry.

Sorry, I know I shouldn’t be doubtful – maybe that’s part of the problem, but since you’re supposed to know what I’m thinking, I figure it’s not really a surprise to you anyway.  Ha!  Secrets out, right?  Uhhh . . . ya.

So, anyway . . . ahem . . . I’m just thinking, well . . . that ummm, well . . . there must be a better way or something.

I mean, I’m just saying that, well, I’m feeling like this is just a poor way to go about saving the world.  Sorry.  I know, first I’m doubting, now I’m questioning, and heck, I guess I’m even throwing down judgement on you.  I mean, it’s like the trifecta of bad things, right? Ya.

If you know this stuff, though, and if you are listening, then like I said, it must be no surprise that I’m thinking such things, and besides, if you are who I think you are, then I suppose you’ll be willing to forgive me.  I mean, I hope – really hope! – you’re that guy, ’cause that’s the guy I need.

I mean,  I know you know, well . . . I think you know . . . er, I believe you know, that I know that I’m not really very good at this stuff, and frankly, well . . . I’m pretty sure none of us humans are.

Okay, so, here’s the deal, right?  This is what I can’t figure out.  Maybe just saying it will be helpful.  Maybe.

I just made a list of all the people I feel like I need to talk to, and pray for, and just people I’m generally concerned about.  Actually, I only made a list of the people that have been on my mind today, and there’s like 30 of them.  I mean, those are just the ones that I really feel pressed to engage with in some way just right now.

That doesn’t even include my 11 – YES! Eleven!  Why? – children that I believe you gave me for my benefit and theirs, or my wife . . . or my mother . . . or my sister, and her kids, and husband, or my other extended family, or the next door neighbors, or . . . well, you get the idea.

I mean, I’m really doing a rotten job just with my kids.  It seems like no matter how good my intentions are, I can never say all the things that need to be said, in the right way, and even if I get part of it out in a decent way, some crazy new thing comes up.  It’s like some cosmic whack-a-mole game or something that never ends!

If I really let my mind go, there are literally hundreds (or maybe 150, but a lot!) of other people that I know of or I’m connected to in some way that plague my heart with their needs and grief, plus all of those I don’t know, but the people known by the people I know, ya know?.  I know that sounds like I’m trying to be all pious, but obviously, you know that’s not the case.

On top of that, I mean, here I am at work, spending time thinking about these people that shouldn’t occupy my time while I’m supposed to be doing the respectable thing for my employer and serving them with all of my effort – just like you’ve told me to do.

But . . . by the time I get out of here, I’m, well, frankly . . . exhausted.  My energy level and time availability for even praying for all of those, well . . . much less, actually saying the things or doing the things that are on my mind and heart that need to be said or done for them.  I mean, I can’t control or be responsible for the short days and the need for sleep and the . . . just the . . . general weariness of living, right?

I mean, the parameters, you know, the limitations just seem too tight for success at this to even be possible.  Are you sure?

So, I’m just saying, I’m trying to do everything I can, but I just can’t see how to do it.  So, I’m not really sure this plan you’ve got worked out, about all of us ministering your gospel and loving one another, and meeting one another’s needs, and serving one another and whatnot, well, I’m not sure that’s working out so well.

At least, I don’t think it’s working for me.  Not yet.  Not unless you’ve got some magic thing I don’t know about . . . ummm, like prayer that really makes a difference, for example, or a better way to set priorities, or financial independence or something like that.

So, here I am, just saying that I don’t know how to do this.  I’m not very good at it.  I’m sure of that.

I could use a little help here.  Please show me what to do.  What am I doing wrong?  Well, I mean besides the obvious.  I know I’m doing lots wrong, but I’m not sure what I’m missing to figure out how to do it right.

So . . . uhhmmm, yeah, that’s it, I guess.  Sorry, really, for whining and such.  I know I’m not really supposed to feel like I have to “do” anything for you, since you love me and all already, and that whole grace thing and all, but . . .

Meanwhile, I’m just praying.  I’m praying for myself – as selfish as that must be – and then for all of those folks, and for all of the other folks, and I’m sorry I’m doing that while I’m working.

So, if you’re listening, please help us.  Please.  I hope you’re listening.  You must be listening.  We really need you.

Thanks.

Ummm, amen.