Thursday’s Random Thoughts

If you’re not listening to any Bob Dylan you may not be listening.

The silence of the neo-Calvinist community regarding the lawsuit against SGM and so
many of its leaders coupled with the silence about the mass exodus of congregations
from SGM is damning.

In 1948 Musial had a home run that did not count because of a rainout. If it had counted
he would have won the triple crown.

I’ve got an idea. How about one of you wanting to live a radical life and making lots of
money, switch incomes with me for a year? We can switch vacations and everything.
Any takers?

My wife cooks meals worth paying for.

On my 3rd book of Cormac McCarthy’s in less than 2 weeks. I’d have finished the
border trilogy by now but my Spanish is rusty.

I’ve decided to join the counterculture and stay theologically and politically conservative.
May buy a gun too. My badge of membership? No tattoo.

Our church had a Missions Conference this past weekend. One of the missionaries the
church supports is in Wexford, Ireland…where my family is from. It was an amazing
thing to hear from them.

I am thankful for the struggles that make me long for home. I’d just like a slight break
from a few of ’em. Amen.

Traded about 30 books for 4 of Cormac McCarthy’s. That’s a steal.

If if you try to contact me through email, facebook or a twitter and don’t hear from me for
a while, it’s only because I’m trying to not be owned by those things.

Don’t let the business world of commerce and marketing and hidden truths and bottom
lines steal your soul.

If you are looking for idols and temptations under every rock, you will naturally see the
worst in everyone but yourself. At least it’s true for me.

There is a King and he is a better man than we can imagine.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

Social media now feels like an awful job.

I now feel like Downton’s creators are just dangling carrots only to snatch them up again.

A long held dream of having a hammock has been realized because of some friends.

Communion and singing the Doxology are the highlight of my week.

Pandora station: Townes Van Zandt + Hank Williams Sr + Jimmie Rodgers

My kids are beautiful and I like to look at them after a day at work.

Remember your word to your servant,                                                                        In which you have made me hope.

I need a few days off work, so if someone sick could come over and hug me and let me drink after them, I’d appreciate it.

Evangelicalism has become a happy-clappy thing.

My wife is beautiful and I like to look at her after a day at work.

Watched The Outlaw Josey Wales for the first time since college this week. Still love it.

I need a clear star-filled night to stand under.

I bet pacifists don’t really like The Outlaw Josey Wales. Sad.

If literature were a religion, Cormac McCarthy would be part of the canon.

David, King of the West Bank Blues.

 

I’d No Idea He Told Western Tales

Because I’ve been listening to Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams almost exclusively for the past few weeks, I wanted to read something with that air. First, I tried to download an ebook of L’amour from the library while lying in bed just before sleep. I could’ve just gone around corner and grabbed one from my father-in-law whose read them all. But I was under the covers and had no desire to move that far.

None were available. so I tried a Zane Grey and was pretty certain within a few paragraphs this was not what I was looking.

What was I looking for? The night sky pock-marked with celestial wonder. Wisdom and poetry astride a horse astride a mountain astride a barren land held by the gravity of just being. I wanted the dust of an old trail. Writing that stays with me throughout the day and makes me wonder if any of the people I work with have ever known anything like it. The novel version of Hank’s Wedding Bells and Van Zandt’s Pancho and Lefty.

Having heard of Cormac McCarthy made me less likely to give All the Pretty Horses a whirl. I’d no idea he told western tales. And I’d never read a word of his before. But there was a section laid out right there for me to check out before checking it out.

The first few lines were enough to make my chest literally heave after catching my breath. That is not the writer’s exaggeration…

The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door. He took off his hat and came slowly forward. The floorboards creaked under his boots. In his black suit he stood in the dark glass where the lilies leaned so palely from their waisted cutglass vase. Along the cold hallway behind him hung the portraits of forebears only dimly known to him all framed in glass and dimly lit above the narrow wainscotting. He looked down at the guttered candlestub. He pressed his thumbprint in the warm wax pooled on the oak veneer. Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed moustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping.It was dark outside and cold and no wind. In the distance a calf bawled. He stood with his hat in his hand. You never combed your hair that way in your life, he said.

As I approached the middle of the book a couple days later, I knew I needed to hold this book in hand. I gathered some old books I knew I would never read again. I took them to the used bookstore and traded them for credit. I found a paperback copy and I stretched the second half of the book over the rest of Sunday.

All the Pretty Horses was all I was looking for and a world of more. All that was unspoken but known to be true about writing and seeing and breathing as a writer and reader was there.

This morning over coffee, eggs and bacon, I read the final paragraph to Bethany with the morning light and sleep still in our eyes…

The desert he rode was red and red the dust he raised, the small dust that powdered the legs of the horse he rode, the horse he led. In the evening a wind cam up and reddened all the sky before him. There were few cattle in that country because it was barren country indeed yet he came at evening upon a solitary bull rolling in the dust against the bloodred sunset like an animal in sacrificial torment. The bloodred dust blew down out of the sun. He touched the horse with his heels and rode on. He rode with the sun coppering his face and the red wind blowing out of the west across the evening land and the small desert birds flew chittering among dry bracken and horse and rider and horse passed on and their long shadows passed in tandem like the shadow of a single being. Passed and paled into the darkening land, the world to come.

Even now I sit here waiting for my wife and son to get home so on this day off I can return to that used bookstore and pick up a copy of the next story in The Border Trilogy with the unused credit.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

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When I was doing youth ministry in Wichita, I turned off all the lights in my office so people would think I’d left and I could sit and think without interruption. That thinking was valuable time but it was a Baptist church so they didn’t understand.

My wife made a beef roast with cheese grits last night and I fell in love all over again.

If I didn’t get in trouble at work I’d be harder on my son when he gets in trouble at school.

I find it more reasonable that a grown man would play video games than a grown woman would want a teddy bear for Valentine’s Day.

Townes Van Zandt read the Bible voraciously.

Work that cradles your conscience is a valuable thing.

I love that the “good” characters in Downton Abbey have glaring flaws and the bad ones show kindness.

Parenting is harder and more awesome than I could have ever imagined.

The Psalms are more Hank Williams than we realize.

I take comfort in the tragic flaws of biblical characters in regards to myself and expect perfection from everyone else.

I suppose I was scheduled to close the branch on Valentine’s Day because I have 3 kids.

Beauty is almost inconsequential in the American marketplace.

I’m tired of not worrying about my fantasy baseball team.

 

Disappointment, Townes, and the Kingdom of Heaven

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Every night for two weeks, Bethany and I have been listening to Rearview Mirror by Townes Van Zandt. A few nights it’s been during fixing and eating dinner. Sometimes it plays while we read. Sometimes I just stare at nothing and let the songs seep in and the violin hover somewhere overhead.

I’d been listening to the Cowboy Junkies and remembered I’d seen Townes open up for them back in 1990. I was a Senior in High School and couldn’t understand why so many people seemed to be into this older guy opening for Margo Timmins and the Cowboy Junkies. I didn’t really pay attention. I just didn’t get it.

But now I can’t stop listening.

The last two weeks seem to be one’s marked by disappointment. And the kind of disappointment which makes hope a luxury for those of us who are poor in spirit.

All of it piled up in front of me this past Thursday. I had some expectations and they were met with the kind of disappointment that can make you feel like one.

Townes was once asked about his sad songs and he said, “Well, many of the songs aren’t sad, they’re hopeless.”

Maybe that’s why I can’t stop listening to them in this stretch of wondering what I’m gonna do. For some reason all these stark sad…hopeless songs help me along. The music is otherworldly, the words altogether worldly. They are full to spilling of hurt and pain and all the hell there is here on earth.

And so I always feel better.

Even if I’m not at the point of hopelessness, I can smell it’s awful breath. It’s like your trying to climb out of darkness and every time you feel a rung under your feet your heart swells with gladness and then you feel it break under your weight.

And you curse the weight.

This past Thursday, one of those rungs shattered completely at the slightest touch.

There ain’t no dark till something shines                                                                     I’m bound to leave the dark behind

I’m pretty sure it isn’t all for nothing. But I’m in no mood for evangelical platitudes. In the divine economy, the scarcity of hope increases it’s worth in the marketplace of dispositions.

The first Townes song I ever heard was “Pancho and Lefty,” sung by Willie and Waylon. It was the mid ‘80s and my parents had the cassette and I was interested in everyone but those two guys. However, one line reverberated in my mind for about a dozen years…

All the Federales say

That line just stayed with me till I voluntarily went back to it…the things you gotta thank your parents for so many years later.

Hope is talked about a lot among those who follow Jesus. But it’s only so much talk mostly, I think. I suppose this is why we never really know what to do with Jesus’ “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Osteen’s books be damned.

Only the poor in spirit can know the full value of hope. Only the hungry can know the value of a piece of plain bread. Whether it’s organic or not is wealth’s great worry. The poor in spirit don’t even look at the expiration date.

I hate the disappointment. I hate going to work in the morning and the waiting for it the night before. But I am not sorry for the hopelessness. Because now every bread crumb leading to Something outside of just removing it, tastes a little like heaven.

Bill Camplin said, “Townes was only interested in heaven once he was down in hell and looking up at it.”

I used to teach on being “Poor in spirit.” And I probably taught it like everyone else who has never been blessed to be so.

Jesus does not say they will be blessed. He says they are. Right now. And you probably already know that it’s just as likely Jesus meant “happy.” Which I like better, because “blessed” is a really meaningless word uttered thoughtlessly by Wal-Mart cashiers.

Everything is not enough                                                                                         And nothing is too much to bear                                                                            Where you’ve been is good and gone                                                                            All you keep is the getting there

I get it though. I know this happiness. And all that talk of happiness v. joy? That’s just sophistry for those who are not presently wondering whether there is any water in the well or even a bottom there to hold it.

But it don’t pay to think too much                                                                              On things you leave behind

This morning, I sat on a hard bench in a cafetorium and prayed, “help us.” Then we all got up as a violin played and we all walked forward to take the bread and juice. And it was a weekly moment upon which that happiness pivots.

Why?

“For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

Food is my comfort food.

Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

Can I be honest? I stood at the end of the Christian section in a bookstore and I was depressed for my own jealousy in being absent among them.

I’m tired of waiting for the new Star Wars movie.

The unvarnished truth in the business world is like a unicorn among the heather.

I never understood why people would ask me to pray for them as a pastor. And then today I was helped to understand why as I reflexively asked my pastor to pray for me after disappointment had its way with me.

Everything is never enough.

Pacifism seems to be the luxurious position of those who’ve no one to protect.

There’s brown and green and then there’s the lush colors of a baseball field.

Sometimes a curse word seems appropriate because it feels as though a curse has landed square upon you.

I wish I could still taste the air of a 13 yr old summer night.

All I want for Valentine’s Day is a bacon cheeseburger.

If I could make teenagers read one book, it would be Sense and Sensibility.

Sometimes I’m just one fried egg sandwich from hoping.

The Psalms as a panic room.

Watching even a few moments of the Super Bowl halftime show made me wanna hate western culture.

Last night the fog hung thick in the air up here on the mountain. You could see it move like bed sheets on a line.

Nothing makes me feel more invincible than when walking with my daughter and she reaches for and holds my hand.

Sometimes I wish I’d known then what I know now. As I get older I wish I knew now what I’d known then.