Random Thoughts for the Weekend

stream-1600x900

1. What if we all lived as if Paul was serious in Colossians 3? What if we lived as if we had died the only death that matters? What if we had not only died but actually been raised from that death? What if now our lives were eternal lives? What if our lives were now hid with Christ in God?

2. I’ve been reading Psalm 1 and it just dawned on me this past week how profound it is.  When the Psalmist says the one who delights in the Lord’s instruction is like a tree bearing fruit in its season with leaves that do not whither, he is saying that just as a tree is what it is created to be when it does what it is created to do, we are who we are created to be when we do what we are created to do. God’s instruction makes us more holy because it makes us more human. Movement toward holiness is movement toward humanity.

3. It has always confused me as to why Jesus kept drawing away from the crowds and telling people to keep things quiet. But I think I now understand. Celebrity is the world’s power. A power offered to him in the wilderness, by the way. The world sees that kind of power as only good. It is the power of the seen and a denial of the power of the unseen. And it is a deadly power.

4. There was a long stretch of history in which entertainment by entertainers was not part of the daily life of normal people. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

5. Convictions are not emotional jewelry.

6. Setting your mind on “things above” and not the things of this world is not resignation, it is relentless engagement in the highest realities.

7. “God and Country” almost always becomes “Country” with a rumor of God.

8. I do miss baseball.

9. Joy may be the best and most helpful marker of confidence in God during this time, when walking into the grocery store feels like walking into a funeral home.

10. I have stopped saying “amen” at the end of my morning prayers. I realized I was “signing off” psychologically – hanging up the phone as it were. Saying goodbye.  So instead I now ask, “What are we going to do today?” That may sound cheesy to some. Whatever. But I assume the disciples often asked that of Jesus in the morning. I assume they asked sometimes with eager anticipation. Sometimes with fear. And often with joyful wonder, I suppose.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

jesuschosen

1. I want a joyful contentment in Jesus with no qualifiers. I want in sickness and in health, poverty or wealth, to be at odds with the world of circumstances. When someone asks me how I am doing, I want to consider the presence of Jesus, my union with him and his love for me, and smile knowing I am safe and I have what I need.

2. There is a scene in The Chosen TV Series, in which Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Zebedee are trying to pull in that miraculous haul of fish and Jesus is watching them. And then he does something that makes more sense than all the stoical pictures of Jesus that have formed in my mind for 48 years.

He laughs.

It is a beautiful scene. We should assume that Jesus was happy to see the will of his Father displayed on earth as it is in heaven.

3. It is the most reasonable thing in the world for a believer to want to listen to songs about Jesus. It is unreasonable to demand they be the best songs before they are listened to.

4. As those who follow Jesus, sometimes we must say “no” to things that are not sinful. It will feel like a death because it is a kind of death. It is a tearing of the flesh. It is often painful. And the pain can be compounded when you see others following Jesus, who do not have to say “no” to that particular thing.

5. It is interesting to read the gospels and notice Jesus does not really argue. He teaches and he responds. But there is no real arguing to speak of.

6. And he doesn’t complain.

7. The life and teaching of Jesus are no less powerful than his work on the cross.

8. For those who follow Christ, our decisions on how to engage people and businesses should be based on our love of Him and our neighbor. Not a particular political persuasion. It is possible we may disagree on how that plays out. But let your politics be love for the King and the advancement of his kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.

9. There is a wealth that is not affected by the economy.

10. It is hard for me to believe Jesus would be very happy with the way Americans have turned the church into a business that requires funds to survive.

 

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 7.55.56 AM

1. Been reading about David. And I’ve told my students and anyone listening that we do not read the OT stories with all those crazy characters to learn about how to live on this great big earth they also walked on. We read the OT to see Jesus before he could be seen. But that’s only part true. Because he walked on the same earth they did. And we walk on the same earth. And if we see him in them, then we are catching even more glimpses of how to live outside those four gospels we love so much. Maybe we can get the same dust on our feet.

2. I bet the elder brother always wore a tie.

3. I often feel what I can only call “treasuring” (not in the Matthew 6 sense) books and music. It’s a longing for what I already have. Something to be held onto tight. Things to be handed down. Kept alive. Cared for. That transmission of creativity within those things that are bigger than their physical existence is something large. Bigger than myself though I can hold them in my hand.

4. I don’t know anything about injecting disinfectant. But I know injecting the newsmen into your veins is bad. Bad mojo. It’ll get in your heart and eat all the joy away. Chew it up. You gotta detox from that poison. Get it out of you. Call poison control and tell them you drank too much news and ate the beautiful things of this world but they were sprinkled with the poison of nonstop news. They will think you are crazy. The world will think you are crazy. But that is only because while they are listening to you they are drinking it in too.

5. I got a neighbor that cuts his yard every few days like it’s a monster he has to feed or it will rear up and take over. I hope it’s a dragon.

6. I’ve read five books about Bob Dylan and listened to countless albums of his during these weeks of contemplation and rest and I still do not feel like I know the man. But I know much more about myself and this world and the next. And you too.

7. When Christian institutions make decisions without considering the realities of God and his kingdom rule, the gospel is just PR. Spin. Optics. Sold out of the back of a horse-cart like snake-oil.

8. During this weird world event when everyone has a wild opinion on what to do and not do, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know,” and then just go along your merry way and be nice to people as much as you can. Forgiveness helps too.

9. Laughter creates worlds previously unknown.

10. “In the Middle”

In the middle of pandemic Spring
I started Jane Kenyon’s poems
at the end, which is really how
we get to know everyone we want to know.

We start at the end and then work
our way backwards to the beginning.
And then we realize later we were
in the middle all along the way.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

pharisees

1.  Those who follow Jesus are always safe.

2. Sarcasm should only be used sparingly as a shotgun, never a rifle.

3. Everyone needs a place where they are not marketed.

4. Maybe we will learn the substance again without the event.

5. The lesson of Paul in prison is actual freedom has nothing to do with circumstances.

6. We want to blame someone because it feels like control.

7. Most, when challenged, do not stop and think, they only react in defense.

8. This world is full of the wonders of God for those with eyes to see.

9. Resist the predictable conclusions.

10. The Bible is already mind-bending when we don’t add to it.

Everyday Poems #22, “Listening to the Summer Presto”

Louis-Armstrong

Listening to the Summer Presto

I was listening to Anne-Sophie Mutter
play the Summer Presto.
And with all it’s naked beauty and vigor
I realized –
this was nothing like the summers I know.

My summers are more like the adagio
from the Clarinet Concerto
or the one for two violins.
or Racing in the Street.

Take your pick.

Our southern bourbon dusks in waxing June
sound more like Satchmo to be completely honest.

Everyday Poems #21, “Get Your News From the Poets”

news

 

Get Your News From the Poets.

Instead of the surgically altered
made up. Dressed up.
Go instead
to the wrinkled brows
and the bent and broken backs
of Halls and Berrys,
Dantes and Dickensons.
Dive deep
into the Karrs and Kenyons.
Go instead
to the old homes
of Heaneys and Frosts
and not
Rather
those who shine like cellulose
in a canopied circus
of teleprompted stars
breaking, always breaking
in more ways than we know –
breaking into the entertainment,
of which we can no longer
tell the difference anyway.

Everyday Poems #20, “With Lassos Folded”

radnoti

What is so staggering about the poems Miklos Radnoti is not just the clear-sightedness of them but the context. I love/hate the story of his wife finding his final poems. He had been a prisoner of WWII in Hungary. Though a Christian, he was still a Jew by birth, his wife and he converting later. He was shot in Hungary on a “Forced March” and buried in November of 1944. When his wife had him dug up after the war, she found some poems in hi clothes.

miklos and wife

Even translated his words are powerful:

I write, what else can I do. How dangerous a poem is – if you only knew – a line, however delicate, whimsical: there’s courage in these also, do you see?

He’s right, you know. There can be danger, I suppose. Plato wanted to banish the poets from the ideal republic. The poets were valued there, though. In the modern day west, Beyonce and Kenny Chesney are valued. And whatever those songs are, they are not in the country of poetry.

The dangerous poetry is the kind that looks at the world and see things as they are. At least more so than the average person walking around. A veil is lifted. And those who grasp at money and control prefer the veil. They want to hold onto…well everything.


“With Lassos Folded”

With lassos folded
and placed in your account,
they will break you.
Like the horse watched
from the fence
by onlookers with hats tipped.
Them whooping –
you frothing,
sweating,
missing the green pastures of yearlings

Everyday Poems #19, “The White-Knuckle Grieving”

donald_hall_jane_kenyon_1993

When my brother called to tell me Mom had been rushed to the ER, I could hear it in his voice. We were watching a Cardinals game, I think. And while I was glad my mom went on ahead of us and was with Dad, it was sad to know she was alone when she took that last breath. Of course, to say she was alone is to deny the reality in which she had daily walked. We are never alone.

My brothers and I and my Aunt sat around my mom’s cancer-racked body in the ER. They gave us some space. We laughed and we cried and prayed. No parents any longer. I remember looking forward to sleep but not looking forward to waking up.

Jane Kenyon is one of my favorite poets. I do not know if I have read a poem of hers I did not like. She is far too often known as the wife of Donald Hall, another of my favorites. And she also died far too soon of cancer. I’d like to include one of her poems here because it’s honest and sad and beautiful all at the same time. And everyone has been through something that colors the most ordinary events.

The Sick Wife

The sick wife stayed in the car
while he bought a few groceries.
Not yet fifty,
she had learned what it’s like
not to be able to button a button.

It was the middle of the day—
and so only mothers with small children
and retired couples
stepped through the muddy parking lot.

Dry cleaning swung and gleamed on hangers
in the cars of the prosperous.
How easily they moved—
with such freedom,
even the old and relatively infirm.

The windows began to steam up.
The cars on either side of her
pulled away so briskly
that it made her sick at heart.


The White-Knuckle Grieving

It is true, joy comes with morning.
But more often than not, years later –
after the soul’s dark night mourning –
after the years level-best thieving –
after the white-knuckle grieving.

Everyday Poems #18, “With A Few Clicks”

larkin

“Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.” – Philip Larkin

Of course, what Larkin meant was that inspiration came from being deprived of something desired. And poets, time out of mind, agree. Larkin, like many 20th century poets was a jazz music fan and critic, which I think you can hear in his poems. He also eschewed fame and did not enjoy it. He even saw that as a deprivation.

In “Aubade” he contemplates the inevitability of death and how everyone must face it. It’s a dour piece of writing but then at the end, he points out more often than not, the ordinary requirements of our work rouse us from such thoughts –

“Work has to be done.”

 

Five or six years ago I was working as a banker. I was the guy who put in loan applications and opened checking accounts. I was not a great banker, at least not at first. I got in trouble a lot for not selling enough financial products.

At one point, those of us who were not selling enough credit cards had to go to a remedial credit card class, in which nothing was remembered except one thing. There was one young man who was very good at selling credit cards. And his “trick” was to call up customers, who had introductory offers, under the guise of just checking in on them. Then he would exclaim, “Oh wow!” and exclaim to them what the offer was.

We had to practice doing that “Oh wow.”

The bank was not always dark. But there was enough soul-destroying moments that I often found myself searching for poems online during work, just to catch my breath. I always felt like it was my own private rebellion. I knew they would not approve. But I would search for one like living water. Often I would print them out and hang it on a cork board to the right of my monitor.

The irony is, by the time I left the branch, I was becoming very successful by not doing what they wanted and by simply being honest.

I never did the “Oh wow” thing.


With A Few Clicks

With a few clicks you built a canal
for your wandering bark,
with unfurled sail. To wonder in
another stream altogether –
away from the stagnant pool
of numbers and bottom lines,
ties and a crease on the leg –
to that land where Heaney reigns
and Auden jests and Berry rails –
where Bradstreet’s lines are fixed
like Eliot’s point. What water
to dive in and swim on through!
But first the dark and dank
of the tepid pool shaken off.

Everyday Poems #17, “Joy?”

dylan thomas

“These poems, with all their crudities, doubts and confusions, are written for the love of man and in Praise of God, and I’d be a damn fool if they weren’t.”       
– Dylan Thomas

Amidst all the funny memes and lists and posts of Bible verses, I am assuming there is a lot of disappointment out there. Lots of cancelled plans. Life coming to an almost complete standstill. You can only binge-watch so much to hold back the emotional tide of loss. Laughter can help, but before long it feels like a band-aid on a growing tumor.

Dylan Thomas said poetry “makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.”

With a wink he points out that poems – like songs – remind us that in our unique suffering we are not alone. It is ours, yes. But by force of logic, the poet has captured what we have felt and known. “I know that feeling!” We realize the poet has seen what we have seen before we could. The same light dawned on them.


Joy?

There is much to be had.
This is why the debris field
of broken glass hopes
is so hard to walk over.

We see in those shards –
ought to have been.
Could have been.
But are not.

And so a dream unfulfilled here,
a failure there,
and life cut short
right there at your feet.

You’d kick at the pieces in anger,
but for a shining glint
when the light turns just right
on jagged edges.

If there can be dancing
in a valley of dry bones,
then all these too
can now be made new.