Sunday, December 30, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The best of the lot may be the one at the bottom--"just before dawn, sioux county, iowa." There, I even gave it a name. It's not as startling as I'd like, but it catches what was there--and what was there was beautiful.
I didn't have all day--only fifteen minutes or so post-sunrise. But the world was crystalline. Still, I thought I couldn't miss.
I took this shot several times at different times during the dawn. I loved the way the creek foregrounds the whole shot and and then swims away toward that distant farm place. But I don't think I did it right. It's too dark, and I can't seem to reclaim it. Should have waited for another half hour, but I didn't have the time.
The eastern sky changed fast; everytime I looked that direction it gave me a different look. I took a few, but none of them really takes my breath away.
Like I said, I was sure I was going to come home with a trophy today. I really did. But I didn't. And what's worse, I don't know why not. This time the heavens definitely declared the glory. This time I guess I was in no shape for the proclamation.
Oh, well--there'll be more mornings alone, more opportunity to listen.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
On Christmas Eve in our church, a little boy sitting just down the row was so taken with the candle in his hands and the whole candlelight service around him that his face glowed as if aflame itself, his eyes teaching wonder anew.
He was Hispanic, not someone whose roots, like so many others’, grow deeply into this rich Iowa soil—maybe that was part of the startling joy I felt.
What I saw in the glow of a lit candle on that boy’s face was just about what all want out of Christmas. In the glow of the gift of a baby, we want somehow to experience something profound enough to help us weather the rest of our lives. Of course that we get what we want at Christmas doesn’t always happen.
But doesn’t always isn’t never, and for one brilliant moment last night (which is not to say there weren’t others) that little boy’s charmed little face offered every ounce of the astonishment we all hope for.
For just that moment, just that look and those big eyes on Christmas Eve, I’m thankful, and will be for a long time.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
“Nobody ever really knows everything about anyone else”—that’s what I heard someone say on a talk show yesterday, while I was working out.
It’s true, and it’s scary, in a way. I’ve been writing for almost a quarter of a century, but I know there’s more.
And it’s humbling: I can’t know everything there is to know about anyone else, including those most close to me.
And it’s shocking: we’re that complex, all of us; we’re that complicated and mysterious, that shadowed and brilliant.
And it’s comforting to believers because while nobody else really knows everything, someone—God—does.
But then that too is scary . . .and humbling . . .and shocking . . .and comforting.
This morning, I’m thankful we’re so fearfully and wonderfully made.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
I remember doling out bucks to both of our kids before a week-long camping trip to the Black Hills years ago--spending money. I remember my daughter having little problem determining when and where to spend it, being a little too footloose, I thought, in dealing out the dough.
Not so my son, who never spent a dime. I remember standing with him at some South Dakota tourist trap and watching the conflict play out on his face: he was seriously considering buying some touristy thing, but he decided not to because back home there was something he wanted. He spent nothing the entire week, and simply pocketed the dough.
My daughter is hardly a spendthrift. She's inherited her mother's genetic inclination to make do with almost anything. She's not tight--that's not it at. She's just unAmerican: she simply doesn't see the need to buy when she doesn't have to.
In some ways, my son is no different--and even more so. But there was something else in his not spending bucks on useless souvenirs, some character attribute that has stuck with him for all of his years: he could be so deeply convicted to an idea that he was almost impervious to life around him, a very strong inner will.
When we look back, it seems clear to our kids' parents that some aspects of their unique characters were clearly manifest already in their childhoods. In some ways, we are who we will be, even as children.
Maybe it's a silly question, but what I'm wondering is what part being a Christian believer--or to use Christ's language--being "born again" plays in character. That people change when they undergo definitive spiritual experiences seems beyond question; they are "born again." Lame walk, blind see, drinkers dry up, the crooked go straight. Those things happen. If they didn't, religion would have zero appeal.
In a way, of course, what form of religion doesn't appear, at times, to make a great deal of difference. Last year, on the Rosebud Reservation, we were testimonied to by a recovering alcoholic whose song was an old one: "Once I was blind but now I can see, the light of the world is Jesus."
When he finished speaking, another Lakota took us to the sweat lodge out back of the mission, and basically preached the same sermon, albeit with different content: "Once I was blind (he too had been an alcoholic), but now I can see, the light of the world is Lakota religion." Both claimed life-changing spiritual experience, but different mediums.
I'm thinking about this, I suppose, because sometimes I wonder about individual differences between believers. If our testimony and our allegiance to God is pre-eminent in our lives, then why do individual differences even exist? If we all heartily swear to serve our master first of all, then why is there a man named Ron Sider and another named Pat Robertson? Jimmy Carter will go to his grave as the first American President to openly confess he was "born again." But, good night, the politics of Carter are absolutely nothing like the politics of Bush, who similarly confesses.
I remember Martin Marty saying somewhere that American Christians were deeply blessed by the simple fact that Billy Graham wasn't mean-spirited. If he were, the nature of evangelical Christianity today would be a whole lot different.
Or how about this? It turns out that Mother Theresa was plagued by spiritual doubt. I don't have a dime's worth of problems with her dark and meandering questions about God, but some Christians obviously do. Why is that? Some Christians want their spiritual heroes perfectly sanitized, as if anything less would be as disturbing as the notion that the baby Jesus had diaper rash. I don't. Why not?
Occasionally, skirmishes arise at the Christian college where I teach, skirmishes about what's "fitting" or "proper" for our students, skirmishes that almost always have something to do with full frontal nudity, or something akin--in film and art (used to be in literature too, but nobody reads anymore anyway). We bicker a bit--genially, I should add--and then, once again, life goes on. Whether or not this Christian college is on the road to perdition or Vanity Fair, whichever comes first, is yet to be determined; but different opinions probably exist.
Where do those opinions come from?--the Bible? our professions? How can people who share the same creedal orientation disagree so deeply? Is has to be character, doesn't it?
Are there identities in our constitutions that loom even bigger than our professions of faith?
But if that's true, then what does "born again" really mean?
I'm not frustrated, just fascinated. What am I really?
Wish I knew.
Some really do--or think so.
Why is that?
I don't know. I really don't.
And that's okay.
Life wouldn't be quite so much fun if there were no unanswered questions.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Peacefully we frolicked on the banks of her veins
Celebrating our inception into the masculine community.
Her blood washing away the last remnants of our adolescence,
Ushering us into a life beyond.
Suddenly, the serpent strikes. His blue eyes blonde hair
Forcing the fruit on us, oblivious to the God in here
Unlike the woman; We were bound
And forced out of her bosom
Our life flowing through her veins,
Her life stolen from her veins.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
about college (though I have some thoughts
on that), baseball (ditto), or abstract
soupy womb-warmth, do some rolls and saults
(it'll be too crowded soon), delight in your early
dreams -- which no one will attempt to analyze.
lengthen, your sexual organs grow (too soon
to tell which yet) sensitive, your teeth
form their buds in their forming jawbone, your already
booming heart expand (literally
now, metaphorically later); O your spine,
eyebrows, nape, knees, fibulae,
dear child: I don't see it here, when
does that come in, whence? Perhaps God,
and your mother, and even I -- we'll all contribute
and you'll learn yourself to coax it
together and lets you live
on earth. -- Fingerling, sidecar, nubbin,
I'm waiting, it's me, Dad,
I'm out here. You already know
where Mom is.
upon arrival. You'll recognize
me -- I'll be the tall-seeming, delighted
blond guy, and I'll have