On the Occasion of Mourning Death (Gather You Fires, Part II)

This week, my community lost a life too soon. I am sorry for his passing.

(This is part of the Collective Poems.)


On the Occasion
of Mourning Death
(Gather You Fires, Part II)

The memory of
the frailest soul lost
burns like a tiny sun,
and we together carry
many tiny suns,
are warmed by
many tiny suns.

Gather you sun-bearers
by the funeral pyre;
gather again–
awakened in
the collective–
rare though we gather,
here as we gather,
together in memory;
We are.

We are nothing
if not for remembering
the way face reflects
joy immeasurable,
or soul reflects
God uncontainable,
or death reflects
hope interminable.

We are nothing
if not for carrying
the legacy of that joy,
stretching the
legacy of that joy,
remembering the
legacy of that joy.

We are nothing
if not for marking
ourselves with ashes,
for remembering that,
as the poet said,
lights are
again and again.
Memories are
unsnuffable things
if we let them be.

So gather you fires best–
awake in the collective–
together in sorrow,
together in feasting,
in communion wine—
and there find that
memories are
more than ashes.
And by this, even the
fallen are at last part of
the brilliant, unforgettable

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On Word Meanings–Recovery

Today’s piece is brought to you by the word recovery, and its sister verb recover.

Many claim the word, or some derivation of it. “I’m in recovery from addiction,” or “I’m recovering from abuse,” we say. It’s an equal opportunity word, one used by the substance abusers, the depressed, the over-eaters, the under-eaters, the sex, the self-loathers, the people pleasers, the happy-plastic material folks, the struggling perfectionist, the over-elevators of theology, the worshipers of the church idol–all addicts alike.

It is a word for the broken; isn’t it? The word is bandied about in twelve step meetings and therapy sessions, sometimes rolls of the tongue with twinge of guilt and sorrow.

But though it may carry a culturally implied sense of shame, the word recovery is a beautiful. It is pregnant with possibility.

As first used in the English language, the word recover, carried with it the notion of regaining consciousness.  It was derived from the Old French “recovrer,” which meant “come back, return, regain health….”

At it’s essence, the word recovery contemplates the following: (a) the subject was once healthy and fully conscious; (b) the subject fell into a thick, sick sleep; and, (c) the subject is finding his way back to full consciousness, to being healthy and awake!

I suppose it’s understandable—recovery might be used to infer shame by some. After all, didn’t we choose to go the way of the addict? Didn’t we choose to elevate our vices—liquor, sex, food, theology (mull that one over for a bit)—over substance (the abiding present God of our waking)? Didn’t we eat the poisoned fruit? Didn’t we self-induce our own comas?


But consider it another way.

Jesus once said the healthy have no need for doctors, for recovery. His house call was for the sick, for those who wanted to return to health. He came recovering sight for the blind, health for the leprous, and life for the dead. He was recovery personified, and he visited it on those small enough to see their need.

I’m owning the word recovery. It’s mine, and it carries no sense of shame or guilt. Instead, I’ll wear it as more specific nomenclature—I am in the company of those whose houses have been visited by the best of doctors, the doctor who need not waste his time with the healthy.

Photo by by André Banyai, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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Good Links (The Welcome Wagon Edition)

Amber hopped a jet to the Caribbean last Thursday, though it’s not like it sounds. She and a few friends hitched their wagons to the star that is Help One Now and made their way to Haiti for the week.

It should come as no surprise to you that the boys (including this boy) get restless when Mama’s away. She’s brings balance to this house full of testosterone, and when she’s away, things sort of go the way of the man. What is the way of the man? Let’s just say that my boys have eaten more meat, imbibed more root beer, watched more action movies (appropriately rated, of course), have caught numerous fish, destroyed numerous household furnishings, and have irreparably clogged one toilet.

Yes we are well aware of our frailty, so when mama returned to save the day, the welcome wagon was ready to meet her. It went down as follows:

We’re glad Amber’s back.

With all my free time this week, what with raising four boys, work obligations, and a community gathering or two, rounding up good links was difficult. But such as I have, I give to you. Enjoy.


Late last year, I had an inkling that I needed to dive into the words of St. Francis. I put off said inkling, and instead chose to rip through three novels that were not spiritual and were certainly anything other than saintly. I digress. At the prompting of a friend, I picked up a copy of Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. Grammar aside, it’s busting my chops.

Know well that in the sight of God there are certain matters which are very lofty and sublime which are sometimes considered worthless and inferior by people; while there are other things cherished and esteemed by people, which are considered worthless and inferior by God.

Grab a copy.


Tonia Peckover is one of my favorites. She’s one of the rare pearls of the internet, and has been stretching her poetry across the screen these days. She posted this piece on the Rwandan genocide memorial. Warning: take a deep breath before reading.

It’s Holy Week, the week Christianity commemorates the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Head on over to Deeper Story for John Blase’s piece Happy Easter Chuck.

I’ve loved all the posts that have come from Haiti, but none more than those from Laura Tremaine. She’s been honest with her misgivings and assumption. It been refreshing. She writes:

But how, then, were these children seeing us? As novelties? From the outside, did we look like poverty tourists? We had translators, but how can I know how we were actually presented? As the hours slipped by with children in my lap, it ceased to matter. The only person over-thinking this particular relationship between giver and receiver was me.


Mike Rusch has been taking photos of the unsung heroes, those whose names you will never know.

Of this photo, he writes:

You’ll never know his name but he works with Haitian government to accept children into Ferrier Village that were rescued from Human Trafficking. The world needs more heroes like this.


Were you there?


Did you dig into The Oh Hello’s 2012 album, Through the Deep, Dark Valley? If you missed this one, here’s your chance:

Thanks for stopping in this week. See you soon.

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On Cigarette Ashes, Magnolia Blossoms, and Driver-Side Doors


This is not so much a piece about marriage as it is about certainty, about propositional truth. In a certain sense, this is a piece about driver-side doors.


At the wise old age of eighteen, I laid on a bed sheet under the midnight stars with a God-fearing girl; we flung dreams into the river of hot summer wind. She was supposed to be my first love. She was not–not really. She was, instead, the girl I was supposed to love, I being the youth group preacher-to-be, and she being the daughter of an upright minister.

We had a First Baptist kind of relationship, one that was more of a profession of faith than a profession of passion. The truth was–and boy, did we ever know the Truth…

Continue reading at A Deeper Story.

Featured image credit: “Magnolia” by THOR.

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On Addiction, Dependency, and One Less Despised Thing


It has been 206 days since my last good drunk. In fact, it’s been as many days since my last drink altogether. The early days of beating back addiction are something akin to swimming up-waterfall in a river of tar. It’s long, slow, intentional, relentless, gutsy slogging.


Words With Friends is a good game, and well-meaning folks love to play it with their addict friends. I don’t suppose this is a thing limited to those with alcohol dependency; I suppose the cutters, sex-addicts, pill-poppers, and those with eating disorders have noticed it, too. The well-meaning advice pushers offer wise words. “Just stop it,” they say, or “have you considered a twelve step program?” They ask whether you’re harboring secret sins, sometimes mistake your desire for solitude with the hiding of a bottle, a blade, or a barbiturate.

Friends of Job, what if I just need space to process?


Addiction is a tricky bitch, which, after convincing you she is safe, jumps in your lap and nuzzles your free hand just before biting off the tip of your nose (despite your face).


There were twelve men at a table, of which I was one. The head, with squinted eyes and cocked head, wondered aloud whether a drunk could take the Eucharist, wine and all. I chuckled, said, “my protestant Eucharist consists of tiny crackers and individual plastic chalices of grape juice; why not?”

He laughed, retorted, “no… but seriously.”

It is no laughing matter. Can’t all things be redeemed?


St. Francis expounded upon the great teaching of Jesus–blessed are the pure in heart. He wrote, “[t]he truly pure of heart are those who despise the things of earth and seek the things of heaven, and who never cease to adore and behold the Lord God living and true with pure heart and soul.”

I read Francis to say, “blessed are the recovering addicts, because by their recovery, they have one less thing to despise.”


A friend asked me yesterday what I’ve found in my ever-awakening sobriety. I told him that both spirits and the hope of spirits help keep anxiety at bay. Between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. a functional dependent can dull anxiety with his drug of choice. Between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., the same functioning dependent can overcome anxiety by fantasizing about the next fix. By comparison, the sober mind can have no fantasy, no hope of any anesthetizing agent. The sober mind has only the full illumination of all its anxiety, doubt, and pain.

This sounds like a terrible curse, save for that particularly overlooked promise of our little brother Johnny–if we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship and are purified. And through the purification, awful as it may be, there is gratitude, joy, and peace.

Photo by by André Banyai, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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