How to Lent and Why

Every year, automatic as a clock, my grandfather would call just after sunup.

“He is risen!”

We all knew the drill. If you were on the other end of the line, there was only one acceptable response.

“He is risen indeed!”

It was my family’s singular Easter tradition, unless shopping for a pastel-colored Polo shirt passes for tradition, in which case I participated in two. But aside from the pastel pageantry and the Easter-morning phone call, there were no real practices of reflection, repentance, or reflection leading up to the brightest day of the year. There was no genuine discussion of the Good Friday crucifixion or the black and liminal Saturday before the breaking dawn. Easter was another Sunday, except we hustled to church twenty minutes earlier to beat the Chreasters (Christmas-and-Easter-only attenders) to the pews.

That, and my preacher called it “Resurrection Sunday.”

That, and I ate my weight in Cadbury Creme Eggs.

 

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***FEED THE BEAST***

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Resisting the Politics, Exploring the Beauty

This is how a new year comes: there is an anticipation, a countdown, the building tension in the room, a Happy New Year!, a kiss. It’s predictable if nothing else, maybe even cliché.

If cliché is the vehicle that carries us into the new year, it’s the alarm clock that jolts us out of bed the next morning, too. In our first real waking hours, those sleep-deprived hours of regret on January 1st (Why did I stay up till 2:00?) we turn to new clichés. And the January 1st cliché we love the most?

The annual creation of the new-habit-for-no-more-than-one-month resolution.

(Does it take more resolve to keep a resolution or to make it knowing it’ll be broken? Humans are nothing if not predictable.)

This year I set out to do things a little differently. Instead of the audacious disposable resolution, I set a few simple goals. They’re highly personal and written in my journal, and I don’t intend to share them all with you here. (Some are quite tedious.)  But among those goals-I-refuse-to-call-resolutions is this: I’d like to enter into the political antagonisms less on social media.

Why?

Yesterday, I put it like this:

The truth is, like so many, I found myself sucked into the Presidential vortex in 2017. As I found myself spinning into the black hole of the media–social and otherwise–I found nothing but angst, outrage, and a strong sense that our country is divided beyond repair. (What is a black hole but a soul sucking vacuum of despair?) What’s worse, I found myself addicted to the media, to scratching my need to feel that angst and outrage. I found myself stoking the division just so I could be on the right side.

In 2018, I’d rather not be part of that division. I’d rather be part of a more unifying collective, and what could be more unifying than beauty? So, as 2018 opens, as I push into a year-long exploration of what it means to be sober in my media use, I’ll put aside my knee-jerk responses to the presidential Twitter feed. When I feel the itch to enter those antagonisms, I’ll try my best to identify some beauty in the world around me. If you’ll indulge me, from time to time, I’ll share that beauty with you here.

Exploration of Beauty #1:

The arctic weather moved into Northwest Arkansas, and last week, I set out to capture it. Among the beautiful things I saw was this: tiny flowers, clustered against the cold, swinging in the wind as if tiny silver bells.

 

***FEED THE BEAST***

Do you like the content here or in my bi-monthly Tiny Letter? Do you read it over morning coffee? Want to help defray the costs of FEEDING THIS BEAST? JOIN ME in the lab, the fun factory, the place I try out new things to see if they’ll stick. (Ahem… my Patreon community.) For as little as $2 a month, you can get great content (and sweet rewards). And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, feel free to sign up below.

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The One That’s Not About Politics

Yesterday, I sent out the first edition of this month’s Tiny Letter. Why the wait? This one came together like a slow slog. Uphill. In a blizzard. Through a vat of tar. At 3:00 in the morning. On a Monday.

Brutal, eh?

It’s a piece that touches on the darkness of Advent, the Eucharist, and the best medicine in a world with out-of-control healthcare costs. I hope you’ll read along (excerpt below) by following this link and signing up.

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*Authors Note: Welcome to the TinyLetter it’s taken me a near-eternity to write. You may be tempted to believe this is political commentary, and as George Orwell said, “`In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues….” Please keep reading. This is not so much about politics as it is about this season, Advent.

1.

Advent crept up on me like a black cloud, an omen, a ghost, a specter. Some dark crack opened in the sidewalk, a seam in the everyday, and I was pulled headlong into it. It’s a dramatic sounding thing, but how else do you describe being chased by a feeling or falling into one? I don’t know.

It started when I began shopping for health insurance for my family. I’m a self-employed writer, and my Cobra coverage from the old nine-to-five is on the wane. I’d heard the Government flicked the neon Open sign on at healthcare.gov, so, I joined millions of other Americans in the great holiday tradition–pricing health care plans over a mug of egg nog.

(“There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and health care to buy don’t y’know.”)

I hoped to find an appropriate plan, one that afforded the same level of coverage as my existing Cobra plan. I filled out the forms, followed the prompts, and waited for the estimates to appear on the screen, and when they did, I nearly choked, then refreshed the screen. There had to be a mistake. My already too-expensive medical insurance was going up over thirty percent.

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***FEED THE BEAST***

Do you like the content here or in my bi-monthly Tiny Letter? Do you read it over morning coffee? Want to help defray the costs of FEEDING THIS BEAST? JOIN ME in the lab, the fun factory, the place I try out new things to see if they’ll stick. (Ahem… my Patreon community.) For as little as $2 a month, you can get great content (and sweet rewards). And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, feel free to sign up below.

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For Jude (Advent Poem #1)

I’m starting a little poetry series for these waning days of Advent. I’ll be posting a few here. For the entire series, join my Patreon community for as little as $2.00 a month.

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For Jude (Advent Poem #1)

A year will come when December looks less like Christmas and more like Advent, a hidden promise waiting in dark waters, a buried body sojourning in the womb of an immigrant woman, pregnant.

In that year of our Lord, childhood music will hollow out, and you will be left with the muted shells of drums, a memory frosted to fantasy, the want for the peace of staying.

When that day comes, know this: In the darkness, a great light shines, even if it is shrouded by the womb of a holy mother or held in two cupped hands, bread crumbs sprinkled on the chapel rug like stars scattered in the night,

either way, body of Christ in the world without end, Amen.

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The World’s Last Night (and an invitation)

If you’ve been hanging around these parts for any amount of time, you know what I’m about: reading; writing; exploring the world around me in light of the faith I carry. I dig good music. I read the poets I like. I share what I can, when I can, for the sake of my readers–you. I love every minute of it.

In the past months, I’ve curated a new space near and dear to my heart. It’s a space where I can lay down the bones of new poetry, stretch into longer form pieces (short stories and such), and share the work of some of my friends. It’s a small community, tight nit and committed, and I’m truly grateful for those who’ve already joined. They are my Patrons.

(Thanks, Darby, Mary, Beth, Linda, Erin, Joseph, Peggy, Ron, Leslie, Lisa, Dan, Erika, Claude, Janet, Dorothy, Ronald, William, Karoletha, Nigel, Adam, Diane, Cynda, Sari, Elaine, Diana, Adam, Todd, Jessica, Chloe, Scott, Tina, Tracy, Beth, Mike, Micah, Julie, Karen, Joyce, Christina, Shawn, Andi, Danette, and Steve. Whew…)

This month, a story I wrote for my Patreon community was picked up by Fathom Magazine. It’s one of my favorite pieces of the year, a thing I’m considering stretching into a novella. Today, I’m posting an excerpt of it here. If you enjoy it, and if you’d like early access to more work like this, consider joining my Patreon community (if you do, there are some great rewards). I think you’ll enjoy it.

Now, enjoy my latest piece, a Patreon piece published in Fathom, “The World’s Last Night.”

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The World’s Last Night.

Part 1: The Ballerina

The world’s last night came as a black surprise with its low groan, its fiery canisters, its torch-bearing ants marching. It came ribbonless, boxless, a series of presents carried in the bellies of airplanes. It came and unwrapped itself.

Poppy lived in the building tension before the world’s last night, the years then months then days then hours then minutes that tremored like an old man’s hand. Slight as she was, she felt this tremor though she couldn’t name it. How do you name an inkling, an intuition?

Patron, her father, was one of the seven governors of Urdun, an unimportant man with an important title. He was the manager of the Waterworks, the plant at the mouth of the river that bore the town’s name. The Chancellor had once called Patron an honorable man at the annual Convocation, though even at twelve, Poppy knew these were the simple platitudes given to ordinary men at Convocation or funerals. That was the day the Chancellor pinned Patron with an unshiny medal, a bland brass star, named him a governor, and gave him the task of overseeing the purification of the waters piped into the city. The people at Convocation clapped automatically before making their way back to their brick buildings, their businesses of necessity not choice.

He saved all his words for Poppy, he’d said, which made her blush and beam.

Patron—not his birth name, but the name everyone called him, even Poppy—spoke to others only on rare occasions, and then only when necessary. The girl once asked why he was so often statue-silent. He saved all his words for Poppy, he’d said, which made her blush and beam. She knew this to be true; Patron was a man of his word if anything. So, in the evenings, after supper and a bit of reading, he’d make his way to Poppy’s bedside, tuck her in, and spill all those saved words. With them, he’d spin stories of the Ballerina.

Each night the story began the same. The Ballerina was a figurine, Patron said…

 

Continue reading at Fathom.

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