Meet my friend, Water Carton Wilson. He’s a hip kid. I wrote about him this week for The High Calling.
Meet my friend, Water Carton Wilson. He’s a hip kid. I wrote about him this week for The High Calling.
Amber and I are writing these marriage letters again, because we need them. You can read Amber’s letter here. (And make sure to visit her blog for the full story of Marriage Letters.)
“The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.”
― Saint Irenaeus
In the spring of love, you were newborn.
We met in an Ozark autumn when all the leaves were brilliant hues of dying. You were a flash fire, a combustible woman who was coming to all things with the new eyes of fresh faith. It had been only weeks since you’d lost your first child, an unplanned one, and months since you’d last tempted death with a rolled up dollar bill and a white line. It was October, and you were phoenix, a woman rising with colors more brilliant than the Ozark fall.
We fell in love while you were awaking to a new mysticism, a way of living that saw the Spirit in all things, in scripture, in music, in the way the wind blew, how it whipped through the breezeway of Cathcart Hall, how it spoke things to you like love. On our first date, you said, “I smoke cigarettes and have panic attacks,” a vulnerable confession meant to induce me to run if, indeed, I would. Behind the words, though, was something recognizable; it was the fire of a kindred revolutionary, of a person who wants to live an honest life.
You had me at cigarettes and panic attacks.
You came alive that semester, and once you asked me if you were becoming Baptist. Such a thing was an unspeakable confession at a Church of Christ school, so you passed the question to me on a napkin at the coffee shop. You were trying to name the thing you were becoming. If I could go back, I reckon I’d tell you that you were not, in fact, becoming Baptist. Instead, you were becoming most alive.
A woman fully alive is an intoxicating sight to behold; a woman fully alive is one intoxicated by beholding God.
I wish it could be said that these red-hot holy fires never dimmed. This, though, would be revisionist history. In fact, it’d be revisionist history for any soul to deny the ebbs and flows of full life, the shadows that sometimes obscure the light behind the eyes. Even phoenixes turn to ash every now and again.
This fire, though, I saw it rekindled in the last few years. The first sparks of it came from the flint of confession. You had coddled resentments and hidden betrayals like a sick child, you told me. You asked for my forgiveness, as if I had another choice.
As old Jimmy said, you found healing in the confession. You took the sparks from that confession, fanned them into flame. You devoured scripture like a hollow-stomached child whose digestive tract empties into a hollow leg devours food. You outed yourself to the grand-wide church body, spoke of the healing found in confession. You met with women, ministered, prayed. You wrote. You learned to be reborn.
I’ve considered the question over the last few days: when are you most alive? I suppose it would be easy to say that you are most alive when you are writing. When you dig into words, I see fresh intensity, how you create metaphor from whole cloth and spin yarns better than any southern granny in a rocker. It would be easy to say, too, that you are most alive when you are preaching. (Aren’t you always preaching?) You have such an unassuming vulnerability, such a way of connecting, of speaking truth without alienating.
Yes, I see you spring to life in the writing, in the preaching. But these things are only byproducts, I think. This life flows from your unmitigated bent toward honest confession.
True life is not all spitfire and epiphany. True life is not all white-cloth tea parties and theological certitudes. True life is not in a perfect marriage and well-smocked children. True life comprises joy and pain, loyalty and betrayal, harboring and confession. You know this better than most, which is why, I think, you are most alive in confession. And when I say confession, I’m not only speaking of the confession of sin, that sort of soul-bearing that old Jimmy talks about in his fifth chapter. You become most alive in the outward expression of all facets of your own vulnerable humanity. Whether writing, preaching, or mother, the light in your eyes blazes when you explore joy, pain, faith, doubt, abundance, and scarcity.
Yes, you come most alive in the honest exposition.
You are exploding with light these days, a woman fully awake in so many ways. You are more alive than ever, and I look back on the spring of our love and wonder if we were only half-awake. (Granted, half-awake is better than not awake at all; you have to start somewhere.)
You are burning hotter and hotter these days, and I’m watching, and watching, and watching. It’s true: a woman fully alive is an intoxicating sight to behold. You are an intoxicating woman.
(Turn the coffee pot on, would ya?),
SethWant to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.
I’ve started a scavenger hunt of sorts. I’ve taken it as a personal challenge to find one good photograph a week. And here’s how good photos are found--they are hunted down and captured.
This week, I snagged the above image of Titus and Jude. I had taken the boys to the park, and while Isaac was playing basketball and Ian was playing who-knows-what in the fort under the slide, Titus asked Jude to push him in the swing. Jude is a good big brother, the always accommodating sort, especially when it comes to Titus.
Ah, Titus! (For the latest news, click here.)
We’ve been in the throws of packing another house for another move, only this time we did it with trepidation. It looks like we’re in house limbo again because, as it turns out, when you build your house upon Ozark stone, things have a tendency to shift. That’s how our lives seem to be, lately. Always shifting.
Want to shift with me this weekend? Let’s jump ship here, visit a few good links.
1. I’m a sucker for a good writing tip. This week, the Atlantic shares an Uncomfortable Trick for Honest Writing: Staring at Strangers. The trick is exactly as it sounds. Writers, pay attention.
“I stare at people all the time, because I like to imagine their lives by looking into their faces, looking at their eyes. You can tell so much just from a person’s face.”
2. Speaking of uncomfortable, I have some sage advice, which I garnered from this piece by James Bryant: when people make you uncomfortable, block them. Block them on Twitter. Block them on Facebook. Put them on your blacklist. Whatever you do, do not engage in mutually beneficial dialogue. Just block away! This, as it turns out, is the marketing strategy of economic guru and arm-chair theologian Dave Ramsey. For more helpful brand-building wisdom and social media tips, check out Bryant’s piece.
Its what we always do with a thing we love. Get dependent on it. Then we’re terrified when its not around anymore.
Boy, don’t I know the feeling. This, however, isn’t a poem about liquor or stuff. This is something wholly different. It’s about living. Don’t miss it.
I’m posting this because I miss my friend Water Box Wilson. He’ll be making an appearance next week. Keep your eyes peeled.
There are few things that I love more in this life than discussing music. This week, I had a bit of a quandary: what kind of classical music do my friends like the most? I posted it on Facebook, and the response was both overwhelming and entertaining. The discussion has resulted in this playlist, a list which includes a selection from each person in the thread. I call the playlist, “Music to Make You More Smarter.”
I hope it works.
Keeping with the theme, check out this video featuring Ludovico Einaudi. (Hat tip to Buddy Black for this piece.) It’s long, but incredible. Enjoy.Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.
I am a cereal guy.
When I was a youngster, I devoured the stuff, descended upon any unopened cereal box like the locusts of Joel. It was all fair game, too. Chex, Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms–they all made the rotation. In fact, if cereal boxes could talk, they’d probably put me on their “Most Wanted” list; I was a serial cereal murderer.
Knowing my penchant for baked grains and milk, my parents kept multiple boxes in the house, each of which could be further categorized in one of two ways: morning cereal, the kind that comprises a healthy part of your well-balanced breakfast; and, cartoon-emblazoned boxes of sugary crunch for what they called “grazing.”
Yes. I was an insatiable beast of a boy, a kid with a ravenous appetite who ate more than any buffalo on any mid-western range. I grazed after school, while watching “The Cosby Show” or “Full House,” and most often, before bed.
As they say, old habits die hard, and at thirty-six, I still nurse a hankering for a hearty bowl of cereal at the end of every night. I’d like to say that my tastes have changed, that I don’t crave a good bowl of Lucky Charms every now and then. But no matter how strong the craving may be, my metabolism isn’t what it used to be. So, I generally avoid the more sugary offerings, keep it all above board.
That is, until this week.
It all started with a Facebook post in which I was discussing the recurring tug-of-war with my desire to eat a night-time bowl of cereal. I found I was not alone. In fact, a great many of us enjoy a hearty bowl while winding down the evening in our most favorite reading chair. Some of the old fogeys keep it plain–Wheaties, milk, spoon. Others, though, vacillate between making the healthy choice and making the more childlike ones. (Ain’t that the way of the world?) In any event, Jill Terrell harms and I were extolling the virtues of both Chex and Lucky Charms when she had what I like to refer to as a brain typhoon. (Click photo to enlarge.)
It was nothing short of a stroke of genius. Combine the wholesome goodness of Chex with the magical marshmallow flair of Lucky Charms? Now we’re talking!
I couldn’t stop thinking of the General Mills mashup, and so, a few nights later I decided to give it a go. It took some dedication, sure. (It’s amazing what sobriety will do for one’s dedication quotient.) After all, it’s not easy to pick out an entire bowl’s worth of Lucky Charm bits. But as they say, nothing worth doing is worth doing half-way. And so, employing good old fashioned American ingenuity, I created the following Frankencereal. (It’s ALIVE!)
What’s more? It lived up to my expectations. The first spoonful was like a home-coming of sorts. The whole-grain goodness of the Chex, the smattering of marshmallow charms–oh what a foretaste of glory divine!
Unfortunately, what I’m now referring to as FrankenCharms (or “Lucky Harms,” after my brain-typhooning friend Jill Harms ) is not available on the market. It’s true; I could package a batch and send it to you Fed-Ex for a small fee. I’ll give you a fair warning, though; the street price for a kilo might be a bit rich for your blood. And sure, you could go through the time and effort to home-brew your own batch. I’m proposing an alternative, though–a letter-writing campaign.
Dear General Mills,
Consider the people, the good adults of this grand and wide world. Our tastes have matured (for the most part). We love the understated crunch of your corn Chex, your rice Chex, your wheat Chex. But here’s a secret: most of us miss the marshmallow charms of old. And so, on behalf of my constituency, I respectfully request a cereal mashup, a cereal suicide of sorts. Chex Charms–it’s your next big thing. And when you brew the first batch, I’ll take a case.
An overly impassioned plea? Maybe. But a boy can always dream.Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.
It is a wonder to watch your boys turning headlong into adolescence.
On Saturday, we visited the park, where the younger boys made good use of the playground as Isaac practiced basketball. I watched him dribbling, he trying to cross the ball between his legs, trying to do all the tricks of the professional trade.
“Can you help me learn the spider drill?” he asked as he squatted over the ball.
“Sure,” I said, and he passed me the ball. I squatted low, dribbled the ball between my legs, first in the front–right hand, left hand–then in the back–right hand, left hand. The sight would be awkward to any passerby, a thirty-six year old squatting over a ball and practicing ball-handling drills with a third-grader. I don’t suppose I dreamed I’d ever do the spider drill after high school. Some skills, though, the good Lord allows you to maintain so that you can pass them down the line.
Across the playground, Jude was pushing Titus in the swing. Titus was strapped in with a shoulder harness, and Jude pushed him higher and higher. The two were laughing so hard that I was concerned they might pass out from oxygen deprivation. Ian was in the swing next to them, belly down, flying through the air and yelling, “dum, dum, dah, dah! Superman!”
I don’t suppose I ever dreamed it would work out this way, me the father of four boys. I don’t suppose I ever considered how full a life can be.
Shawn sent me the book a few weeks ago, and I plowed through it, unable to put it down. Refuse to Drown is set against the backdrop of a triple homicide that occurred in Manheim Township, PA, in 2007. The brutal murders were perpetrated by Alec Kreider, son of the book’s author, Tim Krieder. Through a series of events that culminated in Alec’s being committed to a mental health facility, Tim discovered his son’s involvement in the crime and was faced with an unthinkable decision. Would he betray his son’s trust; would he turn his son into the authorities?
It is a jarring, startling, up-ending sort of graceful read. It’s the story of murder, yes; even more, though, it’s the story of coming home, of a man finding faith through unbending love and forgiveness.
As I read the book, I considered Tim as a young father, he pushing Alec in the swing, or teaching him basketball drills. I considered him watching Alec open presents on Christmas, or cooking pancakes for him on Saturday morning. I considered the everyday, mundane tasks of raising children, considered the joy in watching a child grow into adolescence. And this is when the book sunk its teeth into me, where it took hold and wouldn’t let go.
Couldn’t I find myself in Tim’s position on day? Isn’t he a normal dad just like so many of us?
There is a strange solidarity hiding in the pages of Refuse to Drown. I suppose it is some kind of recognition that this story could be mine, could be any of ours, really. It was the recognition of kindred values, of enduring love and boundless forgiveness. As I read the book, and with every turn of the page, I found myself offering a prayer for the book’s author, for his family, for the family of the victims. I suppose that’s what solidarity does.
If you have a little discretionary income taking up space in your piggy bank, grab a copy of Refuse to Drown. It might change the way you pray for your children, sure; but there is no doubt it will change the way you pray for your neighbor.Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.