Archive for category: Uncategorized

The Wedding of Weddings

There are things you hear at every Christian wedding:  the two shall become one flesh; what God has joined let no man put asunder; Christ will come for his bride.

The coming of Christ for the bride–this is a cosmic wonder. See him, the groom, waiting for the woman in white, composed of all of us, saints and sinners alike. See the witnesses, the stars and moon, the sister planets, the grasses of the field standing at attention. “Here it comes,” they whisper, “the end of all that groaning.” Hear the scriptures as they lead the ceremony, the vows, the pronouncement.

He leans in for the hot-mouthed kiss. We receive it. (Isn’t it passion that purifies?)

There is a delicate oneness, the bride and the Christ becoming one in that apocalyptic moment. And this is the moment you understand–this is why Christ left his father in the first place; isn’t it? Didn’t he come to make a way for our cleaving, the oneness that is the fulfillment of all things? Didn’t he try to tell us this the first time? And there, in that delicate understanding, he spins us. There, we all dance.

The great Christ leans in and whispers something saved for us from the beginning of all time, then releases us to his Father, our Father–hallowed be his name. He takes our hand.

There is the full-throated laughter we know, though we’ve never heard it. It’s the laughter that comes only at the end of one life and the beginning of another. It’s the joy of perfection throwing its head back with unbridled joy. Love has woken us from the long and dark winter of longing.

***WHAT IS PATREON?***

Do you like the content here or in my Tiny Letter? Then I’d like to invite you to join my Patreon community. What is Patreon? It’s a way for you, the reader, to become a patron, a person supporting the arts (my art to be precise), and receive EXCLUSIVE CONTENT in return. What kind of content? Visit my Patreon page for more information. 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.

powered by TinyLetter

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Cultivating Contentment

Life has loops. Recurring dreams. Déjà vu. The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.(1) The record player needle hits the dust spot and skips back a second; it happens again and again and again. Loops, loops, and more loops—this is the way of conversation for me these days.

In the last two weeks, I’ve had a recurring conversation, a conversation on repeat. I’ve had this looped conversation with a businessmen, a housewife, a part-time spiritual director, and a few folks on social media, and each time, it started with the same way; they asked this question: How did you give up your day-to-day job to pursue something you love? (In my case, the day-to-day job was lawyering and the thing I love is writing, editing, and working with words.) They lean in after asking the question as if I might whisper the same secret life whispered to me just before I left my 12-year career. The question behind the question, the one they weren’t asking, was more akin to this: How did you get the gumption to leave the daily grind, the nine-to-five, The Man?

The question kept coming, and coming, and coming, until I could almost predict where it would come next. Recurring. Recurring. Recurring. And each time, I fumbled out some incomplete, perhaps incoherent answer about guts, or open doors, or courage. Each time, my answer rang hollow as an echo.

Want to keep reading? Sign up to receive my bi-monthly newsletter.

 

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Lying Under the Invisibility Cloak (A Vocational Question)

Relevance, validation, affirmation—if we’re honest, don’t most of us want these? If we’re honest, don’t most of us hope to find these in our careers, our vocations, our workplaces? The more pious might chime in here, might say, “I only seek relevance and validation in the eyes of The One,” and perhaps that’s true (for them). But my life-experience has taught me something about the things we say: so often we use our words like fresh paint (as if there’s no rust underneath) or reverse psychology (as if we can say ourselves into believing) or invisibility cloaks (as if we can hide our human frailty under fantasy and magic).

The desire to be seen, known, and recognized as successful is as human as breathing. It grows from ego, sure, but weren’t we all created with an ego (which most certainly ensures our survival)? But the play of modern career–doesn’t it exacerbate the ego’s already voracious appetite?

Allow me to answer that last question for you. Yes.

This, I think, is why it’s high time we said the true thing instead of the right (i.e., the marketable) thing. And here’s the true thing, at least for me: I want you to see me as a relevant, successful, and important as I go about my craft, my career. (I said as much on Tuesday.)

For three days, now, I’ve been noodling on vocation, relevance, irrelevance, and success. As much as I’d love for you to see this noodling as a poignant, maybe even novel work on the topic, let me be clear: this is not new stuff. (Is there anything new under the sun?) There are others who’ve written competent volumes on the ways in which our vocational aspirations so often fall prey to the ego. Consider vocational guru Victor Frankl’s statement about vocational success from his book Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Don’t aim at success [or relevance, or validation, or affirmation]. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. … [S]uccess, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

(The bracketed language is my own, but seems a fitting addition.)

See?

Success, relevance, validation—none of these things are ends. They are so often outside our control, even if we’d like to pretend that hard work and talent will bring us the goods. These byproducts–they come if they come (or on occasion, if you have the money to buy them), but if they do not, c’est la vie. Sometimes vocational success isn’t in the cards.

So, I can’t make you confront your lesser angel of ego, but I can lead you to purer water. And here’s how I’ll lead: I’ll be honest with the ways my ego drives my work, and I’ll say the true thing even if it’s not the thing I should say. In that confession, I’ll try my best to reach toward what Frankl calls serving a cause greater than myself or surrendering to a person other than myself. Maybe this will set me (even you?) on the proper vocational course. What is that course?

Let’s explore that tomorrow. See you then?

*

As I work through this short series on vocation, please feel free to invite others along.  I know I’m not alone in my questions on this topic, and I’d love to hear how you and your people are processing your own vocational questions.

 

***TINY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE***

The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

powered by TinyLetter

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Are You Real?

I put off reading A.W. Tower’s The Pursuit of God for almost twenty years. (I suppose my years are showing.) Yesterday, I cracked the spine, and there I read some of the most beautiful writing on experiencing the presence of God. One passage in particular–a passage on the real man–captured me. Today, I’m recasting that passages in my own words.

I suppose the foundational question for today’s piece is this: In a digital world, a world of avatars and personal branding, what does it mean to be real?

***

The Simple Real.

There are simple, devout men and women who know the solid state of the world around them—the atoms that build molecules, the molecules that hold hands, link arms, come together in the solidarity of the ground, the ice crystal, the rose bush, this desk. In the morning, they feel the firm mattress, the cold stone floor, the cool water on the washcloth. They know the secret—this is the real world, not a world of bytes, or megabytes, or terabytes. Could the recognition of this solidarity be divine wisdom? Could it be the antidote to doubt? Yes; just ask them.

Be like him, the man who stands in the dirt, wind in his hair, rain soaking impenetrable skin, pointing always to what is real. Be the woman who cannot bear to look at the burning sun, who always gazes at night’s unhid stars. Be like them, the father and daughter dancing to the band’s song.

Know their fear—lightning splitting the forest with fire, the thunder that rattles the brain. Remember the pain of your wife as your firstborn divided her, divided time; remember how soon that pain melted into joy. Remember the pain of your husband after the layoff, the way his joy in the new gig is unmatched. (This river of joy and pain–what could be more real?) Eat; drink; taste; touch. Go into your yard in the early evening; lie in the grass; know that the ground is a place for rooting, for building actual things. Tomorrow, that ground will still be there, as it was the day before, and the day before that. It will be there when you close your eyes. It will be there when you no longer breath. Live in the perpetuity of that ground; take joy in it. Sing praise.

***

Original quote by A.W. Tozer:

“The sincere plain man knows that the world is real. He finds it here when he wakes to consciousness, and he knows that he did not think it into being. … By the deep wisdom of life, he is wiser than a thousand men who doubt. He stands upon the earth and feels the wind and rain in his face and he knows that they are real. He sees the sun by day and the stars by night. He sees the hot lightning play out of the dark thundercloud. He hears the sound of nature and cries of human joy and pain. These he knows are real. He lies down on the cool earth at night and has no fear that it will prove illusory or fail him while he sleeps. In the morning the firm ground will be under him, the blue sky above him and the rocks and trees around him as when he closed his eyes the night before. So he lives and rejoices in a world of reality.”

 

***TINY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE***

The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

powered by TinyLetter

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Spring Questions – Exercise Your Observer

Spring’s annual resurrection has come to the Ozarks, and as is her way, she’s sprinkled her pixie dust over the dry bones of winter. The red buds have woken; she’s uncorked the sweet and sour perfume of the Bradford Pear trees. She’s called the songbirds back from Mexico, or Texas, or wherever. She’s cleaned up the boughs, prepared a place for them. Each morning I hear the cardinals and robins singing as if every tree were an avian cabaret.

The air is thick with the spring’s hope, and as I’m prone to do each year, I find myself prone to the spring questions. (Sung to the tunes of the songbirds.)

How can a cardinal be so chipper?

How do I describe the new, almost Laffy-Taffy purple of the young redbud?

Where do tiger lilies come from; how do they seem to spring from nowhere each year?

How can I observe this season with intention?

How can I stay present to it?

That last question–the question of presence–it is the trickiest one. And yet, this is the first and best spring of 2017. It will come with new life, give birth to summer, then pass like the mother mayfly. This fleeting season deserves presence, attention, examination, observation.

Why?

If a season visits and the people fail to observe it, what was its visitation but an exercise in the perfunctoriness of nature and the incurious self-centeredness of men?

Tell me.

 

***TINY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE***

The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

powered by TinyLetter

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.