Tag Archive for: Humanity

Psalm #19 (Spring Stones)

Last night I had a brief exchange with a friend, a good woman who speaks timely words. We were discussing the status of public discourse, especially in concern to matters of faith. I said that I was growing weary of the endless battle royale, the endless war of words that has taken to the hallowed halls of the internetShe replied with a simple statement: this week I’m reminded that God (and the church) are bigger than the internet.

Wiser, more nuanced words haven’t been spoken to me in some time.

Last night I considered us, this grand swath of humanity. We are more than digital arguments, avatars, and coded bits and blips, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.

*****

Psalm #19 (Spring Stones)

I.
In the turning over of spring’s stones
I see the unfurled woodlouse, unafraid,
the lichen that lives best undisturbed,
and the soil that is the medium
of our genesis.

From dust I came
and dust will be my home.

II.
There was once a Great Awakening
that started with clay and God,
and it knew nothing of
one thousand pixel bosoms,
or men whom, in their pyromaniacal fits
burned every expendable,
sexable good down
to its consumable, silicone dust.

We were created clay paupers,
at once began collecting orgasmic baubles.

III.
If there were a man who could be all
to everyone, he would not be a man
but a god. These are the days
of the every-god,
god the terrible, god the kind,
god the electronic omnipresent,
god the straight, god the gay,
the ever opinionated, sometimes quiet
unjust semi-sovereign.

These are the days when men turn over
stones in spring and see only dirt, forgetting
that the soil is our cousin.

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

Listener, Take 3: Ozark Failures

Welcome to Take 3 of our Listener reaction. This week, a few of us are taking different pieces from the band Listener and writing what comes to mind. Have you checked out Take 1, and Take 2?

Today, I tackle two pieces, “Ozark Empire,” and “Failing is Not Just for Failures.”

**This is a piece of short FICTION.

***

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyTejjdHejs]

They mailed his last shred of dignity to him in 2007, a severance check for two weeks pay and letter signed “cordially.” He never got up from that chin shot. It crushed him.

He ran his office like a well oiled machine, allowed himself no indulgences except for the yearly hot rod calendar that was thumb-tacked to his felt covered wall. He kept his papers at right angles, kept his email inbox clean. “These are the things valued by the corporation,” he told me once.

Dad raised me on a steady diet of do-right. “Play the part,” he said, “tie a double windsor, floss regularly, and by God, keep your blood pressure in check.” Dad was risk averse, content to blend in. He ate less than he killed and always kept a storehouse for the lean years.

We were all surprised by the layoff. It was “company wide,” the nightly news reported, but some of his co-workers had kept their cubicles. Dad didn’t fight, just cashed his check and sank into a deep chair on his back porch for ten months. His jet-black hair grew long, grew until it curled in the back. He read an old collection of Sherlock Holmes, drank a daily sixer of PBR, and watched the blue jays. He slept.

Twice a week, I brought Dad supper and we talked about politics–Dad was a hopeless republican–or the economy. One night in February he told me, “I’m thinking about calling this ‘early retirement.’ I’ve got enough, and if I draw SSI….” His voice trailed.

“You can’t just hang it up,” Dad.

“Can’t I?” He pushed carrots around with his butter knife. There was a moment of silence before he unraveled.

“I’ve been thinking, son. You gotta shake things up as hard as you can. Don’t play it down the middle, make some noise. You have to push and push and push your way up. Push until you’re so close to the top that no one can pull you down. You’ve got to take it by horns.”

He took a slug of PBR. “I just don’t have that kind of energy any more. ”

I stared at my plate, mashed my potatoes under my fork.

“You understand, son?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. But what I wanted to say was, “I lost my best friend to sadness.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIZm11T49yA]

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

Present in the City, Part 2

This is the second and final part of my Present in the City series. For part one (and the back story), read here.  To download the audio of the Cobblestone Project’s panel discussion at Present in the City, click here  and find the panel discussion link (it worth giving a listen; my wife’s on there).

***

The cabby’s name was Lawrence.  He asked “whereto, boss?”  I gave him the address of my hotel and sunk into the rich pleather seat.  He asked where I was from and I told him Arkansas. He sighed, “ah…” and then slowly pronounced “Ar-Can-Saas; yes, I know Ar-Can-Saas.”

“Oh really, how’s that?” I said, feigning interest.

“My wife is from Ar-Can-Saas.”

Trying to make small talk, I asked how they met.  He said, “that’s a long story boss, but lucky for you we have a little time.”

“Yes, lucky for me,” I thought.

Lawrence was the black sheep of a wealthy Syrian family.  He had come to the United States for college, dithered about for six years, met an American woman, and fell in love.  When his father demanded that he return home, he refused.  Instead, he married and started his own family.

Lawrence’s daughter was born with a significant heart defect.  The doctors pronounced that she would require a lifetime of medical attention.  When Lawrence’s daughter was a teenager,  he accidentally failed to send a monthly insurance payment.  The insurance company canceled the policy and refused to issue new coverage for his daughter.  Her heart defect would constitute a preexisting condition under the new policy, they said.  The mistake would cost Lawrence thousands of dollars and would ultimately ring the death knell for his marriage.

“My wife took everything, boss.  Everything but the medical bills.  She left me with every single cent of those.”

“I’m sorry, man.”  I meant it, but it didn’t seem enough.  It seemed hollow, cavalier.

“I guess it’s all history.  If I had not divorced, I would not have met my new wife.  She is a good woman. She is getting her bachelor’s degree in a medical field.  I am driving sometimes fourteen hours a day to put her through school.  And,” he said demonstratively as he placed his right pointer finger in the air, “she is from your state.  Do you know her family?”  Inferring that everyone in Arkansas is well acquainted, he told me her last name.  I informed him that I did not know a single French Arkansan.  He said that was a pity because French Arkansans are very good at love.  He chuckled.

“Any kids?” I asked.

“No, not yet.  We are fifteen years apart in age.  We are happy together, and I am not sure she wants kids.  But, she is good to me, anyway.”

We pulled into the hotel parking lot and he swiped my credit card.  I told him thanks for the lift, told him to take care of his wife.  He said, “I will boss.  Enjoy your stay.”

I entered the hotel lobby wondering if even half of Lawrence’s story was true.  I’m not really sure whether that matters.  The truth is, everyone loves a good second chance story; everyone wants to believe that there is love in the end.

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

Present in the City, Part 1

On Wednesday night, The Cobblestone Project hosted Present in the City, an event to encourage engagement in local community.  Mike Foster of People of the Second Chance was invited to speak on the topic of grace. The night ended with a panel discussion.  Foster, Amber (my wife), and a local preacher comprised the panel.

***

Amber sat on the center stool quietly, almost solemnly, between Mike Foster, and the local minister.  It was a panel discussion on grace, and Amber had confessed her nervousness to me the night before.  ”What can I say of grace apart from Christ?” she asked.  ”What if I’m too evangelical, or too mystical, or  too emotional?  What if I can’t open my mouth, can’t squeak out the truth?”

“There’s grace for that,” I said, which seemed somehow inadequate or dismissive.

“I know.  I just wish you were going to be there.”

“Me too.”

After Foster finished delivering the keynote on radical, dangerous, all-consuming grace, the panel was seated.  I, being some 600 miles away on a business trip, sat in a coffee shop connected to a live video stream of the whole affair.  It’s times like these when I think that technology is a grace, indeed.

Amber opened the panel recounting a bit of our story.  Ours has not been the straightest of paths, and she gave a two minute overview.  She used unflattering words to describe our meanderings.  I won’t repeat them here because much of that is her story to tell, but she painted the picture clearly.  She said, “I am grace’s worst offender.”  As an ambulance screamed past the coffee shop window I thought, “yeah, me too.”

Amber ceded the floor to the local minister, who set grace in almost unexpectedly concrete terms, and when his introduction was finished, the soundbites starting rolling.

–Forgiveness is grace with clothes on (Foster);

–I hold on to that verse that it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Foster);

–Our experience of grace give us authority to speak of it, to live it out (Amber);

–Grace means more than forgiveness.

It might be tempting to discount these snippets as trite platitudes levied for the benefit of an attention deficit culture. Tweetable moments, maybe.  Facebook status fillers. In the gravity of that moment, though, they were more significant.

As the weight of grace blanketed that room, as it moved across a Starbucks wifi connection, I suddenly wished I were with my wife and my friends.  I wished I were with the the adulterers,  the covetous, the pornographers, the thieves, the gossips, the snarkists, the slovenly, and the workaholics.  I wanted to be with the do-gooders, the peace bearers, the quiet, and the humble, too.  I knew that I was missing a tethering moment–something potentially galvanizing.

The panelists answered the last question, and the live stream ended.  I finished my latte and exited the coffee shop.  I held the door for an entering college student.  She was led by a service dog.  She turned to me, eyes landing somewhere to the left of my chin and staring into nothing.  She smiled wide and said, “thank you kind sir,” in her best faux Southern Belle accent.  I told her that she was most welcome, and added “ma’am” with a slight drawl.  She giggled and shrugged awkwardly leaving me on a bustling downtown street.  As I hailed a taxi, I reckoned that every interaction is an opportunity to recognize and extend some small grace.

And that’s the moment when I wondered whether it’s grace that holds this whole thing together.

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

The Cushite Photo

Deep in the heart of nomad country, an old clan leader asked if we would help him carry a briar bed to his compound.  His goat pen was running a bit sparse and there had been hyenas casing the joint. These were good thorns, long and sharp, good pastoralist barbed wire.  We agreed, so he hoisted the brush atop the luggage rack and held on to the Cruiser’s ladder.  It was only a couple hundred meters, he said in his Cushite language.

I think of  Moses’ father-in-law.  Was he small and wispy like this clan leader?  Did he light a fire at the midnight heckle of the hyenas?  Was he a thorn dweller; did he make gates from desert quills?

I wonder about Moses.  Those years before he turned the Nile to blood, did he wander with the camels?  Did he rediscover his nomadic roots, the roots of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  What better preparation for a forty year wandering, I think.

We find the clan leaders hut and he unloads the thorns.  He looks at me, sizes me up and points to my camera.  He smiles broadly, laughs,and asks the translator if I could take his photograph.  I oblige.

Then, he reaches for the camera, takes it from my neck with authority, and turns the lens to me.  He holds the body a foot away from his eye, tries his best to frame me up.  I half push the shutter button, in part to focus, in part to teach him how to capture a picture.  He presses and the camera fires.  He jumps a bit, surprised by the click.  He sees the image display on the back of the camera and laughs with an ancient joy.

These people, they are good.

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

© Copyright - Seth Haines