Living Within Tension vs. Living With Intention?

The English language is intriguing, unruly; often unpredictable. Sometimes when lost in thought, I find thoughts. Then I text those thoughts to myself. The above title is one, and instead of texting it to myself, I sent it to my wife.

My text: Ponder this: Living within tension. Living with intention.

Her response: Ponderation in action.

Me: Lol

Say the two phrases out loud. Tricky, eh?

Seriously though, without getting too intense about these two phrases, I’m still pondering. I want so much for those twin thoughts, though fraternal, to be identical. I desire for them to get along. Could they be a both/and instead of an either/or? I mean, it was a catchy catch, don’t you think?

On the other hand, what’s the big deal if they are stand-alone ideas? Each thought has possibilities for a commencement speech. A preacher could give a three point sermon on either of them. But throw these two together in a dark alley and who knows. Would they make nice? Would they rumble like Sharks and Jets?

I don’t know. It seems my mind is constantly on the lookout for resolution, for binary ideas to, in the end, cohere. The ole happily-ever-after backdrop slowly cranking by the chaos of life to keep hope on the up and up.

Now, before you write me off as a fuddy-duddy pessimist, consider the possibility that the tension within which I live is like a kindred soul. It’s like one who tells you you’re full of it, grabs you by the ankles, holds your feet to the fire, and then washes them as Jesus would.

If you have a friend like that, consider yourself fortunate.

Tension. Intention. Can they coexist? More to the point, can one exist without the other? There is a risk of living intentionally, no? I mean the best of intentions sometimes get caught in the gears of the tension. Does the tension drive the intention or is it the other way around? Wait. What?

Two philosophers walk into a bar… (That’s to ease the tension.)

Recently my wife mentioned I set my jaw often, almost like I’m biting the side of my lip. It’s as if my lips fix in tension, one on top of the other, almost touching, like Clint Eastwood.  Now I notice when her eyes say to my mouth, “Don’t think too hard.”

Thinking is overrated sometimes, but underrated most of the time. My thinkery often breaks down, but once in a while, by the grace of God, I’m able to lay rails down; parallel seemingly resistant thoughts into a semblance of coherence.

Here’s one for all the life coaches out there:

Live with intention within the tension.

Do it Gerald.

After You

I remember when poetry came so easy.

A shaft of light tapping my shoulder.

Creases laying lines on my face after a nap.

Another age spot showing up like a ring on a tree.

 

The Muse used to be after me.

 

Poetry would help me catch my breath.

Water pooled around my imagination,

Whetting appetites and desire.

Now I have to ask to be free.

 

The Muse used to be after me.

 

It’s easier now to write about poetry

Rather than unravel words to a poem.

You know, those wending subtle slants

Infusing linear thought like soil over seed.

 

The Muse used to be after me.

 

Well, I’m asking now for you to say

“Look at how the petals play.

They hold hands around the yellow pill.

A daisy is a daisy is a daisy still.”

 

Now I say to the Muse, “After you.”

 

Barn Swallows

They’ve been back a few weeks,

bringing joy to our open field.

Tap dancers on tufts of spring breezes,

short spurts of song attending.

 

Slipping in and out of our barn,

nests are sprigged, and detailed

for another generation of acrobats;

those aeronautical exemplars of sky.

 

Cats lean against the door.

I imagine cigarettes bobbing

out of their mouths, as they discuss

the exploits of the day.

 

Their disregard for field mice,

those punks, beads for eyes,

little pipsqueaks of manic form.

So cat cliché, so old school.

 

Then a Cheshire grin settles

under their whiskers as

they look up with angel eyes

of insidious intent.

 

Feline felons in wait.

Butts are tossed, while

crouching coils their springs.

Hopes of swallowing a swallow.

 

I’ve never seen cats jump so high.

Soundings

Caught in a crevasse,

In the lows between

Two rogues.

Who directs these,

And how am I here?

 

This ocean cannot be

Fathomed as the

Heavens cannot

Be crossed.

To whom do I belong?

 

The temptation is to jump.

Man overboard, Man

Over bored.

Whether Jesus lays asleep

In the hold,

 

Or walks on the water’s

Lips, arms out,

Out of the pseudo safety

Of a lifeboat.

Is there any question now?

Statements

The straightest point between

Two lines a short distance.

 

The scenic route is

Lined with roses.

 

All roads lead to

Roaming.

 

The unimpeded stream

Is speechless.

 

A waist is a terrible

Thing to mind.

 

Many proofs are

At the end of the day.

 

Love conquers all,

But often woos.

 

If I beg for mercy,

Grace is thrown in.

 

Thankfulness is one

Root of goodness.

 

A gift received,

A gift given…that’s life.

 

The fear of the Lord

Is the beginning of wisdom.

 

God Joined Me for a Drink

The trickle of unconsciousness

filled the tin cup.

I couldn’t handle the half empty

of hope and a future.

 

I drank and drank to quench

the mystery of the largess of God.

But God had salted the water

and assaulted my soul with an eternal thirst.

 

He held out his hand

and I set the dented tin

over the scar imbedded

in His lifeline.

 

He poured into my eyes,

right through and down

to the bottom of my arid heart.

This Tin-man echo of mine.

 

“Here, take, drink of this cup

In remembrance of Me.”

The chalice, cool in my grasp,

brimmed with blood red wine.

 

A sip of God consciousness.

 

“Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus

 

/

Leaning toward Sunday,

Tilting away from Friday,

Today is a back-slash.

A hyphen won’t suffice.

 

An and/or proposal,

Crux of a both/and scenario.

This end of a Holy Week,

Feels likes an ellipsis…

 

This Saturday,

Post back lash,

pre punctuation scars.

This in-between

 

where faith hyper ventilates

and doubt choke holds.

Where a stone weights

the wounds of the world.

 

Friday/Sunday

Before/After

Death/Resurrection

Both/And.

 

/

Faith and/or Doubt.

Life verse. Seems a bit narrow minded to pick one verse to frame a life. I get it though, those who tattoo a verse on their calf don’t throw the rest of the Bible to the wind. If I plucked one scripture out of the barrel, John 11:35 comes to mind. “Jesus wept.” Simple. Poignant. I mean, I used to cry all the time. Yet, for the past week or so, I’ve thought about “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” I even had to look up the reference: Mark 9:24.

Yep, those words track the best with my life. Not because I’m a big fat doubter. Notice the order…”I believe” comes first. Actually “Lord” comes first, which assumes an “I’m your servant” attitude. But that aside, the tension wedged between belief and unbelief is palpable. It’s as down to earth as dirt itself.

Yes, I walk by faith, and trip on doubt. Like cracks in the sidewalk, if I don’t look down I might stumble over the fissures.

These are the words of a father who had a son with a real problem. A mute spirit got ahold of his boy a long while back. A situation which throbbed for years. This dad, shoulders slumped, carried concern for his son, and when the disciples showed up, he asked for help. Who knows how many times the dad witnessed the spirit in a throw down with his son, but when the equivalent to Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show arrived in town, well… They tried and failed, but the dad didn’t cave, he went to the top. I can almost hear him firmly say, “Let me speak with the manager.”

This father was desperate, probably tired, and maybe a little resigned. He had heard of the healings. The news got around, and by the time he and his son arrived, a crowd had already gathered. The scriptures called it a multitude. Multitude schmultitude. The Dad cut to the front and told Jesus his story.

So, Jesus gets the scoop, sighs, points out the disciple’s lack of belief, and beholds the son who had a mute spirit. That spirit who, by the way, shut him up, threw him down, and caused foam to come out of his mouth. Then he gnashed his teeth and became stiff as a board too. Wait. Gnashed his teeth? What? Gah-nash. Gah! The definition means “to grind ones teeth.” The closest this son got to talking was grinding his teeth.

Almost doctor-like, Jesus enquires, “How long has this been going on?”

“Since childhood.”

Well, that explains a lot. A dad watching his son struggle and struggle and struggle. This was real, old, and chained to their lives.

Ah, the struggle. The ole “life is difficult” as M. Scott Peck would say. Difficulties come. That’s a fact. The struggle is real. Fact again.

Take the apostle Peter when he jumped ship and strolled out to Jesus on the water. He had no particular problem, except he wanted to be close to Jesus, ASAP. He saw his Lord standing atop of the waves and stepped off. No snorkel. No life vest. Just steps of desire and belief. Then pistol Pete began sinking like a rock when his focus was taken off the Lord. He looked down, saw the waves lapping over his toes and remembered his Jr. High science lab. He was a fisherman too, for crying out loud. Fish swim. Boats float. Humans? Well, they sink.

The father of the mute spirited son came in the context of struggle.

Peter came from desire. Impulse. Longing.

I suppose it doesn’t matter how we exercise our belief. Experientially, when I take my belief for a walk, the resistance is not far behind, or ahead for that matter.

It’s as if the father asked, “Jesus, my belief only takes me so far, can you help me the rest of the way?”

In the story Jesus’ response to the father’s words was almost a non-response. Jesus didn’t rebuke the dad. Jesus didn’t fold his arms and point at the father’s unbelief and say, “Until you have perfect belief I can’t honor your request.” No. Jesus takes action. Jesus shows compassion.

It’s comforting to me that Jesus can operate within the tension. It’s the tension between present reality and the desire for a better reality I suppose.

So, Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.