Beyond the Noise

Love lists,

Tilts, spills over time,

Covers a multitude.

 

Love sings,

Lilts, lifts its song,

Invites a dance.

 

Love gives,

Grips not, releases.

Grants dignity.

 

Love, grace me

In the God that you are,

For without You,

I am just making noise.

 

After 1 John 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 13

 

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Fireside…swiped

I restarted the wood-stove in our basement early. I thought I jammed it full enough to last ‘til morning, but alas, it fizzled out. I rifled through our waste cans. I crumpled up obituaries, Superbowl ramblings, and Michigan State fallout stories to lay a new bed on which skinny logs could lie. With the flue and the metal doors wide open, a struck match touched the edges of news print in hopes of warmth and less furnace action.

The Muse draped her arm around my shoulder as the edges of wood started crackling.

“So, how you been?” she said.

“Wha?”

“You’ve been waiting for me, and here I am.”

“What took you….”

“It hasn’t been that long Jerbear.”

“Hey! Only my sisters can call me that!”

“How long have we known each other? I should be one of your sisters by now, for crying out loud.”

“Oh, now you’re invoking Mom phrases. Great.”

“Listen, I’m here now, in front of this fire with you because this is where your hearth is.”

“Ah, playing with words eh?”

“What’s the matter? Don’t you want to play?”

“No. I mean yes. Oh, I don’t know. It seems I get the keys under my fingers, and…. Nothing.”

“Well, look at you go now.”

Dear Mrs. Muse, (or is it Miss, or Ms.?)

This letter is a curtsy, I mean, a courtesy to inform you that sneaking up on me in a quiet moment of reflection is an unacceptable duty of your employ. Please do not show up unless I am at my desk with Microsoft Word open to an empty page, Times New Roman, 12 point, doubled-spaced.

May I remind you that your duties are to total memory recall with appropriate inspiration when I am at the aforementioned location. You must evoke my full frontal lobe capabilities, especially early, when distractions are limited to the hum of appliances, computer fans, and distant snoring.

This warning letter will be kept on file.

 

Sincerely,

Geraldthewriter

 

“Well now, I see what you’ve done here GTW. I’d say I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I certainly hope a second letter is unnecessary.”

The Muse then snatched the letter from the queue and laid it on the glowing embers. The smoke rose up the flue like a winter moonrise.

Psalm or Face Palm

Only the fridge and a computer fan

Whisper their condolences

To the solitude sought.

 

My mind, plenty loud like

Headphones clapped on

My ears, cymbals

 

On symbols of reception,

The white noise of

My own pseudo conclusions.

 

Psalm 51 like area 51

Draw my curiosity

To the mystery of grace

 

Folded into mercy

As the pairing of woofer

And tweeter balance

 

Morning upon mourning

Of music, while the songs

In the night fade.

It

The walk and the wake of it,

The talk and the take of it,

This life is mine,

And filled with mines,

 

Yet Yours it is,

 

In the breathe and the breath of it,

In the deep and the death of it.

The grace and the grease of it,

The trace and the truth of it.

 

I lie down in it,

 

To rise and raise in it,

To prize the praise of it.

In the meek and the milk of it,

In the speak and the spilt of it,

 

On my knees in it,

 

To pray and plead in it,

To stay and lead in it.

The thank You and the Your of it,

On the dew and the shore of it.

 

Oh the gift of it.

Puzzled into Coherence.

Pieces Of The Puzzle, Puzzle, Play

Where were we going to eat the Christmas quiche? I’m was toned down enough to think about such dilemmas of practical magnitude. You see, the 2000 piece sea-turtle puzzle occupied a half-acre of our dinner table. It was sixty percent done and wouldn’t be finished by Christmas.

I’m not sure who invested the most time, but each night after helping Santa deliver the goods, I sat, stood, hovered, and puzzled over the sea-turtle shell game. The therapy provided was thoroughly unexpected. As our common area kept on with dishes clanking, conversation humming, and dogs yipping, I puzzled. Sometimes others joined in the puzzling and connection ensued between souls like the coupling of pieces. I found out I can puzzle and engage with the family at the same time, unlike chewing gum while jump roping.

My mom was a professional puzzler and I told the kids about how she had puzzle trays. The trays wrapped around the project and each held similarly colored pieces. It seemed like cheating to me, but hey, when you’ve done your time trying to fit the pieces of real life together for decades, well, there you go. Mom rarely looked at the box top either, so it kind of offset the tray trickery. It took extra time for her to figure out the difference between a giraffe nose and a giraffe hoof. I mean, a slice of nose and a portion of hoof in the same tray would delay things a bit, don’t you think?

Anyway, as I puzzled, my mind wandered, like when my dad listened to Ravel’s Bolero. Funny, a classic picture of my dad napping is in plain view of the puzzle. I don’t want to nod off on my family, so the sea-turtles are keeping me in the room at least. Yet this activity is a balm which doesn’t make logical sense. It’s a puzzle, for crying out loud. Why does the search for pieces meld peace into the harried pace of the holiday season?

I feel a sermon a comin’, as Supertramp’s Logical song comes to mind. Lord, have mercy…really. Puzzle pieces preach. When you’re trying to put together all the sky so blue and infinite. When the ocean waves crash together, but fail to fit together. When turtle shells and sea shells meet, or not, you start searching for the edges. Begin with the frame, the context in which all the finite presuppositions seem mysterious and aloof. Look for the straight lines of containment, they’ve got to be there.

This year I’ve been repeating a phrase in an attempt to diffuse the tension I feel constantly. “I believe there is absolute truth, but I can’t know it absolutely.” So many floating thoughts in our post-modern, pluralistic, touchy-feely, sound bitten culture. Is there an overarching frame of truth? Is the truth out there as The X-Files so ardently claims? Is there a piece to the puzzle, without which the whole scene loses its coherence? Is this even the best question to ask?

Then I read this. Bear with me, it’s kind of long, but these words laser in on the concept.

“One of the most soul-damaging effects of modern life is the obfuscation of story: the fragmentation of story into disconnected anecdotes, the reduction of story to gossip, the dismemberment of story into lists of formulae or rules. In most of the words that come before us each day – delivered via television, internet, newspaper, billboard, and gossip – there is rarely any story beyond the immediate event. There is very little that connects to the past, reaches into the future, or soars to the heights. Instead of connecting us with a deeper reality, such words disconnect us, leaving us in a boneyard of incident and comment.

On the other hand, every time someone tells a story and tells it well and truly, the gospel is served. Out of the chaos of incident and accident, story-making words bring light, coherence, meaning, and value. If there is a story, then maybe, just maybe, there is (must be!) a Storyteller.” Eugene Peterson on Homage to a Broken Man by Peter Mommsen

The effort to bring all the pieces together is story-telling on a miniature scale. Getting back to the puzzle, a turtle’s eye, and a portion of sea coral won’t necessarily bring context and coherence. The effort matters. If we are content with 2000 unconnected pieces, well, each piece will represent a sound bite, a turn of phrase, a juicy morsel of gossip, and the story will not be birthed in total. This idea probably breaks down at some point, like deconstructing the puzzle and sweeping the pieces back into the box, but it got me thinking.

Life lived piece-meal is seems more appetizing; easier to swallow, but lacks coherence and context. The real work of my relational coherence depends on me staying in the room. Gaining a wholeness means coming to the table and embracing the mystery through prayer, insight, and perseverance.

The puzzle was finished in the evening of New Year’s Day, an apt metaphor for a good 2018. God is good.

Prayer:

Our Father in Heaven,

Grant us the grace to live our stories within the context of Your Story this year. May we find the edges of Your reality to give coherence to our existence under the sun. Help us to be okay with the mystery, yet faithful, trustful, and hopeful in You.

                                                                        In the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord

                                                                                    Amen

 

Hearth of the Matter

My poetry went missing,

The selected words

Blended in the white noise

Of yule mules and

Their sleigh bells a bouncing.

Commerce over Christmas,

The ever present threat

Of package over presence.

 

Infuse our giving with life,

Let not our hearts inflate

On front lawns of light.

Guide our hearts to

The hearth of the matter.

Warm us by the fire

Of Your reality,

And give us more than

Peace on earth,

Grant us a piece of

Your heart.

 

Amen.

When God Speaks Love. Listen to this.

Just because of all the rain lately.

Gerald the Writer

The memory of a cold, windy, raining day resurfaced today.

She said in her blog God doesn’t always speak to us in a booming voice. It seems in these times God would only be heard in such a tone. It’s loud down here with all the news networks, overloaded stadiums, earthquakes, wars, scandals, overzealous weather, and the body politic. Can God get in a word edgewise?

Then there is the religious banter. A mixture of clanging cymbals and pundits with orchestral wands trying to direct every butt splintered pew sitter. There are thousands of good willed religious folk though, speaking truth through the cracks of the cacophony of mass market manipulation. Mustard seeds are handed out on an individual basis.

Am I talking too loud? Booming?

Ahem, back to the cold rainy day… It was about a decade ago when I had breakfast with a mentor. I questioned him about…

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Equanimity

Under mind,

bump stocked

and fire branded.

A cool glass of water,

clear as a monk’s

prayer before sunrise

is sipped and spilt.

Be anxious for nothing

is an easy task…

It’s when we’re anxious

about something,

everything,

that our equanimity

is bent by a category

five, and we kneel

when we should stand,

and stand when we

should kneel.

The Porch

The house stood at the dead end of Grand Avenue. “For Sale,” It said. I didn’t want the house necessarily. I wanted the memories of the childhood more than the malformed nuances of adulthood. Ignorance was bliss and that bliss faded into the backdrop of life away from home. My driveling reminiscence stood hoping for a sensory flashback. Scuffed Red Ball Jets shoes and ham-burg gravy I suppose.

My daughters climbed the stairs with me and we became momentary voyeurs of the place where I learned to walk, ride, and drive. We cased it like burglars. We peered over the window sills. We walked its perimeter. I started pouring out stories like a coffee pot.

I told them how I used to ride and ride my stingray around the house until the roots of the maple trees rose like varicose veins. The path allowed only the hardiest dandelions to survive. Now there was actually green grass circling this “used to be” home. How my mother would have liked to have something to mow back then.

I got on a knee to peer under the wooden overlay of the cement stoop in front. It was under there, crumbling still. Instead of five smooth stones there were five rough steps with bookend brick walls. Those walls held, for a while, the stories of our lives.

In the spring ten children fell out of our winter barracks and sat at ease on those steps. The porch was the place to hang out and watch the world go by…even on a dead end street. It was never dead; more like a holding yard for the neighborhood kids.

My sister Mary sat on the wall and wander around guitar chords. I remember her playing the intro to the Beatle’s Blackbird. Now I hear my son playing it and his fingers pick and point me back to front porch days…

Back when it was a safe zone for tag or home base for hide and seek. Back when my mom blew the police whistle from that porch to call us home for dinner or baths or a head count. Back, when in early August, it was an excellent place to watch lightning bugs and listen to the cicadas sing. Back when neighborhood kids showed up for senseless banter and storytelling from its podium. Back when cigarette butts were flicked into the sidewalk cracks. Back when the porch served as a barricade from water balloons and squirt gun fire and pitches of the little pearly berries from the shrubs out back. Back when it was the backdrop for graduation pictures. Back when tears of sadness, frustration, anger, and happiness had freckled its grainy mortar. Back where hellos and goodbyes were handed out.

It reminded me of my mom. Actually, it was for her I wrote these words down. That porch was like the house’s lap. We crawled up on it to relax and be ourselves. There was a comfort of simply sitting there. Sit and be. Let the wind blow our hair back like she did when she checked for fevers. First the back of her hand against our cheek, then a cool palm on our forehead, then the brushing back of our hair and her pursed lips just above our eyebrows.

Then to climb up on her lap…the best easy chair ever there was. It supported our weighty little bodies. We sat and waited for her strength to be transferred to us. A short visit there lent us security. I know now that her strength and security was often waning. Only God and she knew how many times her cup was empty and yet a little drop of love managed to fall on us… and that was all we needed.

Now that porch is laminated in painted wood, make-up that covers its inner beauty and foundational strength. I feel like I need to go back in cover of darkness to pry up the cover up. Then I could sit on the pitted remembrance of who I was becoming. I imagined all my siblings stuffed on that porch sharing the steps and the one lap we all had in common.