Monday, September 20, 2010

::reading writing (sans 'rithmetic)

So, it's official.

I'm a teacher.

My parents are both (now retired) teachers, my older brother is a teacher who married a teacher.
And then there's me, who never harbored any desire to be one.

I tried to outrun my family's Teacher Gene, but it chased me down and tackled me.

After reading a few poems at Trinity House Theatre in June, accompanied on guitar by the brilliant Paul Murphy (proprietor of Blue Fish Music), I was asked to teach a poetry class at Palaestra, a co-op group for home-schooled children and their families.

My class has five students, which feels more akin to leading a small group; a task with which I am tremendously familiar.

I've found that it's a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

:: fred phelps

Many times, when called upon to write some sort of autobiographical paragraph, I am often compelled to write, "I believe empathy is the most paramount of all virtues."

Attempting to empathize with the plights of others has always been a very natural practice for me.
I recognize that I am very fortunate in this respect.

But it deeply disturbs me to encounter people who obviously make no attempt at empathizing.

This is particularly upsetting when the issue is homosexuality.

My younger brother Joel, whom I love immeasurably, is gay.
The day before our grandmother's funeral in 2004, he came out to me.
I had known for several years, but his official declaration left me feeling indescribably honored.
I have sat with him and listened to his story.
I try my best to share his burdens and steep uphill struggles.

I cannot even count the number of times that my poor ears have been assaulted by some ignorant blowhard, yammering on and on about Homosexuality is an Abomination! and The Gay Agenda is Taking Over! and Next Thing We Know, They'll Want to Marry Their Dogs!

Whenever I have been able to summon the strength to actually engage these people in conversation, I find that they are not personally acquainted with anyone who is gay - surprise surprise! - nor do they have any desire to be.
They are speaking from those all-too-familiar perches of As Far As I Know and As Far As I Can Tell.

As David Dark reminds us in The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, "as far as I know" and "as far as I can tell" are not far at all.

Many who make these ill-informed, hateful statements also claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, which is even more tragic.
They don't even have one iota of interest in meeting an actual gay person, much less (gasp!) hearing their story and attempting to see the world through their eyes.

I write these reflections for the all-important task of drawing attention to the ineffable role of empathy in the human experience.
It's one of the best gifts we have to offer, dear reader.
Give freely, and often, and with humble sincerity.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

::"What I Did Last Summer..."

For seven summers of my childhood, I lived at Camp Lake Louise while my father was its manager.
Both sets of my grandparents worked there as well.
This place is a thriving, vibrant force at the heart of our family's legacy.
Ergo, I spend as much time there as is humanly possible.

The summer of 2010 blessed me with two full weeks in this glorious locale, surrounded by friends both old and new, and by family, both biological and honorary.

Robin = Lovely Model

Lake at Sunset

First night's dusk

Worship session

Tall, gorgeous trees

Emma & Calvin with Bubbles

I sincerely doubt that my passion for this place could ever be captured by any expression, but I will persist with photo-snapping and virtue-extolling, because its majesty must be honored.

Monday, September 6, 2010

::theology by Michael Stipe

Sometimes this happens: I seriously dislike someone, and then they say something that tickles my fancy, and I warm up a bit.

It happened several years ago, when a dude I severely disliked was talking about God, and he said, 'You know, God isn't all love, luck, and lollipops."


When describing the character of God and/or Jesus Christ, it's very dishonest to present Him as "warm and fuzzy."
He's not.

I am convinced that there are Christians who believe that our goal is to embody the chorus of REM's "Shiny Happy People."

A true encounter with God is not comfortable, nor is it supposed to be.

When I read the Bible and observe how Jesus interacted with people, even His disciples, He certainly was not Sunny and Nice all the time.
He provoked them, He challenged them, and I suspect He sometimes hurt their feelings.
He was confrontational.
He asked difficult, painful questions.
He probed people to their deepest recesses.

I love the scene in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, when the children have heard of Aslan - the great, powerful lion of Narnia (the story's Christ figure).
One of the children, Susan, inquires about Aslan to Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, long-time residents of Narnia.

"Is he—quite safe?" asked Susan." I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”


He is NOT safe.
But He is good.
And He's the King.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

::walk with me quiet, walk with me slow...

Sometimes, when the pistons of anxiety fire and conspire to churn my guts into some twisted primordial stew of panic, I like to take a walk.
Oh, wait.
I also kind of have to.
My diabetes pretty much demands it.

[Also? Garrison Keillor says that writers should take long walks.
I'm on it, GK.]

This evening, I strolled through the acreage adjacent to a local park, where the four bodies of my parents' parents are buried.

When I take strolls, I often fill my ears with melodic, moody, guitar-driven ballads.
Their lyrical content usually smacks of lovelorn loneliness, which seems highly appropriate somehow.

I amble about, and I ponder, and it never fails to occur to me that I worry constantly about things that do. not. matter.

Surrounded on all sides by tombstones etched with heartfelt epitaphs, my mind swarms with memories of all those whom I love, whose burial services I have attended, standing silent as their respective virtues were extolled.

It's slightly ironic to be exercising on an expanse of land dedicated to housing the dead; the truth is, I'm there doing something I hope will postpone my own arrival.


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