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On Writing Emergencies

Heinlein said it is a sickness. L’Amour said it had to be pursued. I’m inclined to agree with both. Heinlein also said that a poet who reads his work in public likely has other bad habits. So I haven’t read in public but maybe once in my life. I certainly think he’s right on that count.

So there are three basic times in which writing becomes an emergency. Emergency here is defined as a moment when all else must stop and words must be recorded. So the first two are fairly easy to identify – bad times and good times. The third is difficult and usually quite inconvenient. Any time between one and two.

Contrary to legend, one needs not be in a moment of reverie to have the bug hit. I get the call to write with little warning and at any time. Granted, many of my most prolific moments have been in the throes of depression or elation.

But this past week has seen a bender not tied to either. Life has been meh. Yet I have been compelled to produce a half-dozen pieces almost right on top of each other and not all of the same theme.

The Lost Chalks Sessions has most of the new work. And I’m enjoying it immensely. But there are some others floating in there as well.

What does all this mean? Hardly a thing, really. But I have always loved writing. And that’s about it for me.

On The Desert

Web-4-Rocky-section-of-trailThe sand, the wind, the desolate places, the hidden oases, are all secrets that draw a frontier. A frontier that draws me.

It’s like a black-and-white sort of canvas that has all the places in one place.

I can draw misery and abundance from one broad space, creating a word-image of darkness or of fulfillment in just a blink of perspective.

I love that I can turn from the dunes to the springs, the canyons to grottoes with nothing more than a short jump of view. It’s just like literally walking the desert to cross a ridge from the impossibility of survival in wilderness to the luxury of pausing forever in a hidden paradise. God has not abandoned the sun-battered emptiness of the sands and spines to this world and its curse.

This, the desert, presents stark emptiness, invisible heartache and hopelessness alongside redemption, lush beauty and survival in a way that no other place can compare. One can lose self in either place and be not a mile apart from one or the other.

Liken this to sin and forgiveness, holiness and blatant unrepentance just next door to each other. Fantastic, fascinating, luring and repellant all in one. It is amazing and horrid all at once.

See the needle-sharp threats of the flora, the vicious, survival-killing virility of the breathing creatures. These are glimpses of hell. But they congregate on the borders of paradise, shady stones and spring-fed life that deny their very banners of death and destruction.

Do I love the desert? Obviously. Not as a representation of paradise, the earth and heavens to come. I see the paradoxical dichotomy of life and death therein, with a turn that can kill or one that can save life. Why walk the desert? Why course those old, forgotten paths that may have been created by wind, or beasts, or real men? I think to follow them is to follow a theology, a line of belief that will reveal the End.

I hope to end there, in the sand, as I have written before, perhaps only for my own selfish sentimental silliness. But it means to me, the desert, the narrow and broad road of sin and holiness. It is a painting, beautiful and grand, that God has painted which can kill or save, cast into eternity just in the looking. It represents our short-lived travel through this life, following rabbit trails of folly and faith.

There is the Desert.

Romans 7 Nice And Short

Some introduction and explanation of where all this comes from first:

I love Romans 7. I return to it over and over. I love Paul’s gavel-bang of a last verse “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I lost it today. Bad bad bad severe red-faced flip-out mad dad session. I gotta fix the wall.

But, strangely, I could see through my anger where normally I would sort of go numb and blind and desire above all to rapidly depart the scene. Instead, my heart was some kind of heavy, haunted weight in a way that I don’t think I’ve experienced before. I wanted to weep for the sinful situation at which I was so angry. I was suddenly not venting my anger. Rather I was seething and angry with an immense desire to clearly communicate the Lord’s standard and the raw, but beautiful solution to the sin.

So I thought, in the middle of all this, oddly, of the sermon on Sunday, which was on John 3:13-22.  Of course, in these circumstances, my thoughts switched rails to Romans 7, which pointed me to Galatians, where all sanity was lost and I became a bizarre sort of raging, Scripture spouting bull. Weird. But how could I stop? I hit a groove of passion for God’s commands and the meaning behind them and the need to trust HIM to save us that wouldn’t shut off. I ain’t braggin’ here, unless it’s braggin in the Cross and our Lord.

I wasn’t seeing red anymore. I was seeing the Cross. About as vividly as if it had actually been a vision – it was that powerful.

Okay. Enough introduction. I waste your valuable time.

The letter to the Galatians has put it succinctly.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

This insane tension ebbs and flows like some completely unpredictable river. It’s not like the Nile, which floods in season. It’s more like a desert stream, far from the rainstorms of spring which may have nothing but sand in its bed one moment, and a rushing torrent of rage and destruction the next.

Our sinful desires are not gone once we’ve put our trust in the Lord for our salvation. The miserable qualities that we have lived with up to the point of our regeneration are not eradicated by our regeneration. They still lurk, waiting for just the right moment.

I’ll confess that the same sinful ways I had before are still the same ones now. Some of them have become far more insidious and difficult to deal with. They get me in such subtle ways that I don’t always catch them. Sometimes they flare up and there’s no way to catch up to the sin until it’s too late.

Almost the same though, and this should be encouraging, the Spirit that we have been given also ebbs and flows – just as trustworthy in his steady presence as the sin is in its persistent presence. The desires we have for God and loving and obeying Him are achingly weak sometimes, and overwhelmingly, blessedly intense.

It’s this war.

Sometimes we are angered as Christ was at the irreverent abuse of His temple in Jerusalem. He was incensed at the short shrift His Gentiles, who were very soon going to be re-instated into the covenant family, were getting at the hands of their “spiritual superiors”. Unlike Christ in that case, we can become so enlivened at sin that it’s hard not to sin in the process.

Sometimes we are so passively disengaged that our sin of being lazy or uncaring is barely noticeable. And this is not always distinguishable from a holy desire to preserve the peace and unity of the church. Christ exemplified the latter, passing over and refusing to engage many of the battles that offered to meet him.

We mistake one sin for another grace. We are under extreme pressure. This is the suffering that we must bear. And it is the suffering that we must willingly bear, being considerate of it and deliberate about it. It is why we study our Bibles and listen to the preached Word to find both our sinful selves and our Savior. We seek them both, to know them both. One to deal with and the other to be able to deal with the first. Trusting Him, we can bear to discover our terrors and vileness so that we may stare them down, rip them to shreds, wait patiently on them, love Him in spite of them.

Sinner: Know thy enemy in this way. Know thy Savior in this way. Trust Him, mistrust sin. Therein is our perseverance.

On That Which Was A Good Time

ImageThe winds of vacation found us far to the North in my Beloved’s old neck of the woods. We rounded a tour of the NorCal Renaissance Faire, apple picking at Gizdich Ranch, visits with old friends and family.

The primary purpose of the trip was to celebrate Molly’s birthday and make Roen’s birthday wish come true (Faire).  As with all our trips, much more happened than the original plan, which makes it well worth the while.

We enjoyed visiting two fantastic churches on Sunday, which reminded me of how important it is to keep the great, world-sized church of Christ in perspective. There are far more Christians out there than our own “personal” collection where we live and worship.

Both churches underscored another thing that’s been on my mind for a little while, too. Local body of Christ. Particularly, the PCA church, Silicon Valley Grace, which is a campus sort of organization with multiple sites, stood out. Up until this weekend, I’ve pretty much poo-pooed multi-site churches as being market-driven or seeker-sensitive. The explanation Grace offered was that they believe in the idea of a local body worshiping in the place where they live and work. So the folks that attended were, at least to my understanding, those who were from the nearby area. Pretty neat. This sort of arrangement offers a solution to be the community of believers who are in personal contact with each other more than just on Sunday and planned get-togethers. Most of all, both churches were no-nonsense, straightforward, “here’s the Gospel” sorts of churches with good folks and no worries about us strangers fitting in.


Fun at the Renaissance.

Other things that went on in my head during this trip were mostly just fun. Fun like just plain fun.

We had fun at the Renaissance, worrying about little but avoiding spending too much money on the awesomeness that was everywhere for sale. We caroused (as much as sober people can carouse), oohed and ahhed all the great artisans’ work and goofed off with the fun folk who walk around the faire with nothing more important than to have fun. We spoiled our girls with treats and keepsakes and it was cool. We flirted with the locals and laughed with the silly actors, merchants and hang-abouts. It was fun.

We had fun picking apples (I had more fun taking pictures of the apple picking) and sorting through a real Antique store. We sat around a wood-fire until the late hours, barbecuing, burning smores and singing silly songs. Nothing more weighty than trying to out-quote each other with lines from books, movies and whatever else we could drum up.


Fun with Pizza!

Dinner at Applebee’s was just fun. Dinner with my folks was just fun. Dinner with Anika’s folks was just fun. Dinner with Anika’s Aunt and Uncle (pipe and wine-glass included) – no worries, just fun.

Dad and I explored a few dozen woodcraft ideas that we’re saving away for that day when we can get together for some real hard labor in the shop. Staves, woodturning, carvings and tons of other stuff await us on that blessed day of sawdust and shavings, should the Lord see fit to tarry. That was great fun.

ImageI had the fun of getting a dumb computer to work right (I always have fun when the computer decides to have problems I can fix). Anika and I had the joy of celebrating our First Daughter’s 17th birthday – and her first as a college kid. We saw happy grandparents with their grandchildren. We saw swimming pools, BBQ, goofy board-games and long talks. We had a good time.


Fun with the Grand Owner of Gizdich Ranch.

Did I say we had fun? Yeah, it was fun. It was good. I’m glad.

A Wall I Might Not Climb

I haven’t explored much me in recent times at this blog. So suppose there’s still a place for such things. I think it’s a trap. OTOH maybe I can record it and revisit in hopes I can work it out. As may be seen shortly, however, I haven’t much confidence of success here. Conversation seems to fail me – I cannot bring up the terms and phrases that make all this clear, so discussing this in person just doesn’t work at this point. Of course I wonder if it ever has in my short history.

Something that frustrates me greatly is my lack of mental acuity to know what to do in a situation involving conflict. Specifically I mean conflicting personalities or motives. I’m tied up in some sort of blinding bubble that seems to prevent me from thinking clearly how to respond to direction or make decisions based on how others respond to me. I am tempted to back into a shell. In some regards, I think my head is still spinning from the buzz of three very intensive weeks of change. Things are very different from what I remember of all my previous assignments, even the other ships. Granted, I’m in a different paygrade and therefore position of authority, but what I remember from before does not reflect in what I see now. So things are confusing.

All that being said, I see my typical failures coming right through, amplified in some cases, but consistent. I can’t seem to employ tact in giving direction or making decisions. I can’t seem to communicate in a way that appeals to others. In fact, I’ve done a fair job of ruining others’ good impression of me in a couple of cases and I’m not sure there is a quick way to repair that. That, however, is something I think I can handle, for I’m aware of the method by which I may seek restoration: humble patience. I’m not necessarily good at that, but I know to pursue it; and for as long as necessary. But I keep stumbling over my own intentions and desires, my own understanding of these conflicted situations and mixed personalities. And it’s highly discouraging. I simply do not know what to do at any given moment. I wish I could explain the circumstances in which I find myself with a little more detail, but due to the professional nature of the situation I cannot.

So why is it that I can’t seem to get things right? One would think that, after 16 years of experience in this field, variety in many aspects making me supposedly well-exposed to a great variety of character and wisdom-building events, I would have learned how to deal with these conflicts. I am highly tempted to fall back on my old belief that this simply isn’t the place for me. Perhaps I’m not really cut out for this role. But in many ways I love it. I do enjoy the technical work and caring for others; trying to help with the labor and profession of this team. Every team with which I’ve been associated has seen me wanting to do for them. But I think every time I have seen the same failures on my part. This one may well be up there for contention as the worst 3 weeks of them all.

I know the fault of mine. But I cannot trace the fault of mine to every corner of the trial I find. My sin has undone some things which will take time and continued repentance to repair (Lord willing). But I still can’t escape my weakness. I can’t seem to overcome this inability to make wise decisions and time them correctly. And I can’t respond correctly when the conflict comes. Once upon a time everything was easy. I didn’t have these responsibilities. But that was long ago and now I have it, have had it for quite some time. And I have not experienced any improvement over that time. It appears to me as though I was still fresh into the pool with no stroke or rhythm whatsoever. This is a race I just don’t think I can run. Now that the overconfidence that stems from selfishness and newness has been crushed, I’m back to zero again. It seems to happen that way every time. I’m 37. I know there are a lot of years left in the maturity scales (should the Lord be kind to me in my aging). I have plenty of time on the job but from my perspective I show no remarkable improvement.

I swear that I am not a leader of men and right now I regret that I am again in that position.

The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor,
but the lips of a fool consume him.
The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness,
and the end of his talk is evil madness.
A fool multiplies words,
though no man knows what is to be,
and who can tell him what will be after him?
The toil of a fool wearies him,
for he does not know the way to the city.
(Ecclesiastes 10:12-15 )

Of Dusty Footpaths and The Last Homely House

I’ve been thinking about old pubs, long hikes, greeting people on the road. Simplicity and true social interaction (as opposed to this electronic thing). A blog I am following has stirred this post and imagery up in my mind – called up stuff from almost 30 years of thinking and reading.

So I guess I still pine, sometimes, for an era I never saw, where it wasn’t buzz-buzz-buzz all the long day. When a man took a constitutional hike, had time to meet folks, didn’t quaff coffee en-route a 15-16 hour day that ended six hours into the next one. Sometimes I’ve been told, and even occasionally had a fleeting belief that such utopian silliness is just that, and there has never been such an age where things were simple, low-key and real.

Tolkien, Lewis, Herriot, Graham. They set the scene for me way way back and it never left. Just gets clouded over or burned out by the days in which I find myself. Ever think about just walking, for an hour or six, with just a friend, talking when it happened, or just breathing the air and taking in the land? Reading The Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, the Hobbit, The Trumpet of the Swan and a multitude of other books, mostly titles forgotten, contributed very early on to the building of a little corner in my mind that is quieter, lonesome and sort of at peace; entirely contradicting the normal routine of my days.

Not that I’m advocating monasticism or a mass retreat back to some golden age. There really are plenty of folk out there who are thick in the midst of the global glob, right where they belong. And there’s where many or maybe most should be. What’s to hurt if one guy who dreams about this stuff drops off the grid and lets the rest sort of spin around him. I suppose that would require a receptive environment (IOW unlike Sandy Eggo). Just being tangled up in my family and a local job, knowing the neighbors and having little, if any knowing of the guys a thousand miles away.

Doesn’t the world ever get just a little too big? Like you’re a little wood-chip floating on the surface of Lake Tahoe or something? Could there not be some guardians, last little homes on the edge of the wild? I can easily daydream of overgrown cottages, virtually invisible in the clutter of hay and weeds, all but forgotten. Except the quiet folk who inhabit those little places.

Quiet folk that simply are. They’re there in the world, yet not in everything. They hold opinions on what they need to and nothing more. They can tell you where the food is best or where to find a quiet day. They can  take you to the little church where a similar man maintains the homely place, preaching on Sunday and helping others the following six days. 1 Thessalonians 4, though not directly dealing with my theme, still serves to quench some of the intensity of my days, leading me back ’round to all these images.

“…But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

But I think maybe sometimes we spread ourselves too thin. All over a city rather than a local circuit. We’re so commonly cruising the globe on an airship made of electrons where some might really need to be hiking a countryside that’s limited to how far a man can walk in a day. I get overwhelmed more often than not, with the immensity of all the world.

Sometimes I’d like to think that, one day, people will think of me as a sort of fixture, a fitting part of a place, only knowing what’s worth knowing and maybe just a little center of homely peace. Surely quite unlike what I am right now.

Heinlein said specialization is for insects. I think that’s pretty much right, but it does break down at some point. You can spread yourself so thinly over a broad enough area (culture, society, issues, skillsets) that there is no longer any value in any one of them. I think I’ve done more “outside” my life than in it. And it’s become ingrained too – high speed/low drag, as we say in my occupation.

Tolkien leads me to wonder what more could I be to my little life-realm if it was all reigned back in and could be found on a map of the shire. Hobbits didn’t mess with the rest of the map unless they were, and few were, called to the outside. Funny thing is, I still don’t “feel” called. Though I’ve been here for so long.

To think of what I could think of,
were my thoughts thought so much closer to home.
Instead of spread like a spider’s web
across the sea and stone.

We don't deserve all this

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve mustered up anything to write about. There are dozens of topics and issues mulling around in here, all worthy of coverage, some even really important. There’s just no forming up enough to get it together. Well, I have something, actually.

How God has worked out many, many things over the last 37 years.

I look on my pagan life – years, not distant enough, of denying the God of the Bible His right place as sovereign of all things – as the preparation and set-up of that which would come in 2003. Being a good Calvinist, I can’t see how everything just “worked out” the way it did prior to my becoming property of the King of Kings. I always was, just not in the validated, personal, realized way that is only reached by acceptance, submission, repentance and baptism. The Holy Spirit hadn’t flipped the switch that connected me to the kingdom.

I fell in love with a girl. She was absolutely the worst possible choice for me. A Christian kid, too young and too good for me. A witch should stick to his own kind. But God didn’t have that in mind. He drew me right to this perfect match out of the blue. A friend of a friend, letters, a couple of phone-calls and suddenly we were together, in the middle of a bunch of messes from parents to baby-on-the-way. No job, no future, nothing but this man and woman together with their heads spinning. That’s just the start. But the end state was Anika praying for me and God answering her prayer.

From the first time I pondered marriage and kids, I’ve wanted a daughter. Never had much interest in a son. Might be a result of my un-man qualities like despising organized sport, chest-beating, all-things competitive, whatever. So God gave me one. And this daughter was/is the most amazing one. She was the hardest thing I’d ever encountered in twenty two years of life. Molly’s arrival, I think, began the process that broke my back. When Anika and I got Molly, we got a package of life that was incredibly intelligent, capable, endlessly amazing, and beautiful. Only God could have stuffed so much into this brand-new person who suddenly came under our stewardship.

And God worked His redemptive theme right into my life through the arrival of Molly. She wouldn’t have had a Daddy if it hadn’t been for a moment of absolute insanity, a split-second of decision for which I cannot claim credit. God gave us the desire to keep her. That’s how it has to have worked. She needed a family. Sickly sinners don’t make decisions like that on their own.

Then Roen came. Roen had a very messed up leg when she was born. And she needed surgery right away to fix it up. but God put doctors and parents in place for repair work and love this little girl needed; who didn’t deserve a stitch of the hardship she got. And she walks now, bouncy and silly as if there had never been a problem. There’s a scar and a little bit of funny shape to that leg. A reminder of how valuable life is to God, and how He shows mercy and grace on the lame, broken, dysfunctional sinners in this world. Even before Roen met Christ, before I met Him, God was repairing damage, giving life.

Then Gwendollyn came. Almost didn’t. Gwen came out blue and purple, her life nearly snuffed before she opened her eyes the first time because of the tangled mess of cord. But again, the Lord had mercy. She breaths today by God’s goodness and grace. And God has added to her blessing a mind that is tuned to capture His creation in amazing pictures and other art.

And Joscelin. By the Grace of God, this surprise baby wasn’t safe from the curse of this fallen place. But through the capable, loving hands of a crowd of people, God assembled a resolution that turned a girl from isolation, a life scarred by autism into a beautiful, hope-filled, beam of sunshine who talks and hugs and helps and loves.

And to them, all four, He has given His Son. Jesus died for them and they know it. My girls belong to Christ’s church and have a place reserved for them in the new Heaven and Earth.

So I got just what I wanted. Four of them. And they’re, each one, nothing less than God’s grace and bountiful generosity wrapped in flesh and bone. I couldn’t have asked Him for them – couldn’t pray, couldn’t trust or believe. But that didn’t matter so much, because God works His will regardless of people’s opinion.

Had Christ subjected His life, death and resurrection to a vote, it would’ve been unanimously rejected. Nobody consulted with God about the atonement. And so, in a little-bitty way, neither did the Lord need my request or anything else from me to give this gift. Like salvation. I didn’t ask for it, I tripped over it when God put it in front of me. Now? I want it every day. Savor the reminder every Sunday and feast with my Savior at His table. Relish the memory of my baptism.

We don’t deserve all this. We can’t repay it. My girls have a Christ-loving home, however imperfect it is (dismally, most of the time), not because of their parents, but because of the Lord. We are all healthy and alive not because of our care for ourselves, but because of Him.

  • Economy crashed? I have a job that sticks.
  • Ran out of money? He drove me right into a second job.
  • He led us through all sorts of confusion and the misleading modern world to a church that honors Him and teaches the Truth.
  • He has preserved us through hurricanes.
  • He has kept us warm and safe in a blizzard after wrecking our car on the highway.
  • He has saved our lives by parents, Christians, doctors and soldiers more than a few times.
  • We’ve been kept safe in planes and ships and cars. From dogs and weapons and thugs and disease.
  • He has held our family together through long separations, war, hopelessness and helplessness. For about 15 years now, we’ve grown as a family. No attrition.
  • My kids are surviving public school. They have been protected day in and out from the sickly stench of drugs, immorality, vulgarity and God-hating culture. An unhappy side effect is that reminder that we’re still sorely messed up and still in dire need of a Savior, even if He has shielded us from the extremities of Sodom.

Yeah, today is my birthday. I don’t deserve any of this. Gifts throughout the year, every year, have come down from On High. By God’s grace, I’m here. Rich beyond all measure.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:25

And… If you survived the really long read, here’s a treat that can only be enjoyed once in a lifetime:


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