Thursday, June 26, 2014

Turning Away

People often mistakenly compare the brain to a computer. But nearly all analogies fall flat, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that people (with brains) created and evolved the computer. For all that we are learning about how the brain works and how to use it efficiently, we are still pretty much in the dark. 

I could go on. But I am most concerned today with the way the brain doesn't lose images and sounds, though it might hide them from us so well we cannot retrieve them. Today's walk was one built around confession, an act that has to be more than saying one is sorry or regrets a particular action. And I'm realizing that repentance (turning away) is more than acknowledging that an action (particularly one where the mind seems more involved than the body) is "wrong." Sin, I remember, is not about actions or inaction, but about being.

you won't delete
your cache of fear
and you can't erase
your history hate
you must react to every act
and shoot me in the face
when you say you love me

After the evening healing service, I walked the labyrinth. Usually I'm alone, but today four others took the path, one carrying a small wind chime. The tinkling was welcome to my distracted mind. I left my own music in my pocket and went forward, trusting the path.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Burden of Success

A problem with goals is that one usually has to live with the consequences of reaching them. Smarter people, or people who are walking or running merely to lose weight, for example, would not try to cross a bridge unless she/he was quite certain of returning in the same manner as the initial crossing. A person trying merely to lose pounds of fat, might challenge him/herself now and then, but there is a reason such people go to a track to run or walk around the block: they know enough of the journey to ensure safe travel.

But today I crossed Tuesday Bridge for the first time. Of course I was happy, pleased with my minor little accomplishment, but it did not take me long to realize that I was going to have to go back across if I wanted to drive home or get a drink (I exhausted my water bottle), or avoid the embarrassment of calling someone. There was a twinge in one ankle. A heat rash started its whine, drowned out by music in one ear (since my ear buds were broken) and traffic. Though it was still morning, I could feel myself roasting in my sweat.

And yet.

Perhaps it was delirium. Maybe it was budding confidence. I envisioned myself taking walking trips that would last whole days. Didn't know where I would exactly go, but I could see myself packing a light lunch and my iPad for a notebook, stuffing a water bottle into my backpack next to an extra shirt. There I was traveling, smiling at passersby, arriving some kind of where.

thank You for the sun
burning my face
melting my unneeded self

Two and a half hours after locking it, I was back at my car. Only then did my back begin to ache the ache of someone who has worked a little too hard. In my hips I felt a dull soreness I did not recognize. Then I was in the car, frowning at the slow air conditioner, and heading toward a glass of iced tea.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Walked the labyrinth Saturday as the sun was beginning to make its way to hot. No hurry, just trying to keep from chattering, trying to listen. I had to laugh at myself when I finished and could see from the MyFitnessPal app just how little I'd traveled. Don't know that I got very far mentally either. But sometimes it's about the discipline, right?

I managed to get up and out before the rain came on Sunday morning. Should have been dozing as I was up way too late the night before, but woke up before my alarm and could not get back to sleep. Listened to several versions of Arvo Part's "Spiegel Im Spiegel." At home I dressed alone for church.

cameras cannot catch
the sky or all the eye
with its connections
can take in or blend
as the mirror or the hearer
alone have few reflections

Sometimes this journey, like all journeys, seems to go in circles, sometimes widening, sometimes getting narrow. However, there is a stillness in these patterns that I know gets me somewhere safe.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Loop Against the Anger

It was humid as I walked around the complex, trying to get some exercise in between matches. I left the house in a huff, after discovering that one of my favorite lawn chairs and my patio umbrella had been stolen. I was also irritated by something I'd seen on  television and a snafu with my phone. The water has been shut off in the neighborhood while somebody did something. All minor, petty problems, but the culmination had me soured.

And so I walked, half expecting to find some redneck in his driveway chillin' with a beer as he sat in  my chair daring me to take it back. Of course, I didn't see him, which is probably better for me than said imaginary redneck. All the while I kept Bill Evans' "Peace Piece" on a continual loop, because it is one of those songs that nearly always calms me down.

your industry built
on shame can never make me
industrious more

There were no prayers, no deep thoughts. Just a sweaty saunter around Chaos Town.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tuesday Bridge

As sunlight rains through the dark patches of sky, I realize clouds have holes in them. I am sure there is some sort of science or philosophy or poetry to might explain this inconsequential personal discovery, but I don't want explanation. I only want to enjoy it. The observation, nay, the picture is enough.

But I am distracted today. Distracted by patterns in the water I cannot see well enough to comprehend. Distracted by the fact my need to pee grows with every step away from a civilized solution. Distracted by a text that tells me about an appointment I didn't even know I had. But then there is always something to draw me away from what my soul and mind need. Of course the body is an easy puppet for a clever string puller.

today the smell of sin:
engines, cigarette butts,
gray water's mysterious
ripples -- faint as if passing

Every bridge, I think, needs a name. "Long Expanse Between Rockwall and Rowlett on Highway 66" doesn't have much music in it. And I am too tired and lazy to look for some sort of historic or artistic connection to aid me. And so since I hope to spend more and better Tuesdays here, for now, I'll call this place simply "Tuesday Bridge." That's all I want to say for now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Post Father's Day

I don't exactly "celebrate" Father's Day. I'm not against it, but most words and acts associated with the "holiday" make me uncomfortable. The two men who acted as my father figures long ago left this world. I miss them dearly, and time has helped me to focus more on the good they brought to shaping me and less on their human faults. And though my children try to convince me otherwise, I cannot help but feel that I have been more error than hit. At least that is what the world tells me. Often times the farmer dies long before her/his true fruit has ripened.

Walking in the late evening, I considered that even when people do not intend to hurt when they speak, and often wish they could take back their utterances, very often those words reveal something about the speaker the hearer would be happy not knowing, and thus even with forgiveness, wounds remain. James wrote, "How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members...setting on fire the entire course of human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God."

descending sun
back full of flame
carrying your words

More guilty than those whose daggers have damaged me or whose scalpels have left me bleeding, I should be begging forgiveness keeping this root of bitterness from taking hold and twisting my already flailing brain. But as I try to consider words in the context of a larger history, I find myself angry at those who demean and diminish my hurt. And so I pray for wisdom and calm. My suffering is not important I know, as it has not come but at the hands and mouths of the fallible and frail, chief of whom is me, and has hardly brought glory to my Lord. However what the head accepts, the heart takes longer to grasp.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Stretching and Communion

Exercise has the uncanny quality, found in very few activities and pursuits, of making one feel both weak and strong at the same time. This I realized yesterday and today as I stretched my walks by going further and bringing a backpack.

Yesterday, I almost crossed a bridge spanning Lake Ray Hubbard between Rockwall and Rowlett. I surmise I was about a half mile from the other side when I felt compelled to turn back. Good thing as otherwise I would have been late for an appointment. But I was able to enjoy the strange wind caused by a combination of the lake and passing cars, and the warmth of the earth an hour or so after sunrise and still cool from recent rains. I smiled at those jogging and biking by and the locks placed on the safety fence. Mostly, I had sweet communion with my God.

listening to lemonade
i don't think about 
missing potassium

Today I trekked to the library, but first made a stop to photograph the old Royse City jail for a book cover. Sitting at one of the benches, I took in the breeze, and waited for God to speak to me. I didn't catch anything but the sense He was glad to be there as we quietly watched the blooming flowers on a nearby tree.

Later, I walked the labyrinth while listening to Richard Souther and trying ignore the rash and annoying headache I was developing. So many to pray for, so much to be grateful for, and I so easily distracted.

dull evening sun
shadows on the labyrinth
ears full of buzzing

I felt a good sense of fatigue as I sat on a bench nearby and turned down the volume. I've loved my earbuds lately and how they have both let me hear subtleties in the music I listen to as I put a wall around me from the outside world where noise mostly dismantles my peace. But here, as I breathe in the stillness, I can let in at least this small part which edifies my soul.

Waking Up Naked

So consider the following: You get up every day and get dressed for work. You put on your regular work clothes, maybe some slacks and a polo, jeans on casual Friday. On Saturday, you get into comfy clothes -- your favorite t-shirt, relaxing pants, and sandals or tennis shoes if you have errands to run. Sunday means your nice slacks, best shirt, and maybe a tie. Shoes are hard and uncomfortable, but you'd be even less comfortable in what you would prefer. No problem. It's only an hour or so, and then you are home in shorts and napping on the couch, dreaming of grilling something for dinner.

Lots of people have dreamed of being some place familiar only to realized suddenly they are completely naked. But what if we woke up and realized that every time we went out thinking we were dressed, we were actually unclothed all the time and most people ignored it, though some gave a hint here and there. Once in a while some person pointed out some of the truth, but was so rude or judgmental about it you could not possibly take that person seriously.

exposed on the bridge
there is no way
even to the water
forward and stop
are the only directions

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

That Dish of Guilt

Late, I set out. We had a lot of rain last night and this morning, and so now the earth is cool. The sun is out and bright. Colors seem freshly painted.

I hear a chime and against my better judgement I look at the notification on my phone: "You still have time to save your 7 day logging streak on MyFitnessPal." My diet has become a game that is already so boring it needs statistics to prop up interest. But I'm not buying it. Besides, there is no way to enter "Two plates of mostly-chicken-at-the-Royal-Buffet-but-no-fried-rice-though-it-smelled-so-good-and-I-realize-how-hypocritical-it-is-of-me-to-mention-the-rice-since-some-of-the-chicken-had-some-sort-of-breading-and-was-probably-cooked-in-something-that-is-guaranteed-to-shape-me-like-Buddha-no-matter-how-many-damn-vegetables-I-eat-so-stop-judging-me-you-stupid-app. Oh, and two-glasses-of-iced-tea-no-sugar-I-promise-and-I'm-sorry-I-called-you-stupid."

i'd rather not know
the number of carbs
in that dish of guilt

I begin to wonder if my pace is too slow to count as real exercise when I reach the field. The grass is still wet, and for some strange reason, my brain convinces me that I am at greater risk for running into a snake. My bare legs feel colder, as I scurry like a scared dog, not running, half dragging my walking stick. For the rest of the walk, I stick to concrete.

I have miles to go, and not just before I sleep.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Empty Us of Fear

Heard a speaker this morning talk about chaplains in the armed services. Was grateful he used the words "living sacrifice" and not "ultimate sacrifice," a cliche reserved it seems for those we know nothing about other than that they died wearing a uniform. And when he made the connection between these servicewomen and men and Christ, he did not bring his listeners to the cross, but to the agony in the garden, and to the moments where one faces challenges far greater than even our bodily death.

empty us of fear
o Lord, and fill us 
with You

I walk in the afternoon, and it is already hot enough to tell the difference that shade makes when passing under a tree. But a good breeze hits me often enough.

The grass is bright and just high enough that it would alert homeowners and gardeners, but since it is a field, no one will do anything for several more days. It is just long enough to make me nervous, but I remind myself I have real problems to think about, and so I sometimes don't imagine getting between a mouse and a snake circling life.

I pass scattered debris from who knows where, and wonder what brought it there. I see mounds I know are doors for some kind of critters, but don't know what, and ask myself what I need to know about them. Then I realize I've lost the trail of conversation I am not sure I've started.

an empty plastic bag
stuck in the stiff grass
distracts contracts the mind

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fences Leaning On Fences

Musing on the future, I could not help considering the past, or at least what I remember of the past, which may be more feeling that pictures. Dwelling too much on feelings is not good, and so I pray about the danger.

I walked a little longer today, including a field I rarely travel. I avoid it, at different times, because of high grass, mud, or the potential for snakes. My trek brought me near I-30, but I had no desire to go near the shops and people getting breakfast at Sonic. So I stayed as close to the edge as I dared.

wild grass and debris
fences leaning on fences
coffee lingering

I am not determining my future this summer. Well, that isn't true. I am, but not in the way I thought I would. I started this journey thinking I'd perhaps decide whether to continue the path I've been on. Even the "good" reason to deviate is dissolving, not so much like a fog, but ice turning to water. But what I shall bring on this journey and what I shall shed as unnecessary -- this is what I shall turn my prayers and my face toward.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Toward Hope

Summer begins and I walk this morning, looking toward hope. I'm not going anywhere, not doing anything. Just trying to get the rest prescribed to me. And I keep telling myself, that if I just walk and rest, when Fall comes I'll be a better teacher, better father, better friend, but something says that I'll just be a little thinner. That's okay too.

Summer is often disappointing because I start with so many goals, and always fail to meet them. Now my goal is to "rest," whatever the heck that means. And I am already worried I cannot meet that goal because it is so vague and because too much seems to stand in the way, but I'm going to try.

your imaginary defenses
have attacked
have left me behind
why have you negotiated
my fallenness

I just want to be good again. The numbers overwhelm  and keep me blind even to those who support me. I don't need to prove myself to those who have always thought me a failure. I need to leave discouragement behind. I need to leave fatigue behind. I need to leave fear behind.

Or at least walk a little faster until they get tired and drop away.