Sunday, November 13, 2005

An indefinite amount of time slipped by, until the inactivity of such reflection allowed the cold to spread up through his body, prompting him to rise to his feet and think of Ebenezer.
He continued on the approximately southwest course and found the going smooth.
The trees seemed to grow taller, and spread their branches wider, and farther above the floor of the forest, paving a wide path of pine needles and cones only lightly dusted by the snow.
The sun had disappeared behind a high-flying cloud bank, and only occasionally glimmered in the tops of the trees.
A mile, and Joshua strolled on, curious of Ebenezer's whereabouts, but not concerned.
Striking out on his own was not unusual for the husky, although he normally didn't range quite this far from his owner without circling back to check on his progress.
He found himself walking along and slightly on the side of a long ridge that appeared to run roughly south and north, the higher end of the ridge lying to the south, the direction he now took.
Skirting an occasional outcropping of rock bursting from the spine of the ridge, he became set on reaching the top, and his pace took on more purpose.
As is the case with climbing a mountain, several times he assumed to be approaching its peak, only to reach the horizon, and find a short plane of level ground, followed by yet another stretch of increasingly steep terrain.
At length, he started up a concave incline, a steep ramp that ran into an enormous bluff of craggy rock. The closer he came to the bluff, the more precipitous the climbing grew.
A rimrock crowned the top of the hill, like the rough gates to a lofty city, and the sight beckoned to curiosity.
To his left, he picked out a small niche in the stony stockade and strode quickly up the ever-steepening grade. At the foot of the rough staircase supplied by a series of small outcroppings and crevices was a small weather-worn patch of earth that bore a barely distinguishable paw print that corresponded with white scratch marks on the soft stone.
The climb was easy, not more than nine feet. He eased up, cautiously.
The view was startling.
In the center of a circular plateau, surrounded by a sprinkling of alien dormant flowers, two wooden slabs squatted, harsh and gothic in the surrounding beauty.
Two grave markers, rounded on top.
He pulled himself the rest of the way up and sat upon the rimrock, looking around slowly, taking in the drama of the picture in front of him.
The surrounding rimrock protruded an average of two feet around the entire perimeter of the plateau, semicircling the tiny cemetery like a fence. Directly behind the markers, a sheer face of flint reared up and back, rising forty feet or more before crumbling into boulders and young, determined pine trees.
The plateau stretched about one hundred yards in diameter, oval-shaped.
The wooden grave markers stood close to the rock face.
He was very still, afraid to breathe, and not daring to disturb the blanket of snow that rested lightly on the on the sleeping flowers and clustered like a nightcap on the curved tops, an unbroken seal of solitude.
A childishly morbid sense of delight and awe hung over Joshua, and his writer's soul staggered in every direction, drunk with the potential, yet reverence of mystery forbade his imagination to wander too far.
He looked closer, searching for an inscription on the markers. Ninety yards spanned the distance from himself to the graves, so, after consideration, he stood and began slowly working his way around the rimrock, still unwilling to break the snowy seal, but curious, very curious.
He stopped suddenly, remembering Ebenezer.
There were no tracks in the snow, in the middle of the plateau, or on the rimrock.
Intuitively, it made no sense. From all appearances below the rimrock, the dog had made his way up the same way Joshua had. And it was absurd to think that a dog, wandering in the woods, presented with two foreign objects, would ignore them.
He moved on now, distracted, but still curious of the inscriptions.
Ten more paces told the tale, and a strange one it was.
One marker bore an inscription, the other did not.
They were smooth-surfaced, but unfinished. They looked like they had been hewn from a door with a handsaw. The inscription was faint. Deep, patient scratches in the wood spelled out two words, a Christian name and a surname, indistinguishable because of the flecks of snow that rested in the shallow grooves.
No dates, no epitaph.
The enigma began to weigh in on him slightly. Joshua spent so much time alone that the existence of other humans in this wilderness was a jarring realization. Less disturbing was the fact that two of these humans had died, and fairly recently, judging from the look of the wood.
It was mostly gray, but still streaked with brown.
A breeze brushed coldly by him, bearing the faintly acrid smell of snow and pine.
He stifled an involuntary shudder, hunching his shoulders and shoving his hands deep in his pockets.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Joshua makes it outside

While donning the leather boots and rough canvas jacket at the door, (His eccentricity extended not quite as far as his clothing; minus the artful avant-garde hair and the wedge-shaped jaw he closely resembled a Cabella's magazine clothing model, the tireless efforts of fashion wizards having succeeded even in the far-flung regions of mountain grandeur.) he was joined by Ebenezer.
These daily outings were among the few pleasures that stoked the flickering fires of the dog's stoic spirit. The solemn eyes quickened and the tongue lolled out, in between impatient glances up and down at the progress Joshua made lacing his boots and buttoning his jacket.
David Copperfield assumed a lazy, sour-grapes manner as he stretched across the leather armchair in front of the fireplace.
Joshua and Ebenezer stepped outside into an effulgent light that is produced only by the fusion of snow and sun.
However gently Joshua closed the door, the slight jar commenced a small avalanche at the top of the snow-laden blue spruce that stood beside the porch. Joshua stepped out of the way quickly, avoiding all but a little powder, but Ebenezer, the fresh air already oxygenating his wolf-blood, lunged off the six-foot porch and landed in a deep drift, muscles quivering and eyes expectant; mouth widening.
Joshua shook off his coat collar and shoved his hands in his coat pockets, starting down the stairs.
Ebenezer divined Joshua's plan for today's hike, and erupted out of the drift in a geyser of glittering snow and bounded for the lane far below.
He (Joshua) held to a revolving flight plan for their excursions. It was a rigid pattern that allowed for no indulgent deviations, no favorite paths, and its express purpose was to "absorb his natural surroundings." His fondness of nature matched his taste for classical music. Both were environment; background noise. Most of his likes and dislikes were rooted no deeper in his nature than Ebenezer's indoor stoicism was rooted in his. He chose to like and dislike what he felt he should like and dislike. He played Tchaikovsky in the Sony system not because he had ever really listened to the music closely enough to fall in love with it, but because it befitted a small mountain chalet, with a stone hearth, rugged furniture, and large windows.
However, he had lately taken to Vivaldi, having decided that perhaps Tchaikovsky was sometimes over-the-top. The drums and the horns blared melodrama, and he detested melodrama as much as he detested normality. He had forsaken Yanni, a few months back, for the same reason.
Up until something over two years ago, he had roamed the woods in an ATV. In the time since, his outings had taken a turn for the naturalistic. He'd let the four-wheeler go for $4,000, built a small breakfast nook on the end of the kitchen, and taken to walking.
Hiking trails didn't exist this far out, and if they had, they would never have been trod upon by Joshua. The road less traveled was something, in his mind, to be ever sought after. He preferred to plow through the unblazed forest slowly, without being manipulated by an established thoroughfare.
His course today took a southwesterly turn about a quarter mile down the lane. As usual, no open path lay before him, just a small break in the tree line. A four foot high rend in the undergrowth provided an opening underneath a leaning Ponderosa pine into which Joshua, preceded by the intuitive Ebenezer, ducked through.
A few hundred yards in, Joshua stopped and leaned against a thick pine to take in his surroundings.
It was an unrealized addiction, this insatiable thirst for woodland silence.
He grew still, relaxing against the tree, allowing his blood to slow, and his breath to moderate.
No birds, no wind stirred. Even the thrashings of Ebenezer had faded far ahead, muffled by the snow.
The sun had yet to penetrate and the snow hung heavy and frozen on the branches above.
Minutes passed.
His back against the tree, he slowly slid, his knees buckling, until he sat motionless on the ground.
His head tilted back and he gazed up through the spidery network of branches and needles.
Complete and utter quietude rose in his ears, growing to a roar.
Hearkening back to what he had written an hour before, he was unconsciously moved, unwittingly excited, by the stillness. The nothingness accentuated. . . . . .everything.
There was nothing here, nothing but himself. The distractions of daily hermit life peeled off rapidly, dissolving into the smothered forest.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Correction: The whole trouble with sometimes getting carried away with yourself and entertaining the fancy that perhaps your professor in college was on to something when she told you that you write like William Faulkner is that you sometimes get carried away with the fourth of fifth sideline in a run-on sentence and forget the main point of the sentence. The following sentence in the last paragraph should read "He remembered it well simply because of the novelty of it and also because it slightly annoyed him that anyone, less a boy (A boy so discerned because of his unpredictable gait and the suddenness with which he turned aside, walked backwards and in other eager manner, so took in the mountain wilderness, no doubt anxious to stumble upon some phenomenon or awe-inspiring sight to share with his friends back home in the Midwest. That was the trouble with children, they could never appreciate nature for nature's sake. It always had to be something worth telling.) would breach the sanctity of his domain."

And so on . . .

For a long while Joshua had harbored this territorial attitude with complete innocence. It was only at that moment, standing in the kitchen shadows, essentially hiding from a young boy, that he realized it, mulled it over, and accepted it with only a little sheepishness. He was a writer. And what was a writer without a few endearing eccentricities? And so justifying his private turf war, he donned the mantle of the hermit, if only partially. In fact, it became the topic of frequent monologues delivered to David Copperfield, and Ebenezer. The former rarely regarded him with any interest during these tirades, but rather seemed to take it as an invitation to indulge his fondness for bathing. The latter eyed him with a cold stare. In some ludicrous way, the dog sometimes seemed a representative of the small reserve inside his conscience that still clung reluctantly to the dismally cyclical reality he eschewed. With some amount of imagination added, he could swear the blue eyes rolled heavenward every time he complained of even the slightest encroachment of those who exhibited no proper appreciation and therefore had no business trespassing, his un-paved, un-landscaped, and otherwise un-spoiled sanctuary. David Copperfield indulged his outbursts at times by leaping into his lap and rubbing hard against his chest, but he entertained the notion that the aloof Husky served as his silent detractor. And, unconsciously, it became all the easier to ignore the unwelcome voice of reason.
It wasn't that Joshua disliked people.
Or so he told Ebenezer.
A clock on the desk read 9 a.m.
Resignation propelled him off the chair and into the bedroom, a spartan expanse of polished hardwood, antique brick and rough cedar, in search of a coat and a pair of boots.
For the longest time after his solitary adult life had come of age, he had alternated between an orderly chaos and frenetic meticulousness. A deep resentment of domestic duties that plagues both sexes, but afflicts males with a greater severity, fostered perpetual procrastination, until an undesignated amount of time and an undesignated lack of order accumulated, at which time he set about straightening with a grim efficiency. Religious adherence to orderliness followed for a certain time afterwards, in which not a shoe lingered by the front door, and not a wrinkle marred the woven rug in front of the fireplace.
Impulses aren't habitual, however, and as time marched on, preoccupation with more pressing matters, and impatience with even the slightest interruption of any given literary mission flung a coat across the mantel and left kitchen chairs at odd angles with the dining table, and so on and so forth, until the wilderness took back the land.
He had, after five years, hammered out a treaty between obsession and complete disorder.
The deal was tenuous, with occasional aberrations, but a happy medium with a wide margin seemed to have been settled upon. He still went on short binges of radicalism, but the one thing that saved him from being completely given over to fanaticism was the memory of a college roommate, a choleric priest of the goddess of fussiness.
So, if Joshua was an eccentric, reclusive hermit, he was a temperate, eccentric, reclusive hermit, as one might be moderate libertarian, or a middle of the road anarchist.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Chapter 1, cont.

Staring blankly at the screen, he suddenly squinted at the glare that had intensified over the last half-hour without his notice. He swiveled away from the desk and looked out the front window. The sun, after three earlier and feebler attempts had mounted the fog bank that lay low over the mountains to the east and now glared down into the valley, dissipating the icy fog and glistening on the melting frost now dripping from the spruce boughs.
His ambiance thus dissolved, he saved the last three and a half pages, and drained the last of his cider, idly lamenting the loss of the mood-setting weather and the loss of the taste of holiday cheer that resulted when hot apple cider grew lukewarm. At room temperature, apple cider, the official spirit of cold, gloomy mountain mornings, tasted disappointingly like apple juice, a common summer refreshment, and Joshua Hammond felt about summer the way an ice sculptor regarded the advent of an unseasonably warm day in January. In fact, the disregard Joshua felt for the whole world outside the cavernous, rock-slashed, spruce shrouded valley he called home was in quality the same disregard he held for the offending sun now spreading the cataract on the 17" flat panel monitor. Invasive.
Whether the contempt he held for such distant reality was owing to the time he'd spent away from it or the time he'd spent in it was of no difference to him. He didn't care to consider it. He didn't have to. Modern technology afforded him the self indulgence of seclusion he so desired. Joshua earned his keep by the broodings of his melancholic temperament. He bled those pleasantly dark musings onto a computer screen, saved it to a backup floppy, and when the daydreams assumed the rough and appropriately vague form of a story, copied it on a CD-ROM, and sent it off to his editor. Frequent correspondence with said editor arrived via e-mail, via satellite internet. The accommodating satellite was in its heaven and all was right with the world.
Four years not a soul had stepped foot in this cabin save David Copperfield, the whimsical black and some less white feline who scarcely lived up to his name, and Ebenezer, the hulking, morose Siberian Husky who bore the handle of his namesake with astonishing accuracy.
Town was a village, really, of 312, 22 miles down a gravel road. Conventional mail arrived in post office box in the village, and the numerous disciples of numerous gospels peddling their numerous creeds in the larger towns to the west had not yet considered the wild and untamed mission field that lay up the mountains to the east. The only human Joshua had seen broach the 12 miles between he and his nearest neighbor was a boy, of 12 or 14, or so it seemed at a distance of 500 yards, which was the distance between the large picture window in the front room and the gravel lane that wound on past the cabin up the ridge to the south.
He remembered it well simply because of the novelty of it and because it slightly annoyed him that anyone, less a boy, so discerned mostly because of his unpredictable gait and the suddenness at which he swung around sideways and walked backwards, eager to discover some new sight or phenomenon of the mountain wilderness no doubt with which to share with his friends back home in the Midwest. Children had no appreciation for nature simply for nature's sake. It always had to be something worth telling. He also remembered because both his animal companions had been alerted by some inscrutable sound and crowded to the front window just as the boy stopped and gazed up through the smallest opening in the trees that allowed sight between the cabin and the road. For some reason embarrassed, he called both to heel and himself eased back into the eat-in kitchen.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Silence is a clamorous cacophony. The chief reason modern man surrounds himself with televisions, radios, iPods, and portable DVD players is because he wishes his thoughts to be controlled by surface noise.
Joshua stabbed at the keyboard almost absentmindedly.
The moment all distractions cease and a man is alone with his thoughts, bedlam ensues. As the lingering tide of popular culture white noise ebbs, a faint drum beat of reality is heard in the distant gloom. Strange, fantastic thoughts swirl in the fog of his tangled brain. Strange because he doesn't recognize them as his own, fantastic because they resemble the bits and pieces of ludicrous dreams. Slowly, as his initial flights of fancy as to what shape these fantasies are assuming begin to be proven false, the nonsensical thoughts begin to assemble an oddly familiar pattern, a richly diverse tapestry with common themes running throughout; subconscious conscientiousness, unspoken, unrealized fears, and shocking fantasies. A spectral shape at last emerges from the fog, inch by fearful inch, and he stands finally alone on a stark white beach, between a vast ocean of useless media and a dark, shrouded jungle of unknown thoughts, alone with the most terrifying and bewildering ghost he has ever encountered, his own psyche.
Pointer on the scroll button, Joshua pondered the last phrase. Reconsidering, he highlighted psyche, and selected "thesaurus" from the tools bar. Murmuring all the while, he disqualified "personality" and "conscience" and grunted at the word "character." Psyche definitely seemed to be the lesser of four evils.

Bear with me, this will be a long, arduous journey. More later. . .

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Glen Beck is carnal.

Listening to a conservative talk show host recently, (a practice I encourage only in moderation. After all, if John Wesley is right in thinking that most people cannot talk for more than twenty minutes at a time without saying something they shouldn't, it stands to reason that three hours a day is superfluous, even counter-productive) I was forcefully reminded of my disassociation with the mainstream evangelical movement in our country. The topic at hand was Jude Law, an actor, exposed in immorality with a woman employed as his nanny. The view taken by the host was that a responsible man must first check his brain at the door to employ an attractive woman in his home. The opposing view taken by his opponent in the debate was that refusal to be deliberately and often in the company of an attractive woman is an admission of an inability to control yourself. The host countered that a person on the Atkins diet doesn't go to Cold Stone Creamery. His adversary responded that if the analogy were germane (the host apparently fudges the Atkins way of life occasionally) then the host is admitting that he has a problem with fidelity. The host countered that while he has no problem being faithful, he is a man. This is approximately when I turned the radio down to background level and began to explain to my wife why I felt these two men were both completely off their rocker. The two components of the host's argument, namely, he can be faithful, but he is a man, appear to diverge completely at the outset. To say that one can be faithful, but can't, is a violation of the Rudyard Kipling doctrine, i.e., east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet. If a man has no problem being faithful, then he has no problem being faithful, end of discussion. And the other view is completely naive, and dangerous.
Both were right. Both were wrong. The host is right because the appearance of evil is something we must avoid, and, more importantly, a married individual spending an inordinate amount of time with any member of the opposite sex, beautiful or hideous, other than their spouse, is extremely ill-advised. The reason is not complicated. "And it came about as she (Potiphar's wife) spoke to Joseph day after day, that he did not listen to her to lie beside her, or be with her. "
The host's alter ego, "Stu", is right because to assume the nature of the beast cannot be tamed and brought to bear is a dismal and depressing and disgusting view of life.
I have my doubts that "Stu" knew how right he was, or even why he was right.
It has become accepted, sometime in the last twenty to thirty years, for a responsible, faithful, loving husband and father to "look, but not touch." If the host is right, and a man is a man, infused with all the weakness and fallibility apparently inherent in the sex, then the struggle to remain faithful is completely futile, since no less than the Son of God said that to look on a woman to lust after her is to commit adultery with her.
And the unbearable sadness of all this is that when a person brings this dilemma to 99% of today's pastors, evangelists, and theologians, they are sent away with the disheartening news that they must live with the problem; a chronic illness treated with a couple of Tylenol a day to help with the symptoms.
I beg your patience as I attempt to retrace the route my thoughts took from the Glen Beck Show to the final conclusion and destination of my pondering; eternal security.
There's a side issue here to be dispatched first. There is some doubt in my mind that a man could truly be in love with his wife the way God intended a man to love his wife if he is plagued with a lustful thought life. As a married man, or a married woman, a Christian will recognize that there are other attractive people in the world, but this is as far as it goes. To entertain even for a moment flights of fancy with anyone else is, or should be, disgusting and repulsive, regardless of physical appearance or winsomeness.
One more sideline on a sideline. And I state this with permission, not inspiration. This is my personal opinion that I am quite sure I share with practically no one and I dredge up simply to wake you up. I do not feel, considering the depth and indescribable passion I have for the love of my life, that a person can be truly in love with more than one person throughout the course of their lifetime. I welcome your disagreement.
Now, on Glen Beck and the gospel of weakened salvation. The main problem Glen has if he struggles with fidelity in his thought life is carnality. And now you think you're reading an essay by J.B. Chapman or C.W. Ruth or some other late great holiness preacher. I would consider it a compliment. It is true, though. It's judgementally, unattractively, crudely true. As Snoopy would say, "How gauche." It's disconcerting to me that this truth is regarded self-righteous by most of today's leading, on-the-front-lines, in-the-trenches conservative evangelicals. They fully recognize the natural depravity of man. Great first step. But it's an incomplete composition. It's as if the Bible were written to the words, "And He gave up the ghost." and followed up immediately with the concordance, maps and the back cover.
The gift was not given so that we may accept it and put it in the closet they way we do with 75% of Christmas gifts.
Let me say I don't subscribe to the straw man fallacy that this doctrine is simply an indulgence sold for a cheap price to all who believe in it. I believe there are many people who give lip service to this belief that secretly long for an abiding Ally. At the same time, I realize these people would initially greet this imposition on their independence as an affront and resist it, as we all have, to some degree.
But the image of a sincere God-follower, one desperate to walk in the light shed by Him, being led by that light to the door between struggle and surrender, the door between war and peace, and finding no way to open it, is heartbreaking.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Road Rage

Why do I feel justified in bearing down relentlessly on any hapless driver who has just unwittingly pulled out in front of me and hasn't the courtesy or clue to accelerate to accommodate my current speed?
The assumption made by myself (and I suspect it's universal) is that the driver in question made a calculating decision to impede my progress. The driver in question is an arrogant, inconsiderate hack who purposed in his heart to cut me off and his punishment is to quail in the glaring daggers of my headlights (if it's nighttime) and sorrowfully regret the wicked error of his way.
One comforting school of thought is that automobiles alter or somehow negate the personality of its inhabitant and we are not to be held personally responsible for the attitudes displayed in flashing high beams and squealing tires. We all are guilty of automotive aggression and this somehow cancels out our debt of guilt as we all park and slide out from behind the wheel and remove our sunglasses and smile sheepishly at eachother. Its just those blasted cars!
If only it were true.
One discomforting school of thought is that the impersonal, anonymous identity we assume while driving behind tinted windows causes us to channel our true nature. There are no immediate consequences (hopefully) to tailgating or verbally bludgeoning the driver in front, behind or beside us. Pop psychology would tell me its just a natural healthy way of releasing the steam valve on the pressure cooker of everyday life. Pop psychology might also tell me its a symptom of some deep-seated, bottled-up anger I harbor toward the world in general. I suspect that, as usual, the diagnoses of pop psychology may accidentally contain some elements of truth. miniscule though they may be.
No doubt stress does play a part and no doubt the privacy of an automobile lends itself to a certain amount of angry honesty.
But those are sideline issues.
I realize this is somewhat of a societal ill, an affliction brought on all the habitants of earth who drive, but I'm a Christian. Shouldn't this concern me?
I certainly can't blame it all on cars, any more than I could blame the availability of the Internet if I had a propensity for pornography. Technological and industrial advances do have a way of presenting fresh new spiritual quandaries, though, don't they?
I choose to judge the glass half full, however, and view this as an opportunity to strengthen the bond with divine wisdom, rather than a conspiracy to trip me up, or, more familiarly, another sign of "these last days." I think James might not mind if we were to add an uninspired addendum to James 3:2. Any man able to bridle the tongue while driving a car is able to bridle the whole body.
There's a really blunt question fighting to be asked through all of this.
Is this private war I wage with my fellow drivers a sign of spiritual deficiency?
Is it really Christian to want this idiot who pulled out in front of me to know I think that was really stupid so I'm just gonna tailgate him for a while until he knows I'm really ticked off?
I apologize if this blog is too self-absorbed. My intention while blogging is to address an issue that affects us all, and this is one time when I would ask for responses from whoever reads this if you would be so kind. Anonymous, or otherwise, tell me, am I alone?
One thing I am sure of; the sheepish guilt that loosens my grip on the wheel when at last I roar past in the passing lane and catch a fleeting glimpse of the little white-headed grandmother, hands tightly on ten and two, peering through the top rim of the steering wheel at the terrifying and bewildering road ahead.
Oh, dear God, am I so petty?
I suppose the debate about whether or not road rage is indicative of spiritual malnutrition or spiritual immaturity is somewhat pointless, IF I resolve to remedy the situation, whether it be with a balanced spiritual diet, in the case of the former, or graduating from milk to meat, in the case of the latter.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Great Bully

Dear Reader,

I guess I just need to blow off some steam and vent a tad-bit of frustration.
I think I need to take a careful look inside myself and ask a question, "Am I a viable, reasonably intelligent, and informed human-being; able to form thoughts and come to a concrete opinion all on my own?

I answer with a resounding and resolute reply, "Yes"!

Obviously, the vast number of free-thinking media personnel, those gods of the written word, who by the flick of the almighty pen hurl their enlightened ideas into the universe, would gladly inform me of my lowly stupidity!

Of course, which one of us is right?

Surely that man or woman, with a string of titles and degrees a mile long, would be the one with all the answers!? They are the ones who have taken the courses in journalism (the way to indoctrinate, oops, I mean "inform" those stupid, middle-class, flag-waving hicks of the way the world really is turning), environmentalism (the way to care for "Mother earth" like good, well- behaved children, never disturbing her by ripping down trees to make paper so they can spout their editorials...oops! There I go again! Pardon me!), world religion (the way to become a mouth piece for every religion, except Christianity. Learning how to defend, with all the passion and emotion inside their being, that religion the 9-11 terrorists embrace as their guiding light.)

You know, I realize that I could go on and on about the way things are, but frankly, it just all makes me sick!

When I see and hear day after day, on-the-hour-every-hour, the gripes and groans from a clearly biased media, I just want to stand up and shout back! And you cannot be truly honest to yourself and your God-given, human intelligence and tell me that the media is not biased!

But when things get so bad that it becomes abuse to pee on the Koran, while on the flip side it's art to put a crucifix in a jar filled with the same! Come on, people, you are not such a hopeless case as to still believe the media outlets, ABC, NBC, CNN, etc., are fair and balanced?!

Just the other day, my husband posed a question to a co-worker, recently returned from the battlefront in Iraq. He asked if the returning soldier thought that the USA was doing any good by being over in the Middle East. The soldier replied, without hesitation, that we were doing so much good by helping those people establish a democracy of freedom. My husband totally agreed, and then went on to personally thank the soldier for all of his sacrifice on behalf of his fellow Americans.
Okay, now here comes the zinger.
The man replied, "You know, that's the first time since I've returned, that anyone has thanked me for what I've done".

For shame, for shame America!

People, we need to get our heads out of the sand and wake up! We are at war! We were attacked! Our very existence is being threatened by these radicals terrorists! There is no negotiating with someone who believes it is their religious duty to blow up Americans, and not just Americans, but anyone who is non-whatever they claim to be! If this isn't an intolerant attitude, then I don't know what is! But, yet, our media would have us believe that we, the Americans, are the enemy! We, with our nation founded on Christian principles, are the enemy.!

I don't know about you, but I am going to stand firmly behind my country, president, and military, because without them we would all be dead! God help us to not be afraid to voice our own opinions, to think for ourselves; to not be bullied into cheering for the enemy.

Yes, I am an intelligent individual who is willing to stand up and shout back. I will not be told what to think. I have in front of me the same stack of facts as the media. The only difference between me and a whole lot of others is this: I purpose to actually use my brain to think through the issues. I refuse to be bullied.

More later. Comments welcome (but only if their your own)!

Saturday, June 04, 2005


My Saturday activities are structured tightly around a central philosophy. That is, do absolutely nothing out of necessity except spend time with my wife.
Nine-thirty usually finds us mumbling morning-speak to each other while we alternate positions in the master bath. There are those two other bathrooms, one of which gets used fairly frequently because it is downstairs, providing convenient access to the lav while downstairs as opposed to trooping back upstairs to the master bath, the other of which adjoins the guest bedroom, and I only catch glimpses of as I enter and exit the guest-bedroom/computer room. I have used the guest bath occasionally, only to feel as if I'm visiting friends and had to use the facilities. Besides, there's no books in the guest bath, not to mention the toilet paper gets pilfered and relocated to the master every time we deplete the supply, as procuring a fresh roll involves trooping downstairs. Don't get me wrong, I love having three bathrooms. It gives a breadwinner a sense of accomplishment. What more could a soul want?
The above paragraph may well have been the mother of all sidelines.
Ten-thirty or eleven usually finds us at Cracker Barrel, where the maitre d' (French word for hostess) recognizes us, infusing one with the small-town warm fuzzies. Twenty minutes later we are invariably enmeshed in some fairly deep, fairly abstract discussion. (I eschew the peg game as Job eschewed evil, viewing it as yet another way to demonstrate my lack of left brain competence.)
Noon finds us at the library, a place I fantasize about sneaking in at night, just the two of us, and over-indulging my book lust. I roam the aisles with the frustration of a kid in a candy store. So many printed words, so little time. I often marvel at the poker-faced librarians. Don't they find it utterly incongruous, not to mention hilarious, that a person who would check out books by C.S. Lewis, William Golding, an expose on the 9/11 hijackers (which, by the way, will unfortunately most likely collect dust for two weeks, harsh reality having lost out to riveting fiction and philosophy) and a CD of Tchaikovsky, would also check out a video cassette of Winnie the Pooh, and another book entitled It's a Dog's Life, Snoopy ? Such professional composure leads one to believe maybe they were formerly employed at a mortuary.
Not that I consider Peanuts any less a philosophical commentary on life than William Golding. If I were a pastor, I would incorporate Charlie Brown into more sermons than not.
My personal favorite strip: Charlie Brown lies in bed in the dark with those familiar worried insomniac wrinkles around his eyes and muses, "Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask, 'Does anyone remember me?' And then a voice comes to me out of the dark that says, 'Sure, Frank, we remember you.' "
Then it's off to the city. No good reason, really, and that's one of the things I love about Saturdays. While driving, we're scuttled in another conversation regarding music, thanks to whatever CD I have chosen. Most recently, it's been classical. My wife wields a knowledge of music I lack. I prefer to think of myself as a "music-as-an-art" connoisseur.
As to music, all sorts and genres, I read once that Sigmund Freud despised music.
I find that not at all surprising. To a soul such as Freud's, that believed in nothing comforting, nothing absolutely true, music would be a unthinkable blasphemy, a feast in a mausoleum. Music would have grated against Freud's futile notion of life the way the preaching of the gospel would grate against a soul in hell; insanely cruel and presumptuous.
Back to my sideline. Our wheels carry us to a sprawling up-scale shopping center on the outskirts of Lexington. Barnes and Noble is only slightly less seductive than the public library. (The idea of exchanging filthy lucre for the privilege of reading tends to tarnish its luster.)
Nonsensical wandering through several clothing stores usually produces nothing, only toward the end of the world's shortest and cheapest shopping spree do we find something in a particular store which name escapes me. She picks out and tries on for size, and shape, and color, while I browse among the tastefully expensive home furnishings, reminding myself once again that when I own a home, I want a study, and when I have a study, it must have a globe, a leather armchair, and a painting or print, rather, of some exquisite taste.
After she puts back all the items except two, we leave and depart, with a little more purpose now, toward the lights of Wal-Mart, getting business done and heading for home again where we'll do more of the same. Hang out. Read. Watch Winnie the Pooh.
I love being married.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Checking your blind spot

I recently turned twenty-seven. Thirty now looms up like the business end of a sawed-off shotgun. I regard the black hole warily, ready for the explosion. I know, in the back of my mind, however, that the closer I get to the shotgun, the smaller the barrel will look, until, sailing into the last few months of my twenty-ninth year, I will suddenly see another menace ahead; an Abrams tank, with a big 40 on it.
The older I grow, the more I realize that life never really changes that much.
The older I grow, the more I realize that life doesn't even closely resemble what it used to be.
(Unless I miss my guess, anyone my age or older will find the above contradictions completely harmonious.)
Growing up, I was never tempted to showy sins. My transgressions were more the common garden variety, as tame and insipid and insidious as a bad attitude will be.
The ostentatious rebellions of some of my peers never held the seduction for me that it held for them. "Such maturity." my elders crooned. "Such cowardice." hissed my conscience.
Such is the burden a timid sinner bears. The honest acclamation of others, blissfully naive as they are, heaps mountains of smoldering coal upon one's head while one goes about sinning in secret with a fleeting hateful glare, a clandestine fit of temper, or a vile thought.
Living in the basking glow of approval, tremendous pressure is brought to bear on the secret sinner, as an admittance of guilt would bring down the entire, elaborate palace of cards.
And so it goes, endless, unless the hypocrite is confronted with his own deceit, cornered by the Hound of Heaven, with nowhere to run.
Thank God for the misery of conviction.
Thank God for salvation and entire sanctification.
And so, the battle won, the war progresses.
Like any canny defeated foe, the enemy resorts to guerilla warfare.
Twenty seven I am now, and more cognizant than ever that the adversary of our eternal life is so utterly tireless.
Life is good, contentment abides in our home, yet I thank God His Holy Spirit stands as sentry.
Still not tempted to showy sins, nor even prone to particularly embarrassing mistakes of spiritual etiquette, I stop to wonder sometimes, as a soldier who finds himself in a curious lull of battle, what new devilry awaits me.
It's quiet. . . . . too quiet.
What fiendish assault is plotted by my enemy?
Those who succumb to frontal, obvious temptations will always puzzle me.
For example, I'm completely baffled at the carelessness and foolhardiness of those who fall to adultery.
From where I am, I cannot see for the life of me how they got from here to there.
And yet, as I ponder over this, a crawling caution rises the hair on the back of my neck.
What if this spectacle of a fallen saint is a diversion?
What ambush of my own looms behind or overhead?
Of one thing I can be sure. The enemy exerted no more effort in bringing down the adulterer, than he exerts on me each and every day.
I wonder if those weary heroes policing the edgy streets of Fallujah or Tikrit sometimes long for the shock and awe of Baghdad. Memory dims the horror, I assume, but mightn't a massive, organized army out in front be less terrorizing than a lone suicide bomber strolling up behind you?
Be sober, be vigilant. The roaring lion now stalks silently, crouching in your blind spot.
No need to keep your finger on your pulse. But keep your powder dry.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

If only evil were Apollyon

There is something about the particulars of the crime committed against the two small girls by the one's father, that makes it particularly insensate. If you've read up on the case, you know of course, I'm referring to the location of the wounds. It curdles the blood, and eventually leads everyone to ask, How?
I'm sure there's some danger in founding my musings on a case that hasn't yet been fully exposed, but it doesn't really matter. It makes it no less true. My first thought was that this was the essence of evil. Only the willful deliberation of true and pure hatred and sadism would suffice to explain this.
Until Devan conjectured the man was hallucinating.
I know, I said this was based on assumptions, but stay with me.
I know that copping an insanity plea will do nothing to effectuate grace in any of our hearts. Whether it was mental instability ( and who is going to seriously suggest the man was in possession of all his faculties) or drug-induced, justice should stand ready to deal with the man.
Insanity naturally garners more sympathy than drug abuse. With drugs, you have the issue of responsibility. For exactly the same reason, and rightly so, we throw the book at intoxicated drivers. The irresponsibility of combining alcohol and driving is considered criminal, as it should be.
Insanity is a little more dicey. If it were truly mental instability, a genetic defect, rendering him incapable of being responsible for anything, then may the psychiatrists do well with him in the padded cell. If it is insanity caused by drug abuse, the drunk driving precedent comes into play again, but still making the issue more muddled than if it were just plain cruelty.
Honestly, I would rather it be stark black and white. I would be glad would this prove to be a missing link between the single-celled organism of evil and the walking, talking, homo sapiens variety we have today.
The evolution of evil, though, is as dismally convoluted and unexciting as it is insidious.
John Bunyan writes allegorically of a man grappling with evil as treacherous terrain, spewing volcanoes, and a winged, fire-breathing beast that hurls lethal fiery darts.
If only. . .
If only the spirit of antichrist did bear real glistening fangs and have sooty black wings.
But the evil we must battle as compared to Bunyan's allegorical monster is as bullets are to cancer.
Consider one of Satan's most vile concoctions; child abuse.
The disease of child abuse is most often inherited.
How could it be that one who was so mistreated could so mistreat?
Our sense of right and wrong rebels against this folly. That the victim becomes the villain, and the innocent prey becomes the brutal predator. We yearn for a moral template. If only the evil were always evil, and demonstrably so, and the good always good, and demonstrably so.
The architect of evil is so competent.
With a computer hacker's adroitness, he introduced a virus to the human race that requires erasing most of our hard drive to eradicate.
Human nature wants to believe that evil is a human device. If we can isolate evil to Adolf Hitlers and John Wayne Gacys then we can all rest easy. Then at least if vanquishing the foe results in any personal injury, we have the solace of a purple heart.
But when eradicating evil begins with us laying down on a cross, surrendering to the nails and the hammer to kill our own evil, human nature drops the subject of killing evil altogether.
I think any of us, as Christians would gladly trade places with Bunyan's Christian, battling the elements, nature and ravenous beasts, but what we have to contend with is far more dangerous, and difficult to fight.
More later.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

"Good Humor, Gone Bad"?

I recently noticed something on the Fox news website that sort of struck me the other day. (No pun intended!)
The eye-catching title went something like this: "Ice cream vendor loses Good Humor and punches kid who mouthed off".

The gist of the story is that a thirteen-year-old kid started complaining about the price of the ice cream (I don't know, maybe, higher gas prices equals higher consumer costs--just a thought.)
This then triggers the vendor who retorts that the kid is fat and doesn't need ice cream anyway. You can just imagine that the conversation starts going right on down the ol' hill.
The kid, who evidently has vocabulary issues, starts hurling obscene expletives at the man, who then proceeds to lose his "good humor". This delightful exchange comes to a swift end as the man supposedly grabs the kid and slabs him into a wall. (Ice cream sandwich, anyone?)
Consequently, the vendor loses his job (and the $20 it takes to repair the kid's bike), wins a day in court, and is awarded an eighteen month probation sentence. Oh, I almost forgot, he also gets to make new friends at Anger-Management Class.
Meanwhile, what does this darling child, giggling in the courtroom, receive? Nothing. No, not even a bar of soap to lather out the nasties which poured from his mouth.

Folks, I don't like anything about this unfortunate circumstance. I am a firm believer that two wrongs do not make a right. But, I believe that this whole thing could very easily have been avoided. What ever happened with discipline at home and the careful instruction of children to respect your elders? Another thing, what about parent supervision? Personally, if that was my kid, he wouldn't be going near a strange man selling ice cream without his father or mother, and a can of mace.
This ice cream vendor was in the wrong too, but the greatest fault I believe lies with the moral bankruptcy of our great nation. Take away any kind of moral restraint and responsibility and what to you get? Eighteen months' worth of taxpayer-funded babysitting, anger-management class, and rude kid's with no respect.
More later...

Saturday, April 30, 2005

A very recent discussion had over biscuits and gravy at Cracker Barrel tilled up some new soil in my thoughts.
The name of a well-known gospel singer and the reluctant bombshell he dropped on his unsuspecting fans prompted a wandering discussion between Devan and I about the origination of what we call homosexuality.
Seems the singer's admission that he struggles with homosexuality gives some credence to theory promulgated by homosexual activists that their orientation is an inheritance, a birthmark stamped on their genetic makeup, rather than a deliberate choice.
Any credibility lent to this idea makes us shrivel up inside, petrified at the thought that anyone could have been actually created with this malady.
My lack of knowledge on the scientific aspects of genetics notwithstanding, I personally believe that there probably are some people born lacking an attraction to the opposite sex, but I do not believe, again, personally, that people are born with a natural attraction to the same sex. I think that the power of suggestion in our society and in societies and cultures since the beginning of time (homosexuality is not a child of the twenty-first, twentieth, or even nineteenth century) plays an enormous role in actually creating homosexuals. If, strictly hypothetically speaking, a person were born with the genetic tendencies that they tell us lend themselves to homosexuality but born in a society where there had never been a homosexual and the concept didn't even exist, the idea would never cross their minds. The reason I specify, strictly hypothetically, is because I anticipate an argument brought that points out that there must have been a "first" homosexual, the pioneer and the reason the argument is rendered hypothetical is named Lucifer, the father of all lies.
But for me, the issue of genetics is important enough, but only secondary.
Why does it matter if homosexuality is, in fact, genetic?
More specifically, does being born with a tendency make it right to carry it out?
Obviously, no, if you believe, and I do, that all of us are born with the tendency, the bent, in fact, to do evil.
The concept we must battle is not a scientific concept of genetics born in the 'nineties, it is an ancient concept, a Medusa monster that never dies. Most notably, in America, it manifested itself in a free-thinking, make love, not war revolution we remember not-so-affectionately as the 'sixties.
That's right. If it feels good, do it has morphed into a self-justifying, self-edifying idea that whatever we want to do, it must be right.
Because. . .why? Because it cannot be wrong if you genuinely want it. In fact nothing is wrong. Right and wrong are subjective, anyway, and TRUTH, oh truth is relative, and how dare anyone presume to know the truth. Everyone has their own truth.
Welcome to the twenty-first century, where sin is not really all that different and creative. It's just the same tired, old lie it's always been.
It would be easier, perhaps, to rubber stamp homosexuality as demon possession or mental instability, and maybe in some cases, it is. But, I think in more cases, it is simply a mutant, particularly virulent strain of an old disease that infected us all from birth.
Thank God, there's a cure, instead of therapy.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Blogging, I'm reminded of something E.B White (essayist and more famously, children's author) said in regard to essayists.
Sadly, I'm reminded of it, but can't quite remember it.
The idea, however, was that an essayist, or anyone who commits opinions to paper, is one of God's most audacious creatures, being so enamored of their own thoughts, they are convinced that others would like to hear them.
(It's a little bit cheeky, I guess, but, writing that, I find myself thinking that there are a whole lot more people who despise writing, but are nevertheless positively delighted and, in fact, duty bound, to give any and all their opinion on everything from John Bolton to toilet paper, and E.B. White said nothing of them. I think that perhaps his statement was his way apologizing for presumption and presenting a front of humility.)
I'm not particularly humble myself, not nearly so much as I would like to be, but then, if I were satisfied with my humility. . .
I suppose that, like White, I'm a little embarrassed.
While I'm not that humble, I'm not really brassy. And that entails pride, not wanting anyone to assume that I'm. . . .proud. Pride is the undisputed master of disguise.
So why I am embarking on this great presumption?
I love to write, plain and simple, and if I do so happen, along the way, to discover that a few others enjoy, or at least, are intrigued by my musings, then so much the better.
I think that statement should cover me in the humility department.
Now with that settled, another nagging doubt throws a flag on the line of scrimmage.
What do I write about?
That's a big one. I think I know now, with a little less gravity, how pastors and evangelists must feel when they search for God's message every week.
I'm interested, fairly informed, and most often disgusted with politics.
I'm interested, fairly ignorant, and most often enthralled with theology.
I'm the farthest thing from an expert on any subject of particular interest, that is, except my job, and even if you did want to know about construction sites and loading boxes at UPS, I absolutely refuse to tell you.
So, I'm left with a dubious alternative.
I shall write about whatever interests me at any given time.
Which brings us to the following, why is it so incredibly hard to remain at all times fascinated and excited about an ever-deepening walk with God?
At times I find myself exhilarated, heart pounding, mouth dry at the enormous, unbelievable prospect of my relationship with God Almighty, and then, so much more of the rest of the time, I notice my devotional life inspiring about the same amount of awe, and taking up about the same amount of time, as brushing my teeth.
Maybe I'm asking the wrong question.
Maybe it's: why do I need to be continually entertained with some new feeling, some discovery, some new revelation or profundity about God, or about myself, for that matter?
Isn't that suspiciously like immaturity?
To be sure, a true walk with God will reveal these things to me, but is that why I serve Him?
Am I that childish?
Is human nature that difficult to eradicate?
Or am I just lazy, waiting for God to continually carbonate my spiritual life, when I should be doing it myself?
Or is life all Coca-Cola?
More later.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

When it's all said and done

The whole trouble with blogging is this pressure thing. For me, articulate broadcasting of opinion only ever follows an urgent desire to commit some inspiration to posterity by writing it down. An urgent desire to immortalize my inspiration only ever follows a ripple on the surface of my pond (I've been irked).
I haven't been irked lately, at least not sufficiently. The only thing mildly irking is my wife. She said I have to post a blog before we go out to eat. And I'm hungry. That's the only thing that's mildly irking right now.
So in my quest for inspiration, I checked the news. The pope wants open dialogue with the press. This is news. I would think it would better qualify as news if the pope had told the press that they can go peddle peanuts. He decided pressing matters would be tended to more quickly if all the journalists swarming around Vatican City were rounded up, given 'til sundown to get out of town.
I also see that critics of affirmative action are roiling the waters over this recent shooting in Atlanta where a linebacker-sized criminal took advantage of a five-foot-two female deputy and escaped, killing in the process. Again, I was struck with irony.
I think it is tolerance, more than anything else, that leads to so many tragedies in this country, and others.
Is it not obvious that a five-two female deputy may be a little less imposing than say a six-foot 205 pound male deputy in good physical shape.
Yes, it's obvious. But we must not hurt the five-two female deputy's feelings. We musn't give the impression that we view the 205 pound gorilla as stronger, faster, and more imposing.
So we give a dangerous, highly important, public safety responsibility to a lesser qualified individual and everyone feels terrific about themselves and everybody else. We feel good because we haven't been judgemental and stereo-typical and the deputy feels good because she hasn't been discriminated against.
The only people not feeling good about everything are the dead ones and their families.
Another triumph for tolerance. And civilized society progresses thus.
And so does my hunger.
More later. Need brain food.