Fly Fishing with Bob

Last summer my friend Bob and I were in Denver at a fly fishing outfitter admiring the gear and clothing. It was in that moment of idealistic longing that we decided to go trout fishing. Neither of us fish much. But the river called to us like the sirens singing to Delmar and Pete in O Brother, Where Art Thou:

Come on, brothers, let’s go down, Down in the river to pray

It was the siren call of the river that drew my friend and I into the water in search of a rising fish and a connection to a river that runs through each of us.

Scott met us in the McDonald’s parking lot and we shook hands. He was our guide for the next four hours of trout fishing in Silverhorne, Colorado. Snowmelt from the Rockies ripples over rubble wearing the gold and brown and gray stones into shapes that look like eternity. We were to fish in a Gold Medal stream, which means it has surpassed certain criteria for purity and the fishing is catch and release.

Fishing makes me aware of my duplicity. I love fishing, I hate fishing. I am compassionate, I am selfish. I give a man with a sign that reads, “Help, anything appreciated,” five bucks, but I ignore the homeless man standing on the street. Fishing is for suckers in one moment and it is transcendent in another, as Steven Wright describes, “Last year I went fishing with Salvador Dali. He was using a dotted line. He caught every other fish.”

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Brent & Bob

Scott is from Seattle but has lived and guided fishing trips for over twenty years in Colorado. Scott drove Bob and me down to the edge of a dirt parking lot next to the Blue River,  just below Dillon Dam. We donned our waders and boots and grabbed our fly rods and walked down the bank to the edge of the river. We encountered other fly fishermen during our time on the Blue, and the conversation was always fishing, what’s hitting, which fly, how are you setting indicators. Fly fishing seems to be more of an art than a science, more of a conversation than a lecture, more a dance than hike.

Bob, grew up, like me, on the plains of Oklahoma. Like me, he also married mysteriously well, his wife lovely and younger.

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Sheila & Karen

Our married children were born on the same day, and they are sometimes mistaken for twins.

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Lauren & Beck

We were dining together in the Lohi neighborhood of Denver and the waitress asked if Lauren and Beck were twins. No we replied, they were born within hours of one another, but they are not twins, they are alike but still very different.

Scott spends time with Bob and then with me, alternating, coaching, encouraging, sometimes talking to the fish, “Eat it!” he says as our tackle flickers just to the side of a shadow that looks to me like another rock, but to Scott’s practiced eye, is a fish. They are alike, they are different, the water pounds both fish and rock, and the shapes beneath the surface change without perception to the untrained eye.

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On a trout river we are all alike but different. There are no strangers on a river, we are one with the sun and the stream and the fish. All things fade into sunlight and rippling water and the rhythm of a line and a current and as Norman Maclean says so poetically, in A River Runs Through It, “…all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.”

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The cast is more flick than muscle, and Scott has the muscle memory layered year over year compared to mine which is only a few minutes old. Yet he helps me, always saying, “Perfect,” when my tackle and indicator hits the flow of the stream near a yellow rock exactly where he has asked me to cast and as the indicator flows downstream I watch it bob and flow in the rhythm of the river waiting for a fish to strike and plunge it down and out of sight for a moment. Then I know the fly has either been caught between two rocks or a rainbow has hit it and is running. “Let it run,” Scott coaches us. “Your line is 3.5 pound test and if you resist, the fish will break the line, let it run, but keep the tip up and some tension, then when the pressure is slight reel in some line.”

Trout 3

My wife teaches yoga, and to her delight (no really, she loves it) I attend her sessions occasionally, and she has helped me with practices of calmness, quietness, and inner core strength, which is both spiritual and physical at the same time. And it’s helped my golf game, I more limber, able to play a game that requires violent twisting of the back and torso, with more suppleness and grace than before I started working out with her. Since we have this in common, we went together, the four of us, Bob, Sheila, Karen and me, to a tiny yoga studio in Frisco, Colorado. So the four of us are something, we are not sure what…friends-in-law? Anyway, we are traveling friends. We go places and we eat good food and enjoy God’s creation.

We fished the west bank of the Blue River heading north, holding on to the willows as we walked the stream bed edge. The worn round and oval stones in the stream bed were of varied sizes, from football size down to golf ball sizes, so the footing was uneven, and our walking required finding a firm foothold with the lead foot before following suit with the trailing foot. Bob and I both purchased wool socks the day before, but our feet were already cold by 9:00 am. And when we caught a rainbow, Scott netted the fish and told us, “Wet your hands.” And into the icy stream our hands plunged, then we grabbed the fish for a picture before it could wriggle away. After fishing the west bank for half the morning, we crossed the stream in a strong current, keeping a low secure base with our feet. Later, near the end of our time on the river, my back began to ache, and I realized how much core energy it took to stay upright in the rapids of an icy river. This was an entirely new kind of yoga pose, practice and repetition, eyes focused, body tensed against the swiftly flowing river.  

There is something in the stream that we can’t define but seek anyway, hope, faith, sustenance, connection to those who have fished before us. And it isn’t just in the river that we seek that, but in the rapids of living. A few days earlier, we sat at an intersection in Denver, and a homeless man sat, gritty, ragged, begging…I was driving and saw in the corner of my eye the passenger window coming down.

Bob talks to everyone without judgement. When we dine, he always asks the waiter/waitress, “What’s your name?” And eye contact. I’ve seen Bob give money to what many of us would call bums, but he gives them much more than that, he gives the touch of another human being, eye contact, I have noticed you, and a question, “How are you?” And the money, whether for a cup of coffee or a down payment on a bottle of cheap wine, doesn’t seem to matter, because a river runs through all of us.

Bob’s rolling down the window and he has a bill crumpled up in his hand. He yells out at the man who is seated and who is now trying to get on his feet, “How ya doin’? Don’t get up…here, I’ll throw it too you.” And he tosses a $5 dollar bill at his feet.

Bob rolls up the window and I said, “What did you throw?” Bob replies, “A $100 bill.” I tell Bob, “You went to heaven and hell in one sentence.”

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a $100 bill and Bob is kidding, but that isn’t the point is it?

Norman Maclean also writes in, A River Runs Through It, “We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman…

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Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river runs over rocks from peaks to valleys. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

It’s the day after our fishing expedition and we are in Vail, Colorado, at a LuLu Lemon shop and the girls are shopping for workout wear. The staff is friendly and they ask us where we are from. While the girls are in the dressing room, Bob and I are talking to the sales girl who is from a little town near Littleton. Bob’s son, Beck, is playing Link Larkin in the musical, “Hairspray,” at the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton. It’s a small world. We tell her about our fly fishing trip and she says, “I love to fly fish!” and she tells about her Dad taking her fly fishing just down the road. And I think of how fly fishing makes us search for our true north, how it makes us feel that old feeling of duplicity, I am a fool, and yet sometimes, I am wise.

“Her dad would pull over to the side of a bridge, and they would watch from above, before he slipped down the bank to catch them. She was charmed by the motions of trout. How they take their forms from the pressures of another world, the cold forge of water. Their drift, their mystery, the way they turn and let the current take them, take them, with passive grace. They turn again, tumbling like leaves, then straighten with mouths pointing upstream, to better sip a mayfly, to root up nymphs, to watch for the flash of a heron’s bill. The current always trues them, like compass needles. When she watches them, she feels wise.”  Matthew Neill Null, Allegheny Front

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Blue River

We are all fishermen, some of us fish for money by the side of the interstate, some go to work each day fishing for legal tender, for others fishing is natural, an easy way to be yourself, but for some it is the measure of what is true in each of us.

Like those rainbow trout, life forms us with pressure and we take it with passive grace until it tumbles us like leaves until we straighten pointing upstream, until eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs, but we can’t see them yet because our eyes are the eyes of novices, unlike Scott, who has practiced all his life to distinguish the shape of a rock from a fish. One day, maybe I will be able to see fish like Scott and look beneath the tumbling shining waters, to see those fish and those words underneath the rocks and that they are beautiful.

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Our guide, Scott

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Blowing Leaves

Once a month I take communion to Christians at a local retirement village who can’t make it to our Sunday church services. Last Sunday, I read from the Gospel of Luke. I looked up from my reading of the crucifixion account and saw Marge with her head tilted toward the heavens, eyes closed. Next to her is Floy, and she also is intent, but only because she struggles to hear as she cups her hand to her ear coaxing the words of Luke from my lips to her 93-year-old ear. Marge is 94 years old and I ask, “Can you see well enough to read the Bible?” She said, “No, and I can’t really make out your face, but I can see that your shirt is checkered.” I lied and told her I was handsome and she replied graciously, “I can tell by your voice.”

Marge always asks about my parents and tells me that she once lived across the street from them on Meadowlark Lane and I tell her that was the home into which I was born. She can’t always remember my name or what happened yesterday, but she can tell me details about the house from 1959. I tell her that Paul Stumpff, a fellow congregant, helped my Dad roof that house on Meadowlark Lane. Marge said, “I remember Paul on the roof of that house helping put up a television antenna and he got quite a shock and they drove him to the hospital and the doc told him, ‘You’ll be ok. If you had really touched heavy voltage, you’d be dead by now.'”

I don’t take these folks communion with the idea of taking up a collection for the saints. However, I hear Floy asking her husband, Morgan, if he brought the checkbook and he mumbles something under his breath and pulls out a check already prepared and filled out and I pray while remembering the Bible lesson that morning about the Rich Young Ruler who built more barns to store his riches. I pray for happiness found through giving, that giving will be a discipline we seek, like beggars pleading in a great reversal to give away our only two copper coins to a passerby on a crazy city street corner, while we sneak a providential smile, and as I say, “Amen,” and I realize there is no collection plate, so I reach out my hand and take a folded check and a crisp Lincoln bill from Marge and I put it away with the used cups and wafers.

I leave them and walk outside as wind-blown leaves somersault across the parking lot like fleeting beauty. Behind the eyes of the faithful, behind eyes that barely see, there is loveliness in simple memory. And there is music in simple scripture heard by brittle ears still stirred by the faith of their youthful soul, that resounds like a tower of bells.

 “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” John Keats

Our Summer of Invincibility

A good friend of mine, Steve Osborn, once referred to me as his summertime friend. He attended Oklahoma University and I attended Harding University. As college undergraduates, we mostly saw each other in the summer. We were connected by our faith, growing up together on the basketball court, at the church house, and graduating from College High School, across town from our rival school, Sooner High. We came home each summer to reconnect, live in our parents homes if they hadn’t sublet our bedrooms, and to work at jobs and church camp and do crazy stuff together. Steve’s term, summertime friend, makes me think about another friend from my college era, a friend who could use your prayers right now.

Jeff Lowry is from the other side of town and graduated from Sooner High, where he played football with his good friend, J.W. Lively. Both of these strapping lads would go on to compete on the gridiron at Abilene Christian University. Jeff and I worked for my father’s construction company during those days of summer shoveling ditches, tying steel, setting forms, and picking up trash. Roy Johnston was our foreman. He drove a Massey Ferguson tractor and gave us Redman Chewing Tobacco in 100 degree heat which cured my tobacco curiosity and Roy often said after completing a task, “That’s good enough for the girls we go with.” I’m unsure if that is an insult to girls or macho self-deprecation, but anyway, for two college boys, we thought it funny and said it repeatedly after completing a task.

It was during that summer of invincibility that we used the night to restore our chill, to bring us back to earth, as the sun shimmered off our backs and we yearned for the sun to sink below the western horizon of Circle Mountain. Late in the evening, we lay on our backs on a still warm driveway staring at the stars and making them disappear behind our thumb. In the darkness we escaped from the intense heat, the sweat and grime washed away by a cold shower and an evening breeze, while the Milky Way became our muse.

Jeff brought me out that summer in many ways. He was 6’4’ to my 5’10”, football machismo to my golfer reserved, bold to my timid, the say what you think to my keep quiet lest people know you are ignorant. And so we became friends that summer.

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Nancy, Tim, Jeff, David

We counseled campers at Osage Christian Camp, played softball in a church league, and once we took my Dad’s Lincoln on a quadruple date to Steak & Ale and then to the Muppet Movie. It’s the only time I’ve ever been on a quadruple date in one car and we did it just to say we did it. That’s what Jeff did to me, he made me try things just because, well…“Why not?”

Once we were driving to Tulsa and decided to stop at Roy Clark’s home and ring the doorbell. We drove through the fancy gates and walked to the front door as if we had an idea what we were doing. Nobody answered the door and we weren’t sure what we should say when Roy Clark opened the door and welcomed us inside for a friendly chat. We struck out but at least we tried and we did it because we were stupidly young and it gave us an adrenaline rush.

We once drove to the Will Rogers Rodeo in Vinita, OK and as we entered the grandstand and searched for seats, people stared at us with knowing disapproval because we were city slickers wearing Tony Lama boots who hadn’t a clue how to act at a rodeo. When do we cheer? Maybe we were wearing the wrong boots? Anyway, we stayed all of thirty minutes and drove back home.

We lived on the outskirts of town, where light pollution was minimal, and the stars were as numerous as beach sand. We knew a little about constellations, and searched out the Big and Little Dipper and stared at the enormity of The Milky Way canopied over our heads on those summer nights as we laid back on my driveway, hands clasped behind our heads in the darkness, staring at the wonder of what we could see but not fathom. And during those reflective moments we talked like you talk when you are 19 and your entire universe and life is in front of you. We talked about girls. We talked about careers. We talked about cars. We talked about falling in love and getting married. We solved mysteries, invented grand machines, and changed the world under the stars that summer.

I went to see Jeff last Saturday and I sat next to his bed and we talked about those days and about the days to come. I told him my son is getting married on September 17, which is Jeff’s birthday. Jeff will be 55 years old that day. Friends and family were coming into the room every few minutes and Jeff spoke to them and hugged them with affection and charm just as he always has. Jeff is fighting the good fight, just as he always has, with good spirits and great courage.

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There is a Sooner Spartan high school football jersey hung on the wall. Green and gold, the arch rival, the high school on the other side of town from the one I attended. And I realized how different Jeff and I are and yet we are same. Friends who haven’t stayed in touch a lot over the years, as guys are often wont to do. But still friends from our days of feeling invincible, yet insignificantly tiny compared to the Milky Way.

Jeff is no longer his college playing weight of 250 pounds, and I looked at the green and gold football jersey on the wall and thought that it would swallow him up now. But Jeff isn’t getting smaller in an important sense, he’s getting bigger, closer to the stars that we stared at in the summer of our youth.

Not everything worked out as planned on our driveway in the evenings that summer. Does it ever? But I still see my friend Jeff fighting, shoveling ditches, driving his legs off the line into the opposing player, working up a sweat just to sit up in bed now, battling, doing whatever it takes. Jeff never has backed down from a battle, or from a door with the unknown behind it, he just goes ahead and rings the doorbell.  For Jeff, this is just a temporary set back, a skirmish that takes him away from stargazing.

Someday Jeff will find a better rodeo and knock on a door even more famous than Roy Clark’s and all the wonder of staring at the stars from our driveway will wash over him like the soft glow of a late autumn day on the gridiron when the game is won and all you hear is the noise of an entire stadium, a crowd standing and cheering because now you are one of those points of light that we stared at those summer nights, you are a star.  

Jeff, you are a great friend and you’ve taught me how to knock on doors I never would have attempted to knock on before. Keep on knocking my friend, keep on knocking. I love you. bt

 

“…everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  Matthew 7:8

(If you want to send Jeff a note, his address is 2517 Kensington Way  Bartlesville, OK 74006, or just forward to me and I’ll see that he gets it)

 

An Artist is Never Poor

Mushroom consomme’ with asparagus dumpling, watermelon radish, baby greens and chili oil…Spring pea & Carrot Salad with shaved rainbow carrot, pickled cucumber, hijiki seaweed, Parmesan, nori cashews & orange-mustard vinaigrette…Alaskan Day Boat Halibut with Chanterelle mushroom, fava beans, cherry tomatoes, quinoa tabbouleh, cinnamon, ginger beer gastrique & smoked fumet…Espresso alongside dessert of whipped chocolate ganache, almond brownie, orange caramel & vanilla.

IMG_1520That was my favorite meal from a recent vacation with Bob and Sheila Martin, Beck and Lauren Martin, and my wife, at a restaurant that is 100% powered by wind energy, called Root Down. So yes, it’s a trendy chic hippy-dippy Denver hot spot, but after paying the check, I thought about a couple of wonderful lines from Babette’s Feast, a short story by Isak Dinesen, who also wrote  the book Out of Africa, “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”

IMG_1570The waiter asked if we wanted dessert, I said give us the first four listed at the top of the menu. There is a fine line between gluttonous indulgence and eating sensibly. It was such a memorable meal partly because I had to check my credit card balance after paying because it was, well, a lot. But not 10,000 francs like in the story Babette’s Feast.

So I thought about how those who share great food and friendship are never poor even if they have nothing else, and of two great quotes from Babette’s Feast.

The first great quote is a toast after the feast prepared by Babette. General Lorens Löwenhielm, now an old Swedish cavalry officer and once a young dashing suitor of Martine, the object of his unrequited love, is now famous and married into royalty. As the various never-before-seen meal ingredients arrive from Paris and preparations commence, the pious sisters, Martine and Phillipa, begin to worry that the meal will become a sin of sensual luxury, if not some form of devilry.

In a hasty conference, the sisters and the congregation agree to eat the meal, but to forego speaking of any pleasure in it, and to make no mention of the food during the dinner. It’s comical to watch the congregants attempt to not enjoy something truly remarkable as it overwhelms them. As a man of the world and former attaché in Paris, Lorens is the only person at the table qualified to comment on the meal. He regales the guests with abundant information about the extraordinary food and drink, comparing it to a meal he enjoyed years earlier at the famous “Café Anglais” in Paris.

Although the other celebrants refuse to comment on the earthly pleasures of their meal, Babette’s gift breaks down their distrust and superstitions, elevating them physically and spiritually. Old wrongs are forgotten, ancient loves are rekindled, and a mystical redemption of the human spirit settles over the table.

“There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.”

Denver Martin Taylor Vacation 2016

After this once-in-a-lifetime meal, the sisters assume that Babette will now return to Paris. However, when she tells them that all of her money is gone and that she is not going anywhere, the sisters are aghast. Babette then reveals that she was formerly the head chef of the Café Anglais, and tells them that dinner for 12 there has a price of 10,000 francs.

 

Martine tearfully says, “Now you will be poor the rest of your life”, to which Babette replies, (this is the second great quote)

“An artist is never poor.”

Philippa then says: “But this is not the end, Babette.. In Paradise you will be the great artist God meant you to be” and then embraces her with tears in her eyes saying: “Oh, how you will enchant the angels!”, which is how the story ends as well as the movie which was made in 1987.

Here’s a clip of the General’s Speech from this incredibly simple but remarkable movie…but don’t watch it hungry!

 

Word

Word” is the shortened form of the phrase: “my word is my bond” which originated with prison inmates and also by my Grandma, who avoided blasphemy by saying,”oh my word”, or “oh my goodness”, which sounds similar to God. Word is equated to God from John Chapter 1. It begins like this. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

And so the Word and words have a way of animating our lives. Love spoke and animated the universe. That’s remarkable! God spoke and words became matter which animated our world and continues to hum as our hearts dance to grace, mercy, creativity, passion, love.

Or if you enjoy music…In the beginning was the Song of Creation and it was beautiful, and the Song’s tune beats in our chest. Read Genesis 1 again and see how poetic, verse-like, and lyrical it sounds.

Melody, harmony, pitch, rhyme, rhythm, volume, and tempo all animate the original Song we sing about the wonder of life…and the heartache. 

Words…my wife remembers words well, lyrics of old songs from Barry Manilow to Credence Clearwater Revival. I can remember the ones that are most profound…to me anyway. Here are some of my favorites.

Bob Dylan-Blowin’ in the Wind

How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?                                          

One of the first songs that awoke my understanding of music as social conscious, not just entertainment.

 

John Cougar Mellencamp-Minutes To Memories

An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind.

An Indiana storyteller weaving simple narratives about Jack and Diane and freeways running through the front yard of pink houses.   

 

Simon and Garfunkel-The Boxer

All lies and jest, still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

I introduced Paul and Art to my daughter Lauren and we share a love for their poetic lyrical ballads.

 

Woodie Guthrie-This Land Is Your Land

As I went walking I saw a sign there, And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.” But on the other side it didn’t say nothing, That side was made for you and me.                                                                                                                           

The man from Okemah, Oklahoma who wrote about my Okie homies. This verse is lesser known, but pretty good!

 


Ramones-I Got a Lot to Say

I got a lot to say, I got a lot to say, I got a lot to say. I can’t remember now, I can’t remember now, I can’t remember now.

Does this really need commentary?  The first Ramone’s tune I ever heard was at my wife’s sisters wedding in New Jersey…”That’s What I Like About You…” which sent a bolt of lightning through the sanctuary of the church house as the couple walked down the aisle and the pews shimmied and shook along with a few uninhibited souls.

 

Veggie Tales-Love My Lips

…the fire department came and broke the lock with a crow bar and I had to spend the next six weeks in lip rehab with this kid named Oscar who got stung by a bee-right on the lip-and we couldn’t even talk to each other until the fifth week because both our lips were so swollen, and when he did start speaking he just spoke Polish and I only knew like three words in Polish except now I know four because Oscar taught me the word for lip: Usta!”  

This is more of a vegetable hip-hop rap and the reason I’m now considering a vegan lifestyle.

 

James Taylor-Country Road

Sail on home to Jesus won’t you good girls and boys
I’m all in pieces, you can have your own choice
But I can hear a heavenly band full of angels
And they’re coming to set me free
I don’t know nothing ’bout the why or when
But I can tell that it’s bound to be
Because I could feel it, child, yeah, on a country road.

Yes, James, I love the highway also.

 

Bob Dylan/The Byrds-My Back Pages

I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

I have no idea what this means, but I love it.

 

U2-Where the Streets Have No Name

I want to run, I want to hide, I want to break down the walls, That hold me inside, I want to reach out, And touch the flame, Where the streets have no name

Longing for a world where your income and worth is not determined by neighborhood or by your tribe. Echoes of the Bible passage in Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

 

Pink Floyd-Wish You Were Here

We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl.

Not many artists can write and sing about mental health and still attract large crowds.

  

Jimmy Buffett-Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

If we weren’t all crazy we would go insane.

I know…right?

 

Bruce Springsteen-Jungleland  

There’s an opera out on the turnpike, there’s a ballet being fought out in the alley.

Bruce uses strange juxtaposition to make things memorably odd.

 

Robert Robinson-Come Thou Fount

Come thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace…

My daughter Jenna re-introduced me to the majesty and truth of this great hymn. The entire song is beauty and loveliness, every verse filled with purpose and meaning. 

 

Neil young-Comes a Time

Comes a time when you’re driftin’, Comes a time when you settle down, Comes a light feelin’s liftin’, Lift that baby, right up off the ground., Oh, this old world keeps spinning round, It’s a wonder tall trees ain’t layin’ down, There comes a time.

Neil tells a life story in just a few words…amazing.

 

James Taylor-Carolina in My Mind

With a holy host of others standing ’round me, Still I’m on the dark side of the moon, And it seems like it goes on like this forever, You must forgive me, If I’m up and gone to Carolina in my mind

JT is singing about going home to see those you love while Paul, John, George and Ringo surround him in the studio (a holy host of others standing ‘round me) in England where he was first signed by Apple Records, but Carolina in My Mind was the song I sang most often to my children before bedtime so it means more to me as a lullaby about the peace of restful sleep and saying goodbye to my children at the end of the day.

You don’t need to be a male seminarian to be an evangelist

I’ve been challenged by my Bible study group to live out loud this week. Specifically, I’m posting some thoughts on John 4 here, the account of a woman drawing water from Jacob’s well, a woman who had the courage to testify despite having no social, economic, or religious standing in her community.

Jesus sent 12 disciples to town to get food for 13 people because they didn’t have take out boxes to carry the flat bread and fish?

No, apparently he sent 12 to get food for 13 so he could cross racial, social, and religious barriers and speak to a woman drawing water from a well and tell her He was thirsty…and despite her sexual past, her race, her gender…for her He had living water.

Once she realized who Jesus was she shared what she had seen because she had seen beauty. What was this beauty?

Come see a man who saw me to the bottom, and knew everything I ever did, and still loved me to the skies.

To be loved but not known is superficial and unsatisfying. They love you but they do not know you.

To be known and rejected for it is our greatest nightmare.

Surely, the Samaritan women knew these two kinds of rejection, she was after all on her sixth husband, in a culture that discarded women casually and treated them as sexual chattel, but…

To be known all the way down and loved infallibly, endlessly…is Heaven.

Once she saw this beauty, she had to share it…like seeing a sunset or hearing a beautiful piece of music. It’s an involuntary muscle, “I want you to see it, I want to share it.” And she dropped her water jar as if it were her life, and she went to tell people about Jesus.

John 4:39  Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

selected excerpts from Tim Keller sermon, “Public Faith”

Blessed are the Biscuit Eaters

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the mind of an introvert writer, here it is. We like judging people. Not in the indicting sense, but rather as a playful mind game that often displaces conversation. Shame on us who prefer an imagined conversation rather than reality. It does, however, assuage the boredom of unthinking silence.

I had just ordered a maple bacon biscuit from a cafe on the edge of the Florida State University campus and after presenting payment, the young lady working the register casually threw a question at me which I considered for three seconds then replied, “eternal life.”

The question she asked? “What is the best gift you have ever received?”

I sat and waited for my biscuit. I noticed then, as food was ready to pick up, they called your answer out over the sound system. I thought, “They will look me over to see who the “eternal life” guy is. I began watching the steady stream of folks picking up their food as their answers were proclaimed.

“Life” was an older lady who shuffled and had a kindly face. I bet she makes great blackberry cobbler.

Mr. “no answer” seemed withdrawn, perhaps an introvert busy judging others without time to consider the question and reply in a measured and proper way?

“salvation in Jesus” seemed evangelical middle-of-the-Bible belt girthy…whatever that means..

“family to love again” was mysterious, and I wondered about what had happened in her life to make her need to have a family to love again.

“My wife”, I think he mailed that one in and would have gotten a tongue lashing with any other answer.

“my daughter” made me think of the two great daughters I have

“Scholarship” was young, probably FSU student, maybe weighs 140 lbs dripping wet, academic rather than Seminole football

“dog” round kindly face, yes, I’m thankful for Abby, my dog also. She gets left out of way too many prayers.

If I ever eat at the Maple Street Biscuit again, I’m going to order everything on the menu just so I can sit and watch the people again, walking, shuffling, strutting, strolling, eating biscuits, bacon, and pure maple syrup while considering life and how they answered that question.

How would you have answered?