Learning the ABC’s – (H, K, S)

H is for Horse-shit. A friend and I were talking; her in the back seat, me driving and every few seconds making eye contact via rear-view mirror. We talked about church politics, about speaking one’s mind, about using one’s voice to express concern and care for the body.

She has a voice, and it’s a damned smart one. It’s powerful too, and when it swings it swings for the fences. But just because it’s powerful doesn’t mean she never has doubts or questions. And when she expressed doubt concerning the potency and appropriateness of her voice, I told her that if people didn’t listen to her because of some made-up cotton-candy excuse, that excuse was horse-shit.

She’s got the voice that swings for the fences.

K is for Kaleidoscope. A few years ago, I bought my sister and niece the same kaleidoscope. My sister’s a college graduate, and my niece was eighteen months old. Still, I thought both could find ways to use it.

The kaleidoscope reminded me of both of them, in different ways. Small babies and kaleidoscopes are both tightly wound packages of mystery and magic. My sister’s always been a goofy one, and she’s always appreciated whimsy. A kaleidoscope is another see to what you’ve always seen, just to see it in a new way.

This Christmas, my sister bought me an awesome kaleidoscope. She picked it up at a market in Seattle. It’s the size of a flask with a tube full of colored stones that you can spin and slide. The viewing slot’s on the other side, and the shapes change as you slide the tube.

One of my favorite things to do is to aim the kaleidoscope toward the sun and watch the stones glow.

S is for Shasta. Every year, a group of us from college pull together before Christmas and spend time together. We make gingerbread houses, decorate cookies, pay board games, make meals together, and sleep late.

This year, we stayed in Shasta, at the house of Ben and his wife, Hannah. There’s a baby on the way; quite-quite soon. There’s a peculiar gentleness to a woman who’s embraced pregnancy, to someone who’s had over thirty weeks to pray and care for the child inside of them. That’s a fierce tenderness.

We went out to a frozen lake, I had an awesome run one morning, and one night, even Santa came to our street, via the fire department. There was fellowship, and there was kindness. Time slowed to a crawl, to a peaceful current without rush or panic.

 

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eve

I hope you had a great Christmas, sir. I hope it was full of broken hearts and lots of people who prayed to you about how no one loves them and how no one wants them over the house because they drink too much and because they scare the kids.

I hope you lost sleep because of all the people on the streets freezing to death and unable to find a bed of their own. I pray lots of people sent you their well-wishes and I hope plenty others told you to fuck off and stop meddling in their lives.

I bet there’re lots of people who believe they know best, and I pray they told you how much better off they’d be if you’d shut up and left them to their own business. That would be better, they think. If you didn’t bother them so damn much, says them, they’d be a happier lot, and maybe they wouldn’t be so damn broken-hearted all of the time.

But instead they have you to contend with, and you have all these weird notions of love and how much you want to change their lives and all the things you want to do through them. There you sit, surrounded by all the ways you want to love people, and yet all these people don’t want your love.

Lord, I pray you had a wonderful Christmas. I pray there were lots of fires and tears. I pray O Lord, that the people of this earth welcomed your coming with their ache and their fire and their spit. I know you’re here, Immanuel. I believe you’re here, King of Kings, and I hope you get an earful.

I hope people forgot why they celebrated holidays in the first place, and I pray people spent lots of money and bought lots of shit for lots of other people, and they never talked to you about anything other than the goddamn idiot driving in front of them, other than Jesus, son of a bitch, the person who’s taking so long to make the coffee, other than Christ Almighty, all the people fucking up their days and nights, all the ways their life is not better and how there is no peace and no quiet.

Lord, I trust your Christmas season was full of death and dying and piss and shit and hospital bills, and I pray the people of this earth heaved up the prayers of a grateful and spiteful nation. I pray people acted out of fear, and I pray people hated each other and decided they were better than everyone else. I pray people made snap judgements about people they’ve never met.

I pray we forgot all the people freezing to death. I pray their breath never ever reached my plate of steaming Christmas ham. I pray that fucker never got close to me or my sacred little dinner.

Lord, I pray we don’t forget what you did on this earth so long ago. I pray we don’t forget the love and mercy you laid out in swaddling cloth that night. Father, forgive me. Forgive my arrogance. Forgive my pride. Thank you for your joy, and thank you for your peace. Thank you for the grace which arrives every day to meet my sin anew.

I pray you walk me, guide me and kick out my legs from under me, and after many revolutions, O Lord, I pray I find myself on a bed of straw, seated next to a steer at the foot of the manger.

Keep me still and silent, Father. Keep me still and reverent for the sake of the newborn child who’s cold and trying to sleep.

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120913 :: Jealous

I know my jealousy faster these days. Feel it collect at the back of my throat. Feel sit swish-slosh in the bowels of my stomach. Feel it course through my brain and stain my tongue. Feel it lock my lips and pour endless rotting waves over my heart.

No one will know the jealousy and the pride which eats and kills from Deepest Within.

***

Lord, I’m a jealous man. I’m petty.
I know, says the Lord. I love you.
Lord, all I worry about is myself.
I know that also, says the Lord.
Lord, I hate how soaked full of jealousy I am. I’m wet and ragged and dripping.
I can see that, says the Lord.
So what do I do?
Now you put yourself in my hands, and I will, in time, wring you out of jealousy.
That sounds like it’s going to hurt.
It might. In fact, it will. No use in hiding.
Lord, forgive me.
I forgive you. Put yourself into my hands, and I will press you of all envy.

***

My sister had a karaoke microphone. It was pink, and you could sing along with whatever song or melody it was playing. You could sing any kind of song, but every song made you smile, even if only for a second. After all, there’s not much else to do but smile when you’re singing into a pink microphone.

Today, I was jealous. Today I was all about me.

Which makes it the perfect day to write Christmas cards.

Today the Lord needed someone to write cards, to fill blank spaces with words of kindness and affection. And he chose s man who had neither element in great reserve. But kindness and affection were, by His Grace, multiplied.

Through Christmas cards, I direct my anger and bile and express it through loving words. My anger, on its own, is a pathetic, babbling mess. I know some recipients, but many others are new. The Lord continues to expand our family, and every single piece is beyond our control. And He shows me every single piece in every single Christmas card.

I don’t care how well you write and how good your penmanship looks on the card, says the Lord. You didn’t bring this person here. I did. I brought that person and this one, and the one you don’t even know about…that one…wow, that one’s going to blow your mind.

You can’t build a pyramid out of Christmas cards. Lord, help me direct all anger and jealousy and pettiness into tiny loving acts. Help me redirect all the hate in my heart and teach me to hug without pretense or desire to see it end.

Amen.

———————-

***

120113 :: How Does the Heart Climb the Ladder?
120213 :: The Moviemaker
120313 :: Birthday Girl
120813 :: Crowned

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120813 :: Crowned

A brain-scientist, also known as a neural-anatomist, studies the brain because her brother is schizophrenic, and she’s driven to learn of the chemical differences between a ‘normal control’ brain, and a brain afflicted by schizophrenia.

At some point in her study, she wakes one morning and realizes the left side of her brain is hemorrhaging. Her first thought is, “I’m having a stroke.” Her second thought is, “How cool is that? How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain while they’re having a stroke?” Her third thought is, “We need to get some help!”

Long story short, she has a transcendental experience in the ambulance, and achieves Nirvana. She sees herself as simultaneous Multitude and Singular. She is trillions of atoms connected to the Nature all around, and she’s also the one person; the scientist, the girl who thought it was really cool that she was having a stroke.

(Watch and experience her story. Absolutely worth it. — JILL BOLTE TAYLOR)

***

When I write, I’m committed to one story, and I’m committed to the characters in the story, and I’m committed to the hearts of the characters in the story, and I’m committed to the pasts, presents and futures of the hearts of those characters in the story.

When I write, it’s very easy for me to lose my place.

There’re times when I write and I know the words’ll never see the light of day. I know these words don’t connect to anything and I know the words won’t reveal anything deeper than an inability to write in complete sentences.

Those are the times where I hear voices; where I’m trying to be Multitude and Magnitude and Enormous and Wondrous.

The problem is that I’m none of those things. I’ve tried to be Multitude; to be Legion and Armada and Band of Brotherhood and Peace. But I’m not. I fall every time. When I try and transcend with my own hook and ladder, then I wind up building the Tower of Babel, and at a certain point, everyone starts talking different languages.

***

I can’t imagine there weren’t some decent people who were trying to build the Tower of Babel. I’m sure I’d be friends with some of these people. I’d have coffee with these folks, and I’d ask how the building was going, and what they planned to do with the building once it was finished.

I have done things so that I might be magnified. And that’s the worst part of it; is that it works, every single time. You want to be made known by what you do? Easy. That’s nothing. You have more ways to make yourself famous than you will ever know what to do with, so have fun.

Because if you want that crown, you’ll have it faster than you ever thought possible. And it will spoil like milk left on the counter. It will rust and rot and crumble and break to dust in the palm of your hand. I don’t care how much water and sun and treatment you give it. I don’t care how much love you show your crown, because that sonuvabitch is not long for the world.

Crowns are subject to time, as are we all. You can’t make a ladder out of crowns, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

No matter how much blood, sweat and tears we put into the mix, we’re still making wax wings. But onward we march. Our wings and our towers and our crowns for the taking and making and breaking.

The greater I strive to make myself more, the quicker I’m revealed to be less. Forgive me, O Lord, as I magnify. Forgive me, O Lord, as I climb. Forgive me, O Lord, as I ascend.

Lord, I am neither Multitude nor Legion. I am, at best, tenderness. I am fragile and susceptible to rust and decay. I get cold way too easily, and I get cranky if I haven’t eaten. I am minuscule and earthen and formed. The ground catches my knees as I fall, and my head cherubim-bows, holy-holy-holy, I am nothing but a tender collection. I am a ragged flag who waves; beaten by wind.

***

First snowfall in the city. The blanket rises up our steps, and the house grows quiet. I warm myself with tea, and I write and I pray, and my heart sits fireside with the Maker.

***

120113 :: How Does the Heart Climb the Ladder?
120213 :: The Moviemaker
120313 :: Birthday Girl

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120313 :: Birthday Girl

Today is the birthday of someone I used to care for. It’s also Chef Pam’s birthday. I don’t know Chef Pam from a hole in the ground, but nowadays, I know Chef Pam just as much as I do the person I used to care for.

From hereon in, the one I used to care for will be known as ‘Chef Pam.’ Of course she has an actual name, but nowadays it means as much as any other word: quinoa, albatross, screen, cocoon. She could, for the purpose of this writing, be called Quinoa. It makes no difference…

(…But of course it does. I know it does. So let us agree that it matters, and for a while, be gentle and lie with me.)

Not to say my care for Chef Pam was misplaced; not to say I was a fool to care about Chef Pam. Without question, however, I did act foolishly; said ‘I love you’ far too quick, tried to gloss over too many wrongs with not enough rights, and I held on long after I should’ve let go…or not.

Because where would I have wound up? Certainly not here. If I let go before I did, what would have happened? Certainly not this. I’d be elsewhere, doing something else with someone else for some other reason and in some other way.

Lots of ‘some’ and ‘other’ and ‘else.’

Today is the birthday of the girl who broke my heart, the first one to make me feel in turns like an astronaut and an anchor; weightless on the surface of the moon, drowning in the heart of the sea.

Happy Birthday, Quinoa,
Happy Birthday, Albatross,
Happy Birthday, Chef Pam,
Happy Birthday to you

——————————

120113 :: How Does the Heart Climb the Ladder?
120213 :: The Moviemaker

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120213 :: The Moviemaker

Nyeri’s two hours north of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. Kenya’s in East Africa, the Equator striped across the midsection. For years, two dear friends of mine have worked and loved alongside a Kenyan woman who quit her job and opened at orphanage for those whose parents had died, or whose parents left them for dead.

Irene, a girl about to break into the teenage years, asks lots of questions. “Now I am going to ask you, have you ever eaten snail? Where did you and Kate meet? Do you know Casey? Have you eaten frog legs? Have you ever had maize?” She tilts her head like a bird and squints with her eyes when she readies to ask another question. “Now I am going to ask you, what do you for work?”

“Well…I make movies.”

“Hmm. What else?”

No amazement. No ‘ooh’ or ‘awwwe.’ No questions of whether we not I know any movie stars. No grand worship or applause. She listens, nods and then,

“Hmm. What else?”

“Oh…umm…well, I guess that’s it.”

“So it is easy?”

“Uhh…Yes, Irene. Very easy.”

For Irene, ‘I make movies‘ carries the same weight as someone introducing themselves and saying ‘I make chairs.‘ Both people make something to support themselves. Many people she knows make more than one thing in order to support themselves. I have the luxury of only needing to make one thing. Movies. Not chairs and bed frames and tables and desks. Just movies.

And for as long as it may take to make a movie, it vanishes in a breath. But for as short it takes, comparatively speaking, to make a chair, it might last a lifetime.

***

Moses, a young boy of three or four, is tired and wants to be held. I pick him up and hold him close. I hold more children in my time here than I have in a long time. I feel my heart changing in the company of younger souls.

Moses touches my face as if it’s the surface of the moon, like he’s never come close to anything like it in his entire life.

***

I’m hanging out with Rogers, and I’m looking at his hands. We review colors. My shirt. Red. His pants. Blue. He looks down at his hands. “My hands are black.”

I nod. “And they’re beautiful.” I take his right hand. “Look at these beautiful fingers.” I take his left hand. “Look at these beautiful fingers.” He looks at my hands. “How are my hands, Rogers?”

Rogers smiles. “Beautiful.”

This face, tired from days and nights of notes and critiques and egos and drama, is still like a wondrous alien planet. These hands, dirty and crooked from all the grimy movie-making, are still beautiful. Thank you Lord, thank you and thank you.

————–

120113 :: How Does the Heart Climb the Ladder?

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120113 :: How does the Heart Climb the Ladder?

And there he is, front steps of Union Station, the Capitol Building loud and proud in his rear view, winter’s crystal blue sky above with a cold sun shining.

He blows out “Great is Thy Faithfulness” on a golden horn, and I imagine him on New Orleans’ Pontchatrain shore, bare heels breaking seashells like peppercorn crushing, pants rolled twice above the balls of his ankles, water laps up and mats down the hair on his legs, and tender step by tender step he makes his way along Pontchatrain.

He plays, and then he sings, and he belts and unleashes his ribbons of fire into the sky, his voice streaking into night with a hot boil, each word drenched in seared blood of a broken heart, and he screams because the words’re red-hot-poker burning against his throat, and they scar and tattoo his insides from gut lining to the roof of his mouth, each syllable vibrant and vibrating with tilt-a-whirl fury and hope and hate and blind swinging desire that things could be different, that things should be different and each single word is an exploding thousand-flower-bloom of excitement and joy and ache and song and zealotry and compassion and revelry and agony and mercy and mayhem and rioting and stillness and torrent and breaking and building and breaking and building.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not,
as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided,
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

It’s clear and it’s cold but his brass won’t bend and his voice won’t break, and he won’t stop playing and he’ll scream the words if necessary, if he has to nail his trumpet to the door like Wittenberg, because the man must make his peace, draw his heart into the open and share for all the eyes and ears.

He’s looking for a way to share his heart with all venom and adoration, but how does he best speak his heart? How best does the heart lice and move and dance and make its way in the world? How does the heart throw its song to God with such melody to bend His ear?

How does the heart climb the ladder?

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Prayers from out in the Bleachers

Didn’t look like much when we pulled up in the parking lot. “That’s Tiger Stadium?” I thought. “Looks pretty bad.” Wasn’t too concerned though; my Oakland Athletics were playing that day, and I was more excited to see them play than I was to see the Tigers and their supposedly-hallowed grounds.

My father, brother and I were part of a tour group traveling from baseball stadium to baseball stadium. Memory escapes when it comes to order, but this trip included stops at Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, the Jake, Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium.

And, in the middle of a lonely lot, some misbegotten box called Tiger Stadium.

***

In future years, new ballparks would litter the landscape; Pacific Bell Park and its giant Coke bottle in left-center; pools in Arizona and Tampa. They would bring in fans, no doubt, but something about them seemed less ballpark and more theme park.

But Tiger Stadium; here stood a tabernacle, a tabernacle in disrepair and ill-condition, no doubt, but no less filled with Sacred. Take off the shoes and put on the cleats, for here was two-seam holy-ground.

The poles on either side pulled in tighter than the dimensions read, with the second deck in right field having a slight overbite, making it more probable for a ball to wind up there instead of the ground level. Center field pulled back-back-back, 440 feet worth, creating a Valley of the Shadow for anyone looking for the seats in Straightaway Center.

The walkways in belly of the stadium resembled gangplanks of a ship. Old steel creaked and moaned as if fighting back storms. Imagine if Alcatraz sold hot dogs and occasionally, the inmates turned double plays. Hope that helps.

I watched batting practice from the first base side for a few swings, and then I noticed an old man standing near the dugout on the third base side. I recognized him as the A’s radio announcer, Bill King. Imagine Ernie Harwell or Vin Scully, then combine the gentle frame of a watchmaker with the stunning facial hair of Dos Equi’s Sexiest Man Alive, and that’s Bill King.

I sprinted over and, with trembling hands, approached Mister King. I said ‘hello,’ and he smiled. I had the scorecard from the baseball program and asked for his signature. ‘Of course,’ he said, and, with a flourish, signed his name.

***

The game was unremarkable. A’s clobbered the Tigers, 12-1. Ben Grieve and Matt Stairs had stellar offensive days for the Green and Gold. Yeah, you heard me; Ben Grieve and Matt Stairs. Salad days, these ain’t.

I was thirteen when I walked into Tiger Stadium, and now I’m twenty-seven and it’s Game 5 of the ALDS between the Athletics of Oakland and the Tigers of Detroit. It’s a home game for the Swinging A’s, in a malnourished concrete edifice called the O.co Coliseum.

Let me be clear; I hope Sonny Gray and the A’s shut ‘em down, and shut ‘em down hard. I know Verlander’s pitching for the Tigers, and he’s meaner than the Philly sun at the end of July, but I believe, still.

***

I am warm with memory; the swirl of cheer and chatter, the shine of stadium light, the sound in the bend of my seat as I lean forward, give my glove a few pounds, and pray for the crack of the bat.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, play ball.

And let’s go Oakland.

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All the Cool Kids Wear Sackcloth and Ashes

Two old men in blue short-sleeve-shirts and khaki shorts. One Married and one Non, at least according to rings on and not-on fingers.

Talk of people of places of things. Coffee sipped. More talk. Food served. More of people of places of things.

Then, words off the tongue of the Non; “I never understood that.”

Coffee sipped. Food consumed. Of people of places of things.

When I say something like “I never understood that,” that’s alright. I’m 27, and I’m learning, and I’m learning about a lot of things, and I’m figuring out there’s a lot I don’t know about tax codes about rockets about women about marketing about bike tires about glass about weather about washing machines.

When I say “I never understood that,” it doesn’t have a whole lot of weight, not unless it’s a particular thing that I might have invested blood-sweat-tears-hopes-dreams-soul into, and even then, it’s still pretty inconsequential.

Odds are it won’t make much difference to you what I do or don’t understand.

But when an old man says “I never understood that,” no matter what, hearing him say something like that that makes you think.

Infancy grows to youth to adulthood to middle age to old age to death, and at all points, Life is not ours to understand. Understanding was never the goal or prize.

 ii

And it makes me wonder.

Which is good. I don’t wonder enough.

 iii

Makes me wonder what in the world life could be about, if that whole notion of bettering yourself and finding peace with who you are is a pipe dream, if that notion of self-improvement and constant emotional iteration is the biggest lie ever sold.

Makes me wonder and pray for everyone, myself included, who repeat the notes in their lives because they believe it will save them, because those actions have become something which provides a solace and comfort.

The waking and drinking of coffee, the smoking and the drinking and the smiling and the typing and the watching and the loving and the hating and the playing of sports and music and the making of tractors and guns and the burning of candles.

The walking of dogs and the making of speeches and the baking of bread and pounding out twelve bars on the piano and sewing shirts and handing out parking tickets are all pinky fingers trying to plug holes in the cracked Hoover Dam that is your heart.

 iv

My heart. The cracked Hoover Dam that is my heart. In group, they teach you to use ‘I’ language, not ‘we’ language. Own the addiction, own the problem.

All the little bits and pieces and rhythms and rhymes of my life are pinky fingers trying to plug holes in my broken Hoover-Dam-Heart.

 v

Practice does not make perfect. Liturgy does not cleanse and clarify.

Reading the Bible will not save me just as much as practicing embouchure will not make you Miles Davis. Grace is, most definitely, not a cumulative element. You do not acquire a satisfactory amount over the course of life. Grace is, most definitely, new every morning. Because we are, most definitely, new sinners every morning.

  vi

It makes me wonder about and pray for us who iterate as if iterating alone will save us, as if this time around, building the tower of Babel this time around will be different, as if Icarus simply had the feathers-to-wax ratio wrong, and this time we’re going to make a good and proper set of wings.

People iterate for all sorts of reasons. Not just to be perfect. Not just to create something new. But also to be comforted. To repeat. They want to know what’s going to happen next. It’s easy to know what happens next when you’re in a loop. Even if you hate the loop, at least you know what’s coming around the turn.

Thomas Edison iterates with different materials for the filament until he has the proper conductor for the lightbulb. People enter dance-a-thons and iterate movement over and over again until they’ve exhausted their bodies of inhibition and moves like waves (like waves) of the ocean.

The National played their song “Sorrow” over and over again for six hours at MoMA. Jay-Z rapped “Picasso Baby” for six hours at an art gallery in New York.

Why would you do that one thing for six hours?

What is the benefit of thanking God for your dinner every time you sit down to eat?

Why do you always say the same thing to the barista when you order coffee?

Crack addicts, sex fiends, Steve Jobs, Jay-Z, baristas, all iterate out of dependency and mystery and misery. You listen to the same music when you write, when you have sex, when you go over your parent’s house for Christmas.

Liturgy does not conform to the week’s events, which is why it seems like such a crock of shit at times. The reading for the second week of June has always been the reading for the second week of June, and it doesn’t care about current events or the status of your work or the condition of your marriage. 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles will always have long passages of chronologies and histories of kings that bore me to tears, but no matter how many notes I have, no one’s going to change the Bible for me. Word’s the Word.

We want whatever we read to have three easy to digest points which we can take with us and hold in our pockets like spare change.

I. I want something digestible. I speak of wrestling, but in my sinful state, I want three easy pieces that I can wield like stones plucked from the riverbed.

 vii

Liturgy does not save, which is why I hate it.

But there’s also something to say for sackcloth and ashes, to grieve in a particular way, knowing that it’s the way someone grieved thousands of years ago, to do liturgy and know it’s the same collection of words spoken by someone hundreds of years ago, and though neither sackcloth nor ashes nor tears nor liturgy will ensure salvation, it sings the song of something deeper.

It will not bow to the petty three-point-self-help-spoon-feeder.

 viii

Lord, you will not let me bend liturgy to that which I want. You won’t let me say what I want the day’s words to say. You won’t let me get away with that bullshit, and you won’t let the words say things that pacify.

Grace and its short-term memory. It won’t remember yesterday, because it echoes throughout past present and future every single time. It has no need to remember yesterday or to worry about tomorrow.

Liturgy’s aim, perhaps, is to imitate on Earth and point to the constant-ness and straight-headed-ness of scripture. Of Christ.

Second-star to the right, and also with you.

Pray for us sinners, Christ. Pray for us and comfort us in our lostness.

Grace and grief, sin and saving, new every morning.

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A Dream Confessed

Pretend it’s not on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but rather at the edge of your bed, in the tightest of corners of the last pew in church. Pretend it’s not before the eyes of an entire nation, but only to the eyes of the one you love, across an empty table.

Close your eyes and feel your heart beat. Once. Twice. Three times. Feel your shoulders crest and break with each breath. Tap your toes on the ground so that you remember the earth beneath your feet. Now steady the tremor in your hand, and open your eyes.

Now say it again, not as Shout but as Whisper, not as Strike but as Prayer, and you begin to feel its weight and terror. Speak truth in all plainness and Trembling Howl, and you begin to understand how vulnerable and naked you have to be for the words to mean anything at all.

“I have a dream.”

Those are raw-diamond words. Those are words of a throbbing, aching confessing heart.

Mahalia Jackson, from the side of the podium, shouts to Dr. King, “The dream, Martin. Tell ‘em about the dream.” Being a wholly imperfect man, Martin could have turned to Mahalia, smiled, and continued on with his prepared remarks. But he didn’t. He put aside whatever carefully manicured man-made sentences he and his circle had prepared, and he went to the rail in prayer.

“I have a dream.”

When Christ confronted the men stoning the woman accused of adultery, he stopped to write in the sand. Doesn’t say what he wrote or drew. Could’ve been anything. A treatise on the state of the Jewish merchant. Instructions on how to build a chair.

But whatever the men saw in the sand made them drop their stones.

Should we be so bold and loving to speak truth like “I have a dream”. Take the hand of someone and hold their stare. Listen to their aches, take census of the venom and pain in their heart, the anxiety and panic of their life, and at the core of it, after whittling away the layers of rust, you find the words. “I have a dream.”

Because everybody dreams. Everybody sees things and has visions of things that aren’t there, yet they wish they would be. Everybody has fits of madness and feels fire pulse through their veins. Yet few people step up and swing. Few people lay prostrate and let the words lie flat in the light of their palms.

But it’s when we acknowledge that our heart is less steam-and-steel-nuts-and-bolts-man-made-machine and more fire-blaze-jazz-rattle-jet-engine-child-wonder-miracle, that’s when we feel free to dream.

Machines don’t dream. But fire-blaze-jazz-rattle-jet-engine-child-wonder-miracles do.

The heart is a miracle seven billion times over. Your heart is a miracle seven billion times over. Maybe Christ laid down the miracle of the heart in the sand, right next to a woman guilty of adultery, right next to the men ready to kill her for her sin.

Martin walked in the light of confessing his dream. He drew the line and called out the dreams in our own hearts; dreams long dormant, deferred like Langston’s, broken and beaten like the face of John Lewis, but with their core nature undisturbed and unreachable by human hands. Still they walk, and still they dream.

Still we walk, still we dream.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.

“I have a dream.”

In your name, Amen.

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