Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Minnesota in December Memory

The smell of recently bundled newspapers filled the entryway of our split-level house as my older brother and I spent another late Saturday night stuffing the comic and classified sections together. Four hundred Sunday newspapers had to be stuffed in preparation for dad’s journey out to deliver them early the next morning. We always put it off as long as we could, mortgaging sleep as we had to be up in time for church the next morning. The smell of one newspaper brings a familiar and nostalgic comfort; the smell of four hundred newspapers is nauseating. The slick and sore feel of ink-stained, dried, and cracked hands that no amount of hand washing could resolve was the way I went to bed every Saturday night.

We usually stuffed papers in the garage – even in the cold Minnesota winter. It is a difficult thing for a Minnesotan to admit to being cold. However, when the temperature hits 28 below zero, most of us relent and say something like, “It’s getting a little nippy out there,” which in general can be translated, “My bone marrow is frozen solid.” In mid December, the night comes early, intruding on the afternoon like an invading army. The cold barges in and owns the air, turning it crisp and mean. With no clouds to hold in the hapless and so-called heat, the cold sank in under the bright starry sky and had its eye on 30 degrees below zero. Ice was already forming on the inside of the windows and a clever frigid draft found it way into the house and onto my bare skin.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The 18th Haiku (Happy 14th Anniversary)

The 18th Haiku

Last star fades. Dawnshine.
Night gave way. Illuminate.
Lone shadow stretching.

Arms open wide. Hope.
Call of desperation. Pause.
Lone call; no echo.

Jump into flame. Fool!
Balm of Gilead. Soothe. Heal.
Why did I do that?

Empty midnight grief;
Cry every last tear away;
Wander like Alice.

Heart throbbing thunder,
Flung to arms of Heart-Catcher;
Co-creating love.

Horizon view. Sprint!
Light speed dash. Exhilerate!
Some things cannot wait.

Lovestruck. Meant to be.
Arriving at each other.
Puzzle piece embrace.

Distinct perfection;
One fixed point well defined;
Skeptics refuted.

Up, down, journeywise;
Adventures are successful;
In good company

Learn how to be here;
Snail and sloth educate. Slow.
Rose smelling lessons.

Fixed gaze. Full view.
Invisible to the world;
Transparent to you.

Irresistible glow - Burst!
Faceshine scatters dusk.

Man of many words;
Indescribable woman;
Harmonic union.

Gravity lurks. Pounce!
Plummet into feathersoft.
I don’t want to move.

Truthtelling – eyes wide;
Perched ears hear everything –

Empty space given;
The purpose of these passions –
Mutual fulfill.

Gift! Always In Love.
Go After Intimate Life.
Great Allies In Love.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Joy Lessons: Guilt, Shame, and Trajectories of Joy

How does joy relate to guilt and shame? On the surface, it may seem like there is no relationship between joy and guilt or shame, or perhaps an inverse relationship betwen them. And hey, aren't guilt and shame basically the same thing anyway? This post will first deal with the difference between guilt and shame and then will deal with the relationship between joy and guilt and joy and shame.

Guilt and shame may feel similar in the emotional moment. Neither feels all that pleasant. Each indicates the perception of something being wrong. Both may feel like there is no space for joy with them. However, guilt and shame are very different.

Physical pain is unpleasant, but is necessary in that it helps to indicate that there is physical damage or threat. Guilt is emotional pain that serves the same purpose. It is an indicator that something is wrong. Guilt tells a person that a moral or relational violation has occurred. It points to an event or even a series of events that ar by some measure, wrong. Guilt is the beginning of change because whatever the event, there is hope for change. Guilt is the feeling that helps to initiate repair or redemption. Although unpleasant, guilt is the precursor to hope and reconciliation. The trajectory of guilt is hopeful in that something can be done about it.

Shame is different. Shame does not point to an event that was wrong, but is personal. Shame points to the person and says, "wrong." Where guilt says, "that was a mistake," shame says, "you are a mistake." Where guilt says, "there was a failure," shame says, "you are a failure." Guilt points to an event that can be dealt with while shame points to the quality of the person and declares it inadequate. Guilt is the feeling flowing from the belief that something went wrong. Shame is the feeling flowing from the belief that the person is defective. Shame points to the person and says, "You are inadequate, unworthy, incapable, and deficient."

The trajectory of shame is simply more shame. Shame points to the static and unfixable quaity of the person. Shame does not label an event,but labels a person. In short, shame results in hopelessness.

Thus, even though neither guilt nor shame feels good, guilt is the dawn of joy while shame is eternal night. Something good can occur in the context of guilt, but nothing good can happen in the context of shame. As guilt can be instructive to seek redemption or reconciliation, that process builds toward joy. Shame offers no such promise.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Joy Lessons: Where is joy?

Where is joy? Where does one look for it? Is it easy to find or is it an elusive critter? Is it in one place? Is it created and destroyed? Does it wax and wane? Can it be preserved, saved, held for later use? Is it something to be had and possessed? Consumed? Multiplied? Is it contagious?

I want to find joy. I will seek it and search for it in the following places:
  • The Bible
  • My own heart
  • Nature
  • Children
  • Elderly people
  • Art
  • Friendships
  • Families
  • Successes
  • Failures
  • Redemption
  • Forgiveness
  • Music
  • Discovery
  • Creativity
  • Service
  • Humor

Where else would you look?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Joy Lessons

Joy has been on my heart lately. I've even had a dream about it. There are some questions about joy that I think are worth pursuing. I have the sense that there is something weighty and substantial about joy, despite the somewhat lightweight stereotype it has.
  • What is joy?
  • From where does it come?
  • How is it created? Sustained?
  • How is it different from happiness? Euphoria? Humor? Optimism?
  • How can joy be subversive?
  • Is joy inherently a spiritual thing?
  • Who are some people who might serve as legitimate models of joy?
  • What is the oppopsite of joy?
  • Are there different kinds of joy? Different occasions for joy?
  • Is joy a discipline, practice, orf result of effort?
  • Can joy be taught? Learned? Increased? Decreased?
  • Can joy be stolen? Released? Resisted? Imposed?
  • What is the psychology of joy?
  • Are the social systems of joy? That are more likely to produce joy? Withhold joy?
  • Do males and females experience joy differently?
  • Do people from different cultures, ethnicities, races, social classes, religions experience joy differently?

There must be more questions than these, but these are a good start. I would love to hear comments on these questions, additions to the questions, efforts to answer these questions. What do you know about joy?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Rules Before Me: The Rules Behind Me

  • The rules by which I would live were formed prior to my existence.
  • When I was born, they were all invisible to me.
  • I obeyed all invisible rules because I had a category for them: normal.
  • When the rules became visible to me, I had choice.
  • Rules do not become visible without resistence.
  • The choice I had was not a fair choice.
  • Social systems correct rule breakers.
  • I am passing along invisible rules to my children.
  • They believe these are normal.
  • Sometimes, they name a rule as something other than normal.
  • It feels like an accusation.
  • It breaks a rule.
  • I must be willing to rerule.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I finally got out to the cemetery. I needed it so badly. I had not been there in just over a year. It's been just over 4 years since my father died.

My father died in 2006 at age 59. 11 years before he died (1995), he was hit by a drunk driver at age 48. We should have lost him then. He was severely burned, had a significant head injury, and was badly injured. On the way to the cemetery I drove past the place where the accident happened. Nine years before that (1986), my father had a terrible fall off a scaffold that had no rails. It left him partially disabled. He was 39 years old when this injury happened.

I turned 40 this year. My knees crack sometimes and I ache every now and again. But when my dad was my age, his able bodied days were over. It is so much sadder for me now than it was when it happened. I cannot imagine my able-bodied days being over by now. I cannot imagine the rest of my life in physical and psychological pain every single day. Dad lived for 20 years in pain. And frankly, his whole life was that of pain. His first 16 years at home were unspeakable.

As I pondered his life, I asked, "Why so much pain?" I asked the question of God. I stood at his grave, sobbing and asking God, "Why life is so painful?" The question of pain and suffering gets to the very core of theology and faith. Why would a loving God allow so much pain and suffering?

My usual approach to answering this question involves freedom and love. I settle it for myself. I didn't go there today. Rather, when my questioning persisted I looked at my father's gravestone. Engraved on his gravestone is the following: "He laughed heartily to the end." This descriptor of my father has two meanings. 1. The day my father died, he had a brief moment of lucidity. He was attached to all sorts of tubes and could not talk, but he could hear and nod. My brother told a joke and my dad's body quaked. He was laughing. Soon after he fell back into his sleep. 2. If you had known my father, your favorite thing about him would have been his sense of humor and his laugh. It was contagious. When he laughed, you laughed.

In my sobbing theological question of God about pain, I read my father's gravestone - "He laughted heartily to the end." It challenged my question. The man whose life theme was pain was also the man whose best charactersitic was humor and laughter. How can this be?

Then that question replaced my prior question. Who I addressed my interrogation to also changed. I addressed not God, but Satan and asked, "How do you explain this?" Asking this question made me laugh while I was crying really hard. I guess Satan's got some explaining to do as well.

The time spent in the cemetery was good. I really love my dad.