[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball


tomorrow's october

there's a chill in the air . . . and in my blood. and "this isn't about a curse, it's about baggage . . . ."

dennis and i are doomed. doomed, i say!

st. michael & all angels

no time to post today (no surprise of late), but here are the readings for the feast of st. michael and all angels, plus some fun facts about st. michael himself, patron saint of grocers, mariners, police and sickness (in honor of my sore throat). the catholic encyclopedia has tons of info, too.


this week on the postulant

my friend ryan does "rotations." he and his wife, molly, spent a night w/ us last weekend before the vandy game, and we went out for mexican and margaritas over which i queried him about his work. he's becoming a doctor, see, and they appear, to the unititiated, to be furiously rotating about performing various tasks w/ more or less aplomb as they make their way toward the really cool long white lab coat (did you know the different, uh, "degrees" of doctors have different length coats? i didn't know that.).

in many ways, i envy ryan and his contemporaries. it is a priest that i am becoming, and i guess you could say my years of postulancy and candidacy are also rotations, of a sort; but my progression seems somehow to be much more slapdash. chalk it up to being some 1200 miles from my diocese ("out of sight, out of mind"), or maybe it's just the maddeningly protean nature of ordination, but i have to admit that most days i have practically no idea what in the wide, wide world of sports i am doing. those doctor types, they've got "attendings" or "residents" or some other sort of being that hovers on the periphery, probably acting all smug and heavyhanded, mind you, throwing orders like flotsam and jetsam: "lance that." "stick this needle up in there . . . no there." "ever done a hyposcoptric bandypinch manoeuvre on a live patient in an elevated level of distress? well, you won't be able to say that in about 15 minutes, now will you?"

my days and nights, on the other hand, are just a bit less ordered. my diocese gave me a whole laundry list of things they wanted me to get my hands in, then the rector here @ our adopted church of st. peter's graciously agreed to start farming me out to get the experience i need. so one night i'll blunder into a vestry meeting (nb: one does not generally wish to arrive @ one's first vestry meeting 30 minutes late -- it is insulting to the vestry members, and it's also well nigh impossible to figure out what page of the agenda you're on for the next hour and a half), where i sit, quietly, on a hard chair, and think, with a creeping sense of dread: "i'm leaving the legal profession for this? i can't do this, dadgummit!" another night, i'll assist the celebrant @ a mid-week healing service (we never had these @ christ church, so i'm a newbie right out the gate), where i make more liturgical errors than the red sox infield before the nomar trade. the only more dangerous rotation, liturgically speaking, is assisting on a sunday morning, where i sort of float about in my "frock" (i don't know the vestment vernacular yet) screwing up what i'm doing @ any given moment b/c my head's about 8 minutes in the future planning how not to screw up @ that given moment. yes, the helpful comments are made on site and emails appear in my inbox forthwith. one day a committee meeting, the next another committee meeting, and during both i'm a ghost b/c, although i'm in the ordination process, i'm still a baby episcopalian, and most of the other members of my committees have forgotten more about episcopalian church life (and, in particular, the art of the committee) than i'll ever learn.

but i do think i'm learning. and, compared to ryan, i think i run a substantially reduced risk of actually bringing on anaphylactic shock if i mumble a couple of times during the prayers of the people. so i lead my little sunday school class w/ renee' (we're both very excited about how it's going, btw), and i show up w/ food when i'm told hungry mouths will be about; i go visit veterans when i can get away from the office, and i tote a guitar to the college mass on sunday nights. and throughout all this, i'm learning the one thing they can't really teach you in a classroom or by assigning a book: simply loving these people. this is the bride of christ i'm tinkering w/, and they don't seem to resent my being there. they invite us over to their tables to eat, and they say flattering things about ellie's eyelashes (flattery about her will get you everywhere w/ me), and they smile a lot and seem to know my name (i've taken to calling many of them "trevor"). having them around is well worth the stress that comes from not knowing what in the wide, wide worl . . . well, you know. and my attendings or residents or what have you -- they're always around, too, just like @ hospital. and they're so smart. plus, the great physician (i think i saw him, from the back of course, in the copy room just the other day -- i'm sure he's the only other god/man w/ a key to get in there besides the rector) is showing up in unexpected places. it's his hospital, anyway. i just work there. part-time.



my new hero

a.j. jacobs is my new hero. i haven't read his book yet, but years ago i read one volume of the world book (b, i think it was), and ever since i've thought about what it would be like to have the time to read it all. i've also tried, fruitlessly to date, to join mensa. remember: smart is sexy.

well god help oregon . . .

. . . for beavers are the evil minions of stan.

"i need you"

i need something like morphine only better
i need something like a kiss that lasts forever
i need something like money that will not burn
i need something and i need more than i can earn

i need something, what can i do?
hey, i need something, i need you

i need something like a cure for my soul
i need something like amnesia, for things i know
i need something like a mother, 'cause i'm just a child
i need something like an asylum, 'cause i go wild

i need something like dynamite for the mess i'm in
i need something like a tattoo underneath my skin
i need somebody more than a lover in my bed
i need somebody here with me, here with me in my head

i need something bad and i need it now
i got something wrong with me, you can see
i think you better fix it 'cause i don't know how
(julie miller, i need you). martin luther couldn't have said that better.



it is probably evident that i'm stuggling to get down to bidness @ work today. if you share my plight, read what may be the second best get fuzzy ever (it's got quotable lines in 3 of the 4 panels, for freak's sake).

dirty words

aside from being a new entry in my running list of "things that sound dirty but aren't," this is a particularly fitting word o' the day b/c, appearing as it does on my webpage, it has a certain self-refential nature:
grubelsucht: the drawing of overly fine distinctions [hair splitting]; worrying over trifles. seen particularly in obsessive/compulsive personalities.


sorry derek

i am the freakin' butterfly.

some ballgame

you know, i would just be remiss if i didn't say something about tonight's game. this does purport to be a 'blog that dabbles in baseball now and again, which means that i'm compelled sometimes to wrote about . . . well . . . .

i know, i know -- there's the risk that i will be the "butterfly," as lee and dennis call me when i start to get excited (like i haven't been bouncing out of my tennys -- did you call them "tennys" growing up? -- for a month now), and stir the air that buids to the breeze that blows up into the storm that chews up the atlantic that's just down the street from the house that ruth built. pshaw, i say. (butterfly, butterfly) but i will say this: that was one whale of a game. the red team pulled another one out of the fire from the black and white team and that guy that throws the white thing w/ red stitches so well. vague enough? let's hope.


ember days a' comin

thanks for the anchor hold post that reminded me not only that i have to write a letter to my bishop, but most (read: all) of us need what these days offer.


unexpected insight in the question of god

the most poignant part of tonight's part 1 of the question of god on pbs wasn't, for me, any of the insights of the participants about whether god exists, are miracles possible, &c. (on a side note, i understood this to be a debut, but i swear i've seen parts of it before; perhaps i just really, really wanted there to be a show like this and i created it in my malanky little mind, yes?) the insight came with something the actor playing c.s. lewis said. describing the events leading to his conversion, our intellectually asute and physically doughy (he did smoke a lot, which was endearing) "lewis" alluded to a sense of being hemmed in, run down, hedged about. the gist was that the fox, lewis, was being run to ground, and he was simply tiring of the chase. the insight i had is: that's me! i've been a believer for about 18 years, but the past few have been one dogfight after another -- is there really a god, or did we just make this crap up? (that little intellectual crisis usually hits me, oh, about 11:22 on sunday morning when "the voice" whispers "pssst -- you know this is just a load of hooey, right?) who was jesus? what to make of the jesus seminar? why do i bristle w/ equal vehemence @ the terms "journey," "ultimate reality" and "going deep"? (they're more fitted to be, respectively, a band, a predictably bad offering on fox wednesdays, and what manny does w/ regularity off lesser humans: pitchers.) how'm i ever gonna convince every intellectual and college student of the truth of christianity w/ all my unanswered questions rattling about my brain?

lewis' answer was to go to his knees by his bed and say "god is god." i believe i'm in need of some o' that. not only is it true that god is god, and i'm not; chesterton is chesterton, and i'm not. lewis is lewis, kreeft is kreeft, howard is howard, and i'm not. so stop trying to be them, mr. prancibald! (that was for me, btw) realize you're more of an "i once was blind but now i see" guy than a "the existential imperative points irrefutably to green polka-dotted shower caps" kind of guy. it is more than likely that i shall never find myself driven to read the hippolytus of euripides. but do i know some things? yeah -- i know i believe in god, and i know he believes in me. i know i love my daughter. i know my wife is the surest evidence of a benevolent god that i experience on a daily basis. and i know that i'm not called, gifted, what have you, to be ravi zacharias. and this fox is tired of running from seemingly infinite conundra (conundrums?). there is a rest that comes at the end of the day, though, and it is grounded in having tried to be holy, failed miserably (often publicly), and learned, anew, the hard fact of forgiveness. if i got nothing else from part 1 of the show, i saw lewis kneel.


writings of, and about, flannery o'connor

on writing christian realism in an unbelieving age:
we live in an unbelieving age but one which is markedly and lopsidedly spiritual. there is one type of modern man who recognizes spirit in himself and who fails to recognize a being outside himself whom he can adore as creator and lord; consequently, he has become his own ultimate concern . . . .

there is another type of modern man who recognizes a divine being not himself, but who does not believe that this being can be known analogically or defined dogmatically or received sacramentally . . . .

and there is another type of modern man who can neither believe nor contain himself in unbelief and who searches desperately, feeling about in all experience for the lost god.

@ its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and @ its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live w/ it happily. the fiction which celebrates this last state will be the least likely to transcend its limitations, for when the religious need is banished successfully, it usually atrophies, even in the novelist. the sense of mystery vanishes. a kind of reverse evolution takes place, and the whole range of feeling is dulled.

the searchers are another matter. pascal wrote in his notebook, "if i had not known you, i would not have found you." these unbelieving searchers have their effect even upon those of us who do believe. we begin to examine our own religious notions, to sound them for genuineness, to purify them in the heat of our unbelieving neighbor's anguish. what xtian novelist could compare his concern to camus? we have to look in much of the fiction of our time for a kind of sub-religion which expresses its ultimate concern in images that have not yet broken through to show any recognition of a god who has revealed himself . . .

what i say here would be much more in line w/ the spirit of our times if i could speak to you about the experience of such novelists as hemingway and kafka and gide and camus, but all my own experience has been that of the writer who believes, again in pascal's words, in the "god of abraham, isaac, and jacob and not of the philosophers and scholars." this is an unlimited god and one who has revealed himself specifically. it is one who confounds the senses and the sensibilities, one known early on as a stumbling block. there is no way to gloss over this specification or to make it more acceptable to modern thought. this god is the object of ultimate concern and he has a name. (69-70.)
on the holy roman catholic church:
i think that the church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the church endurable is that it is somehow the body of xt and that on this we are fed.

in her correspondence, o'connor often assumed the role of besieged defender of the faith. both as a catholic in the heart of the protestant south and as a believe in dialogue w/ the culture of skepticism, o'connor felt the constant challenge, as st. paul would put it, to "account for the faith and hope w/in her." (73.) her favorite writers were figures like romano guardini, pierre teilhard de chardin, and their counterparts from an earlier era -- baron von hugel and cardinal newman -- who had struggled to enlarge the space for a certain intellectual freedom in the church. @ the same time she was critical of a type of liberalizing pressure to make catholicism more acceptable to the rational mind. that way, she believed, lay the "vaporization" of religion. when the church was stripped of its certainties, she feared, it was liable to become just another "elks club." among her constant themes -- the most perplexing to her liberal friends -- was the importance of dogma. rather than limiting the freedom of the believer, she believed, dogma was an essential safeguard of mystery. it preserved the sense of something "larger than human understanding." (74.)
on the body of christ:
i was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner w/ mary mccarthy and her husband, mr. broadwater. (she just wrote that book, a charmed life.) she departed the church @ the age of 15 and is a big intellectual. we went @ 8 and @ 1, i hadn't opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. the people who took me were robert lowell and his now wife, elizabeth hardwick. having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome w/ inadequacy had forgotten them. well, toward morning the conversation turned on the eucharist, which i, being the catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. mrs. broadwater said when she was a child and received the host, she thought of it as the holy ghost, he being the "most portable" person of the trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. i then said, in a very shaky voice, "well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it." that was all the defense i was capable of but i realize now that this is all i will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable. (76 (-- to "a," dec 16, 1955)).
on the church in america:
you don't serve god by saying: the church is ineffective, i'll have none of it. your pain @ its lack of effectiveness is a sign of your nearness to god. we help overcome this lack of effectiveness simply by suffering on account of it. (83.)
to a young writer @ emory university struggling w/ his faith:
i certainly don't think that the death required that "ye be born again," is the death of reason. if what the church teaches is not true, then the security and emotional release and sense of purpose it gives you are of no value and you are right to reject it . . .


mystery isn't something that is gradually evaporating. it grows along w/ knowledge. (92, 94.)
finally, of joy in her sickness (which untimately killed her @ age 39):
she accepted her condition w/ grace, even coming to see her outward constraints as contributing to her vocation as an artist: "what you have to measure out, you come to observe closer, or so i tell myself." from teilhard de chardin she borrowed the phrase "passive diminishment." this referred to the fact that our spiritual character is formed as much by what we endure and what is taken from us as it is by our achievements and our conscious choices. this was the same drama depicted in the life of so many of her fictional characters, as they were stripped of their sins and even their evident "virtues" in order to receive a deeper truth.

overall, o'connor understood that her particular vocation as an artist was subsumed in the larger vocation shared by every xtian -- "to prepare his death in christ." in this journey toward what she called her "true country" she was assisted by scripture, the sacraments, and the convictions of her faith, as well as the support and prayers of her friends. many of her greatest stories were written in the last months of her life. but it is clear from her letters, as sally fitzgerald observed , that by the end she had attained not only her form as an artist, but "her personal form as well." (145-46.)
and 2 things @ the last. flannery did not seek to gloss over the costliness of faith ("what people don't realize is how much religion costs. they think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. it is much harder to believe than not to believe (153)), nor did she seek belief and joy w/o a tremendous mesaure of tenacious courage: "picture me w/ my ground teeth stalking joy -- fully armed too as it's a highly dangerous quest. the other day i ran up on a wonderful quotation: "the dragon is @ the side of the road waching those who pass. take care lest he devour you! you are going to the father of souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon." (149 (--to "a," jan 1, 1956)).

but ultimately, something i like to think was written, unconsciously, to me, for i love this great woman:
having been a protestant, you may have the feeling that you must feel you believe; perhaps feeling belief is not always an illusion but i imagine it most of the time; but i can understand the feeling of pain on going to communion and it seems a more reliable feeling than joy. (151.)
quotes are from flannery o'connor: spiritual writings, ed. robert ellsberg (maryknoll, ny: orbis books, 2003).


my first michigan win!!

somewhere touchdown jesus is smiling (and there's a bit o' bushmills for me and pop)!Posted by Hello


brady for president

what a game. i had to take off part of the morning b/c i couldn't sleep after the gun sounded (and vanderjagt missed) last night. brady told the globe, and i think rightly, that "we're not where we want to be," and this could shape up to be an incredibly long season (long and shivery w/ ghosts and realizations), but that was some game last night. here's to a new little rivalry (but the jets still suck).


on your mark . . . get set . . .


blah, blah, blah on my blog, blog blog

this post has no footnotes.

i have done no research.

see this here hip? that's where i'm shootin' from.

this afternoon i had so much to do that i didn't do any of it. went for a run instead. and while i was out there, it struck me that i've been arguing, contending, debating, "standing up for" and "not backing down from" so much for so long that i can't remember what it's like not to do it. i'm beginning to suspect c.s. lewis, were he alive today, would be rushing to press screwtape ii: tales from the blogosphere. the first thing in the morning, i check feedreader. just before bed, check it again b/c i can't have too many unread posts building up. check my email (all 3 accounts), glance @ mailing lists for any loose threads, make sure there aren't any comments on [rd], then retire to bed and a stack of books not for enjoyment or enrichment or to increase my knowledge and love for god -- it's homework. if i want to keep up w/ you guys, i've gotta buckle down!

and i wonder why i'm tense all the time.

of course, the mere fact that you're reading this means that i decided to type all this blather out, so i'm not so fed up that i'm not posting anymore. but i do confess i'm tired of feeling around for fences all the time, which is one of the primary reasons i 'blog about the emerging church, roman catholicism, postmodernism, literary criticism, other assorted words ending in "-ism", process theology (i haven't posted about that, but my friend ollie and i have been skirting the edges of it lately), the presidential election, the environment, blah, blah, blah, blog, blog, blog.

i think i've mentioned before that i write to figure out what i think about things, to find the boundaries. but while i ran (stopping periodically to heave), i had one thought in my mind left over from the 45 seconds i could spare for god this morning: "i run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free" (ps. 119.32). it's almost like god said, "you want a fence, genius? well, there's your cotton-pickin' fence!" or not so much. whatever, it's just disheartening to me that i'm so quick to tilt @ windmills of (imagined?) heresy, but my strength for simply adoring the lord is waning. i don't run anymore b/c i'm too busy creeping around the outfield feeling for the fence a la jose canseco (don't ask me why he came to mind, i just remember that time he got hit on top of the head w/ a deep fly ball, and it bounced over the fence for a home run -- ah, good times). eric liddell is alleged to have said (and don't you hope he did?):
i believe god made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. and when i run i feel his pleasure.
(chariots of fire, warner bros. 1981). there's a season for contending for the faith, and we're in as heated a season right now, it seems, as i can ever remember. but here's hoping i can just let my legs out and run a bit.

even the red sox get an off day.

a little light bathroom reading

if you can't quite make out what little ellie grace is perusing during her time on the potty today (w/ pants on, no less), that would be the koran. nothing like starting her out on a little comparative religion early. and inverted @ that! i just hope the locus of the exercise isn't insulting to a third of the world's religious. heck, i read the bible in there all the time!Posted by Hello


"planet telex"

you can force it but it will not come
you can taste it but it will not form
you can crush it but it's always here
you can crush it but it's always near
chasing you home saying

everything is broken
everyone is broken

you can force it but it will stay stung
you can crush it as dry as a bone
you can walk it home straight from school
you can kiss it, you can break all the rules
but still

everything is broken
everyone is broken

why can't you forget?

(radiohead, "planet telex" from the bends (capitol 1995)).

when the lights go out

when i was little i liked it when the lights would go out. scurrying about for candles, creating a little flickering cocoon in which to read b/tw the silence and the sound of a storm lashing the house. it wasn't an adventure so much as it was a drawing in. the wagons were circled. all the good stuff: in here; all the bad: out there.

tonight i learned that as a father i don't like it so much. the lights were out here in oxford for maybe 20 minutes, but instead of being @ rest i was on guard. there's no storm out, but the sounds were ominous to my paternal ears. sirens seemed closer, neighbors' voices were threatening somehow. ellie's cries, when she woke to find her little nightlight inexplicably absent, sounded more urgent and stilted. i wondered whether she could breathe. renee' finally went in w/ some milk to rock her back to sleep.

so what changed? why does something that used to be so fun now conjure images of drifters that truman capote would be proud of? maybe it's b/c, even though i know that renee' and i were right outside the door in the dark, i wasn't sure that ellie knew it. i can't even begin to think how god must feel to watch his children bang about in darkness. in isaiah, god promises he'll be w/ us in the fire, in high water, in the dark. but how do we know? the only answer i have what renee said after the lights were back on: how does ellie know we're here? b/c when it was dark we went in to her. we showed her.


a soggy ol' day in the grove

can't say as how i'm happy w/ renee' procuring little enemy cheerleader outfits for ellie grace, but they sure do look cute. plus, she now has a total of five (count 'em, five, and she's only 16 mos old) little outfits, including one in mississippi state flavor (my personal favorite) and one for the irish.Posted by Hello


what woke me?

restless tonight, first time in weeks. got up to read and found this in an old journal:
i make no promise. i am too weak to keep them. i make no vow. i have too poor a track record. but i know you're in the silence, in the red candle on the chapel wall. you're the host under purple kept. you're the life broken from death's cave. you're the word too loud for speech, housed -- no, hinted @ only in silence. you are in my sleeping wife, my unborn child. you are in these brothers, in their labor, in the restlessness of my students, in caleb, in andrea, in me. you are unheard b/c we do not listen.

give us ears.
(journal 4 april 2003, @ monastery of the society of st. john the evangelist, cambridge, mass.)

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