For John

For John* The windows of the world are milked over with the handprints of small men's delights, of jelly, peanut butter, religion, government, money, misery, desire, whatever.

Where sun once sliced through clear panes, the morning knives cut rays to stones, ours is an autumn of only dull, diffused days, all leaf lines melding.

Where are the men among the people, yes, the people coming a'washing with human poems, with prophetic baptismal flannel rags, wiping smears clean with elbow grease, imagination?

The men among the people, yes, the people they are here, alive, fleshy, and quiet as an Aspen's turning, cleaning the doorway

to God.

 

*Thanks for cleaning the windows, John.

***TINY LETTER***

Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I'm discussing the discovery of "The Quiet Sober." Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

Good Links (The Welcome Wagon Edition)

Amber hopped a jet to the Caribbean last Thursday, though it's not like it sounds. She and a few friends hitched their wagons to the star that is Help One Now and made their way to Haiti for the week. It should come as no surprise to you that the boys (including this boy) get restless when Mama's away. She's brings balance to this house full of testosterone, and when she's away, things sort of go the way of the man. What is the way of the man? Let's just say that my boys have eaten more meat, imbibed more root beer, watched more action movies (appropriately rated, of course), have caught numerous fish, destroyed numerous household furnishings, and have irreparably clogged one toilet.

Yes we are well aware of our frailty, so when mama returned to save the day, the welcome wagon was ready to meet her. It went down as follows:

We're glad Amber's back.

With all my free time this week, what with raising four boys, work obligations, and a community gathering or two, rounding up good links was difficult. But such as I have, I give to you. Enjoy.

BOOKS

Late last year, I had an inkling that I needed to dive into the words of St. Francis. I put off said inkling, and instead chose to rip through three novels that were not spiritual and were certainly anything other than saintly. I digress. At the prompting of a friend, I picked up a copy of Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. Grammar aside, it's busting my chops.

Know well that in the sight of God there are certain matters which are very lofty and sublime which are sometimes considered worthless and inferior by people; while there are other things cherished and esteemed by people, which are considered worthless and inferior by God.

Grab a copy.

LINKS

Tonia Peckover is one of my favorites. She's one of the rare pearls of the internet, and has been stretching her poetry across the screen these days. She posted this piece on the Rwandan genocide memorial. Warning: take a deep breath before reading.

It's Holy Week, the week Christianity commemorates the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Head on over to Deeper Story for John Blase's piece Happy Easter Chuck.

I've loved all the posts that have come from Haiti, but none more than those from Laura Tremaine. She's been honest with her misgivings and assumption. It been refreshing. She writes:

But how, then, were these children seeing us? As novelties? From the outside, did we look like poverty tourists? We had translators, but how can I know how we were actually presented? As the hours slipped by with children in my lap, it ceased to matter. The only person over-thinking this particular relationship between giver and receiver was me.

PHOTOS

Mike Rusch has been taking photos of the unsung heroes, those whose names you will never know.

Of this photo, he writes:

You'll never know his name but he works with Haitian government to accept children into Ferrier Village that were rescued from Human Trafficking. The world needs more heroes like this.

VIDEO:

Were you there?

MUSIC:

Did you dig into The Oh Hello's 2012 album, Through the Deep, Dark Valley? If you missed this one, here's your chance:

Thanks for stopping in this week. See you soon.

Good Links (The Found Edition)

Here in the Boston Mountains, spring has come to thaw the good earth and the weeds have begun their sprouting. They grow fast, the weeds, the first green things of the season. There are daffodil shoots by my front door, too, a foreshadowing of something beautiful breaking. Weeds are not the only things shooting up here. The boys are shooting up, and up, and up, and it's not a far stretch to imagine them all as seven foot tall bottomless grocery pits. Ian, our third boy, has a stomach that empties into his hollow leg. I swear it. He's always asking for more to eat. On Tuesday Taco Night ("Everything is Awesome"), he ate four tacos, an apple, an orange, a handful of chips, and another taco. He's only six.

Lord, save us from the teenage appetites.

My appetites have shifted over the years, of course, have been turned more to art, music, and words. This week, I've found a few good works to slake my thirst. Enjoy.

BOOKS

I've been digging into Micha Boyett's book (check out her new site!), Found, and let me tell you something: it is good. In it, Micha writes of her struggle to add-up, deals with the subtleties of a quiet works based righteousness. She explores the way of Saint Benedict, a way marked by less striving, by a kind of restful labor.

Micha writes of her long, broken prayers, how they never seemed to add up or amount to much. Having left a successful ministry position for full-time motherhood, she struggled with core identity issues. Would God love her enough? Would she be a worthy saint without some grand God-task? What if she never changed the world?

Is this a book that deals with motherhood? Sure. But deeper, this is a book that deals with the endless striving of modern Christian culture; this is a book for men and women alike. (We all suffer from our own identity crises, don't we?) Grab a copy. Better, grab three copies and give two to a friend.

MUSIC

This week, the music segment ties in with geopolitics. "How," you ask? Good question.

Yesterday, in an bold move to bring back the Cold War era, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a declaration formalizing Matthew Wilder's 1983 hit, "Nobody Gonna Break My Stride," as Russia's alternative national anthem. Taking the stage with Crimean Solid Gold dancers, Putin declared, "Nobody gonna hold me down! Oh no! I've got to keep on moving!"

According to credible reports, state run television has been playing this video for the last twenty-four hours.

LINKS

The Malaysian Flight 370 debacle just keeps getting stranger. One day, they're searching a stretch of ocean the size of the state of Pennsylvania, and the next day, they expand the search "to include a several-hundred-square-mile zone in the Indian Ocean as well as each of the seven or 22 additional spatial dimensions posited by string theory." Follow The Onion for the most recent updates (sort of).

I love it when a fella writes good words about his wife, and Nathan Elmore has penned some of the best. He writes, "[h]ow can I say this? I suppose Amie is as good at nurturing smaller human beings as I am at putting fish sticks and crinkle fries on a tray and placing them into an oven..." Classic. Go check out Nathan's space.

I've followed Ann Kroeker for years. She has killer editorial skills, is wicked-sharp with a pen, and is kind to boot. This week she writes about forming writing habits. "Don't break the chain," she says. Any aspiring writer (or recovering addict, for that matter) will want to read this. If you're looking for a writing coach, or just some good advice on keeping the pen ink flowing, Jump over to Anne's site.

John Blase: "we live haunted by the remains of a paradise half-seen in dreams." Go read this.

MUSIC--THE REDUX

For those of you who don't know Nish Weiseth, you should. She's an extraordinary doer, a wonderful thought-leader, and a connoisseur of good music. Last week she set the hook and reeled me in with Twin Forks.

Oh, my.

Thanks for stopping in this week! And if you've run across any good links of your own, let us know in the comments.

Good Links (The Blacklist Edition)

I've started a scavenger hunt of sorts. I've taken it as a personal challenge to find one good photograph a week. And here's how good photos are found--they are hunted down and captured. This week, I snagged the above image of Titus and Jude. I had taken the boys to the park, and while Isaac was playing basketball and Ian was playing who-knows-what in the fort under the slide, Titus asked Jude to push him in the swing. Jude is a good big brother, the always accommodating sort, especially when it comes to Titus.

Ah, Titus! (For the latest news, click here.)

We've been in the throws of packing another house for another move, only this time we did it with trepidation. It looks like we're in house limbo again because, as it turns out, when you build your house upon Ozark stone, things have a tendency to shift. That's how our lives seem to be, lately. Always shifting.

Want to shift with me this weekend? Let's jump ship here, visit a few good links.

LINKS:

1.  I'm a sucker for a good writing tip. This week, the Atlantic shares an Uncomfortable Trick for Honest Writing: Staring at Strangers. The trick is exactly as it sounds. Writers, pay attention.

"I stare at people all the time, because I like to imagine their lives by looking into their faces, looking at their eyes. You can tell so much just from a person’s face."

2.  Speaking of uncomfortable, I have some sage advice, which I garnered from this piece by James Bryant: when people make you uncomfortable, block them. Block them on Twitter. Block them on Facebook. Put them on your blacklist. Whatever you do, do not engage in mutually beneficial dialogue. Just block away! This, as it turns out, is the marketing strategy of economic guru and arm-chair theologian Dave Ramsey. For more helpful brand-building wisdom and social media tips, check out Bryant's piece.

3.  John Blase opens his most recent poem, "Grown Accustomed," with this:

Its what we always do
with a thing we love.
Get dependent on it.
Then we’re terrified when
its not around anymore.

Boy, don't I know the feeling. This, however, isn't a poem about liquor or stuff. This is something wholly different. It's about living. Don't miss it.

INSTAGRAM:

I'm posting this because I miss my friend Water Box Wilson. He'll be making an appearance next week. Keep your eyes peeled.

MUSIC:

There are few things that I love more in this life than discussing music. This week, I had a bit of a quandary: what kind of classical music do my friends like the most? I posted it on Facebook, and the response was both overwhelming and entertaining. The discussion has resulted in this playlist, a list which includes a selection from each person in the thread. I call the playlist, "Music to Make You More Smarter."

I hope it works.

VIDEO

Keeping with the theme, check out this video featuring Ludovico Einaudi. (Hat tip to Buddy Black for this piece.) It's long, but incredible. Enjoy.

Good Links (Burning Down the House Edition)

Last night my friend Joel and I played Scrabble together. This was the opening word. Morose? Amber has been on a writing retreat for almost a week now, and the boys and I have managed not to burn the house down or otherwise flood it. This might not sound like a big deal, but yesterday I came home to discover that I had turned off neither the oven, nor the fire-breathing wall heater (from 1968), and the boys had left the bathwater running in the tub, said bathwater being near the rim and almost overflowing.

Women, leaving five boys alone in your home is a perilous idea--just saying.

Last night we went for pizza, and Titus was so tired from all the fun that he fell asleep at the table after eating. The other boys, on the other hand, claimed boundless energy. On the way home, they asked if they could pull an all-nighter and skip school, and as good of an idea as that seemed to a worn out daddy, I had to ask myself WWAD, or what would Amber do. I told them no, regrettably, and as a consolation gave them sugar drinks and sent them to bed. It seemed like a good idea in the moment.

Again, I reiterate--perilous.

Alas, all good things come to an end, and the bachelor pad week is drawing to a close. We have had the best time, but we miss our mama. (Come on home, lady!)

And speaking of things coming to an end, and misssing, and such, here are some links to round out the week. You won't want to miss them.

BOOKS

This week I finished reading Tim Kreider and Shawn Smucker's book, Refuse to Drown. The book chronicles one father's tough decision--would he turn in his child for a brutal triple murder that occurred in Manheim Township, Pennsylvania? As the father of three boys, this piece of straightforward story-telling was gripping, and made me wonder the lengths I'd go to protect my children. I'm not going to lie, more than once I misted up and felt a lump in the old throat. You can pick up a copy at Amazon, but be warned--this is heavy stuff.

LINKS

1.  "The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday." This is the opening salvo of Russell Brand's amazing piece for the Guardian. If there's a must read piece for the week, this is it.

I leave him on the corner, a couple of rocks, a couple of $20 bags pressed into my sweaty palm. I get home, I pull out the foil, neatly torn. I break the bottom off a Martell miniature. I have cigarettes, using makes me need fags. I make a pipe for the rocks with the bottle. I lay a strip of foil on the counter to chase the brown. I pause to reflect and regret that I don't know how to fix, only smoke, feeling inferior even in the manner of my using. I see the foil scorch. I hear the crackle from which crack gets it's name. I feel the plastic fog hit the back of my yawning throat. Eyes up. Back relaxing, the bottle drops and the greedy bliss eats my pain. There is no girl, there is no tomorrow, there is nothing but the bilious kiss of the greedy bliss.

Even as I spin this beautifully dreaded web, I am reaching for my phone. I call someone: not a doctor or a sage, not a mystic or a physician, just a bloke like me, another alcoholic, who I know knows how I feel. The phone rings and I half hope he'll just let it ring out. It's 4am in London. He's asleep, he can't hear the phone, he won't pick up. I indicate left, heading to Santa Monica. The ringing stops, then the dry mouthed nocturnal mumble: "Hello. You all right mate?"

He picks up.

And for another day, thank God, I don't have to.

Make sure to check out the entire article at the Guardian.

2.  Preston Yancey wrote about a long exorcism, and it shook me up in the best way. Preston is a heck of a writer, and sometimes a story pulls you and and messes with you a bit. This is that kind of story.

What are we to do with the centuries of Christian tradition in which saints appear and Mary walks through chapels and consecrated Eucharistic Hosts bleed and limbs regrow and tongues are spoken?

3.  I stumbled across this video by my friend and fellow orphan-care advocate Kelley Nikondeha. Take a listen to her words. She has a something to say, and such a way of saying it.

And as good as this video is, this post at her place is almost better. You can tell when two people really love each other, can't you?

4. John Blase is at it again. He writes,

...In his awful incongruity
he was love perishing, pure gentleness in memory
and melody, Christmas in the wilderness.

What an amazing piece of poetry this week at his place. Check it out.

MUSIC VIDEOS (Because who doesn't miss the real MTV?)

Some of you know that I've been talking about addiction this week. I'm not going to retread it all here, but I can't seem to shake this song this week.

This one either.

Thanks for spending time at my place this week. Have a great weekend!