Saturday, December 31, 2005

Creation's Rhythm

Is rest impossible for a young family? My wife and I have a few days to ourselves, a few days off, a few days away from work and routine during this break for the holidays. But, then, we also have this horde of little people snapping at our heels like hungry dogs, hungry for love.

I'm a guy who likes rest, who needs rest. But children are paragons of busyness; they are incarnations of activity. Like squirrels chasing squirrels through the leafless branches of oaks they scurry from branch to branch, squirrel to squirrel, nut to nut. And I get dizzy watching them. They chatter incessantly. They make me smile at their grace and laugh at their clumsiness. Their activity warms them. Their restfulness warms me.

I've wondered lately why we as people don't hibernate. I mean, how fabulous of an idea is that? All that rest. All that time off. But then I think of all the pony rides I would miss. I think of all the parties I would miss - the friends, the memories, the holidays, the tiredness. Will I ever miss the tiredness? I bet I will. Will I ever miss the constant Go? I bet I will. Will I ever miss the endless work, the stress of sibling rivalry, the angst of pre-pre-adolescence, the fears of little children, the screeches of No and Stop It and simple wordless frustration? I bet I will.

I'm cycling through the week of my life and Sabbath seems a far way off. For now, perhaps, I'll try to learn to love the labor. Perhaps I'll even resolve to.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Monkey Boy

I saw Kong over the holiday with my big brother. For some reason, ever since, I've been grabbing Barbie dolls and running around the house like an oversized silverback. Weird.

(Obviously, I haven't shut up yet. My apologies.)

I'm Back Home

It was cold and gray and rainy (of all things) in Michigan the week we were there. It is sunny and 54 here today. Why the weather report? It's the most prominent feature of a blurred day of naps and meals. We got in around 3:30 am and I've been in limbo since. Lucidity seems a distant cousin, so I'll use what sense I have to say Hello and then shut up.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Last Train to Clarksville

We're leaving tonight for Michigan, which means we'll be driving through the night. Please pray for us.

I'll still have access to the Internet, but I suspect my activity will be minimal. If you need to send a message, send away - I'll get it.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Sophie had her first school concert last night. I almost didn't go. The thought of sitting in a room packed with strange people, trying to wrangle three children, and taping my daughter's performance, simultaneously, left me feeling incompetent and tired. I called my wife and talked to her about it and decided not to go - it would also be a 40-minute trip each way. I talked to Sophie over the phone and explained my dilemma and she said she understood and then said, "Just try, Daddy. Just try." So, of course, I got off my lazy ass and went. I'm glad I did. Sophie had a smile that wouldn't quit. And while I probably only recorded half of her performances (the other half ended up being the backs of people's heads and floor shots as I tried to keep Will from wriggling away and dashing off), I had an excellent time. No regrets here, except that I almost didn't go.

I went to Target to pick up a tape for our aging Sony Handycam - digital Hi-8 - in order to tape Sophie's concert. (I like the handycam except that it's difficult to transfer to the computer and do any editing - probably because of my ignorance more than anything - and then create a DVD, but I digress.) As I was at Target I walked past the teensy-weensy book section and paused. Oh yes, I knew what was there. I wanted what was there. I went into the aisle and found Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. It was $18. I had only brought a Jackson for the tape. (We're strictly cash this time of year because of the hardships imposed on us by the commercialism of Christmas, but I digress.) The tapes, of course, even the cheap ones were $5 for a pack of two. Tapes and book together, that was more cash than I had brought. I flipped through my wallet and found my credit card and paused and wondered. I thought about the book and how much I've been wanting to read it and how I could read it in Michigan over the holiday and how some of the family would react seeing me read an Anne Rice book about our Lord. I trembled with excitement. Then I paused and wondered and, because of the evil in my heart, decided against buying the book. It was a first, but I walked away from purchasing a book that I had held in my hands and drooled over.

My wife's parents are on their first cruise right now. They've called once on their cruise and sent an e-mail. The e-mail details the sunny, warm weather and the sandy white beaches. I've never been on a cruise, myself. I've never been to pristine islands in the Caribbean. I've never seen what a pirate's eye(s) has(have) seen or walked where a pirate's leg(s) has(have) walked. But I'm not jealous - I'm too busy looking forward to the snow and cold of Michigan and being with family.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Hail, Mary

Gabriel: "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! . . . Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

Elizabeth: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy."

Mary: "My soul magnifies the Lord, / and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, / for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. / For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; / for he who is mighty has done great things for me, / and holy is his name. / And his mercy is for those who fear him / from generation to generation. / He has shown strength with his arm; / he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; / he has brought down the mighty from their thrones / and exalted those of humble estate; / he has filled the hungry with good things, / and the rich he has sent empty away. / He has helped his servant Israel, / in remembrance of his mercy, / as he spoke to our fathers, / to Abraham and to his offspring forever."

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I took my two oldest daughters to see Narnia today. The only thing I'll say, other than it was excellent (and scary for little girls - who loved it anyway), is what my nearly-five-year-old said as we were pulling out of the theater parking lot.

"Daddy," she said, "I wish there was a Lion like that in my closet."

My Professional Life

Alison, who is Older than Jesus, posts regularly about her professional life. Her most recent post is about her job as translator. Alison is one of my favorite writers and one of my oldest friends. She's vintage. I wanted to comment on her site, but I got, well, wordy. So this post rises up out of and is completely inspired by her post, which I recommend.

The yellow-haired child says something to Mr. Smith, I laugh; Mr. Smith smiles and nods with eyebrows raised. I interpret, but it spoils the conversation - like explaining a joke.

Sometimes Mr. Smith will look at me and say, "What'd she say?" And I'll shake my head and say, "I have no idea." Sometimes I'm lying.

. . . . .

My yellow-haired child has some dysfluency issues currently so that makes the job of translating particularly difficult with my short attention span and 3-kb memory:

"Ah wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa . . ."

"Look at me, Sweetheart," I say gently. She looks at me.

"Ah wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa mah jess."

"You want your chips?"

"No, ah wa mah jess!"

"You want your dress?"


Translating is part of my profession too. And it's usually not so easy - many times it breaks down into one or both of us throwing fits. But we stick it out because the benefits, Ah! the benefits are overwhelming.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Slice of Narnia

I haven't seen it, so don't worry about any spoilers in this post. In fact, this post isn't so much about the movie as it is about the criticisms I hear so much of lately about Lewis and, specifically, Narnia. I was walking by the Slice today and overheard some unfriendly words being spoken about Jack. The post there was titled "Narnia and Paganism." Here are some of my thoughts (basically the comment I nailed to their door).

Lewis was fascinated with mythology - the stories it told about the people who created it and the stories it tells about us. Mythology for a literature professor has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with story - I'm not sure how to explain that. Lewis does blend his faith with mythology in much of his work (one of his greatest works, Till We Have Faces, is a re-telling of the Cupid-Psyche myth). But he did it as an English professor whose study, whose work, was literature - he saw God, the Christian God, revealed in stories that aren't explicitly Christian.

Mythology for Lewis, I suspect, had everything to do with metaphor. It was his language. Just as a Sunday School teacher whose profession is Coach might use sports metaphors to convey spiritual truths, so Lewis used literary and mythological references to convey spiritual truths. And the result, I believe, is beautiful. Of course, it's my language too.

We write because we are writers. It's who God made us to be and we glorify God in the writing. Lewis's theology is not perfect (glaringly imperfect at times), nor does it have to be in order for it to be suitable for us. If you strip away imagination, even "sanctified" imagination, from the church, then I think you will lose far more than you realize in the end. Our imaginations are gifts from God, and I would bet that God was pleased with Lewis's use of his gift.

Now maybe some of you think we should read just the Bible all the time. If that's the case, then there's not much we can discuss. Because at issue then is not Lewis's use of mythology so much as it is that Lewis was a professor of literature. It is not a discussion of whether Lewis can use his imagination to create a story about redemption so much as it is that it is not the redemption story. I don't want Lewis to write a gospel, I want Lewis to write Narnia and the Space Trilogy and Till We Have Faces. I want The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters from Jack, not the 95 Theses or Augustine's Confessions. Don't you understand? He gave us something unique and something good. Not perfect, but nontheless good. Not Luther, but Lewis. He resonates strongly with some of us, not because we're pagans wearing Xian Tees, but because he was authentically Christian and sought to authentically follow Christ. Just as we do: as best we can, as best we know how.

This Day

We've had some freezing rain overnight, here in God's country. It's still coming down, but it doesn't appear as if it will be doing any severe damage in our neck of the woods. Our power is still on. And Laura and Sophie get to be home today. Best of times. I, of course, would have liked to see it a little heavier so that a day off became a four-day weekend that lead to a three-day week that lead to Christmas break. But I'll take today and enjoy it.

My sister turned 37 on Tuesday. My dad turns 63 tomorrow. My oldest brother celebrates his 18th anniversary on Monday. A good time of the year for celebration.

Speaking of which, my blogger friend ScottB, aka Berkhimer, and his wife are in the hospital today where their third boy (if I'm not mistaken) is entering this world. "Has entered" by now. Prayers and celebrations for and with him and his family. And he can mail me a cigar or some pipe tobacco if he'd like. : ) Congratulations, Scott! (Are you going to name this one Steve?)

I began reading Luke in the much-censored New Living Translation (is that why I like it so much?) this morning. The Magnificat is, well, magnificent. Most blessed of women indeed. I need to do more of this sitting and reading the scriptures as a story. I would love to have at least one copy of the scriptures that has no verse or chapter delineation. That would be mucho cool. Does anyone know where I can get one? I might even be able to live with the chapters as long as they got rid of the verse indicators.

Anyone want to babysit my kids so I can go see Kong? I think it's going to be spectacular. C'mon - it's just four kids. Only one is in diapers. They only fight sporadically over the course of a quarter-hour. I'd pay at least $1 for every hour and maybe an extra quarter for every dirty diaper. Anyone? Anyone?


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Swing Sets

Swing sets and chalkdust make friendship so easy. Some friends are so pasted together with Elmer's and scribbled upon with Crayola's that the marks are indelible, the bonds unbreakable. They are as broad and deep as a child's imagination, and whether they play on one side of the playground today or the other tomorrow, you know they are still on the playground.

But I have lost friends. I have pushed some off the playground. Some I've mistreated in small or big ways, and it makes me hurt inside and out to think about it. (Do they know how much I miss them? Do they care?) Some of their needs have overwhelmed me. Some, I've ignored. I am not a perfect friend.

Some have walked different paths and the people we were no longer are. We mutually laid aside our friendship because it no longer fit. Wearing those garments is awkward and, sometimes, ridiculous. That is not to say that I stop loving them. That is not to say that I stop thinking of them.

I am thankful for my friends. But there are miles and miles between me and them. The playground has gotten a whole lot bigger. Around the corner now means across the mountains, state lines, borders, and oceans. New friends? I admit it would be nice. But I'm afraid I don't know where the swing sets are.

The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel
- Hamlet

(The quote is a little on the Annie Wilkes side of relationships, but it's well-intentioned. And I like it. So hobble me.

The Internet eats up the miles and spits them out contemptuously. It makes a nice swing set, especially if you prefer zeroes and ones over the tangibility of presence. It's an imperfect medium in many ways. But it does do in a pinch, doesn't it?)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Kingfishers and Dragonflies

(This post represents some of my initial thinking-through/my restatement of the G.M. Hopkins poem.)

The sound of plucked strings on an instrument, of a rock tumbling down a well, or of a ringing bell - the speech of the inanimate declares themselves. But in their declaration, they also speak God. For they do as they were created to do, glorifying their Creator. As a Christ-follower, I glorify my Creator as well, but with a difference: I know, I mean, I am intentional in my glorification.

I justice.

I keep grace.

In keeping grace, all my goings become graces.

I act Christ - Indeed, I am christened with Christ; I am Christed. Christ plays to the Father through me. Kingfishers and dragonflies, being themselves, catch and draw something that is other than themselves, that then becomes part of themselves. They dwell indoors (they are true to themselves) but, in the dwelling, catch fire and draw flame.

We do this at a different pitch. We are created uniquely, our very inscape, as Hopkins would say, shows quick looks, peeks, glimpses of God in our self-expression, in our creativity, in our being what we are. For we are Image-Bearers, though broken. And as believers we are not only Image-Bearers, but we are also Christ-bearers.

The Spirit hovers over the deep of our hearts and speaks into it. He reigns as King, but his reign is as the reign of a lover with his beloved. We are wooed and won; we are smitten.

And if enamored of him, there follows a convergence of head and heart and hand. We are not merely servants seeking to follow the rule of the King. We are bewitched by the beauty of our Lover, and so we seek to become his desires for us; we yearn to be as he sees us - Christ - and play, lovely, to our Father.

So I justice.

I keep grace.

In keeping grace, all my goings become graces.

I am Christed, Spirit-hovered, spoken into and to, loved.

And so are you.

Friday, December 09, 2005

In the Meantime

Laura was heading to a conference today, so I had to drive Sophie in to school this morning. Laura pulled out first, but we basically left at the same time. She called me five minutes down the road.

"Hey," I said.

"Hey, I have a sexy man behind me in a white van."

I looked around and her Jeep was nowhere in sight. "Oh really?" I said.

"Uh huh," she said.

Then I spotted her a quarter of a mile up the road. I said, "You don't, by any chance, mean the white van that's tailgating you, do you?"

"Uh huh," she said in her oh-so-sultry voice.

"Well that sexy man ain't me, Baby. I'm the white van behind that white van."

This past month a local church put up a new message on their sign out front. It makes me chuckle every time I pass it.

"Be Thankful for Little
& Enjoy Much"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

G.M. Hopkins

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

(I plan to make some comments on this poem in the next day or two. But for now, just get a feel for the poem. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Stereotypes" for $200, Alex

Originally uploaded by sixlyons.

Now this upsets me. Main St. ends at this delightful storefront in my small, rural town. (Yes, that's a Christmas angel, freshly hung for the holiday, between the two Confederate flags.) Now, I don't know the name of the store, or if it even has one, but they sell knives, caps, T-shirts, and lighters - a niche market here.

This is really not what the South is about, by the way. Any North Carolinian can tell you as much. But I can't figure out why some people so tenaciously cling to a symbol that is so offensive to so many.

As a tie-in with national news - I wonder what would happen if we started burning Confederate flags? Not that I ever would, but if I did burn one, my guess is that there would be one less blogger on the Internet.

And a Horse

Originally uploaded by sixlyons.

Here's a horse Anna drew yesterday. Blow this baby up, and you'll see how she used some highlights in the horse's mane and tail.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Yesterday's Unicorns

Yesterday's Unicorns
Originally uploaded by sixlyons.

A current sample of Anna's drawing. This is not her best work, but I thought I'd snag a picture while I was thinking about it.

What I love about this picture is the different poses of her unicorns and the shape of her pink unicorn's body. Very nicely drawn.

Anna is four (almost five).


You wrenched it away from me:
Shifty-eyed, Janus-faced brute,
To whom I spoke solemn vows,
To whom I pledged loyalty.

Inconstant, treacherous whore:
Thief of love, thief of life, thief -
Cutpurse, cutthroat, cut me down
Till my face faced the floor.

You ripped it away from me.
You left me nothing but you.
Alone with you I'm lonely;
Alone with you I'm rhymeless.

I stood upon Reason's bar
Amidst the deep of mourning
And watched the waters rise up.

Despair and doubt flooded me.
Sorrow rose above Reason,
Swirling in slow, sluggish turns.

Then I remembered that tree,
That strong hands created me,
And threw back my head and laughed.

And my laughter filled the world.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I enjoy where I live. In the middle of North Carolina, I have mountains and an ocean within driving distance. I've made day-trips to both places. I enjoy telling family in February that it's in the 60s here. I like all the flowers - some, if you plant them, will ride out the entire winter season.

But today it is raining, stay-in-your-bed rain, read-a-book rain. In the mountains it's snowing.

I grew up in Michigan. It snows in Michigan. And I, and turn away if you cannot bear it, love the snow. Especially the first snow of the year. But snow in general is pretty fantastic in my book. Yes, it's cold. Yes, it can be dangerous. All the more reason to curl up with a good book. Children make it difficult, sometimes, to enjoy the snow. But if you get a good snow, then children provide a good excuse to build snowfolk or to go tobogganing or sledding. Children love the snow. And after you come inside from a good romp in the snow there is, and this is mandatory, hot cocoa for drinking.

And so today, all day, I've been rather depressed. I want the snow. I want the magic that shuts down the world for a day or two.

. . . . .

Toboggan is a superlative word, apparently. So superlative that in North Carolina we use the word to refer to a stocking cap instead of a long wooden sled. The etymology behind this usage is beyond me, but even so, it is so.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Apple Fur

Sophie tried peeling her own apple today with a vegetable peeler. Two Band-Aids later I was peeling it for her. Then Anna ran up to me and asked if I would take the fur off her apple too.

The apples are old, people, but they're not that old.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The End Is Near

It's true: The end is near. This is the time. This is the season - the season of advent, of coming. And yet . . .

I still haven't done my Christmas shopping. Now this isn't unusual for me. We're heading up to Michigan for Christmas with my family and we usually wait until we're there to shop - it saves packing the gifts and there are eager (almost eager) babysitters present. Anyway, we eagerly await our time in the frozen tundra. We eagerly await time away, time with family, time to rest. And the kids also eagerly await, of course, stuff - wrapped in the magic paper of possibility. Sure it's the size and shape of a book, but maybe it's a Barbie. Yes, it rattles like a maraca, but does that mean it can't be a new dolly?

Let me enjoy my kids and my family. Let me observe Advent and celebrate Christmas. Let me praise God for being faithful to his promise to send the Messiah, our King, his Son.

I don't want anything this year. Nada. If you get me anything, I'll be offended. Give the money to the poor instead (no, not me - the other poor.)