Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How Did You Live That?

She asks him what it was like, how
did you, do you live that. And he
shrugs, but not before a gleam of
pain escapes his eyes and shudders
her heart. I don’t know, he says;
I don’t know. She says I want to,
need to know and because his eyes
are bonding to her heart he tells her

they believe the lie and hate
translate the lie into abuse and
beatings and the burns the terrible
burns when a cigarette is
extinguished on your back the
beatings a rape of soul and heart
a torture of the mind a torture of the
body a human act of human
destruction I longed for prayed for
the blessing of a rope a needle an
electric current but my prayer is a
stone dropped in a deep pool and it
never reaches bottom

The telling opens the door to pain
and to something else.

--From The White Cliff Poems

To see more poems for One Shot Wednesday, please visit One Stop Poetry.

Nice Guys Finish...What?

I’m reading the newspaper one Tuesday morning, and there on the obituary page I see a photo with a story about a local retired executive who had died of cancer. I stared. I could barely comprehend the words.

I wrote speeches for this man for four years, and I wrote some of the best speeches I’ve ever written. I loved working for him…

To read the rest of the article, please visit The High Calling Blogs.

(Several people have asked, so here is the article published on Aug. 4, 2005, by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

Hal Corbett Pushed Chemical Industry in Right Direction

(St. Louis Post-Dispatch Commentary Page – Aug. 4, 2005)

Harold J. Corbett, 78, died Tuesday of cancer. As his obituary in the Post-Dispatch noted, he had a distinguished career at Monsanto Company, retiring as Senior Vice President for Environment, Safety and Health.

I knew him as Hal. I met him in late 1987, when I was assigned the job of environmental communications at Monsanto. He had the right height for a typical Monsanto executive – he was tall – but he wasn’t typical. He was modest and quiet, almost unassuming, almost shy, the “nice guy,” which the corporate culture of that time tended to read as “non-assertive.” But Hal had come up through manufacturing, and he was tough. And he had the courage to do the right thing.

This quiet, unassuming, nice guy ignited a revolution in the chemical industry.

As 1987 gave way to 1988, concerns about the environment were growing everywhere. It wasn’t just what some NASA guy had said about some new thing called global warming, or the drought of 1988, or the medical syringes washing up on New Jersey beaches, or the ongoing coverage of toxic chemicals and Superfund sites. It was all of these things and more – not for nothing did Time Magazine choose an ailing “planet of the year” for 1988.

In the midst of all these concerns that year, a new law was going into effect in July 1. All manufacturers would have to report – publicly – their emissions of toxic chemicals. It didn’t matter that these emissions were legal and permitted by state and federal regulators. And the law didn’t require that manufacturers actually do anything about these emissions. Manufacturers would just have to be report them.

The problem for manufacturers was that the numbers were going to be huge – billions of pounds of toxic chemicals emitted or released into the environment every year. The chemical and mining industries would have the biggest numbers, but no manufacturer was exempt – even the Post-Dispatch had to report its toxic emissions (which it did).

Hal Corbett’s organization was responsible for measuring and reporting these emissions for Monsanto. He, and everyone else involved, and everyone else in the chemical industry, understood the implications of “simply reporting the numbers.” And while every major chemical company was scrambling to figure out what to do, Hal had a small team at Monsanto look at the issue in a non-traditional way: what if we release all of our emissions data ourselves, before the EPA does? What if we decide we have to take responsibility for these emissions, and accept public concerns as legitimate, even if we are the experts and even if we can prove that no harm is being done? What does accepting that responsibility actually mean?

The team met internal opposition at every step of the way, as Hal knew it would. But he kept helping it forward, figuring a way around that obstacle or how to deal with that particular pocket of opposition. The fact that he was so well liked and respected inside the company was an enormous asset.

In April of 1988, when Hal’s team was right in the thick of moving this rather startling strategy through the company, Hal gave a speech that ultimately cemented the new strategy into place. He wasn’t a great speaker, or an eloquent one. But his sincerity trumped great speaking ability and eloquence every time. He believed what he said, and believed in what he said, and every audience who heard him knew it.

The speech was to a group of 1,500 American and British chemical engineers, meeting in London. Hal told a story of two chemical industries – one that had transformed and improved every aspect of life imaginable, and one that had polluted the earth in the process. And he said that both chemical industries were real, and the one that had brought so much benefit to so many people was responsible for figuring out how to address and deal with the concerns and problems created by the other. And he said if people in the industry didn’t think we should take responsibility, we needed to look no further than the thousands of men, women and children who died in Bhopal, India, when a chemical plant leaked a toxic material.

The speech had an immediate and dramatic impact inside of Monsanto. Richard Mahoney, the company’s CEO at the time, announced an initiative to reduce toxic air emissions by 90 percent – in four years. Mahoney would follow that up with a series of seven commitments to environmental protection and additional waste reduction efforts. DuPont followed Monsanto’s lead. So did Dow. So did the industry’s trade association. Waste reduction and process improvement initiatives sprouted everywhere.

Hal’s speech became known as “the speech that refused to die.” Thousands of requests for copies poured in over the years. One of the last I remember came in 1995 – seven years later – from a BBC reporter in London, who had read the speech and was amazed that any industry executive would have said the things that Hal had said. From London to London, Hal’s speech had come full circle.

In his quiet, unassuming, nice-guy way, Hal Corbett made the world a better place. And all of us are better off because of it.

Following his initial stint at Monsanto and Solutia Inc.,a spin-off of Monsanto, Glynn Young served as Director of Executive Communications for St. Louis Public Schools. In 2004, he returned to Monsanto, where he is now director of Environmental Communications.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tear Up Your Notes

Back in 1993, I was leading a corporate communications team that decided to launch an email newsletter for employees. It sounds rather quaint today, but at the time, the only other company in the country that had one was AT&T. You could count on one hand the number of companies worldwide who had an employee email newsletter.

In spite of the best efforts of the IT department and my own peers to stop us, we launched a test newsletter in August with 100 people. Within four weeks, we had saturated the company’s email distribution system – and it was all by word of mouth. The newsletter was a hit for two reasons – it was new, and none had ever seen one like it before, and it had a personal voice. Because it started as a test, we didn’t seek HR or legal approval. We wrote stories that sounded like real people had written them. We didn’t censor letters to the editor unless a personal attack or profanity was involved.

It was plain text. No photos or graphics. A year later, the surveys showed it had the highest credibility of any communication vehicle in the company – and that included immediate supervisors and top management. Locations that didn’t have email would print it and post it on bulletin boards. Some locations translated it into the local language.

I had spent almost 20 years in organizational communications, and everything I had learned and been taught was suddenly outdated. I had to “tear up my notes.”

That’s the metaphor Michael Spencer uses in chapter 3 of Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. Spencer reached a point in his faith where it was time to tear up his notes, when he realized that everything he had been taught about church just might have a lot more to do with American culture, or a version of culture, than with the God he believed in.

Here’s what Spencer concluded, and it’s incendiary.

“What I need is a personal transformation by the real Christ, not the one that is manufactured by organized Christianity. I need to be changed by the Jesus who never ceases to be quiet and cooperative. I also need a movement of culture-resisting, church-suspicious rebels and Jesus-followers who have taken the same view of religion that Jesus took in his scorching denouncements of religious phoniness.

“I’m swimming in a sea of mediocrity, worshiping in a church captivated by consumerism, and deeply affected by a skewed view of God that the Bible would call petty idolatry…”

I’ve read those words severalties. Each time I do, my ears burn. Is Spencer talking about me?

I think I have more notes to tear up.


Bend the Page, Chapter 3, by Nancy Rosback.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Versatile Blogger

I got caught in a pincers movement. And it's actually kind of nice.

Twice on Sunday, I got listed for a "Versatile Blogger" Award, once by Diane Bainbridge at Contemporary Photography and once by Louise Gallagher at Recover Your Joy. The award is actually for whatever reason the giver designates -- and both Diane and Louise were more than generous in designating me. So, in turn, I am designating others (up to 15 at a time is allowed) and also doing the optional "seven things you may not know about me."

Thank you, Louise and Diane. You have been more than kind.

Here are my designees (and I've omitted some because Louise, Diane and Maureen Doallas have designated a number of bloggers I would have):

Duane Scott at Scribing the Journey. Duane is a young man wiser than his years and a heart for God.

Michael Perkins at Untitled. I read Michael's posts each day, and I come away encouraged. What a great heart he has.

Scott Couchenour at Serving Strong. Scott has a calling -- to serve ministry leaders.

David Rupert at Red-Letter Believers. David is one of my favorite bloggers on work.

Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. One of the best bloggers online.

Marcus Goodyear at Good Word Editing. He writes poetry, he's a great writer, he's a great editor, and he battles zombies. What else can be said?

Justinian at Delight and Glory and Oddity and Light. I love the poetry this man writes.

Pete Marshall at, well, Pete Marshall. A poet with a truly human heart and a vulnerable soul. I was introduced to Pete's poetry by Lesley Moon at Moondustwriter. Lesley is a poet with one of the most generous hearts you can find.

Karen Eck at Karenee Art. A poet, an artist and a thinker.

L.L. Barkat at Seedlings in Stone. A poet, a writer and a friend. She's currently very busy not writing a book.

Kathy Richards, the incomparable Katdish.She writes unbelievably funny, unbelievably irreverent posts. And yet my favorites tend to be her serious ones -- this is a woman with a serious heart for God, and she knows how to laugh..

Kelly Sauer. Her writing and photography define the words "transparent" and "vulnerable."

Susan Etole at Just...a Moment. Susan combines beautiful photos with a few words that are absolute perfection every time.

Jay Cookingham at Soulfari. Jay has a heart for dads. And kids. And wives and moms. I love his blog.

That's 15. I have 15 more. Since I got this twice, I think I should get 30. I'll assemble the other 15 and post it soon.

And now the optional part of the Versatile Blogger Award.

Seven things you might not know about me.

(1) The summer between high graduation and the start of college, three friends and I drove to Cape Kennedy (or Cape Canaveral or whatever it's called these days) for the launch of Apollo 11 to the moon. We joined one million other people from all over the world.

(2) I collect stamps -- U.S. and Canada.

(3) I started biking some three weeks before I turned 53. My first ride was three blocks, and I collapsed. My longest ride in one day (August 2009) is 93 miles. And I didn't collapse.

(4) My heritage is English, Irish, French and German. Or one half Redneck and one half Coonass.

(5) My youngest son (22) and I saw all three of the Lord of the Rings movies together three times each -- at the movie theater. We also bought the DVDs as soon as they were released, and the extended edition DVD set. Yes, I'm a Ringhead.

(6) For six years, I wrote speeches for a CEO named by Fortune Magazine as one of America's seven toughest bosses. Fortune did not lie.

(7) I was president of my fraternity in college.


I changed my mind. I wasn’t going to write about it.

“It” was one of the worst weeks of my life: Aug. 27 to Sept. 3, 2005.

August 27: My then 82-year-old mother tells me she is not evacuating New Orleans. She and her older sister decide they will stay in my mother’s house in the suburbs near the airport. They’ve been through many hurricanes before, and they know what will happen.

August 28: My aunt, who lives on Jourdan Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward, is dropped by one of my cousins at my mother’s house. The Lower Ninth flooded during Hurricane Betsy in 1965. My cousin offers to take both my mother and aunt to Baton Rouge to another cousin’s house. Both sisters, who come from stubborn Germans on one side and opinionated Creoles on the other, refuse to go. “We’ll be all right. We’ve been through this before. What’s the worst that could happen? We lose electricity for a few days?” I don’t like the answer but I understand it; I’ve been through hurricanes in New Orleans, too.

August 29: Katrina comes ashore between New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The eye passes almost directly over my brother’s house in Washington Parish. Years ago, Washington Parish was a place of small towns and farms. Now it is still that, but it’s also becoming a northern suburb of New Orleans. We will not hear from my brother and sister-in-law for a week.

August 30: President Bush declares “we’ve dodged a bullet;” it appears that New Orleans has indeed missed the big one. I talk with my mother on the phone; they have no electricity but they’re okay.

That night, I’m sitting in a parents’ function at my youngest son’s high school when my BlackBerry buzzes. My youngest brother who lives in Houston sends this email: “The 17th Street Canal levee has broken; the city is flooding.” He knows, and I know, what that means: the 17th Street canal borders Jefferson and Orleans parishes and is connected to Lake Pontchartrain; the levee has broken on the New Orleans side. The West End, Lakeview, Lake Vista – some of the wealthiest parts of the city – are flooding. The wealthy sections on the Jefferson Parish side are also flooding.

Then come reports of other levee breaks. The Industrial Canal levee near the London Avenue Bridge, six blocks from my aunt’s house, had borken wide open. The levee along the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet has reportedly dissolved; 90 percent of St. Bernard Parish is underwater. The cousin who tried to take my mother and aunt to Baton Rouge lives in St. Bernard, and she would later tell me, in a way only a native New Orleanian can, that her house had only six inches of water – on the second floor.

Eighty percent of the city of New Orleans will be under water in less than 24 hours. More than 1600 people will die in the New Orleans area and another 200 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

August 31: Miraculously, my mother still has phone service, but no electricity or water. And the flooding stopped about a mile from her house. Trying to call her is problematic at best – virtually impossible unless it’s 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. She had filled the bathtub with water, but that is fast disappearing.

In the meantime, we’re trying to track down relatives. They’re scattered across several states. Some had evacuated; some got out right ahead of the storm. Two elderly cousins, who lived in an especially low area of the city, can’t be found. There’s some comfort in knowing they live on the second floor of a duplex.

We still can’t get through to my brother in Washington Parish.

In the meantime, we watch the tragedy of incompetence play out on national television. The news media seem to have no trouble getting into the city; the federal government makes one misstep after another; and I could have told anyone that the state government would be worst than useless.

So people did in Louisiana what people did in Mexico City after the 1986 earthquake. They ignored their governments and undertook rescue operations themselves. Government at all levels failed in Hurricane Katrina. That failure would only get magnified when studies and reports afterward detailed the singular failings of the Army Corps of Engineers.

I join millions in going to the internet. The New Orleans Times-Picayune set s up a massive message board system, organized by regions and even neighborhoods. People swap critical information – like how to get around the roadblocks on the highways to get into the city to rescue family. (I admit it; I helped people do that. The neighbor of my mother’s who slipped past the roadblocks, the man who would take the two sisters in their 80s out of New Orleans in a pickup truck and bring them to my nephew in Lafayette, tells my mother how he did it. She tells me. I tell lots of people on the message boards. It’s so obvious that only the federal and state governments miss it.)

September 2: My mother and aunt leave with a neighbor for Lafayette and safety.

I don’t recall what day it is, likely about a week or so after the storm, but I dial my sister-in-law’s cell phone, and she answers. Their home in Washington Parish is intact; every tree on the property (40 acres) is down. The local neighbors have banded together to feed each other, help each other – and fend off any potential looter.

About the same time, a retired U.S. Army serviceman in Seattle I find on a message board helps me find the two elderly cousins – a grandson had convinced them at the last minute to leave with him, and they drove all the way to Cleveland, Ohio. We will learn later that the flood waters for a time covered both stories of their two-story duplex.

August 28, 2010: The Wall Street Journal publishes a five-year Katrina retrospective on one small stretch of homes in the Lower Ninth Ward – the 800 block of Jourdan Avenue. It is exactly that block where my aunt lived in her pre-Civil War home. (There is an online sidebar to the story -- and my aunt's story is third one down the list -- Laurentine Ernst.)

And that awful week is suddenly happening all over again.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Saturday Good Reads

More good stuff, for the real meaning of the tea parties and what make an effective leader to the legend of King Arthur and Dixie in Byzantium.


The Beauty of Brokenness” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

The End of Management” by Alan Murray for The Wall Street Journal.

Scott Rasmussen: America’s Insurgent Pollster” by John Fund for The Wall Street Journal.

A Prayer: Honesty and Trust” by Jason Stasyszen at Connecting to Impact.

The Myth of ‘Secular’ Fiction” by Mike Duran at deCompose.

Walden” by Corinne at Trains, Tutus and Teatime.

Hit the Redneck” and “Into the World” by Billy Coffey.

The Least of These” by Jeff Jordan at To My Children, If They Are Listening.

Regeneration: How I Got Back My Superpowers” by Charity Singleton at Wide Open Spaces.

The Beginning” by Ryan Tate at Taterhouse.

Abandoned Greenhouse” by Greg Sullivan at Sippican Cottage.

In the Yearning and the Wrestling” by Sandra Heska King.

What Will Pass for Mercy” by Brian Volck at The Image Journal.

This is the Way” by Jay Cookingham at Soulfari.

Don’t Misunderstand the Ancient-Future Path” by Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk.

Effective Leaders Do This” by Scott Couchenour at Serving Strong.


Tintagel – Birthplace of Arthur” and “Late Night Shopping” by Pete Marshall for One Stop Poetry.

Soul Songs” by Jay Cookingham at Soulfari.

’If’ worms” by Melissa at All the Words.

Sermon Notes Poetry: Philippians” by L.L. Barkat at Love Notes to Yahweh.

First day of school, and I, a broken cantaloupe” by Brian Miller at WayStationOne.

Run with the Birds” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

6:24 a.m. (Poem)” by Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

Byzantine Dixie” by Justinian at Delight and Glory and Oddity and Light.

Catching the Waves” by Lorenzo at Crowned with Laurels.

Exodus” by John Blase at Dirty Shame.

The Yearning” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

Hope Whispers When It Speaks” by Carrie Burtt at Hope Whispers.

Watch Out” by Nancy Rosback at Poems and Prayers.

Perhaps I’m Not a Poet” by Karen Eck at Karenee Art.

Dustus Friday: Photography by Terence Jones and ‘Boston’ ( a poem) by Lesley Moon for One Stop Poetry.

Paintings and Photographs

CS,”oil on paper by Randall David Tipton.

Photograph: Lamp by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Travis Thrasher's "Solitary"

Chris Buckley moves with his mother to a small mountain town in North Carolina named Solitary. She’s divorced her husband, who discovered God and forgot his family. Solitary is where she grew up; she and Chris move into her brother’s cabin. Her brother had disappeared a year before.

It’s the typical new-kid-at-school experience for Chris. Almost. He defends a kid against some bullies – and even the kid being bullied tells him it was the wrong move. He meets Jocelyn Evans and her friends Rachel and Poe, and totally flips for Jocelyn. Except everyone starts warning him against her.

And then there’s that church that is the church in town and the one where the pastor’s sermons say nothing about Jesus but a lot about death. And the muddy footprints near the cabin; someone is watching them. And the email warnings to stay away from Jocelyn. And the small group who seem to worship by themselves. And his mom getting chloroformed. And then Chris getting chloroformed. And the town doesn't celebrate Christmas.

This is Solitary, the first of four Young Adult novels by Travis Thrasher. The author of 11 previous novels for adults (and some ripping good books ranging from love stories to suspense), Thrasher has created in “Solitary” a combination of suspense, nightmare and the anguish of a teenage boy who is head over heels in his first love.

The pace simply doesn’t let up. Thrasher has structured the novel with short chapters and sparse, clean prose that add speed and propel the reader forward.

This first novel introduces the key lines of action. And while there is a resolution, the novel is really setting up the rest of the series. Yes, I know it’s a Young Adult novel, but at the breathless end I was already feeling the internal clamor for “more Solitary.”

I’m hooked. Your teenagers will be, too. So will you.


Travis Thrasher’s web site.

Travis Thrasher’s blog, The Journey Is Everything.

The trailer for Solitary on YouTube.

(Yes, Federal Trade Commission, I received this book from the publisher's agent to do a review. But I would have bought it anyway.)

A Car Accident, An Anniversary, SharePoint and White Cliffs

No, it wasn’t my car accident; our friend and Pleasantly Disturbed Thursday founder Duane Scott is recuperating after a car accident yesterday. There won’t likely be the usual weekly links but Duane would want us to carry on. So here’s to a speedy recovery for him. And please pray for him; his injuries weren’t serious or life-threatening but they were injuries and his car looks totaled (and it wasn't his fault).

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, and the weather decided to do something totally bizarre for late August in St. Louis – it dramatically cooled off, with a high of around 80. We ditched the plan we had for eating at a local restaurant and instead went to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, which is open late on Wednesdays. We walked and walked through what has to be one of the most beautiful places in St. Louis. The "gardens," as we call them, are filled with memories for us. We've been members since 1979 and the only photo we have of my wife pregnant with our firstborn was taken there; we also have a photo of our daughter-in-law pregnant (with grandson Cameron) taken in the exact same spot.

After the gardens we ate at a new tapas restaurant in our suburban town of Kirkwood. Splendid evening.

It’s been an intense seven days at work, and we’re beginning to see the end of it. Beginning last Wednesday, our team has been transferring text files, photos and videos from the current company web site to the new site, which is scheduled to launch on Sunday. We’re learning how to use Microsoft’s SharePoint platform at the same time. Very full days, sitting in front of a computer screen all day in a boiler-room like operation, trying to keep your other work going or at least left not far behind, looking at your calendar and realizing you’ve been tripled-booked into meetings and having to skip all three because of the web site project. It’s almost over.

In between days packed with transferring text files, I’ve been reading The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems by Robert Haas. Virtually all the poems in the volume are story poems, and I’m enjoying how he tells them.

Several people asked me about the poem I posted yesterday, “Running Back Roads.” Specifically, they wondered about the little tagline at the end – “From The White Cliff Poems.” Well, it’s a slight conceit of mine. There is no published volume called The White Cliff Poems. It is a group of poems (18 so far) that I’ve written to help me structure and develop this novel I’ve been working on. A few of the others include “The Cemetery Attendant,” “The Silence of the Trees,” “From a Blessing Destroyed,” “Country Store” and “The Solace of the Woods.” I’m not sure if all or any of these will surface in the manuscript, but they are providing considerable help. There are more to come.

And please pray for Duane.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Running Back Roads

He ran back roads, untraveled
highways, deserted streets, usually but
not always in the dying sun of an ebbing
afternoon. He ran to grind out, to cleanse
the smell of prison that still clung, the
metallic taste of fear, despair, anger, rage,
the gray dullness and sameness that almost
but never quite suffocated.

He ran with hope, the pounding of his
running shoes indicating, signaling
movement forward, a progression
toward escape, a desire that his sweat
would excrete the poison within, the
poison poured into him, even if he
didn’t know its intensity or direction,
only that it was.

He ran until he felt the blood replace the
sweat, red drops spotting his white
wicking nylon shirt. He ran until he
knew that the taste, the smell, was
still upon him, the poison still within.
He did not anticipate that being free
would turn prison years into
a living thing.

      --From The White Cliff Poems

Photograph: "Wyoming Wind" by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.
To read more poems for One Shot Wednesday, visit One Shot Poetry.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Two Sons

I’ve talked or mentioned both of my children here before, but I thought I would give a little more detail without embarrassing them too badly.

We have two sons, which in my family is no surprise. My older brother has two sons; I have two sons; my younger brother has three sons, I do have a half-sister from my father’s first marriage who has – yes – two sons. My nephews from my older brother have three boys and a girl between them (obviously, one of my nephews didn’t get the right instructions). And my oldest son now has – a son.

My oldest, Travis, is 30, is married to Stephanie and the father of Cameron. He manages a Hilton hotel here in St. Louis. And he blogs at Life Changes, Do We? His blogging was a real surprise because he never showed much inclination toward writing while he was in school. In fact, this was the child who told me during in his sophomore year in college, with real surprise in his voice, that studying actually helped him take a test.

He was born thinking he was an adult. He walked at nine months, and he walked for one day. After that, he ran. And he was quick. He tried to start my car in the garage when he was 2. He figured out how to escape from his baby bed by throwing the teddy bear over the side and then jumping on top the bear to cushion the jump. Or he slid down the curtains, bending the curtain rod.

He loved sports from the time he could watch television. We found him at 5 a.m. one Saturday morning when he wasn’t quite five, watching golf on TV. He loved (loves) all sports, but he especially loves baseball. He inherited that gene from his maternal grandfather; he certainly didn’t get it from his father, who once scandalized his wife’s family by saying he thought baseball was boring. I have since learned better. With Travis, we did Little League baseball for years. We did the teen leagues. We did basketball games. We did soccer. Did I tell you that I’m not sports-inclined? My mother-in-law beat me once in basketball – we were playing HORSE. And she was on crutches.

Our youngest is Andrew, who is 22 and gainfully employed with Farmers Insurance in Kansas City. We waited almost eight years to have Andrew, because Travis almost convinced us we would be a one-child family. Andrew arrived at the end of a very difficult year – the death of father, a blow-up at the church we were attending, and my career suddenly a shambles.

While his brother would crawl into the laps of strangers at restaurants, Andrew would become nearly hysterical at the sight of a stranger. He'd become hysterical at the sight of a neighbor.

Andrew also likes sports, but has always been more selective about it than his older brother. He loves soccer, and I think his life’s ambition still is to own a European football team. He was always the quiet and rather shy one of the two boys, and I think we worried about him until his sophomore year in high school. He came home one day and said he’d been nominated to this national program, and he wanted to go to Australia for three weeks in the summer. Swoon we did, but we played it cool and didn’t let him see us in shock.

He went, and he came back almost a different kid. He snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, camped in the Australian outback in the winter, learned to crack a whip, spent four days with a family in Sydney and went to school with their kids. And the next summer he went to Europe with the same program, and harvested tomatoes on Malta, discovered gelato in Italy and thought Paris was a pretty cool place.

Physically, my oldest looks like my wife’s side of the family, and my youngest looks like my side of the family. The photo above was taken at Andrew’s graduation from the University of Missouri in May, and you can see the family resemblance in both of them.

One of the coolest things about the two of them is that despite the almost eight years difference in their ages, they are really close to each another. Andrew was the best man at his brother's wedding.

They’ve both turned into rather decent adults. Yes, for a long time we didn’t know that would happen, especially the teen and college years. For both of them.

Just like their father. Except we still wonder about him.

To see other posts on children, please visit the One Word Blog Carnival over at Bridget Chumbley's place.

Pecan Pie with No Pecans

What’s called “the worship wars” has plagued the evangelical church for years – the arguments over traditional versus contemporary versus “ancient-future” versus just about anything else you can think of. Numerous churches have been torn apart over what kinds of hymns (songs!) to sing.

What if the battles over worship forms are only a distracting sideshow? What if a more serious problem is being masked by whether we have choirs or praise bands?

In Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, Michael Spencer (the original Internet Monk) predicts the coming collapse of the American evangelical church. And a primary reason, he says, is that the church has become like pecan pie without the pecans – and Jesus is the pecans. Many of today’s churches have everything – lattes while you worship, sermons on prosperity now, scenes from R-rated movies within the sermons, instructions on sexual intimacy – but no Jesus.

I’ve seen a lot of things pass for worship, including a pastor doing a three-costume change during a sermon; a clip from the Russell Crowe movie “Gladiator;” and dancers in flowing gowns looking like they were trying to find the set for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What any that had to do with the gospel message is unknown. And that’s Spencer’s point. We’ve got everything except Jesus in our churches.

Christians are voting – with their feet, Spencer says. I don’t have any demographic studies or surveys to prove that, but I suspect he’s right.

In the September/October issue of Modern Reformation Magazine, Dr. Donald P. Richmond of the Reformed Episcopal Church writes in “Worship Wars: Toward a Biblical Resolution” that worship has four inherent aspects: gathering; word-focused; communion-centered; and dismissal. (I’d provide the link but it’s not posted online yet.) The style of worship is less important than the substance -- each of the four has Jesus at its center. (Richmond does, however, raise the question of how we dress for worship -- that our clothing may be -- may be -- an important indicator of the expectations of our hearts.)

Talk about countercultural.


The Coming Evangelical Collapse, Michael Spencer’s blog post

Spencer’s article in the Christian Science Monitor.

Chapter Two by Nancy Rosback at Bend the Page.

Jesus-colored glasses by Fatha Frank at Public Christianity.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Solace of the Woods

The wreckage of two lives, hers and his,
behind him, he first sought the solace of
the woods: the hardness of oak, the dense
liquidity of maple, the red sweetness of
cherry, the resilience of cedar, the
resistance of redwood and the welcome of
that most pedestrian of workhorses, pine,
softest and most fragile.
Yet the woods with all their surprises and
contrariness and sudden yieldings
offered only the quiet of the moment, the
calm of immediacy, the barest touch of quiet.
His hands touching wood could create
extraordinary beauty but beauty
insufficient to heal the wounds, cover the
scars or make a whole life whole. So
that for which he hungered, that for which he
most desired, remained a wisp of wind that
vanished as soon as he reached to touch it.

--From The White Cliff Poems

This poem is part of the Random Act of Poetry feature at The High Calling Blogs. The subject is solace.


The Silence of the Trees, posted here for National Poetry Month in April.

Photograph: Last Light by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Good Reads

From the Wall Street Journal on power trips to a poem about Michigan sunrise, there were a lot of good things to read this past week. Here are just a few of them.


When Did We Get ‘Spiritual Practice’ Stuck?” by L.L. Barkat at Love Notes to Yahweh.

The Power Trip” by Jonah Lehrer for The Wall Street Journal.

Dad, how you spell Upponna?” by Greg Sullivan at Sippican Cottage.

A Yankee’s Top10 Tips for Southern Survival” by Gordon McCreary at A Yankee’s Southern Exposure.

The Screamer” by Sarah M. Salter.

Staples and the human condition” by Billy Coffey.

In the Flesh” by Jessica Mesman Griffith at The Image Journal.

I Will Give Up for You” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

Color Theory” and "Words, Part 2" by Kathy Richards.

Bend the Page” by Nancy Rosback at Poems and Prayers.

Hiding with God” by Jessica McGuire at Jezamama.

Sourcing Creativity” by Louise Gallagher at Recover Your Joy.

Where is ‘Emerging’ Now, and Where Is It Going?” by Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk.

The weeping: freeze-frame celebration” by Kelly Sauer.

For Love or Money” by Athol Dickson for The Novel Journey.

The Finish Line” by Jeanne Damoff for The Master’s Artist.

The Nameless” by Duane Scott.

A Bell in My View” by Sandra Heska King.


The Wreckers” by Pete Marshall for One Stop Poetry.

The Empty Room” by Amber Whitworth via Carrie Burtt at Hope Whispers.

Old Man’s Prayer” by Rob Kistner at Image & Verse.

Rest” by Nancy Rosback at Poems and Prayers.

"Mosque" by Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

Fields of Kid” by Men Shall Know Nothing of This.

Barren Ocean” by Nithin at My Words.

Sur La Garonne – Bordeaux” by Lesley Moon at Moondustwriter.

Hollow Monday” by Steven Marty Grant at Urbanality.

Michigan Sunrise” by Adam Dustus at The Dustus Blog.

Iron Sharpens Iron – How to Edit a Poem with a Friend” by Marcus Goodyear at Good Word Editing.

Facing the Deep” by Karen Eck at Karenee Art.

Making art (with you)” by Brian Miller at WayStationOne.

Unsettled” by Bradley Moore at And the Other Thing Is.

You’re Alive in This” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

Chase of a Lifetime” by Jay Cookingham at Soulfari.

Paintings and Photographs

He Reigns” by Sandra Heska King.

Coastal Rainforest,” oil on canvas, and “Tryon Creek Study,” oil on panel,  by Randall David Tipton.

In the Midst” and “The Summer of 12” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

Things That Make Me Glow” by Kelly Sauer at A Restless Heart.

Along the Way” by ELK at Read or Gray.

Undivided Heart” by Karen Eck at Phoenix Karenee.


“American Messiah,” Part 1 by Otin at The Wizard of Otin and Part 2 by Brian Miller at WayStationOne.

Photograph: "Lamp" by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Two Gifts

Unasked, unsought,
nor even imagined,
the young man is
given two gifts,
two beyond his
abilities and talents:
one, encouragement;
the other, faith.
One aims outward,
flowing across a
horizontal plane,
washing and cleansing,
softening the hard
edges of rocks into the
the smoothness of
The other lifts upward,
emerging from the
darkness as it speeds,
then hurtles in a
sweeping trajectory
toward the light.
He knows the
desolation inward;
he knows the
two are true.

Photograph by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pleasantly Disturbed Thursday

I like these Pleasantly Disturbed Thursdays, sponsored by my online friend Duane Scott. It’s actually nice to do a little stream of consciousness and write down whatever crosses your mind. Rhyme and reason need not apply.

Work has been intense this week. We’re launching a redesigned corporate web site, with a new SharePoint platform. This has been underway for many months – and now is the time when it all comes like a tidal wave. On Monday, several of us went through the SharePoint training so (in theory) we would know how to transfer content from the old to the new site. Wednesday, we started doing that. Today we are doing that. Friday we will be doing that. All day. And then next week we’ll be doing that.

So we learn how to load a story, a video, a big photograph, a little photograph, several photographs, a sidebar, a table (although tables are still a problem at this point), different formatting. As Kathy Richards would say, GAAAAA! For this project, I’m reporting to the web team lead, who normally reports to me but she's the one who knows what she's doing. We’re all gophers right now.

Two more full days to go. And we’re already exhausted.

I’m almost finished reading Solitary by Travis Thrasher. It’s a Young Adult novel, and since Young is my last name, I’m qualified to read it. It is a terrific read for any age but it is squarely aimed at the Young Adult market. Fast-paced, clear, suspenseful, a high school love story – it’s got all the right ingredients and deserves to be a hit. And it’as the first in a series of four “Solitary” books.

If you’re looking for good poetry to read, check out this week’s One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry. I'm always amazed at the range, diversity and the downright goodness of what people are contributing.

I’m working with Mrs. Nespy’s Frugal Living (how’s that for the name of a blog?) to give away two copies of God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us by L.L. Barkat. Read the post immediately below this one or go directly to Mrs. Nespy’s place. And even if you don’t enter, you should read this book. It’s provoking, thoughtful and stretching, even if I didn’t do the “lay out in the yard” assignment.

We did a poetry jam Tuesday night over at TweetSpeak Poetry. And it was all about (or mostly about) tea, a kind of poetry jam and tea (I know, bad pun). I’ve got one more set of poems from the previous jam to finish editing (almost done) and then will start on these new ones. We’ve also been talking about TweetSpeak Poetry’s future, and there are some cool things in the works.

And yes, I know I’m shameless, but my grandson Cameron has discovered his feet. Only a grandfather would think that is a stupendous achievement.

To read more Pleasantly Disturbed Thursdays, go visit Duane Scott’s place.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"God in the Yard" Giveaway

I was going to do a giveaway of God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us by L.L. Barkat, and then I saw that Kaye over at Mrs. Nespy's Frugal World was doing one. So I hopped on board the giveaway train and am offering a second copy to Kaye's first in the giveaway. Check out the post on it, and you'll find there are a number of ways to be in the random drawing (and multiple times, no less). Don't leave your comment here but instead over at Kay's place.

The giveaway runs until Aug. 24 at 11:59 p.m. (eastern time). The two winners will then be selected.

So drop a comment, tweet or any of the other ways to be selected for a copy of this great book.

It Ends in Hospitality

I’ve reached Chapter 12 and the epilogue of God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us by L.L. Barkat.

This last chapter is on hospitality. Barkat describes it as a process of receptivity, reverence and generosity.

Hospitality is not exactly my strong suit. I think I was born with hospitality not being my strong suit. Almost painfully shy as a child, I was always on the outer circle of the neighborhood rambunctiousness. Truth be told, I probably preferred to sit quietly and read. My parents, in fact, would often throw me out of the house to get me away from reading.

This didn’t change much as I grew older. I was the one everyone came to for help with their homework. In college, if I read one paper on either “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner or Young Goodman Brown, I read hundreds. (I’ve never read Young Goodman Brown but I can likely recite anything you want to know about it. I read the Faulkner story in my early 40s. I think I read almost all of Faulkner in my late 30s and early 40s).

I’m still not comfortable in crowds. When I go to conferences where I know virtually no one, I dread the cocktail receptions. I’ve taught myself to make conversation if I’m sitting at a lunch or dinner meeting. Wordsworth said it a long time ago: the child is father of the man.

There’s a cost to this, this “introvertedness,” this aloneness. But perhaps the time has come to stop paying the cost and find another way. Or, as Barkat says in the epilogue, “…you can embrace the life you have before it’s gone.”

Read this book.

The God in the Yard posts linked all in one place:

Introduction: God in the Yard
Week One: Little Woods and Big Woods
Week Two: Life is a Garden
Week Three: Singing in the Wilderness
Week Four: The Grief Makes the Way for the Joy
Week Five: Detachment
Week Six: Lament? What?
Week Seven: Working at the Margins
Week Eight: Sabbath and Verse
Week Nine: Writing Poetry
Week Ten: I Fix Mess
Week Eleven: Submission is Not a Passive Thing
Week Twelve: It Ends in Hospitality

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Legal, briefly

The law exists, they say, to
be the precedented conduit, the
moving conveyance of
justice served, meted.
The conduit flows, the
conveyance arrives, when
propelled by, when
fueled by a curious notion
called truth,
in which the broken are
usually not inclinded to
indulge themselves.
If, as the tenured professor
mused to Jesus, there is
no truth, can law function,
can justice be anything but
a flashing neon display of
power of the moment?

This poem is one the contributions to One Shot Poetry for its weekly One Shot Wednesday. Too see other submitted poems, please visit the site. There are some great poems posted every week.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do Church Signs Lie?

An executive for whom I worked for several years was fond of saying “policy is what you do, not what you say,” the corporate business version of “actions speak louder than words.”

Does the same principle apply to churches? I’d tend to argue that churches – or “the church” – should be the living embodiment of “doing” – and letting “doing” be the what and how of “saying.”

Michael Spencer, in Mere Churchianity, says that millions of people are leaving the churches because what’s on the sign outside the church isn’t matched by what is actually happening inside the church. I’ve lived through an experience like this, where the “do” became so disconnected from the “say” that it nearly tore the church apart.

It wasn’t on a sign (although the vision statement was displayed on banners) but this is what was said: “We are not trying to be the next Willow Creek.” The “do,” however, was just he opposite. And the “do” was taking the church down a very destructive path.

Relationships were damaged. Friendships ended. Founding members of the church were driven away. Teaching moved away from the Bible and toward books by John Eldredge and The Prayer of Jabez.

The canaries in the coal mine left first. What started as a trickle of departures was masked by an initial surge in attendance. The trickle became a flow, then a flood. We left at the tail end of the flood.

And we left damaged. I wish I could say something else, but that’s what happened. By “damaged” I mean hypersensitive to any kind of change.

When our current church moved to change the format of one of the worship services, we freaked – that’s exactly how it had started before. An elder acted tone-deaf when we asked a question – we had seen that glazed-over, “they’re not with the program” look before.

This has had the effect of building walls, avoiding any involvement beyond the bare minimum, a reluctance to get too close to people in the church because it could all blow up again and you want the freedom to be able to walk out – and immediately.

I was one of those people Michael Spencer wrote his book for.


My review of Mere Churchianity.

My article on the book for Christian Manifesto.

Bend the Page, a place to discuss Mere Churchianity.

When Church Signs Lie by Fatha Frank at Public Christianity.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

From a blessing destroyed

It was a blessing
destroyed, erased from
its short existence in
an act of violence,
a song so silenced that
the roar was deafening.
Yet he took the ashes,
the cold cinders, the
muted stone, the charred
pieces, the heart remnants,
the song’s last echo before
it all vanished in a
final, choking whimper;
he took it and made
a new hope.

Photograph: Dazeye by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

11:15 Worship Service

Green t-shirt; yellow
polo (and blue and maroon
and striped and black and
turquoise and gray and
plaid; when did polos become
the standard worship uniform?);
silk blouse; black dress;
shorts; slacks; jeans; cutoffs;
standard button-down shorts;
fashionably wrinkled top;
unfashionably wrinkled top;
pressed suit; jacket
with/without tie;
hands in air; hands
held tightly to sides;
standing, sitting, kneeling all
at once; a riot of color and
style singing the old
words How Great Thou Art
framed by the music of new:
a collection of hearts at
the 11:15 Sunday worship.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday Good Reads

From pirates and a visit to Provence to cosmic bowling, there was a lot of good stuff to read online this past week. This is only a little bit of it.


The Pirate in All of Us” by Gordon McCreary at A Yankee’s Southern Exposure.

The Myth of Autonomy” by Damaris Zehner at Internet Monk.

The Fear of Letting Go” and “A Conversation with God” by Billy Coffey.

A Place Where We Can Talk” by Brian Volck at The Image Journal.

Jerry, Grace and Rosemary” by Rebecca Ramsey at Wonders Never Cease.

Little Girls Should Laugh” by Jeff Jordan at To My Children, if They Are Listening.

Meeting My Neighbor” and "Man, I've Got Stuff"by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

Ode to Provence” by Tom Vowler at How to Write a Novel.

Words” by Kathy Richards.

Parenting in the Storm” by Jessica McGuire at Jezamama.

The Last Scene of the Movie” by Travis Thrasher at The Journey Is Everything.

Homeless Thief” by Kathleen Overby at Almost Paradisical.

Sneaky Words” by Bridget Nilsen at Nilsen Life.

Artist, Heal Thyself” by David Griffith at The Image Journal.


Cosmic Bowling” by Louise Gallagher at Recover Your Joy; photo by Nancy Rosback.

Things have not gone as planned” by Milton Brasher-Cunningham at Don’t Eat Alone.

Movements in Poetry” by Brian Miller at WayStationOne.

The best” by Nancy Rosback at Poems and Prayers.

The letting go of release” by Karen Eck at Karenee Art.

Sliver” by Hadassah Fey at Umbra Vita.

The Noise in the Waiting Room” by Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

The Grain Bins Heave” by Emily Wierenga at In the Hush of the Moon.

Lighthouse” by Kathleen Overby at Almost Paradisical.

In One Generation” by Monica Sharman at Know-Love-Obey God.

Weather Clock” by Melissa at All the Words.

Hey, Mr. Williams” by Justinian at Delight and Glory and Oddity and Light.

And you!!!” by Lesley Moon at Moondustwriter.

Paintings and Photographs

"Lacamas Meadows," oil on canvas by Randall David Tipton.

August Sunflower” by Steve Gravano at Take a Look Around.

Photograph: Lamp, by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Marilynne Robinson's Rocky Places

Marilynne Robinson is a writer of what could only be called serious, literary fiction. Her fist novel, Housekeeping (1980), had the good fortune of being noticed and reviewed by Anatole Broyard in The New York Times Book Review (he was afraid it would go unnoticed so he reviewed it himself). She went on to write non-fiction and essays, and published her second novel, Gilead, in 2004. Home, a kind of companion to Gilead but not a sequel or “prequel,” was published in 2008.

To read the rest of my article, please visit The Christian Manifesto.

Friday, August 13, 2010

All the News Is Painful

The market is down:

“Traders worried about
Chinese, Indian economies.”
An election looms like a
slightly soggy phoenix; there
is nothing more hopeful
than an American election,
and nothing more disappointing.
Jobs are scarce; the newspaper
blurbed a few lines about the
chronically unemployed
between the heavy treatises on
Lindsay Lohan’s ill legalities and
a 10-year-old singing Puccini.
And I have to go to the dentist.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Pleasantly Disturbed Thursday

It’s that time of the week – another round of Pleasantly Disturbed Thursdays, sponsored by my online friend Duane Scott.

I finished reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and it is remarkable. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004, and it should have. I’m working on a post about it.

I just started reading Solitary by Travis Thrasher. It is the first of four Young Adult novels in a series that he’s doing for David Cook Publishers. While it’s clearly intended for its audience, it’s a riveting read.

I spent a lot of time Tuesday and Wednesday reading the poems posted at One Stop Poetry for its weekly One Shot Wednesday. You should take a look to see the sheer diversity of the poems linked there.

And that goes ditto for the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley. This happens twice a month, and this week the word was laughter. In two weeks, the word will be children.

It’s been almost too hot to ride my bike, but I did manage two rides this past weekend, one to the Mississippi River and one on Grant’s Trail. I’ve actually framed up the sequel to my “Community of the Early Morning Trail” and will be posting soon – “Community of the Early Evening, Weekend and Holiday Trail.” The ride to the Mississippi will likely get its own treatment – there’s no “community” you can really find on this ride but you do bike through some remarkable St. Louis neighborhoods and about 250 years of history.

I’m delving deep into my novel manuscript, essentially ripping it apart and rewriting it in chunkable bits. This is not the most exciting one-sentence grabber ever invented, but this is what the story is about: a young man, imprisoned for 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit, is freed, and his return brings upheaval for himself and the people of his town, with redemption coming through a child (yes, I know I have to work on the one-sentence summary). It tackles a couple of subjects I’ve not found in any of the fiction I’ve read yet, and I’m moving rather cautiously through them.

It feels weird to talk about the manuscript. Small bits and pieces of this story have appeared here, here, and here. The working title is Plain Sam.

Submission is Not a Passive Thing

I was doing fine reading God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us by L.L. Barkat. I even made it through the chapter where I was supposed to lay down in the yard. And then I hit the chapter that’s about that word.

You know the word. It’s one of my most unfavorite words in the English language.


I was momentarily encouraged when I read Barkat’s definition: “’Sub’ means ‘under.’ But true submission is more like the art of working with a person or situation, the way the steam from my teacup works with the breeze.” (I should say I was encouraged because of the reference to the teacup. I thought it didn’t apply to me because I drink coffee; then I realized that steam rises from a coffee cup, too.)

“Sub” does indeed mean “under.” And “mission” comes from a Latin verb (after being laundered by the French), mittere, to send or let go. It’s an action. In fact, the whole word describes an action. There is the action of understanding the person or situation, seeing a need in the other person or yourself, and then resolving to do something. There’s nothing passive about submission. It is, as Barkat suggests, a “working with.”

This immediately reminded me of a time when submission and I were strangers, and we shouldn’t have been.

A long time ago, I was caught up in one of those convulsive corporate organizational things, which involved a kind of dividing the sheep from the goats. It was not a foregone conclusion where I would end up, but at some point I must have rubbed someone the wrong way for I found myself assigned to the goats. And working for the worst boss one could imagine: insecure, mean, vindictive, and something less than fully competent. The one positive thing I could attribute to this boss was consistency.

I knew this going into the situation. I resolved to try to make it work. It lasted as long as the boss thought I was useful – about eight months. For those eight months, I thought there had been a fundamental change in the personality. Then it changed. And it changed overnight. Life at work became awful – and what I didn’t know was how actively the boss working behind the scenes. I was walking around with figurative knives all over my back.

I was partially rescued – a friendly executive had me moved to his team. But my work moved with me, and the old boss took that as a slap in the face and redoubled the efforts. Lies, half-truths, smears – the old boss stopped at nothing. It was not a fun time. The old boss eventually succeeded – I found myself being out in a downsizing wave. I found out before the proper time to tell me – my old boss couldn’t resist giving me the message.

However, the old boss had done too good of a job – and got caught in the same downsizing wave.

I would like to say that I submitted to the authority here, that I “came along side.” I did, for a time. And then it became an active effort devoted to self-protection. I stopped being nice. Mediating sessions hosted by HR became opportunities for me to crush the lies, and I did, and I did it ruthlessly, to everyone’s mutual embarrassment and discomfort. Which only made the situation worse. I was truthful; I was candid and straightforward; after all, it was my reputation that was being trashed. No one would have called me submissive, no matter what the definition of the word might be.

What would I do differently now? I don’t know. It was a hard situation and was very, very hard to go through it. It wasn’t a case of being trashed because of my beliefs or faith; it wasn’t what a lot of us might call “persecution” in the sense of one’s faith.

It was more about eliminating a perceived threat, even if it meant negative consequences for one’s team and work.

As if I needed reminding, I did learn that we live in a fallen world, and I’m a part of it.


Home by Laura Boggess at The Wellspring.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The degrees of wind

A wind blows cool though
mountain passes, freezing
tender shoots of plants into
dancing figurines of green ice.

A wind roars through city
noise, rippling against concrete
curbs, eddying small swirls of
asphalt dust, crushed stone.

A wind gentles tasseling
acres of corn as
it waves fields of
wheat ready for harvest.

A wind blows hot across
scorched sand, cleansing as
it ignites grains into
tongues of fire.

A wind whispers across
words and language until
pausing amid the leaves of
the olive trees.

A wind rustles, feathers,
freshens and cools, like
tiny droplets of water on
parched lips.

Check One-Stop Poetry for other poems linked for One-Shot Wednesday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Did Jesus Laugh?

Every speechwriter knows, and every speaker should, that there is only one safe form of humor in public speech, and that’s the humor of self-deprecation, when you encourage the audience to join you in laughing at yourself. Humor is something that speakers have to be extraordinarily careful with, especially in these days of hypersensitivity to insult, even when it’s meant to be funny.

In the Bible, too, laughter is serious business.

In the Old Testament, laughter largely (but not entirely) has a negative connotation. Think of Sarah laughing to hear that she will get pregnant in her old age; hers was the laughter of the scoffer. In the New Testament, there are exactly two references to laughter, both in close proximity to each other in chapter 6 of the Gospel of Luke. Jesus is pronouncing the blessings and the woes, and he says “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (v.21). And then he says “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep” (v. 25).

That’s all there is for laughter. And in the context of blessings and woes, laughter is a serious subject.

So, did Jesus laugh?

The short answer is, we can’t say for certain. There’s no reference, direct or implied.

But one way to understand what he says in those two verses is to ask another question: why do people laugh? Here’s a not-inclusive list:

We laugh because we’re nervous, embarrassed or feeling awkward.

We laugh because we’re happy or joyful for ourselves, families, friends or even acquaintances.

We laugh because someone has tickled us, literally or figuratively.

And we laugh because we think something is funny. This is where we enter the minefield. We laugh to express disbelief or incredulity; to mock or scoff; to ridicule; to amuse ourselves at someone else’s expense; to show how hip or cool we are. All of these “funny” motives actually demonstrate our superiority in some fashion.

If there was anyone who could have laughed to demonstrate his superiority, it was Jesus. But then, he wouldn’t have been Jesus. He would have been exactly like us. He was perfectly human like we were meant to be. And while I have no proof for it whatsoever, I could easily see Jesus laughing for joy, like at a wedding, or when he marveled at the faith of a centurion. We do know that he wept.

The context of the passages in Luke tells us that he was speaking to a large group of people on a mountainside, but that he was directing his words to his disciples (all of them, not just the 12).

That is, he was speaking to us. And there’s nothing funny about what he said.

May all of our laughter be for joy.

To read more posts on laughter, visit the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The seagull calls my name

I walk along the shore, not
too close, not to be touched by
the water. The sand is deeper,
the waves stronger and louder,
the sea-salt smell more pungent
than I expect.
My skin tastes wind mixed
with sun; my eyes feast on
the distant hills framing the
beach like a draped shroud,
although I do not know
if the hills or the distance
are the framing.
I hear the cry and look up as
the lone seagull emerges from
behind the waves and soars,
calling my name.
I look down to see the surf
surging around my legs.

Photograph: Oregon Beach at Sunset by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

One Stop Poetry

I've been honored by my online friend Pete Marshall, a poet who blogs at  a site under his own name. Over at One Stop Poetry, which Pete manages with several others, he's said some kind words and published two poems I've written. The first is "Testimony (in the closet)," which I posted on this blog about a year ago. The other is one not previously posted or published, "The Cemetery Attendant."

One Stop Poetry is the brain child of poets Brian Miller, Leslie Moon, Adam Dustus and Pete. Each Wednesday, they've started a "One Shot Wednesday" feature where poets on the web can post a poem they've written. During the rest of the week, they feature poems and poets, like Pete did of me today.

It was Leslie, inf act, who (via Twitter) introduced me to Pete's poetry. Leslie and Pete together led me to One Stop Poetry, where I found Brian's and Adam's poetry. And a whole lot of other poets as well. It is indeed a worldwide web.

Thank you, Pete.