When I was 21, I was selected to participate in a writing workshop led by a nationally known, Pulitzer-nominated author. It was a great workshop – inspiring and challenging, everything you’d expect from a master class in writing.
Whoever gets a wife gets a good thing, and has the approval of the Lord.
— Proverbs 18:22
It’s easy to take the person you love for granted. Sometimes all the things they do go unnoticed, or, at least, unacknowledged. Sometimes we get downright hostile to the people who care for us the most. That’s usually because we know we’re not living up to the love they’ve invested in us.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of things, but we had a whole lot of God.”
Those words still ring in the memory of Maryville man Macel Ely II. It was a favorite quote, used often by his great-uncle Brother Claude Ely when describing the faith that sustained him as a young man growing up in the Appalachian Mountains.
Jesus was dead. Anyone who said otherwise was either crazy or lying. Thomas had no desire to waste time entertaining the tales of hysterical women or deluded men. Jesus was dead and all the wishful thinking in the world wasn’t changing that. Ridiculous chatter about visions in gardens and visits from the master only made him miss his friend and teacher all the more.
So he’d skipped last week’s gathering. If Jesus’ other followers wanted to pick at grief’s open wound, that was their business. He’d just as soon try to put the whole thing behind him. Better to meditate on the Rabbi’s teaching than try to conjure the man’s ghost.
This past Sunday was Mother’s Day. I know, I know. Old news. At least I hope it’s old news. You didn’t forget, did you? Anyway. The Mother’s Day holiday put me in mind of some of my favorite literary mothers. And I thought I’d share a few with you.
Meredith Wilson tops my list of great American songwriters. In my mind, there’s a cage match raging between Meredith Wilson and Irving Berlin, but the Gershwin brothers are probably going to jump whoever wins in the parking lot.
Anyway, Meredith Wilson is one of my favorite purveyors of one of my favorite musical styles. Beyond Jazz, Rock, Bluegrass or Gospel (all great art forms which I love), the popular song stands as a definitive American craft. From Tin Pan Alley to Broadway to the Billboard Hot 100, pop music is unique in its ability to create mood, tell a story and lift the spirit.
I have a feeling that James Gunn’s second feature “Super” is going to be misunderstood. I’ll grant that it will probably be misunderstood for some very compelling reasons. The movie is profane and disturbing beyond belief. The violence in “Super” is shocking in the way I imagine the violence of “Robocop” must have been for its original audience. It’s raw and organic; frankly it’s disgusting.
I sometimes think of comedians kind of like Old Testament prophets. Seems like prophets show up when a society needs a kick in the pants.
I preached once again this past Sunday. The text was Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow. That parable got me thinking, “What is prayer?” You can read the verses I allude to here.
What is prayer?
Is it a wish list? A sort of Amazon.com for God? Is it a meditation exercise? Good for lowering stress and rejuvenating the mental state? Is prayer poetry — pretty words and pleasing rhythm?
Does prayer, to put it another way, mean anything?
I recently gave my first sermon in the United Methodist Church. This is the full text of my message.
It was about ten minutes to midnight, and I was more alone than I’d ever been in my life. Oh, to be sure, I was surrounded by people — hundreds of people, in fact. But I was utterly alone, and so scared I was crying like a child.
You see, I was lost. More lost than I’d ever thought possible. I was lost and I had no idea how to change my situation. I was standing in the middle of Milan station, in the heart of downtown Milan, Italy. And I’d missed the last train home.