Making a Connection

A cue, a call, a reaching, a bit of desperation.
It pulls us from our normal routine,
Rocking us to consciousness of need and situation.

How do we respond? Do we ignore it?
Do we deny it, pull back, hide from those urgent people
In our lives, who could use just a little bit of a helping hand?

Sometimes I pretend I have better things to do,
Other interests that fit my personality or even my “values”
Better. Isn’t that ridiculous? But we all do it, sometimes.

In some ways, it’s how we survive the chaos of our lives,
For if we responded to every need around us,
We would go mad with our consciousness of our own

Powerlessness to change the tragedies of the world,
With its corruptions, devilish plans and abuses.
But what can we do? What little things can we do

To do our part, no matter how small, just to help someone,
Somewhere, with something? Can’t we stop for one moment
Every day and consider someone else’s needs besides our own?

Certainly that is do-able, without causing our own chaos
To increase or adding to the millions of needy voices
Crying for help, searching for someone else to do their bidding.

We can do a tiny bit, just enough to give us a sense of contact,
Compassion and participation in the hurts of those around us.
That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Philip Yancey’s Life

“Growing up in a strict, fundamentalist church in the Deep South, a young Philip Yancey was impelled to view God as an abusive parent—rigid, legalistic, angry, ready to bring the gavel down for one wrong misstep. Perhaps the most confusing aspect of Yancey’s early years was that a residue of Christian mercy remained in his church. If a neighbor’s house burned down, Yancey’s congregation would be the first at the scene to show charity—if, that is, the house belonged to a white man and someone who shared his church’s unbending theology. His church leaders even urged Yancey’s ailing father to take himself off of the iron lung machine that kept him breathing, assuring him he would be healed. The elder Yancey died a week later, when Philip was only one year old.”

“Yancey’s only window to the real world as a young man was reading. So, he devoured books—books that opened his mind, challenged his upbringing, and went against everything he had been taught, like 1984, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird. The more he read, the more frustrated he became. A sense of betrayal engulfed him. “I was an angry, wounded person emerging from a toxic church, and I’ve been in recovery ever since,” says Yancey. “I went through a period of reacting against everything I was taught and even throwing my faith completely away at one point. I began my journey back to faith mainly by encountering a world that was quite different than I had been taught about; a world of beauty and goodness. As I experienced that, I realized maybe God had been misrepresented to me. So, I went back, warily circling around the faith.””

“As Yancey researched, pondered, and explored deep questions about faith, he wrote—taking millions of readers with him as he passionately crafted best-selling books, such as Disappointment with God and Where is God When it Hurts? (He currently has more than 13 million books in print.) More recently, he has felt the freedom to explore central issues of the Christian faith, penning award-winning titles, such as The Jesus I Never Knew and What’s So Amazing About Grace? However in his book, Rumors of Another World, he does not want to focus on toxic churches and abusive religion. “I admit that I’m at times a reluctant Christian, plagued by doubts and ‘in recovery’ from bad church encounters. I’ve explored these experiences in other books, and so I determined not to mine my past yet again in this one. I’m fully aware of all the reasons not to believe. Yet Rumors is my attempt to discover for myself why I do believe.””

“I write books for myself,” he says. “I write books to resolve things that are bothering me, things I don’t have answers to. My books are a process of exploration and investigation. So, I tend to tackle different problems related to faith, things of concern to me, things I wonder about and worry about.” Yancey writes with a journalist’s eye for detail, irony and honest skepticism. Yancey spent most of his adult years in Chicago, writing for a wide variety of magazines including Reader’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post, National Wildlife and Christianity Today. He’s interviewed diverse people enriched by their personal faith like President Jimmy Carter, Habitat for Humanity Founder Millard Fuller and humanitarian Dame Cicely Saunders. He earned graduate degrees in Communication and English from Wheaton College and the University of Chicago.

“So, just how does a man who’s been through all Yancey has, draw close to the God he once feared? He spends about an hour each morning reading spiritually nourishing books, meditating, praying, and enjoying God’s presence. This morning time, he says, is spent simply “aligning” himself with God for the day. Then in the afternoon he reads the Bible, about a chapter a day. “I try to make it less of a study and more of, ‘What can I discern about God speaking to me?'””

“I tend to go back to the Bible as a model, because I don’t know a more honest book.” Yancey explains. “I can’t think of any argument against God that isn’t already included in the Bible. So, for those who struggle with my books, I just say, ‘Then, you really shouldn’t be reading them.’ But some people do need the kinds of books I write. They’ve been burned by the church or they’re very upset about certain aspects of Christianity. I feel called to speak to those living in the borderlands of faith.””

– Official biography from Zondervan Publishing

Secrets

Dreams wake us from the dead for not so brief moments in time,
Coax us into the netherworld where ghosts and goblins smell our soul,
In its complexity and corrosion. They smell the blood of guilt, shame,
Secrets, pride, greed, envy, murder—yes, we’ve all yearned to do it—

And infidelity—we’ve all thought about it, fantasized of what could have been,
Or what might be, and as we gnaw at our own flesh and bone in a cannibalistic,
Seething desire to consume, conquer, take control, we leave the helpless,
The hopeless, the homeless, the hungry, the lost, the innocent and the gullible
In our wake.

We have sucked their souls and bodies dry like spiritual vampires, regardless of the pain and suffering they must endure. It is ourselves we praise, in our inner focus on improvement and domination, it is our body we worship, in the energy and time and money we spend to look attractive, it is our freedom we guard like a vicious animal, and it is their freedom that we prey on with a death grip of a constrictor.

How do you spend your day, deep down, and what to you dream about, secretly yearn for, more than anything else? That, my friend, is where you stand.

“When traditional symbols have lost their power” by Paul Tillich

“One can become aware of the God above the God of theism in the anxiety of guilt and condemnation when the traditional symbols that enable men to withstand the anxiety of guilt and condemnation have lost their power. When “divine judgement” is interpreted as a psychological complex and forgiveness as a remnant of the “father-image,” what once was the power in those symbols can still be present and create the courage to be in spite of the experience of an infinite gap between what we are and what we ought to be. The Lutheran courage returns but not supported by faith in a judging and forgiving God. It returns in terms of the absolute faith which says Yes although there is no special power that conquers guilt. The courage to take the anxiety of meaninglessness upon oneself is the boundary line up to which the courage to be can go. Beyond it is mere non-being. Within it all forms of courage are re-established in the power of God above the God of theism. The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.”

from The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

ding, dong, there goes my head!

bring a bath drink with you when you come
I have been waiting all day to see you live
are you awake? I am dead to myself but
alive in another dimension. Capiche?

ding, dong, here goes my thread,
ding, dong, there goes my head,
ding, dong, here goes my thread,
ding, dong, there goes my head!

are you watching? listening?
can you feel the wind blow in your head?
there is never enough bread to go around,
wouldn’t you say? that’s what I’m told, anyway.

there is a lot here in my country,
but not everyone shares it.
only a very few have it,
and they don’t share, usually.

some do, but the others don’t care.
they want to keep all their bread to their selves.
is that moral? is that spiritual? is that Christian?
I don’t think so, which leads me to conclude that

we are not a Christian country, not really.
we help people sometimes, but it is very selective,
and only when our own interests are at stake,
whether it be here, or abroad.

ding, dong, here goes my thread,
ding, dong, there goes my head.
ding, dong, here goes my thread,
ding, dong, there goes my head!

what do you think? comment.
let me hear you sing!!!
shout! louder! c’mon, that was not loud.
you can do better than that.

let’s hear it! loud!!!
at least sing with me when I sing, okay!
I will help you, for a while,
but then you have to sing by yourselves, deal?

okay, it goes like this:

ding, dong, here goes my thread.
ding, dong, there goes my head.
ding, dong, here goes my thread.
ding, dong, there goes my head!

well, that wasn’t bad, but
I think you could do better,
if you were motivated by something.
not sure what to motivate you by, though.

God isn’t working for you, right?
well, I don’t blame you.
sometimes, it doesn’t seem like
God even cares about me.

But good things do happen, occassionally, right?
why is that? why do good things happen?
I suppose you have decided that it is all just
a matter of chance, luck, what have you, right?

I don’t think so. I think good things happen
for a reason, just like bad things happen
for a reason. I know that is hard to accept,
especially if you are not “Christian” or some

type of member of an organized religion,
but, really, aren’t you?
aren’t you in some type of group?
don’t you have friends?

don’t you have people around you,
no matter how few, who care about you,
and agree on at least some things?
well, that is the organization part.

so what is your religion?
ha, now, you say, I’ve got you!
I am not religious, you say.
I have no religion in my life, at all!

ah, but you are wrong their, too, my friend.
for if you are alive, you have religion,
even if your religion is a religion that
does not have a label, a category,

or a mission statement.
well, hell, you say. what is that supposed
to mean? okay, let me level with you.
I think a religion is living your life,

according to a truth, some truth,
that you have decided for yourself,
by yourself, that is worth living for,
or dying for. dying for? you say.

I don’t think so, you say,
I’m not willing to die for anything!
ah, but you are not willing to die,
see, there I have you!

and if you are willing to die,
even if you are planning it right now,
I have you there, too.
for you still have decided that something

is true, something is worth doing something
about. you “believe” in something.
you believe in life, or you believe in death,
that, my friend, is your religion.

“Spiritual self-affirmation”, by Paul Tillich

“Spiritual self-affirmation occurs in every moment in which man lives creatively in the various spheres of meaning. Creative, in this context, has the sense not of original creativity as performed by the genius but of living spontaneously, in action and reaction, with the contents of one’s cultural life. In order to be spiritually creative one need not be what is a called a creative artist or scientist or statesman, but one must be able to participate meaningfully in their original creations. Such a participation is creative insofar as it changes that in which one participates, even if in very small ways. The creative transformation of a language by the interdependence of the creative poet or writer and the many who are influenced by him directly or indirectly and react spontaneously to him is an outstanding example. Everyone who lives creatively in meanings affirms himself as a participant in these meanings. He affirms himself as receiving and transforming reality creatively. He loves himself insofar as he discovers it. He is held by the content of his discovery.”

–from Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

mix

mip mark map match lick lap emulate skim
swim stick stripe laugh like amble roar ask
torch take escape order strike emblem enable
it lift elevate neck elegy rift route toute doubt
nibble never knob eventually narc nab north
estruary is true, harry? ed and terrie mack and
mary ted and larry ralph and carrie aid laid
go gift gargantuan rack mail lake test wrist
mast alphie land ladder ache sake leg made
real dead lead gall date red must moral mark
old wall click zebra mead all hate huge duck
nail call veil lack wack end mend tend in on
song send lock y’all earl undulate webb ox box
getting tad have nab mold environs mix tall

me again

spilling spite into the bucket below me,
I tank at the tulip garden on top of a
mack truck, so sleepy and quieted.

slipping onto something more uncomfortable,
I alleviate my tamer ticks by tackling colds,
creating matches, and keeping general stamps

on my collective unconscious. then, tipping
stop-gap moos and reaching round-abouts,
mellow lanky mop-heads come at me.

such is life with zapping, crying tap dancers.
muffing, I lounge inside a chicken coop,
then trundle around seven rotund, kept

sucubi. same search as last year, only
this sirius ain’t want it cooed to see.
leveling reactions on labeled raunchies,

I conclude that it is sordid to leap before
you lap, and kick three sick drunks on
my sack full of secrets. rocking lakes

of socking, yellow catch-me-on-the-can
reruns, licking right of lame quite-sos, and
mightying marks of sealed rainbows, the

cleaned wire gaunts lovely. what a feeling!
to run down roaring gloves on wrong, so
wrong, rearrangements, I settle down to me.

meandering

meandering along a mump-filled landscape,
I stop on the side to ponder infinity.
that doesn’t last long, so I
catch a train to loudville,

leaking lame lordships as I go.
arranging types of tangos in unseemly
tarantula keepsakes, I feign a stop
at Angelo’s, my favorite restaurant

on the coast of the Panhandle.
Trying desperately to tell the truth,
but failing miserably, I sort out
creatures from down below.

Catching a cold from outer space,
I tango with misses and mice,
teaching telling telegraph-making
to first-graders in eleven school districts.

oh, the time I had, keeping up!
yodeling as I went, I walked up
the nearest mountain only to
find myself alone in a deadly forest

full of angelic and christological morbids.
“care for a cup of tea?” they asked me,
but I was the wiser and opted for goat milk.
such is the jouney I had that day.

you

sting a thing, be a thing, try a thing, fly a thing
do it now, around, into, all over, inside, about
create, connive, diatribe, rant, real self, not fake

truth, personal and espoused, conflicting and connecting
just be, who you are, what you are, when you are, now
be anything, in any place, that self you were meant to be

created, not known except by God, down deep, hidden
is that where we all live on a daily basis, set yourself free
be that part of yourself that is raw, uncut, unspoiled

be you now, be the best that you can be according to
your own needs, feelings, thoughts, interests, goals
be what you want to be, on a page, on a stage, in a room

be it, do it, feel it, find it, search for it if you have to,
research it, connect with it, dig deep down to the bone
really, who are you? where have you been, and where

are you going? right now, tomorrow, next week, not
yesterday or last year or last decade or last anything
who are you today? what is deep down inside of you,

aching to come out? crawling the edges of the chasm
that is your identity, reaching, clawing, gaping, climbing
let it penetrate your consciousness, find out who you are.