Archive for the ‘Streams of Consciousness’ Category

Service King Collision Center is in the background.

I have limited experience with the 21st century church, but what contact I have is unremarkable. I would characterize the “spirit-filled” churches as anything but. You never know what to expect. Great preaching and altars filled with humble Christians, or weird primitive drumming accompanied by shrieks from raindancers. A casual visitor might even look at some people and wonder if God may be hitting them with an invisible tazer. We have made God an experience, personal guidance a justification for doing practically anything, and adopted the latest fads like they are iPhones. We have made prophecy as abundant and cheap as bread, and twice as fattening.  We have -sometimes simultaneously – non-Jewish people covered with Wailing Wall prayer shawls, shofars blaring from balconies,  Tarzan yells which sound like women in labor, men dancing barefoot, worship warm-up stretches, the list goes on.

What’s wrong with all this? I’m not sure anything is, but I sometimes wonder if there aren’t some other things that we do need to be doing. Like singing coherently instead of chanting, praying corporately before we do anything else, being provoked rather than stroked, articulating hope for our nation rather than hype to make us feel successful, being charged with the great commission rather than comforted about our bad week or intolerable relatives. How I long for the Word to be the sword and not a butter knife, for my conscience to be pierced and not padded, for my will to be tempered by fire and not ignored, for my mind to be challenged with the complexities of Almighty God and not insulated from offense.

The church is tougher than all this, at heart. Bring it on, preachers! Tell me the truth, brother. Give me that look of conviction, sister. Quit trying to be nicer than God when it comes to sin.  Say it! You’ll find that we can take on the hard sayings of Christ, rise to the challenge of the prophets, face up to the diamond-hard scratches of truth.

From now on, let’s not treat each other like we are banged up and in the lobby of Service King each week, needing repaired and a wax job. The church America needs right now is not a Craig’s Collision Center convention scene, pettily demanding something from God’s insurance policy, pampering every emotional scratch and squeaky feeling.

Vroom! Vroom! Clug! Let’s get back out there in the highways and byways where we belong. Cross the solid yellow lines now and them. Wake up some Sunday Drivers.

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Something insidious must have put us to sleep

Droned on and on till we unknowingly fell somnambulant

Surely it came with a humming

A vibration

A disturbance less than a tremor

I know—it was stealth!

A clandestine break-in upon consciousness

Some miscreant, bent on capturing alertness


The first to fall was the sexton in the bell tower

Drowsed by watching the rope swinging in the warm breeze

Next the parson dozed

And the parishioners slumbered


Prayers, which began as a stirred and stirring cacophony

Cooled into responsive reading,

Then chilled into a liturgy

and finally, jelled into contemplation


The loud, jarring, white-water oomph of dissonant heart cries

Slowed into a hallowed swirl of codified praise

And stopped in a wide sea of whispered calm


The doors of the church creaked shut

As the walls began to close in

We feverishly colored the windows with

Wan pleasantries

Pale wishes, and

Pastel memories

Oh, bordered with lead


We all synchronized our watches

Pressed the alarms switch off

And climbed into safe, sterile body bubbles


From a voice recorder came

a Psalmodic instruction:

“When the craft reaches heaven

The suspended-animation chambers

Will automatically decompress”

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Guilt is the smell of the stink-bug on my fingertips. Will not evaporate or fade away. Responds not to  water, soap, nor to scrubbing. The stink cannot be overpowered by counter-stinkables, like rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or chlorox. It just clings to you in its concentrated, repulsive, unbearable way. Ignore it? It sits there like Russian bureaucracy. Forget the putridness? Yeah, and that the sky is blue too. Euphemize it? Like that would really help. (Arthropotty? Arthrow-upod? Olfactory bug?)

Actually, I can’t explain how the stink-bug stink goes away. Maybe it absorbs into the skin and becomes part of a person. God forbid! Is that what I’m letting guilt do? Become a part of me? I know guilt is provided for at the altar, at the cross. But how do I apply it to my fingertips, where I touched the stink-bug? Listen to me, boys and girls . . . never, NEVER touch a stinkbug!

I remember how I once got rid of guilt. I got on the floor, facedown, and clawed at the carpet in my bedroom. My guts shook and grabbed me from the inside till I curled up into a ball. I poured out sobs like a Red Cross worker passes out bowls of mush — profusely, indiscriminately, unashamedly, sloppily. There was no coherent prayer or string of promises. No wagering or deals. Only a desperation, a gushing longing, a riptide flushing, a primitive squirrel-skinning. A reversal at full speed, with a gear-stripping deep inside me. A holy transmission, some unseen power at work under the closed hood of my eternal soul.

They say the seat of the emotions is the heart. Maybe the seat of the will is the mind. But I knew then and there that the seat of the spirit is the abdomen, and that there will never be any glory if there is never any guts.

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I met a man my age last night and I asked him about his job. He supervises bakers all over the DFW area,  driving over a hundred miles every night. Since I teach science and talk about yeast being a fungus, I struck up a conversation with him. Noticing my intent, he stopped in mid-stride, turned, and engaged me with fixed eyes. A smile broke out on his face as he gave me a quick history of the Egyptian discovery of sourdough. He was as earnest as a doctor diagnosing a patient. (more…)

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Strip me down

Past the softness of cotton

Through everything synthetic

Down to the skin, and farther still

Peel deep into me 

Beyond all nerve and sinew and muscle

Past all resistance  (more…)

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I wish I were a Mexican. If I were a Mexican, I’d have more friends. I would be able to take all my family to WalMart, even my mother-in-law, because she wouldn’t be a driver or even have her license. We would stay together in the store and not scatter into our different departments of interest.


If I were a Mexican, I’d have tons of uncles and aunts. If I didn’t have enough, I’d just name a new one impromptu from someone who had gathered at my front porch. (more…)

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I treasure going into my backyard and making a fire in our clay fire-bowl which sits on the deck next to our banana garden. It’s where I go to slow the world down and watch as the stars stop spinning, the refuge where I talk to God and try to hear his heart through the hiss and crackling, to see more clearly through the dancing flames and the liquid gray smoke.  (more…)

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If I knew I were dying, how would I feel? Would all of life around me suddenly change, and everything at once become that strange adjective – poignant? Why, the very air would be filled with tiny visible carbonated bubbles which would sizzle as I passed through them on my way to anywhere. (more…)

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