Candor Ahead

After all, if I can’t be candid with you folks after almost 14 years, I can’t be candid with anyone.

I don’t write much anymore.

This is tough for a writer to admit.

I know it’s a kind of writer’s block, and last night I figured out/admitted which one it is.


Not fear of failure, but of unintended success. I’m afraid that once I start, it will all come tumbling out, burbling in words of anger and frustration and sorrow at the way the world is and shouldn’t be. I’m afraid I will successfully communicate the way I feel using the words I normally wouldn’t use and I will cause wounds and rifts and pains that would at least be minimized if I keep holding them in. I’m afraid the words will take on the power of incantations that alienate and destroy.

No, you’re right; keeping them in is probably not healthy. And I do share them in prayer, very candidly, but I don’t get a lot of response these days.

So I keep on not writing.

And that is probably not healthy either.

I fumbled along in a writing job graciously offered for several years, earning part of my keep by maintaining a web site as well, but pretty much incapable of writing to meet the needs of my employer and audiences. I will always be grateful for that opportunity, and saddened that I wasn’t able to live up to the challenge.

Sure, there thousands of texts out there that say “You were able! You are now! Just try! Just do it! Be a Nike sneaker!” and people like me buy them thinking that somehow they will be the needed kickstart and magically boot the chockblock from in front of the wheels. But they don’t.

The old magic isn’t there, because unleashing it would level Hogwarts.

So it’s best to chain it in the dungeon with the three-headed dogs and gigantic spiders and monstrous serpents and just say it isn’t there.

At least for now.

Until the spell can be found to keep it disciplined and under control.


State of the Union

Tonight, President Donald J. Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address.

He will tell everyone how great everything is in America, and how it has all happened because he is so great.

And all of his voter-fanboys will agree with him.

He will not say that the United States is perhaps more divided than it has been since the Civil War because of policies that support white supremacy, misogyny, funneling more wealth to the wealthy, religious bigotry, fear and paranoia.

He will not say that the United States is failing to respond to the threat of election encroachment by foreign powers.

He will not say that the United States cannot be protected by a wall or a military force with billions more to spend or by temporary immigrant ban after ban because the greatest threat to her is from within her — a citizenry with no self-control and total self-interest, virtually no moral compass, frustrated by the ongoing economic oppression of oligarchs and armed to the teeth.

He will not say that the United States’ hopes lie with freedom of information, a free press, a population united by concern for each other through charity and volunteerism and genuine faith … in each other; in our Constitution; in a real and actual God rather than just the invocation of a name.

He will not say that the United States becomes a stronger nation by maintaining good relationships with other nations and caring deeply about the issues which concern them as well, even if sometimes that means we do not monetarily profit by caring.

He will not say that moral purity and grace and kindness and humility and forgiveness are all key components of citizenship and a nation’s character.

He will not say these things because he does not believe them.

And a significant percentage of the country agrees with him.

Some even believe that God agrees with him.

And that is the state of our disunion.

Democrats: Here’s How To Win

You go ahead and do what you want to. But if you want to win the single-issue voters you’re losing over the issue of abortion, consider this.

Yes, I know this one only has 48 stars. Watch the Red Skelton video.Stop positioning yourselves as “pro-choice.” Stop supporting taxpayer-funded abortion centers, which is a violation of first-amendment rights of those who see abortion as murder for religious reasons. Stop playing into your opponents’ hands as they paint you to be baby-killers.

Start positioning yourselves as “helping make it easier for women to make better choices.”

Tell your story.

Tell voters you support a living wage, making it possible to have and rear children without having to have several part-time jobs.

Tell voters you support child-care, pregnancy leave and sick leave benefits, making it easier to have a child and return to work.

Tell voters you want to make good health-care affordable for all – including birth-control coverage for women – so that the cost of safely having a child or not having a child is not prohibitive for anyone, ever.

Tell voters that you support a culture in which all people are respected, and especially women – who classically have not been – and that sexual mistreatment and assault will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies due to rape.

Tell voters that you support equal pay for equal work, making it more economically feasible for women (as well as couples/families) to have and raise children.

Tell voters that you will support adoption efforts for those who want but can’t have biological children and women who choose to have their children but give them through adoption, so that this option becomes more streamlined legally and affordable generally.

Tell voters that no law criminalizing women who have abortions or abortion providers is going to stop or even necessarily reduce the number of abortions in our country; that women choose abortion out of genuine medical need, financial difficulty, personal desperation and a myriad of reasons. And that sometimes it actually is necessary, rare though it might be. It’s going to happen.

The best response to that fact is to help make it easier for women to make better choices by providing better options.

Fact is, you were already following a lot of these recommendations when your person was in the White House. And it was working. The abortion rate was down to 14.6 per thousand women – the lowest since Roe v. Wade.

And your opponents, the Republicans – though they run and win on the issue decade after decade – have not passed one law effective at reducing abortion in as many opportunities as they have had. The last thing they did – the Hyde Amendment, in 1976 – was good law, prohibiting federal funding of abortion. But there’s no data that shows it had any effect in reducing the number of abortions in the U.S. at all.

But if you want to go ahead by falling into the trap of just automatically opposing everything your opponent stands for, you go right ahead. It’s no skin off my teeth. The only reason I bring it up is out of respect for my late wife, a devoted Democrat, whose only hesitancy at supporting your party was this singular issue.

For me, it’s enough hesitancy to prevent me from supporting your party or any party.

But you just might be able to win me over this way.

Me, and a few million others.

What I miss about you


I still don’t know if you’re someplace/sometime where/when you can read this, but I need to tell you these things, because I’m still not always comfortable talking to God about them and He’s pretty much just as silent as the grave, too. Of course, I expect that.

Angela BrentonIt’s been more than four years and I still miss you like I lost you yesterday.

And I just want to tell you (again) some of the things I miss about you when I miss you the most because I need to get them off my heart and off my mind so I can move on a little bit more.

Not so I can forget them; just the opposite. But so I can let them go.

So here they go. These are some of the things I miss most:

Those eyes.

The smile between us when words weren’t necessary.

Your funny, halting laugh. I used to do anything, say anything I could think of that might be remotely humorous just to hear it.

The way you planned and organized vacation trips for our little family, with all the things you knew we’d want to see and do, and you were always right.

Your version of the Eureka Memento sandwich from Victorian Sampler, and their chilled strawberry soup. Chicken spaghetti. Summer salad with walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette. Apple-stuffed acorn squash to bring in autumn. Your famous sugar cookies at Christmas that we all decorated together.

Hearing you sing alto at church next to me.

The way you got the kids to church on time without me those years when I was working first and second service and sometimes teaching class between.

Being with your side-of-the-family at holidays.

You spot-checking me before we went out together to make sure I looked okay. And me checking you out, too. Oh, my.

Your willingness to proofread my stuff; letting me pre-read yours before publication, and especially partnering with you to write.

The way you made it easier for introverted me to feel part of any group in any social situation.

Your unique perspective.

Your feminine feminism.

Your insatiable intellect.

Your compassion for others.

Your political acumen.

Hearing you (and your sweet mom) whoopin’ and hollerin’ for the Dallas Cowboys every time they played, from the last time they were champs on to every losing season after.

Date nights.

Watching a movie video at home with you tucked under my arm and a big bowl of popcorn on our laps.

Traveling. Driving. Your relief driving. You even made flying and airports and security less stressful for me.

Keeping me calm when I wasn’t. Soothing my overactive anxiety.

When you used to read stories with the kids when they were young.

The first name bet. I still can’t believe you called Harding and talked someone into telling you that the “W.” stands for “William.” But that steak dinner at Coy’s was great; you earned it; and it’s a wonderful memory as one of our first dates. So I miss all those times we went out to dinner together, because they were all as precious as the first.

House-shopping with you all those times we moved.

The days with you.

The nights with you.

The moments with you.

Hearing you say – to me, our kids and others you cherished – “I love you so much.”

I guess if you can read this, you already know that was the wording on Laura’s first tattoo, in your handwriting, from a card you’d signed, inked on her forearm, when she was still seventeen and too young for a tat in North Carolina, so we drove all the way to Kentucky ….

And you know I’m here in Eureka Springs now, and there’s still a whole lot of empty in my life where you used to be.

But I’m trying to move on a little bit more, a little bit closer to where I need to be that a place alone can’t be. Not even Eureka.

I’m not there yet. Not by a long shot.

But this is a few steps in the right direction:

Letting go of some of the things I miss about you.

The No-Win Scenario

What do you do when there is everything to lose and nothing you can do about it? When there are no alternatives that will affect the outcome in your favor, and you will lose, and you will lose it all, and the ones you love will lose it all — including the loss of the one you love most?

You do nothing.

And you do it with the ones you love.

You do nothing with the one you are about to lose.

You suffer with them, though you cannot fully share in that suffering, because some of that suffering is physical, and some of it is because the relationships are different and all of it together is too visceral to bear.

You remain with them because it is your only alternative as the one they love most.

Angela BrentonCancer was the no-win scenario for Angi four years ago. Her family and friends, all who loved her and knew of her condition, did what they could to gather close; to suffer with; and finally to say goodbye.

Her cancer was the no-win scenario for us as well.

But losing her was not the tragedy it could have been, if she hadn’t packed so much life into the years she lived — especially those last ten years, when she had been given a glimpse ahead. That cancer scare, I believe, gave her what she needed to live out the rest of her life on her own terms.

At her memorial services in Little Rock and later at WCU in Cullowhee, I said that Angi wanted more than anything else to be as much like Jesus of Nazareth as she could possibly be.

This year, as I remember her, it occurs to me that she was given the rare opportunity to imitate Him in a rather unique way.

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. ~ Luke 9:51

Not everyone has a sense for what the future holds for them. Not everyone gets a heads-up that the scenario ahead is of the no-win variety.

And not everyone who does would walk right into it anyway, just as if the lack of alternatives was simply the way things are.

The other thing that occurs to me is that — even knowing the stories of people who have had that glimpse — it’s not like we don’t all know what’s coming.

We may not like to face or acknowledge it or dwell on it long, but the same no-win scenario is ahead for each of us. The details will be different, for sure – the whens, hows, how longs, how much and the whys – but the outcome will always be the same.

Yet we all have alternatives now.

We can pack in as much life during our time remaining as we can.

We can surround ourselves with those we love and who love us.

We can walk right into the future knowing it is certain and that only the details are not.

There’s a good chance that I will never stop learning from my beloved Angi.

But right now, this is the lesson that is the most real and precious of all.


Original goal

Too many Restoration Movement churches want to restore things to the way they were in the 1950s.

Restoration Movement churches of the 1950s wanted to restore things to the way they were in the first century.

First Century churches wanted to restore relationships to God through Jesus Christ.

So I’m thinking, Why are we spending our time and effort on trying to reach goals that are not the original?

Straw God

I don’t want to sound like a jerk about this, but I probably will anyway, so here goes.

cosmic-christThe vast number of oh-so-clever arguments that I see and hear from atheists are, at their core, straw man arguments.

“Straw Man” is a logical fallacy used to reach the desired conclusion, in this case, that God doesn’t exist, because He doesn’t meet your requirements.

For instance, “God doesn’t exist because no all-powerful being who is truly good would create evil and suffering.”

If you’re going to argue against the existence of God logically, you have to argue against the existence of the God that believers believe in, the God of the Bible, the God who not just created everything, but redeemed it after the fall of mankind at the cost of His Son’s life.

But He didn’t create evil. Someone else came up with that, and He knew it would happen from the beginning, and He had a contingency planned for it in advance. That’s what scripture says.

Work within the mythos, if you you believe it to be mythic, but work within it as a matter of integrity.

You can have all kinds of theodicy-based problems with God — believers do too; welcome to the club — but if you’re going to argue against His existence logically and honestly, then argue against the same God that believers believe in.

If you accuse God of being evil because He allows heinous evil in the world, you’re not accusing the God of scripture. The God that believers know embodies good and yet allows evil to exist because He is good. It’s not an oxymoron: He gives His created children a real choice between good and evil because having a real choice is good for them.

We chose wrong, and hideous evil infests the world to this day because we continue to choose it — to choose self; to be our own gods in our own lives — and He allows it so that we can learn from the real consequences of our real choices to wise up and choose good instead.

The God of scripture doesn’t delight in suffering, but He does suffer along with His children when they perpetuate suffering. He became human to experience it first-hand. He loved His children enough to suffer the consequences of sin — including death itself — just as we do, even when He had not sinned at all.

But there’s the sticking point: That word “sin.” If you’re an atheist and there is no god in your life beyond yourself, there can be no “sin,” can there? Whatever you choose is right and good, because you’re in charge of your own life and you determine where the moral high ground is.

And that pretty much vanishes if you turn that job over to Someone infinitely more qualified than yourself.

So, the thing to do is create a god in your own image and discredit that god according to your moral code, which is better that Straw God’s code. And that justifies your choice.

Sorry, your logical slip is showing.

I know, because I’ve made it and worn it myself, a hundred times, even as a believer in the real, genuine God of scripture and grace and the universe.

Been there.

Done that.

It doesn’t work.

Just trust me on this. Be honest. Argue with the God of scripture, and if He still doesn’t measure up, be willing to dive in deeper and study more cogently and accept it if you get an answer that doesn’t elevate your code of morality above His.

And let me share with you what always brings me back the real, genuine God of scripture and grace and the universe:

When He was tortured to death at the hands of those He loved, He forgave, and died, and death could not hold Him because ultimately death is a consequence of self-indulgence that He could never deserve — because He created us, and loved us more than Himself even though we love ourselves more than Him.

God is ever so much more than any attempts to make Him a Wicker Man of straw.

He is God, and though we may never fully grasp what that means, He is also Jesus of Nazareth, scourged within an inch of death, pinioned to a cross, buried in a tomb, raised to guarantee that life need not end.

And that is His argument for Himself that you must discredit, if you discredit Him at all.

Sorry if it makes me a jerk to point this out.

But not very sorry.