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I hate lists. They are evil, tyrannical, “Type A” instruments of oppression, dogma and stultification.

I love lists. They’re liberating. And they’re a helluva lot easier than actually organizing my thoughts.

I have much more to say about lists, about their corrupting, insidious evil and their glorious, divine grace.

For now, I want you to know that I’m going to employ them liberally (yes, “liberally”–bwahahaha–and I mean that in nearly every possible sense, especially the ones that make you most uncomfortable). I hate them, but I’m going to use them. We often use the things we hate, don’t we? I do. Judge me if you must.

The truth is that I don’t necessarily hate lists. I hate the way that lists are often employed, what so often seems to be implied by them. Maybe what I hate most about lists is merely my perception of what people mean by them. It may be that I hate an idea of Lists, an imagined evil List-ness. No matter. Even if merely imagined, it’s real.

To distinguish my lists from the evil ones (and from the “evil one”), I present to you a random assortment of characteristics not so much defining but casting an ambiguous net of semantic approximation in the vicinity of Joel’s Bastard Lists. Yes, my lists are bastards. You need to know who and how they are, lest you confuse them with their wicked step siblings and find yourselves, as is human habit, controlled by their sinister insinuations. Yes, even my beautiful little bastards insinuate. They insinuate sinisterly. Don’t hate them; it’s not their fault. I’m telling you now so that you can know and not bend to their illusory (and, in fact–in my case at least–entirely unintended) but nevertheless consequential web of control.

Joel’s bastard lists are (unless otherwise clearly indicated–and sometimes contrary to clearest explicit indication) . . .

  1. random, ambiguous, approximate;
  2. irregular, asymmetric, mismatched, periodically perpendicular, potentially hazardous;
  3. repetitive;
  4. redundant, overlapping, sometimes superfluous, frequently gratuitous;
  5. incomplete;
  6. by no means exclusive
  7. rarely authoritative;
  8. not meant to be limiting, constricting, binding, controlling, containing or contained;
  9. mostly unstructured;
  10. only loosely affiliated with any system or dogma, even my own;
  11. inconsistently (and perhaps most often simply not at all) prioritized;
  12. only occasionally sequential, even when ostentatiously numbered;
  13. often painfully amended so as to be odd–and, ideally, prime–both in the number of their constituent elements and otherwise. . .

Whereas evil lists define and circumscribe, my lists mean to set you free–to begin and not end, to disrupt and not merely to order, the thoughts and feelings you might have about the subject whose qualities or whose members or whose whatever other thingies they sort of haphazardly, only-superficially-numerically enumerate.

You start a conversation; you can’t even finish it.
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?

Talking Heads: “Pscho Killer”

No, I’m not quite sure why I’m leading with that quote. But I felt that I had to. The potentially sad thing is that I love this song and I will reflect upon it again. But there are far worse things than your being overexposed to the frenetic, syncopated wisdom of the Heads.

I live on the Writer’s Block. That could mean something delightful. I mean the less hopeful thing.

I have so much to say–or at least so much that I think I should say (yes, I acknowledge that I might be wrong). That is the irony of this blog where I never write.

It’s just that the things that are important never seem quite ready. So I sit and wait or even strive for something that is ready but still meaningful–meaningful enough. Or I forcefully roll around the important stuff again, hoping to stumble across the turn of phrase or structure that might finally work.

It is sad, and I might shouldn’t (Lord, I don’t know why that construction so amuses me) admit this, but: I probably spend more time thinking about writing, thinking about words to throw out at an unsuspecting world, than I do most anything else. Sometimes I even practice my conversations with God. That’s probably not uncommon, but it is wonderfully ironic. We laugh about it together, God and I; of course, He’s laughing before I’ve settled upon how I want to say it to Him.

What’s sad isn’t so much that I rehearse my words (at least I don’t think it’s sad; I don’t think that any more at least). What’s sad is that I have so little to show for it. My words are not brilliant, honed by practice. I am not stunningly prolific, the fruitful volume a product of my obsession. I’m just another mediocre wannabe (please, let me at least bask in that). Who doesn’t write. Or who writes but hasn’t yet found a way to shake the foundations of the earth.

What’s funny is that the words I rehearse are rarely those that make it to the page. I’m pretty sure that, whatever joy they bring me in the moment of their conception, they are only a warm-up, or maybe the calisthenics whose application isn’t obvious until the time of crisis. “Wax on. Wax off.” Actually, that’s kinda hopeful.

Maybe I’m pushing it too hard. I’m a firm believer in the process of fermentation and in the truth beheld out of the corner of the eye. Maybe I should stop stirring it so much and just let it sit. I do need to find some quiet, empty spaces. Maybe I shouldn’t stare so long at what I hope to see.

At the same time, I know that I do lack discipline, focus and genuine commitment. It doesn’t seem that one would have all of these problems at once–that one could be both undisciplined and obsessive–but I’m pretty sure I am. And it does make sense. It makes too much sense.

But this isn’t meant to be an exploration of my problems writing, or, um, not writing. Ha. That’s too important. That post isn’t ready.

Oddly enough, what I mean to say is this: I’m not quitting. I think my meaningless words do matter. I think there is hope in my hopeless rambling. I will make noise. However inconsistent I am still committed and I am at least hanging on.  I am a writer, goddamnit, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.  And there are moments when I don’t even care whether I am a good writer; likewise, there are moments when I do care.  No, I’m not sure which is more important.

Horton, can you hear me?  Can they hear me?

I like prebeginnings.  My favorite time of day is the dark before dawn.  I prefer to approach it from sleep, though I quite often find it from the wrong direction: the end of the night.  

I like Spring.  But I love the Winter that precedes it.  And, most especially, the Fall that promises Winter and looks forward to its own eventual redemption.  I love Fall and Winter more intrinsically, but I love them for their relationship to the life they usher in.  Summer, I have to say, almost always feels like a great disappointment.

Maybe I’m weird that way, but I’m okay with my weirdness.

When I first decided that I needed to write this post, it was as a sort of apology: I realized that I had started a bunch of things and otherwise manifested a strong predilection to introducing and prefacing maybe more than completing.  And what you don’t know is that I have several more that I really need to post: prefaces, introductions and such.

The more I thought about it, the less I felt like I needed to apologize.  Sure my tendency to preface works with some of my dysfunctions.  But so does my writing; for that matter, so does my thought.  And–whether I should or not–I’m getting really tired of apologizing for how I think and speak.

I have lots to say about the predawn and my love of it.  And, of course, I’m not going to say it here, now.  Yes, this too.

But there are two things I want you to know:

1.  I take my titles seriously.  They’re a kind of preface.  At the very least, they pose a perspective that, though I may quickly veer from it, I hope that you’ll let intermix with what follows.  Sometimes they’re silly, but that’s part of the point too.  On more than a few occasions I’ve anguished over repeating the title as the first line of the post just to make sure that you got it and paid attention to it.  Part of why I’m writing this is so that I don’t worry about that anymore.

2.  Though I’m not writing sequentially or systematically, I’m conscious of what I’ve written and, like that little blurb (the title, I mean) at the top of the page, I mean you to take it all together somehow.  You don’t have to.  I’m pleased that you’re even reading a single post.  And, really, I do believe in taking a thing as itself–even taking a thing deliberately out of context–and I believe that we are more than the sum of our parts or the culmination of our histories and genetic inputs.  But, still, context helps.  So, especially if you’re confused.  The category links are very helpful that way.

So, yeah, more later.

I have some saddish stuff to say–not necessarily immediately, but eventually, and not continually, but at least occasionally.

And you will perhaps feel the urge to, in those timeless words of Mr. T., “pity da fool.”

Please don’t.  Or please, at least, don’t feel any obligation to do so.

I’ve come up with literally (the literal “literally”, not the figurative “literally”) dozens of arguments against your pity (and may share some later), but for now I’m going to share just a few and, I hope, concisely.

It’s not that I’m opposed to pity per se.  Pity, in its purest form is truly divine.  Indeed–and especially within the last 18 months–I’ve gladly given and received it, a lot.  And to those who have been the source of what I’ve received: thank you, deeply and sincerely.

And maybe that’s part of my aversion.  I’ve received so much and I’m not sure I’m worthy of any more–certainly not any more than anyone else.  Yeah, just the thought of it makes me feel guilty.

Pity can also be a bit oppressive.  In some sense it implies a response of further sadness.  It can be a sick cycle, really.  You pity, the one pitied is further immersed in sadness, provoking more pity and so on; and if we’re not careful, we all end up depressed and suicidal.  Well, okay, it’s maybe not so bad; it can be, but, thankfully, someone usually eventually gets the point and jumps the loop (which, unfortunately, still sounds like a euphemism for offing oneself).  And I do hasten to clarify that the proper response isn’t to carefully tiptoe around the sadness.  The pitied know they are sad and your careful avoidance only accentuates what a mess they’re in.  As best you can–for what it’s worth, IMO, take it or leave it, et al.–don’t shower the pitiable with obligatory pity but don’t pretend there’s nothing wrong or that it can’t be talked about; just be and be honest.  I know that’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Yaknow, come to think of it, that’s my main point.  I want to probe this stuff, walk through it, unpack it.  I want to dig into it like it’s a clearance rack of genuinely underpriced, actually valuable stuff (we all have stuff that matters to us; pick yours–it need not be material stuff–and the metaphor will work).  Not the crap that’s usually–brightly and hopefully, in large, friendly uppercase letters on a field of obnoxious orange–emblazened with that invitation.  There’s something good amidst the crap, buried perhaps, but still present.

It’s not so much a clearance sale, but more like an unwanted shopping spree.  You didn’t buy it–at least you didn’t mean to.  But they took your money–took more than your money, took most of what mattered or made any sense or had any value, at least most everything that you could hold and call, however imprecisely, your own.  However unwillingly, you’ve paid the price.  And, now goddamnit, you’re going to get something out of the exchange (though even calling it an “exchange” is the kind of affront that makes you want to throw up and punch somebody simultaneously–which would be a neat trick and, I imagine, potentially both satisfying and uniquely effective).

So now the price has been paid and all that’s left is to pick through the cheap baubles and find something worth salvaging.  And what I’d really like, if you don’t mind my asking, is someone at my elbow to say, “Yes, Joel, that’s a keeper” or “Please, no.  You don’t want that worthless sh**; just let it go.”  This is a blog. Blogging is about open expression and dialog.  Let’s dialog.

And here’s the other thing.  I’m sometimes sad, but I’ve no interest in being morose and I will in one moment weep but even in the apparently same instant laugh–perhaps, you might think, inappropriately.  I want to have fun and be amused and, frankly, whether you like it or not, I’m going to.  I also want to be ruthless with the truth, want to beat it to a bloody pulp if I have to, and if either of us is tentative or inhibited, that kinda gets in the way.  My point: if you want to laugh, please do; if you want to confront my intellectual dishonesty or sloppiness, please do.  Don’t worry that the protocol of pity forbids it.

Well, that’s probably plenty of mixed metaphors for now (I have more and will pull them out later, lest you feel it is not).

I’m asking you not to pity or at least not to excessively express pity.  More precisely what I’m asking is that you feel no need to pity.  It is a favor; I don’t deny it.  And you may deem me unworthy of such a favor and presumptuous to request it.  But, there, I asked.

More transparently, I confess to you that this whole business of pity and obligations and expectations ends up functioning as Resistance.  I will say more of Resistance but for now know that it is essentially this: not writing.  Which brings us back to the beginning: I have some things to say–some things I feel I should and must say.  Perhaps my request will deflect a few distractions.  If nothing else, this public declaration is cathartic and helps me step around them.  Come up they will, but I said I didn’t want them, so, no offense, I’m stepping past them.  In truth, I’m still quite open to pity; I’d just rather not be bogged down by it here (ha: blogged down), if that makes any sense . . . and even if it doesn’t.

In homage to his T-ness, with an obtuse allusion to Adobe, I’m considering marking the most ostensibly pitiable posts with the category “PDF,” yaknow, so you’ll be warned.  And I admit, I think it mildly clever.  Very mildly.  Almost unnoticeably.  Don’t pity that I’m cleverness challenged; that’ll really piss me off.

I’m going to try to do more linking to other people’s blogs instead of jamming them with my comments.  It seems better in lots of ways.  So here I go.

A conversation I had yesterday and two blogs I’m reading have today reminded me of a couple of core convictions.  By the way, these blogs are excellent, so I encourage you to explore beyond the posts I cite.

Brett talks, in the cited post, about Truth, and June about Grammar, but my takeaway from both is that the world is a beautiful place and we’re never quite capable of capturing either its beauty or its horror strictly with rules and formulae and such–which is not to say that we shouldn’t still try.

A commenter on June’s blog, a teacher, points out the paradox of grammar: that one first learns its rules, then how to bend them.  I’ve decided, after several (not an enormous number, but more than a few) years on the planet that that’s one of life’s most important themes.  I can think of no field in which it does not apply.  At every point of revelation, some “truth” we’d been taught to get to that point is exploded by another or simply dissolves in its own insubstantiality.

That doesn’t mean it all dissolves, that there’s nothing substantial or absolute, but mostly perhaps that our plight is one of perpetual misunderstanding, of partial glimpses, of hints and guesses and approximations.  And, really, that stuff itself (both our own concoctions and the world and order that exist to varying degrees independent of us–material and otherwise) is more or less, if not flimsy, at least shifting.  Moreover, in a way that perhaps transcends or precedes (experientially) the universe’s shiftiness, there is perhaps a necessity that we learn lies or half truths on the way to understanding.

I do believe in absolutes, in Truth.  I’ve experienced a bit of it.  But it doesn’t come in a pill or a package.  Of course, even that’s a lie.  Truth is quite capable of sneaking up in a capsule or neatly wrapped container–but eventually, it’s gonna bust out.  We learn lies on the way to truth because so much of learning is the acquisition of definitions, definitions are boxes, and gloriously, thankfully, Reality won’t fit in any box, no matter how elaborate and vast we might make it.

God, the world and we ourselves are fundamentally fraught with Mystery–Hallelujah!

Yes, that’s frustrating.  Yes, I am continually aggravated by certain things I never quite comprehend but still somehow feel that I must.  But there is greatness in surprise and hope and beauty that doesn’t sit nicely in my head or my heart but is always ever tugging at the seams.

In lieu, again, of something more significant, and perhaps in the tradition of bloggy blog, I’m just going to write again today.  And, yeah, I don’t know why that’s such a big deal. I think the just writing is what this is supposed to be, but there’s something evil in the back of my mind (it has a name, and I’ll be writing about it eventually) that makes me think just writing isn’t good enough.  Screw you, thing in the back of my mind.  Indeed, screw you.

I’ve talked to folks lately about learning to be a bad writer–or, rather, learning to let myself be a bad writer.  Which is not to say that I’ve been a good writer up to now.  That’s the point.  I just haven’t been a writer.  Which maybe isn’t exactly true.  I haven’t been much of a writer.

What I’ve decided (I’ve been becoming a decider, lately–slowly perhaps, but still; thanks, Dubya; you the man) is that to get where I want to go, I need to let myself be a bad writer: lacking profundity, grammatically incorrect, stylistically lame, obtuse, convoluted, lacking readers, etc.–yaknow, all the stuff that comes naturally.

All of you fine people who aren’t reading–or, reading, aren’t responding to–my blog are actually helping.  So there.  Er, I mean, thank you.  Really.  It’s sad how dependent I am on people’s responses, or lack thereof.  It’s sad how sensitive I am to being unread or unreadable or so easily misunderstood.  It’s sad that at this stage in my life I am still so fundamentally insecure and hopelessly hanging on the approval and acceptance of others.  But I am, and, there, I confessed it.

There are other sad things, but that’s a whole other post.  What’s funny (I don’t know about you, but I’m coming to the conclusion that if it’s funny one way, it’s probably funny several others and the whole bit about “ha ha” and “strange” is just another intravenous line of bullsh** we all accept to our great detriment) is that the acceptance-hungry voice in my head says “don’t promise more sadness; people hate sadness.”  Screw you, acceptance-hungry voice.  Though (and this is not a concession to AHV, that dirty bastard–he is, in fact, a bastard, btw, but that too is a whole other post) I will add that much of what I mean to write about the sadness is that it’s also a place of laughter, curiosity and enlightenment–maybe mostly laughter, as far as I can tell.  That doesn’t make any sense, you might say, if you were reading this and responding to it.  Ah, but it does, I might respond, were we interacting.  Stay tuned.  Which obviously makes no sense if you’re not already tuned.  But there, again, I said it anyway.

I have a point.  What’s funny is that I keep having it.  This then may become a blog largely about blogging–or about not blogging or about the incipient potential of the blog.  Probably not.  Probably I say that because I’m self-conscious about a dozen different aspects of my and my blog’s inadequacy.  But I notice that others blog about the blogging and the not blogging.  Again, why this should matter to me, an adult–at least I have the chronological accumulation to suggest I might be an adult–I’m embarrassed to ask (I do ask–in case you’re curious–in my head, and fire back the answers I don’t want to hear).

So, yes, the point (implied but not quite yet spoken in the preceding paragraph): I will write and keep writing.  I will be bad.  I will be unread.  Oh what a glorious thing it is.

So, I’ve got a ton of stuff to say, but none of it is in a form that I want to post, so I decided that I’d do a kind of blog freewrite.  Sort of.  Maybe not quite so free, not quite so sloppy.  But free . . . ish and definitely sloppy.

You’ve gotta love “ish.”  Thanks for that one, Lord.  And whoever else gave that to us.  I mean, it’s not great.  But it’s great . . .ish.  And somehow that sounds sarcastic, which I didn’t start out meaning it to be.  But there it is and maybe rightly so.

This is a blog.  This is my blog.  So I suppose it makes sense to make it bloggy.  I think I’ll go there today.  Not many people read this anyway, and those that do probably have at least minimal interest in my life and thought.  So here goes.  Briefly.  No, really; not like I usually end up meaning that.

I woke up this morning (it was morning, though a little late) in a state of clarity.  It’s funny how that happens–in the morning, I mean, and especially on the weekends when I’ve actually slept.  There’s something about the combination of rest and coming out of that less-inhibited, less-filtered, more-believing, more-open, altered state of consciousness that is sleep.  Sleep is good.

And sleep–dreamy, REMish sleep, in particular–is a little like speaking in tongues.  Yeah, you can argue that both of them are nonsense, but it seems to me that they’re both just transrational.  And absolutely, IMO, necessary.  Sure: scattered, semichaotic images and sounds.  But there’s an efficacy there.  And “there” is the right word.  It’s a place, a place where healing can occur, where we let down the guard just long enough for the Spirit to slip in.  Because the truth is, for all of our protestations to the contrary, we are constantly contending against the works of Grace.

So, revelation.  And I felt the need to write.  I didn’t want to lose the moment, so I actually used pen and a journal that I keep by my bed but rarely write in.  And I journaled and wept (not continual weeping, but some very good and occasionally very deep weeping) until I’d filled 18 pages.  Which is especially remarkable in that I hate writing more than a few sentences with pen on paper.

And I call it “revelation,” but it’s really just a moment of clarity, which, in that state to which I’ve alluded, is simple, unpretentious, un-self-conscious.  Doesn’t even recognize itself as remarkable.  It’s only the entry into daythought (which–daythought-I have a hard time not viewing as evil, given it’s oppressive, doubtful tendencies) that renders it special, shows it as an aberration against normalcy.  Normalcy sucks, so aberration is decidedly a good thing.

Thank you, God.  You are, indeed, the Lord of the Sabbath and the God of dreams.

So, some teasers.  My ramblings from this morning are probably too rambley–too long, too profane, too chaotic to just spit them out here.  And they might need more shape even for me to keep them in my own thought, let alone introduce them to yours.  I must blog them, though.  And I may try to preserve their form as much as I can.  Who can say?  But here are their abstracts, rambley still, but less wordy than that to which they refer.  And, please understand, I don’t mean to make complete statements here; rather, consider these fragments a promise, to which I must return.

  • My relationship with the LORD is in a state of nominally complete deconstruction.
  • Deb died, as far as I am concerned, at exactly the wrong time.  And that pisses me off for all sorts of reasons.
  • It is very dark here, but God is comfortable and fully aware in the darkness. 
  • God is, in fact, a big Cheater–His seeing in the dark and all. 
  • But I still love Him.  How can I not love Him?  Really, I’ve asked myself about the possibility and it seems increasingly im-, even in the midst of what is an embarrassingly persistent anger.  It is embarrassing.  I don’t feel like I’m continually angry and I definitely have moments where it’s not on the surface, but whenever I think about it, it sure feels as though it hasn’t gone away.  Yes, I am angry.  I’d like to tell you that I’m not, but I am.  But I can no more deny my love and worship than I can deny my anger.  No, it doesn’t make sense.
  • I haven’t given up on God.  It turns out, as far as I can tell, that that’s even part of the anger.
  • We are rebuilding, God and I.  I hope mostly God, because, as I think is abundantly clear, I’m clueless and otherwise not with the program.
  • I and my blog must be a no bulls*** zone.  But this is variously problematic.

That’s all I’m gonna say for now.  I’ve probably already violated (as I am wont to do) the “leave them wanting more” principle.  Oh, and this is brief.

I keep meaning to talk about this but then don’t because I think that I should say something profound or clever or whatever. A common theme.

Maybe a profounder or cleverer me will come back later and do better. Until then, here’s simple me in a hurry.

The picture that’s currently my banner is important. I awoke one morning asking God the usual questions. The answer I got is Joshua: “. . . walk . . . be bold and courageous” yadda yadda (not to be confused, well, maybe to be confused but only later, with “yada’ yada'”). Almost immediately, the image enters my head of Peter stepping out of the boat. Yep, walking.

I’m twisted enough to believe that this is God’s idea of a joke–a joke, which is not to say that He’s not also quite serious. Walk, never mind that you’re walking on water. And one might argue that it’s a loose interpretation of the verb “walk” (hence, the “or not”).  There’s no guarantee you won’t fall precipitously, or that, in the falling, you won’t inhale lungs full of water. My mind goes a million places–joyous, scary and wonderful.  Maybe more scary than joyous or wonderful; consider it an optimist’s sandwich.

I’m twisted enough that I laugh. The truth is, it makes more sense than most things. It makes sense, in fact, of all of the things that don’t make sense.  It makes even more sense now than it did then.  That’s the beautiful, sucky thing about this kind of revelation.

I believe that this is life. It is, if nothing else, the life of faith. It may sometimes seem cruel, when the water gives way, as water is wont, beneath one’s feet. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe, in the final analysis, that it is cruel but it is certainly a compellingly realistic and frightening facsimile of cruelty.  Despite my supposedly knowing better, it usually convinces me.

Part of me believes that an über me (the me God meant when He dreamt me) will one day glide effortlessly across the surface of the broiling sea or even, if über me so chooses–rather, if God says (because, the key thing about über me is that he hears the voice of God with perfect clarity and, hearing, responds without hesitation)–dive deep beneath the surface, because, you see, über me not only walks (actual walking not just “walking”) on water but breathes water as if it were air.

As this thought germinates and its roots take hold of my heart and my head, I begin to see a motif in Scripture that had erstwhile eluded me. It is this: that often, as we face this difficult–often watery–path, God seems absent or asleep. Indeed, in one account of the disciples tossed on the sea, Jesus is or appears to be, at first, not there. When He does show up, they think Him an unfriendly ghost. Then come Peter’s baby steps. In another episode on the stormy sea, Jesus is, quite literally, asleep. Asleep in the bottom of the boat. Nice one, Lord.

If you doubt the legitimacy of the motif, consider what Jesus quoted on the cross. And don’t even start with the “that’s not exactly what He meant” or whatever other dishonest bastardization you’ve conceived or borrowed to make His outburst palatable and theologically correct.

Jesus experienced the absence of the Father so that we wouldn’t have to. What else is there from which we more urgently need saving? And still we are, or seem to be, not fully saved. Who doesn’t wonder? Who doesn’t doubt? Who doesn’t feel, at times, somehow all alone or, seeing the foggy or distant apparition, more frightened than comforted by the presence of the Lord?  Whoever you are, I’m not sure that I want to know you.

In November, 2006, Deb and I visited Christine in KC and, at our daughter’s behest (I say this to give her credit because it was a great idea for which I am grateful), we visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum.  Some museums (such as the Dallas Museum of Art) get all uptight about people taking pictures–pbbbbt on them for that, btw–but Nelson Atkins did not, so I took several.  This is a clip from a painting of Jesus asleep on the boat.  He’s the serene one on the left, sleeping while everyone else panics.  The painting really spoke to me.  What it said is more than I can contain here.  In any case, it seemed the hand of Providence, so I made it my banner.

So, anyway, there you have it.  No great claim to faith or power.  As I say, “walking” on (or under) water isn’t exactly a choice, except inasmuch as I see Jesus there, He calls and I answer (or something like that).  It’s the theme.  I’ll say more.

“The views and opinions . . .”

The primary motivation for most disclaimers we encounter is to cover the asses of corporate America and to hedge those asses against litigation (ha: a “hedge of protection,” indeed [inside joke for Evangelicals]). What they should really say is “we, the reigning plutocracy, are, in our great magnanimity, allowing the artist to speak, which we’d really rather not, but, well, just so long as you know not to blame his lunatic rantings on us.”

I don’t claim enough power for corporate America to worry about me (at least not yet). And, frankly, were I that powerful, I’d be ever so happy for the fiery darts to lodge precisely in the aforementioned, ample, posterior targets. I should might not have said that, but there I did. Sigh. There goes the publishing contract.

What I do claim is that people love me–and far more than I deserve. Indeed, that’s one of the things that most amazes me about life: that mine, in particular, has been–and is–full of all sorts of inexplicable love. And, no, it’s not because “I’m good enough” or “smart enough”; it’s just, as far as I can tell, because of grace. By virtue of some great cosmic Luck, I’m surrounded by loving people. And, lest there be any doubt, the credit for their loving me definitely goes to them and not to me.

That’s why I want to take the blame–for this blog, I mean. I’m as willing to make excuses as the next guy. The truth is, in what few words I’ve so far shared in this place, I already have more than once. I sometimes think of myself as erstwhile lord of the pathetic serfdom of prefaces, explanations and cautious contextualizers. The “erstwhile” is hopeful; you will, alas, probably see more. But when I make excuses, I want never to shift blame to those gracious souls whose admonitions–if only I’d have heeded them–and whose affection–if only I’d have fully accepted it–would have delivered me from a path that ends up with excuses.

Certainly, if you read anything profound in these pages, you can attribute it to the influence of, to name just a few (and I’m quite mindful this isn’t exhaustive in any sense), my departed beloved or my parents or my kid or or my siblings or the folks I fellowship with or, truly, the beautiful Spirit of Christ Himself (and God knows I will surely plagiarize badly from all of the above and from many others). But when I offend you, blame it on me. It’s probably my fault (or yours–but let’s not press that point quite yet); it’s almost certainly not theirs.

My being an offensive ass is, in fact, further testament to the character of those people who love me, and I hope you’ll understand it that way. For instance, instead of saying “Those Christians are all idiots (or pathological or pathetic or hypocritical or, ahem, verbose). Why would I want anything to do with Christ?” you ought rather to say “It’s true, then, that the love of Christ knows no bounds; how else could He put up with such an annoying, insipid buffoon? If He puts up with that, he can surely put up with me.” I venture to say you’d do well to adopt that perspective whenever Christians speak–probably especially the ones who claim to speak on Christ’s behalf. But we’ll discuss that in greater depth in the days ahead. For now, please, as best you can, don’t blame my being an idiot or obnoxious on Jesus or on anyone but me. I assure you, I’d be worse without them. And I’d like, despite myself, somehow to honor them.

So, this is mine. I claim it–not so much with pride, but with a sheepish apology and in the hope that you won’t blame it on anyone who rather deserves your respect. I guess, then, you should call this prefatory excuse not a disclaimer but a, uh, “claimer.” (Yep. See? That “claimer” thingy–that’s all me. Unless you like it. In which case, I almost certainly stole it and, what’s worse, I’ve forgotten from whom.)

Yeah, I use them a lot. Yeah, I just noticed that I keep using them in my blog titles. Yeah, I’m slightly self-conscious about it.

What? Are they pretentious . . . or irritating . . . or confusing?

Um. Oh well. Yeah, I say “um” a lot, too. And an “oh well” is due during the explication at least every other major theme. Because, well, what are you going to do? It is.

And I like to use dashes, and parentheses (and other parenthetical devices–like the dashes [though not strictly in that sense]).

If you heard me talk, if you could see my thoughts, it would make more sense, I think. The “um”s though–I think (I hope) I actually write those more than I speak them, ’cause, um, “um”s are irritating to listen to. I just think that they signify uniquely in writing. The parentheses, the ellipses, the dashes, et al.–those are indigenous. “Um” might be more of a colloquial affectation. I’m more comfortable writing that kind of thing than saying it . . . sometimes.

Sometimes when I write, I hear a cooler version of me saying the things that I wouldn’t ever quite say. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Yes and no.

And sometimes when I speak, those things come out anyway, and the cooler me cringes, because they just sound wrong stumbling off of my tongue.