A novel date

by the Night Writer

I went through my archives looking for the post below in order to re-run it as we count down the last few days before Ben and the Mall Diva’s wedding this Saturday, May 23. Once I found it I copied it and then checked the date when it originally ran. It was strangely familiar.

May 23….2007.


“Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the yard and shot it.”— Truman Capote

I don’t have the experience, yet, of being an author finishing a book so I don’t know if Capote’s words are apt. It seems to me the writing-publishing experience is more like being a parent and having a child leave the nest. As the parent of a soon to be 19-year-old still in the nest but beginning to make her own way I marvel at how what I’ve “created” has taken on a life of her own; how the countless hours spent shaping and imagining and agonizing over just the right word has inspired dialogue with subtleties, nuances and complexities I never realized were possible, and how a true character has emerged fully-formed and bursting to go forth.

For years this book was mainly blank pages; pages that consumed my life and were never far from my thoughts no matter what else I happened to be doing. Day by day those pages were filled, and while there are things I’d like to go back and rewrite there’s no guarantee that the story would be even better than it is now; even so I wrestle with the temptation/obsession to continue to tweak and polish.

Will anyone else understand the humor of page 112, or appreciate how difficult it was to write Chapter 19? Certainly not at the level I do, but that knowledge is for my own book, the one written on my heart. Now, though, it is time to see this through; to be proud to see all the time, work and love realized in a tangible package; to admire not just the cover but the spine; to breathe deep the aroma of the fresh pages and the glue that holds them together.

It is good.

And back again

by the Night Writer

When I was younger the weddings I went to far outnumbered the funerals. That ratio is changing, it seems, to something like 50-50, but I’m hoping to get through this summer and fall with with a blaze of those more youthful days and something like a 3-to-1 wedding ratio. Sometime well into the future the ratio will skew inexorably to the more somber tones. This year, however, is off to a bright start as the funeral I attended last Friday was more like a party.

As I wrote in my last post, my grandmother Lizey passed away just short of being 102 years old. I returned to the family hometown for the service and to the same funeral home where I’ve attended four other family funerals. I knew this wasn’t going to be the typical affair, however, when my brother called my cell from the visitation while I was still on the highway heading south, an hour and a half away. He was there with aunts, uncles and cousins and it sounded like there was a party going on in the background.

When I got there Grandma was laid out in peace, the only one it seemed like who wasn’t laughing, hugging, telling stories. This has always been a loud branch of the family, and all the stories were familiar ones and I think she would have liked seeing everyone together again and hearing the same old tales…the kind of tales that make you start to laugh as soon as the first few words are out of the teller’s mouth and you anticipate what’s to come. In one corner my oldest uncle was holding forth and in another corner his oldest son was doing the same, perhaps even more expressively, the circle unbroken. Three of her four surviving children were there, almost all of the grandchildren, a handful of the great-grandchildren, and once I caught a glimpse of the great-great-grandchild whose mother had been about the same age the last time I had seen her. I was told that Grandma’s remaining sons had decided that the last $100 of her estate was going to my own daughter, who marries later this month.

The funeral was the next day and the six grandsons were the pall-bearers. It had been a long while since the six of us — all of us within five years of age of each other — had been together but the elbowing, nudging and mild-horseplay seemed to pick up without missing a beat. The funeral director brought the six of us — Robbie, Roger, me, my brother, Kevin and Kent (who we call Fred) — together to run through the drill with us. After a few minutes she smiled and said, “We usually like to have the pall-bearers sit together in a group, but in your case I think we’ll split you up.” I told her that if she really wanted to get our attention she’d have to threaten to “beat the pee-waddin” out of us, and Grandma would understand. She allowed how she’d keep that in reserve.

The service was a sweet celebration. The wife of one of the great-grandkids sang two beautiful songs and the pastor from her life-long church, First Baptist, spoke of her great contributions the history and fellowship of the church and the rich heritage passed on into the lives of the family as he had witnessed over the previous 24 hours. Through the course of his brief talk he mentioned “First Baptist” about eight times. Later I told Aunt Sis that, given Grandma’s age, I wasn’t sure if the pastor had been referring to the church or to Lizey.

After the service the short procession moved out from the funeral home behind the hearse, heading through the drizzle for the Hodge-Enloe cemetery out on old highway UU. In the country, cemeteries are usually named after the families that founded them or the farms where they are located (often one and the same). Here’s something else about the country: when a funeral procession passes by, everyone on either side of the road pulls over. In the city, even with a police escort, people crowd you, even cut through the line.

Even in the mist and drizzle that day the hills were a beautiful green as we made it out on the old road, gravel the last mile or so, and there was a fresh smell to the air. It’s an old land, and an old cemetery, originally founded in 1889. I knew people with the same last names as those on the stones we walked past, carrying the casket, but I didn’t know any of those…except that I did, if that makes sense to you.

When the short prayer and final reading were finished we turned and walked back across the rough, wet grass to our cars. There was rain, and there was gloom and there was the new bright green on the old hills behind, around and in front of us, and the smell of spring and renewal.

The Depths of the Night

I was combing through my blog archives earlier looking for a study that I’ve previously cited because I want to use it in another post that I’m working on. In the process I came across a short piece that I wrote here back in 2005, my first year of blogging. It seemed especially appropriate for the present day when so many people appear to have so much to worry about. I’m re-running it here in the hope that it might help someone find a little peace and comfort.

A Beast in the Night

It’s two a.m. and the beast slides in under the bedroom door while I’m sleeping, a darkness deeper than the dark. I feel his weight as he sits on my chest and the tingling sensation of the tips of his talons as he takes my head and turns it slightly to face him. “Let’s talk,” he hisses.

This implies conversation, but it is one-sided. Doom seems to be the theme, oppression the objective, but I’m not paying too much attention to specifics as I sort through and catalog the degrees of my awareness. The house is quiet and still. No strange lights from outside, no smell of smoke through the screened windows. My wife rests peacefully beside me. There is just this…thing, hunkering down, pressing on my thorax. My breathing seems shallow; does it have to be? I fill my lungs several times, deeply. Breathing is good, the weight remains. I experimentally try shifting my position.

“Ah-ah,” says the beast, “does it hurt when I do this?”

Actually, no, nothing hurts. I easily move my arm and place my hand below my collarbone. The river courses deep and wide and steady beneath my fingertips in a familiar rhythm. My skin is cool and dry and yet I know the beast has found something, deep within. A tiny flame of fear, like a pilot light, and now he breathes on it and his very breath is combustible – the flame roars, seeking more fuel, wanting to consume me. In the light of day I hardly notice the steady but small flame; now in the dark every flicker seems to cast an ominous shadow. This is beyond reason, but reason I must: there is money in the bank, we are whole, the jobs are good, the basement will be dry again. I am fine and no weapon formed against us will prosper.

The beast is unimpressed, and answers each thought with a “But…” of his own, his own butt and haunches squeezing against my ribs. The debate goes on quietly for an hour. I should get up. I should get some water. I should change the scenery, but I feel trapped. “Yes…trapped,” the beast says, “trapped, trapped, trapped.” This is going nowhere. Reason is not sufficient, and argument is ineffective. If he won’t listen to me, then I won’t listen to him. I deliberately turn my mind to the old songs, the songs of deliverance and praise, I repeat them to myself, sometimes running verses together or in different order, simply using what comes to mind, from another pilot light, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, replacing fear with power, strength and a sound mind.

The darkness in the room changes perceptibly. It’s nowhere near dawn, but it seems lighter somehow. Peace returns, if sleep does not. At 4:00 a.m. I’m aware that my wife is awake, lying quietly in the dark. I speak softly, “Are you awake?”

“Yes. Why are you?”

I tell her what happened. She draws closer, hooks one of her legs over one of mine, her arm brushes the last traces of the beast from my chest.

“I’m feeling better,” I say.

This also reminds me of something else that I’ve written here before, a quote from Edwin Louis Cole: “Fear is the belief that something I cannot see will come to pass. Faith is the belief that something I cannot see will come to pass.”

Which will you choose to believe?

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”…You shall not
be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence
that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

— Psalm 91: 2, 5-6

Wondering Where the Lions Are

I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren’t half as frightening as they were before
But I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me…

— Bruce Cockburn, “Wondering Where the Lions Are”

I’m a few minutes from sleep yet, but this song comes to me tonight. It’s been some week. On my last post, the one with the picture of a shark flying out of the water, Hayden asked, “Shark Week?” To which I replied, “Yes, and I’m wearing sealskin underwear.”

Last Friday I had a meeting with our CEO who told me our business was heading into an interesting week. I’m guessing that most people’s jobs, when they get “interesting” probably don’t involve the media. My job, however, does and it turned out that two unrelated events were heading our way that the local and even national press would find hard to ignore. Neither were pleasant, and neither were a shock, but it was surprising for them to fall in such proximity to each other. My job as well is two-fold: messages for the media and for our employees — and only one of those two groups enjoys bad news.

One, of course, was layoffs. It was almost a relief for the crew, however, as folks had known it was coming and it had been stressful for many while waiting to find out how bad and how deep, while calculating one’s own prospects to stay or go. Even if you were relatively safe it’s hard not to ponder what you’d do while hurtling toward the inevitable. It was a sobering week, though our portion of the business was relatively unscathed. Still, we’re a small group and even a few losses are felt; no one is nameless or faceless. Even if the cup passes you by it’s hard not to think of the individuals and families involved. It does tend to focus you a bit, especially if you think, “What if it had been me?”

Same with riding in a crashing airplane. The news today of a US Airways jet taking off from LaGuardia and ending up in the Hudson River — miraculously without loss of life — is the type of story that you can’t help but picture yourself belted in and, again, hurtling toward the inevitable, with only moments to review your decisions, regrets and priorities. Now there’s no time to change anything, barely time to pray, and yet how heavy some choices must be as they seem to drag across your mind. “If I get out of this…” you might think. Then what? I thought, this afternoon after reading the news, of the time on that Iowa highway in the winter white-out when I moved to the left and the semi-truck careened through those on the right, taking others but not me. Changes were made, and here I am, the man I am today.

I had another chance. Those on the airplane today have another chance. Those in my office, whether staying or departing, each will have another chance, though it may come to us in different ways. Rather than be scary, or depressing, it becomes stimulating, even after the adrenaline fades and only clarity remains. And then the words of another Bruce Cockburn song come to my, and I can smile.

Don’t the hours grow shorter as the days go by
You never get to stop and open your eyes
One day you’re waiting for the axe to fall
And next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

These fragile bodies of touch and taste
This vibrant skin this hair like lace
Spirits open to the thrust of grace
Never a breath you can afford to waste

When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time

When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime
Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
Got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight

When you’re lovers in a dangerous time…

We’ve got some daylight coming to us. It may take awhile, but it’s coming. Be ready.

Catching the Ghost Train to Hawaii

It’s six fargin’ degrees below zero as I trundle to the light rail station tonight. I’m bundled up in “Big Blue”, my below-the-knee length parka lined with down, thinsulate and cashmere, and a collar that zips up under my nose, and I’ve got on ear-muffs and a woolen hackers cap from Ireland. Big Blue also has a hood which I seldom use because I think hoods on coats make you look like you’re in third grade, or like you’re a dork, or a third-grade dork, which may be the dorkiest of all. In this cold, however, I have no shame and I also figure no one can recognize me with the hood pulled up over my cap and ear-muffs and fastened in front of my face anyway.

In this kind of weather I board at the LRT’s terminus in the Warehouse District because there’s almost always a train waiting there to start its run and it’s nicer to wait in the train car rather than waiting for it a couple of blocks farther down the line. Tonight there is a train waiting, but when I try to get on the doors won’t open. Then the driver speaks over the PA: “This train is not in service.” It looks plenty serviceable to me, especially when it departs — empty — a few moments later. There is no other train in sight at the moment as the lights of the Ghost Train disappear toward the Nicollet Mall where it will no doubt tantalize other commuters before leaving them in the cold as well.

With the train’s departure, however, I now have an unobstructed view of the front of a bar called Sneaky Pete’s, immediately on the other side of the track. The front of the establishment features large plate glass windows and on one of the windows, positioned immediately under a neon Blue Moon Brewing Co. sign and hard up against the window, is a large flat-screen TV, facing the tracks. No one in the bar could possibly watch this TV, but people outside can. The TV is tuned to The Golf Channel, and it is showing scenes of PGA pros in their short-sleeve golf shirts practicing at Waialea Country Club in Hawaii for this week’s Sony Open. I watch slack-jawed, with frost from my moustache thawing and dripping onto my lips, as Anthony Kim and Geoff Ogilvy and others roll puts across a High-Def green that could be called emerald green if emeralds took steroids, and just looking at it makes me wiggle my toes deep inside my mukluks.

Somehow the January wind starts to feel softer and, I swear, I think I can smell coconut oil wafting toward me on it. The angle of my shoulders, until now hunched up against my neck, drops by about six degrees and I loosen the hood and lower the zipper at my neck a couple of inches as I eye a bunker shot from a beautiful white sand hazard. No, wait, it’s really a snow bank as the clanging bells of the approaching train take me out of my reverie.

Is it too early to get my clubs down out of the garage attic?

Return to Sderot

The latest situation in Gaza reminded me of a post by Yaacov Ben Moshe from Breath of the Beast entitled Welcome to Sderot that I wrote about back in June. In it he described the constant, dripping, pressure of Hamas attacks on Israeli villages in range of rockets launched from Gaza, and how both Hamas and the Israeli government appeared to use a macabre calculus on how much violence could be tolerated. At the time I compared this to the grim irony of the West being willing “to trade blood for peace, to cut off fingers and feed them to dogs under the table so as not to upset the place-settings.”

As it now appears that the Israeli government has decided enough is enough, and is prepared to shrug off the ignorant pressure of “world opinion” in the same way they have been shrugging off the random missile attacks, it is worth revisting Yaacov’s penetrating essay:

Sderot is an Israeli town within range of Hamas rockets and the victim of the leadership policies of both the Israeli government and that of Hamas that requires a macabre calculus of acceptable losses that keeps both groups of leaders in power … while killing Jewish civilians. Hamas knows that launching rockets on a slow but steady basis, but killing only a few at a time will maintain its political power base with the jihadis, satisfy its foreign sponsors, while not seriously exposing itself to all out countermeasures from Israel.

Simultaneously, Israel’s government tacitly accepts a handful of deaths as being below the threshold of requiring dramatic and deadly response, knowing that it will be pilloried by foreign public opinion and seen as the aggressor if it does so. Ben Moshe cites JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) Report 781:

“For Hamas, the key is to keep the rocket attacks below an understood threshold and Israel’s response will be tolerable, precise and produce minimal collateral (Palestinian) damage. The Hamas pattern is to fire one, two or three rockets at Sderot. Wait a few days and do it again. Injure two, three, four Israelis. Kill one or two, but not more than that – this week. Increase the range and accuracy of the rockets incrementally. Hit Ashkelon, but just once. Then wait. Hit a shopping center, but if no one is killed, the Israeli response is unlikely to threaten Hamas rule. If Israel does retaliate, the world will probably be more annoyed by the “disproportionate response” than the original rocket attack.”

As I was reading, though, something was bothering me. I was still stuck on the seemingly more limited issue of the terror involved. Who are these people who are being killed by the rockets? How do they live knowing that, only if some, unspecified number of them of them are killed and maimed, will their government be moved to do something about the terror under which they live? This dangerous and painful situation is only partially a product of the Arab/Islamist dream of annihilation of Israel. It is made possible by a combination of ruthless internal enemies (e.g. the far left peace movement), clueless dupes (e.g. Olmert, Livni, et al) and shortsighted erstwhile foreign “friends” who do not understand the reality of the threat. This motley assortment of fools and instigators hold Israel’s defense establishment, her regard for her own citizens and, indeed, her very moral, civic, ethical and intellectual integrity hostage.

The people of Sderot listen for the sirens all day and all night 365 days a year and all must wonder if today is the day that a rocket will come through the ceiling in a busy dining hall or a kindergarten classroom or a high school auditorium and finally be “enough” to force the government to use the power it has always had- but may not always retain- to eliminate the threat. They wait for the government to act. They pray for the rest of the world to recoil in horror. They face each day with bravery and hope. Just like the people in Jackson’s story, they are hostages.

Do you believe that it is about The Nakba or The Occupation or The Settlements? Do you allow yourself the fantasy that there is a way to stop the madness- a sacrifice big enough to satisfy this ravenous cult?

Then what did the innocent victims die for on 9/11- or Madrid- or London- the Darfur? This is part of the same grotesque lottery that has been going on for 1500 years. In spite of the sacrifice of the innocent victims of 9/11, it is all too easy for us to deny that we are hostages too, but those “zero beings” from the Islamist void will not be happy to delete only Israel. They have “selected” them for annihilation first but it is nothing personal, you understand, just a sacrifice to prove there is no value to human life. There is no value to anything that does not affirm the spiritual vacuum of Islamism. It is not because they worship Allah, nor is it is that they believe Mohammed was a prophet. It is that they believe that he was the only prophet, that they know the absolute truth and that it is their mission to ignore (and destroy) all evidence to the contrary. If you believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they will not rest until they destroy you too.

The Jihadists are not interested in cease-fires or peace. They are happy to tell you what they want. They want the world to live under Shari’a law. They believe that anyone that doesn’t want that is sub-human and deserves to be killed. This is nothing less than another confrontation with the evil of fascist, totalitarianism, and that is a beast whose hunger cannot be sated with souls, nor can its thirst be slaked with blood. The lottery they are holding is to determine not if you will be destroyed but when you will be destroyed. We are all citizens of Sderot — its just that most of us don’t know it yet.

This shall be a sign unto you…

It’s the season for Christmas specials, though some karmic dissonance or a disruption in the space-time continuum resulted in one network running “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” a week before Thanksgiving. Do you think some advertisers were a little anxious to start priming the pump? I suppose it’s all harmless; I mean, it’s not like somebody’s going to get trampled to death on Black Friday or anything.

Anyway, it’s also time for my own “Christmas Special”: an annual post I put up this time of year when the Christmas Specials are coming fast and furious, though the Christmas message can be awfully hard to find.

The True Meaning of Christmas Specials

Perhaps I was like Scrooge seeing Marley’s face on his door knocker, but I’m almost certain that when I watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special I heard Linus stand on stage and say:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree to render unto Caesar, and that all the world should shop and pay sales tax, and all went to be taxed, everyone into his own mall. And Joseph also went up from Shakopee, into Bloomington, unto the Mall of America, (which is called MOA) because he was an American, to shop with his wife Mary, they being great with debt. And so it was, that, while they were there, the items were purchased that needed to be delivered, and they brought forth their credit card, wrapped in promises to pay and laid it on the counter because there was no money in their checking account.

And there was in the same country stewards, abiding in their homes, keeping watch over their televisions by night. And lo, the commercials from Mammon came upon them and the glory of the goods shown round about them and they were sore afraid they would miss a good deal. And the commercial said unto them, “Fear not, for behold I bring you great tidings of a good economy, which shall be to all who do their part. For unto you is laid out this day, in a store near you, all manner of precious items, and this shall be a sign unto you: 40% off.” And suddenly there was within the commercial a multitude of friends and family praising their gifts and saying “Glory to the Giver with the highest credit card balance, and on earth peace, good will toward all, just $29.95.”

And it came to pass that I kept all these things and pondered them in my heart.

Fear not, for this is not going to be a complaint on how commercial Christmas has become. Frankly, those complaints have become as traditional and meaningless to most people as holly and ivy (if you don’t know what these represent, look it up). Complaining about how the true meaning of Christmas is being ignored, without actually dwelling on this meaning, is merely spiritual lip service; kind of like singing “Gloria In Excelsis Deo,” without knowing what it means. For me the issue is not that commercialism obscures the meaning of Christmas, but the cultural camouflage that diverts attention. As a case in point, let’s look at the Christmas specials we watch with our families.

Despite my parody of the Linus speech earlier, the Charlie Brown Christmas special is a classic and a true Christmas special because it is one of the few that deals specifically with the birth of Christ. “The Little Drummer Boy” is another old one and favorite of mine that also does this, while the Veggie Tales “The Toy That Saved Christmas” is the highlight of the new generation. Many so-called Christmas specials, however, purport to be about finding the true meaning of Christmas, but where is the Christ in “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Story”? Watch these and most other shows and you’ll get the message that you can be what you want to be and you should do kind things for others, and that Bumbles bounce. Nice shows and nice sentiments all, but while Jesus would exhort us to be “nice” it isn’t why he came. Don’t forget that “for unto you is born this day in the city of Bethlehem a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Enjoy the shows with your family, but look for ways to highlight fundamental Christian concepts within the programs, even if these messages appear unintentional. Since everything will ultimately prove the word of God true, teachable moments are everywhere if we are alert to them. The classic movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” for example, really focuses on the importance of faith, at one point virtually reciting Hebrews 11:1 and 11:5-6. Don’t miss the opportunity to call this to your children’s’ attention. I once sat open-mouthed (but not slack-jawed) watching the SpongeBob Squarepants Christmas program for the first time. The story is that SpongeBob has never heard of Santa Claus until his friend Sandy fills him in. SpongeBob get so excited that he stands on a street corner proclaiming the good news to everyone (no one else has heard of Santa either) about how kind Santa is and about all the gifts he will bring. Soon, everyone is shouting, “We love Santa!” I turned to my daughter and said, “SpongeBob is an evangelist!”

Of course, SpongeBob is focusing on all the benefits that Santa brings, which is also a failing of modern evangelism. People are exhorted to “try” Jesus for all the blessings that will be added to their lives but if these don’t show up right away (or don’t show up in the way people expect) they get disillusioned, even bitter. This, too, happens in the SpongeBob Christmas show. We lose sight of the fact that the first benefit of the salvation we receive from believing in Christ is not in getting what we deserve, but in avoiding what we deserve.

A good story for illustrating this concept can be Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” You may think you know the story of Ebenezer (there’s a Biblical name) Scrooge, but look at it as a parable. Scrooge is greedy and cruel and oblivious to his iniquity. He doesn’t heed warnings to change, but because of another’s desire for him to avoid his fate, he is visited by spirits that convince and convict him of his sins and show him what is in store for him. In horror he repents and asks for forgiveness, vowing to change. He’s not concerned about the benefits of a new way of life; he just wants to escape the fruit of the old way. Waking the next morning and realizing his opportunity he says “Thank you (Holy Spirit) Spirits!” and is ever after known as “a man who kept Christmas (Jesus) in his heart.” (By the way, I happen to think the George C. Scott “Christmas Carol” is the best, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mr. Magoo as well).

I’m sure there are many more examples in Christmas programs that I’ve left out but that have occurred to you. I’d love to hear what message or blessing you and your family get out of different Christmas shows, so feel free to leave a comment. Just don’t shoot your eye out!

Merry Christmas, my friends, and to your families!

Things that I am thankful for: Family

It’s Thanksgiving week and I’m busy finishing up projects at home and work before jumping in the car with the wife and kids and Ben, heading for the family gathering a good ten hours away.

As I reflect on the things I’m thankful for, I must include those of you who have made it a point to visit here regularly.

Yes, I write this blog to amuse and test myself, but I appreciate your interest and I want to have something (hopefully) interesting here each time you look in. As such, I don’t want to let this blog “go dark” in the coming week while I’m traveling and enjoying my family so I’ve collected a few past posts that you may or may not have seen that illustrate the things I’m thankful for and collecting them here by theme in the coming days for those of you who take the time from your own obligations and celebrations to stop by.

Today’s theme: I am thankful for family.

Dad to the Bone

My Head in Her Hands, and a Wistful Mr. Henri Looks Back

The Knowing

What a Dad’s to Do

A little romance

Some have asked what kind of of writer I’d like to be, and my answer is, “Well compensated.” Fact is, I’m still trying a few things out but there does seem to be a lucrative market for Romance fiction. Sure, I wouldn’t want to put my real name on it (speaking as a guy who’s blogged for almost four years under an alias), something dashing like, oh, Roman Teeque. Let’s see…how hard can it be?

Rolf drew her to him. Though his embrace was tender, his arms around her were like the branches of the mightiest oak; she marvelled that the giant could be so gentle.

“I would do anything for you,” he breathed. His voice was sunlight through the trees, falling on her in a forest clearing. His scent was of exotic spices and of the tradewinds that had first brought him to her. She looked into the eyes that were as blue and cool as a spring-fed mountain lake. They were still waters, yet she could see the leviathan stirring in the depths, sense it rising in passion. Her lips parted almost of their own volition. But no…

She tossed her head, shaking her titian hair and put her hand to his broad chest, as if to push him away. Instead it lingered. Looking to her hand, she whispered, “Would you climb the highest mountain?”

“Aye,” he said, “and reach up and bring you back a star as well.”

“Would you swim to the bottom of the deepest sea?”

“Yes, and bring you the brightest pearl, though Neptune himself hold it in his briny hands.”

She felt a shiver from the very core of her being. “Would you…would you pick up your socks?”

“Actually,” he said, “Mom’s always done that for me.”

Dang, that’s harder than I thought.

Filings: Man on the Street

by the Night Writer

One morning last week I was walking the five blocks from the train to my office, pretty much just thinking about the day ahead. As I waited at the first corner with a crowd of pedestrians for the light to change, an older black man standing in front of me turned around and looked at me, then said, “God bless you.”

“And God bless you, too,” I said, a little surprised but not really uncomfortable even though I could smell the strong scent of alcohol coming from him as he turned back around. I know from the times I’ve spent with the guys in the Teen Challenge program how much they hated, when they were on the street, how people wouldn’t look at them because of their color, or their raggedyness, or both. Since then I’ve tried to make it a habit to acknowledge people with my eyes when they cross my path.

The man was standing with two other rather scruffy looking guys. He turned to me again as the light changed and the crowd moved across the street, the two scruffy guys and my fellow pedestrians subtly leaving a bubble around me and my new friend as we got the inevitable request for money out of the way (which I declined). He then started a rambling description of his birthday being January 1, and how nobody believes that, and how Jesus walks with him, and nobody believes that either. “Do you you believe Jesus walks with me?” he asked.

“I believe Jesus lives inside us,” I replied.

“Does he live inside you?”

“Yes, he does.”

He went on talking about Jesus following him everywhere. By now Jesus was the only one who could have been in spitting distance of us. I was feeling very much at peace, though, interjecting a comment every so often to let him know I was listening. We got to the corner where my office is and my friend was asking me if Jesus walked beside me. I told him that I believe Jesus said he would never leave us or forsake us, that he would be with us everywhere we go. Then I got bold, though I still felt peaceful.

“I believe Jesus is walking beside you,” I said. “The problem is, you’ve been taking him into a lot of places he doesn’t want to go. I wonder,” I said, “what would happen if you started to follow him for a little while instead of having him follow you?” For the first time in our conversation he was still and quiet. I put out my hand. He took it.

“I believe you when you say you were born on January 1. I believe that is a symbol from God that you can make a new beginning, but you don’t have to wait for your birthday.”

There at the corner of Washington and Marquette I put my other hand on his shoulder and began to pray out loud, thanking God for the man’s life and for bringing us together and for the plans that God had for him. I prayed that God would open doors for him that no man could close and that he would close doors that no man could open. I said “Amen” and dropped my left hand. He stood there with a surprised look on his face.

“Thank you,” he said, softly. Then louder, “Thank you very much! God bless you!” Then he turned and walked away.

Now I harbor no illusions that that interlude will turn that man’s life around, but I know God has done greater things. Neither do I have any doubt that I was supposed to meet that man that day. As for myself, I got quite a lift from the unexpected meeting, and I wondered at the peace and confidence I had felt. I hadn’t been self-conscious at all about anyone else around us, or put off by the man’s appearance or condition. Believe me, that is not my usual demeanor! I felt at first as if I had just done something the way my pastor would’ve done it, and then I realized that perhaps I had done it the way Jesus would have — without a thought or care but for the man he had just met.

That may all be very nice but I also realized that, while I likely won’t know the impact I made on the other guy, that God wanted to show me something. I, too, am guilty — in both thought and actions — of taking Jesus into places sometimes that perhaps he doesn’t want to go. In fact, I can go hours without even being aware of him beside me. As the morning went on I was simultaneously buoyed by the experience and humbled that I was able to experience it. I didn’t really grasp the biggest lesson, however, until yesterday when it finally dawned on me.

The experience felt great and was stimulating because it was different, out of the ordinary. It finally hit me, yesterday, that in fact it shouldn’t be that out of the ordinary at all. Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time in church, but was usually out walking, going from one place to another, meeting the people he was supposed to meet, touching their lives with his presence. The same Jesus walks with me, wanting to do the same thing if I will let him; not by preaching sermons or trying to get people to say a prayer so they can be “saved”, but simply touching their lives with a word or a touch that communicates his love for them, showing — as Romans 2:4 says — “the goodness of God that leads people to repentance.”

I want to feel that lift that I felt that day much more often.