Posted in Longreads and Essays

The Shapers

Last night I dreamed the Shapers came around again.
They dropped by the cottage as we were sitting down to dinner.
I invited them in.

Jesus and I laughed about the first time I gave my life to him down deep inside a sleeping bag trying to make the tears come while my mocking friend pulled the covers back to see what I was doing. It was he who had told me that I could not eat the Lord’s Supper unless I was born again.

A rocky start I guess, but honored nonetheless. Jesus loved me for who I am.
And I began learning
to love myself and everyone around me,
It and I always turning, turning from truth and back again.
Jesus loved me for who I am.
I still do, he said.
My Shapers and I bowed our heads in silence while the Prince of Peace broke the bread.

After grace, I turned to Dr. King.
“I’m Martin to my friends.”
He pointed at his head and then they all showed me the places where the bullets and the nails had gone in.
Loving your enemy is no guarantee he will reciprocate or give love back again.
I used to wonder whether I would go up and out like Martin.

I grew up in Mississippi and I met him though his people,
still getting used to the changes,
showing patience with the foot draggers,
paying no mind to the word daggers, the tut-tutters and finger waggers,
so willing to forgive and forget.
Martin smiled. “I have a dream,” he said.
“And the dream ain’t done being dreamed yet.”

Next I spoke to Gandhi.
“Please pass the Satyagraha.
I need some more spices from the mouth of the Mahatma.”
So we spoke of truth and love, with a dab of philosophy,
how the tooth for tooth just leaves everyone’s mouths empty.
“Did you like Ben Kingsley and the length of the movie?”
“Not bad,” Mohandas smiled. “Though I would have made it shorter with a little less of me.”

My church saw the movie together.
I was young, and it was long, but my life was changed forever.
I remember how I cried,
how it felt to be with the adults outside
at intermission talking peace to the cool Southern night air.
I’m still figuring out how to be salt of the earth and
where.

“How are you, Romero?” I asked.
“I’m well,” he replied.
I told him of the time I spent at the church where he died,
how I wore a black cross around my neck for years in solidarity with his people, who shared their hopes and
fears with a naive college student, how we cried and laughed,
how reading Exodus could make you disappear,
how the soldiers who killed the priests shot up his photograph. “Monsignor, you were more alive dead than
you were before.”
To which he said, “My son, that is the essence of resurrection.”

After that I spoke to Menno and thanked him for my heritage. “I would gladly have been martyred like these,”
he said. “But I did not have the privilege.”
“How does a mortal, fearful man have such courage?” I asked.
“Be faithful. Life is in God’s hands.
Do not take upon yourself what is the Creator’s task.”

After too short a time, it seemed,
they pushed back their chairs to take their leave from my dream.
“We have far to travel yet,” Jesus said. “And many more Shaped to see.”
So I bidst them farewell and thanked them for their lives.
They laughed and laid their hands on me.
“Freely given, child, freely receive.”

When I awoke, I lay still for awhile and listened to her breathe,
this woman whom I’ve known for a short time who is already shaping me with her love, encouragement, and commitment to peace
in our lives together and communities.

I thought of Mom and Dad, my friends and my family,
the shapers I carry inside from their stability,
the learnings and the laughings,
and our shared history.

These are my Shapers, the makers of me,
the famous and the not so well known
who have scribed these patterns on my bones.
There are many, many more unmentioned, and more shapes for me to see,
for I am a grateful man who contains a wonderful
geometry.

September 2003

Posted in Musings and Reflections

Listening to recess while waiting at Checkers

My Latino friends who taught me how to (really) play checkers called it a “chanchito” (piggy) when you were able to trap your opponent’s piece so it could not move.

The distinctive checkerboard decor of the Checkers where I wait outside for a burger reminds me of those long ago days at the drop-in center playing games, trying to build peace between gangs.

At an elementary school across the street, I hear the screams of children at recess. I resist the urge to reach for my phone which is my goto habit when I am waiting. I would simply obsess over the news of the most recent school shooting.

Instead, I try to remain present to this moment of waiting. I feel the sun’s caress on my face. I think of life and checkers. I ponder why there seem to be no kings on this checkerboard, why it seems we all are chanchitos trapped in an endless cycle of violence.

I mourn.

I remember.

I wait.

I pray.

I listen intently to the joy of children at play.

Posted in Longreads and Essays, Musings and Reflections

Depression 1.6 – Tough Enough To Talk About It

(From November 9, 2011)

Recently my wife asked me what book I was reading.

“I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, somewhat taken aback. “I was just curious . . .” Her voice trailed off.

“I Don’t . . .” I started to repeat, then I smiled. “That is actually the title, it’s a book about depression.”

We both had a good laugh.

We can laugh about it now although that wasn’t always the case. I am on medication, reading books like the one with the title above, and actually, I DO want to talk about it. Or actually, talk more openly and honestly about it. As I look back over my journals, I realize that I have been talking about it. But I was talking mostly to myself and resisting what was staring me in the face.

I was depressed.

And wonder of wonders I am not alone. According to psychotherapist Terrence Real, the author of I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, depression among men is a silent epidemic that we don’t want to talk about or deal with because it isn’t “manly.” He differentiates between overt depression and covert depression, the different symptoms of both, and how both can destroy lives and relationships if not acknowledged and healed.

While I have found the book generally very helpful, there are a couple of things in particular that have jumped out at me so far. Early on, the author describes his learned understanding of men as “wounded wounders.” I resonate with this idea. In a sense I have been very adept at recognizing and dealing with my pain. My plethora of writings reflect this. However, it is only recently that I have begun to move from the narcissism that such inner work can lead to and into the more transformative power of letting my vulnerability out, through the same power of writing.

Real also describes the relationship between depression and violence, namely the violence men perpetrate on other men, especially as boys. I understand this as well. I was a smart and sensitive boy, gifted with near sightedness and thick glasses. My peers teased me mercilessly about my lack of manhood whatever that means. I was called Gay and Queer as if those terms make one any less of a man. At that time it still hurt deeply. One guy even told me something like I might get good grades but he got the girls. Typical misguided macho stuff. But I believed it. It was only later when I looked back from the relatively safe vantage point of adulthood that I realized that girls and women were attracted to me mainly because I was a man that they felt safe with and could trust.

There were worse things done to me which for now will stay between me and my Maker. Suffice it to say that I have received more trauma than I have given. But I am not innocent. I have seen the monster within. I wrestle with him daily while at the same time comforting the boy who still cowers in pain nearby. It is a struggle but I must do so if I am to survive and be healed.

It seems that the only way left open for men and boys to prove their manhood is through violence. But we are not made to be this way. Depression arises out of the helplessness we felt when we were victimized by other men. It also arises out of the guilt we feel from when we victimize(d) someone else, man or woman.

But there was One who did not walk this way. He took the pain perpetrated upon him by other men; their abuse, their torture, their injustice, their hate, and He did not respond in kind. Even more astounding, He transformed it into new life, a way of love that encompasses everyone and everything.

That, my friend, is HOPE. I have never found a Man tougher or more tender. It takes a real man to face his pain, not throw it back in someone’s face, and come out on the other side striving to be a better son, brother, father, husband, and friend.

So Man Up. I mean, really. You, your loved ones, and the world deserve it. It’s time we made this crazy orb a safe place for everyone, especially other men.

Man Up Campaign

Man Up Ministry

The Meaning of Man Up

Posted in Musings and Reflections

Nameless – A Not So Modest Proposal For Peace

In our headlong rush to know, perhaps to understand, to be the first to break the breaking news of who or what did the breaking, we give the violent ones the public podium they so covet.

Ms. Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, got it so very right.

“He shall remain nameless.”

So then, let the media, social, anti-social, or otherwise, do the same;

Refuse to publicize the name or names of the person, persons, or group, who are the alleged perpetrators.

Mental health professionals. Church leaders. The intelligence community. The authorities.

They can know. They can do their best to understand, to bring healing, to bring justice, to prevent a reoccurrence.

The rest of us do not need to know the name(s).

We do not need to feed like carrion crows at the carcass of another senseless act of violence.

We do not need to know every bloody detail.

We do not need to be driven like cattle into a constant state of fear.

And we do not need to know the perpetrator(s) name(s).

Let them remain nameless.

And in the emptiness perhaps will be the growing seed of lasting peace.

Posted in Prayers and the Sacred

Bottles of Tears

perhaps it seems that
they are wasted
this sad rain
that has fallen
from the gray clouds
of your eyes

but know this
child of heaven
each precious drop
has been captured
held close to the heart
of the One who has
cried with you

and on that day
when every tear
is wiped away
and joy is a
forever thing
these vessels
will be emptied
into that glorious
golden stream
that is for the
healing of the
nations

Posted in Peace News

Peace on Earth – Rumors of Peace in the News

If one reads the news, it seems the world is only filled with violence and conflict. But though it rarely makes the front page, peace is breaking through in large and small ways. Here are the rumors of peace for this week:

‘Global clarion call’ for youth to shape efforts to forge peace in the most dangerous combat zones

Then Sadat said: ‘No one believed that I truly sought peace’

Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb sign a “Declaration of Peace”

Teatime for Peace brews understanding with Muslim community: ‘It’s so easy for your mind to believe the lies’

Young Scientists Mobilize for peace

Peace by Chocolate

Posted in Peace Quotes

Beware Of Turning Into The Enemy You Most Fear

(torn from the side of a paper cup)

Beware of turning into the enemy you most fear.
All it takes is to lash out violently at someone who
has done you grievous harm, proclaiming that only
your pain matters in this world.

More than against that person’s body, you will then, at that moment, be committing a crime against your own imagination.

—-Ariel Dorfman (novelist, playwright, essayist)

Posted in Diary of a Man, Stories and Fiction

Weekly Serial Book 8 Chapter 5: Diary of a Man

(Author’s Note: Early on in my blogging, to honor the old pulp magazine serials, I began a weekly serial series of various of my stories. I have decided to repost those stories. Each Friday will feature a new chapter until a story ends. Then I will begin a new story. Enjoy!)

Chapter 1 – All Is Still

Chapter 2 – I Crawl

Chapter 3: I Weep

Chapter 4 – I Hear

Chapter 5 – We Sleep

June 7

Forgive me for these short entrees. I just don’t have the strength to write much anymore.We made it to the Tree today. We were right, it is alive. How, I don’t understand. Eveline has fallen into an exhausted sleep and so soon shall I.

June 8

Eveline died today.

I felt Life cease coursing through her hand, and I real­ize that soon I too must . . .

Written Sept. 12, 1985

Part of the Cold War Kid collection

Posted in Musings and Reflections, Peace Quotes

Concerning a Certain Broken Nursery Rhyme

We must, once and for all, categorically reject the incessant notion that this world’s brokeness (ie. Humpty Dumpty) can be fixed by violence and the forces of Empire (ie. all the King’s men et al).

Humpty Dumpty World Playlist