Thursday, January 27, 2011


I don't say her name enough, I know that. (Delia) On days like today, though, her name runs through my head on a constant loop and it's all I can do to not break down in front of the customers. (Delia) And sometimes, at night, I can see the shadow of her picture on the shelf and I know she'll always be the daughter I didn't get to have. (Delia)

I can write songs about her, but I haven't figured out how to write songs for her. My very good friend did, though, and I'll forever be in his debt for the following line from his song, "Delia":
"Delia, You won't be forgotten."

She lives on in the most unlikely of places, as well:  "Long Time Gone," a Dixie Chicks song from 2002, where the songwriter says
"Delia plays that old church piano/Sitting out on her daddy's farm."
Yeah...yeah, that's her.

Friday, December 10, 2010


It's late and I'm dressed like a hobo, trying to stay warm against the creeping cold. I dropped the furnace an hour ago, expecting to head to bed, but I finished a book and a thought popped into my head--both things that act like an electric jolt and keep slumber at bay.

I watched "Kick Ass" this week. It's not a great movie--mostly good popcorn fun peppered with buckets of gratuitous violence. There's a scene early in the movie, though, where the protagonist is subjected to an act of petty crime--he looks up and sees a man watching from his window, a man who closes his blinds against the attack and retreats into the comfort of his home, leaving the victim to sort it out for himself.

I couldn't help but identify with the kid in that scene.

This has been a hard year for my little family. We lost one of us, one who was to be and then, without warning, wasn't. It was swift, sudden, and it hurt like hell--still does, in fact. We were victims of cruel fate, and this blog is dedicated to me convincing myself that it was a random act of violence rather than something that one who claims to be love let happen.

We lost some friends. They called us "bitter," closed their blinds against us, and retreated into the comfort of their own home--in this case, their "home" was a religious community that encouraged their congregants to cut loose acquaintances that were "negative" or "bitter" in order to better foster their own spiritual selves. And I'm sure their daily lives are actually much more comfortable without having to see us out their window, lying in the street in a pool of blood. But, you know, an email would have been nice.

This month, I watched another friend--a man who did not close his blinds against us, who ignored my half-hearted request to leave us alone in our time of pain, who called morticians for us, spoke at the funeral, and hurt so damn bad with us--tell me that he, a pastor, had decided to close his church because there wasn't enough money to keep it going. This was the last church I attended, will probably ever attend, and my history with that community stretches back ten years. But this was the year my friend stood up and told the people that the church's sole purpose from that point on was to take care of the poor--not to be "fed," not to be a comfortable hangout place for friends to chat. This wasn't more than 12 months ago--and the sign will come down in 3 weeks.

I don't take care of the poor, and I really struggle with knowing how to be there for friends who are hurting. But, then, I don't believe that Jesus was God, and I don't profess to live a life dedicated to reflecting the virtues of God-become-man. (But I really do want to help the poor, and it kills me to see my friends hurt and I do what I can and try to do better the next time.)

I'm hearing from Christians more and more that the secret to spiritual fulfillment is to do what my former friends did--cut loose their bitter acquaintances and surround themselves with positive people who share their faith. And I'm sure it works great--I have a hard time picturing these people lying in bed at night, wringing their hands in torment over the loss of a messy friendship.

If it helps, then okay. Whatever. Carpe diem and all that, I hope you find the secret and all your wishes are manifested on your doorstep tomorrow morning. I just wish that this practice of rooting bitterness out of a person's life wasn't repeatedly couched in Christian ideology, because a bitter person is almost always a person experiencing a lot of pain. And while I don't believe the Bible is inerrant and the ultimate truth, I have read it a number of times and I don't remember the carpenter telling his followers to turn their backs on a person who was in need, in pain, or inconvenient.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


This is going to be weird.

Christmas, I mean. We successfully navigated Thanksgiving without succumbing to pressure to bow heads in a public prayer, even if our inner voices did mumble gratitude to the ethereal unknown.

But Christmas...yeesh, this is going to be weird.

First and foremost is the question that hovers over so many of our days: But what do we tell the children? When we watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and Linus starts quoting scripture, do we just go with the flow or explain to them that Charles Schulz abandoned Christianity late in life, identifying himself as a "secular humanist," which is also a term you could pin on mommy and daddy? Should we do like our pagan friends and go to extreme effort to create distinctions between what we're celebrating (they choose Yule)? In the end, I guess, Christmas is a secular holiday unless you know better, so we're probably safe just making sure the kids don't know better.

But we know better, their mom and I. For me, Christmas has always been drowned in religion, from the church Christmas programs that my own mother sunk countless hours into, sitting on an organ bench for choir and orchestra practices, to the "pray in the new year" services that we attended every New Year's Eve. And, in recent years, my little family and I were involved in a faith-based community that did beautiful, candlelit Christmas worship services.

When you're looking for meaning in the holidays, eschewing religious overtones but unwilling to fully embrace the rampant consumerism that (anymore) starts the day after Halloween, the notion of "family" really steps to center stage. That's something that those living Christmas tree programs at the Baptist church robbed my family of when I was a kid--my mom was gone for much of the holiday season, practicing organ parts while my dad, sister, and I sat at home eating casserole and watching "Hart to Hart."

So I guess we'll get by just fine, so long as we keep drinking eggnog with the kids and waking them up to watch Christmas specials under a big comforter with us.

I'm on a bit of a bittersweet nostalgia jag right now, though, and the holidays certainly intensify that. I've been remembering my grandparents--the way my grandma, a jolly, white-haired widow from Eastern Kentucky, would greet us with "How do?" when we walked into her house for the Wilson Christmas; how my maternal family Christmases would find a roomful of cousins, aunts, uncles, and various strangers singing hymns and Christmas carols to the accompaniment of piano, guitar, dulcimers (both the slide kind that's not really a dulcimer and the large hammer dulcimer that most definitely is), and, in later years, my uncle's upright bass. It wasn't perfect, and I've learned just how very imperfect it all was in the years since I've been old enough to add alcohol to my personal holiday traditions, but it was nice and it's a shame it all went to hell before my kids were able to experience it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grant me this...

I'm still here. This blog will, one day soon, host my rambling, incoherent thoughts. As cliche as it sounds, I've just been busy...with kids and work and feeding the dog, yes, but also with living the things I'd been writing, learning what it meant to unlearn so much. I have things to say, and you'll be able to read them if you want. I just need a few days or weeks or whatever to get something together.

Thanks, ya'll.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I can talk all day about my religious upbringing, my unwilling indoctrination in the Christian faith. I understand that my involvement at church, my Christian education, and my extended family's heavily religious influence all predispose me to a kind of "God burnout," but I've been burnt out on God and church for many years and still never lost my faith in what I perceived to be a greater reality. Up until a few months ago, I still tried to pray every day and, anytime my back was to the wall, my eyes went upward to beseech God for help.

What put me off of God was the personal realization that two cornerstone, Biblical descriptions of God are incompatible. I've been overlooking bothersome and paradoxical scripture for many years, became comfortable with adopting a laissez-faire attitude that was necessary for me to be able to sustain an anemic faith in the words of a book that didn't make a lick of sense. 

I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine the other day about his experience deconverting from Christianity and he said something that's really stuck with me: He said that the first step for him was realizing that God was not good.  

"Goodness" isn't really a term that needs defining--we instinctively know what's "good." We use the term every day, from wishing people to have a "good day" to referring to an acquaintance with the reassuring term "good dude." When I die, somebody will undoubtedly sum up my existence by saying, "He was a good man," despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If I killed 2,476,633 people, would you--could you--call me good? Is there a "greater good" that could justify this?

The Psalmist, like all the writers in the Bible, sure thought God was good. "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting,"  he says (Psalms 107:1). Elsewhere he says, "How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast stored up for those who fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for those who take refuge in Thee, before the sons of men!" (31:19). 

You can't really blame people for thinking this cosmic mass murderer was good, though, right? Because God himself constantly declares himself to be such, saying to Moses, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (Exodus 33:19).

So that's goodness. (Yeesh.)

The other cornerstone belief is of an omnipotent God, a belief that that God is all-powerful ("almighty" is the preferred Biblical term) and, unlike we fallen mortals, not bound by the laws of physics. He can make a body of water split down the middle to create a path; he can make bread and fish multiply by (I guess) mitosis and make boring water turn into AWESOME wine; he can make a virgin deliver a perfectly healthy little boy.  

So, tell me this--if God is good and God can do anything, why the fuck does everything suck so bad? I mean, really. God split the sea in two when the Israelites didn't have a boat, but he doesn't raise a hand to stop Hitler from slaughtering 6 million descendants of these boatless 4 million? He feeds 5 thousand people so that they don't have to stop gazing upon him in awe and go get dinner, but there are currently 49.1 million people living in food insecure households in the United States, one of the richest nations in the world. God chooses pregnancy as a means for the miraculous birth of his son, but my precious, innocent daughter was the 1 in 1,000 of babies that was born with a very specific fatal birth defect that robbed her of any chance of life.

A little bit of intervention isn't too much to ask, is it?

I've gone back and forth: God is good but not omnipotent, so there are things he wants to do but cannot and this breaks his good heart; or God is omnipotent but not good, so the plight of mid-century European Jews or modern-day Africans don't really concern him too much. But the Bible doesn't tell us to believe one or the other--we're told God is good, and God is Almighty. And I just have to throw up my hands and cry "bullshit," because, in failing to be both, he convinces me that he is neither...that he just plain isn't.