22 December 2014

He Rules the World

As we finished singing "Joy to the World," my wife pulled over so we could gawk at the strands of Christmas lights wrapped around literally every inch of every tree in this poor soul's yard.

"Their electric bill must be ghastly," I muttered.

"How can a baby do that?" My four-year-old asked from the back seat.

"It was probably a mom or a dad who  put these lights up, son," I replied.

"No," he said. "I mean how can a baby rule the world?"

"That's a really good question," I said.

We don't watch TV in our house, but if we did, it would be an even better question. Today, yet another grand jury declined to indict a white police officer for gunning down an unarmed black man. I think that makes either three or four since September.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a black protestor shot two white NYPD officers in what he called "retaliation" before turning the weapon on himself.

In Pakistan last week, hundreds of school children were murdered by members of Al Qaeda. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State continues beheading or displacing all who stand in their way.

Meanwhile, here in Topeka, a bipolar man was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping, raping, and murdering an eight-year-old girl from the projects. And every weekend, the world's most famous independent Baptist church continues picketing all over town with signs that scream, "GOD HATES FAGS!"

We are full of violence, hatred, lust, selfishness, and the very worst sorts of decay. And that's on a good day.

"This song isn't about Jesus coming as a baby," I continued. "It's about how he will take our broken world and make it new. He will redeem it and restore it to what it should have been all along. It will be changed, and we will be changed."

"How will he do that, dad?"

"I'm not real sure, son. I just believe he will because he said he would."

"Ok." He sounded like he was much more confident of my answer than I was. "Can we sing it again?"

We did. And even though I had some trouble with the third verse, I forced myself to sing it all the louder:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground!
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

11 December 2014

Game Rules: Bazaar (Discovery Toys, 1987)

Here are game rules for Sid Sackson's Bazaar. This is the 1987 Discovery Toys edition.

I looked all over and couldn't find them. So, here you go, Internet.



03 December 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 21: southwest

i drove southwest

away from home
through the night
across kansas prairies
over gravel roads
on cracked asphalt
dodging panhandle jackrabbits
as morning broke
under texas skies
stopping in tucumcari
low on fuel
sipping iced coffee
halfway to arizona
needing a restroom
past screaming billboards
through oldtown albuquerque
along route 66
eating chile verde
buying handmade tortillas
through window rock
into the sunset
onto the rez
over sandstone roads
past littered fencelines
by the windmill
down the mesa
through the gates
past the well

to my home.




30 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 20: I'll Never

I'll never deserve your love,
And I'm glad I won't.
How insufferable would that be?

"Well, yes, thanks for that kiss.
I really do think, though,
That my greatness merits another."

"A present? For me? How sweet!
But I'm not sure why the dollar value
Isn't substantially higher."

"You'll stay with me till you die?
Of course you will.
Why on earth wouldn't you?"

I'm much happier this way,
Where every caress, every gift,
Every promise is an act of grace.

NoPAD Chapbook 19: Excuses

She was asking for it,
It doesn't apply to me,
This isn't my normal job,
The train was running late,
I was holding it for a friend,
A little one wouldn't hurt,
You don't know my life,
Everyone does this kind of thing,
That's not what I meant,
I've had a hard day,
And I deserve this.

NoPAD Chapbook 18: Sweet and Sour

Complementarianism looks like
Bleary eyes before sunrise,
Crowding food-encrusted plates
Into an ancient dishwasher,
Your hands like prunes
From scrubbing yellow babymess
Out of faded sleepers,
Sweeping scraps of food
From under every chair,
Scrubbing every surface
To a hard-earned gleam,
Boiling your own laundry soap
From Ivory and borax
And Arm and Hammer washing soda,
Folding clothes you don't own,
And tucking in your wife at night.
Complementarianism looks this way
Because it demands
A husband's sacrificial love.
As Christ loves His bride,
As the Father loves His Son,
So you must love
The warm and yielding woman
Who shares your bed each night.

28 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 17: Afflicted

Despised, rejected, a man
Of constant sorrow,
Acquainted with grief.

How can this unafflicted life,
Bare of reviling,
Free of mockery,

Carefully calculated
To avoid discomfort,
Arrayed in respectability,

Be that same life
Of pain and humiliation,
Of service to vicious enemies?

NoPAD Chapbook 16: Explanation

He meets me at the door
Deflated like the balloon he holds.
Tears well in his eyes as he asks,
"Daddy, do they make balloons
That never pop?"

I ache for his ache as I answer,
"No, son, they don't."
I try to convey life's brevity,
The tragedy of entropy,
The ineffable longing
We all must somehow contain
For a better country than this,

But all he knows in the end
Is this insurmountable sorrow
That no mere explanation
Could ever alloy.

27 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 15: Holy

holy cow,
holy crap,
holy hell --

our "holy"
signifies
set apart

for surprise,
for despair,
for profanity.

no word is
left for us
to describe

our awe-filled
brushes with
the divine.

21 November 2014

Chubble, Chubble, Chubble: An Erasure Poem

Response to WD Poetic Form Challenge: Erasure Poem 

Chubble, Chubble, Chubble <3

I don’t mean this to be offensive but
man this song
She almost went off key
She’s actually pitchy at places
asians are hot …
for GOD’S sake …STOP IT!!!!
WHI FREAKING CARES
IF SHE USES AUTO TUN
there’s no reason to call it
something bad or unproffesional
IT NOT THR END OF THE WORL
even if they r wrong unlike u
Wtf is wrong with you
insulting other people in youtube comments
it bothers me more than it could ever
how many guys have she dated, OKAY?
learn something!!!
I am sure you are Thai..
the good thing about the lady
( defiantly not the worst
The only thing she’s good at
” This is a new york treble”
I got one and I was like
You do not know
This erasure poem was based on comments at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh4RMEaCME4

17 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 14: Following

His face is grubby,
His hands clutch
A precious teething ring,
He looks up to everyone
With a hopeful smile.

He crawls across the rug
Viciously, digging toes deep,
Pumping chubby thighs,
Expending his all to reach
The elusive goal.

On hardwood floors,
He's even faster,
Skimming along on his belly
Adding his milky saliva
To the wood's shiny patina.

His fuzzy head bobs along
As he traverses the floor.
Finally he halts, having
Caught up at last
With his big brothers.

His joy is short-lived;
The older boys
Have lost interest in these toys
And head out to the living room,
Leaving him to follow.

16 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 13: Optional

A 40-foot waterfall
In an Ecuadorian rain forest
Seems like a great thing
To climb, explore, conquer.
The thing is
That in Ecuador,
You conquer
At your own risk
And handrails are optional.
If you want to keep
Your ankle-bones intact,
Caution is not.

15 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 12: Things Unseen

--------------------------
With grace and humility
I execute my sacerdotal duties,
Standing continually before an altar
Of CPU and RAM, of OSes and APIs,
Committing code with fear and trembling,
Casting out defects, embracing enhancements.
---------------------------------------------------------------

12 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 11: Timely / Timeless

"Be sure your sin
Will find you out,"
My mother said, her fist
Full of butterscotch wrappers.
I didn't have to be told
What came next;
I trudged, knife in hand,
Out the door,
Through the yard,
Toward the barren mulberry tree
To cut the green switch
That would hurt her
More than it hurt me.

Bill Cosby's PR firm
Thought it would be cute
To release a Cosby Meme engine.
"Go ahead. Meme me!"
@BillCosby tweeted,
With examples like
"Happy Monday!"
And  "Vegetables? Yuck!"
What he got instead
Were "14 Allegations of Rape?!
Zipzopzuppitybop!"
And "My 2 Favorite Things:
Jello Pudding and Rape!"
As the PR firm scrambled
To take it all offline,
I heard my mother's voice:
"Be sure your sin
Will find you out."


11 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 10: Car Trouble

the trouble with my car
is that it goes too fast
for me to gaze at the moon
behind her translucent cloak
of shimmering clouds.

the trouble with my car
is that it is enclosed
so i can't feel the west wind
blowing winter into Kansas
or feel the drifting snowflakes.

the trouble with my car
is that its radio works,
making it impossible
for me to hear the coyotes
lamenting autumn's death.

10 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 9: News Poem

In Berlin, 25 years ago today,
The Wall came tumbling down.
Checkpoint Charlie was suddenly irrelevant,
The Palace of Tears obsolete.
A generation's languishing socialist hopes perished
As the next generation's democratic hopes were birthed.

I had just turned eight.
I didn't understand the frenzy,
And I didn't like their mohawks.
I just wanted to get back to my rerun
Of "Alvin and the Chipmunks,"
But even there, I couldn't escape
The anthem: "Let the Wall Come Down."

(True story: http://www.vox.com/2014/11/10/7187211/alvin-chipmunks-berlin-wall )

NoPAD Chapbook 8: Blind

When you can't trust your own eyes,
Who can youtrust?
WHEN you're typing, for example,
Are the keys still where you remembderd them,
or are you making subtle mistakes?

When you're blind,
you have to learn to trust
whether you like it or not.
Maybe that's why it's so dangeroius
to pretend
to see

NoPAD Chapbook 7: Compulsion

She can't help but blush
At the brush of his lips.
Her rosy cheeks belie
The mock severity
Of her coy nightly flight
From his burning touch.
His caress warms her;
They continue their
Intricate, intimate dance,
Unending cycle
Of pursuit and retreat,
Of cooling and heat,
Of his glorious gaze,
Her desire to yield
To that passionate embrace,
To the rush of heat that comes
With every new day's dawn,
With every fresh sunrise.

06 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 6: Happy Now

i remember the weight
of a dozen cinder blocks
on my chest,
the struggle to rise,
the bloody abrasions,
my lungs beginning to collapse.

i remember the miry pit,
swamp-muck sucking
me deeper with every twitch,
with every effort to escape:
now to my chin,
now in my nostrils.

i remember the frenzy
of ravenous sharks,
rough teeth ripping into arms
and legs, tearing chunks
of bleeding flesh
from my torso.

i remember that job:
like sisyphus pushing his rock,
stranger to my wife and precious sons,
before dawn and long after dusk.

but now i arrive at 8 and leave at 4:30
every. single. blessed. day.

05 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 5: Keep This Dream Dead

Last night, I dreamed
Of independence.
I traveled through Scotland alone:
No diapers,
No schedule,
No complications.

I met a mysterious woman,
An Israeli divorcee
Looking for something uncomplicated:
No strings,
No frills,
No commitment.

But the Highlands are bleak
This time of year,
And the divorcee was hollow:
No truth,
No intimacy,
No connection.

I was glad when I woke
To the warm welcome of your embrace
And descended from empty clouds:
Back to love,
Back to sacrifice,
Back to solid ground.

04 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 4: Supermen

We love Superman because
He doesn't have our human frailty.
Trains? He outruns 'em.
Bullets? They bounce off him.
Lasers? Shoots 'em out of his freakin' eyes.

And if that's not enough,
So long as he doesn't hit
The ol' Kryptonite too hard,
He's pretty much immortal.
The guy's got it made in the shade.

I guess our love for him, is more, though,
Than mere Freudian Super-envy.
Somehow, this ultimate being,
This perfect specimen of human(oid)ity
Is also the nicest guy you'd care to meet.

What if his Super-Space-Crib had landed on Manhattan
Instead of in Smallville?
Would he be a Wall Street tycoon by day?
Would he even bother hiding his true Self
If he weren't infused with Midwestern humility?

What if he'd been adopted by John Gotti
Instead of Jonathan Kent?
Would we envy him any less
If he ended up a Super-Wiseguy
Doing the will of his Godfather?

What if he'd been born with no powers at all
Into poverty and ignominy,
His virtue his only weapon,
His wild-eyed, locust-munching cousin
His biggest fan?

03 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 3: Blanket

A fabric store is overwhelming
Even to a love-intoxicated boy.
It smells like factory-fresh cloth
And cloying potpourri.

The walls are neatly lined
With gleaming shears and razor-edged scissors,
Like some kindly old grandmother's
Basement torture-room.

Dozens of aisles are jammed tight
With bright, fancifully printed bolts of fabric,
Enough to clothe an army
(If that army doesn't mind bright, fanciful prints).

The fleece was in the back corner,
Near the buttons and zippers.
My eyebrows bounced up at the pricetag,
And I reconsidered this gift.

But love overcomes all objections,
Even those of a bank account on life-support,
So I took a breath and hesitantly chose
Two lengths of soft, expensive cloth.

We laid them out in the living room,
My maternal accomplice and I,
And smoothed out every last ripple.
Then, we bared our blades and began to cut.

Careful slices, an inch and a half apart,
Wound around the fleece-pieces.
Then we lined them up and tied a score of knots
To bind the counterparts together.

There it was, in all its garish glory:
Purple on one side, heart-spangled on the other,
The sort of blanket you'd expect
A clumsy boy to give his girlfriend.

I studied it with a critical eye.
At least the knots were tight.
"You think she'll like it?" I asked.
"I'm sure she will," my accomplice replied.

And, wonder of wonders, she did -- and does.
She's cherished that silly blanket for more than a decade now,
Only a little less time than she's held
My ridiculous, little-boy heart.

02 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 2: Together Again

The sun seeks Pacific rest
Beyond Olympic pines.
We sit beside a glacial lake
With a cooler full of microbrews
And a relentless, ravenous silence.

Do you remember Bible camp?
We rose before the sun; we huddled
Beneath a tattered sleeping bag,
Reciting Psalms in Spanish,
Whispering petitions for the day ahead.

Do you remember July chess games
In the air-conditioned chapel,
Scraping paint in the swimming pool,
Lazy laundromat Saturdays,
Baring souls and sharing poems?

Do you remember the bread and the wine,
The stifling heat of the church balcony,
The crucifixion reenactments,
The late nights obsessing over crushes
And sin and righteousness and judgement?

We needed each other, then,
More than we ever admitted,
But on this bobbing dock, all we share
Are these cold beers
And this all-consuming silence.

01 November 2014

NoPAD Chapbook 1: Game Over

The bishop that was "free" was bait --
I see that now, remorsefully,
With sudden insight far too late.

We dance around the battle-grid
For form's sake, knowing perfectly
Our moves have been delimited.

My frantic, panicked king now flees,
Now smites his foemen viciously,
Grasps for opportunities.

Too soon, two rooks will finish up,
But I've been dying inexorably
Since I took that blasted bishop.

22 October 2014

Our Foundation

We moved in, unsuspecting:
Proud husband, radiant bride,
1950s ranch with finished basement,
The American Dream incarnate.

Our first summer, it leaked a little,
And we played in the dirt around the siding,
Hoping to shore it up
Against the autumn rains ahead.

One October night, the sky burst overhead.
In the morning, we visited the ruins:
Soggy books, muddy carpet, ruined furniture,
The detritus of misplaced confidence.

10 October 2014

Benedictus Sudorus (Sweaty Blessings)

We sing praise for treadmills,
For sweat-musk and fresh towels,
For supple sinews and solid bones,
For flexing cords of muscle,
For T-shirts redolent of last night's
Herbed chicken and sundrop cake.

We sing praise for rising blood,
For our sacred inner rhythm,
For easy-breathing lungs,
For sweat pooling on bald heads,
For the mysterious machinations
That keep us warm and spirit-filled.

We sing praise for clumsy joggers,
For bellies jiggling with each step,
For sudden, violent, wind-breakings,
For horrified stares from treadmill-neighbors,
For all the things that make us smile
Throughout our holy, wholly holey lives.

14 September 2014

On Living for God

What does it mean to live my life for God?

First, it means to recognize that my life is not my own. My job, my family, my secret hopes, my dreams, my goals, my plans, my free time, my intellect -- in short, everything I have any influence over -- belong to God, not to me.

Second, it means to seek what God wants for my life. I must spend time immersed in His word, the instrument of His revealed truth. In the word, I must seek a mind changed from carnality, darkness, and worldliness to spirituality, light, and godliness. In the word, I must allow my mind to be transformed and renewed, utterly remade into His image. I must think as He thinks, love what He loves, and value what He values.

Third, it means to step out and obey God. Since my life is not my own and I know what God wants from me, I must respond in obedience. I do this not in my own power, but in Christ's power that quickens me. My will is involved in obedience, but success in this endeavor doesn't depend on my will. Rather, God sees my desire to follow and supplies my deficiency with His all-sufficient provision.

Finally, it means to leave things in His hands. He is the one who has redeemed me from the grave. He is the one who has revealed His perfect will for my life. He is the one who supplies the ability to follow. My job is to obey, to do as much as He calls me to do, and then to trust that He is in charge of the results.

10 September 2014

StoryFormed.com: Join the Launch Party!

You know what is amazing? This new website by Sarah Clarkson!

Here's an excerpt from the site's About page:
 I’m here to celebrate, and defend, the soul-forming power of imagination, story, and beauty to form children to love what is right, hunger for what is good, and grasp what is true. To read a great story might just be to start living one too.
A noble goal, and one I can get 100% behind.

With a launch party featuring several giveaways, this is a great time to Check it out!

06 August 2014

Pixels

Digital chameleons,
Magnetic artifacts:
Red, Green, Blue.
(Sometimes Alpha, too.)

World-imitators,
Configurable mirrors,
Deep, dark wells
Of verisimilitude.

These shiny new gods
Demand no expiation.
Their yoke is virtual;
Their burden is Light.

22 July 2014

Wages

The earth groans with inexorable pain:
Rape and murder, robbery and warfare,
Typhoons, tornadoes, and earthquakes,
Abandoned children and miscarried ones.

Our hunger remains despite our gluttony:
Hunger for justice and peace,
For joy and comfort
In a senseless, brutal world.

How long will this continue under the sun?
How long until our tears are dried,
And the clouds are rolled back as a scroll,
And Adam's old paycheck runs out at last?

05 June 2014

Grace in Summer Rain

Sometimes heaven's blessing comes with lightning:
Welcome water drenching thirsty earth,
Slow, fat raindrops plopping into puddles,
Deafening cracks of thunder rolling over.

Howling storms that rip homes into shreds
Lavish life's essence upon a sun-parched world.
I think this must be how God's grace unfolds:
Commingled with reminders of just-avoided wrath.

25 April 2014

Short, Sweet, Perfect.

Here's a fantastic anecdote, told artfully by one of my favorite story-tellers, Jonathan Rogers.

The Rabbit Room — Ball:

I smiled and cried, but you might not.

08 April 2014

My Block

This prose poem was inspired by NPR's Morning Edition

My childhood block was a grid of gravel roads running through a newborn subdivision just outside of town. Red-tailed hawks and wide-eyed deer watched us bike down those dusty roads on long, hot summer afternoons. Crashes were painful. Decades later, I still smell the rusty tang of blood-soaked dust, feel the bite of antiseptic on raw palms, and taste the tart, sweet comfort of cold lemonade.

04 April 2014

Winter's Last Chance

An icy north wind,
Blowing with desperation:
Winter's dying breath.

03 April 2014

Rainy Day

Raindrops soak dry ground,
Forming life-giving puddles:
New hope from dark clouds.

31 March 2014

Spring!

Birds sing fearlessly;
Green shoots burst forth from charred earth;
Dauntless Spring arrives.

14 March 2014

Prayer of a Weak Man

Save me, O Lord, from my odious pride,
From the fleshly lusts that encircle me,
From the evils of false piety and resigned apathy.

I need Your strength, for I cannot stand,
Your grace, for I wander astray,
Your life, for the stench of death overwhelms me.

May my mind be fixed on the stuff of heaven,
My heart on Your grace and truth,
My will on building Your earthly domain.

Amen.

13 March 2014

Adventures in Hagiography

Hagiographers build the saint's life
Even as they kill the man behind it
Deader than a sinless doornail.

They lose his doubt and fear and foibles,
His bad temper and worse choices,
His lonely nights of dark despair.

They know their audience, to be sure:
Masses eager for a blameless hero,
But one less offensive than Jesus Himself.

In the baby lisping Ave Maria and Pater Noster,
We see Christ as we would like Him to be,
Rather than the bruised, bloody bondslave He was.

12 March 2014

Storm

He calls; I step with all my might
Onto the water, treading carefully,
And promptly sink beneath the foaming waves.
Someone has gone badly off-script.

I was promised an easy yoke, a light burden,
Peace amidst violent storms,
So why is an ad-libbed half-ton weight
Dragging me relentlessly downward?

11 March 2014

Dry

Like a rainstick-wielding Aztec,
I wave Scripture over a parched soul,
Praying for divine favor:
Heaven-sent rain on a thirsty land.

In the distance: A cloud,
No bigger than a man's hand,
But it soon blows out of sight.
I'm no Elijah, and this is no Mt. Carmel.

10 March 2014

Faith in March

Aviary conversations
Welcome dayspring's bright returning.
Hints of winter's lengthy reign are
Still in evidence: The wind blows,
Chilly, from the northern wastelands;
Sheets of ice adorn the lake-coves.
Nonetheless, sweet Spring approaches:
Unobtrusive, root-deep stirrings;
Cheerful birdsong, evidence of
Things unseen but long expected.

07 March 2014

A Better 5-Minute Timer (Requires PowerPoint)

Over the life of this blog, few posts have been more popular than Need a 5-Minute Countdown Timer? Look No Further!

That post links to an animated .gif I made a long time ago, when I was a lot more tolerant of mind-numbing procedures. As I have gotten more automation-minded, I have learned better methods of doing things, and making timers is no exception.

With some guidance from the folks at PPTAlchemy, I have created this macro-enabled PowerPoint presentation. Simply follow these steps, and you'll be cooking up a fresh 5-minute timer in no time! And unlike the previous timer, this approach allows you to customize the color, the font, and even the duration of the timer.

Instructions:

  1. Make sure that you have Microsoft PowerPoint and that macros are enabled. If you aren't sure how to enable macros, go here.
  2. Open the file in PowerPoint.
  3. Change the slide design as desired.
  4. Select the text field.
  5. Run the macro called "Timerize". For more on how to run a macro, look here.
  6. Save the file as a PowerPoint presentation (if you do "Save As" instead of "Save", then you can use this file as a template for future presentations as well.
  7. Run the slideshow on the new file to be sure it displays OK. (It may take a while to start, depending on your machine's speed - each tick of the timer is an individual image that is being displayed, and it takes a while to initialize all of those.)
Additional Notes: 
  • Be sure that the text field has as many characters as you will want to display. (e.g., for a 5:00 timer, it should have 4. For a 10:00 timer, it should have 5. For a 1:00:00 timer, it should have 7.)
  • Be sure to select the entire text field you want to turn into a timer. If you don't do this, the macro won't run correctly. 
  • You can modify the macro to update the duration of the timer, as well as how long between "ticks" and a number of other variables. Refer to the PPTAlchemy article for more information on this.
  • Feel free to post any other tips in the comments below. 

Lenten Sonnet

The days wax long, which, I am told, is why
The ancients called this season Lententide:
When folk of many stations, low and high,
See harbingers of Spring on every side.

The Sun, with never-stinting zeal, now shines
Where Winter lately blew her icy breath;
His rays revive the frigid earth, as wines
Draw men, half-frozen, from the brink of death.

Cold hearts, turn once again toward that Sun
Whose beams enlighten all our cold, dark land,
Whose death and rising satisfied the One
Who lit the firmament with his own hand.

Embracing those least worthy as His own,
He thaws our hearts and warms us to the bone.

05 March 2014

Ash Wednesday

Dead, winter-ravished Earth
Begins to thaw at last.
Sun's life-giving lips
Brush her icy cheek,
Bring her forth from the grave.

Twelve cheery robins
Congregate, famished,
In my barren front yard.
They peck at the promise
Of life within dead grass.

A distant crow croaks
His harsh message
From the western hills:
"Repent! For the Kingdom
Of Heaven is at hand."

28 February 2014

The Unknown

The unknown is a wolf:
Tongue lolling,
Tail bristling,
Teeth gleaming.

Children, intuitive,
Can see the danger,
Cowering under safe, familiar
Covers at night.

Adults, conversely,
Are complacent.
"All's well," the sentry says,
As the wolf leaps at his throat.