“Ascesis then is awakening from the sleepwalking of daily life. It enables The Word to clear the silt away in the depth of the soul, freeing the spring of living waters. The Word can restore to its original brightness the tarnished image of God in us, the silver coin that has rolled in the dust, but remains stamped with the king’s likeness (Luke  15: 8-10). It is the Word who acts, but we have to cooperate with him, not so much by exertion of willpower as by loving attentiveness” – Oliver Clement
It’s time to rise,

With strongest will,

And resolve to be,

Frenetically still.
We need not conjure,

Nor fabricate,

It takes the empty,

To house The Great. 



Facebook Trolling

“The definition of insanity is posting the same opinions over and over again on social media and expecting a different result.” -jh

There’s a better way through these choppy waters than the anonymous slacktivism which is social media.  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the grown-up (yet infantile) reincarnations of the Slam Books which were circulated at Fondren Middle School in the 80’s. In the crisp blue-lined 3-hole-punched kingdom, anything went; cloaked in anonymity, any hateful thought or demeaning comment one had, one felt free to let fly. 

The unspoken observations of the masses became clear to the unsuspecting individuals through this medium. The profuseless perspirers from gym and the innocent 7th grader who got blamed for slamming the science door on Mr. Bloxom’s pointer finger and de-digitizing him became aware of their sub-humanness this way.  We clothed ourselves in starched polos and ribbon belts but what terrible judgements lurked just beneath the surface. These took voice in the hidden world of slam books. 

I know it sounds incredulous now since we are all grown up but in Middle School we only wanted to surround ourselves with people exactly like us. Then again we were mired in insecurity and had not established our identities on anything other than who our parents were and how hot our boy / girlfriend was. We were so silly. The substance of our character was no where nearly as vital as which jeans we wore or how perfectly our wings could be swooped back with our enormous combs.

The king of the hill in middle school was the one with the sharpest come backs, ” Oooh, burn! ” would echo down the hall as we all clamored to hear the insult. And the offended? Usually  laughter followed by a wince of pain or a threat of retaliation. Public humiliation of others was a commodity and if one was gifted in that art, friends and fans followed. The most popular kids were the ones with the greatest gifts of verbal insult. 

But enough about the 7th grade, let’s talk about our country. I am so refreshed when I venture onto social media and see respectful dissent and peaceful disagreement about our nation. What matters most to us seems to be one another and not our iron-clad opinions which people either completely agree with or are idiots.  Nice that there is that lush grassland of humility where other’s differing opinions do not bring hatred like a virus which we may catch if our ears civilly listen to an entire thought which fails to match up with our own. 

Aren’t you so thankful when you consider how far we have come since middle school? 


#anti-social media 

Memorial for a Daughter 11 Years Later

Olinda is a mother, grandmother and spiritual giant. Like so often when humble people just keep moving in faith through brutal storms and arrive safely on the other side, one would never know the entirety of their struggle. That is where the power of story comes in. I love the map of hope which God reveals through the stories of other people. It awakens empathy for the individual but more than that a holy confidence in God. 

New Orleans was Olinda’s birthplace. She had few resources, many siblings, a parent with a quick temper and a neighbor who brought her to church. She grew up, worked, married and began a family. She kept the faith and instilled love for God and others to her children. One day, her adult son was tragically killed at an ATM machine in The Big Easy. A few years later her daughter died. Just days after losing her daughter, Hurricane Katrina wiped out her neighborhood. She lost everything. In the profound devastation of the flood, she never even had a memorial service for Arneker Denise. 

John interviewed Olinda and one Sunday played the video for our congregation. He is doing his Doctoral Thesis on the power of story within faith communities. That morning as The transplant’s account unfolded, the tears flowed. Not from the teller so much but rather from those of us hearing this for the first time. As if reading from a script, she recounted matter-of-factly the major events of her life. The compounded loss was just unthinkable to me. We remained quiet as the video came to completion. A holy hush of surreality descended upon the chapel. Against all odds and in the face of grief of Biblical proportion, Olinda still loved God. I was completely astounded. 

When The Spirit moves, amazing things happen. Ralph, an Elder in our church, was touched by Olinda’s story and approached John about having a long-awaited memorial service for Arneker Denise. What a brilliant idea. That service is happening tonight. This evening we honor someone most of us never knew who died more than a decade ago in a city at the opposite end of our state. We memorialize this child and stand amazed at her mother whose story has impacted us all. She is a flesh and bone example that God can enable a soul to enlarge when all circumstances would dictate it shrivel and disappear. That’s faith. That’s love. That’s one amazing story.

The Price You Pay

The price you pay for amazing light is your soul’s darkness when that light is gone. In a year or two or five when your grief quiets down you will hear your loved one’s voice and you will wonder how you were ever so blessed to have that light in your life. 


Seven Year Itch

Seven years ago today my family gathered around Maggie Lee’s bedside and John commended her spirit to The Lord. Test results concluded beyond a doubt that she was already gone. The beautiful, creative brain which produced hilarity and song lyrics showed no activity. We said our initial farewells, signed organ-donor consents  and updated thousands of faithful petitioners that we had not received our miracle. 

I remember so vividly our seventh anniversary in Dallas in 2001. The card John gave me as we ate dinner in some Irish restaurant on Knox Street had the words, “The only thing I’m itching for is more of you.” I know, I got a keeper. At that point seven years seemed a lifetime. 

Reflecting on those building years brings an ooze of blissful gratitutude; not only because we were all together but because those training-wheel trials of parental cancer readied our marriage and souls for the biggie which was to come. Silly me, I thought those were the biggies. Without such warm-up, though, I could have easily now be living out of a shopping cart with five dogs. Rather than four. 

Earthly life as the book of James reminds us is a vapor. A mist quickly fading.  A pan flash of 12 or 82 years. All comparatively nano-seconds to an eternal God. But even if it’s just a vapor, I long to have my vapor matter.  If we are mere vapes then may we vape well. I only want the power of God’s grace to make its way through me. I long for the everlasting to abide and energize me because time is indeed so short.

 The thought hit me as I taxied Jack and three of his squad home from Six Flags last week. The weather was stormy and there was lots of mist to drive through. Maybe it was the amalgamation of rain, perspiration and netflix in that cab but I swear it was a holy insight. I know life is short and I want my time to matter. I have found the bird’s eye view of connecting those in need to those who have a little extra to give intoxicating. Like setting up two friends who desperately need one another. 

To that end Khaki Fair will happen tomorrow. Maggie Lee’s Closet along with a slew of community partners will provide uniforms, education and books to some of NW Louisiana’s most vulnerable little people. Hair dressers and barbers on hand to spiff them up for their first day of school. 

Step Forward, a group which is combating root causes of our cities’ poverty has brought to our attention the 30 million word gap issue. Essentially kids who succeed in our schools have been exposed to 30 million more words by age three than those who will fail. 

Get this: the brain actually feeds on words as our kids bodies feed on food it turns out. The interaction between parent / guardian and child sets up kids for success or failure. Now that we’re aware of this, we can bring this information to parents seeking uniforms to equip them to change their lives while meeting the emergent need of clothing for those in crisis.

Maggie Lee’s brain and soul I shall never be able to duplicate or describe but I am inspired by her memorable spirit to nurture these beautiful kids in some small way. And in uniform form help them to know that immense, amazing love I have by God’s grace discovered. Which does not by the way make me a good detective. It’s everywhere.

Vape well.