Friday, October 28, 2005

Twenty two years ago

Twenty-two years ago today, I woke before the sun came up. I dressed as though I were going to church; brown slacks, white shirt and tie, topped by a tweed sports coat with patches on the elbows. I brushed my teeth twice and put on extra coats of speed stick.

I went downstairs to find my brother and Greg, my other roommate, standing in the living room of the house we rented. They stood awkwardly around me in the strange, pre-dawn silence of that old house.

“Well, this is it, your life is over now.” Joked Greg.
“I filled the car with gas for you.” Said my brother. I was borrowing his car that day, since it was more dependable than my old VW bug, and I had some driving to do.

“You have everything you need?” my brother asked, almost in a parental voice.
“Yeah, I’m good. I’m just nervous.”
“You should be.” Greg joked again. “Seriously man, the Lord bless you.” And then he hugged me.

My brother hugged me too. And then, like in a dream, I was out the door and into my brother’s car, and driving the half-hour drive from Syracuse to Goshen, where I would pick up my Bride.

The sun was just peeking past the horizon when I arrived at Robbie’s sister’s house. All the lights were on, a stark contrast to the house I had just left. Laurie was standing with Robbie in the kitchen, both of them by the door. I saw her there through the window, her long brown hair cascading to her shoulders across that beautiful purple dress. Neither of them could see me standing at the window, but they knew I was coming, they’d seen the lights of the car as I pulled in. “Mrs. Rob Woodrum.” I said in a whisper as I watched her. I stepped to the door and rapped it lightly.

No answer. They were talking and couldn’t hear. I tapped louder. Finally, Laurie cocked her head and turned toward the door. She opened it and said in an uncomfortably loud voice “Here comes the groom!” I smiled and shifted my weight, looking hopefully at Robbie.

She grabbed her lonely suitcase, and I took it from her hand. Laurie held her in a tight embrace, whispering “My little sister” in her ear. With tears and noise, we walked to my brother’s 1979 Toyota wagon, and I put her suitcase in the back.

I don’t think we said anything. In my memory of it, we drove out of my sister-in-law’s driveway, into the sunrise toward Ohio where a Judge would perform our private ceremony. Quiet, nervous, and unsure, we started our journey together.

Twenty-two years ago today, but it seems like just a moment, and forever, all at once.
I love you Robbie. Happy Anniversary.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I'm having a real crisis...

"What's this?"
"Hey, I like candy...what kind of candy is it?"
"It's Jesus Brand® candy!"
"It looks almost like a Snickers bar, doesn't it?"
"Sort of...in fact, it's just as good as a Snickers bar...but really it's better, because it's good for you, and safe!"
"Well, in that case, I think I'll give it a try!"
"Good going! Now you're thinking right, you're in for the candy experience of your life, it's the best tasting candy out there, people just don't know what they're missing when they don't try Jesus Brand® candy!"
"*munch* *munch*....uh...this is chocolate isn't it? It tastes kinda' bland."
"It's Karob...much better for you than chocolate...isn't it great?"
"uh....not really, it's kinda' mealy and wierd."
"You're just not tasting it right. It's way better than a Snickers bar, you just have to realize that it is!"
"The peanuts in this thing are orange?"
"They're not peanuts, they're carrots...much better for you. Aren't they great?"
"This thing is awful! What kind of caramel is in this thing?"
"It's pure corn syrup...easier to digest. Uh...what do you mean by awful?"
"I hate this candy...it sucks! This thing can't even compare to a Snickers bar! You tricked me!"
"Why you ungrateful little wretch! Here you've been given this great piece of candy and you complain about it, when it's the best candy around!"
"No it's not...how can you say that? Why do you think its so great?"
"You ask way too many questions! You are supposed to eat that candy and enjoy it more than any Snickers bar because its so much better....and it's SAFE!"
"You lied to me. You acted like this was the best thing around...and it tastes terrible. I don't care if it's good for me...I never want to see it again. You can keep your Jesus Brand® if you think it's so great...but I'm sticking with Snickers."

I'm done with the lies.
Following Jesus will never make you cool. It is the epitomy of NOT cool to be a Christian.
It's not a lot of fun.
It's painful and isolating at times.
The Word is bitter in your stomach.
If you thought it was candy like the world has candy...and if you thought that because of me, I'm sorry. It's not candy like the world's got. It's not candy at all.
Following Jesus gets confusing...and some of the answers don't make sense.
It's only for those who, somewhere deep inside, believe that this Jesus is food that can sustain them on this long journey out of here.

There are no Christian rock stars...it's an illusion.
There is no cool way to be stupid enough to believe God.
Christian movies are not safe.
The emperor has no clothes.

Seriously....I'm having a crisis.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


I am an artist.
I don’t claim to be good, only that I am one. I believe I would fit into someone’s category of a creative person. I don’t deny it. There is a creative surge that works me over almost every day. I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea of what it means to be bored. I’m never bored. Trapped in a shopping mall, waiting for my family is never as tedious as it may be for some; my mind is constantly swarmed with ideas that I revel in thinking through. My fingers unconsciously trace the outlines of people as they pass by; my thoughts formulate a story.
Sitting if front of the TV isn’t even as much of a distraction as it could be. As any show shuffles along, I’m on a constant vigil to examine a scene, either to imagine how I would paint it, or how the cameraman shot it, or how any given effect was achieved, or how I would write that particular piece of dialogue, and on and on.

I am an artist. And yet, my day gets swallowed up so quickly with “distractions” from the actuality of art. It’s nobodies fault, it’s just the way it is. For me, the actuality of art is that “Zen” experience that occurs during the manifestation of whatever you’re trying to create. There is no time in those places. Hours can go by unnoticed as I’m spreading paint around a canvas, or expressing my inner clamorings through the written word, or even inking a cartoon. I am lost to the “outer” world in those moments; I am submerged in what I create, with a singular desire to expose the vision that lurks inside me. Everything about my desire to create is wrapped around that experience.

And still, days fold into days and that urge is not fulfilled. There are always the mean necessities of real life that form a gauntlet that separates an artist from his art. I suppose that’s why the Bohemian sirens have always been influential with artists. Abandon all forms of responsibility and free yourself to follow your creative urge unfettered. Yet, even doing that, hunger has way of demanding our attention, and rubbing our noses in the necessities of life on a fallen planet. It’s as though there is some law at work, much like gravity or thermodynamics; a creator is separated from his creation the majority of the time.

As I paint a painting, or draw a comic strip, I have found that age has blurred my vision, and made my fingers tender. I have to stop more frequently than I used to, in order to shake out my joints and rub my aching eyes. I often will wander to the kitchen and interact with my family, but I can only do this for a short time because the ache to return to my creation is palpable.

I am an artist. I become one with my creations, yet I constantly feel a separation from them which fills me with some strange, ineffable longing. I long to have that time to manifest something of myself through something I create. This brings a joy that is not expressed through words.

I am made in the image of God.