Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Double-Edged Sword

Like many others, I have become a bit too skilled at multitasking. Technology, and the ongoing explosion of available information it has afforded, have assisted with this double-edged sword that achieves both efficiency and insufficient depth all in one swift arc. There are so many opportunities for learning, connection and interaction at my fingertips at all times in nearly all contexts, that is has become challenging to focus on any one thing at a given moment.

This dynamic dovetails with the observation that I also am naturally hard-wired to synthesize things and make connections across disciplines, subject matters and events. My Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment confirms this. The assessment calls this a talent...and I agree, but I also believe our talents or strengths can have a "shadow side" that gradually undermines us if not disciplined.

I am seeking to uncover the spiritual ailment tucked beneath the layers of what is ostensibly a side-effect of becoming proficient with the tools of multitasking. Efficiency and curiosity aside, what am I afraid I'm missing out on as I struggle to be fully present in any one given moment? The moment could be a business meeting, time with family, or even--perhaps especially--trying to pray or meditate.

Years ago, it seems it was easier to especially be still before God with my mind focused on surrendering to a single connection. These days, there is so much more competing for my attention--and not just the human beings right at hand in my home. There is an entire endless Web of social and professional networks, a bottomless well of ideas, information, content. Through my BlackBerry or one of my computers, I am a quick click away from allowing other stimuli to invade the moment and rob the moment of my undivided focus.

I do my best work when I am fully present. I write my deepest chapters. I have my best conversations. I offer the fullness of my love.

In those moments, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. So I wonder how much I am actually cheating myself when I allow my attention span to become a remote control? What am I missing out on by missing what Jean-Pierre de Caussade called "the sacrament of the present moment?"

With so much to absorb from so many angles, can the present moment--and the needs and persons who happen to occupy it--ever have a hope again of capturing my full engagement? It has some hope, but only if some significant surrender and re-training takes place in the midst of too much of a good thing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks

A recent series of articles found in Forbes magazine is one of the best expressions I have read of how faith and business can be fused together, with depth and integrity. They involve the account of an entrepreneur/writer who has spent some quality time with the monks at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, S.C. Read all four parts at:

I want to thank a friend from church here in Franklin, Tenn., named Stephen Brown, for sending me the link to these articles. I have passed it on to nearly a dozen people already, and wanted to share it here as well.

As you read, you will find the seven business "secrets" articulated with powerful examples that touch the heart and mind. The list includes:

1. Having a high, overarching mission worthy of being served
2. Selflessness
3. Commitment to excellence
4. Ruthless dedication to the highest ethical standards
5. Faith
6. Trust
7. Living the life

Read the articles to learn more! These pieces contain some very relevant insights for both the spiritual and the secular...and for those like myself who seek to break down the artificial walls between the two spheres.

Sensory Paralysis

The conversation was crucial, but I could barely hear the person who was speaking to me. I asked them several times to repeat what they were saying, but they only seemed to continue to whisper and to smile even. My own words were caught in my throat. As was often the case during a time of urgency in my dreams, my voice failed me.

Moments later, I found myself outside, seeking some destination. I was too lazy to avoid crawling through a large cob web full of tiny spiders, and paid the price by having the tiny threads strewn carelessly across my clothing. I was laying on the ground, and knew in my mind that I needed to get up and brush the spiders off. I kept telling myself to rise and brush. But I was unable to move. I could picture the movement; I just could not implement the movement.

A noise in my home awakened me, and then I moved. I reflected on the dream.

I wonder about my discernment and my voice these days. What are the things that I am neither hearing nor saying...and what are the movements forward that I should be taking, but am not due to my ambivalence?

There is a certain sensory paralysis afflicting a part of my life, my subconscious appears to be telling me. There could be entire conversations in which I am neither privy nor participating, but in some way should be. There are steps to take in some direction that remains ambiguous.

The humanity in me wants clarity. Mother Teresa once said she did not seek clarity, but trust. The spirituality in me wants to trust more. Even when I can barely hear, speak or move. Perhaps that is the best time to trust, in the midst of paralysis.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fragments in the Soil

My once-faithful chainsaw having become chain-less, I was left with the archaic instruments of shovel and hedge clippers. The shrubbery I intended to remove from the front yard stared at me in defiance, nature taunting man, and I realized I needed to rely on my heart (and my physical conditioning) more than my technology.

Perhaps it has always been that way.

My blood spiked with excitement each time I saw a root system beginning to surrender to the onslaught of my shovel. Sometimes a bare shoot exposed itself in the soil, and I would yank and pull and several feet would yield to me. Once the round, dirt-laden cluster of roots was at last in my hands I would hold it high over my head like the Stanley Cup, rotating it around hoping a neighbor might notice my valor.

A pile of yard waste grew larger and larger next to my driveway. So it went for two hours, until it was time for a cookout with neighbors and a margarita or two. A cool, early evening breeze soothed my aches.

The pile is a scattering of tree limbs, hedge branches, clumps of dirt and pieces of root. I know I could not possibly have captured every inch of the systems I so violently disrupted. Fragments were scattered upon the ground, and perhaps some are nestled deep within the soil. Even now, maybe, they are seeking ways to communicate with each other and reunite, hungry to fuse in outrage and rebel throughout the night against the human who has come to occupy their land.

Deep with the soil, the fragments rest unknown.

Across our lifetime we say goodbye to people, places and opportunities. Sometimes their loss feels like a tree or bush ripped from the ground, or as a parting best described as a slow withering away. The root systems are often victims as well, but I wonder about those fragments that remain within the soil...embedded beyond the light of day, shards staking out forgotten territory in our hearts and unconscious.

Perhaps because the fragments of the roots remain, the people, places and opportunities stay a part of us also. They make the soil richer, because nothing that has once been planted goes to waste if we grow wise. The wise continue to rely on their hearts more than their technology.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Finding a Size That Fits

I am at a Panera Bread, gentle classical music raining down on me. I have just finished Chapter 12 of my novel, with nine more to go in this first draft. In the preceding weeks I have come to terms that it will take much longer than I had anticipated for a final draft to emerge. But this is ok. It has to be. I will not settle for anything less than a work of art, self-torturer that I am.

And now...I am trying to be still and go slow and embrace the gift of time I have right at the moment, but finding it so hard. I sense that God wants to show me something right now, but I feel blind.

My BlackBerry is nearby. I have already glanced at my email a couple of times. Across town at T-Mobile, the game is going on. Metrics are being evaluated. The grind there never stops. It gets in your bloodstream, and it is hard to escape. The emails keep coming. I have to stop looking at them, at least for today and tomorrow. My finger almost involuntarily clicks on the space button in order to illuminate the screen, and it feels rather OCD. Maybe one day I will have the guts to leave this device that puts food on my table at home as I approach the table of contemplation.

I should have brought my iPod with me instead, to drown out some noise with the companion of my favorite songs from across my lifetime. I am finding that the snippets of multiple conversations cascading around me are somewhat getting on my nerves. A lot of minutia of the minutia, uttered by well-meaning, normal people. I have no right to judge them or be annoyed by their presence. I may need to scoot over to the library, but only after grabbing a chocolate croissant first. The problem is me, and my inability to quiet my heart and mind.

During the past few days, I have thought back to my time in seminary, in Wilmore, Kentucky, when life seemed far more innocent. I was aware of my brokenness but not fully conscious of my capacity for darkness. For hours at a time I would be still in prayer.

Across nearly a decade post-graduation now, I have been tested; all of the insights and wisdom and heartfelt touches have been tried by fire. There is far more noise, the price of more abundance. And at times I scarely know the younger man who journeyed to seminary and grew so much along the way, who emerged to seek to be a leader in the church, who was so hungry for God. I do not know how to go back and re-enter that wineskin, and I suppose I cannot and should not for the old has passed away. There is so much potential in the present.

Yet it it tough to become garbed in a new wineskin, to find a size that fits.

Spiritually, the structure and focus of seminary life gave me a sense of identity that accelerated my pursuit of the sacred. As an appointed pastor the first part of this decade, I had a grounded identity as well.

For nearly five-and-a-half years now, seving in the business world while writing and offering my spiritual gifts at churches from time to time, this identity has felt far more sketchy. It seems as though I slashing my way through endless rows of tall corn, making a new path that I sense is leading to something but without any final confirmations of what it might be. I would like to find a clearing in the field for just a few minutes, and lay there on the scratchy ground and be enveloped by the peaceful quiet I recall from visiting the heart of Nebraska a few years ago.

The classical music continues. The Panera cafe has grown a little more quiet, the lull before the next wave of patrons. I am really considering that croissant.

Writing this out has been a form of therapy. It makes western the eastern streams flowing through my mind, gives linear flow to the circular. I need a healthy dose of both the linear and the circular, in order to get closer to the taste of that holistic identity and the feel of new skin.

Mmm. For now, the taste of chocolate suffices. The journey continues.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In Defense of "Myth"

I can no longer remain silent about how people everywhere in western culture continue to misuse the word "myth," equating it with terms such as "lie," "rumor," "falsehood" or "legend."

Who cares? Well, park here with me for a moment.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "myth" as "a traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the world view of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs or ideals of a society."

The psychologist Carl Jung suggested that myths were rooted in what he called the "collective unconscious." a shared human experience spanning the centuries. Jung organized this collective unconscious into symbols and patterns he termed "archetypes," expressed in our dreams, our religions, and our works of art. Myths, Jung claimed, have certain common features that illustrate a common humanity.

So, myth explains why we love the movies and certain books so much, captivated by stories such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Matrix. Myths form the framework upon which rest many narratives from sacred works such as the Bible and the Koran (rather than get offended here, do the research!). Mythology and its archetypes surrounds us and inspire us, whether we realize it or not.

Kenneth Davis, author of the very reader friendly Don't Know Much About Mythology, adds that in the earliest days of humanity, "myths existed to convey essential truths. Myths, Davis added, "are about what make us tick. They are as old as humanity and as current as the news."

But based on my observation, so many do not take the time to check the dictionary or consider the context before carelessly inserting "myth" into a conversation, a PowerPoint presentation or an authored work. Whether uttered by a blue collar worker, a physician, an MBA, a schoolteacher, or a newscaster--I am troubled (because of my respect for myth) by how prevalent it is to butcher the term while audiences simply nod in agreement.

If Davis is on target, then using the word "myth" when discussing something that is supposedly not true is to unwittingly declare that the item in question is, actually, essentially true! Oops. Most have no idea they are contradicting themselves when they say something along the lines of, "This rumor is a myth."

It is simply sloppy word choice, quite rarely malicious but frequently found because we tend to make assumptions or adapt cliches without pausing for deeper reflection. This latter point--the prevalence of unexamined living--is a particularly western ailment that often keeps us stuck in mediocrity. In our fast-paced, information-overload culture we so often do not have a grasp of sacred, timeless concepts and a sense of our lives as part of a much larger, unfolding story.

But again, even while understanding and appreciating what "myth" means, who really cares if we get the term wrong most of the time? Seriously, does it do any harm?

I think it does; not the linguistic misdeed itself, but its revelation of the opportunities we miss due to insufficient examination and reflection. A true understanding of mythology and its archetypes can create much more self-awareness and other-awareness--leading, in my opinion, to stronger emotional intelligence and psychological health, more spiritual vitality, and more energy given to dialogue and bridge-building. The price of the lack of these dynamics is war, broken relationships, violent crime, staggering health costs, and perhaps even a floundering economy.

We are paying the price right now. Check your wallet.

More fully appreciating what makes all of us tick in tandem can only lead to a more solution-oriented, sustainable world. And our common humanity needs that world. Desperately.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Biggest Fan

I have been a devoted, perhaps even fanatical, fan of some people, things and teams in my life. Frederick Buechner. The Florida State Seminoles football team (no wise cracks, please). The Miami Dolphins. The band U2.

Facebook, which has become a fourth dimension of my real/virtual life, allows you to become an online fan of virtually any product, company, movement, band, writer, celebrity or concept out there. When I became a fan of Southwest Airlines a few weeks back, I figured I had gone as high as possible.

Tonight, I became a fan of both God and Jesus. I believe they are connected, but I had to take two separate steps toward fan-dom for each, respectively.

I do not especially believe that by "be-fanning" God--AND Jesus--on Facebook, I will somehow become holier, more spiritual, less likely to dwell in sin or Purgatory or pick my nose, etc. But I just could not turn down the request. After all, what message would I send by not being a fan of God or Jesus? The pressure, already.

But I doubt that God, or Jesus, is keeping track of his fans on Facebook. More importantly, God was and is a fan of mine--long before I clicked the "Become a Fan" button. That is the lovely thing about this relationship; the Lord is cheering for me long before I have the consciousness and behavioral change to cheer for him...and, more importantly, to become like him.

In fact, he is such a fan that he decided to become like me, so he could better relate to me. That is where this Jesus dude comes into play. He came, he saw, he loved, he died, he rose, he lives inside of me. Now, that's pretty fanatical.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Bumper Sticker


That was all the verbiage offered on the bumper sticker on the car in front of me. I tried to discern other stickers, symbols or hints the vehicle might present, but was unsuccessful. I was left to interpret these four words in a vacuum, limited to my intuition and unscientific conclusions.

Was the "HE" a politician? An athlete? An ex-husband, a wayward brother, an estranged son? Who knows. But whomever he is, some driver in the greater Nashville area really wants him to fail. Enough to purchase or customize a bumper sticker to randomly let every other driver know how he or she feels.

I wondered about the mindset of the person whose fingers slapped the sticker onto the car's bumper. Was it a bubbly glee that accompanied this passion for failure? Was it coming from a deep place of hurt or anger? What, exactly, leads a person to strive for another person to lose?

This seems much different than giving your all to compete against someone or something in sports, business, a race for elective office, and so forth. That's how it felt to me as I read the sticker, at least. It felt personal. Bitter. Short-sighted, even.

Martin Luther King Jr. warned that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere. Spiritual formation leader Richard Foster once said there can be peace for no one until there is peace for everyone. A Jedi Knight in one of the Star Wars films warned one set of a planet's inhabitants that they were symbiotically linked with another nearby, despised population; what impacted one would surely impact the other.

We are inextricably threaded beyond ways we can easily recognize. Whomever this gentleman is, his failure will have implications. Someone will suffer, beyond just himself--and his suffering alone is worth mourning over. Perhaps a business will fail as well. Perhaps a family will be hurting. Perhaps a country's populace will see a reduction in its potential. Whatever the fallout happens to be, no one fails or succeeds in pure isolation. At any age, in any arena.

Better the effort that is directed toward proactively helping others to be successful, giving them tools, ideas and assistance to empower toward serving worthy human endeavors. Spend energy, if you must, defeating unworthy, divisive or hurtful initiatives--but unless the person himself or herself is contemplating or committing immoral, unethical or illegal activities, each moment we spend bitterly focused on an individual's failure is simply a lost opportunity to cultivate our own success.


I am about to re-read Viktor Frankl's classic work Man's Search for Meaning, written after the author's ordeal in a Nazi concentration camp.

I was reminded of this book when finishing Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind last night, which contains a chapter on the importance of having meaning. Meaning is one of the six core traits Pink asserts are key to enduring contributions in the global economy (along with Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy and Play).

Our "main concern," Frankl wrote, "is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning" in our lives.

These words, composed more than 50 years ago, might at first blush seem dated in a society that can revolve around the quest for pleasure and the myriad commodities that pledge to assist us in the avoidance of suffering. But they are as timeless as each man and woman's restless search for the deeper sense of peace and purpose that no product, service or compulsion can supply. Indeed, the marketing culture teems with delightful distractions but cannot salve a soul that is distraught when the night grows quiet and the novelty expires.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Larger Miracle

"The Lord of Life was held in the grip of death."

The sentence from this morning's sermon at church has been haunting me all Easter afternoon. The Rev. Lynn Hill took a different angle than any I had previously considered across years of studying the Bible, and both hearing and preaching messages.

The larger miracle, the pastor asserted, was not that Jesus came back to life but that he was dead in the first place. Jesus' very being is one that constantly teems with the life of God. The idea of him dying is almost unfathomable. That death could hold him from Friday until Sunday, that sin could keep him immersed in its trenches--almost unspeakable.

Of course he broke free of death's fingers. What else could Jesus be but alive? And what else remains for those who allow his life to permeate their own, that they should be alive and death not hold them? It is incredulous to think that death--and anything under its umbrella that separates us from the love of God--should put its mark on us to any level of permanence.

Death and sin do and should have a foreign taste. They were never supposed to be on the menu. To be in Christ is to be fully alive. It is the most natural thing in the universe.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


As the Maundy Thursday service drew to a close, the historic sanctuary was gradually stripped of liturgical accessories.

The banners from high up on the walls. The candles and their light. The purple cloth wrapped around the large cross that hung along the back wall behind the altar. A somber yet peaceful silence accompanied the stripping.

Tomorrow night, a certain darkness will characterize the Good Friday service. On Sunday a bright, abundant light will be joined by joyful music as we celebrate the Resurrection.

But for tonight, all is stripped bare.

As we commemorated how Jesus knelt in the Garden, awaiting arrest, I reflected on how much of me is being stripped bare of exterior reliabilities. Economic, career, relational...many directions in which I have placed trust, assumption, hope. Each layer of dependency slowly peeled away, until all that remains is a somber yet somehow peaceful silence.

Here I kneel, at the altar that is my daily life and its routines. Tonight I knelt at Christ's altar, my saliva slowly dissolving the communion wafer I had dipped in sweet grape juice. My prayer is that the two altars might become indistinguishable from one another, and that the character of Christ might become inseparable from my own.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Whole New Mind

I have started reading a fascinating book by Daniel Pink called A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.Pink's premise is that the world economy is undergoing a seismic shift--above and beyond the current economic perils, which began shortly after this book was published--away from the "Information Age" to what he calls the "Conceptual Age." While the former demanded logical, linear, computer-like capabilities that are becoming more likely to be outsourced overseas or automated, the emerging age is demanding competencies that will address our non-material yearnings and the increasing value we place on "high touch" and "high concept" offerings.

After a brief, unsurprising discussion on how left-brain capabilities have been all the rage for decades at the expense of the artistic and the emotional, Pink asserts that things are no longer a matter of choosing left or right; but of allowing the two hemispheres of the brain to work in concert. The right, however, with its tendency toward the simultaneous, the metaphorical, the aesthetic, the contextual and the synthetic, has been under-emphasized and neglected in the Information Age--and, therefore, some intentional cultivation of its features is necessary for left-leaning braniacs to have sustainable careers and satisfaction in the emerging economy.

To survive in this age, Pink opines, individuals and organizations "must examine what they're doing to earn a living and ask themselves these questions: 1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper? 2. Can a computer do it faster? Is what I'm offering in demand in an age of abundance?"

Pink continues, "If your answer to Question 1 or 2 is yes, or your answer to Question 3 is no, you're in deep trouble. Mere survival today depends on being able to do something that overseas knowledge workers can't do cheaper, that powerful computers can't do faster, and that satisfies one of the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age."

Specifically, Pink calls on those more oriented toward left-brained, linear thinking and talents to develop six essential "right-directed aptitudes." These are:

1. Design. It's not enough for a product, service, experience or lifestyle to be merely functional; it must also be beautiful, whimsical or emotionally engaging.

2. Story. Information and data must be complemented with persuasion, communication and self-understanding.

3. Symphony. Rather than just focusing and specializing, it has become crucial to be able to put the pieces together, seeing the bigger picture and crossing boundaries while assembling "an arresting new whole."

4. Empathy. Logic is not enough, but understanding what makes people tick, forging relationships and caring for others will carry us into the future.

5. Play. There are enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, light-heartedness, games and humor. In both work and life we need to play.

6. Meaning. In what is still an age of material plenty despite the current economic downturn, millions of westerners are pursuing more significant desires such as purpose, transcendence and spiritual fulfillment.

It could be quick to dismiss some of Pink's thesis because of the economic maladies and uncertainties for recovery we are facing. However, I do not believe that a painful recession means we will dramatically reverse-course on the evolution from Information to Conceptual as defined by Pink. While funding and programs that support the artistic, emotional and spiritual are suffering tremendously in these hard times, the fundamental needs and desires of the human heart, mind and soul will not go away...and those who truly embrace "whole mind thinking" and competencies will survive and thrive.

Reading this type of book refreshes my gratitude for how I am wired, and for the education and experiences I have been allowed to have. Degrees in Communications and Divinity. Experience as a writer, pastor, spiritual counselor, businessman, consultant, executive coach and facilitator, woven into a career that I believe adequately synthesizes all of these hats into a larger whole.

Sometimes I get down on myself for having so many right-brained interests and wonder if I will ever get clarity. I so often feel outnumbered by left-brained talent and initiatives and can question my own value. Then I read a book like Pink's, and feel encouraged that perhaps I have been going in the proper directions all along by following not a linear, logical path...but following my bliss, as Joseph Campbell described it.

I remember spontaneously deciding as a college freshman to enter a one-year program that synthesized disciplines such as English, Humanities, Psychology and Biology. Even then, at 18, I was fascinated by how the parts could fit together. It was one of the greatest years of my life and set the tone for trying to think and act holistically.

I look forward to the rest of this book! And blogging about it some more.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Data Smog and Things That Last

The syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker published an article a few days ago asserting that we are "paralyzed" by soaking in so much information and data on a constant basis. Parker's fear is that by responding to everything we are gradually becoming incapable of critical thinking, and therefore will be unable to adequately respond to what is important even when it unfolds before us economically, politically or socially.

She cites the ubiquitous BlackBerry as one key culprit in this data smog pollution that has infected the global atmosphere. I felt no small pangs of guilt while reading this, seeing as I how I serve an organization that provides both BlackBerry services and devices, among other mobile communications offerings. It seems to be an honest way to make a living, but I guess I am part of the problem in a more direct sense than the mere inhalers of the data smog.

The more painful twist for me is the overall lack of reflective moments day in and day out. I observe that across the past year-and-a-half or so, it has become increasingly challenging for me to, for example, thoroughly read a book and interact with it through writing or conversation. It has been harder to follow a few deep blogs and participate as a member of the community of readers. It has felt more elusive, in general, to go deeper into larger ideas relating to spiritual formation--one of my key passions--because I am so inundated with tasks and responding to data and solving problems. And even though I have made significant progress on writing a novel, I have but a small bucket of time to do this each week and the rest of the week I am serving the data masters.

Welcome to the peril of being a contemplative in western culture. I feel chained to the data grind because it supports the lifestyle I am supposed to feel grateful to have. I do not think the economic wineskin we have stitched together allows for any happy medium; we are either full-borne intensity or we are thrown to the ash heap. Make a great living or be a pauper. Is there any in-between any more?

Metric-speak fueled by data proliferation is pervasive. Obviously it has always been central to business, but it has invaded education, publishing, religious institutions and the arts to the point where the aesthetic is more fully squeezed out by the pragmatic. Things must "work," they must "add value," they must survive a cost-benefit analysis and offer return on investment. There is little patience left for something that does not yield some crop of immediately measurable results.

And where there is no patience, there is no chance for anything worthwhile to incubate. Almost everything we produce has now become a commodity, be it a cell phone, piece of music or work of literature, and we ourselves have become commodities in the mercantile exchange we call our culture. We quickly gain or lose value, with little sustainability due to constant market shifts and new data that alters the supply and demand.

What is to be done?

I do not know. I cannot think past this week. Perhaps, at least for me, some clarity might emerge as I attempt my hardest to contemplate a garden of blood, sweat and tears; a cross bearing a Savior; and an empty tomb. These rise above the data smog. These are sustainable. They have incubated for roughly 2,000 years.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Song

Birds are chirping as I sit in my home office, staring at the Blogger template. It is quite early, just past 5:30 a.m. CST. This same family of birds begins to sing, discuss, pontificate, elaborate, etc., about 4:30-ish on most mornings. Often I hear them quite well, which all but eradicates the need for an alarm clock.

All is quiet, except for the song of the birds. I would not know how to hush their melodies even if I had such ambition. Given the large cluster of trees lining my yard, I am not sure if I would even know where to look for the particular culprits.

In the silence, their song continues.

No blog-worthy ideas or concepts or even rants are coagulating for me at the moment. My mind is almost a blank slate or a sponge, open to whatever it needs to receive. The birds continue to improvise Shakespeare or impersonate Larry King or pretend they are in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

The Psalms are loaded with references of imperfect people singing out to God in the midst of a full range of emotions. There is a strong indication that God places the song in the hearts of such beggars turned believers, and that the song continues in all seasons. It even permeates the silences of our moments and the dark nights of our souls.

"I was born to sing for you," Bono pours out in the cut "Magnificent" on the new U2 album. (Yes, second consecutive blog reference to No Line on the Horizon.) "I didn't have a choice/But to lift you up/And sing whatever song you wanted me to," the singer continues.

The song will have its way from within us, for it is a divine melody that cannot be hushed or located. I might close off my ears, heart and mind to its lyrics from time to time; but in the stillness it continues, and when I do respond I continue to be transformed into the image of the Singer.