Floating with Jesus. Non-fiction? Dream state? You tell me.

Here is something different…

Maybe this rightly goes under the fiction heading, but so often now, when I read the Bible, my eyes stop on “…the word of the Lord came to me in a dream…” so I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to know. I’m happy to live in that crack between what is real and what’s not and what might be. We live with question marks. Enjoy!


Floating with Jesus

The sun bragged on the peaks below, lifting high through the clouds like bent knees in bed. We floated on clouds, Jesus and I, hands clasped behind our heads, drowning in the sheer beauty of it. The ocean beneath was clear and blue. We didn’t talk but shared a silent satisfaction.

Jesus, looking every bit a long-haired Scandinavian god like the one pinned above my grandmother’s bed, looked at me, arching His eyebrows. Reaching into the cloud, He pulled out a leg. A human leg, apparently unused. It was new and shiny, and muscular and clean of any hint of blood or tissue. Unused, I thought, created on the spot by the Creator.

“Here,” He said, holding it like a drumstick. “Feel it.” I took it and stroked it like a cat’s back. Now, awake and writing, I’m surprised at how I gushed. “My gosh,” I said, “this thing is beautiful. I mean…it’s gorgeous.” I was in a bicycle racing accident a year earlier, spending three months in the hospital with a brain injury. For the first two weeks, machines kept me alive, and I was comatose for a month. I learned to walk again, but doctors said no more bikes. No racing and no circling around the block. But, in the clouds now, I wondered: what about with a new leg?

The offer

“You can have it,” He said, waving His arm, nonplussed. “I have arms and more legs for you, too, if you want them.” He smiled again, knowingly. “You can be better than new with these. Faster.” He was speaking my language, appeasing my base desires.

I looked straight at Him. “Are you kidding me? I can have this? I can have new arms and legs? Man,” I said, “I am all in.”

He slowed me down. “There’s something I need to tell you, something you should know.”

“Anything. Shoot.”

He lifted His hand to his chin, and dropped His voice, “You have to die first.”

The denial

Maybe it was my grimace, but he went on, a little too giddy. “Really, it’s no big deal. For you, it’s a drop of water. I mean, it’s eternity, but you’ll see your family again, and it will be like you blinked.” He paused. “Of course, they’ll have to die, too. And for ten or forty years, they’ll have to live with their dad and husband dying, but in eternity they’ll see that it was nothing.”

I didn’t think my dying would be ‘nothing’ to my family and looked at the leg and then at Jesus. “Man,” I said, and shook my head. “Did you see them when I was in the hospital? They literally gave up their lives for me. The girls were fantastic. They made everyone feel better. And Mal? I mean, she was the husband and the wife, she paid the bills, she took care of me…” I looked up at Jesus. “I’m sorry, but I can’t trade their misery for my wholeness. It doesn’t matter for how long. A nurse at the hospital told me one night that when she sees my wife, she thinks she ‘ain’t never seen love like that before,’ and I didn’t argue. Love like that should be loved back.”

No Problem

I don’t know what I expected. This was the God of Thunder, after all, who whipped the money changers and cleaned out the Temple of anyone taking advantage of others, but he just smiled, laying back in His cloud.

“It’s no problem, Dennis. Really. It’s your decision.”

Somewhere between awake and dream, I sat up that morning, in bed, with Jesus still smiling at me. I shot a look to where my wife would lay, and she was there. “I’m still alive,” I thought. And I couldn’t help but wonder, as I lay there with my hand on my wife’s back if I would have died if I said Yes to Jesus. Awake, I wondered, too, if it was a test, a dream, or the result of food gone bad. I still wonder.

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Poem 147

Poem 147

To put your book down,

To stare at me,

My black eyes and white wire?

This is what I long for,

To avert your eyes from colored streams and stare. At me.


This is all I ask.

In your stare, in you, seeing me,

I see love, thick as a biscuit.

And another chance for me to stare back.

Cocking my head, I search for hints,

For communication. For communion.

CS Lewis said that the best prayers are wordless. I heard you say it.

He was right,

And I only ask that you look at me,

So I can look at you.


Growing up with dogs

I’ve grown up with dogs, big dogs: sleek, fast, and muscular shepherds. Shar-peis, wrinkly and stalwart and drooling, and long-haired malamutes who don’t give one single care in the whole bloody world about what you think or say, but my wife had to have this pup, half English Sheepdog and half poodle. Like every puppy I’ve known, his belly burst with pink and purple and love. I don’t mean he wagged his tail and licked, but that he lives on love like I live on coffee and bread and air. It’s a palpable thing.

He teaches me, this dog, to be a better human. When I growl at him to move – he lives within six inches of a human being hoping for a touch to the head – he happily goes to sit three feet away, as if to say, “Right here? I won’t bother you from here, but at least I can see you.” And he’s never saddened by my voice, even if I yell at him to move, that I need more than six inches, but he’s always happy to comply. “So sorry,” his eyes say. “I’ll step down from the couch and go stare at you here. It’s all I really want, you know. Except maybe a scratch.”

What’s my job?

I wonder if he is asking himself, What’s my job here? and, since he’s such a good teacher, I’ve started asking myself the same question. I’ve noticed that it’s one thing to say I’m the dad here or I’m the husband, and it’s an altogether different question to wonder what my job is in this situation. With my wife, is it my job to always pay the bills or get the car running? Maybe it is. Maybe it’s my job and my privilege? Maybe, too, it’s to bolster confidence. Maybe my job is to love her just like Toby loves me? To sit across from her on the couch in wonder of this glorious thing?

Just last night, she had it out with one of the twins. I was in the other room and could hear the entire mess ramping up and getting louder. After a couple minutes though, her tone dropped, and she explained why we do it this way. I went into the room a couple minutes later, and they were both watching TV on the bed and talking. Later, when Mom came to bed, I thought about my job in this situation, and I told her that she did great with the girl. She sensed a teaching moment and took advantage of it. It’s part of our job: to raise up responsible and caring and doing adults.

There are a lot of tines on this fork, and not all point straight ahead. In my dad-job, I raise the girls to be strong and confident and humble and faithful. Any decision I make should revolve around those traits. 

My husband-job is different. Partly, I’m a voluntary partner. With the girls, we’re partners with a common vision. So, as a member of the firm, so to speak, I was glad to see Mal and my daughter work it out and merge a hair closer to the point where my daughter sees mom as experienced and wise. I like that my wife took the time to explain the whats and whys to our daughter, too, so she can start using that wisdom and making it her own. Sometimes – many times, I’ve learned – is that my husband-job is to get out of the way, to let mom do her job, and then, to thank her for it.


Do you have a dog who loves you? Really loves you? What is your job in the family? In society? 

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Short – This Should Be Easy

Finally! He sees the fat old gal waddle out of the mall doors. He shakes a hair from his eyes and smiles. He should get paid just for the setup. Maybe he can start a maser class: how to set up the perfect crime. He stretched out his legs and pushed against the car frame, pulling off his gloves to reach into his pocket to get the knife.

“This should be easy,” he thinks, pulling his gloves back on.

It’s the perfect spot, and she drives the perfect car: another crappy SUV stuck between two others that will shield  him like road signs from snoopers. He relaxes as she comes to the car door, fumbling with keys.

She opens the door, banging it against the car next to her, and throws her bags in. Jeff looks furtively from his vantage to see if anyone is looking. He has no more that a second to act. She swivels and slips her right leg into the car, and he feels her body drop onto the seat.

He grabs her left ankle and plays the knife against her flesh.

“Here’s how it works,” he says. “Toss your purse out of the car, just outside the door and below the seat, and I don’t slice your ankle open like a salmon. Honk the horn even once, and it’s bloody. Got it?”

He pressed the point of the knife into her flesh like he’s done a dozen other times…but this feels weirdly different. He hears her above him and feels the car frame shift under her weight.

She’s grabbing her purse.

“Let me get my purse, he hears. “I threw it in the back seat.”

“Hurry up, lady. Let’s make this easy.”

But she isn’t reaching for her purse. Instead, she scans what she can of the parking lot for other shoppers. It’s mostly empty, so she reaches between her legs and unbuckles the prosthetic from her knee. It will be harder to drive without the leg, but she can manage.

She jerks on the left leg to get a reaction and to keep him under the car.
“Slow down, lady. No one is going anywhere. You got your purse?”

“Not yet,” she says, feigning a whimper. “I was just reaching for it. Let me try again.”

Unbuckled now, she holds the top of her prosthetic with her left hand, afraid that it might slip and give her away. She’s happy now that her husband harped about an electronic push-button start. Her purse rests on the passenger seat, and she inches for the start button. She presses it hard, and the engine growls. In one motion, she reaches for the shifter and lets go of her leg. Grabbing the armrest, she jams the car into reverse, and throws weight on the gas, pulling the door shut.

Beneath the car, the high-jacker is shocked and scared. He knows what happened in an instant. Dropping the leg, he pulls his hand back, and all at once, he feels the oil pan scrape over his head. It pulls hair and flesh as the car backs over him. Instinctively now, he tries to avoid the tire’s path to miss being crushed, but he’s too slow, and there’s no room to move under the SUV.

“Damn it! You’re going to kill me,” he shouts to the metal car frame, trying to move. No one hears.

The fat old SUV driven by the fat old biddy is too fast, and he feels a crushing in his wrist. Moving backward, the SUV collects hair and scalp and a piece of cheek. Out of the parking spot now, the thief sees the old biddy and raises a hand to flip her off, as if this were her mistake, but his hand hangs like a red flag on lumber, snapped from his forearm.

Seeing him lying in the empty spot, bloodied, the old biddy backs up and straightens out, leaving in a slow crawl. She waves and smiles and drives off, unconcerned that it was, in fact, bloody, and that he did kind of look like a salmon, laying on his side with a bloodied head.

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The second time I fell in love

I skipped into Fife Elementary halfway through the kindergarten year with new boots – loggers – squeaking on the waxed linoleum. Mom was horrified: on my first day there, the principal, Mr. Norby, yanked me and Jody Satiacum into his office for throwing blocks out the window. Mom met dad at the same school, and my grandparents met there, too, so I had a reputation to keep. I remember nothing of kindergarten except that I loved my teacher, Mrs. Scoggins. The next year, first grade, was more memorable: I met Rocky, to be one of my best friends, and met my second girlfriend, with whom I enjoyed my first kiss. Well, my first kiss not planted by a relative. I had my first school paddling, too. Kisses at school, I learned, are rare. Paddlings were more common.

What can I say? Patti was a wisp of a thing with a purple aura glowing around her ebony hair. Her legs blurred when she ran, like a cartoon. She was street smart, too, with sisters in third and fourth grades who showed her the ropes of school life. Mrs. Grove was our teacher: Patti sat in the first seat of the row, and I sat behind her. Rocky, always laughing, took up the caboose.

Love has given me many woes, and today might be the first. Recess was finished, and we funneled into our classroom like cattle through a chute. Settling into our seats, we watched art or science or who-knows-what on TV and did our best to stay awake. When the show was over, Mrs. Grove, always in a pink sweater, turned the TV off and pulled the plug.

She looked at us over the top of her glasses. “Kids,” she said, giving us that I-mean-business-this-time look, “I’m pushing the TV back to the media room. I’ll just be a minute. Stay in your seats and draw or color. “

She gave the TV stand a shove, and by the time one foot was halfway out the door, Patti, all three feet of her, jumped out of her seat like a cheerleader. “Okay!” she said, clapping. “Let’s go!”

I didn’t know who ‘let’s’ was, but in an instant, and without effort, she jumped onto my desk like a deer and ran down the tops of the other desks in the row. At Rocky’s desk, she jumped off like a ballerina, turning to the class to graciously accept her rightful accolade. Kids clapped and shouted. A few sunk further into their seats, sure they had seen something they shouldn’t have. I sat confused.

Amid the clapping, Patti ran up to my desk. Doesn’t she know we don’t run in class? Recess is for running. Well, Patti ran up to me and started slapping my desk like a war drum. “C’mon. Your turn!” she said.

I looked around, wondering who she was talking to.

“C’mon. Go before Mrs. Grove gets back.”

This was serious.

“Get on the desk. C’mon! It’s your turn,” she said,telling everyone else what a chicken I was.

Kids started chanting. “Come on, Dennis. It’s your turn. DO IT!”

Patti got away with it, right? How long can it take? I looked at Rocky, who waved me on, laughing. Resolved and glowing with courage, I looked at Patti and stood, expecting angels to sing. But unlike Patti, who jumped onto my desk like a mountain goat, I took a more careful approach, scanning every surface and hand-hold before making any move, like an ice climber on Mt. Everest. I climbed onto my chair first and then onto my desk. Flush with the pride of accomplishment, I turned to look at the class, to bathe in clapping and shouts. I saw Rocky, proud of me for taking my turn, and I swiveled to look at Patti again before making a mad sprint over the desktops to Rocky and back.

I stopped, though, instantly, when Mrs. Grove walked into the room. Her eyes met mine with me still standing on my desk. Patti jumped into her chair in time, sitting with her hands clasped, quiet, as if pondering her catechism. If I thought Patti was fast, Mrs. Grove appeared at my desk without moving. The class faded from view, and all I could see was Mrs. Grove.

“Is this what you call sitting quietly at your desk?” she said?

Her cat-eye glasses belied her true nature, and she was ready to pounce. “Look at Patti!” she said, pointing at her cherubic face. “She’s sitting at her desk with her arms folded and quiet. And what in the Sam Hill are you doing standing on your desk?” I knew from home the Sam Hill lived next door to You little bastard, and I had visions of our principal and his nail-studded spanking machine. Mrs. Grove wrapped her arm around my waist just like she would when she hugged me and set me on the floor. Steady now, on my feet, she grabbed me by the ear and hauled me out of the room in one motion. No one clapped. She didn’t say a thing to the other kids, sure my impending doom would keep their rear ends attached firmly to their chairs.

We hardly made it out of the room before she started looking for another teacher. Across the hall, the door to the other first-grade class cracked. “Mrs. Grove? Everything okay? Do you need help?” Miss Mullen. Hm.

“Can you watch him for a second?” She turned to me and said with an ominous tone. “I need to get my paddle.” Even at this age I sensed a heavy emphasis on paddle.

“Let me talk to my class,” Miss Mullen said and went back behind her door. “She popped out again, waving a paddle. “Look what I found. I keep it handy right by the door.”

“Perfect,” Mrs. Grove said, more to me than to the other teacher. “Can you watch?”

“Sure thing,” she said, liking this way too much.

Mrs. Grove stared at me again, drilling into my eyes with hers. “So,” she said, “can you explain to us why we are in the hall?”

“Because I stood on the desk,” I said, fessing up and realizing for the first time that no one had specifically told me not to stand on a desk. It was a fine point I didn’t dare broach.

“Right. You stood on the desk. Are you going to do that again?”

“No.” Not unless my girlfriend taunts me, I thought.

She took up position on my left side. “Okay, you know what to do. Bend over.”

I really didn’t know what to do. This was so…clinical. At home, infractions were dealt with by yelling, swearing, and lots of arms and hands waving. It was an emergency. Here, in the first grade, it was an annoyance. I bent over, showcasing my rear like a prize to be painted.

She whacked me, and it was like water from a tepid faucet.

“What do you think? Will that teach you to follow the rules?”

I was stunned. That? That was a paddling? I lied. “Yes, ma’am,” I said, trying to pout and look sad.

“Do you need another?” She stared at me again, hard, driving home her point.

“No ma’am,” I said, not sure if it was over.

“Good. Let’s go back into the room now.” She handed the paddle back, and both teachers looked like they had done their duty, saving another child from prison and poverty. Making the world safer from bad boys who stood on desks.

Back in the room, tugged by my ear, I was a hero now, having survived a thrashing by my teacher with no evidence of tears. I walked back to my desk and fell in love, Patti throwing me a quiet smile, waving to me with the rise of a finger. Several weeks later, we kissed outside of Mrs. Grove’s class under the windows and behind the scrubby bushes.

It was to be my only elementary school kiss. Alas, this was not true for my paddling.